In 1467, the Moravians separated from the Roman Catholics and sought
to live a life of the purest conduct. They were descendents of Martin
Luthers Protestant movement. Although the religious group has
been referred to under various names, the English-speaking world has
adopted the term Moravian, while the Moravian tend to refer to themselves
as the "Unita Fratum" (Witcraft, 1927). The Moravians originally
settled in the mountains east of Prague and then moved into areas of
Moravia and Bohemia as well (Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums).
After the Thirty Years War, the Moravians began to be repressed by the
Catholics. The repression motivated the Moravians to seek refuge in
the New World, where they could establish their own missionaries (Smaby,
1988). The German nobleman Nicholas Ludwig, Count of Zinzendorf, was
very influential in helping the Moravians meet this goal. In fact, he
even helped them to receive free passage over to the colonies (Witcraft,
The first attempt at Moravian settlement in North America occurred in
Georgia, but the Moravian beliefs were not accepted in this new colony.
Therefore, they sought to settle elsewhere. In 1740, they befriended
the Methodist preacher George Whitefield and helped him to build a school
in the town which Whitefield later called Nazareth, near the Fork of
the Delaware. Religious disputes caused the friendship between the Moravians
and Whitefield to end sharply, but the Moravians refused to leave Nazareth
when asked (Witcraft, 1927).
In 1741, they purchased a 500-acre plot of land where Monocacy flows
into the Lehigh River. This site was known to the Indians as "Monogassi"
(Meyers, 1981). The Moravians started to build their town, which would
be the center of their missionary activities in America (Smaby, 1988).
On December 21, 1741, Count Zinzendorf arrived at the new settlement.
Since the colony was unnamed, it was decided by common consent to call
it Bethlehem (
Witcraft, 1927). The lands of Nazareth were also bought later that
year by the Moravians due to the financial difficulties of George Whitefield
(Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums).
The Moravians in Bethlehem divided themselves into various groups called
choirs. Age, sex, marital status, and spiritual seniority separated
the members of these groups. Choir members did various things together
such as eating, praying, working, and providing support for one another
(Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums). The people of the community
gave time and labor in exchange for food and shelter, something they
called the "General Economy" (Smaby, 1988). Their motto was
"We pray together, we labor together, we suffer together, we rejoice
together." The church was the center of the community and the Moravians
sought to bring their religious beliefs to others in the area such as
the Indians (Hall and Hall, 1982).
The Moravians were very interested in both religious and aesthetic matters
such as visual arts and music. Besides this, they were very accomplished
as architects and engineers. They developed large stone and brick buildings
that are still standing today (Hall and Hall, 1982). Two industrial
sections of Bethlehem were also established by the Moravians along Monocacy
Creek. These industrial buildings were separated from the residential
buildings, although they were made with the same limestone and red brick
arches as those of the residencies. They were even created with the
same amount of aesthetic detail. The common features unified the industries
and the residences (Smaby, 1988).
In Bethlehem in 1754, the Moravians developed the first pumped water
system in America (Hall and Hall, 1982). Maps of the area suggest that
the Moravians may have placed the industries purposely near the water.
Some of the industries such as the oil mills utilized water for their
power. Others like the wash house or the bleach house needed water as
an ingredient. Traditionally, industries have used water for waste removal,
as most of these companies did. It is likely that the wastes flowed
directly into the Monocacy Creek. Since the Monocacy Creek flowed directly
into the Lehigh River, this waste removal would have decreased the water
quality in both the Creek and the River (Smaby, 1988).
The communal nature of the Moravian settlements, including both Bethlehem
and Nazareth, began to dissolve in 1762 when the General Economy was
removed. The Revolutionary War provided further strain because it was
not in the Moravians nature to fight; therefore, they refused to bear
arms. This caused other Lehigh Valley Patriots to distrust them, although
the Moravians did help in treating wounded soldiers and providing supplies.
The Revolutionary War brought them into contact with other communities
in America, namely, different secular communities. This enabled the
Moravians to incorporate other communities into their daily lives and
their exclusive religious communities eventually dissolved (Hugh Moore
Historical Park and Museums).