New Bethlehem Borough
New Bethlehem Borough Hall is located at 210 Lafayette Street, New Bethlehem PA 16242; phone: 814-275-2003.
New Bethlehem borough, originally a 50 acre wilderness tract cleared in 1808 by pioneer Christian Himes, and formerly known as Gumtown after the founder, Henry "Gum" Nolf in 1830, was incorporated as a borough in 1853 with John Himes as first burgess. The first store and the grist mill was built in 1835 by Heilry Nolf Lear the present Clarion Armstrong County bridge. The store was sold in 1834, to Thomas McKelvy, who in turn sold it in 1858 to Charles E. Andrews, Sr., forty dollar-a-year clerk, and founder of the present and prominent Andrews family.
Other early settlers include Philip Corbett, A. H. Ollebach, the Hilliards, Hoffmans, Millers, Spaces, Shankles, Congers, Wicks, Williams and Doverspikes. Mail was carried to first postmaster McKelvy's general store on horseback from Kittanning, a long ways from the present splendid postal service under Postmaster L. M. McCafferty.
Early industries include the first saw mill built by Henry Nolf in 1815, rebuilt by Arthur O'Donnell in 1850, later replaced by Craig and Company's sawmill. In 1860, Charles E. Andrews, Sr., built a steam sawmill, with Squire W. H. Frazier in charge, and a boat scaffold whose flat bottomed boats conveyed lumber to Pittsburgh and from there coal down the Ohio River. The present planing mill was built in 1862 and was expanded to its present structure under the guidance of P. C. Andrews. The first mill, built in 1835 by Henry Nolf, replaced the Hess mill at Mayport, and was operated in turn by Peter Schlotterbeck, Jacob Shankle, A. B. Paine, Cooper & Williams and J. Harvey Craig and Company. An iron foundry built in 1837, by Fulton & Jones was later conveyed to Philip Corbett, C. R. McNutt and Son, John Hilliard and finally to W. R. Hamilton & Son. The Bostonia mines were operated by Boston-born J. H. Mayo, father of famous author, Katherine Mayo, who spent her early life here. George Arblaster, pioneer citizen founded the successful Pioneer Pottery here. In 1878, the Low Grade branch of the P. R. R. came through New Bethlehem further developing the Redbank valley. Present industries include coal mining, the Andrews Lumber Mill, the Messrs Lower's Tile Plant, and farming.
The first school was built in 1848, with Addison Wilson as first teacher. It was replaced in 1855, again in 1883, and finally by the present structure in 1893, with an addition in 1912. Pioneer teachers included Smith Lavely, Mary Thom, U. S. Grant Henry, Miss Holly, Professors Mooney, Hankey, Craig and S. C. Hepler. The present splendid school system, with D. A. Deitrich as principal, serves this and many surrounding school communities.
Of the four churches in New Bethlehem, the Baptist was organized in 1852, Rev. L. B. Ford being the present pastor; the Methodist in 1853, Rev. Roy Decker, present pastor; the Catholic in 1873, Father O'Connor, present pastor, and the Presbyterian in 1877 with Rev. J. Wallace Fraser as the present pastor.
In May 1872, the New Bethlehem Savings Bank was incorporated by Charles E. Andrews, Dr. Henry Moore Wick, Hon. Martin Williams, Hon. George S. Putney, A. H. Allebach, M. Arnold, and John Cooper with John Reddick Foster as first cashier. Later re-organized as the First National Bank in 1894, and now occupying its present magnificent building since October 18, 1930. This institution under the guidance of President Charles E. Andrews, Jr., grandson of the founder, and Eugene Woods, cashier, stands as a literal and figurative "tower of strength" to the community. The Citizens National Bank organized in 1895, becoming the Citizens Trust Co., in 1905 and the New Bethlehem Bank in 1934, represents 45 years of continuous splendid service to the community. Its present president is R. R. Anderson with George W. Yohe as cashier.
The town's first physician was Dr. James Irwin, who was followed by Dr. A. S. McDill, and later by Dr. John Creswell. Dr. Henry Moore Wick came here in 1868, and in 1870 was joined in practice by his son, Dr. Addison Wick. With him was associated Dr. George Hilton Wood, husband of his sister Mary E. Wick. Early druggists were Dr. B. F. Goheen, Squire W. W. Corbett, and Frank P. (Barney) Williams, still hale and hearty. The present physicians include Drs. C. Verne Hepler, Joseph A. Robinson, John S. Wilson and Hilton A. Wick. Present drugstores are N. A. Corbett's, A. M. Hepler's and Clifford Reinsel's.
The present water plant, under direction of S. C. Hilliard was founded in 1882 and the last word in filtration was installed in 1939. The New Bethlehem Vindicator was established in 1872. W. Edgar Himes, to whom I am deeply indebted for much of this material, was its last editor before its merger on January 1, 1933, with the New Bethlehem Leader, to become the present Leader-Vindicator, largest newspaper in the county. It is published by L. O. Hepler, son of Prof. S. C. Hepler, and under his management, continues to "speak for itself."
With history hot in the making and made daily, who will predict the progress of the next century for old "Gumtown?"