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Bethel Township

Berks County, Pennsylvania

Municipal mailing address: PO Box 24, Bethel PA 19507; phone number: 717‑933‑8813.


Originally part of Lancaster County, Bethel Township was settled around 1735 and was incorporated in May, 1739.

Spannuth Mill (also known as Crosskill Mill – Crosskill Creek and Frystown Roads) was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Historical Sketch of Bethel Township [1]

Bethel Township is located in the northwestern portion of Berks County. The present boundaries are: North - the Blue Mountain, East and South — the Swatara Creek and on the West — Lebanon County. The Township contains about 27,000 acres. In 1723 the land lying west of the Swatara Creek and South of the Blue Mountain was known as Lebanon and to the East and South as Tulpehocken Manor. In 1729 this area became part of Lancaster County. In 1739 the Township of Lebanon was divided and the northern section was called Bethel. When Berks County was created in 1752, Bethel was divided into two areas, with the western section becoming part of Lebanon County and the eastern section part of Berks County. In 1791 the northern boundary was established on top the Blue Mountain. The Township was named for a Moravian Meeting House which was not far from the Swatara Creek. The first white men settled here in the 1730's in the area between Bethel and the first ridge of the Blue Mountain. They were German settlers who lived in peace and harmony with the local indians, the Tulpehockens. This area became part of the Tulpehocken Path, an Indian path from Shamokin (Sunbury) to Conrad Weiser's place in the Tulpehocken Valley (Womelsdorf). In 1742 Conrad Weiser and Count Ludwig Zinzindorf, a Moravian Missionary traveling the Tulpehocken Path, came upon a spring on the first mountain which the Count named Pilger Ruh (Pilgrim's Rest). In 1755 all peace vanished at the foot of the Blue Mountains when paid Indian renegades, mostly Hurons, raided the area causing torture and destruction. The outrages caused the Governor and Assembly to order forts be erected. Fort Henry was built in 1756; garrisoned during the French and Indian War by troops under Captain Christian Busse. It was Pennsylvania's major frontier defense east of Sunbury. By 1759 the outrages by the Indians ceased and there was peace throughout the valley.

The Village of Bethel, formerly Millersburg, was laid out by Michael Miller in 1814. The town contained 52 lots and an Inn which became a stopping point for teams on their way to Reading or the Union Canal. Early businesses included a pumpmaker, carpenter, hatter, tailor, weaver, several merchants and a blacksmith. The Village's name was changed to Bethel about the turn of the century.

In 1830 Martin Frey laid out the town of 181 lots. The lots were chanced off by lottery, each ticket selling for Ten Dollars. After selling the first 10 lots, Mr. Frey vanished. By the turn of the century, Frystown (Freystown) had only 13 houses. The main industry was tanning.

Early churches include Salem United Church of Christ (built in 1810), Merkey's Meeting House (built in 1848) and Frystown Meeting House (built in 1875).

  1. Bethel Township Comprehensive Plan, Final Draft 2005