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More Henry History From Jacobsburg
Jim Wilson
Jacobsburg State Park
Dec 28, 2002
2002 marked the 250th anniversary of Northampton County. Founded March 11th, 1752 Northampton County was named in honor of Northamptonshire, England - hometown of William Penn's daughter-in-law. Brittish-born Northampton County, Pennsylvania is a place rich in early American history. And the William Henry family has been there making it happen since nearly the beginning.

William Henry II brought the Henry family gunmaking tradition from Lancaster County to Northampton County via the Moravian Church in that most famous year, 1776. At Christian's Spring, the bygone Moravian settlement and trade school near modern day Gracedale, William II mastered his apprenticeship under one of colonial America's pioneer gunmakers, Christian Oerter. In 1780 William II moved to nearby Nazareth, where he established a gun shop on old Main Street and became more formally known as William Henry of Nazareth.

William of Nazareth opened a gun barrel mill on the west banks of the Bushkill Creek at Jacobsburg to augment production at his Nazareth shop in 1799. Henry later consolidated all his armory operations at the family's Boulton Gun Works, which his son William Henry III built on the east banks of the Bushkill about two miles downstream from Jacobsburg in 1812. It was during these years that William Henry II was first awarded military contracts to manufacture firearms for both the early U.S. Government and the Pennsylvania Militia. In 1808 Henry was awarded a federal contract for 10,000 muskets. These weapons made at Jacobsburg armed U.S. troops during the War of 1812 and helped win for good America's political freedom from Great Britain.

In addition to his gunmaking enterprises, William of Nazareth was a major player in the development of anthracite transportation on the Lehigh River, which was a catalyst for the advent of the American Industrial Revolution. For the Lehigh Coal Mine Company, Henry explored the upper Lehigh River Valley for anthracite deposits and laid out landing sites, access roads and company towns. He even directed the actual mining and shipment of coal to the Lehigh Valley from the upper reaches of the Lehigh River.

William Henry of Nazareth was also involved in the Lehigh Valley's iron industry. To meet the need for iron parts in his gunmaking business, he built the first bloomery forge in Northampton County on the Bushkill Creek near Jacobsburg in 1808.

William Henry II contributed much to the civic and political history of Northampton County, too. In 1788 he was commissioned to serve as a Commonwealth Justice of the Peace. He was later appointed Judge of the Courts of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions in Northampton County and was a Presidential Elector, cating a vote for the second term of General George Washington. In 1795 William Henry of Nazareth was appointed to the commission that directed construction of the very first bridge to span the Delaware River at Easton - a colossal covered bridge that stood throughout the 19th century.

Subsequent generations of Henrys as well made history in Northampton County and beyond. Matthew Henry built the first iron furnace in Northampton County at Jacobsburg in 1824. William Henry III was the first American to successfully use the hot blast method in smelting iron, and he was a founding father of the City of Scranton. James Henry wrote the first public law protecting Pennsylvania's streams and wetlands in 1883. Other Henrys operated some of the earliest slate quarries along the southern tier of Northampton County's Slate Belt, and at Jacobsburg and Boulton they produced the favorite firearms of American Indians and frontiersmen of the western plains. Still other Henrys wrote and published early maps and history books on Northampton County and the Lehigh Valley, and they supplied Union soldiers and sailors with weapons from their Northampton County gun factory during the American Civil War.

For well over 100 years the Henry family contributed not only to the history of Northampton County, but also to the heritage of both the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States of America. Here's to Northampton County's 251st year in 2003!

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