Upper Lehigh

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History of Freeland, Pa.
Nearby towns - Upper Lehigh

What's on this page:
  • Images from previous century
  • Upper Lehigh breaker and coal strippings
  • Churches in Upper Lehigh
  • Upper Lehigh school in Foster Township
  • Some sports news 1933-1934 and a dance ad 1934
  • 1873 map of the area and a hand-drawn 1940s-1950s street map from Charlie Stumpf
  • George Dreisbach articles on Upper Lehigh and the North Basin
On related pages:

Main Street, Upper Lehigh This is an early 20th century view of Upper Lehigh. The mansions of the mine owners and bosses were located at this end. The photographer was standing on Main Street, looking westward from in front of the company store. Doctor Neale's home would have been on the photographer's left, not shown in the photo. Thank you to Ed Sharp for the notes on his annotated copy of this view.

Main Street, Upper Lehigh Another view of Upper Lehigh from the same period. The photographer is standing on the same spot or close to the same spot from which the previous view was photographed, but now facing east. The Presbyterian Church is on the left, and if you were standing on this spot, the coal breaker would be off to your right. Thanks again to Ed Sharp for the notes on his annotated copy of this view.

Presbyterian Church, horse wagon, Upper Lehigh Presbyterian Church, horse wagon, Upper Lehigh Presbyterian Church, horse wagon, Upper Lehigh This similar view of the same area gives a clear view with the Presbyterian Church on the left and a horse-drawn wagon stopped nearby. The street is unpaved. A bit further past this view was where the workers' homes began. Two additional crops provide close-ups.

Picnic ground, Upper Lehigh, circa 1906 Upper Lehigh postmark, 1907 This postcard is labeled Picnic Grounds, Upper Lehigh, Pa., postmarked 1906. The postcard was published by Herbst Studio. Can anyone tell us where this area was located? The note on the right edge was written on August 22, 1906 -- just a few weeks before Freeland's Pearl Jubilee. Postcards from this period did not provice space on the back for a message -- the back was strictly reserved for the mailing address.

Upper Lehigh company store Here's a view of the Upper Lehigh company store. This building was later acquired by Mr. Boyko and became the Boyko Dance Hall, site of many wedding parties and other celebrations. The building later burned down and only a few traces can be seen today.

Upper Lehigh Supply Company Another, later view of the same store. The building has weathered considerably since the previous view. Along the side, a horse is hitched to a wagon that has "Upper Lehigh Supply Co." painted on it. In this view there are a couple of men standing in the loading doorway, and a few more hanging out on the porch.

Upper Lehigh company houses, ca. 1906 Upper Lehigh company houses, ca. 1906 This postcard of Upper Lehigh is postmarked 1906, the same year that Freeland celebrated its Pearl Jubilee. It's a good view of some of the company houses at the time, and looking down (up?) the road toward the wealthier end of town you can see the top of the Presbyterian Church on the right. I don't know, but it looks to me as though these houses are new, and those wooden walkways are surely temporary until better ones can be made. Below are five cropped details from this photograph. Left to right: two children playing on a wooden walkway, with a dog dozing nearby; how the street looked; 4 boys, and more houses on nearby streets; closer view of other company houses; the Presbyterian church seen in the distance, with another 1 or 2 tall buildings.

At least one of those boys looks to be barefoot. My dad told us that he and his siblings would take their shoes off after school or church and play barefoot to save wear and tear on the shoes. He remembered stepping on a snake while barefoot, and the feeling of the snake partly winding around his ankle before taking off (he or the snake or both of them in different directions, I imagine). Brrr!

The original postcard is in sepia tone, and the colorized version shown above was done by Mike Korb.

Upper Lehigh company houses, ca. 1906 Upper Lehigh company houses, ca. 1906 Upper Lehigh company houses, ca. 1906 Upper Lehigh company houses, ca. 1906 Upper Lehigh company houses, ca. 1906

Upper Lehigh breaker Upper Lehigh coal stripping Here is the Upper Lehigh Coal Company breaker. As early as 1873, the date of the map shown below, it was supported by a machine shop, a mine reservoir, and a railroad track complex that would enable coal to be shipped. Note that the map shows slopes no. 1 and 2 mined by this breaker.

This photo of one of the Upper Lehigh coal strippings
comes to us courtesy of the Freeland Historical Society. Strippings like this are a familiar sight to anyone who grew up in the area.

Upper Lehigh Presbyterian Church This photo postcard shows the Upper Lehigh Presbyterian church. It's a great view showing the building in very good condition, nicely fenced and landscaped, with some parishioners standing near the front door. This church was attended by the mine owners and bosses. There was also a Welsh Baptist church in town. The miners from other ethnic groups traveled to Freeland, usually on foot, to attend other churches.

I don't have a photo of the Welsh Baptist Church, but Charlie Stumpf wrote in part IV of his "The Saga of Upper Lehigh" in his Reflections series: A most unique feature of the Baptist Church was an outdoor pit which was used for baptismal ceremonies. It was about 8' x 5' wide and 5' deep. A set of steps led from the top to the bottom of the pit, whose sides were lined with slate slab about 1-1/2" thick. When the church was razed, the pit was filled in.

Elsewhere in his notes there is this: The frame building originally used as a Baptist Church in Upper Lehigh was moved to Hazleton in 1899. I haven't followed up on that yet but if I find more information I'll add it here.

Upper Lehigh school From Nadine Heckler: "My aunt Esther is 91. She says that when she started going to the UL school it only had 2 rooms and that the building that was across the street (where the honor roll eventually went) was where the 7th and 8th graders went. Then they added the 3rd room / addition to the UL school and that's when the other building was used for just activities. The activities building was eventually torn down due to its condition. My Aunt Gwenie, who is 88, says the foundation of that building is still there and that's where they put the honor roll." Here is the photocopied photo of the Upper Lehigh school that Nadine sent.

Upper Lehigh school This is another photo of the same Upper Lehigh school, courtesy of the Freeland Historical Society. This one was in Foster Township, and there was also another school at the end of town in Butler Township. I don't know if this is correct, but my dad told us that at one point the boundary between the townships went through their house on Main Street. When the line was redrawn, a couple of his siblings had to change schools.

There are more photos and information on the
Upper Lehigh schools page.

Upper Lehigh A. C. wins game, 6-23-1934 Upper Lehigh Ramblers, 1933 game reports In 1934 the Upper Lehigh A. C. played the White Haven Blue Mountain Leaguers and the Rock Glen All-Stars. In 1933 the Upper Lehigh Ramblers baseball team played teams including the Weatherly Independents, The Oakdale team, and the Freeland Pirates. Clippings from Charlie Stumpf.

More information and photos of Upper Lehigh teams can be found on the Baseball page.

Dance at the Upper Lehigh Hall, 1934 ad
An ad for a dance at Upper Lehigh Hall in 1934. As mentioned earlier, the old company store eventually became Upper Lehigh Hall, and in the 1950s it was owned by Mr. Boyko and known locally as Boyko's Hall. I remember as a child attending several wedding receptions there, including my aunt Helen and uncle Charlie Gross's reception (I was their flower girl in 1954). I don't know who owned the building in 1934 when this dance was being advertised, but it sounded like fun. Ad from Charlie Stumpf.

1873 map of Upper Lehigh Here's the map of Upper Lehigh that appears in D. G. Beers' Atlas of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania (1873). It's a wonderfully detailed view of a carefully laid out company town, complete with hotel, store, two churches, two schools, steam saw mill, reservoirs, water works, and of course the coal breaker. Note the train tracks. The map is accompanied by business listings and shows the Foster/Butler townships border dividing the town. Note that the Upper Lehigh Coal Company owns all of the homes except for those at the west end of town. This was true up until the late 1920s when the homes were offered for sale.

Partial list of residents of Upper Lehigh, 1940s-1950s Partial list of residents of Upper Lehigh, 1940s-1950s And here is something more recent and more personal: a couple of street maps/lists of Upper Lehigh drawn and annotated by Charlie Stumpf.

At left he listed some of the residents of the Foster Twp. section of Upper Lehigh in the 1940s-1950s as Charlie remembered them.

Below is his annotated map listing some residents of the Butler Twp. section.

Partial list of residents of Butler Twp. section of Upper Lehigh Partial list of residents of Butler Twp. section of Upper Lehigh Partial list of residents of Butler Twp. section of Upper Lehigh Partial list of residents of Butler Twp. section of Upper Lehigh

Reminiscences of Upper Lehigh history by George Dreisbach, published in the Plain Speaker on October 3, 1957, contributed here by Ed Merrick.

History of Upper Lehigh, George Dreisbach History of Upper Lehigh, George Dreisbach History of Upper Lehigh, George Dreisbach History of Upper Lehigh, George Dreisbach History of Upper Lehigh, George Dreisbach

George Dreisbach - North Basin George Dreisbach - North Basin George Dreisbach - North Basin This article about the North Basin by George Dreisbach was published in 1967. At the end of the article George Dreisbach mentions deaths by lightning strike and includes that of George Berta, which happened in Upper Lehigh, not at the North Basin. George Berta was my grandmother's brother. The story passed down through our family was that it happened near home and that my grandmother was watching for him to come home and actually saw the lightning strike hit him as he was walking along the tracks. Tragedy was never far away for those miners and their families. Original article courtesy of the Standard Speaker, and Ed Merrick has kindly sent me another copy of the beginning of the article to replace what was torn away from the first column of the copy I had (center image).

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