The Slate Belt Museum
The country gothic building which houses the Slate Belt Museum and Historical
Society was originally the Mount Bethel Presbyterian Church. This church
had its beginnings in 1730 when some thirty families of Scotch-Irish birth
settled in an area north of the Forks of the Delaware River, now Upper and
Lower Mount Bethel and Washington Townships, particularly the villages of
Martins Creek, Richmond and Mount Bethel. Alexander Hunter, an early leader,
gave his name to this community. Hunter Settlement was part of the land
still in Lenni Lenape Indian territory and these pioneers were actually
squatters in a hostile land.
In 1737 the infamous Walking Purchase secured all of this land for the
settlers, although Indians remained in the area for a few years thereafter.
This explains why the missionary David Brainerd arrived at the Forks of
the Delaware on December 9, 1744, to tend to the spiritual needs of the
Indians as well as to any Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in the area.
Although Presbyterian Church records prior to 1738 do not so indicate,
it must be assumed that these people stern and with rigid beliefs had some
form of church before this time. Settling in the wilderness was a hazardous
business, and it probably took the Hunter Settlement until 1738 to organize
sufficiently to call for a pastor to serve their young church. It is believed
that they worshipped in a small building, most likely log, which stood in
the old Presbyterian burying ground at Martins Creek.
In 1813 the members of the Mount Bethel Presbyterian Church from the northern
part of the settlement around Centerville (present-day Stone Church) and
Williamsburg (Mount Bethel) organized their own church. In the beginning
the congregation probably worshipped in a small log building which was shared
with other denominations.
A deed dated June 21, 1823, states that Valentine and Catherine Stine sold
to the Trustees of the English Presbyterians at Mount Bethel, a tract of
land containing 2 acres and 20 perches for the sum of $190. Later, Squires
Hagerman sold a tract for $75. It is believed these two parcels make up
the property where the present building was built in 1836, with the surrounding
land being used for a cemetery. The interior of the building had the customary
high back pews with doors, all painted white and mounted in mahogany. A
gallery extended around three sides with the choir occupying the end facing
the pulpit. In 1853 the Williamsburg Academy was built in the southwest
corner of the cemetery. This parochial school was the first institution
of higher learning in the area, and offered such courses as Latin and Greek.
Jonathan Moore, an elder in the church and the first schoolmaster, was paid
$300 per year plus all the tuition income up to a total of $400. According
to an advertisement in THE PORTLAND ENTERPRISE of June 17, 1876, the tuition
was $7.50 for a ten-week term, or 90˘ a week. Many graduates of this much-needed
course of education went on to fill honorable positions as ministers, educators,
public officials and community leaders. The Williamsburg Academy burned
in 1894, and with it were destroyed some the early records of the church
which had been stored there.
By 1872 a committee was formed to see to the “repair of the old church
at Williamsburg”. This work was done during the next year, when a recess
was built at the back of the church to house the pulpit, the gallery was
demolished and the pews reversed. In 1884 the church was further remodeled,
with the floor being tiered and pews being replaced with theater-style seats.
This is essentially how the church remained into this century.
In 1963 the Mount Bethel Presbyterian Church merged with the Portland Presbyterian
Church (which had originally been formed as a mission of the Mount Bethel
Church). As part of the Community Presbyterian Church of Mount Bethel and
Portland, the building remained in use until November 28, 1965, when the
last worship service was held in the sanctuary. The building remained vacant
until it was given to the Portland Area Centennial in 1976. The following
year the Centennial Committee turned it over to the Slate Belt Museum and
Historical Society for the establishment of a museum to be used as a repository
for the artifacts and memorabilia pertaining to the history and culture
of the Slate Belt area.
The building is listed on the Pennsylvania Inventory of Historic
Places. A listing of the tombstones it the cemetery and pastors
who served the church is available at the museum.
The Slate Belt Museum and Historical Society
is located in Mt. Bethel, Pennsylvania on Route 611,
which is know as Delaware Drive.
We are open for the Summer of 2013
Memorial Day Weekend through the last Sunday in September
Hours are Sunday from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Our 2013 Season Schedule of Events is as follows:
“Charles Newbaker – Gatekeeper of the Poconos”,
a special display of artifacts and memorabilia of the Portland-Columbia
covered bridge, the longest covered bridge in the United States
at the time of its destruction by the record-breaking Delaware
River flood of August, 1955, is now a permanent part of the museum’s
displays of local memorabilia. The exhibit, a year in the making, is made up of the personal
collection of covered bridge papers and photos of Charles Newbaker,
longtime bridge guard of the historic bridge. Also on display is the museum’s collection
of the Slate Belt’s famous HOMEFRONT magazine and the reconstructed
slate quarry exhibit, among others, and will be on view during
the museum’s normal hours of 1 pm until 5 pm Saturdays and
Sundays through the end of September.
Please check back for additional summer exhibits.
Slate Belt Historical Society
2214 North Delaware Drive
P.O. Box 58
Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania 18343
For more information please email Historian@SlateBeltMuseum.org
From New Jersey and East
Route 80 W
Exit 4B (milepost 5) to Columbia/Blairstown
Left towards Route 611 & 46 Columbia/Portland
Bear Right towards Route 611 Portland
Turn Right at Stop Sign
Cross Delaware River – Pay Toll (this is the Portland Bridge)
Straight onto Route 611 South toward Mount Bethel
Continue on N Delaware Drive (PA 611) for 1.7 mi
Arrive at 2214 N Delaware Drive
From Allentown and South
North on Route 33 (from either 22 or 78)
Proceed North on Route 33 approx 5 miles
Exit Right for Route 191 and follow winding road for 8 mi
Right at second light in Bangor onto Route 512 (Market Street)
Follow PA-512, go 5.5 mi
Turn Left on N Delaware Drive (PA 611), go 0.2 mi
Arrive at 2214 N Delaware Drive
Please see Delaware Water Gap for additional information about our area.
Please see Are We There Yet? for directions and additional information.
Please see the complete index to the Homefront magazine.
Please visit these websites for additional information about Pennsylvania:
The Historical Society
Slate Belt Heritage Center
Slate Belt Chamber of Commerce