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.

 

Eventstop

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 2014
Memorial Day Weekend through the last Sunday in September
Hours are Sunday from 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Our 2014 Season Schedule of Events will be listed soon.

Please check back for our coming summer exhibits.

 

 

Contact Ustop

Slate Belt Historical Society
2214 North Delaware Drive
P.O. Box 58
Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania 18343

For more information please email Historian@SlateBeltMuseum.org

 

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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

 

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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 of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Historical Association
Slate Belt Heritage Center
Slate Belt Chamber of Commerce


Website created and maintained by Pinwheelgraphix - © 2008 Slate Belt Museum