Moravian Historical Society
|Founded at||Nazareth, Pennsylvania|
|Purpose||Preserving Moravian history|
|Headquarters||1740/1743 Whitefield House|
|Northern Province, North America|
|Affiliations||Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, PA|
The Moravian Historical Society in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1857. It aims to preserve and present the art, history, and culture of the Moravians in America, and it is the third oldest historical society in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Society is housed in the 1740/1743 Whitefield House on the Ephrata Tract in downtown Nazareth. The Society is affiliated with the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the repository for records of the Moravian Church in North America, Northern Province.
The Society collects objects relating to Moravian history in North America, provides research assistance, publishes, and offers lectures, programs, events, and activities for all ages and levels of interest.
The Society owns three acres of land in Nazareth, PA, called the Ephrata Tract. It was on this site that the First House of Nazareth once stood. It operates out of two buildings on the Tract: the 1740/1743 Whitefield House and the 1740 Gray Cottage.
In 1740, a Moravian group from Savannah, Georgia was hired by landowner and British cleric George Whitefield to build a school for orphaned slaves. Whitefield wanted to build his school on a 5000-acre area he called Nazareth, which he had purchased from William Allen that same year. Tensions arising from theological disputes between Whitefield and the Moravians led the Moravians to purchase and begin to establish Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, leaving Whitefield’s school building unfinished. When Whitefield later went bankrupt, the Moravians purchased the 5000 acres, which included the Gray Cottage, First House, and the bottom portion of the Whitefield House. This area became known as the Ephrata Tract. The town of Nazareth was laid out in 1771 several blocks to the west. The First House was demolished in 1864, but the Whitefield House and Gray Cottage still stand. The buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 1, 1980.
Construction on the Whitefield House started in 1740 and completed in 1743. It was originally used to house 32 married couples arriving from England. Through the years, the Whitefield House operated as a place of worship, girls’ boarding school, nursery, the Moravian Theological Seminary, and apartments for furloughed missionaries. Today, the Whitefield House houses the Society’s museum, administrative offices, and gift shop. The museum runs a series of permanent and changing exhibitions showcasing the culture of the Moravians and their contributions to American history.
The Gray Cottage was constructed in October 1740 by the Moravians as protection from the harsh winter weather ahead. It is an oak log structure, and was originally called the “Old Block House” from the German word Block, meaning “log.” From 1743-1745, the building was used as a boys’ school. It has also been used as a girls’ school, a home for widows, a nursery, and a private residence. It is the oldest Moravian building still standing in North America.
Constructed in June 1740, the First House sheltered Moravians during the construction of the Whitefield House. It was approximately 30’ wide by 20’ deep, and stood two and one half stories tall. It was demolished in 1864, but the foundation was discovered by archaeologists in September 2014 in the area between the Whitefield House and the Gray Cottage. Several artifacts including redware pottery and a brass horse bell were also discovered. A small stone marker stands on this site.
The Society has placed several markers at locations of American Moravian historical significance:
- The First House of Nazareth marker: A small stone marker on the Ephrata Tract indicating the location of Nazareth’s First House, which was demolished in 1864.
- Meniolagomeka in Monroe County (near Kunkletown), PA: Dedicated on October 22, 1901, at the former site of the Delaware Native American town of Meniolagomeka. Several Moravian missionaries labored here from 1752-1755.
- Wechquetank in Monroe County (near Gilbert), PA: Dedicated on May 31, 1907, at the former site of the Delaware village of Wechquetank, which means willow tree in the Delaware language. The site was a Moravian mission from 1750-1756 and 1760-1763.
- The Rose Inn in Northampton County (Upper Nazareth), PA: Built in 1752 by the Moravians; it was used as housing for refugees from 1755-1756. It formally closed in 1772, and was demolished in 1858. A stone marker sits on the original site near a barn made partially from wood of the original inn.
- Shekomeko in Dutchess County (near Pine Plains), NY: Dedicated to the Mahican Native American village of Shekomeko, the first Native Christian congregation in America. Moravian missionaries worked there from 1740-1746, until new legislation expelled them from the area. The original monument was dedicated at the site of missionary Gottlieb Buettner’s grave at Shekomeko on October 5, 1859, and rededicated as its current, more accessible site on June 22, 1926.
- Gnadenhuetten in Borough of Lehighton, Carbon County, PA: Dedicated to the mission at the village of Gnadenhuetten. The village was destroyed in a massacre during the French and Indian War on Nov. 24, 1755.
- Dansbury Mission in Monroe County (Stroudsburg), PA: Dedicated on June 25, 1931, to the Moravian mission that began in 1747, and was destroyed during the French and Indian War in 1755.
- Friedenshuetten in Bradford County (near Wyalusing), PA: Dedicated on June 15, 1871, at the former Native American mission village of Wyalusing, 1763-1772.
- Gnadensee (Indian Lake) in Litchfield County (near Sharon), CT: Dedicated on October 6, 1859, at Wechquanach near Shekomeko overlooking the Gnadensee. Missionary David Bruce’s body was carried over the Gnadensee to Wechquanach in 1749.
The Whitefield House Museum’s collection contains over 10,000 Moravian objects, which are featured in permanent and changing exhibits. Highlights from the collections include:
- 23 oil paintings by John Valentine Haidt (1700-1780), the first artist in Colonial America to portray chiefly religious topics,
- A 1776 pipe organ made by David Tannenberg, the most important organ-builder of his time,
- The Antes violin: the earliest-known violin made in the American Colonies,
- A tile stove made prior to 1775,
- John Amos Comenius, the "Father of Modern Education." 
The museum also contains a large collection of Moravian mission artifacts from six continents, as well as various textiles, household goods, and Native American artifacts.
The entire collection is available to researchers by appointment. Research requests are processed through the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem.
The museum operates from 1-4pm, seven days a week except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
The Moravian Historical Society publishes various guides and periodicals, including:
- Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society-a publication that ran in volumes from 1868-2000.
- Journal of Moravian History-a biannual publication and expanded version of Transactions, created in 2006 in collaboration with the Moravian Archives and now published by Pennsylvania State University Press. It features scholarly articles, translations of Moravian source material, and book reviews.
- Abundant Heritage Newsletter of the Moravian Historical Society-a biannual newsletter featuring events and programs run by the Moravian Historical Society.
- Moravian Walking Tour and Guidebook of the Lehigh Valley-a guidebook highlighting the Moravian sites in Nazareth, Bethlehem, Emmaus, Allentown, Easton, and Christian’s Spring.
The Moravian Historical Society offers a variety of events for all ages and interest levels. Historic Nazareth Walking Tours meet at the Whitefield House every second Saturday at 3pm, and feature a tour guide in historic Moravian dress. The museum’s Free Summer Sundays offer families a free museum tour as well as historic youth crafts and games. The Whitefield After Dark program takes place on the fourth Friday of every month, excluding summer holiday, and allows visitors to explore Moravian history after closing time through lectures, screenings, and various family activities.
For kids, the Society has an annual Hands-On History summer camp. It is a week-long camp where campers participate in various activities such as constructing a play, making crafts, and playing games relating to colonial history and Moravian culture. The Society also holds an annual Arts & Crafts Festival featuring more than 100 craft vendors as well as food and free kids’ activities.
The Society hosts the annual Share the Heritage Auction and Dinner to raise support for its many activities and events.
Annual Meeting, Lecture, and Reception
The Society hosts an Annual Meeting, Lecture, and Reception to present the state of the Society and give a lecture on an aspect of Moravian history. Each year features a key-note speaker, as follows:
- 2017:Natasha Lightfoot, Columbia University, New York
- 2016:Paul Peucker, Moravian Archives, Bethlehem
- 2015:Otto Dreydoppel, Chaplain at Moravian Hall Square
- 2014:Katherine Faull, Bucknell University, Lewisburg
- 2013:Jeffrey Long, architectural historian
- 2012:Scott Paul Gordon, Lehigh University
- 2011:Riddick Weber, Moravian Theological Seminary
- 2010:Katherine Carte Engel, Texas A&M University
- 2009:Rachel Wheeler, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis
- 2008:David Freeman
- 2007:Susan Dreydoppel, Moravian Historical Society, Nazareth
- 2006:Nola Reed Knouse, Moravian Music Foundation, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- 2005:Mark A. Turdo, Moravian Historical Society, Nazareth
- 2004:Elizabeth A. Sommer, Historic Richmond Town, Staten Island, New York
- 2003:Daniel Crews, Moravian Archives, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- 2002:David Schattschneider, Moravian Theological Seminary, Bethlehem
- 2001:Larry Leon Hamlin, North Carolina Black Repertory Company
- 2000:Craig Atwood, Salem Academy and College, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- 1999:Katherine Faull, Bucknell University, Lewisburg
- 1998:Jon Sensbach, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
- 1997:Paul Peucker, Unity Archives, Herrnhut, Germany
- 1996:Daniel Thorp, Virginia Polytechnic University, Virginia
- 1995:Aaron Fogleman, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama
- 1994:Roger Martin, Randolph-Moravian College and Theological Seminary, Bethlehem
- 1993:Samuel Zeller, Lutheran Church, Bangor
- 1992:Beverly Smaby, Albion College, Michigan
- 1991:Daniel Crews, Moravian Archives, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- 1990:Vernon Nelson, Moravian Archives, Bethlehem
- 1989:Albert Frank, First Moravian Church, Dover, Ohio
- 1988:Lawrence Hartzell, Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio
- 1987:Mervin Weidner, Moravian Theological Seminary, Bethlehem
- 1986:Edwin Sawyer, Bethlehem
- 1985:James Henkelman, Charter North Hospital, Anchorage, Alaska
- 1984:Murray Wagner, Bethany and Northern Baptist Theological Seminaries, Oak Brook, Illinois
- 1983:Earl Shay, Moravian Theological Seminary, Bethlehem
- 1982:David Schattschneider, Moravian Theological Seminary, Bethlehem
- 1981:Helmut Lehman, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia 
- 1980:Dr. Werner G. Marx
- 1979:Dr. James D. Nelson
- 1978:Dr. Richard D. Claypool/Mr. Robert Steelman
- 1977:Rev. Albert H. Frank
- 1976:Dr. John R. Weinlick
- 1975:Dr. Donald J. Lineback
- 1974:Dean W. Ross Yates
- 1973:Henry L. Williams
- 1972:Rev. John F. Morman
- 1971:David A. Schattschneider/Bishop Kenneth G. Hamilton
- 1970:Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan
- 1969:Dr. Walser H. Allen
- 1968:Dr. Winfred Kohls (read by Dr. John R. Weinlick)
- 1967:Mrs. Thomas J. Butterfield
- 1966:Rev. Kenneth G. Hamilton
- 1965:Rev. Vernon Nelson
- 1964:Dr. Richmond E. Myers
- 1963:Rt. Rev. Allan Schattschneider
- 1962:Dr. Clarence E. Clewell
- 1961:Rev. Henry Williams
- 1960:Dr. Edwin W. Kortz/Rev. John Fliegel
- 1959:Dr. Samuel V. Gapp
- 1958:Dr. Edwin A. Sawyer
- 1957:Dr. Heinz Motel
- 1956:Ann Hark
- 1955:Dr. John H. Weinlick
- 1954:Rev. Vernon W. Couillard
- 1953:Dr. John H Weinlick
- 1952:Rt. Rev. Kenneth G. Hamilton
- 1951:Prof. H. H. Beck
- 1950:Miss Haller
- 1949:Rev. A. O. Danneberger
- 1947:Professor Richmond E Myers
- 1946:Rev. H. A. Kuehl
- 1945:Professor Garth A Howland
- 1944:Hon. John R. MacNicol
- 1943:Mr. Garth A. Howland
- 1942:Mr. Paul T. Warner
- 1941:Rev. John Joseph Stoudt
- 1940:Professor Amos A. Ettinger
- 1939:Rev. Kenneth G. Hamilton
- 1938:Dr. Hans T. David
- 1937:Mr. David Sanders Clark
- 1936:Dr. Albert G. Rau
- 1935:Professor Herbert H. Beck
- 1934:Miss Adelaide Fries
- 1933:Dr. A. G. Rau
- 1932:Mr. R. R. Hillman
- 1931:Dr. A. G. Rau
- 1930:Bishop J. Taylor Hamilton
- 1929:J. Taylor Hamilton
- 1928:Hon. H. J. Steele
- 1927:Bishop Hamilton
- 1926:Henry F. Marx/Rev. W. H. Vogler (read by Rev. G. F. Bahnson)
- 1925:Rev. John Baer/Paul E. Beck
- 1924:Rev. J. Taylor Hamilton
- 1923:Adelaide Fries
- 1922:Rev. J. E. Weinland
- 1921:Rev. J. Max Hark/Dr. A. G. Rau/E. A. Rau/W. H. Vogler
- 1920:Clara A. Beck/Rev. H. B. Marx/Rev. T. M. Rights
- 1919:Adelaide Fries/J. T. Hamilton
- 1918:J. Upton Myers/Dr. A. G Rau
- 1917:J. Upton Myers
- 1916:Rev. Augustus Schultze
- 1915:W. E. Doster
- 1914:Rev. A. E. Oerter/Rev. A. D Thaeler
- 1913:Rev. Albert Oerter/Rev. H. E. Stocker
- 1912: M. W. Leibert/Abraham R. Beck
- 1911:Rev. H. A. Jacobson
- 1910:Rev. H. A. Jacobson/Rev. E. T. Kluge/H. H. Hacker
- 1909:Rev. Paul de Schweinitz/A. G. Rau
- 1908:Rev. E. T. Kluge/Joseph A. Rice
- 1907:Albert G. Rau/Rev. Henry A. Jacobson
- 1906:Abraham R. Beck/Albert G. Rau/J. W. Jordan
- 1905:Robert Rau/Isaac Huntting/Rev. E. T. Kluge
- 1904:Rev. E. T. Kluge/Robert Rau
- 1903:Rev. E. T. Kluge/Rev. H. A. Jacobson
- 1902:Rev. E. T. Kluge/Henry T. Clauder/Rev. E. T. Kluge
- 1901:Albert G. Rau/Rev. E. T. Kluge/Rev. C. A. Haehnle
- 1900:John M. Levering/Eugene Leibert/Robert Rau
- 1899:Rev. Eugene Leibert
- 1898:Rev. Eugene Leibert/Rev. J. Taylor Hamilton/Bishop Levering
- 1897:Bishop Levering (read by Rev. J. Taylor Hamilton)/Rev. E. Leibert/John W. Jordan (read by Rev. M. W. Leibert)/W. H. Jordan (read by Rev. P. de Schweinitz)
- 1896:Rev. E. Leibert/Robert Rau
- 1895:J. Taylor Hamilton/Henry A. Jacobson/Rev. J. M. Levering
- 1894:J. Taylor Hamilton/John W. Jordan
- 1893:Eugene Leibert/James Henry
- 1892:Helen Bell/J. Taylor Hamilton/William Henry Rice
- 1891:James Henry/Henry A. Jacobson/John W. Jordan
- 1890:Henry A. Jacobson/Robert de Schweinitz
- 1889:James Henry/Robert de Schweinitz/Henry A. Jacobson/John W. Jordan
- 1888:James Henry/John W. Jordan/Henry A. Jacobson
- 1887:James Henry/Abraham S. Schropp/Edward T. Kluge
- 1886:James Henry/Robert Rau/John W. Jordan
- 1885:John W. Jordan
- 1884:James Henry/John W. Jordan
- 1883:John W. Jordan/Henry A. Jacobson
- 1882:James Henry/John W. Jordan/Henry A. Jacobson
- 1881:James Henry/J. Max Hark/Henry A. Jacobson
- 1880:James Henry/J. Max Hark/John W. Jordan
- 1879:James Henry/Henry A. Jacobson
- 1878:James Henry/J. Max Hark/Henry A. Jacobson/A. A. Reinke
- 1877:James Henry/Henry A. Jacobson/John W. Jordan/Henry A. Jacobson
- 1876:James Henry/Henry A. Jacobson/Henry A. Jacobson/John W. Jordan/William Henry Rice
- 1875:James Henry/Henry A. Jacobson/John W. Jordan
- 1874:James Henry/Henry A. Jacobson/William C. Reichel
- 1873:James Henry/Henry A. Jacobson
- 1872:James Henry
- 1871:William C. Reichel
- 1870:(No speaker)
- 1869:Eugene Leibert/Edmund de Schweinitz
- 1868:James Henry/Louis R. Huebener/John C. Brickenstein
- 1867:James Henry
- 1866:(No speaker)
- 1865:James Henry/John C. Brickenstein
- 1864:John C. Brickenstein/Edmund de Schweinitz
- 1863:John C. Brickenstein/Edmund de Schweinitz/C. F. Kluge
- 1862:John C. Brickenstein
- 1861:James Henry/John C. Brickenstein
- 1860:James Henry
- 1859:(No speaker)
- 1858:James Henry
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