On Friday, August 19, Bath Borough concluded Old Home Week by celebrating a history night with a sold-out ceremonial dinner. The dinner was prepared by Chef Nathan Grube and the display was presented by the Bath Museum at the Bath American Legion Eckley E. Patch Post 470.
Council Vice President Frank Hesch III welcomed everyone to the dinner and thanked the Old Home Week committee. Hesch expressed that it all started when he found an old pin from a 1912 Old Home Week, which sparked a conversation about a homecoming for the community 110 years later to celebrate the past, present, and the future of Bath, Pa.
After a blessing from Father Christopher Butera from Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Bath, attendees lined up for the buffet line.
“Bath is always looked at as a small town, but what’s interesting is the amount of history that the town possesses,” said Hesch. For example, Hesch explained while reading through old notes and minutes from past council meetings he discovered that Bath raised money for numerous Civil War soldiers to send to them for the war effort.
Hesch thanked everyone that came out to the festivities in support of the borough and community as well as past and current council members before introducing guest speaker Linda Kortz.
Hesch explained that after growing up on a family farm near Nazareth, Linda earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education from Kutztown with her post graduate work in Art History in Early Arts—weaving, pottery, painting, and exhibit design. She taught art for 10 years. Kortz has extensive experience in marketing and designing various arts and crafts lines, which she has won industry awards for. Linda was appointed to the National Board of Directors for the Hobby Industry of America and has experience in designing local and national exhibits for numerous well-known companies.
“Linda has been very helpful to the Borough,” said Hesch.
Kortz followed her introduction with an informative presentation on Bath’s history.
“I grew up north of Bath, off of Route 512. [Growing up my family would] drive through Bath and that was the place where all the cars were covered in cement dust. My uncle’s dad, Earl Spengler, owned the barbershop over the creek by the Red Wolf, and so that’s where we would get haircuts for 50 cents,” said Kortz.
Kortz explained when she received the call to do the Bath Museum, she thought to herself, “It can’t be that extravagant, it’s Bath.” However, Kortz said she was blown away by the collection, and began her research.
Kortz said, “Bath, of course, was from William Penn who came here because the king owed him money. William Allen was also [an important man] here, and he had two daughters.” She explained that one daughter named Margaret married one of William Penn’s sons and named Bath after where she came from, which is how the town got its name in 1728.
“At the time, Bath was considered quite an interesting little community, it only had about five buildings, but one historian said they are buildings of merit–they have mills, they have blacksmiths, they have cider presses, things that would bring other people that they needed,” Kortz said.
“Governor Wolf, who grew up on Jacksonville Road, was such a progressive he went to the Academy in the first year, as did other boys from Bath,” said Kortz. She explained the Academy was a classical education in humanities, mathematics, etc., and all in English. After Wolf graduated, he was principal for some time before going to Easton to work as an attorney.
Kortz explained he worked not for the rich, but for the common man.
Kortz also detailed the connection Bath has to George Washington. She told of General Robert Brown, a loyal American from this area, who was captured by the British. Once he was released, George Washington made him a Lieutenant in his army. Later, Washington gifted Brown two chestnut trees. One tree was planted on Airport Road near Friendship Framing, named after the Friendship Tree.
“At one time that tree was eight feet across, it was massive,” said Kortz. However, after a massive storm ripped half of it off, a huge pole and cabling was used to try and save the tree.
[We’ve] got that cable and part of that tree in the museum. That’s from George Washington!” Kortz exclaimed.
Kortz said the Bath Museum contains all kinds of interesting and fun things you may not know about, even an old wool swimming suit from the women’s swimming team.
Kortz noted that over 30 doctors have come out of Bath and 10 famous lawyers. She said the first successful cataracts surgery was done on Chestnut Street, the first successful cesarean where the mother and child both survived was performed in Bath, the first president of Muhlenberg College came out of Bath, and spirit lamps were invented in Bath. Bath is also the oldest borough in the state after Easton and Bethlehem, had four marble cutters, two foundries, carriage manufacturing, two cigar factories, two bakeries, several furniture manufacturers, two silk mills, two tanneries, an extremely successful printing industry, 20 other various stores, a celebration hall, a coronet band, a fire department long before other municipalities, a booming cement manufacturing industry, one of the first post offices, which cost 11 cents to mail a letter, one of the first railroads that used a standard train track size, and a trolley system amongst many other remarkable businesses and industries.
“I wasn’t expecting so many incredible things and such talent from the people that settled Bath,” Kortz expressed.
“Bath is in a wonderful resurgence and Bath is at the beginning of it all,” Kortz added.
Last, Hesch thanked the Legion for their support and the use of their venue for the event, Council President Michele Ehrgott for her donation of the cake, and Hayes Flowers for the donation of the centerpieces, which were raffled off.
The Bath Museum offers free admission and is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every third Saturday January through November and the first Saturday in December, located at 121 S. Walnut St., Bath.