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Sweet Land of Liberty

The Ordeal of the American Revolution in Northampton County, Pennsylvania

Francis S. Fox

Publication Year: 2000

It is often said that the American Revolution was a conservative revolution, but in many parts of the British colonies the Revolution was anything but conservative. This book follows the Revolution in Pennsylvania’s backcountry through the experiences of eighteen men and women who lived in Northampton County during these years of turmoil. Fox’s account will startle many readers for whom the Revolution symbolizes the high-minded pursuit of liberty. In 1774, Northampton County was the second largest of Pennsylvania’s eleven counties, comprising more than 2,500 square miles, three towns (Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton), and some 15,000 people. When the Revolution broke out, militias took control. Frontier justice replaced the rule of law as zealous patriots preoccupied themselves not with fighting the British but with seizing local political power and persecuting their pacifist neighbors. Sweet Land of Liberty reawakens the Revolution in Northampton County with sketches of men and women caught up in it. Seldom is this story told from the vantage point of common folks, let alone those in the backcountry. In Fox’s hands, we see in these individuals an altogether more disturbing Revolution than we have ever reckoned with before.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

I still wore short pants when my mother began to infuse me with facts and fiction about ancestors and kin. On long journeys she smoothed the way with dramatic monologues—voice-overs, really—about runaway horses, picnics, berry picking, natural disasters, festive dinners, sleigh rides, weddings, and funerals. ...

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pp. xiii-xix

Immigrants drifted into the northern part of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, around 1725.Twenty-five years later some 5,000 persons inhabited this region. Craving convenient access to county courts and officials, these settlers appealed to the governor to detach nine townships from Upper Bucks and treat them as the nucleus of a new county. ...

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1 Robert Levers

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pp. 1-36

On October 4, 1723, Robert and Elizabeth Levers christened their son, Robert, at St. Mary Whitechapel in Stepney Parish, an Anglican vicariate that skirted the Thames River in the east end of London, England.1 The boy came of age in the heart of the city’s shipping industry. ...

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2 Lewis Gordon

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pp. 37-52

Around 1742, Lewis Gordon settled in Philadelphia.1 His name appears first in Pennsylvania’s public records in 1745, when he registered the purchase of land warrants in Bucks County.2 After a stint as a conveyancer, the young Scotsman secured an appointment as a clerk in the law office of Richard Peters.3 ...

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3 Elias Long

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pp. 53-56

In Mount Bethel Township, clan-like ties bound together a Scots-Irish enclave hemmed in by Blue Mountain on the north and by the Delaware River on the east. But when the Revolution swept through this community, the solidarity of some 150 families splintered. As happened in other Northampton townships, ...

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4 Henry Geiger

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pp. 57-68

In 1749, Henry Geiger emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania.1 There he joined his brother, who had settled near Philadelphia.2 Around 1753, the Geigers moved to Northampton County and took up land in Heidelberg Township. With the outbreak of the French and Indian War (1753–63), ...

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5 Michael Ohl

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pp. 69-72

The Ohl family settled in Heidelberg Township about 1740. By 1774, Michael Ohl, the eldest son, had become a naturalized citizen and established himself as one of the community’s prominent citizens. In addition to working a farm of more than 400 acres, Ohl, with the help of his wife and some of their ten children, ...

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6 John Wetzel and John Ettwein

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pp. 73-96

The founder of the Renewed Moravian Church, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, named and dedicated the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on Christmas Eve 1741.The Brethren had established an outpost there to propagate the gospel and evangelize the heathen.1 ...

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7 Elizabeth Kurtz

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pp. 97-104

In a series of treaties concluded between 1682 and 1768, Native Americans sold about two-thirds of their land in present Pennsylvania to William Penn and his heirs. Although the Penns sold or leased most of this land to friends and immigrants, they reserved for themselves seventy-eight tracts, ...

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8 Joseph Romig

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pp. 105-112

On April 6, 1776, Pennsylvania’s provincial Assembly enacted a law that decreed that all persons who refused to fight in defense of the United Colonies be disarmed.1 This statute required each of nearly 300 townships in the province to choose by ballot three persons to collect weapons from persons “disaffected to the Cause of America.” ...

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9 Jacob Stroud

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pp. 113-120

Around 1760, Jacob Stroud, fresh from a five-year stint in the English Army, returned to his home in Lower Smithfield Township north of Blue Mountain.1 A few years later the veteran of the Battle of Quebec opened a general store and tavern at a major trail head on the edge of the frontier. ...

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10 George Taylor

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pp. 121-126

In 1736, George Taylor found employment as a clerk at an iron plantation located near Philadelphia. When one of the owners died, Taylor, age twenty-six, married his widow. Thereafter, he assumed an active role in the management of the business.1 The young ironmaster also participated in a rebellion. ...

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11 Phillis

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pp. 127-130

On March 1, 1780, the Pennsylvania Assembly passed An Act for the Abolition of Slavery.1 Representative George Bryan, former vice president of the Supreme Executive Council, authored the bill and shepherded it through the Assembly. A friend of Bryan’s referred to the new statute as “the law for freeing of Negroes hereafter born” ...

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12 Mathew and Mary Myler

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pp. 131-136

In the aftermath of the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, some Americans began to wonder whether or not the British, like the French before them, would use Canada to stage attacks on the United Colonies. Encouraged by reports that many Canadians sought closer ties with Americans and might join the fight ...

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13 Isaac Klinkerfuss

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pp. 137-142

In February 1776, the Count of Hanau, a small principality in the Duchy of Hesse, Germany, agreed to provide England with men who would serve as soldiers in America.The nearly 700 peasants dragooned for the foreign legion included a young man named Isaac Klinkerfuss....

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14 Henry Legel

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pp. 143-146

In June 1778, the British abandoned Philadelphia and marched back to New York. Pennsylvanians cheered, but state authorities warned that Tories and Indians might now attack the backcountry. In Northampton, the militia and other officials ignored reports that war parties had begun to infiltrate the region north of Blue Mountain. ...

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15 Eve Yoder and Esther Bachman

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pp. 147-156

After the British captured Philadelphia in September 1777, Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary government instituted draconian measures to wring loyalty from the state’s inhabitants. The Act for the Attainder of Divers Traitors punished persons who assisted or joined the army of the King of Great Britain.1 ...

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Afterword by Michael Zuckerman

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pp. 157-162

Frank Fox probably knows how long ago we met. I have quite forgotten.He is simply a part of my life now. We correspond—real letters, not e-mail— desultorily, then at white heat for a while, then not at all for months. He turns up for lunch in Philadelphia or for a few days in Holland when I’m spending the year there. ...


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pp. 163-164


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pp. 165-208


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pp. 209-212

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271052687
E-ISBN-10: 0271052686
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271020631
Print-ISBN-10: 0271020636

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 1 map
Publication Year: 2000

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Northampton County (Pa.) -- History -- 18th century.
  • Northampton County (Pa.) -- Biography.
  • Pennsylvania -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Social aspects.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Biography.
  • Pennsylvania -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Biography.
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Social aspects.
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