New Tripoli was named to honor Marines' victory

Q: Do you have any information on the history of New Tripoli?

Sandra Beers, Schnecksville

A: Back in 1914, a fellow named Charles R. Roberts noted in his ''Anniversary History of Lehigh County'' that ''New Tripoli is the largest and most thriving place in Lynn Township,'' a statement that continues to be true.

The man considered the father of New Tripoli was Samuel Ely Jr. Records show he owned the land in 1816, but the property was settled far earlier. A public house, or tavern, had been built there in 1771.

The land was part of the Henry Mantz farm. In 1811, Mantz sold the property, along with water rights to Ontelaunee Creek, to Daniel Saeger.

A chap of some energy, Saeger quickly built a gristmill and store building.

Other folks came to the region and opened businesses there. Because of Saeger's leading role in the community, everybody started to call it Saegersville. In 1813, Saeger sold the property to Ely, who then owned the old 1771 tavern.

Ely gave the area the name of New Tripoli. Its name came from Tripoli, an ancient seaport fortress town in north Africa.

From 1801 to 1805, the United States had fought a largely naval war with a group of pirates, based in Tripoli, that was raiding American ships. U.S. Marines were involved in this combat, hence the reference ''to the shores of Tripoli'' in The Marines' Hymn.

According to long-accepted tradition, Ely wanted to honor that victory and so he named the town after it. As it was a part of a farming area, most of its early industries — such as the gristmill — were farm-related.

Among the list of those first folks to buy town lots in 1816 and 1817 were Peter Haas, Christian Kuntz and Adam Heckman. New Tripoli got its post office in 1823. Samuel Camp was the first postmaster.

Industry arrived in New Tripoli after the Civil War. The Berks County Railroad arrived in 1874. It was used primarily to ship out the region's chief crop: potatoes.

From 1880 to 1910, a two-story frame building that held a carriage factory was the town's primary business. The building was converted to a shirt-making operation, and by 1914 it was employing 20 to 25 people, most of them young women from the town.

A slaughterhouse was opened in 1907 by Quince Trine. It later was run by Lewis F. Snyder. It catered primarily to a local market, ''reaching from Wessnersville to Saegersville [New Tripoli], a distance of 12 miles,'' Roberts said.

The New Tripoli National Bank was chartered on Oct. 8, 1909. Its capital was $25,000.

The bank was complete, with ''a fire-proof vault and Ely-Norris safe of the latest design'' and a heating system using hot water and acetylene gas that cost $9,000, Roberts noted. It opened March 1, 1910.

Today the building is home to the New Tripoli Public Library.

Postscript: The last name of last week's question writer was misspelled. It was David Hojsak who asked about the PPL building. Sorry, David.

Ask Frank appears on Wednesdays. Have a question on local history? E-mail questions to frank.whelan@mcall.com or write to Frank Whelan, The Morning Call, 101 N. Sixth St., Allentown, Pa. 18105.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading