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Retired NASD teacher urges school board to honor history

The roots of the Friendship Tree reach back centuries in East Allen Township. The Route 329 elementary school and education center, proposed on a 90-acre site at Seemsville Road, could tell a Friendship Tree of history, according to a retired Northampton Area High School teacher.

“I want to look at the historical aspects,” said Ed Pany, during the Northampton Area School District Board of Education meeting. “If [the school is] constructed, I want to see history preserved on that site.”

NASD school directors, administrators and the public got a history lesson from Pany about the site of the proposed $73.4 million school complex.

Pany, retired Northampton High School history teacher and Northampton Press columnist, is founder/curator of Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum, the nation’s only museum devoted to the cement industry. It is located at 1401 Laubach Ave., Northampton.

Pany presented a master class in the history of the school site during the Jan. 9 school board meeting in the NAHS auditorium.

“This is an important historical site to Allen, East Allen, Northampton County and Pennsylvania,” Pany said.

School Director Robert Mentzell, a retired Northampton High School history teacher, asked Pany about the origin of the Friendship Tree, believed to be depicted on the East Allen Township logo and website.

Pany responded, “General Brown had visited Mt. Vernon and was given by George Washington two chestnut tree saplings as a sign of friendship. They were planted in East Allen Township but, over the years, were destroyed by storms. Saplings from the original tree were planted. The land (the Route 329 school site) was part of the first permanent settlement in Northampton County in 1728. They were the first settlers of Northampton County. They were a group of 16 Scotch-Irish families led by Thomas and James Craig.”

In a follow-up phone interview, Pany said, “It is believed that James Craig had been related to William Allen by marriage. William Allen founded Allentown and was a provincial justice of Pennsylvania.”

Allen and East Allen townships are William Allen namesakes.

At the school board meeting, Pany said, “When you name the roads, I recommend you name them for some of these people.”

Pany was referring to proposed school entrance and exit roads from Seemsville Road.

In the phone interview, Pany mentioned names of settlers who could be considered for the naming of roads. In addition to the Craigs, there’s Gen. Robert Brown, who was a friend of George Washington and who fought in the Revolutionary War.

“Within walking distance of the school site is the Jane Horner Cemetery, believed to be the oldest cemetery in Northampton County,” he said. “Gen. Robert Brown is buried there, along with other Revolutionary War veterans.”

Pany added, “Horner was a member of the early settlement, the Craig settlement. She was slain during a [Native American] raid during the French and Indian War. Peggy Moser is caretaker of the cemetery. She operates tours at the cemetery. She could walk right to the (proposed) school and put on a program.

“This is the most history (at the Route 329 site) that we are going to have of all the buildings in our district. This is the most historical site,” Pany continued.

Pany was instrumental in the naming of the Col. John Siegfried Elementary School, located on Lincoln Avenue in Northampton. Siegfried was commander of the Northampton Militia, which fought in the Revolutionary War.

Hallways in Northampton Area Middle School are named for area cement companies, and a mural in the building depicts the former Atlas Portland Cement Company and use of Atlas cement, including for the Empire State Building and the Holland Tunnel. NAMS is built on the site of one of the three Atlas mills.

At Lehigh Elementary School, the history of education in Lehigh Township is told in photographs and artifacts, including a historic school bell near the school entrance.

At the school board meeting, Pany said of the Route 329 site, “You have a beautiful setting there and a distinguished history. Please help us remember and care about the men and women who settled our area and brought us our liberties that we enjoy today.”

The board of education next meets 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 in the auditorium at NAHS, 1619 Laubach Ave.

CONTRIBUTED IMAGE The Friendship Tree is said to be depicted in the East Allen Township logo.