George Taylor House History

George Taylor was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, ironmaster at Durham Furnace, constructed first court house in Northampton County at Easton, and a patriot during the Revolutionary war. He arrived in Philadelphia from the British Isles (either England or Ulster, Ireland) in 1736, worked at Warwick Furnace from 1737-1755, before moving to Durham furnace with wife, Anna Savage. He was associated with Durham Furnace until his death in 1881. However during his association with the iron furnace, he practiced law and was appointed an early Justice of the Peace and a representative to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly from Northampton County. He was also a member of the Continental Congress, and for a short time before his death in 1781, sat on the 12 member Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania formed to govern after the separation from England.

During his time as iron master of Durham Furnace, he committed the production of the furnace to making ammunition for the colonial forces against England at a price that ended up being below cost, and resulted in his losing all his personal wealth. He resided at his elegant home in Catasauqua for only a short time, as his wife passed away just after it was built, and spent most of his time in Easton. He held onto the farm/plantation until his son, who was to inherit it, also passed away.

Other Occupants

Jon Benezet & Hannah Bingham (1776-1782)
From Philadelphia, secretary to Pennsylvania Provincial Congress, member of Philadelphia’s Committee of Correspondence (one of the shadow govts organized by the Patriot leaders before the revolutionary war that coordinated communications to/from England and foreign governments), and member of the Continental Congress. Benezet also ran an import business until his death in ~1780-81.

Col David & Susannah Deshler (1782-1796)
David Deshler was born in Switzerland, and was an early resident of Whitehall, where he constructed Fort Deshler in 1760 for protection of the colonists against Indian attacks. In 1762, he constructed the first house in Allentown (then Northampton Town), operated a store/tavern and later a sawmill/gristmill. He was a member of Continental Congress with Taylor at the time he purchased the home from Taylor. During the Revolutionary war, he manufactured, stored, purchased and distributed munitions and other supplies for the Continental Army thru the end of the war in 1783. He later served on the Provincial assembly and served as a delegate to the state convention that ratified the federal Constitution. He helped bring the pivotal support of the rural Germans toward ratifying the constitution in Pennsylvania.

Jacob and Mary Geissinger Deily family (1823-1880’s)
The house and farm, at this time reduced to 150 acres, was purchased by Mary Geissinger’s father of Upper Saucon for his daughter and her husband, Jacob Deily, a cobbler in Allentown. The Deilys operated that farmstead and others in the area for many years. Jacob and Mary bought the Biery’s stone house (across Race St from the mill) for their son George who operated a store there for canal travelers and a coal yard, later making 2 Race St his home. In addition to farming, son Francis became a butcher and meat purveyor. Francis’s daughter Camilla Eleanor Deily married Dr. Charles Milson in 1884: Francis was not happy about his daughter marrying a doctor who would leave her alone at night to visit patients, so Dr. Milson gave up medicine and became a gentleman farmer in order to marry Camilla. Charles brother, Daniel Milson, Jr., started a coal yard between Lehigh and the canal in 1897. The first electric generating plant in the area was built on the land in front of the house on the west side of Lehigh Street. Milson (Jr) also industrialized part of the Frank Deily estate to the north and east, first opening a limestone quarry in 1900 (for fluxing material for the iron furnaces), then building a stone crushing operation in 1902 along the creek. (In 1911, he reopened an old stone quarry on the Kurtz estate adding a crusher which provided gravel for macadamizing the dirt streets in town. This operation is now Rock Hill.) Daniel Milson, Sr. was one of the early Welsh iron workers, turned entrepreneur, to move to Catasauqua after the Crane was built.

Jacob Deily’s son Francis later built the large Victorian home across Poplar St from the GTH.

Other Site History

Taylor purchased the property from Armstrong of the Craig Settlement, who had purchased it from Page’s Estate, the Manor of Chawton. These lands were deeded to John Page of England by William Penn’s daughter Letitia in 1731. Armstrong was an original member of the nearby early Irish Settlement and purchased the 331 acre parcel along the Lehigh in 1750. The local Lenni Lenapi had a substantial burial ground on the property at the time (the Scotts Irish were not hesitant to antagonize the Indians.) Armstrong was of historic interest: he was appointed as a Justice by the Colonial government of PA in 1752 and assisted with setting up the “County Town” for the newly created Northampton County, to become the City of Easton; likely how he met Taylor who subsequently oversaw the construction of the courthouse. Lehigh St did not exist at that time. Front St did, and extended across Catasauqua Creek passing just in front of the barn and homestead, where George Taylor later built his home. The land in front of the home to the river became farm land. The land behind the home extended from the creek up past 14th St on the east paralleling Race St and down to Franklin St on the south. It would have included most of south Catty, including St Mary’s Cemetery. In 1771, in addition to the house and farm buildings, included six horses, eight cows and three negroes. The farm consisted at that time of one hundred and thirty-six acres of clean land, and one hundred and ninety-five acres of woodland (as per tax records).

Between the house and creek, the first school was built on “Deily Hill” which was attended by the Deily and Biery family children as per the notation on this map. The map also notes that it was a private school, but it may have been built under the auspices of Hanover Township. It was one of the earliest schools in the area. It was razed prior to 1850. In the early 1900s, Hanover Twsp had a one room school further south along Canal Road/Lehigh Street. There were 20 students in eight grades, all in one room. Most of the teachers were male: during the depression, women had to retire if they married. Boys and girls had separate outhouses. Kids would run along the canal, and canal boat operators would let the kids get on the boats, with the mules pull the boat slowly for a couple of blocks.

After the Deily’s, the GTH house became a rental and the land between the house and Lehigh St was industrialized, most notably becoming the site of the Wahneta Silk Mill. Across the street, the first electric generating plant was built.

Lehigh County Historic Society purchased the house in 1945, completed its restoration in 1968, and attained the home’s designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1972. In 1982, the Wahneta Silk Mill and other industrial buildings along Lehigh St burned down; however, the fire fighters were able to protect the GTH from being consumed in the massive fire. The Borough of Catasauqua took ownership in 2009.

Architectural Notes: Style is Georgian, typical of the stately homes of Philadelphia at that time. Interior moldings match those from the handbook of the Philadelphia Carpenter Union; so it was likely built by them around the same time George Taylor had contracted with them to build the court house in Easton. The house apparently was so well designed and constructed that it underwent minimal renovations over the years. The main house, as it stands today, restored by the Lehigh County Historic Society, retains almost all of its original features. The southern wing is now undergoing architectural study, and preliminary results suggest that it was likely original to the Armstrong farmhouse, not a latter addition.