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German Settlers began coming to the area known as “Maguntsche” (derived from the Lenni Lenape phrase “Feeding place of the Bears”), around 1730. They were fleeing war and seeking religious freedom.

The oldest building within Emmaus is the “Zuflucht Haus” or Shelter House. It was built around 1734 near an Indian trail along the slopes of South Mountain and was probably a safe haven and shelter for early travelers. During the next few years log cabins were built in the area. In 1736 George Shoemaker took a warrant for two hundred acres of land near the present site of Emmaus High School. In 1738 John Henry Knauss settled near Furnace Dam. Sebastian Knauss built his home near the present day railroad underpass. Jacob Ehrenhardt erected his cabin on South Keystone Ave, near where his son built his stone house in 1803. It was the Ehrenhardt house that the missionary and patron, Count Zinzendorf came to preach in late 1741. In 1742 a community church was built and in 1746 a Moravian boarding school. In 1758-59 the community became a “German Ort” or a closed Moravian village.

The first house officially built in the new village was at the now 160 Main Street.  It was built by Andreas Giering and occupied in 1759. The village was first called Salzburg (Salisbury). The present name of Emmaus was given by Bishop Spangenberg at a Moravian Love Feast April 3, 1761. It was changed to Emaus in 1830 and was incorporated under that name in 1859. In 1938 petitions were circulated under the leadership of the Emaus Rotary Club to change the name again, and Emaus once again became Emmaus.

The Revolutionary War brought new tribulations to the Emmaus community. Moravians were pacifists and such were harassed, fined and even imprisoned for refusal to fight.  Twelve members did enlist in the Continental Army and were eventually buried anonymously in God’s Acre at the foot of Third Street.

The Railroad came through Emmaus in 1859, the same year the village incorporated into a Borough with a population of 277.

Industry began to grow in the area as Iron Ore was mined and processed at the Donaldson Iron Company in 1850. By 1882, Silk Mills came into the area. Other products from Emmaus, past & present were/are cigars, shoes, pajamas, roofing paper, boilers, electrical products, industrial gases, books, grinding bails, handbags, and magazines.

In 1859 Emaus comprised about two hundred acres. The boundaries remained unchanged until 1903 with a population of 1468. The annexation of surrounding land began the growth toward a modern Emmaus. Today, Emmaus is more than thirty times the size of the original Moravian village with a population well over 12,000 people of many faiths.

Emmaus Historical Society

A Brief History of Emmaus, Pennsylvania