Historically Yours: A Nation Filled with Bethlehems

Elizabeth Davis
Special to Boonville Daily News

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was founded Christmas Eve in 1741. According to the 2010 census, Bethlehem had a population of almost 75,000. In 2006, MONEY magazine listed Bethlehem No. 88 on its “Top 100 Best Places to Live.”

Bethlehem, Connecticut, was incorporated in 1787, and the 2010 census showed the town had less than 4,000 residents. The Christmas season is always a busy time for its postal employees. From miles around, people bring their cards and letters so they can be post marked “Bethlehem.”

Bethlehem, New York, was established on March 12, 1793, and named after the Biblical Bethlehem. South of Albany, Bethlehem had a population of 33,656 in 2010.

Bethlehem, New Jersey, was first mentioned in 1730, but it wasn’t until Feb. 21, 1798, that it was incorporated as a town. With its proximity to New York City, Bethlehem is considered the larger city’s exurb.

Bethlehem, New Hampshire, is the last Bethlehem that documents its beginning as taking place before the 1800s. Originally the town was Lloyd’s Hills in 1774, but the original grant could not be found after the Revolutionary War. The people selected Bethlehem as their town’s name on Christmas Day in 1799 and incorporated it as such Dec. 27.

In 1812, Bethlehem, Indiana, was platted and, according to Works Progress Administration records, was named after Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the birth place of the town’s founder, Colonel John Armstrong. The post office there has used a special “Three Wise Men” cancellation stamp since 1947 for those wanting a Bethlehem postmark.

The local post office in Bethlehem, Georgia, postmarked almost 200,000 cards and other pieces of mail during the 2009 Christmas season. According to the 2010 census, Bethlehem only had 601 residents.

Bethlehem, Kansas, is an unincorporated community in Henry County. The town is best known for its annual Living Nativity which is presented December 22-25. CBS Evening News featured Bethlehem’s Christmas traditions in 1996.

At least a dozen other states have a Bethlehem — Conway County in Arkansas, Winn Parish in Louisiana, Marshall County in Mississippi, Holmes County in Florida, Caroline County in Maryland, Alexander County in North Carolina, Richland County in Ohio, Meade County in South Dakota, Wayne County in Tennessee, Upshur County in Texas, Ohio County in West Virginia, and last, but not least, McDonald County in Missouri.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008, She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.davis@gmail.com.