The Joseph Sturgis House (1782, 59 Main Street)

[The article written by Hiram M. Eberly as it appeared in the Lititz Record-Express.]

The Stroble house at 59 East Main Street is one of the oldest in the borough, yet this historic old stone house has seen little change since it was built by Joseph Sturgis in 1782. Of course you can’t see the sides any more, but a peek at the rear of the building is quite interest- ing.

This became the home of both the John Beck educators and was the most beautiful home in Lititz before it became swallowed up in the business district. General Sutter in a letter to his niece did a little boasting about his new home in 1871. He said, “There is only one other house in the village as fine as ours.”  He was a great friend of the Becks.

What has not been known generally was that this house was built by the “boy hero” Joseph Sturgis (1783-1817). His mother being a “Hatfield” may have accounted for this.  At the age of sixteen Joseph was sent to a mission settlement near Lehighton to assist the household. This was in 1755 when the French induced the Indians to turn on their old Moravian Friends. One night their home was attacked while fourteen were at the supper table. Some hid in the at- tic until the house was set afire. Joseph helped one woman escape with him by leaping from the attic window.  From the woods they watched eleven of their friends being massacred.

Sturgis followed his trade as a potter and had a successful business in Lebanon. When he was forty-four he brought his family to Lititz, built the house at 59 E. Main St., and had his plant back of the house along the creek.Joseph Sturgis gave the village quite a boost in its population by the time he passed away at the age of seventy-nine. He left seven sons, three daughters, thirty-four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

This house then passed into the hands of Henry Van Vleck, known as “Henry the Hatter,” who conducted a retail and wholesale hat making concern. He was born in New York in 1754, the son of Henricus Van Vleck who went to Bethlehem after becoming a Moravian. “Henry the Hatter” also was an accomplished musician as were many of the Van Vleck family. History tells us that on the afternoon of October 21, 1808 he went to the Moravian church to play in a festival Love Feast and there while in the act of tuning his violin he fell from his chair uncon- scious, a preliminary to his death two hours later. He was fifty-four years old. He had three wives, the third being Suzanna Elizabeth Kreiter (1762-1847), daughter of John and Margaret Kreiter of Bethlehem and Lititz.

Next to succeed him in the house was John Martin Beck (1746-1827) who was first married to Anna Johanna Grube and then to Mary Magdalena Kreiter. The second John Beck (1791-1873) who lived in the home was married to Johann Reinke. They were parents of Abraham R. Beck, educator and historian.

Without a doubt the house at 59 East Main Street saw more activity in 183 years than almost any home in Lititz.

[This is the shorter version of the Joseph Sturgis House as originally written by Hiram M. Eberly.]

Built by Joseph Sturgis (1738-1917) in 1782. He built another home across the street at 54 Main Street in back of which he had his pottery. The Committee of Overseers insisted that this plant be on the south side of the village in the event of fire. Joseph was one of the few who es- caped an Indian massacre when he was sixteen. The addition to the house with a door to the east was used no doubt for sales room and office.  He had ten children.

Henry Van Vleck (1754-1808) was a hatter and an accomplished musician. His third wife was Susanna Kreider and he had five children.

John Martin Beck (1746-1827) was a noted educator. His first wife was Anna Grube and his second wife Mary Magdalena Kreider.  He had three children.  He practiced medicine in Lititz.

John Beck (1791-1873), son of John Martin Beck, was a shoemaker by trade. In 1815 he took charge of the village school for boys on Church Square. He married Joanna Reinke and it was in this home that Abraham R. Beck, noted educator and historian, was born. Today it is the home of Edward Stroble and Family


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