Last Revised on 19-Jun-2016
The Fairview Cemetery of Bethlehem, PA is well over 100 years old and for the most part, is near capacity. From a public perspective, it holds some of the city’s past; interred there are people of all denominations and backgrounds, as it is a community public burial ground with no restrictions, then and now. There are over 500 Veterans interred there, as the waving flags attest to every Memorial Day. There is a space there that contains the remains of some 160 plus whose remains were moved there in 1908 from a displaced cemetery a half mile away, which is referred to in the records as the Evangelical cemetery, the Methodist cemetery, Goepp St. cemetery et al. These stones have been mostly obscured from view with a thick growth of sod over them, waiting to be re-discovered. The memorial stones have names carved in them that match some present day street names within the city, for example, Clewell, Hottle, Klase, Ettwein, etc., and even a past Mayor of Bethlehem, Mayor H. Gordon Payrow (Mayor from 1962 to 1973).
The cemetery came into existence around 1894, and there is an inscription on a stone of one John Holzinger, that says John was the first person interred in the cemetery, and he died October 1894. At the time, the deeded owner of the property was a Sarah A. Steyer (nee Dennis), wife of Edward Steyer. Edward had just sold his brick-making business in 1891, at the age of 67, so it seems plausible that he was contemplating retirement, and by 1894 had started to inter on his wife’s land. Edward’s wife Sarah died a year later in 1895, and by that time it is apparent from the stones and layout of the cemetery that there had already been quite a few interments on the land. There are no early documents stating the original intention of the cemetery, nor the intended or planned physical layout, until 1896, where there is mention in a deed of some of the sections by letter, e.g. “Section A”, “B” etc. Records show that Edward’s son, Calphenus, was issuing deeds to plots in the cemetery in 1906, with pre-printed deed forms, indicating that the cemetery was being run in earnest as a business. When the laws in the State of Pennsylvania in 1930 required the cemetery to properly incorporate, it was so done, and became a for-profit endeavor from then on through to1986. This whole time from 1894 through to 1986 the land and property had been owned and maintained by blood family and relatives of the Edward Steyer family. Then in 1986 it was sold under court order to others outside the Steyer family. The records show that the grounds were well maintained over the years, and when perpetual care money ran low in the late 1960’s to 1970’s, the cemetery land was sub-divided by the owners so that two large areas surrounding the cemetery proper could be sold off. The first parcel was sold to the nearby St. Stephens Church in 1963, and the second parcel was sold off to a condominium association about 1980, both exist there today. It appears that the proceeds from the last sale allowed the owners of the cemetery to macadam the roadways inside the cemetery property and continue to maintain the grounds up until 1986. From1989 to 2007, the property was run as a tax exempt property by the new owners, but by September 2007, the perpetual care funds had been depleted and the care of the cemetery had fallen into a sad state of neglect, with sunken graves, toppled memorial stones, uncut grass, un-pruned trees etc.
When the cemetery property was purchased by the present owners, Roy W. and Jeffrey M. Schreffler in September 2007, there were already nearly 5000 interments estimated, with 3000 memorial stones present, and the land has become about 95% used up. There remains today space for about 300 graves as a standard vault burial.
Here is a chronological history for the cemetery so far:
30-Apr-1824 - Edward Steyer was born in Upper Hanover Township, Montgomery County, PA, the grandson of a German Immigrant, Nicolaus Steier.
Circa 1860 – Edward Steyer (family) is a “saloonkeeper” somewhere in Allentown, Lehigh County, PA (source: 1860 US census).
Circa 1862-1863 – Edward Steyer participates in the American Civil War (at the age of 37, with wife and two children at home).
23-June-1879 – Cemetery property is deeded to Sarah A. Steyer (b1828, nee Dennis), wife of Edward Steyer (b1824), from George & Martha Blank.
Circa 1886 there is a Silk Mill built at the bottom of Goepp St., where it dumps out onto Mauch Chunk Road (see map of Bethlehem ca1874)
18-May-1891 - Edward Steyers sells the Brickyard operation to Groman Bros. (Source: Bethlehem Daily Times Newspaper, 18-May-1891 - on microfilm at BAPL)
ca June-1892 - Bethlehem Daily Times Sesquicentennial Industrial Edition newspaper publishes the offering for land in Bethlehem Heights (North Side)
21-Oct-1894 – John Holzinger b28-Feb-1824 dies 21-Oct-1894, and is the first person buried at Fairview Cemetery, according to his stone inscription.
11-Dec-1895 -Ed & Sarah deed a plot to a Jacob Stuber - this deed has the signatures of both Edward and Sarah, note the spellings of the surname.
28-Dec-1895 – Sarah A. Steyer, wife of Edward Steyer, dies intestate (without a will) so cemetery property reverts to her heirs, Sarah is buried at Fairview 1501 N. New St.
21-Jan-1896 – Sarah A. Steyer heirs transfer the cemetery property via deed to Edward Steyer; mention is made of Brick Kilns on the adjoining property.
27-May-1901 – Tract 4 Property owned by St. John’s Church of the Evangelical (part of the Methodist Cemetery at Goepp) is sold and transferred to The Bethlehem Silk Co.
Circa 16-May-1902 – Edward Steyer deeds the cemetery property to his eldest son, Calphenus Jacob Steyer (b abt 1850).
Circa 1906 – Calphenus and Mary Steyer’s signatures appears on a plot deed dated 22-May-1906 indicating they are active in selling burial plots at Fairview
7-Dec-1907 – Edward Steyer dies and is interred in Fairview Cemetery, next to his wife Sara. His second eldest son, Marcus Steyers, takes over the cemetery.
Circa 1907-1908 the Silk Mill expands on the Geisinger property, displaces the “Methodist Cemetery” or otherwise also known as the "Evangelical Association Burial Grounds"
Abt 1913 – Calphenus Steyer dies, and wills the cemetery property to his eldest son, Roy Edward Steyer (b abt 1888).
Abt 1928 – The State of PA starts to require funeral homes to issue burial permits and send a copy to the cemetery where buried, so those burial permit records still exist.
abt 1929 - Map of Fairview Cemetery - note the trolley car tracks going North on New St., then going East on Washington Ave.
25-Jun-1929 – Marvin Marcus Steyers is granted an Undertaker's license by the State of PA to practice Undertaking. (Image courtesy Long’s Funeral Home ca Mar-2008)
23-Jan-1930 – William Gerlach - “First person to be buried by Marvin Marcus Steyers at Fairview” a note says. He was the Great-Grandson of Edward Steyer
- he was only 23yrs old at the time – the note was made in the handwriting of his father, Merle E. Steyers.
21-Jul-1930 – Roy E. Steyer and his wife, Amy I. Steyer (nee Klingel) deeds the cemetery to “The Fairview Cemetery Association” (PA State Law precipitated this).
16-Aug-1932 – Someone measures a big Maple tree on the property and records the circumference.
26-Jul-1934 – First mention of using a “Lehigh Concrete Vault” for a burial (Vault measured 76”x28”x27”high).
22-Oct-1935 – First mention of using a “Springfield Steel Vault” for a burial inside a block walled grave.
4-Jul-1937 – First mention of using a “Nazareth Burial Vault” for a burial. I suspect these were also made of concrete.
Circa 1937-1941 & 1946-1949– Glenn Edward Steyers (b1925), Great-Grandson to the cemetery founder Edward Steyer, digs graves and does maintenance at the cemetery.
7-Oct-1937 – Marcus Steyers dies, and his third oldest son, Merle E. Steyers et al, takes care of the cemetery.
9-Feb-1938 – First burial to take place in the NEW “Annex” part of the cemetery, a George B. Ruth (16mos old) Section C Annex, plot 10.
28-Mar-1938 – First Burial from the “Marvin Steyers Funeral Home” recorded in the record books.
26-May-1938 – First mention in the records of a “cement vault” being used, typically they lined the grave with brick or block and put on a slate roof afterwards.
Circa 1944 – Marvin Marcus Steyers founds the Steyers funeral home at 500 Linden Street, now the Long Funeral Home since 1964. Claire Bachman signed a Deed Feb. 1, 1944.
Circa 1943-1949 Merle E. Steyers logs entries into the burial records, and keeps a diary of the work that is done on the cemetery grounds by Glenn Steyers et al.
28-Sep-1951 – Merle E. Steyers dies, recordkeeping for the cemetery by his daughter, Claire A. Bachman (nee Steyers) wife of George Bachman, continues.
Circa 1964 – Clifford E. Steyers dies and the Steyers Funeral Home at 500 Linden St. is sold to Wallace M. Long.
Circa 1986 – Cemetery is put up for sale by the county under an order of Involuntary Dissolution.
6-Nov-1986 – Claire A. Bachman dies. From 1951 thru 1985 (34 consecutive years) it appears that Claire, or someone, cut out the Obituary of every burial and pasted it in a record book.
23-Feb-1987 – Fairview Cemetery is sold to Mary A. Croll by the executors, Glenn E. & Gloria J. Steyers and George R. Bachman, Widower of Claire A. Bachman, and is Incorporated.
6-May-1989 - Fairview Cemetery is sold by Mary A. Croll to Robert Sheesley et al, after having it for only two short years. Bob maintains the cemetery for the next 18 years.
10-Sep-2007 - Fairview Cemetery is sold to Roy W. & Jeff Schreffler, of Bethlehem (Township), PA.
19-Aug-2009 Fairview Cemetery becomes a 501(c)13 Tax Exempt Non-Profit organization in the State of PA