History of Lower Macungie Township
Before European settlement, the area that now includes Lower Macungie Township was inhabited by people who called themselves the Lenni Lenape. They hunted here, and are known to have had a few small seasonal villages and jasper workshops close to streams and springs. Jasper from their quarries outside present-day Macungie and Vera Cruz was traded far and wide across North America.
The name "Macungie" is derived from a Native American word meaning bear swamp, or place where bears feed. The early 18th century Pennsylvania German settlers took land that had been hunting grounds for the Lenni Lenape, adopting the Lenape name for the area. They found the rich, fertile soil and amply watered land to their liking and so cleared the scrub and forests, planted crops, raised livestock, and continually expanded their holdings.
Most of what they produced fed their families and their hired and indentured servants, but some crops were grown for their cash value. Eventually they raised enough money to buy land warrants in Philadelphia from the proprietors, William Penn's heirs. They remained, caring for their farms, raising large families and eventually becoming prosperous. The massive bank barns and impressive stone farmhouses that can still be found throughout the township are their legacy to us.
Early King's Highways, in reality no more than trails suitable in good weather for wagons, were laid north-south and east-west through the area in the mid-18th century. These were used both by new settlers arriving and by wagon trains of farmers traveling to market in Philadelphia to sell their crops for cash. Route 100 and Hamilton Boulevard through Lower Macungie still follow basically the same routes as when they were laid out in 1735 and 1753.
Macungie Township was formed in 1743, when Lehigh County was still part of Bucks County. It comprised the area of present Upper and Lower Macungie townships, including the boroughs of Macungie and Alburtis. The population then was 650 persons. Northampton County was created in 1752; Lehigh County was separated from it in 1812. The population of Macungie Township in 1810 was 2,420. On May 5, 1832, Lehigh County approved a petition to divide Macungie Township into two, making Upper and Lower Macungie the first new townships to be created in Lehigh County. Lower Macungie is 22.46 square miles in size.
The population in the 1840 census was 2,156. By 1890 it had reached a nineteenth-century peak of 3,657, then began a decline until 1960, when it rose to 3,859. It has increased dramatically in each decade since then, climbing to 8,814 in 1970, 12,958 in 1980, 16,000 in 1990, and 19,220 in 2000. In 2009 the population is estimated to be close to 30,000.
Lower Macungie Township Today
Today Lower Macungie is noted for its comfortable housing developments. It has become one of the most desirable parts of the Lehigh Valley for many families, who have chosen to live here because of the township's attractive landscape, acres of open space, and excellent schools.