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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Miller Organs

One day last fall when I was at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, someone brought in an old pump organ that was being donated to the society. Things were moved to make a place for it in the library. I finally remembered to take my camera along this week and get some pictures of it.
The thing that caught my eye was the name just above the keyboard, "Miller Organ Company." I knew something about these organs.
Miller organs were manufactured in Lebanon, Pa. The company was born out of necessity. Adam Miller wanted an organ but he was a farmer and could not afford to buy one. He put his woodworking skills to use and made the cabinet but did not know how to make the inner works. When he heard Abraham Miller (unrelated) had an organ that needed repairs, he offered to do the job so he could learn how organs were assembled. Adam was a quick learner and he was soon being called on to repair and build organs. He built a shop on Eighth and Maple Streets in Lebanon in 1872. Soon afterward Abraham became a partner in his business and the company expanded rapidly. At the height of productivity in 1901 the company employed sixty people and produced 1600 organs per year.
The company began to decline after Adam's death in 1904 and the death of Abraham in 1911. The organ business could not compete with the Victrola and went out of business in 1923, a victim of the changing times.

Our daughter-in-law, Amy, is a descendant of this Miller family. Abraham Miller's brother, Henry, was her 3x-great-grandfather. They were descendants of Johannes Miller who bought a farm in 1783 near what is now Annville, Pa. He and his wife, Magdalena (Baum), are buried in the Miller family cemetery on the farm. Some of his descendants are also buried there and at the Gingrich Mennonite Church. The Miller line was firmly planted in Lebanon County until Amy's grandfather who lived across the line in western Berks County. Now you know why "Miller Organ Company" caught my eye.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


After three full days of running to and fro on the face of the earth, I am happy to stay home today and move at a little slower pace. The fact that it is snowing adds to the urge to cocoon.
I've reached the age when snow has lost it's appeal but I'm still glad I live in a place where there are four distinct seasons. Each one has a beauty and flavor of its own. I love to get out there and dig in the dirt in the spring. Summer is full of outdoor activities and fall has a spicy aroma like no other season. But then life moves indoors for the winter and I have time to do things that I don't get done in the other seasons.
The winter is slippg by and I have been making good progress on the list of things I wanted to do this winter. The last big one on the list is scrapbooking my pictures from 2010. I'm going to tackle that one today and aim to finish before the calendar says it's spring. I don't know when I'd get some of these things done if I lived in a place without a winter season.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Testing His Wings

The last fledgling is testing his wings. Nothing has left the house yet but Gerald has been moving his things from the garage to the house he bought on January 7. Last week he took his John Deere garden tractor (with blade) so he could clean the snow off the driveway. That was the first piece he moved. Yesterday his neighbor buddy helped him take his old truck and cycle to his house. The truck fills up the little shed in the back yard. He wants to do some work inside the house so he won't be moving out of here completely just yet. But he will probably soon stay there overnight sometimes and move in gradually as it is more practical. The wedding is still six months in the future so there is no hurry to move everything.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Times, They Are a'Changin'

I grew up with a black rotary phone firmly attached to the wall. "Pay calls" were expensive and kept short. If possible, penny postcards were used instead of the phone to send messages. Out-of-state calls were made only for emergencies. We wrote letters to keep in touch with long-distance friends and family. The news was old (by today's standards) by the time it reached them.
Now that we have cell phones, email, blogs, tweet and twitter (which I haven't learned to use), Facebook, and Youtube, messages and pictures can be sent and received within seconds. Out-of-state phone calls are as cheap as a call to the next county. Conference calls allow people to chat and listen to conversations going on all across the country.
The downside of this great advantage is the loss of privacy. Over the weekend I discovered someone had told on a church-wide conference call that I am working on writing about the Burkholders. This is a conservative church that does not allow members to use Facebook but their conference calls are social networking nonetheless. Now people all across the country know what I'm writing, thanks to the tendrils of the Mennonite telephone grapevine.
I have no control over where my messages, posts, and pictures are forwarded after they leave my computer. People have gotten themselves in serious trouble by foolishly posting messages and pictures they never should have created.
This explosion of communication makes us vulnerable and allows the world to watch our stupid blunders. On Friday afternoon (Jan. 12) a girl was spotted falling into a fountain in a local mall. She appears to be engrossed in texting on a cell phone and not looking where she was going. She falls in, gets soaked, and climbs out again. The video was posted on Youtube and there have been 1.2 million hits on it in three days. At least the picture is not close enough to identify her, but she certainly knows who she is.

In the old days we probably would never even have heard about something like this. Now we can watch it happen. I hope no cameras are watching the next time I make a stupid mistake!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Blast

Except for one morning when I started working on getting ready to file taxes, I have been plugging away this week at the article I'm writing on the Burkholders for Pennyslvania Mennonite Heritage.
Before I started this project I questioned whether this is worthwhile since Bishop Christian Burkholder is so well known in Mennonite history. The longer I work on it the more I realize this writing is long overdue. While Christian's life and work is well known, no comprehensive work on his background and family has ever been written. I'm piecing it together from various sources, correcting errors, and filling in gaps. I was shocked to find there is no published genealogy of the Virginia descendants of Christian's brother Peter. Ditto for his brother Ulrich in Brecknock Township, where even some of the names of his six children are missing.
I love the challenge of research and am enjoying digging out the facts. I hope all the Burkholder descendants of the immigrant widow Barbara Burkholder and her six children will find this article beneficial. Meanwhile, it is keeping me pleasantly occupied during the cold winter months. I don't need to travel south to keep warm. I just go in my office, turn on the heat, and have a blast researching and writing.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

More Pillow Tops

Two years ago I made a dozen quilted pillow tops, using patches cut from my mother's dresses. Each of the Burkholder daughters and granddaughters got one. There was a pile of patches left so I promised to make one for each of the grandsons. That was one of the sewing projects on my list for this winter. I finished the second dozen yesterday and here they are.

After making two dozen pillow tops there is still a pile of patches left. I'm not sure what to do with them but they will wait for another year. I am glad to cross this job off my list so early in January. I am certainly not lacking for things to do the rest of the winter.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Burkholder Ancestors

I took a little side trip to Switzerland this afternoon.---and was back in time for supper. We have been told that our Burkholder ancestors were from Ruderswil, Switzerland. The earliest one in the records is Joseph Burkhalter who married Elisabeth Widmer and had six children. Their youngest son, Benedict, was born December 1, 1661.
Benedict married Anna Kohler and had seven children. Their youngest child, Ulrich, was born February 11, 1699.
Ulrich moved to the Jura mountain area of Switzerland about 1728. He and his wife, Barbara, had six children. Their youngest child, Christian, was born June 1, 1746. He immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1754 with his widowed mother and five siblings.
I want to include images of the Burkholder birth records in the article I am writing on the Burkholders for the Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage magazine. I ordered the LDS microfilms of the Ruderswil church records and spent a couple hours this afternoon on a search and rescue mission.
This is the church record which says Benedict Burkholder was born December 1, 1661 to Joseph and Elisabeth (Widmer) Burkhalter.

This is the entry for the birth of Ulrich (Ully) Burkhalter, son of Benedict and Anna (Kohler) Burkhalter, on February 11, 1699. The last three names are the sponsors.

There you have it, right from the actual church books. I got copies of the pages recording the births all the children in both families but these are the most important ones because they confirm our Burkholder ancestors. What a lot of fun! And it sure was cheaper than going to Switzerland.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I did the sensible thing last night and went to bed before midnight. Many years have come in without me standing guard at the door and I figured 2011 can do the same. But over the years I have somehow developed an internal clock that wakes me up at whatever time I think I want to get awake. Right on time, I woke up at 11:58 and managed to stay awake long enough to see the clock roll over to 12:00. I heard the neighbors shooting, knew the year had been properly ushered in, and went back to sleep.
I started the new year by giving the house a good cleaning and getting rid of all the dirt left from last year. It looks much better around here! And of course, we had the traditional PA German pork and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes for lunch. I rarely cook a meal like that on a Saturday but traditions are traditions and must be upheld.
As I was cleaning I was reflecting on the things that happened in our lives in 2010. Some of the highlights were watching Gerald graduate from Alvernia University with a BSN and begin his career as an RN, taking a two-week trip to Canada to visit my brother and his family, finishing the book I was writing and having it accepted for publication. I was blessed with all sorts of other joys and pleasures scattered through the days of the year. There were, of course, some unexpected turns such as the accidental death of a nephew and smaller calamities. But overall, it was a good year.
When standing on the threshold of a new year, one always wonders what the year will hold. Sometimes it doesn't take long to find out. I remember looking at the calendar on Jan. 1, 1994, and wondering aloud what the year would hold. The next day our lives were changed forever when Steve was in an accident and never came home again. I certainly don't want a repeat of that kind of experience. Some of the things I do anticipate this year are helping Gerald get his house ready to live in and watching him get married on July 30. The wedding is still seven months away but it will be here before we know it.
There are a few other things I hope will happen. The first two that come to mind are losing another five pounds and seeing my seventh book in print. Things on my job list are scrapbooking my 2010 pictures, some sewing, and writing. I'm sure things will come up that I have not thought of yet. New ideas of things I should do seem to pop up like dandelions, but that's what keeps life interesting.
I guess we'll just do like we've always done---live one day at a time and see what happens. One thing I know, be it good or bad I am not alone. God is my refuge and strength. He is where I can find comfort in trouble and strength to meet the challenges of each new day of 2011.