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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Emmaus Tour

Emmaus was settled in the 1700s as a Moravian community. Other Moravian towns in Pennsylvania were Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Lititz. I'm familiar with Lititz and often thought I'd like to visit the other Moravian towns but it never happened. On Saturday we took advantage of an opportunity to join a bus tour going to Emmaus. This is our tour group at the last place we visited.

In addition to the town and it's founders, I learned some things about the Moravians. The Moravians trace their roots back to John Hus (1369-1415), a Catholic theologian who challenged the corruption of the Roman Catholic church and called for reforms. He was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1415 because of his insistence that Scripture is the final authority rather than the canon of law in the church.
Some of the Hussites wanted more radical reforms and formed a community in 1457 they called Unity of the Brethren. Separate from the Catholic church, and therefore illegal, the Unity of Brethren suffered persecution. Initially, they were similar to the Mennonites and Hutterites who appeared during the Reformation. Eventually there were three major branches of the Brethren within the Unity: Bohemian, Moravian, and Polish, named for the kingdoms where they were established. It is from the Moravian branch that the Moravian Church in America takes its name. 
The Unity of the Brethren was largely destroyed by war and persecution during the mid-1600s. The rebirth of the Moravian Church came in the 1720s in Germany under the leadership of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. In 1732, the Moravians began sending out missionaries to the Caribbean, Labrador, Greenland, South Africa, and North America. They were more successful than any other denomination in evangelizing the North American native Indian tribes. 
Bethlehem was the center of Moravian activity in colonial America. They were known for their music, excellent schools for boys and girls (at a time when girls did not normally attend school), and missionary zeal. They were ecumenically minded and very persuasive in presenting their teaching. 
The Moravians were similar to the Mennonites is some beliefs such as nonresistance and noncomformity. But they are not Anabaptists as they practice infant baptism. Like the Hutterites, they lived a communal lifestyle. The community was owned and tightly ruled by the church. Detailed records were kept every day of the activities of the community which are a valuable resource today.
Clothing patterns were plain and simple. Until age 5 all children wore white dresses. At 5, they dressed like their parents with boys wearing shirts and knickers, and girls wearing dresses like their mothers. From age 5 to 12, girls wore red ribbons on their dresses and caps. From 13 to marriage they wore pink ribbons. Married women wore blue ribbons, and widows wore white ribbons. The dress included an overblouse, apron, and scarf. 

The oldest building at Emmaus is the Zuflucht Haus or Shelter House. It was built in 1734 near an Indian trail along the slopes of South Mountain. A small addition and second floor were added in 1741. It was seen as a shelter in case of Indian attacks but was never used for that purpose as the Indians were friendly and never caused any trouble.

The house has been restored and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was constructed in the typical three-room German floor plan. The front door opens into a long narrow Kuche (kitchen) with an opposing door at the back which provided good ventilation. The two windows on the right were the Stube (stove room) with the Kammer (bedroom) behind it. 
The Moravian culture touched the area after 1741 as missionaries began to branch out from Bethlehem. Community life centered around a small log church built in 1742 on land donated by Jacob Ehrenhardt. He and Sebastian Knauss eventually donated land to the Moravian Church for a new congregational village which was laid out in 1759 and after a time was named Emmaus.
The first log church building stood beside the God's Acre (cemetery). Although the church is gone, the cemetery contains memorial stones for nearly 400 individuals, including the founders of Emmaus and some Indian children who died while attending the Moravian school.

The Moravians laid their stones flat in the ground because they thought having a stone standing upright was a sign of pride.

The present Moravian Church in Emmaus was built in 1834.

In 1777, Heinrich Knauss built this log house for his father, Sebastian, who was one of the "fathers" of Emmaus. Sebastian died before the house was finished, so his son lived in it. Seven generations of the Knauss family were born in this house.

The day we were there they had a special event to recognize the 300th birthday of Sebastian Knauss. The town crier made some announcements and the current mayor (in top hat) read a proclamation. The mayor, Winfield Iobst, is a descendant of the first Burgess (mayor) of Emmaus.


In 1803 Jacob Ehrenhardt Jr. built this Federal style stone home for his family. As the son of one of the fathers of Emmaus, Jacob grew up in the closed Moravian village. Today the house is listed on the National Register and is cut off from Emmaus by the railroad track which runs right in front of the house.

The kitchen is attached to the back of the house, as was typical of the wealthy class. Their houses were to live in and everyday tasks such as cooking and laundry were not done in the main house.
Inside the kitchen.

I enjoyed the tour and learning a little about the Moravians. Someday I will go to Bethlehem and learn more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post so much. I've been curious about the Moravians for a long time. Way back when I was probably in my early 30s I saw a film on John Hus and was deeply impressed by it.

Mary Horst