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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Local Tourist

For the third time this year I have led a private family history tour for people who have come from other states to see where their immigrant ancestors settled. The past week I've been busy touring Lancaster, Lebanon, and Berks counties with a couple from Kansas and their friend from Texas who came with them. I learned a lot myself as I prepared to lead this tour and enjoyed seeing some places I've never been before.
I have no Amish ancestors so I never dug very deeply into Amish history and genealogy. But this couple has mostly Amish ancestors and several lines which can be traced back to Berks County. One of them is the Miller line and is where we started our tour.
Daniel Miller once owned a farm which is now Shillington. The Miller family cemetery was near their orchard. By the 1920s it was in town and the cemetery wall jutted out into the road, making it a safety hazard. The stone wall was removed and the cemetery was paved over. A marker was placed on the curb to mark the spot where the cemetery once was and cars drive over the graves.

Our guests were also descended from Jacob Hostettler of the well-known 1757 Indian attack. Jacob and two of his sons were captured by the Indians when his wife and two other children were killed. Jacob's oldest daughter, Barbara, was married to Christian Stutzman and lived on another farm just down the road. We went to see both the Hostettler and Stutzman farms. Of course, the houses are not the originals but the owners were very gracious in allowing us to see the properties. A monument has been erected on the Hostettler place.

The Stutzman place is in sad shape but the owners who purchased it four years ago are working on repairing and restoring the house. Again, it is not the original house but she said they believe it was on the spot where we are standing, based on the location of hand dug well, a stone outbuilding, and some charred wood they found during work on the grounds.

We also saw the homestead of Jacob Hertzler, near Hamburg, who was the first Amish bishop in America.

We visited several small cemeteries for the Dohner, Wenger, and Hiestand families. The Hiestand cemetery is on land settled by Jacob Hiestand on the west side of Lancaster. It is located behind a big Sports Center and well preserved but getting in to it was tricky. After circling around a couple times we finally found the way in.

One of the highlights of the week was visiting a farm in Brecknock township. According to the deeds we found, a mill race reached into this property. It was a fulling mill owned and operated by William Morris who died in 1772. This mill seems to have been swallowed up in history and I could find no reference to it in any books. The deeds which mentioned it is the only trace of its existence. When we asked the farmer who currently lives there about the mill race he immediately knew where it was. He has lived on the farm all his life and played down there as a boy. He took us on a hike through the woods along the mill race. It is overgrown but the banks of the race are clearly visible and at least one section even had water in it. The farmer told us where the mill race ended and that answered our question of where the mill stood. 

Another highlight was visiting a farm in Rapho Township. Peter Good lived here from the 1740s-1754. In 1753, he turned the title over to his son who received the patent.

Peter died the following year and is buried in an unknown grave. It had to be some small family cemetery nearby, but we had no idea which one. The owner of this farm asked an older man who knows the local history to join us for that visit. After hearing what he knew, we decided Peter may have been buried in the Metz cemetery about a mile north of the farm as that is the closest old cemetery known today. Unfortunately, it is on posted land and has been reduced to a pile of stones, somewhere in this area. More research is needed to determine if Peter could have been buried there.

One other unexpected gem popped up and surprised us. The Rapho historian told us that the house built in 1771 by Ludwig Metz Jr. is still standing and the stones are being re-pointed. Ludwig bought this land from the estate of his father, Ludwig Metz Sr., who sold 70 adjoining acres to Peter Good. Since we were so close, we drove down the road to see the house. It is a beautiful place. Ludwig Metz must have been quite wealthy to be able to build such a large stone house in 1771. The workmen up on the scaffolding were finishing the left side of the house. The original date stone on the upper floor is quite legible.

It has been an interesting week but I am ready for  rest. I think I'll sign off now and take a nap!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Progress Report

The work that began at the church in July has been continuing even though I have not posted anything here lately. The addition is coming along nicely and extensive renovations are also being done to the existing building. This month it reached a point where we are no longer able to use the building and are meeting in a rented facility for three weeks.
The exterior of the addition has been stuccoed and is waiting for stones to be laid below that.

The inside of the addition has been painted but at the moment all of the benches are stored in it while the auditorium is painted. 

New lights were also installed in the auditorium and there will be new carpet.

An opening was made in the wall of the vestibule to provide access between the old and new buildings.

Work has also been continuing in the existing basement. A new heating and cooling system was installed, along with new wiring and plumbing. The ceiling and walls were replaced with new drywall which is now painted.

A new kitchen will be installed in the basement (upper photo), and folding doors between the classrooms (lower), as well as new flooring throughout.
We expect to be able to use at least the auditorium on October 26 and hope to have everything finished sometime in November. It's been a lot of work and mess but when it's finished we will have a mostly new building inside the old shell. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Autumn

It was up to 75 today and felt like summer. It's fall no matter what the thermometer says. The brown fields are being harvested, and the leaves are turning all colors. It's a time for reflection on the swift passage of time.
Here's a classic poem about autumn that assures us that though a year, or a life, passes by quickly there is more to be had when it's over.

The Autumn

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,

Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, —
Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come — as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind — view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill —
In spring, the sky encircled them —
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1833)

Monday, October 6, 2014

That They Might Know

"You can't take it with you." How many times have you heard that? And yet, we hang tightly onto our stuff as if we haven't heard or don't believe it will someday be left behind and mean nothing to us. 
I've heard it said that when a person is living we tend to evaluate them by the things they possess but when they are gone we value their possessions because of whose they were. Things that have been handed down from one generation to the next should be valued, treated with respect, and preserved. 
For that to happen, the younger generation needs to know what things are and where they came from. I have a lot of things that belonged to my grandparents and treasure them because they remind me of those special people. My children never knew my grandparents. I was only 16 when Grandma died. My children do not share my memories. When I look at the dry sink in my kitchen I can see exactly how it looked setting in my grandma's kitchen. I know where the candy dish was and the pretzel dish. I know where the yardstick was kept on top of it. I can see the men's hats on top and the blanket bed Grandma made in it for the newborn babies. My children remember the dry sink in their grandma's kitchen and my grandchildren remember it was always in my kitchen. My Grandma's father bought it for her when she got married in 1908. It was passed on to my mother and then to me. Someone will get it after me. If any of the next generation is going to fully appreciate that dry sink, they need to know its history. I have to tell them its story. 
The same thing is true for a lot of other things in my house. Most of them are not highly prized antiques but valued because of whose they were. I had been marking things with stickers so my children will know what things are and where they came from. But with the passing of time stickers can fall off and the information be lost. 
Two weeks ago I tackled a project that has been in the back of my mind for a long time. I'm taking pictures of everything and compiling a Heirloom Catalog. I procrastinated so long because I was thinking I need to take pictures and make a scrapbook. This summer it dawned on me that with a digital camera and computer it can be done electronically much faster and cheaper than having photos developed and making a scrapbook. I'm having a lot of fun going through things, remembering whose they were and how I got them. It's going to take some time but I'm making good progress. 
Yes, someday I'll leave it all behind (and with no regrets) but the catalog will help my children decide what they want to keep and pass on to the next generation. I won't broadcast pictures of my most treasured items on the Internet, but here are a few things from my catalog. Want to take a little quiz?

Where did a family get a cup like this?

What was this used for?

This is an _______  ____________.

In what room of the house was this used?

(Answers: 1. Cups, saucers, and cereal bowls like this were hidden inside a round cardboard box of Quaker Oats. 2. The wooden bowl and paddle were used to make homemade butter. 3. An egg scales. 4. The bedroom. It was called a "chamber pot." It spared you a trip to the outhouse on a cold dark night.