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Monday, March 28, 2016

Stauffer Mennonites

I was delighted to get a copy of this rare photo of the Stauffer (Pike) Mennonite Church last week. The date is uncertain but I believe it was sometime around 1920. This church is located along Route 322 near Hinkletown, Pennsylvania. The road appears to be dirt road. The church was originally a stone building but by this time an addition had been made on the far (west) end. Two of the stone walls can be seen on the east end. There is a wooden hand pump in front of the building.

Compare that picture to more recent ones. Only one portion of the stone wall remains in the center with an extension on each end. Otherwise, it has changed very little.
The rail fence still stands along the road and cemetery on the west side.

My husband and I both have many ancestors buried in the cemetery at this church, including our common ancestor, Jacob W. Stauffer, who was one of the founders of the Stauffer Mennonite Church.

However, this building is slated to fade into history this year. Since Stauffer Mennonites do not use electric, they have no sound system and the noise from the busy road was interfering with their services. Early this year they moved into a new, larger building that was erected behind the old one to provide more room and distance between the church and the road.

Again, there has been little change on either inside or outside. Stauffer Mennonites do not have a pulpit. The ministers stand behind the table with the German hymn books and Bibles. The men who lead the singing sit on each side of another table that extends out from the center of the preacher's table in the center aisle.

Historians are sad to see the old building go. An attempt was made to move it to another location but the cost was prohibitive. One thing that will not be touched (according to my understanding) is the horse barn. This is the only original horse barn still in existence in the nation. It is surrounded by buggy sheds. The new church building is on the other side of the sheds.
This congregation was part of the Lancaster Conference and known as the Pike church because it was along the Downingtown-to-Harrisburg Turnpike (now Route 322). In 1845, the congregation broke away from the Conference  when Bishop Jacob Brubaker of Juniata County, and Jacob W. Stauffer and Jacob Weber, preachers in the Lancaster County Groffdale district, could not concur in the decisions of the Conference bishops. Stauffer wrote a 430-page book in self-defense and as an attack on the bishops of the conference. It was not published until after his death. The title is Eine Chronik oder Geschicht-Büchlein von der sogenannten Mennonisten Gemeinde. Zum Dienst und Lehre für alle Liebhaber der Wahrheit, durch die Gnade und Segen Gottes. Aus Geschichten, Vorfällen, Begebenheiten oder Exempeln, und aus heiliger Schrift zusammengezogen (Lancaster 1855, 1859, Scottdale 1922).
Jacob Stauffer and Jacob Weber became the leaders of the new group, their membership being mostly in East and West Earl townships of Lancaster County and in Snyder County, Pennsylvania. The Pike meetinghouse (east of Hinkletown) was granted to the new group.
Stauffer Mennonites are often mistaken for Amish because they do not use electric and travel by horse and buggy. They are Old Order Mennonites and have no connection to the Amish. While Amish require their men to wear beards, the Stauffer Mennonites maintain a no-beard rule. The women are allowed to wear dresses made of fabrics with small prints while the Amish insist on solid colors. Stauffer worship services are conducted in German and they use German hymnbook, Unpartheyisches Gesangbuch, first published in 1804.
Attending a Stauffer worship service is like being in a living history museum except that it is not a re-enactment. It's part of their normal life. Although I am not willing to give up my modern conveniences to live as they do, I have a great respect for them and their diligence in maintaining their heritage. Way back in 1845, Jacob Stauffer thought the Mennonite church was becoming too worldly. I wonder what he would say if he saw what it has become today. "Any dead fish can float downstream with the current; it takes a live one to swim upstream."
 (Image is blurred. Stauffer Mennonites do not permit photography.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Easter Meditation

There is an exquisite appropriateness in our celebrating the resurrection of Christ in the spring. When nature is waking to life again after her long winter of sleep, it is then that the thoughts of Christians everywhere are turned to the wonder of the Savior's coming out of the tomb after His ordeal with sin and death. Christ's resurrection was an act once accomplished at a given moment in history. It does not in any sense depend upon seasons or celebrations, nor does the miracle of the springtime add anything to the glory of the once-done deed. The workings of God in nature do, however, cast a warm light upon His workings in redemption and the springtime of life in the earth illustrates the miracle of life in the new creation.
Nicolas Herman, at eighteen years of age, was brought to Christ by seeing in midwinter a dry and leafless tree and thinking what a change the spring would make in its condition. He reasoned that if God could make such a difference in a tree, He could change the heart of a sinner, too, and God did not fail him. His heart was changed, and from that day his life was devoted to the service of Christ. Uncounted thousands of Christians over the last 300 years have thanked God that young Nicolas saw that leafless tree.
It takes some faith to stand in a winter landscape surrounded by the chill silence of snow and ice and believe that in a few short weeks every trace of frost will be gone, that the snow-covered hills will be dressed in green and the ice--locked streams will be running swift and free again in the summer sun. Yet our confidence is never disappointed. "The earth is the Lord's" and He will always "renew the face of the earth."
It is hard to imagine anything less hopeful than the sight of a burial. When the body of Christ was taken down from the cross, wrapped in a clean linen cloth and laid in a new tomb hewn out of the rock, how many who looked on had the faith to hope that inside three days this dead Man would be walking again among men and women, alive forevermore? But so it came to pass. Aaron's rod budded. The leafless tree on which the Savior died sprang into bloom. What had been stark death before became life at the touch of God, and the gallows became the gate to everlasting life.
The resurrection of Christ, we repeat, is a once-done act. "For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him." But Christians die. Every day the bodies of believing men and women are taken out to the cemetery and laid to rest with quiet songs and soft repetitions of Scripture. No matter how we may try to avoid the facts, Christians die as their Lord died before them. Their cold helplessness, their sudden strange silence, which no pleadings of anguished love can break, their apparent defeat by the relentless forces of nature--all this stuns the heart and (if the truth were told) arouses uncomfortable fears that this is all, that we have seen our friends for the last time. It is winter when we lay our loved ones down. So it seems to the natural heart. So it must have appeared to some of the Thessalonian Christians. Why otherwise would if have been necessary for Paul to write and exhort them not to sorrow as others who had no hope?
One thing the resurrection teaches us is that we must not trust appearances. The leafless tree says by its appearance that there will be no second spring. The body in Joseph's new tomb appears to signify the end of everything for Christ and His disciples. The limp form of a newly-dead believer suggests everlasting defeat. Yet how wrong are all these appearances. The tree will bloom again. Christ arose the third day according to the Scriptures, and the Christian will rise at the shout of the Lord and the voice of the archangel.
Faith can afford to accept the appearance of defeat, knowing the true believer cannot be defeated finally. "Because I live, you also will live." That is the message of Easter. What a blessed message for the whole world if men would only believe it.
( A. W. Tozer)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cornwall Furnace

Today was Charter Day in Pennsylvania. In honor of the day William Penn got the Charter for Pennsylvania from the king, entrance to all state historical sites is free. This year we decided to see the Cornwall Iron Furnace. We had often passed through Cornwall but never toured the furnace. Now we have finally seen it and it is impressive. It is the only surviving intact charcoal cold blast furnace in the Western Hemisphere.
Cornwall Iron Furnace was in operation from 1742 to 1883. Peter Grubb started mining here in 1730 and established the furnace in 1742. He named it Cornwall for his father's birthplace in England. In the mid-eighteenth century Cornwall's plantation totaled 10,000 acres and contained industrial, residential, and agricultural activities.
When Peter Grubb died in 1754, the property passed to his sons, Curtis and Peter. They sold out to Robert Coleman in 1798. He was so successful he became one of Pennsylvania's first millionaires. This furnace building was constructed in the mid-1800s when the furnace was remodeled and enlarged by Coleman.
Charcoal, iron ore and limestone were layered in the furnace in the charging room on the upper level. It would have been about 115 degrees in this room. The materials were pushed in these hand carts and dumped into the hole which was the top of the furnace. The hole is behind the protective grate at the back of the room. It was covered with a glass panel so we could see to the bottom. It's a long way to the bottom of the furnace!
The casting room is at the bottom of the furnace.

Molten iron was pink when it ran out the bottom of the furnace into the trough on the floor. It flowed into a double row of ditches dug in the sand where they cooled and hardened. The iron bars were called "pigs." Boys about eight or nine years old carried out the waste material. The temperature in this room was about 156. They worked twelve-hour shifts around the clock seven days a week. Iron workers often did not live beyond the age of forty. No wonder!
During the Revolutionary War, the furnace produced cannon balls. Each one weighs twelve pounds. This is a pile of cannon balls which were produced at Cornwall.
The furnace was heated to 3000 degrees and fanned by pumping air into it. Originally, the air was pumped by water power but in 1841 a steam engine was installed to run the huge 24-ft. wheel. It was impossible to get the whole wheel in one picture. It was turning slowly for demonstration purposes but when the furnace was in operation it turned at the speed of one revolution every 15 seconds.
Originally the top of the furnace was open. The glow of the fire could be seen for five miles and the sound of its roaring could be heard a mile away. This was a hot, noisy, dirty place to work, but very profitable business for the ironmaster. Perhaps some of that was due to the fact that he used some slave labor and indentured servants. In addition to the men who worked in the furnace, there were others who lived in the woods and produced the charcoal to fire the furnace and others who worked in the quarry nearby. An acre of wood was needed each day to keep the furnace going. It operated continuously for eleven months. Then it was shut down to replace the bricks which line the inside of the furnace.
Bethlehem Steel acquired the mine between 1916 and 1922. It began to flood during Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and today is filled with water. Approximately 106 million tons of iron ore and over 82 minerals were extracted from the mine between 1730 and 1973. The depth of the open pit is about 500 feet below the surface.