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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ran Through The Briars

I chalked one more thing off my bucket list yesterday. I wanted to see three small family cemeteries scattered through the Bareville-Leacock-Leola area. For the best photography, I needed to go in the morning of a bright sunny day. The opportunity presented itself yesterday and was all I could have wished for. It was even more fun because my sister went with me.
We started at the Hershey-Groff cemetery behind the barn on an Amish farm. I had been there before but it was at the wrong time of day. This time the sun was in the east and I got better photos.
Next we went to the Landis-Grabill cemetery. I had been told this cemetery is in a fence row but we walked right by it without seeing it. I asked at the farm house and one of the girls went with us to show us where it is. No wonder we couldn't see it! About half a dozen grave stones are standing between the trees and fragments of about that many more are lying on the ground. As we crawled around in that fence row the words of a poem popped into my head: "They ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles, and they ran through the bushes where a rabbit wouldn't go." The things we don't put ourselves through to find a gravestone! But we found it.
This one for John Landis is the one I wanted to see.  I highly doubt this is his original stone. In 1727 they usually used field stones, not a sculptured or dressed stone like this one. Also, the lettering is not worn enough to be nearly 300 years old. Nevertheless, gravestones for a person who died in 1727 are few and far between.

Our last stop was at the Gerber cemetery at Leola. Last year a couple men spent a lot of time and money restoring a neglected family cemetery on an Amish farm. Old gravestones disappear or become illegible over time. By the time this cemetery was restored in 2015, only 22 stones were left to tell their stories. This photo was taken by Steven Garver in October 2015 when the restoration was completed.

This cemetery is on the land which one of my Swiss immigrant ancestors, Christian Gerber, settled in 1744. He died in 1751 and was probably buried in this cemetery along with his wife and some of his sons. Christian was Amish and it is an Amish farm today. After Christian's death, his sons, John and Peter, received the patent for this land on October 31, 1765. The patent describes Christian as "an alien born out of Allegience to His Brittanic Majesty." In other words, he had not been naturalized and therefore was unable to obtain the patent (first deed) from the Penns.

Christian Gerber is my only Amish ancestor. The next generations left the Amish and my line eventually circled back to become Mennonite. My Gerber ancestors are:
Christian Gerber, d. 1751, m. Barbara
Peter Gerber, d. 1792, m. Magdalena
Jacob Gerber, b. June 8, 1775
Barbara Gerber, Oct. 15, 1816-Apr. 20, 1888, bap. Lutheran; m. Josiah Powl
Emeline Powl, Sept. 7, 1849-May 29, 1938; m. Joseph Burkholder; bu. Groffdale (frame) Mennonite Cemetery

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fort Pomfret

I was asked to speak today to a group of ladies of the Daughters of Union Veterans in Snyder County. We took a short side trip to see Fort Pomfret which is one of the oldest historic sites in the county.
Pomfert Castle or Fort Pomfret was one of several forts that were planned during the winter of 1755-56 as part of the defensive plan west of the Susquehanna River.  It was ordered to be built along the Mahantango Creek and it is assumed that it was named in honor of Thomas Penn’s wife, Lady Juliana Penn, daughter of the Earl of Pomfret. Although it is not documented that this was the site of the fort, an archeological study in 1975 showed that the stone house was built on the foundation of an earlier building.
What can be proven is that Johannes Kroebil (John Graybill, 1735-1806) was the first settler in this valley. In 1774, he bought the land on which this old house stands. He was the first settler in this valley.  The house is approximately 20 x 28 feet and consists of two rooms on the first floor with a loft above and a basement that has a solid ceiling of 28-foot hand-hewn logs and an enclosed never-failing spring. 

There is no well on this farm as the spring provides all the water that is needed for the farm and family. It runs out from under the basement and flows away in a long stream.

The slits in the basement wall may simply have been for ventilation but are often supposed to have been for defense against Indians. John Graybill was a Mennonite and not likely to shoot at Indians. Building a house over a spring was certainly a common practice and a precaution for Indian attacks. The family did not have to leave the house for water if there was danger outside. The basement spring also provided refrigeration for perishable foods and helped cool the house in hot summers.

Amos Winey, who married John Graybill's granddaughter, Barbara, acquired the property in 1829. In 1851, he built the present farmhouse next to the small stone house. The homestead was in the Winey family about 170 years. In 1999, the Winey heirs sold the farm to an unrelated Burkholder family. John Graybill and his descendants had owned the property for more than two centuries, from 1774 to 1999.
The old stone house was falling apart when the Burkholders bought the farm. It needed to either be torn down or repaired. Fortunately, the Burkholders recognized the value of the old building and did not demolish it. The Juniata Mennonite Historical Center financed the restoration of the exterior of the building. The stones were repointed and windows repaired. The interior was not restored but with solid walls and a tight roof, it should stand a long time. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Separated Unto God

Our Sunday school lessons this month are from the book of Exodus. The life of Moses and the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt is a fascinating period of history. The Hand of God is clearly seen as events unfolded.
As I studied to teach yesterday's lesson, I thought about the fact that the Hebrew people lived in Egypt for 430 years. That's a long time! How did they manage to maintain their identity and not become mixed with the Egyptians or assimilated to their culture? They were separated from the Egyptians by their occupation (slavery), language (Hebrew), and faith in God. These three things made it possible for them to remain a separate people while living in Egypt for more than 400 years.
How long is 400 years? The first permanent English settlement in America was made at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1616. Jamestown celebrated its 400th anniversary in May 2016. We have another 30 years to go until Europeans have been in America as long as the Israelites were in Egypt. How has America changed since 1616? How has life changed?
After the founding of Jamestown, nearly another 100 years passed before the first European settlement was made in Lancaster County in 1710. These first settlers were Mennonites who bought land in the Pequea area. For the next 200 years, Mennonites (in general) maintained their identify as a separated people by their occupation (farming), language (German), and Anabaptist faith. They stuck to the twin doctrines of nonresistance and noncomformity through times of peace and war alike.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, things began to change. Mennonites began establishing colleges and adapting practices of Protestant groups such as Sunday school, revival meetings, etc.  As the Mennonite population increased, farm land became scarce. Families began to leave the farms and become involved in business which required the use of the English language. The switch to the English language was boosted by the hatred of the public for Germany during two World Wars.
When no longer separated from the world by occupation and language, only their Anabaptist faith was left as a mark of separation.  As Mennonites (in general) became more and more assimilated to the culture, the first of the twin doctrines to fall was noncomformity. Mennonites could no longer be identified by their simple dress, homes, and churches. Sadly, today Mennonites are fast losing the doctrine of nonresistance which is the one remaining difference between Anabaptists and Protestants. 
But all is not lost. There is a large number of conservative Mennonites who are maintaining the historic Anabaptist doctrines of nonresistance and nonconformity. There is also a large number of Old Order Mennonites and Amish who are maintaining the German language. Many have moved to other areas where they established new settlements in order to maintain their occupation of farming. The conservative and Old Order groups which are maintaining their identity are growing more rapidly than those who have become assimilated to the culture.
On April 5, 2014, Ervin Stutzman, executive director of the Mennonite Church USA, gave an address titled "Can the Quiet in the Land Keep Their Peace" at the Annual Banquet of the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. He said:
"Until a century ago, the two words "nonconformity" and "nonresistance" expressed the Amish and Mennonite church’s stance vis-à-vis the outside world and its approach to war. These two concepts were so closely joined that some referred to them as Siamese twins. Conservatives warned that if the church lost its nonconformity in matters such as the practice of distinctive dress, they would also eventually lose nonresistance in both principle and practice. This may well be true since willingness to dress distinctively is a strong indication of group conformity as a sect and unwillingness to assimilate into a culture. The more that a church group assimilates into the surrounding culture, the more difficult it will be to maintain a stance of nonparticipation in the nation’s wars.
In light of the changes that have taken place over the past several generations, can the quiet in the land keep their peace?
Yes, I believe the Amish and the other Anabaptist groups who insist on visible practices of nonconformity can likely keep a focus on nonresistance, at least on not going to war. For them, nonresistance and nonconformity can remain as "Siamese twins." To the extent that they remain as sects apart from society, they’ll at least have a reason for not participating in the nation’s wars."
(Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage, July 2014)
I'm not saying we all need to be German-speaking farmers or that Sunday school and revival meetings are not good. But we do well to examine our lives and evaluate the direction we are moving. Have I relaxed my standards and begun allowing things in my life that I would not have done ten years ago? Am I moving closer to the Lord or the world? If we become assimilated to the culture and accept the world's practices and values, we will get the world's problems. The only way to maintain separation from the world is to be separated unto God.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Changing Times

Last spring my siblings and I sold the cabin our father built in 1984. He only lived two more years and then we took it over. We made many memories there but as the years rolled along our families got larger instead of smaller as in-laws and grandchildren were added. I held out as long as I could but about five or six years ago was forced to admit our clan had totally outgrown that cabin. We found another place to go which would accommodate our growing tribe and continued our family weekend in June.
We sisters had gone up to the cabin together every spring to clean it for the new summer season. We would go up Friday night and spend all day Saturday cleaning and maintaining the place. Eventually I faced the fact that we are making a lot of unnecessary work and expense for ourselves in keeping a cabin we no longer used. We consulted our brother (in Canada who didn't use it either) and agreed to sell it. We went up for the sale on May 23 and stayed for the weekend one last time.
After so many years of going to the cabin every spring, we decided we still want to have a sisters cabin weekend in the spring. We checked into several possibilities and eventually decided to try one that is in the same general area. We could still go to the same church we always went to when we were at the cabin. We might try a few more and see which one we like best but I certainly had no complaints about this one. It had more luxuries than we have at home, including central air and a dishwasher. It has a woodsy look but (in my opinion) is more of a house than a cabin.

The best part of this cabin is that we go and pay our rent but don't have to do any cleaning or maintenance work. We had all weekend to catch up on our loafing. We mostly read and napped but after supper we stirred ourselves a little and went to see what the new owner had done to our cabin. He hasn't done any major remodeling but did change the furnishings. It wouldn't be the same anymore and I have no desire to go back there. After we got back we played corn hole until dark.

It rained on Sunday but that was no problem. We were in church all morning and left about 3pm because we were going to a birthday party in the evening for our (borrowed) twin grandsons.
It's hard to believe that Dylan (left) and Durrell have reached the magical age of 16 already. I never forget how old they are because they were born July 4, 2000, and their age is always the same as the year. The party was held a month early and they were totally surprised. Got 'em good! Just hang on one more month guys, and you'll be in the driver's seat.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Oldest Handwritten Documents In British History Discovered

 Archaeologists in London have unearthed the oldest handwritten documents in Britain — a collection of notes, bills and contracts dating back nearly 2,000 years. It's an amazing find.

I couldn't figure out how to post the news article here so I will just give you the link. Be sure to watch the video that is near the end.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Smell the Roses

It's June! The month when I'd like to hit pause and keep it there twice as long as it lasts. It's the month with lush green growth everywhere, blooming roses, blue and white Penn State skies, and air perfumed with the smell of drying hay.
Our reluctant spring had a growth spurt last week and suddenly turned to embrace summer. The heat is turned off, windows are open day and night, roses are blooming, the garden is growing by leaps and bounds, and I'm going barefoot.
Although summer doesn't officially begin until June 21, summer weather usually arrives by Memorial Day. This year it dragged its feet coming and then pounced in suddenly and sent the temperature soaring from the 60s to 90.
I have reached the stage of life where I have time to enjoy the month of June. There was a time it passed by in a blur as I was swamped with picking either peas and strawberries every day and two weeks of summer Bible school. By the time we were through all that, the beans were ready and then the corn. The hectic pace of canning and freezing continued all summer until I had 100 quarts each of peaches and applesauce under lids. Then it dwindled in September and ended in October.
Now that we're empty nesters, it doesn't take much food around here anymore. We need only one cup of corn for a meal instead of six cups. A quart of applesauce lasts at least three days and it takes us a week to eat a pint of pickles. I really can't say I'm sorry. I didn't mind doing it at the time wouldn't have the energy to put away the hundreds of quarts of food I used to can and freeze.
Now I have time in the summer to smell the roses---read books, write stories, sew, and end the day sitting on the patio watching the sun go down. Life just keeps on getting better and better.