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Monday, July 10, 2017

300th Anniversary

No, not mine. We're married a mere 50 years. I mean the 300th anniversary of Groffdale.
Hans Groff emigrated from Germany to Pennsylvania in the late 1600s or early 1700s. The first written document for him in Pennsylvania is a deed dated 1704 which shows he purchased 84 acres of land north of Germantown. By the time he sold it in 1715, he was living at Strasburg in what is now Lancaster County. He warranted (claimed) 300 acres in 1714 which he sold in 1718 after he warranted 1150 acres in West Earl Township.
According to the often-repeated story, while Hans was living in the Strasburg area, his horses wandered away. In his search for them, he found a spring in a fertile valley north of his home. He determined to live there and in 1717 moved his family to what became known as Groffdale. A few years later the Weaver brothers followed him north and began another settlement a few miles east of Groffdale that is known as Weaverland. These two settlements were the nucleus of the Mennonite community north of the city of Lancaster.
Hans Groff built a log house near this spring which is still strong today and the stream that flows from it is stocked with trout.

The Groffdale Mennonite Church was established with the arrival of Hans and his family. More settlers soon followed. Worship services were held in the homes of the members on a rotating basis until 1755 when the first log meetinghouse was built on some of Hans Groff's land. 
Church divisions in 1893 and 1927 resulted in three Groffdale Mennonite congregations. The first Groffdale congregation remained on the same spot and is part of the Lancaster Conference. The first division in 1893 formed the Weaverland Conference and the group that left Lancaster Conference erected a new Groffdale Mennonite meetinghouse a mile or two away from the first one. The second division in 1927 formed the Groffdale Conference. Rather than build a third meetinghouse, the Weaverland and Groffdale Conference congregations use the same building but on alternating Sundays. So one Sunday the parking lot is filled with black cars and the next Sunday with horses and buggies.
The three Groffdale Mennonite congregations joined hands on July 7-8 to commemorate their shared 300-year history at Groffdale. A meeting was held on Friday evening, July 7, in which all three congregations led in singing from their respective hymnals. Then historian John Ruth spoke on the history of the area. After his presentation, the minister of the Lancaster Conference church presented a great gift to the Muddy Creek Library which is operated by the Weaverland Conference. 
In preparation for this anniversary, the Lancaster Conference church opened their safe and found in it a 1748 Martyrs Mirror and a 1763 Saur Bible. They decided these books are no good to anyone while locked in a safe and should be somewhere that they will be preserved and accessible to others. So they gave Muddy Creek Library the choice between the two books. After some deliberation, Muddy Creek decided to take the Bible. This is the large German Bible that would have been kept on the preacher's table for the minister to use while preaching. 
My ancestor, Christian Burkholder, was ordained as bishop at Groffdale in 1778 and would have used this Bible. It is in very good condition and I was thrilled to be able to see and touch something my ancestor used in the 1700s. I'll get a picture of it someday.
There was an all-day bus tour of Groffdale on July 8. We started at the Lancaster Conference church and then went to the Weaverland/Groffdale Conference church. From there, the two tour buses drove in opposite circles in a five-mile radius around Groffdale to see some of the notable spots in Groffdale's history. Here are a few highlights.

Hans Groff's Ausbund
1742 Ausbund hymnbook owned by Hans Groff which contains his signature and was passed on to his son Samuel Groff. The handwriting at the top of the page says "This book belongs to me Hans Groff. It cost six shillings."

 Peter Summy's house. 
Hans Peter Summy arrived in Philadelphia in 1733. He was a minister at Groffdale. It is believed this house at 207 Wissler Road on Jacob Summey's property was his home. It is probably the most unchanged dwelling in the Groffdale area. 

Christian Wenger's barn. 
Christian Wenger worked for Hans Groff and then bought 289 acres to the west. At 317 Brethren Church Road, the original house still stands, but addidions were built to every side. The stone part of the barn is still original. This is a very unusual construction with three stone arches on the ground floor. Two of the arches on the end have been closed up with cement blocks. One of them now has a door and the other a window, but they were originally like the one that is still open on the back side of the barn.

Samuel Groff's house
In 1738, Hans Groff sold 219 acres to his son Samuel Groff. There are two old houses with arch cellars and steep roofs on this tract, but both have been reconstructed. This farm at 357 Hershey Avenue was sold to Samuel's daughter Mary married to Joseph Horst. The date stone on this house says "Rebuilt 1854 by Jacob and Magdalena Hoover." The date stone on the second house says "Rebuilt 1847 by Jacob and Magdalena Hoover." 

Samuel Groff patent
A patent is a deed granting land from the Penn family to the first European owner. This is an original 1743 sheepskin patent for 64 acres from the Penn family to Samuel Groff. The Penn seal was attached to the blue ribbon at the bottom of the patent. These big round clay seals are often damaged, broken or missing. This one is damaged.

Christian Burkholder's land as seen from the Fairmount hill. My ancestor, Bishop Christian Burkholder, owned the entire Fairmount hill as well as the land on three sides of it. He married Hans Groff's granddaughter, Anna, which makes me a descendant of Hans Groff.
Lloyd Weiler wrote, "When Hans Groff purchased a large tract of land, he was investing in and directing the future of his children and their descendants. By believing in the virtues of family life, bearing responsibilities and vigorous labors, and staying close to the soil, he and his friends transmitted a legacy that has been maintained to this day." May we, his descendants, never forget and cease to appreciate our heritage.

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