Collections

The Mennonite Heritage Center cares for archival, manuscript and artifact collections that document three centuries of Mennonite life in the eastern Pennsylvania counties of Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Berks, Lehigh, Northampton and Philadelphia.

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New acquisition: Groundhog Lodge #2 records

New acquisition: Groundhog Lodge #2 records

The records, photos and some artifacts of Groundhog Lodge #2 "on the Skippack" were donated to the Mennonite Heritage Center last fall, after the group disbanded earlier in 2018. This Grundsow Lodsch, based in the Souderton-Harleysville area, started in 1937, held its first public Fersommling (gathering and banquet) in February 1938, held its 81st annual banquet in February 2018, and then decided to disband. It was the second of the lodges (or clubs) organized in the wider Groundhog Lodge movement in eastern Pennsylvania. In the aftermath of World War I, American society was suspicious of German culture, traditions and language ...
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New acquisition: Henry & Florence Keeler family photos

New acquisition: Henry & Florence Keeler family photos

In 2017, shortly before her death, Ruth Keeler Longacre donated a photo album and other papers that belonged to her mother, Florence Moyer Keeler (1898-1992) of Towamencin Township. Florence's husband Henry died in a farming accident many years ago in 1946, and Florence never remarried, continuing to live at her husband's family home on Keeler Road with her four unmarried children, Paul, William, Ruth and Laverne. Son Curtis Keeler, who was married to Verna Long, lived in Telford. They were the parents of local news reporter Bob Keeler. The album is well-labeled and paints a warm picture of Florence's life ...
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New acquisition: Geyer-Ziegler family Bible

New acquisition: Geyer-Ziegler family Bible

Recently, a German Bible published in 1693 in Frankfurt was donated to the Mennonite Heritage Center by Henry A. Ziegler of near Bally, PA. An inscription on the second page indicates the Bible was purchased by Johann Wilhelm Geyer in 1752 in Frankfurt, Germany, and was brought by him to Pennsylvania that year. He wrote: “1752 den 24 May hab ich Wilhelm Geyer diese Bibel gekaufft im Franckfort am Mayn” [1752, the 24th of May, I, Wilhelm Geyer have purchased this Bible in Frankfurt am Main]. The Bible has a fine binding with beautifully-tooled brass clasps, and is in relatively ...
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New acquisition: Jacob Gross tunebook

New acquisition: Jacob Gross tunebook

The MHC recently acquired from a rare books dealer, a manuscript tunebook dated March 1872, compiled and decorated by schoolteacher Jacob W. Gross of New Britain Township, Bucks County.  Gross made the booklet for Hannah Schaddinger, his student in the "Valley Park Deutsche Schule" (Valley Park German School) in Plumstead Township, Bucks County.  Schaddinger (1858-1937) was the daughter of Henry & Mary Fretz Schaddinger of Plumstead Township, and later married John Z. Loux.  The bookplate is clearly signed "Geschrieben den 16ten März 1872, von Jacob Gross Schulehrer." (Written March 16th 1872, by Jacob Gross, schoolteacher). The tunebook also contains a ...
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New acquisition: Hall-Horning family register

New acquisition: Hall-Horning family register

In November, the MHC acquired a beautiful fraktur family register that tells the story of a unique and interesting family who bridged the Mennonite-Funkite-Brethren divide of the early 19th century. The register (2017.65.1) is for the family of John and Elizabeth Hall Horning of Skippack Township, Montgomery County. It was made about 1785 and appears to be the work of schoolmaster Henry Brachtheiser, who made other pieces in the 1780s at Skippack and Salford. The pages were originally longer, but were cut down by a previous collector to fit inside a frame. Unfortunately the birth record of John and Elizabeth's ...
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Mennonite Heritage Center, Harleysville

New acquisition: Bower family tree

Zach Bower, a social studies teacher at Dock Mennonite Academy, recently donated an unusual family heirloom to the Mennonite Heritage Center -- a hand-drawn family tree compiled by his great-great-grandfather, Henry Stauffer Bower (1836-1909). The tree, signed and dated 1897, traces many branches of the descendants of Mennonite immigrant Hans Bauer, a native of Switzerland who settled in Hereford Township, Berks County in 1734. This chart was made in combination with a genealogy that Henry compiled, part of which was published in 1897 through the Harleysville News printing house. The complete manuscript of Henry's genealogical work is in the possession ...
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New acquisition: Gehman-Hiestand family registers

New acquisition: Gehman-Hiestand family registers

Last year Alma Shelly of North Newton, Kansas donated several family Bible registers that belonged to her late sister-in-law, Griselda Gehman Shelly (1925-2014), wife of Mennonite minister and author Maynard Shelly. The registers document four generations of Griselda's ancestors, a unique and gifted family of the Berks-Lehigh community. Griselda Gehman was an only child, born in Newark, Delaware to parents of Pennsylvania Mennonite origin. Her grandfather, William Hiestand Gehman,  had moved from Lehigh County, Pennsylvania to the state of Delaware, where he married Lucy Thomas in 1896, and their son Gilbert (Griselda's father) was born in 1898. As there were ...
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New acquisition: Deep Run and Salford gravestone photos

New acquisition: Deep Run and Salford gravestone photos

In 2016, the MHC received not one, but two collections of digital photos from local Mennonite cemeteries. The first contains photos of all gravestones in the Deep Run Mennonite East Cemetery in Bedminster Township, Bucks County. The donor, Daryl W. Rice, shot the photos in 2015. He did an excellent job, selecting a time of day when the sun created the best light for reading inscriptions, and getting down to the level of the stones for a good angle. Most 18th-century Mennonite gravestones did not carry decorative images, but several stones at Deep Run include carvings of crowns and tulips ...
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Mennonite Heritage Center, Harleysville

New acquisition: Flow blue and stick spatter dishes

In 2016, two sets of beautiful 19th-century dishes were donated to the MHC. The first is a full table setting of "flow blue" dishes, circa 1870, that belonged to Susan Godshall Frederick Rosenberger (1854-1932) of Souderton, PA.  She married first, in about 1873, Benjamin H. Frederick (1852-1891) of Franconia Township; then Amos Rosenberger (1852-1924).  Susan was a member of the Franconia Mennonite Church and is buried there with her first husband.  The dishes may have been a wedding gift at their marriage. Donated to the MHC by their great-granddaughter, Dorothy N. Benner (2016.33.1-26). Flow blue china was similar to traditional ...
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Mennonite Heritage Center, Harleysville

New acquisition: Scratch-decorated egg

Taking a break from immigrant family stories, this week we're featuring a new acquisition related to the Easter holiday. You may be familiar with the elaborate scratch-decorated eggs of the Lithuanian tradition; but did you know Pennsylvania Germans had a similar practice of scratch decoration? You can see many examples in a chapter on this topic in Alfred Shoemaker's book Eastertide in Pennsylvania (1960). Often decorated eggs were made as presentation pieces or gifts from one friend to another at Easter. This month's featured artifact is a mid-19th-century decorated egg from the Mensch family of Montgomery County. It was donated ...
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