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: 19th-Century Obituaries

New acquisition: 19th-Century Obituaries

In January 2018, the MHC received a surprise package in the mail from Lois Beun Callaghan of Santa Fe, NM, a descendant of John Meyer/Moyer (1799-1877) of Skippack Township. It contained several 19th century German newspapers with Meyer’s name on them -- Der Morgenstern (Doylestown, PA), Der Neutralist (Skippack, PA), and Montgomery County Presse (Lansdale, PA) -- and a separate file of hundreds of obituaries (and some marriage notices) clipped from these papers in the years 1844-1893. We’re thankful to Lois, who grew up in the area, for remembering our community with this gift, a major contribution to the Center’s ...
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New acquisition: "Die Mutter Jesus" fraktur

New acquisition: “Die Mutter Jesus” fraktur

Mennonites, like other Protestants, do not typically venerate special or powerful "saints" canonized by the Roman church, but occasionally, Mennonites and other Pennsylvania Germans would appeal to saints in medieval prayers associated with folk healing. Saint Mary, the mother of Jesus, was especially present in these prayers. In 1830, a local Mennonite created a beautiful piece of fraktur titled "Die Mutter Jesus [The Mother of Jesus]." The Mennonite Heritage Center has exhibited this piece in the past, and happily we were able to purchase it for the permanent collection in October 2018. It is now on display in the Fraktur ...
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New acquisition: Joshua Histand and Enos Gehman papers

New acquisition: Joshua Histand and Enos Gehman papers

Last fall, Sarah Godshall Hunsberger, one of our members in Harrisonburg, Virginia, called to say that she had some old family papers and artifacts to give to us, but wanted to send them with someone from the Souderton area who might be traveling to the Harrisonburg area and back.  Eventually, through the Mennonite “network”, an old wooden box labeled “Keystone Watch Case Company” showed up at the front desk here at the Mennonite Heritage Center.   It was half filled with various old papers, books, and a few photos from Sarah’s family.  When I was finally able to sort through the ...
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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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