Branch Valley Characters (Part 1)

Written by Joel Alderfer on May 27, 2020

Traditionally, many communities have unusual personalities, or characters, who are remembered and immortalized by stories that are passed down long after their passing. They are people whose colorful lives may not be well documented in written history, but are often remembered in the oral tradition.

I wrote these bios for the MHEP Newsletter in 1995, based on stories collected from older folks, local historians, and my own research. We’re sharing them here in two parts (this week and next), adding a

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Henry Hagey, artist and chronicler of Franconia Township

Written by Joel Alderfer on May 6, 2020

Back in late March, we published on this blog, Flu Epidemic of 1918: accounts from local diaries, which included excerpts from the diary of Henry D. Hagey, painter-paperhanger, artist and historian of Elroy, Franconia Township, PA. In this post, I’ll expand on his story and feature a selection of photos and artifacts from his camera and hand, donated to the Mennonite Heritage Center by his relatives over the last three decades.

Some biography

The MHC has a few hard-bound copies of this

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How we identify a fraktur artist

Written by Forrest Moyer on April 15, 2020

Schoolmasters who made fraktur for their students rarely signed their art. There are numerous artists who have yet to be identified or may never be known; but occasionally, evidence appears which allows historians and collectors to begin attributing artwork to a particular person.

This article, first published in the MHEP Newsletter January 1995 with the title “David Kulp, His Hand & Pen: The ‘Brown Leaf Artist’ Identified?”, describes a process of identification that may be considered typical. In this case, the

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New acquisition: Laadan and Anne Moyer family artifacts

Written by Joel Alderfer on April 8, 2020

Once in a great while in our collecting work at the Mennonite Heritage Center, we have the unusual opportunity to sort through and select from a multi-generational family collection in its native setting — the very homestead where the objects were either made or acquired, used, passed down and preserved. This is the scenario that developed after I received a phone call last May from the owner of a Moyer family homestead in Salford Township, Montgomery County, inviting me to

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Moyer family inheritance letter, 1752

Written by Forrest Moyer on March 11, 2020

Originally published in the MHEP Newsletter, May 1993, this rare letter details a family conflict over inheritance and possibly religion.

Elizabeth Oblinger was a sister of Christian Meyer/Moyer, early Mennonite deacon at Franconia, and sister-in-law of Henry Funk, the bishop. Here her husband, Nicholas, writes from far away — “beyond the Blue Mountain” (Palmerton, PA area) — to complain that Elizabeth has not received the inheritance due from her father’s estate. Nicholas wonders if perhaps the old father (Christian Moyer

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New acquisition: Yoder-Shelly family Bible

Written by Forrest Moyer on February 11, 2020

Many of you know the story of the “Saucon Incident” during the American War for Independence — eleven men of the Saucon Mennonite congregation in Northampton County were imprisoned for refusing to pledge allegiance to Pennsylvania, and all their moveable property was sold on auction. If you don’t know the story, read it here. (The linked book, Sweet Land of Liberty by Francis S. Fox, is available in the MHC Library, along with John Ruth’s account of the incident in

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Selections from Mahlon Moyer’s “Parcemia”

Written by Forrest Moyer on January 10, 2020

Mahlon G. Moyer (1853-1939) was raised in a Mennonite family of New Britain Township, Bucks County. As a young man he moved to Philadelphia and became a telegraph operator; married and started a family. Later he settled in North Wales, where he lived the rest of his life.

Unwilling to join the conservative Mennonite Church of his parents, Mahlon was baptized in the Presbyterian Church at age 28. His great-grandson, Robert “Bob” Walters, returned to the Mennonites and served as

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Influential Gross descendants

Written by Forrest Moyer on March 22, 2019

My last blog post introduced Jacob Gross, an early Mennonite bishop of Deep Run. He had many descendants, including myself, who lived in eastern Pennsylvania; but some of the most interesting characters lived elsewhere.

An affluent and influential branch of the family were descendants of Jacob Gross Jr. (1780-1865) of Canada. Like his father, Jacob was a Mennonite bishop who was progressive and evangelical. Unlike his father, the younger Jacob was eventually silenced and left the Mennonite Church to join

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Camp experiences of David H. Gehman, World War I

Written by Forrest Moyer on February 6, 2019

David Gehman (1894-1969) grew up near Bally, Pennsylvania. His father was Enos Gehman, whose teenage journal of a trip to Philadelphia was published on this blog.

David’s memoir of his experiences as a conscientious objector during World War I is found in the J.C. Clemens Papers at the MHC (Hist. Mss. 3). It was first published in the MHEP Newsletter in 1983. Gehman’s accompanying note was not included, but an excerpt reveals how he came to record his memories and

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New acquisition: Henry & Florence Keeler family photos

Written by Forrest Moyer on December 6, 2018

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

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