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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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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The Flu Epidemic of 1918: accounts from local diaries

Written by Joel Alderfer on March 25, 2020

As we experience and restructure our lives during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, it may be helpful to understand how our community in central Montgomery County, PA was impacted by the global Influenza Epidemic of 1918. Several diaries of local persons in the Mennonite Heritage Center collection offer some glimpses back to that time.

A little background

Some researchers believe that the influenza of 1918 originated on farms in western Kansas in the spring of that year. Most scientists and scholars now

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1896 preaching tour of John Coffman

Written by Forrest Moyer on November 6, 2019

John S. Coffman (1848-1899) of Elkhart, IN was one of the first evangelists to hold a series of meetings in Franconia Mennonite Conference, in November 1896. His tour lasted three weeks, during which he preached in all but one congregation in the conference. In his diary, he recorded impressions of the places and people he met, giving us a rare view of local Mennonite culture. The diary is archived at the Mennonite Church USA Archives in Elkhart and was published

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Will of Andrew Lederach, 1758

Written by Forrest Moyer on May 23, 2019

MHEP published the will of Andrew Lederach in 1983. The notes below were written by Joel Alderfer at that time.

Andrew Lederach immigrated, with his brother, John, to Pennsylvania in 1717. The Lederach family was originally from Worb, Switzerland, but had lived in the Palatinate in Germany before coming to this country. Andrew and John both settled in Lower Salford Township, Montgomery County, where Andrew bought 102 acres of land from David Powell in December of 1717, and where John bought

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New acquisition: Groundhog Lodge #2 records

Written by Joel Alderfer on February 22, 2019

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

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Recipes from Henry and Mary Ruth

Written by Forrest Moyer on August 24, 2018

In April 1978, the MHEP Newsletter published recipes from Henry & Mary Landes Ruth of Lower Salford Township. Henry was deacon in the Salford Mennonite congregation. The information for the article was provided by daughter Ella Ruth, and edited by Joyce Munro. The article is republished here with photos added from Ella’s papers in the MHC Collection (Hist. Mss. 440).

On a farm halfway between Mainland and Harleysville they lived, on the farm now [1978] owned by Schnabel Associates on Ruth

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Excerpts from “Powwowing: Folk Medicine or White Magic?”

Written by Forrest Moyer on May 16, 2018

In February 1979, the MHEP Newsletter published notes from a talk by Mennonite pastor Gerald Studer on the topic of “powwowing”—In German, Braucherei—a combination of faith healing and folk medicine. This ancient practice brought by Pennsylvania Germans from Europe has been preserved in pockets of the American countryside to the present day. Opinions have varied in the Pa. German community about the effectiveness and propriety of powwowing. Individuals from all religious groups—Lutheran, Reformed, Mennonite, Brethren, Evangelical, etc.—made use of powwow

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New acquisition: Geyer-Ziegler family Bible

Written by Joel Alderfer on April 19, 2018

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

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Autobiographical notes: J. C. Clemens

Written by Forrest Moyer on April 5, 2018

Jacob Cassel Clemens (1874-1965) was pastor of Plains Mennonite Church and a well-known evangelist in Mennonite circles. In 1979, the MHEP Newsletter published his autobiographical notes written in 1954. The manuscript is in his papers archived at the MHC (Hist. Mss. 3).

Clemens’ reflections on the first half of the 20th century, as he experienced it, are illuminating. They remind us how much has changed in the last century, but also that many of our ancestors’ experiences are similar to ours—love

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