Branch Valley Characters (Part 2)

Written by Joel Alderfer on June 4, 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

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


Lydia Gross’s unknown marriage

Written by Forrest Moyer on May 15, 2020

The first part of this article, about Lydia Gross’s leadership in the Doylestown Mennonite Sewing Circle and proposed Women’s Missionary Society, was written by Mary Jane Hershey and published in the MHEP Newsletter in March 1996.

The second part, written by myself, is about Lydia’s unknown or secret marriage.

I don’t tell the story to cast aspersions on her character. Rather, it is an example of how complex life could be in the old days, even for conservative Mennonites who

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


Communion at Deep Run, 1877

Written by Forrest Moyer on April 29, 2020

Title image: Women cleaning benches before annual communion at Deep Run in the 1940s.

Until the mid-20th century, Deep Run East Mennonite congregation — like many Anabaptists — held communion only once a year. Some members viewed the Lord’s Supper as a Christian version of the Jewish feast of Passover, which occurs annually (Timothy Rice, Deep Run Mennonite Church East: A 250 Year Pilgrimage, 1746-1996, p. 43).

The following interesting account was published in the newspaper Bucks County Intelligencer (Doylestown), May

Continue Reading


An unusual historical observance

Written by Forrest Moyer on April 22, 2020

This brief article was written by John Ruth for the MHEP Newsletter, January 1994. It recounts a patriotic event that took place at the Towamencin Mennonite Meetinghouse in 1993.

The Towamencin congregation received a request from the Daughters of the American Revolution for permission to relocate a marker the organization had placed, in 1927, at the junction of the Sumneytown Pike and Old Forty Foot Road, just across the intersection from the Meetinghouse. A current (in 1993) widening of the Pike

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


Historic local newspapers

Written by Forrest Moyer on April 1, 2020

Newspapers are a great source of genealogical information, not only obituaries and death notices, but also estate and marriage notices, and — the best part — anecdotes and news about ancestors and relatives. As more papers are digitized and made available online, this wealth of information is more accessible than ever.

The list below of local newspapers was begun in 1992 by Joel Alderfer to assist researchers at the Mennonite Heritage Center, and is limited to Pennsylvania German areas of Bucks

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading