Indian Creek Brethren in the mid-twentieth century: Photography of Peter P. Macinskas, Jr.

Written by Joel Alderfer on August 10, 2022

By Joel D. Alderfer

About five years ago, a collection of 35mm color slides, 2.5×2.5 inch color transparencies, and 8mm home movies taken by the late Peter Macinskas (1922-1969) of Vernfield, Pennsylvania, was donated to the Mennonite Heritage Center.  For the last several years, we did not have a scanner that could process slides, transparencies, or negatives.  That changed a couple months ago when we were able to purchase, thanks to a grant from Blooming Glen Mennonite Church, an Epson V850 scanner.  This scanner can handle various sizes of negatives and transparencies, and I was finally able to scan a nice selection of images from the Macinskas collection.

A group of Macinskas’ slides and transparencies help document an interesting period of transition – the late 1940s through 1950s – in the Indian Creek Church of the Brethren, Vernfield, where he attended.  The changes happening in that congregation during this time reflected the significant cultural changes occurring in the wider Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania in the early-to-mid twentieth century.

Peter Macinskas with one of his cameras, circa 1954

Peter Paul Macinskas, Jr., was born in Philadelphia, 1922, the son of Peter P. Macinskas Sr. (1893-1972) and Mary Survell of Philadelphia, immigrants from Lithuania in 1914.  By 1935, the Macinskas family moved to a small farm along Sumneytown Pike in Upper Salford Township, Montgomery County.  The family attended St. Stanilaus Catholic Church in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.  Peter Jr. attended Souderton High School and graduated in 1941.  Here he likely met Sara C. Price, daughter of Jacob A. and Amanda Cassel Price, members of the Indian Creek Church of the Brethren, where Jacob was a deacon.

Peter served in the 20th Combat Squadron of the Army in Okinawa during World War II, from November 1942 to the end of 1945.  He married Sara C. Price (1920-2021) in May 1948 at Indian Creek Church of the Brethren.  At the time of the 1950 census, they lived with Sara’s parents, along the Old Sumneytown Pike just below Vernfield.  They had one child, Dean, born in 1951.

Sara graduated from Souderton High School and Elizabethtown College (Pennsylvania) and was a teacher at the Salford Hills Elementary School for many years.  Peter worked as a photo engraver at the former U. S. Gauge plant in Sellersville, Pennsylvania.

I’ve selected thirty images from Macinskas’ slides, transparencies and prints to create a photo story of transition in the Indian Creek Church of the Brethren in the mid-twentieth century.

The Indian Creek Church of the Brethren meetinghouse, Vernfield, PA, 1948, with one horse shed still standing (all photos by Peter Macinskas, Jr.).
Peter Macinskas and Sara Price were married in the plain Indian Creek Brethren meetinghouse in 1948.  By this time, Brethren girls were starting to wear fancy wedding gowns, which must have looked odd in the plain meetinghouse. Notice how Sara has decorated a bit for her wedding by placing palm plants and flowers on and behind the traditional preacher’s table.
Baptism in the Branch Creek near Vernfield. Indian Creek Church of the Brethren holds a baptism service in the Branch Creek by the Bergey bridge, just north of Vernfield, around 1950.  Elder Joseph G. Moyer is conducting the baptism.
Children and teachers during Summer Bible School at Indian Creek Brethren meetinghouse, about 1950. They are ready to enter the meetinghouse and go to their classes.  Can you identify anyone?
Dunkard preachers and elders in front of the Indian Creek meetinghouse, 1951, before it was remodeled.  Left to right: elder Abram A. Price, visiting preacher Aaron Heisey, elder Elmer M. Moyer, elder Reuben H. Brumbaugh, preacher Joseph G. Moyer and newly chosen preacher Harold Jones.  Many older Brethren ministers in eastern Pennsylvania still wore a traditional beard at this time.
Lunchtime during the Church of the Brethren District Ministerial Meeting at the Indian Creek meetinghouse, about 1951.  Fortunately, Peter Macinskas thought to document some of these Church of the Brethren events.
Interior of the Indian Creek meetinghouse, in 1952, just before major renovations started on the building.
Indian Creek Meetinghouse, 1952-53, just before renovations. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Indian Creek preachers and elders on the steps of the meetinghouse, 1952. Left to right: Abram A. Price, Joseph G. Moyer, Reuben H. Brumbaugh, Harold Jones (now in a plain coat), Elmer M. Moyer.
A significant photo documenting the last traditional Brethren Love Feast in the old Indian Creek meetinghouse, fall of 1952, before it was renovated. The scene would look different in the remodeled meetinghouse; the ritual somewhat streamlined.  In eastern Pennsylvania, Love Feast was observed in spring and fall as part of the communion and feet-washing service. Much could be interpreted from this photo – suffice it to say that it’s a rare, sharp view of a traditional Brethren observance in a congregation that was undergoing change. There are just a few “new” evangelical-protestant accommodations visible in the scene: the attendance and offering register hanging on the front wall, the floral bouquet on front table, the motto mounted to the pulpit, barely visible behind the flowers: “Ye Must Be Born Again”. The local ministers and several visiting ones are seated behind the long preacher’s table. The congregation was apparently expecting photographer Macinskas’ recording of the scene.
Two of the deacons’ spouses, Amanda Cassel Price and Anna Price Nyce, prepare the Love Feast meat and broth in the old hearth-boilers in the Indian Creek meetinghouse cellar, 1952. The facilities look a bit primitive compared to the new kitchen the women would receive in the remodeled meetinghouse.
Spring 1953: remodeling work on the Indian Creek meetinghouse has begun.  Henry Bechtel and Deacon Waldo Ziegler clean up scrap lumber.
Henry Bechtel hauls demolition rubble out of the old meetinghouse.
During the remodeling process, a large tree on the church property either fell down or was cut down. Here Linford Shelly and friend are cutting wood with a belt-driven saw powered by a tractor.
Interior renovations are progressing – 1953.  Preacher Joseph Moyer and deacon Waldo Ziegler seem happy with the new baptismal pool that is being installed behind the new pulpit platform in the meetinghouse.  The congregation would no longer need to walk or drive to nearby creeks for immersion baptisms.

New construction on the old meetinghouse is progressing – 1953

Finally, the dedication weekend for the new facilities has arrived (December 1953). The parking area overflows and the house is packed.
The Indian Creek ministers standing behind the new pulpit during the dedication weekend. We’ve met them already (Joseph Moyer, Reuben Brumbaugh, Abram A. Price, Elmer M. Moyer, Harold Jones).
Visiting after one of the dedication services – Elder Abram A. Price (left) and Preacher Joseph Cassel (right) of the Skippack Church of the Brethren. Man in center not identified.
Visiting preacher, thought to be Noah Martin of Blue Ball, speaks with preacher Reuben Brumbaugh after one of the services.
Guest preacher Frank S. Carper of Palmyra, Pennsylvania, gives a warm greeting to Sallie Musselman Delp (wife of preacher William Delp of the Hatfield Church) after the service.
The newly renovated auditorium of the Indian Creek Church, late 1953 to early 1954. Now the meetinghouse has a modern, protestant-style pulpit, large individual pulpit chairs, a railing in front of the pulpit, and all benches (pews) face straight forward.
Exterior of the new Indian Creek Meetinghouse, 1953-54.
Deacon’s spouses preparing the Love Feast meat and broth in the new, up-to-date church kitchen, probably spring 1954. Left to right: Ethel Cassel Alderfer, Anna Price Nyce, Amanda Cassel Price.
The practice of “passing up the gravy” from the kitchen in the basement, for the love feast meal, continued in the new Indian Creek meetinghouse – 1954.
It seems Peter Macinskas only got a few photos of preparations for love feast in the new meetinghouse. In this scene, Elders Reuben Brumbaugh and Elmer Moyer, and an unidentified man, confer near the back of the auditorium.  Now all the benches and participants face forward for the meal. On the back of each bench there is now a narrow fold-out “table” board where the meal is set.
Here a line of standard tables has been set up in front of the auditorium for love feast with a row of chairs facing the congregation. Were these for the preachers and deacons?  It seems the Indian Creek Brethren consumed stacks of bread at love feast!
Photographer Macinskas’ in-laws – Deacon Jacob A. and Amanda Cassel Price of the Indian Creek Church of the Brethren, circa 1954.
The photographer’s own parents – Peter Sr. and Mary Macinskas of Upper Salford Township, circa 1954.

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9 replies to “Indian Creek Brethren in the mid-twentieth century: Photography of Peter P. Macinskas, Jr.

  1. Jill Davidson -

    Very interesting article, great photographs. Did the photographer’s parents (and siblings?) join the Church of the Brethren with him?


  2. Karen Shelly Arias -

    Thank you for the photos and names! I recognize at least 8 cousins or cousin inlaws from my grandfather’s generation.


  3. David Whetstone -

    We’ve been attending Indian Creek for the past 12 years. Much has changed, at least in appearance. Thanks so much for publishing this.


  4. Carol Brumbaugh -

    Thank you so much for the great pictures. That’s the first time we’ve ever seen a clear pic of my husband’s Great Grandfather Reuben Brumbaugh. Had heard so much about him over the years. What a treat.


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