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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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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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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Excerpts from “The Life History of Susie Freed Heebner”

Written by Forrest Moyer on July 23, 2019

Republished from the MHEP Newsletter, May 1986. Mrs. Heebner’s full memoir is available in the MHC library.

This history is a reflection of Susie Freed Heebner (March 7, 1892-December 6, 1984) as she thought about things that happened throughout her lifetime. Susie always enjoyed writing things down. Over the years she kept diaries. Her son, Steward, suggested that she write this life history. He bought her the spiral-ringed notebook into which she recorded her remembrances. For him we are thankful;

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A window on Franconia Mennonite character

Written by Forrest Moyer on January 24, 2019

Two weeks ago I posted a story about hospitality as it was experienced in the 1820s in the wilderness of Ohio. Today I’m sharing another article from our Newsletter that touches on the theme of hospitality and the old culture of Franconia Mennonites.

In April 1985, John Ruth transcribed and commented on several notes from a journal of Henry R. Bergey (1843-1925). The article is rich in the color of life as it used to be among local Mennonites, and we’re

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Walking to Ohio in the 1820s

Written by Forrest Moyer on January 9, 2019

The following is a translation of a Pennsylvania Dutch story submitted to the Souderton Independent newspaper by local historian Henry Hagey and printed December 22, 1933. It appears to be a true story, collected by Hagey from deacon Jake Freed (1851-1929) of the Franconia Mennonite congregation. The story was told to him by one Martin Bechtel, presumably Martin G. Bechtel (1797-1890), buried at Blooming Glen.

While only the barest details flesh the story, it does give some idea of what traveling

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New acquisition: Macinskas home movies

Written by Forrest Moyer on August 7, 2018

Recently a set of local home movies by Peter Macinskas (1922-1969) was donated to the MHC by his son Dean Macinskas. The movies, mostly short clips (see examples below), provide an exceptional window into Vernfield and Lower Salford Township during the 1950s, especially his wife’s Price family and the Indian Creek Church of the Brethren.

Peter was the third generation of a Catholic family that immigrated to eastern Pennsylvania from Lithuania. He was born in 1922 and served in the 20th

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New acquisition: Elizabeth Ruth show towel

Written by Forrest Moyer on June 1, 2018

A beautiful show towel was donated to the MHC last year, bearing the name Elizabeth Ruth and date 1836. Towels like this were made for display, not use, by young women in preparation for decorating their homes after marriage. At the bottom of this towel is a fine drawn-work panel featuring peacocks (or geese), hearts and a pot of flowers.

Gift of Beulah Hendricks Rittenhouse (2017.44.1)

The maker of the towel, Elizabeth Ruth (1819-1888), had an unusual story. She

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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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Our Immigrant Heritage: Landis/Landes

Written by Forrest Moyer on March 5, 2018

This series of posts highlights families descended from 18th-century Mennonite immigrants to eastern Pennsylvania, in connection with the MHC’s exhibit Opportunity & Conscience: Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania, on display through March 31, 2018. The stories reflect the enrichment brought to communities over centuries by the descendants of immigrants.

E-I-E-I-?

Old Abe Landis had a farm, E-I-E-I-O. How should he spell his name, with an “e” or an “i”?

The most common spelling of the name today is Landis, but not so in years

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