Allen Fretz, Shepherd of Souls (Part 1)

Written by Forrest Moyer on August 12, 2020

Allen M. Fretz (1853-1943) was a longtime pastor and outstanding leader among progressive Mennonites locally. In 1997, the MHEP Quarterly published a sketch of his ministry, written by grandson J. Herbert Fretz (1921-2013). We publish it now for the internet audience in two parts. The text is slightly rearranged from the original publication, and headings have been added.

First love lost

It was early September, 1883, when 29-year-old Allen Myers Fretz and his companions from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, were visiting friends and

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Hanna Rittenhouse Clemens

Written by Forrest Moyer on March 18, 2020

This article was written by Joel Alderfer for the MHEP Newsletter in 1994, based on research done for the exhibit When This You See, Remember Me: The Experience of Mennonite Women.

Hanna Rittenhouse was born in Towamencin Township, Montgomery County, the youngest child of Jacob K. Rittenhouse (1838-1917), a township school director, and Elizabeth D. Clemmer Rittenhouse (1940-1922). She enjoyed her grade-school education and graduated from the eighth grade in 1895, for which she wrote the class history. About a year

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Bishop Jacob Gross (1743-1810)

Written by Forrest Moyer on March 6, 2019

It’s been 15 years since I dove down the rabbit hole of genealogy. My interest continues to be piqued by my own ancestors, but has expanded to the stories of many others through my work at the Heritage Center and everyday conversations with folks from diverse backgrounds. The interesting characters among our ancestors are endless!

As a child, I knew that my grandmother Ruth was descended from an early American Mennonite bishop, Jacob Gross of Deep Run, Bucks County; but my

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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: Gehman

Written by Forrest Moyer on January 19, 2018
Mennonite Heritage Center, Harleysville

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.

Bernese roots

Gehman is a name common among Mennonites of eastern Pennsylvania and Lancaster and the Bible Fellowship Church (formerly Mennonite Brethren in Christ). It is not, however, common among Swiss and German Mennonites

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Our Immigrant Heritage: Alderfer

Written by Joel Alderfer on August 17, 2017

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.

The Alderfer name is one of those unique to the Mennonite communities of Montgomery and Bucks Counties. The name was not found in other Mennonite settlements, except through later migration and intermarriage. However,

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Our Immigrant Heritage: Moyer

Written by Forrest Moyer on July 19, 2017

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.

The Moyer/Meyers/Myers family is one of the most widespread in the Mennonite community of eastern Pennsylvania. Virtually everyone with roots in the community is descended from a Moyer immigrant, and often more than

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Our Immigrant Heritage: Ruth

Written by Forrest Moyer on June 29, 2017

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.

Henry and Magdalena

The immigrant ancestor of the Bucks-Mont Ruth family, whose name was Henry, came to Pennsylvania probably in the fall of 1717 and purchased 200 acres of land at Salford in February

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Our Immigrant Heritage: Allebach

Written by Forrest Moyer on June 21, 2017

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.

A large pioneer family

Christian Allebach, a weaver, had three stepchildren when he and wife Margaret immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1719. The family came from Dühren, Germany, near Sinsheim in the Kraichgau, and likely

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First Mennonite Church, Philadelphia added to city historic register

Written by Forrest Moyer on May 15, 2017

Former MHC intern Dan Sigmans, who grew up in Bucks County, now lives and works in Philadelphia. Recently he helped with a successful application to add the old First Mennonite Church building at 513 Diamond Street (built in 1881) to the city’s Register of Historic Places. I asked him a few questions about the process and the historic site. You can view the full application here. It was approved March 10th.

How did you get involved with the application process?

On one

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