Scholla: The Land of Goshenhoppen By Wilbur H. Oda Ph.D. Bally, PA Date: 1943

The Land of Goshenhoppen By Wilbur H. Oda Ph. D. Bally, PA

In the land of Goshenhoppen, in the valley of the Perkiomen, at the foot of Crow Hill (Grabbebaerrick), about half way between Boyertown and Allentown, is found a quiet, peaceful little town with the somewhat romantic name of Bally. In spite of its peaceful atmosphere, Bally is a busy manufacturing town with five factories, many of them, at present, running day and night in order to fill orders that come from all part of  the United States.

The town has not always been known by its present name. At first, the site and the region round about was known as Goshenhopper. Later, because of its churches it was called Churchville. In the year 1883 the government established a postoffice and changed the name to Bally.

The Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament, the first Catholic church to be established in Berks County, (only two parishes in Pennsylvania are older; St. Josephs’s in Willing’s Alley, Philadelphia and Church of the Sacred Heart, Conewago, Adams County), began its existence in 1741 when Theodore Schneider, a native of Bavaria and a member of the Society of Jesus,  came to the region as a missionary. Two years later, with the help and support of the Mennonites and Schwenkfelders, who had settled in the valley several years before, a church was erected and called the Chapel of Saint Paul. At about the same time Father Schneider founded a school that was in existence until the township adopted the common school system, about 1850, when the congregation established a parochial school. This chool, at the present time, is under the direction of the Sisters of Saint Francis and has an enrollment of about 150.

One of the most interesting parts of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament is the old Chapel of Saint Paul in which the old mission bell still hangs. This bell, which is almost 50 years older than the historic Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, is often called “the Liberty Bell of Catholicism.”

The old altar is almost 200 years old and is constructed of wood material which is believed to have been brought from Europe. Under the floor of the old chapel, near the altar, lies the body of Father Schneider, who died in 1764, and two of his successors.

Among the interesting relics of the old church are the “klingel beutels.” These interesting objects were used to arouse drowsy members of the congregation when the collection was being taken and consist of a little bell fastened  to a small basket, which in turn, is attached to the end of a rod. An old Bible, printed in the 16th century and bound with wooden covers is another interesting memento of former days.

In the church yard are found the names of many persons who have been prominent in the development of the community. One name – Isaac Jones is worthy of special mention because it shows the lack of racial prejudice in the early days. Jones was a negro who fought in the Continental Army during the Revolution and died at the age of 94.

It was not until 1827 after the construction of the present bulidng that the name of the church was changed to the Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The old Chapel of Saint Paul was made a part of the new church.

Augustin Bally, a native of Belgium, who came to the church in 1837 was one of the most interesting and picturesque of all the former pastors. He died on January 28, 1882, after serving the congregation for 44 years. A year later when the government established a post office in the town the name Churchville was changed to Bally by unanimous consent.

The original 1743 chapel and altar of church of St. Paul in Bally. The chapel and altar were incorporated into the present church on the site, Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Rev. Charles L. Allwein, Pastor. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County.
The original 1743 chapel and altar of church of St. Paul in Bally. The chapel and altar were incorporated into the present church on the site, Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Rev. Charles L. Allwein, Pastor. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County.
Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament. No Date. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County.
Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament. No Date. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County.

Scholla: Early Catholic Churches

Scholla: Early Catholic Churches  March 10, 1941

A mistake frequently made by persons who do not know the Pennsylvania Germans is to assume that they are made up almost entirely of the plain sect people, Amish, Dunkards and Mennonites. No eastern Pennsylvanian would ever fall into this error. But so much has been written about religious persecution being the cause of emigration from the old world that there are many persons who assume that all of the Pennsylvania Germans must have been members of Protestant sects. In this too they err. There were at least two Catholic congregations among the rural residents of Berks County before the dawn of the 19th century. One of these still is existent and carrying on its proud traditions and there are clear traces of the second, still vivid in the minds of living persons.

The Catholic church at Goshenhoppen, now Bally, was organized long before the Revolutionary War under the care of Father Schneider and it has ministered to the spiritual needs of its neighborhood from that day to this. The Catholic congregation at Mt. Pleasant, or Obold, on Route 83, between Reading Airport and Bernville, has ceased to exist as a congregation but there are still living persons in that neighborhood whose parents were members of that parish when the Catholic priests held services in the home of Phillip Schmidt or in the village school house.

Clancy Lambert, octogenarian, still remembers the Catholic services and his father was a member of the church. Three times each year the agile old man goes to the secluded cemetery plot at the northern end of town, carrying a scythe upon his shoulder. He is going to mow the grass which has grown over the graves of his ancestors and those of his neighbors.

Casual passerby will not find the hidden God’s Acre, known today as the Deppen Cemetery plot. It is nestled in a shady spot, on a hill side near to the highway but not to be seen from it. There lie buried approximately 50 bodies.  Most of those interred were members of the old Catholic church of  “Hetrichestettle,” or Mt. Pleasant.

Even though efforts are made to preserve headstones time and weather have taken their toll and many of them are now illegible. Fortunately Michael Gruber had the foresight 30 years ago to record inscriptions which are cut into those stones and consequently posterity can still identify the names and dates of those who lie there. The list of inscriptions was published in the Pennsylvania German Magazine, 1913, page 50. Interested persons may consult this record.

…Bei ‘N Ewich Yaeger

Mr. Lambert tells Der Ewich Yaeger that there is a tradition that some 20 Irishman lie buried in that plot in unmarked graves. Their presence in that part of Berks is explained by the fact that the Union Canal was dug by Irish immigrants (1828). We have knowledge that a dreaded disease known as “canal fever” took a heavy toll on the lives among those who dug the great ditch more than a century ago. It is quite in accord with the circumstances of the case to believe that Irish victims would wish to be buried in consecrated ground.

Graeff, Arthur D. Scholla: Early Catholic Churches. Reading Times. March 10, 1941

Archival Notes: The Catholic church at Goshenhoppen is also known as the Most Blessed Sacrament Church, in Bally. The Deppen Cemetery was moved in 1978, due to the construction of Blue Marsh. The Cemetery is now located at the Berks Heritage Center. For more information including list of those known to be buried you can visit:

Deppen Cemetery at it's current location at the Berks Heritage Center.
Deppen Cemetery at it’s current location at the Berks Heritage Center.
Church Of The Blessed Sacrament Bally (Goshenhoppen)
Church Of The Blessed Sacrament Bally (Goshenhoppen)