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.