The Red Church, Red Men, and a Red Demon

The Red Church, Red Men, and a Red Demon

Dipping into the folklore of Schuykill Haven we find several bizarre accounts of the supernatural, one of them involving Old Nick himself. The earliest settler of the town beyond the Blue Mountains was Martin Dreilbelbis who migrated into that wilderness from his Moselem, Berks, home in 1775. But Martin Dreibelbis was not acquainted with his Satanic Majesty. Quite to the contrary, he was a devout man, given to the habit of reading his German bible and Psalter in his blacksmith shop and donating the land for the erection of the first parish school in Schuykill Haven.

West Brunswick Township, pronounced Braun-Schweig by the early settlers, was a part of Berks County in 1775 when the first church was built there, near Pinedale. It was known as the Red Church. The one erected on the land donated by Dreibelbis was known as the White Church. These were the first churches in Berks County North of the Blue Mountains. Red, white and blue!

One day an Indian and a white man entered Martin Dreibelbis’s forge. The red man had a nugget of silver ore which he wanted to have melted. The white metal extracted proved to be of excellent quality. Then the white man pressed the Indian to tell them where he had found the ore. On the Govvelberg (Fork Mountain) the red man indicated but refused to show them the exact spot. To this day the source of that precious ore had not been found. (Remember this is legend.)

In a semi-facetious paper, read before the Historical Society of Schuykill County in 1905. W.H. Newell recounts a fascinating bit of Indian and Stygian legendry about the Red Church and Schuykill Haven. He describes the burning of the Red Church during the Indian raids of 1755 and attributes this evil deed to the devil himself. Here is his explanation:

“The devil had been having a hard time in Europe, finally being driven out by long prayers and short swords of the saints of the church militant. Then he came to New England only to be expelled by the long sermons of the Puritans. He came to New York but was driven out by the hymns of St. Nicholas. So the Devil took refuge on the north side of the Blue Mountains.

When Satan heard of the erection of the Red Church he called a conference of his imps, the redmen, and together they connived to destroy the Red Church. When this was done he felt that his work was finished and went on to Canada to torture Jesuit missionaries.

But the Red Church was rebuilt and Satan returned to brood over his disappointment. His red imps, the Indians had fled and he alone could not shake the strong foundations of the faith of the good people of Schuykill.

Long, long years afterwards a hunter, wandering in the Blue Mountains, saw his Satanic Majesty seated upon a high rock gazing sadly below:

Upon a peak of the Mountain Blue,

The hunter saw him stand,

With a storm coat cast across his

Arm,

And a grip sack in his hand.

‘Tis said he dropped a silent tear,

And looked on the vale below,

And saw what a might chage had

Come,

From the time of long ago.”

Archival Notes: Below are pictures of the existing church (the 4th church built) which is on the site of the original log church completed in 1755, and burned by the Natives in 1756. For more information please consult:

http://articles.mcall.com/1988-11-17/news/2663433_1_red-church-log-church-indian-war

Zion's Red Church
Zion’s Red Church
View of Zion's Red Church from Cemetery.
View of Zion’s Red Church from Cemetery.

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:  http://www.co.berks.pa.us/Dept/Parks/Pages/Deppen%20Cemetery.aspx

Deppen Cemetery at it's current location at the Berks Heritage Center. http://www.co.berks.pa.us/Dept/Parks/Pages/Deppen%20Cemetery.aspx
Deppen Cemetery at it’s current location at the Berks Heritage Center. http://www.co.berks.pa.us/Dept/Parks/Pages/Deppen%20Cemetery.aspx
Church Of The Blessed Sacrament Bally (Goshenhoppen) https://www.cardcow.com/104936/church-blessed-sacrament-bally-pennsylvania/
Church Of The Blessed Sacrament Bally (Goshenhoppen) https://www.cardcow.com/104936/church-blessed-sacrament-bally-pennsylvania/