Scholla: Claim Your Bucket August 18, 1944

The first fire buckets used in Berks County were made by the shoe cobblers and were hand-sewn of the best tanned sole leather.

In those days, the water supply had to be conveyed by buckets which the residents were required to keep available in their homes. These were generally hung at the front of the house, so that when an alarm of the fire was sounded and they cried, “throw out your bucket,” the firemen and civilians racing up to the fire could easily pick them up.

When the nearest sources of water was located two lines, or brigades of fire fighters were formed to hand from one to the other the filled buckets and return the empty ones. Women and children frequently assisted in the line returning the empties.

When the fire was extinguished (out), the buckets were loaded onto a cart and carried to a central place and the watchmen on their rounds announced that the buckets were available for return to their respective owners by the familiar cry, “claim your bucket”.

It was not until 1806, when messrs. Sellers and Pennock, of Philadelphia, introduced leather fire hose held together by rivets of copper wire that hose played an effective part in extinguishing fires. The seams of the hose were double riveted with 22 copper rivets of number eight wire. The hose, when finished, with carrying loops and rings, weighed approximately 84 pounds for each 50 feet. This type of hose was supposed to withstand pressure of 200 pounds to the square inch. Cowhide was generally employed in the making of hose and after each fire had to be carefully dried and greased to keep it flexible. The grease used was a mixture of beef tallow and neat’s foot oil, applied warm before the hose was quite dry.


On display at the Berks History Center.


On display at the Berks History Center.

Scholla: Myerstown Riot 1793

The Myerstown Riot 1793

The Myerstown Riot of 1793 may be of only passing interest to the historian. It has been ignored in all published books and thus far has held interest only for the residents of Myerstown and its immediate environs. But there is more to the story than merely an event in time or a problem for the courts, The student of sociology will discover in it elements of mass psychology and the snapping of racial tensions. It is one of the few instances of conflict between Pennsylvania Germans and Scotch-Irish elements in the Pennsylvania melting pot.

The building of the canal connecting the Susquehanna and Schuykill Rivers, now known as the Union Canal, brought many strangers to the Tulpehocken region. They came as workmen overseer and engineers. Most of them were Irish or Scotch-Irish men utterly unfamiliar with the dialect and customs of the Pennsylvania Germans who inhabited the region. Bad blood developed when the strangers poked fun at the unfamiliar culture they found among the natives and the farmers along the Tulpehocken made biting remarks about the work methods employed by the diggers of the canal.

On December 26 a group of canal workmen and supervisors were celebrating a belated Christmas by indulging in the spirits served at Thomas Millard’s tavern near Myerstown. At the same time a group of natives were courting Bacchus at the nearby tavern belonging to Frederick Pohlman. Martin Glass was among those who guzzled beer at Pohlman’s. He was nursing an insult which he had received that day from one of the canal overseers. He confided his grievance to “the godly crowd” that was there and together the Dutchmen set out for Millard’s Tavern where the strangers were wont to assemble. A quarrel ensued in which fists flew merrily. There were 12 in Glass’s party against 8 at Millard’s. The Irishmen got the worst of the encounter.

On the following day the canal people swore out warrants against Glass and his cohorts. Twelve canalmen offered to accompany Constable Benjamin Speicher in his expedition to capture the offenders. But Speicher declined their proffered help, saying that “amongst the inhabitants whose manners and language being foreign to each other, might be attended with bad consequences..”

In spite of Speicher’s protests the 12 canal men accompanied him. Soon they were joined by many others, so that almost a hundred men, all armed with clubs, went with the constable to make the arrests. The petition of the residents of Myerstown charged that one of the canal overseers brandished a pistol. Citizens were frightened; innocent young men were made prisoners. Some of those captured were beaten and abused. When the mob had rounded up most of the young men of the village they took all their captives to a magistrate and a few of them were bound over trial.

More than 100 townspeople signed a petition for redress against the canal operators. The affair was a matter of concern to Gov. Thomas Mifflin and other dignitaries of the law. The canal people countered by sending their own statement of the case.

The courts assessed fines against the young men who perpetrated the brawl at Millard’s and much smaller fines against a few of those who were leaders of the avenging mob.

Natives- Martin Glass, John Weiss, Martin Heffelinger, Jacob Grove (Groff), Jonas Eckert, Phillip Lootz (Lutz), Henry Blecker, Adam Kassert, George Weirick, George Sinkle.

Canal Men- Samuel Galbreath, Joseph Long, John Scott, Neal McHugh, John Fletcher, James Rennals, Robert Galbreath, John Quigley, Daniel O’Boyd, Patrick McHenry.


Image source:

Scholla: Business Mottoes June 5, 1944

The following maxims are translated from the Neuer Gemeinnutziger Pennsylvanischer Calender, published by John Baer in Lancaster. All of these sayings are selected from the 1877 edition of the almanac

The sleeping fox catches no chickens.

Foresight is the mother of wisdom.

If you wish to learn the value of a dollar, try to borrow one.

Great bargains have ruined many people.

When a fool talks hold your tongue.

Never brag about your business.

An hour of triumph will finally come for him who waits patiently and measures up to the needs of the hour.

Speak only good of your friends.

Never take a dismissed employee back into your employ.

If you turn over your affairs to a servant you will someday regret it.

No one can succeed who neglects his business.

Lose no time bemoaning loses.

Bring system into your business and do not neglect the small details.

Small holes cause big ships to sink.

Never neglect to take a receipt of sums paid and keep a copy of your letters.

Be prompt and don’t waste time visiting.

The lawyers eat the oysters and leave the shells for their clients.

These are but a few gems of wisdom contained in the old Pennsylvania German almanacs. Dr. Clarence Brigham of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester Mass., tells us that there has developed a revived interest in studying old Pennsylvania German almanacs on deposit in that institution. People are finding nuggets of wisdom in science, cooking, medicine, agriculture, and many other things which our fathers knew. The American Antiquarian Society houses the largest collection of Pennsylvania German almanacs known to exist.



Scholla: Battery M at Cedar Creek 1864

Battery M at Cedar Creek 1864

A few weeks ago we mentioned that the Ringgold Light Artillery of Reading was one of the units which were among the First Defenders of the National Capital when the Civil War began. This military unit, commanded by Capt. James McKnight of Reading, served throughout the war and won high praise from the commanders of the Army of the Potomac.

In 1864, Colonel Buell estimated that of the 107 men in the Ringgold Artillery, then constituted as Battery M of the U.S. Fifth Regiment, “84 were Pennsylvania Dutchmen from Berks, Schuykill and Lehigh –all native Americans- 12 Americans of English descent and 11 Irishmen.” The names of the sergeants of the company read like a Berks County register – Daniel Yoder, Philip Weidner, William Beckhart, John Gerhart, and Frederick Volkman.

Every school child knows the story of Sheridan’s Ride, the sensational rallying of the troops which were suffering defeat at Cedar Creek until Gen. Philip Sheridan rode into the fray on his foaming steed to infuse new spirit into the men.

Bore Brunt of Attack

During the early stages of the battle it was Battery M of the Ringgold Light Artillery that bore the brunt of the Confederate attack. In the first encounter the battery lost ten men and one of its guns. The gun was later retaken by a Vermont Company. After the defeated Federal troops took up new positions all of the guns of the battery were captured by a brigade of South Carolina troops; again it was a Vermont brigade which came to the rescue and recaptured the equipment belonging to the Pennsylvania men. During the fighting in this second position Battery M lost heavily. Only 27 men were fit for duty when the lines were reformed.

This handful of men, now commanded by Daniel Yoder, continued to pour double canister gainst the foe, long after other contingents had retreated. When the fighting was ended Gen. Horatio Wright commended the men for their valor. To Captain McKnight he said “Your Pennsylvania Dutchmen don’t seem to know when they are whipped.” To which McKnight replied: “By God general, most of them don’t know when they are killed.”


Major General Philip Sheridan at Battle of Cedar Creek. Source:

Scholla: Leeching March 27,1944

There was a time when physicians resorted to leeching patients for many forms of illness, “Alderlassen,” or blood letting was explained in most issues of the almanacs published well into the last century and the art of blood-cupping, though no longer in good respute, is still practiced in some quarters.

Modern readers may be surprised to learn that the leeches which thrived in the streams and marshes of eastern Pennsylvania were considered the most serviceable variety in America in colonial times and leech catching and marketing was once a profitable enterprise in these parts. The writer remembers his boyhood in Adamstown and the many  “bloodsuckers” that had to be contended with in swimming in Muddy Creek; then the smaller streams were infested with them but now they seem to have disappeared along with the wild pigeons.

Later in the 19th century, practitioners of leeching preferred to use a variety imported from Sweden; the European Leech being a hungrier fellow than our native product.

Stock Sometimes Died

Francis A. Ulle, who in 1893, practiced leeching on South Ninth Street in Reading, imported his stock in lots of 100. They came to him packed in a black loam in kegs, especially adapted for the purpose. Many of the reptiles were dead when they reached Ulle and if doctors did not send him a sufficient number of patients the whole consignment died and his entire investment proved to be a lose.

As the practice of prescribing leeching fell into disfavor there was less and less demand for Ulle’s services and he abandoned his business in 1893, or rather he abandoned his side line and stuck to barbering only. In this connection it is interesting to not that barbering and surgery were closely related trades during the Middle Ages – for who was more skilled in handling of knives than the barber? The applying of dressings and bandages also fitted the barber’s trade; even today the red and white stripes of the barber pole are a vestige of the days when the barber applied surgical dressings and the red-white ribbons were symbolic of bandages.

Practice has Disappeared

Generally speaking, Ulle applied leeches to patients only on doctor’s prescription, but occasionally patients who felt that leech cure had served them well the first time, came to Ulle’s shop, long after doctors discontinued recommending such treatment.

There are many details connected with the application of the leech which need no recounting here. We offer this account merely as one more echo of the passing scene.


Freshwater Leech, Macrobdella decora


Scholla: The Christiana Riot March 28, 1944


Near the village of Christiana in southeastern Lancaster County lived William Parker, a slave who had escaped detection during the period of underground railroad operations before the fugitive slave law of 1850 was enacted. Parker used his home as an underground station, assisting other Negroes who came to him for help. In September, 1851, Edward Gorusch, of Baltimore, came to Parker’s house demanding two escaped slaves that Parker was harboring. Gorusch brought with him warrants for the arrest of his slaves and a posse of armed men, under the command of a United States deputy marshal.

The armed men surrounded Parker’s house after the deputy marshal’s demand for the release of the slaves was refused. The Negroes of the neighborhood had a prearranged signal with which to summon help if needed. Parker’s wife gave the signal from a bedroom by blowing a horn which could be heard throughout the countryside. The besiegers sensing that the horn was a signal of some sort discharged their rifles, aiming them at the bedroom window, but Mrs. Parker was not injured. The neighbors of Parker, all negroes, rallied promptly bringing with them an odd assortment of weapons, including long blades used in cutting corn.

White Men Arrive

Soon a group of white men came to the scene. They were a band of notorious ruffians, known as the “Gap Gang,” men who lived by thieving and by acting as guides for slave catchers. Some of them had been Negro kidnappers. While these opposing forces were rallying two respectable white men of the neighborhood came to the scene. The deputy marshal read the warrants to them, ordering them to assist in the capture of the slaves. Both men refused to help. Instead they prevailed upon the members of the “Gap Gang” to depart, lest the shedding of blood be added to their other crimes.

Boldly William Parker left his house to hold parley with Gorusch and the deputy marshal. During the argument which followed, Gorusch’s son fired a shot at Parker the bullet passing through the negro’s hat.

This was the beginning of a bloody fight, in which Gorusch was killed and a number of his party severely wounded. When the fighting began the deputy and his posse withdrew from the scene, unwilling to participate in a shooting affair. Deserted by their Pennsylvania reinforcements the Baltimore slave catcher fled, hotly pursued by the victorious Negroes.

Marines Rushed to Scene

A detachment of 45 Marines and almost 100 Philadelphia policemen were rushed to Christiana to restore order. Thrity-five negroes were arrested and taken to Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia. Three white men, the two who had to refused to help the deputy marshal, and Joseph Scarlett, a Quaker, who had come upon the scene while the fighting was in progress, also were taken into custody. All of the prisoners were charged with treason under terms of the fugitive slave law, the indictment charging them with levying war against the United States.

When the treason trial was held in the federal court at Philadelphia it was difficult to select a jury. The citizens called for that service claimed that they were deaf. After wasting one week in finding jurymen who could hear, the trial began. The lawyer for the defense was Thaddeus Stevens, an ardent abolitionist. When the case was submitted to the jury for its decision that body deliberated for only a few minutes and then returned a verdict of not guilty.

The entire nation had watched the proceedings of the trial. The North was satisfied with the results, but the South was angered because the trials showed that the fugitive slave law could not be enforced.

By Arhtur D. Graeff

For more information an excellent source is:


Parker House, where the Christiana Riot occurred.



In 1896, Samuel Hopkins, holding a corn cutter, and Peter Wood, seated, returned to the former residence of William and Eliza Parker 45 years after the Christiana Riot. Both were arrested during the riot. (Photo courtesy of Moores Memorial Library). Source:

Scholla: Indian Mythology 3/15/1944

Pale-face scholars have long theorized about the origin of the American Indian. Some have held that the first humans on this continent arrived here from Asian via the Bering Straits; others have tried to explain their ethnology on the basis of cataclysmic geological eruptions which distorted the ball of earth and separated the mass of land into continents, thus trapping men wherever they dwelled, imprisoning them between the seas. Several reputable scholars held that the American Indian was one of the lost tribes of Israel, transplanted here by supernatural powers, just as Moses and his followers crossed the Red Sea.

But what did the Indians have to say about it? Particularly those Indians who lived in our Berks and Lehigh Valleys, the Lenni Lenape, known to the English as the Delawares, what was their version?

Two Moravians missionaries knew these tribes very well. They were John Gottlieb Heckwelder and Christopher Prylaeus, both operating from Bethlehem during our colonial period. Prylaeus received his instruction in Indian language and lore from Conrad Weiser, making his home at the Weiser cabin, near Womelsdorf, for several months while he learned at the feet of the veteran Indian agent, Weiser. These men have recorded many details about Indian customs, religion and language and they give to us what the Delawares believed about their own origins.

Came from Earth’s Interior?

The Indian believed that his forebears emerged, somehow, from the interior of the earth. Rabbits, foxes and groundhogs, animals that burrowed holes, were relatives and the Redmen eschewed eating the flesh of these animals. While the various tribes held different versions as to how their progenitors had crawled out of the bowels of the earth, there was common agreement that they came from the nether regions.

There were three major subdivisions of the Lenni Lenapes, or the Delawares: viz: the Minsi, or Wolk tribe, the Unamis, or Tortois tribe, and the Unalachittigos, or Turkey tribe. Of these only the Minsi had a definite version of the emergence.

 According to Minsi mythology the Indians lived under a lake, deep in the earth; one of their men found a hole through which he ascended to the surface and found solid land. While walking he found a dead deer, and shouldering his burden he carried it back into the subterranean abode of his fellow tribesmen. There the deer was eaten. The other Indians found the meat so delicious that they followed the discoverer to the surface of the earth “where they could enjoy the light of heaven and have such excellent game in abundance.”

Similar traditions were found among the Iroquois and mid-western Indians.

Reader, before you scoff too much, reread the first paragraph and then decide where and when you will raise an eyebrow.



Scholla: Sleighs and Snow

Before the advent of the automobile a six-inch fall of snow was welcome for it meant travel by sleigh and that was a very pleasant change from bouncing over the rough roads in a buggy or wagon. Those who started to travel after the “patent roads” (patenta wega), tarvia, asphalt, concrete etc., were made, can not imagine the condition of the side roads before that time. Even the main roads, usually toll roads, called turnpikes, were not too good.

The macadam and dirt roads were not so bad during the summer and early fall, but a few heavy rains followed by freezing temperature changed them into a series of holes. It was an adventure to go any distance for the riding was rough and as for speed – one afternoon a man traveling in a buggy offered a lift to a chap walking toward town, but the offer was refused for the pedestrian said he was in a hurry as he wanted to catch the 3 o’clock trolley. There were a few places where the horse could trot but the time he made there was lost in the low places where the going was so tough that the poor animal had trouble keeping his feet.

All this changed when snow covered the ground for it closed all the holes and evened all the bumps and traveling by sleigh was very comfortable.

Fastened to Runners

         On the farm the sleighs were kept in the back of the shed, sometimes suspended from the ceiling to be out of the way, so before the implements were put away in the fall the sleighs were brought out and put in order. Some farm sleds (blugshidda or Black-shildaa) had the body permanently fastened to the runners, while others consisted only of the fram and runners and the farmer merely transferred a body from a wagon. The sleighs usually had a single set of runners, that is one runner on each side extending for the length of the frame with the tongue fixed that horses and sled turned as one. Some sleighs had a double set of runners (dubblete-shlidaa) with the set in the rear firmly fixed while the forward set turned with the horses like the front wheels of a wagon. These sleighs could be turned more readily than those with a single runners and did not upset as easily. They were mainly used by business firms for heavier loads could be carried on them.

         Light sleds, or pleasure sleds, were commonly called cutters (Yaag-Shilda) and the earlier one’s were not very comfortable. They were light in weight and small in every way. The back of the sleigh was so low that it gave practically no support to the rider and every time time the horse changed pace and jerked the sled, the riders head and shoulders snapped back so that a long ride usually meant a stiff neck. Later the shape of the pleasure sleds was altered and the height of the back was increased which added much to the comfort. There was another form of pleasure sled which resembled the Russian sled. These were rather rare. The sled had a very high back extending well above the shoulders of the driver. The sides were raised and curved gracefully forward to end at the dash in a carved figure like the neck and head of a swan. Painted in flashy colors, usually red and yellow, they made quite a picture. A sled of this type in Womelsdorf bore the date 1801.

       Hauled by Horses

         The heavy sleds (bob-sleds) used two horses and the pleasure sleds usually only one so it was necessary to “set over” the shafts on the latter so that the horse could follow one of the two tracks made by the bob-sled. The shafts could be set to either side but were usually set to the right in front of the driver. Being directly behind the horse the driver had to learn to dodge the lumps of snow thrown by the horse’s hooves as well as other things, and he soon found out that it was not wise to open his mouth  wide while the horse was running.

Following a heavy fall of snow the tracks made by the bob-sleds were quite deep and light sleds frequently upset. this was more annoying than dangerous for unless the horse started to kick or ran away, a tumble into the snow was all that happened. Many upsets occurred when two sleds tried to pass, for while regular “turn-outs” were made by clearing a space at the side of the road, two sleds usually met half way between them. Unless the snow had drifted so that the road had to opened by shoveling, not very much was done to improve the roadway. It seemed as though the supervisors hibernated like the bears for they were rarely seen on the roads from November to April.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells”

“Jingle bells, jingle bells”

With the exception of the members of certain religious sects and a few contrary individuals, every one used bells either on the horse or on the sled. In addition to the music they made they served to give warning of an on-coming sled at a curve in daytime and of approaching sleds at night.

They were mounted on straps (string of bells) which buckled around the horses-large bells for bob-sleds and small one’s for the cutters and the kind of sled could be told by the sounds of the bells. Some cutters had sets of bells graduated in size fastened to the shafts. These produced very harmonious tones which could be distinguished at great distance.

On a clear cold night with the bright stars overhead; warmly dressed, snuggled under heavy robes with a hot brick at your feet; the tinkling bells keeping time to the thudding of the horses hoofs —

“Oh what fun it was to ride

In a one-horse open sleigh.”

L.J. Livingood M.D.

January, 1944



Scholla: The Statue on Penn Common 1/21/1944

Since the placement of the Frederick Lauer statue in City Park, many visitors to Reading have twitted  the local folks about erecting a statue to a brewer, chiding us by asking whether Berks County could furnish no other hero.

Unfortunately, for posterity, the inscriptions on the sides of the bronze memorial recount only those achievements which had to do with the brewing industry and make no mention of the public services of the subject of the memorial.

Perhaps it was only natural that things should happen that way. The monument was erected by the National Brewers Association during its convention in Reading in 1885, and the delegates were honoring their first president. The city of Reading granted only the land upon which to place the statue and they did this to honor a public-spirited citizen, rather than merely a brew-master.

       Public Benefactor

       Frederick Lauer came to Reading from Womelsdorf as a very young man and engaged in the brewing business in partnership with his brother, George. Doubtlessly the success of his enterprise made it possible for him to become the public benefactor that he was, but his business interests did not, as such, require that he should take a hand in incorporating Reading as a city in 1847 or that he should serve as president of the select council, representing the Fifth Ward of the city; that he should help to organize and serve as president of the Berks County Agricultural Association; in promoting the building of the railroad from Reading to Lancaster and Columbia; serve as one of the trustees of the Keystone State Normal School at Kutztown or give huge charities to the Dispensary and Relief Society of Reading.

        In 1860 Lauer represented the Berks district at the National convention of the Democratic Party at Charleston, S.C., and there helped to nominate Breckenridge, a Southern Democrat, to oppose Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, the Northern Democratic choice in the party split. The people of Berks gave Breckenridge an overwhelming majority in the national election which followed.

         Backed Northern Cause

        When the war came, in 1861, Lauer became an ardent supporter of the Northern cause. In June of that year the Reading brewer personally accompanied a shipment of ale, sent to the Reading boys encamped at Camp Washington, near Arlington, Va. In order to visit the camp it was necessary to obtain a pass. The following is the wording on the pass issued to him:

         “Pass Frederick Lauer over the bridges and within the lines. By order of General Mansfield commanding.”

         On the reverse side the pass read:

          “It is understood that the within named, and subscriber accepts this pass on his word of honor that he is and will be ever loyal to the United States, and if henceforth found in arms against the Union, or in any way aiding her enemies, the penalty will be death.”

                                      (signed) “Fred’k Lauer”

             On June 10 the offices of the mechanics Infantry sent a resolution to the Reading Newspapers from Camp Washington thanking their fellow citizen “for the substantial manner in which he has remembered us.”

            The Gazette and Democrat adds the following note:

            “After the ale was disposed of three hearty cheers and a tiger were given, which would have done Mr. Lauer’s heart good if he could have heard them.”


Frederick Lauer statue in Penn’s Common (City Park), Reading, PA. Prior to the demolition of the prison. Source:


Scholla: A Civil War Song 1/21/1944

More than a year ago we published the song entitled “The Blue Juniata,” requesting readers to supply the music. To our delight we received several versions of the musical score which accompanied the poem. Now we publish another song of the same period. Again we have only the words. Because the author was a citizen of Reading for one period of his life and lived in Lancaster and Easton, we are in hopes that someone has preserved the music, just as we have found the words after 79 years.

The author was Rev. Thomas Conrad Porter, one-time pastor of First Reformed Church, Reading and for many years a member of the faculty of Franklin and Marshall College. The song was sung at a soldier’s concert in Lancaster, February 22, 1864, dedicated to the Army of the Potomac. The music was written by J.B. Kevinski.

The Rocky Hills of Gettysburg

Oh dark the day and dark the hour,

When Treason in her height of power,

With all her gathered legions came,

To waste the North with Sword and Flame,

Right onward, swift, exultant,


With burning wrath and curses


Up to yon chain of hills they crowd,

The rocky hills of Gettysburg.

In vain their utmost strength is hurled

‘Mid Thunders what might shake

The world;

Back from Adamantime wall

Their broken ranks in terror fall,

And slow retire with sullen mein,

While slaughtered thousands

strew the scene

The vale of death that lies between

The rocky hills of Gettysburg.

The Lord hath heard his people’s


And Blessed the starry banner


For Soon as Freedom’s soil was red

With freemen’s blood in battle


By Rebel hands – their doom was


The sacrifice to heaven appealed,

The Altar, that ensanguined field,

The Rocky Hills of Gettysburg.

In nameless grave the traitors


Where non shall ever come to


But for her martyred sons, with


A monument of the nation rears,

And, age to age, shall pass it down,

The story of their bright renown,

And everlasting fame shall crown

The rocky hills of Gettysburg.

— Thomas Conrad Porter, 1864


Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA. Taken in July, 1863.