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.