Scholla: Berks Batter February 26, 1944

Evan Holben; one-time state senator, from Lehigh District records the following story in his little volume: “Stories and Reminisciences” published more than 40 years ago.

A Berks County lad migrated to Chicago during the days when life in the west was pretty much of rough and tumble affair. The Berks youth was strongly timbered and “by no means lobbish” as Holben expresses it. One day the lad became involved in a fight with another young pioneer in the Windy City. The fight was an overwhelming victory for the Berks County Dutchman but the defeated one lodged charges of assault and battery against the easterner.

To his lawyer the Berks lad declared “We did not have a regular fight.” At the trial the prosecutor testified that he had been knocked down five times. This came as a surprise to the defendant’s lawyer who was primed to plead the case on the basis of false arrest. When the Berks Lad was placed upon the witness stand he made the following explanation.

“That fellow sitting over there told me that he could lick me. I told him that was a game that two could play at. He told me that I was a Dutch sauer-kraut-eater from Pennsylvania. I didn’t care about that. Then he said I was a runaway and a liar and I didn’t care about that either. But when he called me a Dutch son of a —— I knocked him down four five times, but it was not a regular fight.”

“What do you mean by a regular fight?” asked the trial judge.

“I will tell you judge,” came the answer. “I come from Berks County, Pennsylvania and when we fight there we take off our hats, cravats, coats and jackets and tie our suspenders around our waists and then fight until one hollers enough! But I and that fellow there had no regular fight; I just knocked him down. Back home we call that no fight at all.”

The Judge liked the young man’s answer. He instructed the jury to render a decision based upon the law, but urged them to report whether or not there had been a “regular fight.” The jury deliberated for a few moments and returned the verdict “No Regular Fight.”

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Scholla: New Back Bones January 28, 1944

New Back Bones 1/28/1944

One of the choicest bits of local lore centers about the village of Mt. Aetna in the northwestern tip of Berks County. In spite of its classical name on post office records the community is better known by its dialect name – Wohlheberstettle, named for Peter Wholheber, around one whose descendants this curious bit of folklore develops.

Have you ever heard of people who, complaining of a weak backbone, declared that they would have to go to “Wohlheberstettle fer en neier Rickschtrang griege,” or to go to Mt. Aetna to get a new backbone? The origin of that expression has intrigued Der Ewich Yeager for some time. Now with the assistance of several persons, namely, Ira Fisher, Ammon Weik, and Harvey Zeller, of Mr. Aetna;  George Oxenreider and George Ruth, of North Heidelberg, and Albert Herbein, of Womelsdorf, we have pieced together the following sketch.

Mender Twitted

One, Peter Wohlheber, living near the western limits of the village named for his family, was a craftsman who meneded pocket-knives, replaced end clamps for scythes and did general repair work in iron materials. The spring blade of the pocket-knife is referred to as the “backbone”  of the knife, and Wohlheber was the one man in the community who could replace the “backbone,” if broken. Facetiously, local people began to twit Wohlheber about replacing ailing backbones in humans.

At first this bit of fun-poking was not resented by the dwellers on the hill-top known as Mr. Aetna, but when strangers began to saunter into barrooms swaggeringly asking: “Is this the place where I can get a new backbone?” the villagers tired of the, by then, out-worn joke. Enough was enough.

To mention the word “Rickschtrang,” or backbone, became a fighting word wherever Mt. Aetnaens were assembled. Soon the taunting question was answered by:

“Yah! Mir kenne dir en neier Rickschtrang gewwe, awwer mer misse der Alt es aerscht raus schlage.” Yes, we can give you a new backbone but first we must knock out the old one.

Tables Reversed

Then the fight was on. Natives of the village assailed the jester with fists and claws bent upon protecting the fair name of their village. Sometimes the fight ended in a knockout for the one who had baited townspeople. When the fight terminated in this way it was customary to carry the unconscious victim to the banks of the Swatara and dip his body into the cooling waters of the creek to revive him. Such treatment, they assured the patient was necessary to restore an efficient backbone.

Once in a while the tables were reversed and the villagers received a drubbing. One Christel Hornish triumphed over a half dozen of this assailants. Whenever this happened it was decided that the patient did not need a new backbone after all and peace was restored.

Perhaps the most fitting conclusion to this account is a direct quotation from one of our informers. Ira Fisher, a young man, who averred: “Folks were not as civilized in those days as they are now.”

Mount_Aetna,_PA_Keystone_Marker

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Aetna,_Pennsylvania#/media/File:Mount_Aetna,_PA_Keystone_Marker.jpg

Scholla: These Dumb Dutch

These Dumb Dutch

The agents of the OPA are to be commended for their zeal in trying to enforce the various rationing restrictions fixed by the administration. But in all cases zeal should be tempered with judgment and human understanding. We wonder who was really at fault in the following altercation which took place in a farmer’s market in Germantown, Philadelphia.

A Pennsylvania Dutch farmer’s wife was selling bottles of homemade catsup. An agent of the OPA approached her stand and said, officiously:

“You can’t sell that catsup; it’s frozen.”

The farmer’s wife was puzzled a bit, probably remarking of herself:

“The big city has many queer people in it.” At any rate she went right on selling the bottles of catsup.

Sure She can Sell it

After a few hours the agent returned to her stand:

“I told you once before that you can’t sell that stuff,” he bellowed.

“Sure I can,” replied the saleswoman. “I can sell a lot of it. It is good. People are glad to buy it. It ain’t hard to sell.”

“I don’t mean it that way” stormed the agent while crowds collected. “That stuff is frozen.”

The poor woman was confused. The gathering crowds embarrassed her; but her wits came to her rescue. Taking a bottle of catsup from the shelf she handed it to the agent:

“No, mister. It ain’t frozen. Here feel it yourself. It ain’t even cold.”

What is Justice?

A creamery man in Lehigh County was selling butter at a price higher than the ceiling price. One of the law enforcers burst into his shop and demanded that he stop the proceedings. The Dutchman continued to sell his butter, explaining that it was the best butter in the world. Later he proved that his margin of profit was far less than he could have realized by selling inferior butter below the ceiling price. What does justice call for in this instance?

Cite Shillington Incident

The magazine “Business” in its December 1943, issue, calls attention to an incident which took place in the Shilliington Market, Berks Coutny, Pennsylvania. Two OPA men were disturbing the routine of business at a butcher’s stand. According to the account published in the magazine, the agents charged the butcher with accepting predated ration points we have no way of knowing whether this was true or not. But the agents then fell to making wisecracks about the way the butcher was cutting his meats. This was resented by the meat merchant, who took a natural pride in his skill and technique. Onlookers sympathized with the butcher and there was a disturbance in the aisles. Then the manager of the market, in order to preserve order, escorted or evicted the OPA men from the Shillington establishment.

“Business,” in commenting upon this incident warns that it might be wise for the agency to remember that the NRA “met its Waterloo” in the Pennsylvania Dutch County of York, Pennsylvania. To which we may add that the “sit down” strike came to ignoble end when the irate farmers of Dauphin and Lebanon evicted the “sitters” from the Hershey Company plant. That was the last strike of its kind anywhere.

Who’s Dumb?

-Help_Your_OPA_Fight_Inflation-_-_NARA_-_514468

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Price_Administration#/media/File:%22Help_Your_OPA_Fight_Inflation%22_-_NARA_-_514468.jpg

Scholla: Reverend Ella Nace

Reverend Ella Nace

The Rev. Ella Nace, of West Conshohocken, PA, is the first woman to be appointed, officially, as pastor in a Pennsylvania church. She is the only one in the Holiness Christian denomination in the United States. Born in Hamburg, Berks County, in 1867, Sister Nace passed her 75th birthday last July. In spite of her advancing years this servant of the Lord continues to preach to multitudes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. She is known as the Pennsylvania Dutch Evangelist.

Born to a Lutheran family, Mrs. Nace was converted to the faith of the Holiness Christian Church when she was 25 years of age. “I received the Holy Spirit, just as in the day of Pentecost,” she says. For half a century she has brough the Lord’s message to all who would hear it. In addition to her religious activities she has carried on as a member as a mother and housewife, rearing two daughters. She is now a grandmother and a great-grandmother.

Lacking formal training for the ministry Sister Nace is a self-made woman. Unlike many evangelists of the past she does not mesmerize her audience with hysterical gesticulations and flights of oratory. She is dignified, sedate and convinces through her honest sincerity of purpose and devotion. Many of her principles find their roots in “old-fashioned Pennsylvania Dutch philosophy.” This fact together with her singing of dialectical hymns, has won her title “A Pennsylvania Dutch Evangelist.”

There was a time when she was not welcome in the pulpits of some of the churches of interior Pennsylvania. Those who were opposed to her warned people that she was a “Strawweler”. This was a term of reproach originally used against the followers of the Rev. Jacob Albright and other founders of the Evangelical Association.

Sister Nace relates an incident which occurred in Norfolk, VA. After the sermon one of the male worshippers approached her and planted a kiss upon her cheek.  Lasping into the Dutch idiom she declares: “if they didn’t have it on me after that!”

Here are some of the dialect hymns which Rev. Nace sings during her service:

Heiland, fuhr mich; Heiland fuhr mich.

Fuhr mich bei deinre Hand.

Anwarts, aufwarts, anwarts, aufwarts

Bis mer kumme in ferheise Land.

O wie lieblich; O wie lieblich,

Wie lieblich is Jesus,

Er is mein Erlesser,

Mein Herr un mei Friend.

Scholla: Der Huns Johnny

Luke Batdorf was soon to to learn that his election to the position of Justice of the Peace in Vinemont, was not all glory. There were more to the job than merely practicing with the new notary seal and remanding rail-riding bums who were unceremoniously kicked off of the Columbia branch of the Reading Railroad when the trains stopped at Vinemont station His next door neighbor “Potsy Flohr”, was a fancier of dogs, mostly mongrels, and mutts. The Flohr backyard was a veritable dog pound, self-supporting but unlicensed.

Villagers complained about the nocturnal concerts away off key; about the stench which rose from decaying meat scraps and bones; about the dangers to small children, the threat of rabies and hydrophobia, and yet, there was little that Luke could do about it. “Potsy” went about his business as a mender of umbrellas, traveling from town to town with an army of dogs following him wherever he went. Many of the newer acquisitions of the “Potsy” kennels were tied to leaches fastened to the master’s belt, yelping, barking, yapping, as the umbrella mender walked through the country side. “Potsy” paid his taxes; never broke any laws and always gave generously to all church campaigns even though he never attended services. Vinemont had no ordinances against the possession of dogs; “Potsy” was a good citizen – so that was all there was to it.

So reasoned the new justice of the peace.

Disliked Boys on Stilts

“Potsy” ahd one other idiosyncrasy; he did not like to see small boys walk on stilts. For some reason such activities always annoyed him and he rebuked the boys in vituperative language, especially when they attempted to walk on the pavement in front of his house. For then, he claimed, the stilts dislodged the bricks of the pavement.

Because boys will be boys, the lads of Vinemont taunted the old umbrella mender by marching on stilts just to the edge of the Flohr pavement, bringing down upon themselves a torrent of reprimand. On one of these baiting ventures a small boy was injured by falling from his stilts when his laughter got the better of him. “Potsy” ire turned to solicitation and he did his best to relieve the boy’s pain, but soon a bevy of women came upon the scene, charging that “Potsy” was thrashing the helpless child.

Luke Batdorf had witnessed the whole scene from his bedroom window. Out into the crowd he charged while irate townspeople shouted:

“Arrest Potsy.” But Luke shook Potsy’s hand instead.

Dogs to the rescue

Several weeks passed. Then the new justice of Vinemont found himself performing a very unpleasant duty. A suspected murdered had been apprehended near Blainsport and it was Luke’s duty to bring him to the Vinemont Station. It appeared that everyone was too busy to go with him and he faced the task alone.

The road was rugged and lonely. The prisoner chafed at the ropes which bound his hands as, doggedly he walked in front of his erstwhile captor who trudged along unarmed. Suddenly, in a shaded bend in the road the rogue turned upon his frail captor and by kicking and clawing soon overpowered the justice of the peace. Half consciously Batdorf held on to the trouser leg of his prisoner, felling his strength ebbing; it was only his resolution the name of duty which enabled him to hold on. When suddenly there came the eerie sounds:

Yip! Yi! Br-r Yip! Wuf! A dozen hounds, shepards, spaniels, mutts, and mongrels were pouncing upon the scoundrel who was trying frantically to get away. A few feet away was the Huns-Johnny, shouting “Sick em; Sick em.”

“Gosh, neighbor,” exclaimed Batdorf, “You were just in the nick of time.”

“Yep, Me and the dogs figured you might be coming along this way, so we came to help bring that rascal in.”

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Scholla: Fancy Chickens

Fancy Chickens

Among the picture that hang on memory’s walls is that of raising fancy chickens. If you talked about chickens in western Berks during the period of 1900-1917 your audience would be as interested as a group of Scotchmen hearing about Bobby Burns. During that period chicken raising became a great hobby. Everyone was interested in it and every available space was utilized. If it was only an eight-by-ten  shack, it was called a chicken farm. The fine blooded stock made up for the small area. Local birds took prizes in shows held in Cleveland, Chicago, and New York.

Great shows were held in this section. I can still see the old Town Hall in Womelsdorf with hundreds of cages, each with the monogrammed lock of the owner. Day and night watchmen were on duty for the birds on exhibit were very valuable.

Prepared in Summer-Kitchens

Nearly every home had an outbuilding known as a wash house or summer-kitchen. The floor was covered with oil cloth and a few chairs and an old cook stove made up the furnishings. In the summer the meals were prepared here, but in winter it was merely a storage place. Here is where the birds were prepared for the shows. Roosts were put up behind the stove, a fire built and tubs of water heated, with a washboiler of water on the stove to keep a good supply on hand. Putting on a huge rubber apron, the chicken fancier, would start the proceedings. Ivory soap was dissolved in one tub and bluing in the other. The chickens did not like to be washed, so it was quite a struggle to give them a bath without hurting them.

The chicken was dipped in the soapy water, feathers smoothed with a soft brush, then rinsed in the other tub and dried with a cloth.

A small spoonful of brandy (of which there was a generous supply) was given and the bird placed on the roost to dry. The handler was usually soaked by this time, in spite of the rubber apron, so he took some brandy to guard against pneumonia, but did not measure his dose with a spoon.

White Chickens Bleached

Just before the show white chickens were again bleached and butter color put on their legs. Red birds were dipped in dragon’s blood to make the natural color deeper. With each dipping the brandy treatment was repeated – for bird and handler.

Some of the prominent fanciers in Womelsdorf were John I. Fidler, Charles P. Schaeffer, Howard Hafer, John Weiss, John Hoffberger and Irwin Althouse. They raised all varieties, including bantams, to compete for the gold and silver cups and cash prizes. Big prices were paid for eggs – as high as $30 for one setting. Sometimes the buyer were stung. One man paid $25 for a setting of golden barred Plymouth Rocks. A total of four chicks hatched- one lead-colored, one buff Leghorn, one Plymouth Rock and one near-Plymouth Rock. None even good back yard stock.

One of my friends specialized in Rhode Island Reds of the Thompson strain. He and Mr. Thompson were good friends. One time he felt that a certain bird that he had was not good enoguht to compete in a local show, so sent to Mr. Thompson for a bird to enter. The bird arrived, but still did not suit, so finally Mr. Thompson came and brought what he thought was his very best rooster. In spite of all of this he did not win the prize, anyway.

Expert on Judging

Mr. William Mac-Lean, who lived east of Womelsdorf was considered an expert and did judging at the Madison Square Garden show in New York and frequently acted in that capacity at the local shows.

Some strange things happened. Just before one show, someone, to play a joke on Howard (Jack) Hafer, stole the bird he was going to enter in the show the next day and substituted what was thought to be a very ordinary bird. The joke back-fired, for the substitute took first prize. Eggs and birds were exchanged to improve stock. Birds were shipped great distances and competed with birds from the biggest  breeders in the country. Local interest in fancy chickens was lost during World War I and has never been revived

Paul Lantz Womelsdorf,PA October 1943

Jan 2012 170.jpg edited

Image Source: http://www.triplespringacres.com/rareandfancychickens.htm

Scholla: The Broken Tombstone

The Broken Tombstone

The Rev. John Waldschmid was one of the early Reformed clergymen of western Berks and northeastern Lancaster counties. In 1752 he assumed the duties of the Lancaster charge, which included congregations at the Swamp Weiseichenland (White Oak, near Denver) and Modecreek (Muddy Creek). The Swamp Church was originally known as the Cocalico congregation and the White Oak appears in the early records as Sebastian Reicher’s.

One unique feature of Waldschmid’s services at White Oak was the establishment of one of the first Sunday schools, an institution which has served continuously from that early day to this at the White Oak School.

Dr. William Stoy, the learned pastor at Host and Tulpehocken in Berks County, was not constant in the service of the church, alternating between preaching and practicing medicine. During one of the periods of Stoy’s absence, Waldschmid served these Berks congrefations, but it appears that his performance of pastoral duties was not always in accord with the wishes of those of the Berks Congregations. In 1760 the members of his Berks churches asked to have him removed.

Other Reasons Hinted

Somewhat naively, Doctor Harbaugh in his “Fathers of the Reformed Church, hints at other reasons for Waldschmid’s failure in Berks, saying “He may have needed at times, impulse of a special stimulus, to keep him moving with freshness, ministerial dignity and pastoral earnestness.” (Volume 11 pp.88-92)

Waldschmid died in September, 1786, and was buried in the churchyard at Swamp Church, Cocalico Township, Lancaster County. The Rev. Mr. Boas, pastor of First Church, Reading preached the funeral sermon. A tombstone was erected one year later at a cost of approximately $35.

Rev. Mr. Waldschmid’s wife the former Mary Elizabeth Grub, had the misfortune to lose some of her senses late in life. She survived her husband by many years and was thought by many to be demented. One evidence of her state of mind was that she never uttered a word from the time of her husband’s death until June 2, 1793. On that date a strange thing happened.

She Regained Speech

There is more to support the following story than mere tradition. It is recorded in the Church Book of the Cocalico congregation.

On Sunday, June 2, 1793, the worshipers at Swamp were listening to a fine sermon by Rev. Waldschmid’s successor. There was no storm, not even a breeze blowing when the top of the Waldschmid tombstone broke at it’s base and fell to the ground. “Many saw it,” says the record, “and all heard it fall.”

By strange coincidence, the mute Mrs. Waldschmid regained the power of speech on the very same day!

Today a very fine, tall monument is erected in the Swamp Churchyard in honor of their early pastor, John Waldschmid.

Church1_Resized25_

Scholla: A Fishing Expedition (The Incident is True; Names are Fictitious)

A Fishing Expedition (The incident is True; Names are Fictitious)

The inland lakes of Canada had an especial lure for fisherman during the arid years when national prohibition was in force in the United States. Hotels bordering the angler’s paradise of Riddeau, Ontario, did a thriving business quenching thirsts and moistening the parched throats of American Izaak Waltons.

In 1928 a group of Berks County citizens, hungry for fish and thirsty for sudsy brews, registered at the Sunset Inn in the dusk of a June evening. John Lebo, of Birdsboro, was host to a large party of friends – eight in all. Val Busch, Joe Breneiser, Harry Rentschler, Rufe Dreibelbis, “Shorty” Gassert, Jim Krasnitz, Luke Clemens, and John Lebo’s broth, Louie, commandeered five rooms on the second floor of the hotel. Only four of the rooms engaged were designed as bedrooms, the fifth was to serve as the bar room where the keg and bottles reigned and where Louie was to preside as bartender.

After registering for rooms the party of nine strolled along the lake, intending to watch other men fish in the lowering twilight, but only one lone angler stood on the shore, quietly holding a line and rod. And yet that one fisherman provided a great deal of amusement for the Berks Countians. The fisherman wore a black derby hat collar with a rubber bow-necktie inserted. Nose pincers rested on the nasal bridge between his eyes while tufts of graying hairs concealed his ears.

Didn’t Mind Jibes

Intent upon his fishing the oddly attired one paid no attention to the men who watched him. Struck by his quaint appearance and chagrined by his snubs to their spoken advances, the men from Berks began to take a peculiar kind of revenge. Talking the Dutch dialect they fell to speculating aloud as to what kind of queer creature stood before them. Was he an escaped lunatic; a criminal in disguise; a spook or some demon escaped from the infernal regions?

Utterly oblivious to the bantering the stranger never paid any heed to the remarks of the jesting Dutchmen; never once did he extract his line from the Ontario waters.

Later that evening the smoke was thick in the bar room of the second floor of the inn, where Louie Lebo dispensed foaming tankards between games of cut-throat pinochle. The door of the room was open into the hallway and passing guests were free to poke their heads into the transplanted bit of Berks, so gaily celebrating their personal liberty. Nobody minded.

He Accepts Drink

Joviality reigned long before midnight and a good time was being had by all, when the man in the derby hat calmly stepped into the improvised bar room, took a seat and watched the pinochle game. When the drinks were passed he accepted one with the others, murmuring a soft “thank you.” He continued to sit, to watch, to drink with each round, and to quoth like the raven a mere “thank you” each time he drained his glass.

“Seller is ferdammt unferstannich” muttered Louis, after the fifth drink.

“Ich glaub, gewiss, das her Schrief ihn fange will,” remarked Rufe.

“Ach! Er Iss yuscht so’n loischer rumleefer” added Shorty Gassert.

“Siss eeens fom Deifel seine ferhexte Engel,” exclaimed Val Busch

Then He Gets Back

Each member of the party joined in the avalanche of abuse and insult heaped upon the unwanted guest while the object of their scorn sat quietly with his eyes riveted upon the card game.

An exciting hand was being played. The unwelcome guest sat on the edge of his chair as he watched the fall of each card. When the playing ended there followed a period of post mortems in which many joined in declaring how the hand should have been played. And then in the excitement, the visitor advanced his opinion:

“Er het Schippe Schpiele selle; noh het er’s gemacht!”

Consternation! The fellow had understood every word that had been said

“Yah,” he smiled. “Ich bin der Ed Yeager fon Bethlehem, Northampont Kaunti. Kummt ihr all mich mohl shen dort im Court House. Ich bin der Judge.

Big Rideau Lake, Riddeau, Ontario, Canada. Source: http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/img_big_rideau_lake_lg.html
Big Rideau Lake, Riddeau, Ontario, Canada. Source: http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/img_big_rideau_lake_lg.html

Scholla: Autumn Days, Corn Husking

Corn Husking

Husking-bees were not common among the Pennsylvania Dutch, for in this section the corn was husked in the field and from there taken directly to the cribs. The corn stalks were put on large shocks (laub-schtoeck) and later brought to the barn for winter use.

When families were large, as most them were, little or no outside help was necessary, for with half a dozen youngsters helping, along with the hired man and hired girl, the husking was usually finished in the first week in November.

While few strangers were employed, relatives, as maiden aunts or older sons and daughters, who had moved to town, were more than welcome, for the more helpers, the quicker the job was done. If the husking lasted longer than mid November, it meant some cold fingers, for by that time they days were getting shorter and the sun was no longer warm.

Seated at Work

The farmer would put a number of shocks on a pile so that the huskers could stay at one place for awhile, for they sat down to work. After they were seated their fingers would fly and their tongues kept going just as fast, for Aunt Kate would tell all the gossip from the other end of the township – who had a baby; and who was going to have one; Sister Annie, who lived in town, would give all the local scandal – all about the new minister’s wife and how “high-toned” she was and what fancy hats she wore, while Mom and the hired girl recounted the latest happenings on the farm – how much milk the new cow gave, and what the huckster was paying for eggs.

“Wasser,” the shepherd dog, went along the field and stayed with the huskers. He liked to hunt rabbits and when he found one, what a chase there would be, for the shepherd dogs were vary fast in spite of their size so he frequently caught the bunny. Some dogs would bring back the rabbit in such a condition that it oculd be used for food, but the end of the chase usually meant a meal for Wasser. A chase was time off for the youngsters, for they joined in the fun and welcomed anything that gave them an excuse to stop work for a time.

Taken November 3, 1920. Cornfield on Valentine Farm (James Long) along road to corner church (St. Daniels, Robesonia). Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society.
Taken November 3, 1920. Cornfield on Valentine Farm (James Long) along road to corner church (St. Daniels, Robesonia). Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society.
Taken November 3, 1920. Cornfield on Valentine Farm (James Long) along road to corner church (St. Daniels, Robesonia). Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society.
Taken November 3, 1920. Cornfield on Valentine Farm (James Long) along road to corner church (St. Daniels, Robesonia). Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society.

Scholla: Shabash, Seim, Kiop

Shabash, Seim, Kiop

If the three words which form the above caption seem unfamiliar, it is because they are the names of three Mohican Indians, the first Indians to be baptized in Pennsylvania, at the home of John DeTurck, in Oley in 1742.

In 1740, Christian Henry Rauch, a Moravian missionary, established a mission at Shekomeko, in Dutchess County, New York, near the borders of Connecticut and also to Stissik Mountain. IN 1742, Count Nicholaus von Zinzendorf, great leader of Moravians, arrived in American and began to call synods of all interested persons. The second of these synods was to be held in the DeTurck home in Oley. In advance of the meeting Gottlieb Buttner, an ardent teacher of Moravian doctrines was sent to Shekomeko to invite Rauch to bring all Mohicans who wished to be baptized to Oley. On January 22, Rauch and his three converts left their village on foot, arriving at the DeTurck home on February 9, after enduring several hardships en route.

Two days later the red men were baptized in the barn of the DeTurck farmstead, Count Zinnendorf being present at the ceremony. The preliminaries of the administration of the sacrament called for hymns and prayer. These were offered and sung during the morning.

Some “ill-disposed” persons in the neighborhood gathered and created a disturbance outside of the barn but the ceremonies were not interrupted. The Rev. Mr. Rauch baptized the three Indians while Deacon Buttner and Bishop Davide Nitschman looked on. Christian names were substituted for the Mohican, thus Shabash became Abraham; Seim became Isaac, and Kiop became Jacob.

Later Seim, or Isaac, became a very important assistant to the missionaries who carried the gospel westward across the Alleghenies and in several instances Isaac proved himself of great value to the British authorities.

After the ceremony, the Indians were so filled with the Spirit that they began to preach in relays; when one tired another began and exhorted the unconverted Delawares who had come to witness the ceremonies.

The Oley ceremony was the first baptism of Indians within the borders of Pennsylvania.

Archival Notes: “You recall the time when the Jesus Indians of the Delawares lived near the Americans, and had confidence in their promises of friendship, and thought they were secure, yet the Americans murdered all the men, women, and children, even as they prayed to Jesus?” — Tecumseh 1810, speaking to Governor William Harrison of Indiana Territory. Shabash, Seim, and Kiop were the first Indians baptized in Pennsylvania, by the Moravian church, in 1742. The baptismal took place within the barn of the Deturck homestead, in Oley. Conversion to Christianity would not provide safety for the Indians. Tribal members of Shabash, Seim, and Kiop who also converted to Christianity were massacared at Gnadenhutten, Ohio by the Pennsylvania in militia in 1782. 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children were murdered and scalped by the Pennsylvania Militia.

Monument commemorating the Gnadenhutten Massacre. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnadenhutten_massacre#/media/File:Gnadenhutten_monument.JPG
Monument commemorating the Gnadenhutten Massacre. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnadenhutten_massacre#/media/File:Gnadenhutten_monument.JPG