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.”


Scholla: Colishay and Alptraums

Colishay and Alptraums

Lest readers find themselves at a loss to comprehend the meaning of the words in the caption we proceed, at once, to explain them. Colishay was a bred of grey fox and Apltraums were a breed of pied hounds used in the fox chases in colonial Pennsylvania.

This is a story of a fox chase in Berks County before the Revolutionary War (1770). Michael Quigley, an Irishman who had mastered the Pennsylvania German tongue well enough to write his diary in that medium, furnishes us with the account of a fox chase, October 12, 1770, in which Stephen Franks, one of the descendants of the Jewish colony at Schaefferstown was master of the hounds.

A party of a 100 sportsmen assembled at the Harvest Inn near the Snow Spring (Schneebrun) of Schparrewele-Barrig, now Hawk Mountain. There were 35 riders, including five women. Twelve pairs of hounds, straining at the leash were waiting for the chase to begin.

The Colishay, or grey fox, was released near the Armbruster house and it headed for the hills. The hunt was difficult says Quigley, because the timber “north of Reading” was not good for hunting.

The Colishay gave the riders and hounds a merry chase. First the fox wove in and out of a herd of deer, hoping thereby to throw the pursuers off scent, but the well trained Alptraums ignored the deer and kept to the trail.

At the foot of Hawk Mountain, there were some Indian graves.

There a panther lay on the limb of an oak tree; the fox circled the panther, hoping once again to throw the hounds off his trail. When the hounds approached, the wild cat moved as if to pounce upon the dogs but again the hounds were true to their master, Franks, and kept up their hot pursuit.

Beyond the Indian graves at the very base of Hawk Mountain, the fox scampered into a hole, only to be dug out of the earth and suffer death at the hands of the master of the hounds.

The brush, or tail of the fox was given to Miss Jones, one of the five female riders, because she was the first to arrive at the time of the kill. The four pads, or feet were divided among the other four ladies.

By custom, the pelt of the fox was given to Stephen Franks, the master of the hounds. Then the entire party rode back to Harvest Inn where a young steer was roasting on the spit to provide a feast for the hungry sportsmen.

Gray Fox. Source:
Gray Fox. Source:

Scholla: Fighting Cocks

Fighting Cocks

Mr. M. Walter Dundore, of Beloit Wis., sends us a clipping from the Reading Times of May 12, 1937, under the caption “Fifty Years Ago”. In the clipping there is a brief account of a cockfight on the outskirts of Reading which in 1887, attracted 100 “sportsmen.” The cocking main was between two birds, one from Pottsville and the other from Reading, and the Reading bird was the winner.

Mr. Dundore also enclosed a short sketch describing this “sport.” We quote directly from the account.

“The fights would be scheduled to take place in a barn back of the leading tavern and one had to be properly vouched for to gain admittance to the fighting arena and betting ring.

“The pit was about 12 feet square, with sides built of board two  feet high and sloping outward. The floor of the pit was of red clay. Several rows of planked seats surrounded the pit where spectators sat discussing the merits of the contending birds.

“Suddenly two men enter the pit from opposite sides, each holding a game cock. The birds have been weighed and matched to within a few ounces. Both men come together in the center of the pit and both hold out their birds so that their beaks touch. For a few seconds the jaunty cocks are allowed to peck at each other until they are thought to be primed for the fray. A referee looks on.

“Now the two owners set their birds down, four feet apart and at a signal from the referee they release them and the contest begins. The fighters suddenly strike. In the lightning –like flutter of flying feathers  they rise three feet off the pit floor, each cock trying to pass over the head of the other, striking backward with their deadly spurs in the struggle for supremacy.

“Much of the time is consumed by the cocks walking about, eyeing each other and sparring for position. After a half hour of gaffing and pecking, one of the birds usually succumbed. The winner struts over to the beaten bird and pecks at It, thus declaring its own victory.”

This type of “sport” is now outlawed and properly so. Animal baiting is a survival of ancient and pagan lore and has no place in our scheme of things. We present the story here because it does format part of the pleasures of the past and therefore is Scholla, or an Echo of the past.


Scholla: A Raccoon Hunt 9/18/1943

A Raccoon Hunt 9/18/1943

Willoby Wertman, of New Ringgold, relates the following story, describing a coon hunt in yesteryear.

Dogs were led to the edge of a cornfield. The coon likes corn and one sure way to pick up the trail is to circle a field until the dogs pick up a scent. One day the trail led to the top of Blue Mountain. The dogs had already treed the coons long before Wertman and his friend arrived on the scene with their muzzle-loader.

Darkness obscured the view and the quarry could not be seen. Ever resourceful the two hunters built a fire near the tree in which the coons were hiding. As soon as the fire provided sufficient light one man tamped the powder in the muzzle-loader while the other man tried to locate the coon. Excitedly the searchers cried: “Dort is ser,” pointing upward the man with the gun fired and lo! Two coons came hurtling down to earth.

While they stood surprised they heard a noise in the tree above, and verily, there was a third coon hovering there. Once again the gun was tamped with powder, but when the hunter attempted to fire, the cap tube refused to set off the charge. Wertman’s friend despaired of getting the third raccoon, but not the intrepid New Ringgolder. Wertman filled the cap tube with black powder and handed it to his friend, telling him to aim at the coon. Next, Wertman picked up a twig and held it in the blaze of the fire until a flame flowed at its tip. Then he held the torch to the cap tube until it set off the charge. The gun was aimed properly and the third coon dropped to earth.

Coon Hunting. Source:
Coon Hunting. Source:

Scholla: Race Track at Ryeland

Race Track at Ryeland

Only the oldest residents of western Berks will remember the horse races which once were held under the auspices of the Womelsdorf Park Association. Some time ago we came upon a racing program for the “Grand Opening, October 19 and 20, 1871.” The location of the track was learned by C. Kahler Hackman, of Womelsdorf, in conference with Simon P. Moyer, one of the oldest residents of that borough.

At the bottom of the down-slop, directly across the tracks to the north of the railroad from Womelsdorf station, locally known as Ryeland, is a natural spring. This spring was one of the reasons for locating the park on that spot.

Now that we have determined the location of the track it may be of interest to study the 71-year-old racing form.

The first race, for horses that “have never beaten 2;05.” This race was won by a mare name “Lady Trouble,” owned by E. Barnhold of Lancaster. The time, written into the program in lead pencil, as 2:51 and 3/4.

The second race was open to all pacers. It was won by a sorrel gelding, owned by A. Miller, of Rittersville, “Yankee Tom,” and the time was 2:42.

Race number three was open to all entries. Marcus Behm, of Reading, entered “Topsy,” his black mare and won a purse of $300. The time was 2:43.

“Lady Trouble,” the Barnhold entry, won the fourth race which was open only to horses that had “never beaten 3 minutes.” Presumably the entry was based upon records prior to the Womelsdorf meet.

John A. Sheetz was president of the racing association and W.G. Moore was its secretary. The Seltzer House, in Womelsdorf, was the headquarters of the association. It was then conducted by Levi Oberly. In the course of our investigation we learned an interesting anecdote about Levi Oberly. One of his sons moved to Sinking Spring and changed the spelling of his name to Oberlin.

The father complained:

“So bald das mer sie aus em Dreck hen, welle sei eem ferschtose.” No sooner do you raise the out of the dirt than they seek to disown you.

Simon P. Moyer added another choice bit of folklore. A Mrs. Diehl lived near the town square in Womelsdorf. IN her back yard she kept a flock of geese and then clacking gleefully, the flock paraded downt he slope to the creek which now flows through the Town Park.

The name “Ganz Hiwwel” was derived from this circumstance.

Womelsdorf Park. Source:
Womelsdorf Park. Source: