Scholla: The Reed Clock Dated 1704 June 15, 1943

The Reed Clock Dated 1704    June 15, 1943

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago a huge time-piece began to tick off the minutes and hours; these grew to days, months, years and decades. Two centuries passed; wars began and ended; the Duke of Marlboro, Frederick the Great, Napoleon and others flitted their little once on this troubled planet; American was born, grew to titanic strength and girded herself to bring her light of liberty to a war torn world, and still the Reed family clock in Stouchsburg ticked on and on. Today it is still marking the mortal’s concept of time, ticking away the minutes and striking the hours as it has done for generation after generation of the descendants of Leonhart Reed, Tulpehocken pioneer.

Proud of his handiwork, Jacob Gorgas, clockmaker, inscribed his name and the date in the brass face of the clock. There is no mistaking the figures which spell out 1704, an ancient date indeed for any relic in America.

We cannot help but wonder whether there is another object in all America of greater antiquity, still performing the purpose for which it was originally designed.

In addition to his name and the date, the craftsman cut scrolls into each corner of the metal face of the clock and flowers are depicted in the field which forms between the numerals. The clock does not show a moon, as many of the old grandfather’s clocks do, but the date of the month is shown.

The huge case of the clock is made of solid walnut wood and the pieces are joined by wooden pegs. The time-piece stands seven and a half feet high.

The present owners of the clock are Mr. and Mrs. John Reed, of Stouchsburg. Mrs. Reed as well as her husband is a lineal descendant of the early Reeds of Tulpehocken. The clock came into their possession through Mrs. Reed’s parents, Frank B. Reed, and his wife. These people, in turn, inherited the clock from their parents, John S. Reed. The complete line of ownership is not known exactly, but it is known that the relic stood in the original Reed homestead near Stouchsburg, as long as the memory of man and tradition can establish. It was removed from the old homestead in 1908.

Scholla: Leonard Rieth, Pioneer June 1942

Leonard Rieth, Pioneer

Six years before Conrad Weiser migrated from the Schoharie settlement in New York to make his home in Tulpehocken, Leonard Rieth led a band of 33 families into the broad valley that forms between the Blue and South mountains. In paying tribute to Conrad Weiser we sometimes forget that others shared the glory of those early years and Leonard Rieth was one of them.

Three Rieth brothers, Adam, Michael, and Leonhard, were members of the group of distressed Palatines who found their way to New York province in 1710 after suffering terrible hardships. For some time there was doubt about the name Rieth, because it did not appear on the printed lists of Palatines but recent research along these lines reveal that scholars misread the Niederlandish script on the original records of the ship lists of Palatines being transported from Rotterdam to London in 1709. The Rieth’s were among them but the first letter of the name was interpreted as a V instead of an R.

Leonhard Rieth was naturalized at Albany in 1715. His naturalization papers bore the signatures of two prominent names in New York, namely those of Peter Schuyler and Phillip Livingstone. When the trek to Pennsylvania began, in 1723, Leonhard was the acknowledged leader of the vanguard of Tulpehocken settlers. He took up 1,000 acres of land where the Millbach creek joins with the Tulpehocken, near present-day Stouchsburg. His house was built about a quarter of a mile below the junction of the two streams.

The name Rieth has been perpetuated in Berks history, largely through the erection of Rieth, or Reed Church in 1727. The original church the oldest Lutheran church outside of Philadelphia,  stood upon a rising slop of land north of the Tulpehocken, on land donated by the Rieth’s. The churchyard is still there and the John Reed family of Stouchsburg, direct descendants of Leonhard Rieth are actively interested in maintaining the present Reed’s Church in Stouchsburg.

The death of Leonhard Rieth was one of the most tragic events in the early history of the Tulpehocken colony. He had erected a gristmill on the north bank of the Tulpehocken, not far from the junction of the two creeks. One day in February, 1747, Leonhard Rieth was caught in the cog-wheels of his mill and his body was terrible mangled. The first duty of the new clergyman at Tulpehocken, the youthful Rev. J.N. Kurtz, was to officiate at Rieth’s funeral. At the time there was great deal of dissension in the congregation at Rieth’s church and one of the factions tried to prevent the new pastor from performing his solemn duties.

Zion's and St. John's Reed Church, Stouchsburg, PA. Built on land donated by Leonhart Rieth.
Zion’s and St. John’s Reed Church, Stouchsburg, PA. Built on land donated by Leonhart Rieth.

Scholla: President Buchanan’s Dancing Master

President Buchanan’s Dancing Master

When a troupe of French dancers, known as the Marteen dancers, suggested to Frank Stouch a native of Stouchsburg, Berks County, that he could achieve fame in Paris, the Berks lad replied that he would prefer to “become famous in Berks County first.” This took place during the middle of the last century, when Frank Stouch was astonishing Philadelphia theatre goers with the nimble steps which he had learned in the square dances in Berks County barns.

Born in 1809, a son of Andrew Stouch, for whom Stouchsburg was named, Frank Stouch came to Reading when he was 18 years old. Here he learned the trade of cabinet-maker and after serving his apprenticeship he obtained a position in Philadelphia. The theatre in the big city fascinated the young man and he made the acquaintance of such great starts as Edwin Forrest and the elder Booth. It was through these contacts that he met the Parisian dancers.

Although young Stouch was acknowledged to be one of the best square dancers in Berks he was reluctant to perform before metropolitan audiences until he received training in the dancing schools of Philadelphia. Once he felt that he was proficient in the terpsichorean art he entertained vast assemblages.

A fixed preference for upstate Pennsylvania brought him to Lancaster where he opened a dancing school. Among his pupils was the dashing young squire, James A. Buchanan, of Wheatland near Lancaster. Buchanan’s fiancée was a member of the same class. The tragedy which befell the romance of Pennsylvania’s only president has always had the element of secrecy in it. The girl’s father objected to the marriage and the broken hearted lady died under somewhat mysterious circumstance. Frank Stouch knew the story of the romance but he never committed himself beyond the point of saying that the young lady been a victim of suicide.

At various times Stouch conducted dancing schools in Reading, Lebanon, Easton, Allentown, Pottsville, and Carlisle. There are still many persons living who learned their steps from the Stouchsburg dancing master who had taught a president to dance.

In 1893, when Stouch was 84 years of age he filled an engagement at the World’s Fair in Chicago where he danced the fisherman’s horn dance. It is said that he received $1,000 a week for his Chicago Performances. At the age of 88 he died and was buried in the Womelsdorf cemetery.

Information supplied by Miss Elsie Goldman of Womelsdorf, a grand niece of Frank Stouch.

Archival Notes: While it is mentioned by multiple sources that Frank Stouch danced at the Chicago’s World Fair, direct evidence of the event is lacking. Our expert in this area of history Irv Rathman has yet to uncover such evidence. If anyone comes across evidence of Frank Stouch at the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair please do no hesitate to contact us at the Henry Janssen Library of the Berks County Historical Society.

James Buchanan (1859) by George Healy as seen in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC
James Buchanan (1859) by George Healy as seen in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC

Book Review: Manhattan Railway Company

Frank K. Hain and the Manhattan Railway Company: The Elevated Railway, 1875-1903; by Peter Murray Hain; published 2011 by McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson: North Carolina; ISBN 978-0-7864-6405-0; 7 inches x 10 inches hardbound; 163 pages, black and white images.

“…No other railroad system in the world, great or small, carries so many passengers and probably none other carries them so safely….  In the 16 years that Colonel Hain [was in charge], the roads carried 2 ½ billion people, and not one passenger has ever been killed in a train on the system.” – Railway Gazette, May 15, 1896 in an editorial regarding Frank K. Hain’s death.

Like some people in Berks County, who have never ventured outside the county boarder to visit Philadelphia, not every New Yorker has traveled to “the City”.  I however, have made several trips to NYC to visit my best friend, and anyone who has ever gone there used the “trains” at one point or another.  Passengers relying on the mass transit system of trains (the terminology used for the Subway), cross-town busses and taxies have probably put very little thought into its development.  In Frank K. Hain and the Manhattan Railway Company: The Elevated Railway, 1875-1903, author Peter Murray Hain chronicles the birth of the elevated railway in Manhattan from a succession of failed companies to the conglomeration of tracks united under the Manhattan Railway Company, which went from receivership to a successful corporation, until it was replaced by the Subway (the last elevated car stopped running in 1958).  Juxtaposed against the rise of the Manhattan Railway Company is the story of Frank K. Hain, who rose through the ranks, starting with the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad to become the General Manager and Vice-President of the Manhattan Railway Company. Born in 1836 in Stouchsburg, PA, Hain’s life, while difficult, was extraordinary.  As an engineer, Hain served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War.  His ship the U. S. S. Iroquois, after barely escaping fire from the C.S.S Louisiana is credited with capturing New Orleans in 1862.  Through hard work, foresight and luck, Hain met and became friends with Jay Gould and landed the job and responsibility of running the then failing Manhattan Railway Company.  Under Hain’s determination and dedication, the company rose to prominence and Hain and his wife rose as well and became part of the elite society in New York City.  While his status within the company came with certain obligation, Hain never got caught up in the lifestyles of the rich and famous and worked hard to keep his working class passengers safe and moving through the City.  Frank K. Hain and the Manhattan Railway Company: The Elevated Railway, 1875-1903, is a story of constant struggle and defying adversity in order to succeed during a time when the world was modernizing in a city that is never satisfied and constantly on the move.  This is a must read for anyone interested in the rise of mass transit transportation.

Written by former BHC Archivist, Kim Brown.