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.