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Lutheranism — like the commingling of their life-blood with the
blood of a multitude of other families, of which a few words ap-
pear in another chapter^ — is now blending with many other reli-
gions, as with Methodism, Presbyterianism,Episcopalianism, Con-
gregationalism, Baptistism, Adventism, Unitarianism, and has we
know in the present generation been leavened with unconventinal


The Gernhardt Family History. 57

and peace-loving Quakerism. If may l^e questioned how Heinrich
would have regarded this tendency of splitting up, if he had been
told of it while alive in the flesh, and when, like all the world, he
only saw things through glasses darkly ; but, if it were possible
for him to send a message to his numerous descendants from his
present abode, he would doubtless think it quite enough to remind
them of the words of Him who said. "By this shall all men know
that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another/'

A writer in the "North American Review" not long ago in-
sisted that the Roman Catholic Church is now the most hopeful
of the three great divisions of the Christian Church — meaning the
Greek Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Protestant
Church. The Roman Catholic Church is thus assumed to have
the best prospect for the future, because she is so nearly a unit,
and because sharing liberally in the growing light of the age ; and
that the Protestant Church has suffered and is now falling be-
hind, because disintegrated into so many sects through the prin-
ciple of the right of private judgment. And because at last real-
izing that the foundation of true religion is not individual right
but loyalty to Christ, it is further afftrmed that the Protestant
Church is now striving for a reunion of its many separated parts.

If all denominations were united in one common body, would
that make men more truly Christians ? Are the more unified
Roman Catholics more Christian than their fellow-Christians of
other creeds ? True religion is in the life, in the spirit, and not
in the outward form, or profession, or creed, or name. Loyalty
to Christ and to Truth does not require renunciation of private
judgment. It only asks the intelligent and reasonable and pious
use of man's good sense. Is not a good Quaker, or an equally
good Methodist, or a truly good Baptist, or Presbyterian, just as
loyal and near and dear to Christ as a good Roman Catholic, or
a good Lutheran? Nay, is not the name of Jesus of Nazareth
the only name under heaven given among men whereby man can
be saved ?

The Protestant Church may with better reason be claimed to
be the more hopeful, and to stand at the front of the tripartite

The Gernhardt Family History.

division, not only because it broke away from Roman Catholo-
cism, but from the very fact that it was itself broken into frag-
ments. Disintegration into a multitude of bodies, though not
without attendant evils, has still further promoted religious free-
dom, and been a great factor in the progress of thought and of
true religion. It has still further advanced the cause of Reforma-
tion. It has served to broaden and liberalize the Christian mind.
It has helped to show the folly of persecution, and to ex-
tinguish the fires of martyrdom. It has aided to free
Christianity more effectually from the incubus of paganism
and superstition, and from what Luther termed "the Roman dung-
hill of decretals." It has made more clear what is essential and
what is non-essential. It has stimulated criticism, and given
Bible students a new and better conception of the Truth. It has
even had a salutary and reformatory influence on Roman Catholic-
ism. When at last the reunion of the many parts does take place,
unity will then be on a broad, solid and lasting basis. The world
will then have Truth for authority, and not mere human authority
for Truth. Then indeed there will be but One Church, One
Faith, One Baptism, as all will by One Spirit be baptized into One
Body and drink into One Spirit. And then even the three great
divisions of the Christian Church will become as One.


A descendant of Heinrich living in the western section of the
State of New York writes that he remembers hearing an uncle
who had many years ago visited in Pennsylvania say, that "the
relations down East were more or- less superstitious, and that some
even believed in spooks and hc.vcrci" (witchcraft). This may
have been true, but I can say that I have never known or heard
of any instance among them of serious belief in spooks or witches
in my day, except in a few not serious instances among timid
young people. I have, however, observed enough of superstition
in some of its protean forms wherever I have been, whether North
or South, or East or West. Superstition is not a mere provincial
or family foible, but is a world-wide imperfection, or predisposi-

The GernJiardt Family History. 59

tion to belief in the presence and power of beings in an nnseen
world all aronnd us, that has come down to all from our over-
credulous ancestors as an inheritance. Man has not yet entirely-
emerged from the Dark Ages of superstition, or outgrown the
irrational conceits of the childhood-age of the world. A few
words under this head may be of some interest, therefore, to the
wiser and less superstitious generations of Heinrich's blood in
the future — as it is hoped that those who follow in the ages to
come will know much more, and be a great deal better, than the
kindred of this generation. All now well know, or ought to
know, that there is any amount of room for improvement in the
best of families.

Yes, I do remember hearing some of the old folks talk in a sort
of jocose way about some erratic persons who they said behaved
as if they might have been fer-hext (bewitched),— -in the same
figurative sense as the Devil is now sometimes said to have con-
trol of persons, — but I never heard of anyone I knew, related or
not related, who was seriously thought to be bewitched. And I
never met a person of good sense who thought that he had ever
encountered a genuine spook. Superstition in this form I am
positive has not in my time prevailed "down East" any more than
elsewhere. There was a fearful amount of such credulity in times
past, in all parts of what is now called the civilized world, but no
stain has ever besmirched the character of the Pennsylvania Ger-
mans anything like the witchcraft delusion of the English settlers
in Massachusetts, who in 1692 hung nineteen innocent persons at
Salem, under the aberrant idea that they were witches, and had at
the same time incarcerated from 150 to 200 others charged with
the same occult powers, who would perhaps soon have shared the
same tragic fate if there had not still been people of sense enough
left to see the folly of such superstition and persecution, and had
not the wild frenzy thus been checked. One of the unfortunate
victims was a little child only five years old. jNIany such shocking
things are recorded of that unhappy era of popular excitement.
One poor old Irish woman was charged with being a witch, and
simply because she could not repeat the Lord's Prayer absolutely

6o The Gcrnhardt Family History.

correct, she was adjudged to be guilty and executed. Even a dog
was tried for the same offense and killed. Sir Walter Scott, re-
ferring to this dark chapter in English history, in his "Letters on
Demonology and Witchcraft," says that "even the barbarous In-
dians were struck with wonder at the infatuation of the English
colonists on this occasion, and drew disadvantageous comparisons
between them and the French, among whom, as they remarked,
'the Great Spirit sends no witches.' " Descendants of Heinrich
and Rosine, you need never be ashamed of your German ancestn\
If you are. you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Of course the Germans, as well as the people of all other
nationalities, have inherited many superstitions in the way of
signs, omens, cures, and illusions of various kinds. For instance,
to see the moon first over the right shoulder is believed to denote
good luck. If a child is stepped over by any one it will either en-
tirely stop growing, or be stunted in its growth. To let a knife
or fork unintentionally drop on the floor while seated at a table
means that some one is coming who is hungry. If thirteen guests
are seated at a table it is an omen that one of the number will die
soon. ]\Ian}- are extremely averse to starting from home on a
long journey, or to begin any important work or enterprise, on a
Friday. If the cat is washing her coat visitors may be expected
soon. If one's hair is cut on the first Friday of new moon it will
grow thicker and more beautiful. If a dog wails it portends
death in the family or of some dear friend. When, some years ago,
a young man I well knew' got married and it was discovered that
he had thoughtlessly put one of his socks on wrong side out, the
whole house regarded it wuth satisfaction as an omen of good
luck, and heartily congratulated the young man. Children who
were supposed to be az^'gczcocksa (liver-grown) were cured by
some sort of conjuration known as pow- wowing,- — and I well re-
member how confident one of our kindred who died many years
ago seemed to be that he had such power. To prevent home-
sickness when coming to a new place, the proper thing to do is to
make haste and look up at the sky through the chimney. To cure
or prevent rheumatism, the wrist, arm or ankle is bandaged with

The Gcrnhardt Familv History. 6i

an eel-skin. I knew a man of English descent who carried a raw
potato in his pants pocket for many years for the same purpose.
The tuber finally got so smooth, hard and shrunken that it was
not easy for any one to guess what it was. There is no end to
such senseless glazvica (beliefs) — but where in the wide world do
we not find them ? It so chanced that while I w^as writing this
very chapter a lady of English parentage called on my wife, and
as she had entered at the dining room door, she hesitated when
leaving to go out the front door, saying, "I will go out the way I
came, or I might bring you visitors." My wife must have been
visibly amused as she remarked, "Oh ! the visitors will come just
the same," as the lady quickly responded in an apologetic tone,
"I don't care for myself, if you don't mind it." Xo one cares to
be thought superstitious, yet the entailed predisposition to be so is
manifested by every one of us at some time and in some way.

Every age, and every nation, has its idle whims and frivolous
delusions, a history of which would require dozens of volumes,
instead of a few hasty paragraphs. Often great multitudes have
all at once strangely given themselves up to some great delusion,
or gone wild in pursuit of some senseless fad, and through the
same caprice that leads to superstition. Whether it is the idea of
perpetual motion, of the philosopher's stone, of the elixir of life,
of the fountain of youth, of the crusades to the Holy Land, of the
divine right of kings, of the immolation of heretics to establish the
Church of God, of Christian science, of an oligarchy based on
slavery, of spiritualism, of demonism, or whether it is the witch
mania, it proceeds from the same love of mystery, want of com-
mon sense, and the inborn tendency to superstition, or to see ob-
jects and conditions that have no existence but in the imagination.
But there is Hope for humanity. Education, the diffusion of
practical knowledge, the separation of Church and State, better
acquaintance with the laws of nature, a right conception of what
constitutes true religion, a higher ideal of life, is destined to dis-
pel the mist of superstition and homage for the purely visionary,
by which the human mind has so long been enthralled.

A most insidious yet senseless phase of superstition is the men-

62 The Gcrnhardt Fainilx History.

strous delusion of Spiritualism, with its rappings and tappings,
its table tippings and slate writings, and its pretended communi-
cations with and materializations of the dead. Our esteemed
relative in Yankeedom need hardly be reminded that the birth-
place of what is called Modern Spiritualism was not far from his
own home, and that he need not come "down East'' to find the
best soil for the propagation of that hallucination. Xew York,
New England and the progressive West have furnished more
mediums, in proportion to numbers, than the sturdy and chary
Pennsylvania Germans. The latter — with some exceptions of
course — are too open and honest to pose as mediums.

But that the Germans "down East" were in early times rather
inclined to believe in the existence and power of witches may be
inferred trom the following amusing account in Linn's "Annals
of Buflfalo \'alley" of a witchcraft farce that was enacted in Union
County, only a few miles south of the Sinking Springs, and but
five years after the demise of Heinrich :

"During this year a remarkable farce of witchcraft was played
in the family of a man named Kern, in Beaver Township. He
had a wife and two daughters, and followed the occupation of
farming. In his immediate vicinity lived a man named Romig,
who. from some imknown cause, .became a hypochondriac, and the
impression got abroad that he was bewitched. Soon after this
the milk in Kern's spring-house became sour, within a few hours
after it was placed there. This occurred daily, until the farce was
concluded, which was in two or three weeks. The next act
played was of a more remarkable character. Kern's tables and
kitchen furniture were to be seen flying in all directions, thrown,
it was supposed, by supernatural means. Knives, forks, spoons,
ladles, &c., never remained more than five minutes on the dresser
after having been placed there, but were thrown in various direc-
tions about the house; and. as the more helicving portion of the
neighbors asserted, it was no uncommon thing to see them thrown
through the solid wall of the house, without leaving any mark of
their passage in the wall ! A peddler, who stopped for the pur-
pose of trading some of his notions to Kern, asserted that he had
not been in the house ten minutes before his hat and dog were
thrown through the wall of the kitchen into the adjoining yard.

The Gernhardt Family History. 63

It is not to be presumed that he was influenced in propagating this
story by the hope of assembling a crowd around his wagon.

"During these transactions Kern had a numerous crowd daily
at his house, and on Sundays there was a gathering at his door,
such as the most eloquent divine would have failed to assemble.
Of these the major part came prepared to believe all 'they saw,
and all thev might hear. Of course, there was no lack of true
stories. The unbelieving portion of the visitors — a very small
number, for men of sense generally staid at home — kept their
eyes open, and readilv discovered that the old woman and the
daughters were the witches, and threw the knives, forks, &c. A
witch doctor was called, who proceeded, with great solemnity, to
expel the evil spirit. Divers magical and mysterious rites were
performed, exorcisms were chanted, and texts of Scripture nailed
to everv door and window in the house. The witches, however,
set the doctor at naught, and baffled all his schemes. At length a
party of young men, residing in New Berlin, resolved to try their
skill at taking evil spirits. One of them, having procured a mask,
a huge flaxen-wig, a pair of furred gloves, and other necessary
apparatus, set out with the rest, in the afternoon, and arrived at
Kern's early in the evening. At their request the witches per-
formed,- to their great satisfaction, until a late hour. At length,
when all the visitors, except the young witch doctors, had left the
house, it was resolved to commence operations. They desired to
see how the witches acted above stairs, and were accordinglv con-
ducted up the ladder, accompanied by the whole family. In the
meantime one of the party, who had a remarkably hoarse and
deep-toned voice, and who was to act the part of the devil, was
notified bv a preconcerted signal — for he had not entered the
house — to prepare for action. He accordingly put on his wig
and mask, which he rubbed with phosphorus, and wrapped himself
in a buffalo skin. The party up stairs were well provided with
squibs. One of them had a piece of phosphorus, with which he
wrote on the wall such words as "devil," "hell," &c., in a number
of places. The signal being given, the candle was extinguished,
the squibs distributed most copiouslv. and the horrid words on
the wall shone out in liquid fire. The barrels and furniture in
the room were trundled about the floor, and an astounding uproar
was kept up for some minutes. Presently a terrific roar was
heard from below. All parties ran to the stair-door, and saw. at
the foot of the ladder, His Grim Majesty, in all the terrors of
flames, flax, fur. and horns. Satan made an appropriate speech
on the occasion, and then retired. His address was followed bv a

64 The Gernhardt Family History.

most edifying exhortation, by the wag of the party, on the sin of
Receiving, and the danger of another visit from Old Nick, if the
present practices should be persisted in. The terrified witches
made a full confession, and so ended the enchantment."


Rosine died sometime before Heinrich, but no record appears
to exist of the date of her demise. After persistent inquiry no
trace of the Family Bible was discovered. Neither her grave nor
Heinrich's "narrow house" were ever properly marked. Both
were entirely forgotten by even the oldest of their descendants
who still live in the neighborhood, and who are members of the
same church. Some even insisted that the old folks must have
been buried in the Warrior Run Presbyterian churchyard, the still
older burial place of the Irish, Scotch and English settlers, some
three or lour miles south-east of the Sinking Springs. This sur-
mise was thought reasonable from the fact that it was not until
the year 1826 that the deed was given for the ground for the Del-
aware Run Church graveyard, and it was inferred that it was not
until then that the first church building was erected and the first
interments were made. The young minister at present in charge of
the congregation replied to a letter of inquiry addressed to him on
the subject, that the church records in his possession only date
from 1867 — this was the year in which the present more com-
modious brick edifice was erected — and that he was sorry he could
not furnish the information that was wanted.

But the "swallowing gulf of dark oblivion" has not engulfed
all the truth in this instance. On further investigation it was
found that, whereas Daniel Fulmer during his lifetime had prom-
ised to donate the ground to the St. John's Lutheran congrega-
tion, and had died without making either a conveyance or a will,
a deed for the land (159 perches) was therefore executed by his
administrators, Jacob Follmer and Abraham Sterner, on the 14th
day of February, 1826, by the direction of the Court of Northum-
berland County. Daniel Fulmer died August 14th, 1823, and
was himself buried on the promised ground three years even be-
fore the deed was made ; and his agreement with the congrega-


The Gcrnhardt Family History. 65

tion is positive evidence that there was such a congregation exist-
ing before he died, and definite ground for the behef that there
was also already a graveyard. And fortunately for correct his-
tory a son of the donor of the land was found to be still living
within a mile or two erf the church, and although in his 86th year
was still in full possession of his mental faculties, and was able
to explain the matter and prevent such a wrong impression from
passing down as history. Mr. Daniel P\ilmer junior was born
March 13th, 181 7, and lived nearly all his life on the very farm
on which the graveyard and first church edifice were located. He
was the fifth of the six children of Daniel Fulmer, deceased. To
him it is a clear and certain matter of family history that the first
church was built before he was born. His sister Sarah (McCoy)
was born in 181 5, and was a babe at the time the building was
erected. The first house of worship, therefore, was not built
later than 1816, the last year before Daniel Fulmer junior was

The oldest graves in the Delaware Run churchyard have no
inscribed headstones. Alany have either common undressed
stones, or rudely trimmed stone slabs, and some evidently are now
without even such simple, visible tokens, the stones having sunken
out of sight or been unmindfully removed. A venerable member
of the congregation, who claims to have dug more graves here in
his day than any other man, says that it is impossible to make a
grave in any part of the old section of the ground without uncov-
ering human bones. Though Daniel Fulmer was buried here in
1823, and had years before given the ground for a graveyard and
church, the marble slab that marks his grave was not set up until
sometime between 1835 and 1840. when his son Daniel was a
grown up young man. The two oldest graves we could find
marked with headstones bearing legible names and dates are the
tombs of Peter Shady, who died November 20th, 1822, and of
Anna Susan Mosteller, born a Fetterman, wife of Heinrich Mos-
teller, born July 26th, 1758, and died September 15th, 1822,
These were buried before Daniel Fulmer, and four years before,
as some thought, the first building was erected, and onlv two

66 The Gernhardt Family History.

years after Heinrich Gernhardt died. All who died prior to 1822
have no tombstone records — a goodly number, as appearances
seem to indicate — and among them, to the regret of many de-
scendants, are Heinrich and Rosine Gernhardt and their son
Philip's first wife. There are several othef graves marked with
common dark stones from some near by quarry, that once bore in-
scriptions probably older, but the decaying memorials have scaled
off so much that whatever was inscribed on them is no longer
legible. There is no reason at all we think to doubt, therefore,
that the Delaware Run churchyard is the final resting place of
our ancestors. And after making a diagram of the part of the
ground where so many of their nearest descendants are buried, it
seems almost certain that the very spot where they were interred
can still be pointed out. But their sleep in their narrow houses
is just as sound and restful, and the final summons that shall
awaken them is just as sure to be heard, though their graves are
unmarked and unknown.

The venerable Mr. Fulmer also said that he had often heard
his mother, and other old people of the congregation, declare how
for years before they had a special house of worship they used to
meet in their dwellings to sing and pray and hear the gospel ex-
pounded when the weather was cold, and that in warm' weather
they sometimes assembled in the bams or under the trees. Hein-
rich and Rosine beyond a doubt found a congregation here, when
they settled among the people of their own language and religion,
who had been here in some instances as much as a quarter of a
century before them. And for at least four years before Hein-
rich died he could also meet with them in a house built expressly
for divine worship. And moreover, as the Delaware Run church
was only about one mile from the Sinking Springs, it is altogether
improbable that they were buried elsewhere and with people of
another tongue and name. In this connection the fact is of in-
terest that many of their household and neighbors are sleeping
here with them. Near them are buried a son and three daughters
— Baltzer, Anna Elizabeth, Catharine, and Susanna ; two daugh-
ters-in-law — Philip's first wife and the wife of Baltzer ; two sons-


The Gcrnhardt Family History. 67

in-law — Peter Fogelman and George Hosteller ; besides four
grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren. Sweetly
and peacefully they slumber here under the clods of the valley,
waiting for the bright day when, according to the apostolic faith
to which they held, "this corruptible must put on incorruption,
and this mortal must put on immortality."

The first church building was a high one-story log structure,
lathed and plastered on the outside, and thickly overspread with
small pebbles, giving it a rough cast, stone-like, conglomerate as-
pect — a common style of building in that era The entrance was
by a double door in front, next to the public road, close to which

Online LibraryJeremiah Meitzler Mohr GernerdHeinrich Gernhardt and his descendants ... → online text (page 6 of 27)