William Cornelius Reichel.

A history of the Moravian seminary for young ladies, at Bethlehem, Pa online

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Online LibraryWilliam Cornelius ReichelA history of the Moravian seminary for young ladies, at Bethlehem, Pa → online text (page 1 of 46)
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'Tresented by
J. Duncan Pitney

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation

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With a Sketch of the School feom 1742 to 1785,


Continuation of the History and Catalogue to the Year 1900.






The New Era Printing Company,
lancaster, pa,

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The object of this volume is to present to the friends of
Bethlehem Female Seminary, and the public generally, a faith-
ful record of whatever is of interest in connection with this In-
stitution from its original foundation down to the present time.
In order to do full justice to the subject, the author has found
it necessary to connect with the immediate history of the Sem-
inary an account of the town and community in the midst of
which it was reared and fostered, and under whose auspices,
through the divine blessing, it has prospered, and exercised its
benign influence upon the widely-extended circle of its pupils
and friends, through the lapse of upwards of threescore years
and ten.

The same spirit which prompted the original foundation of
the town of Bethlehem, and of other similar establishments of
the Moravian Church, also led to the establishment of this
Seminary, as well as of other educational institutions of a like
nature. And in either case, whether with town or seminary, the
main intention was to implant into the human heart the vital
principle of true faith in Christ and then, in connection with a
due improvement of our various faculties and talents, to culti-
vate and develop this principle by such means and appliances as
the Sacred Volume and a deep and varied experience, under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, had suggested to the venerable
founders of the Moravian Church and their successors.

In order to a correct comprehension of the original and legit-
imate object of a Moravian town and a Moravian seminary or



boarding-scliool, it ^oll be necessary to consider them both from
a strictly religious point of view. And as both seminary and
town, so far as regards the principles which underlie their true
design, are so intimately connected with each other, it becomes
necessary, if we would give a correct account of the former, so to
entwine the history of both that the reader may at once clearly
apprehend the correspondence which exists between them, and
thus be enabled to appreciate their respective characteristics and

The author is, at aU events, confident that the present volume
will be a welcome acquisition to all those who have been per-
sonally connected with this Seminary in the capacity of pupils,
and that it will revive and keep alive many fond and endeared
memories of youthful years spent beneath the hallowed influ-
ences of Christian nurture. Those, too, who have heretofore
superintended the Institution and taught in it, will no doubt
greatly enjoy the numerous reminiscences which are here called
up, and, moreover, be enabled to transmit to their posterity, on
the pages of this Souvenir, a true and proper record of their life
and experience in this school. And those who now compose the
Bethlehem Seminary, in their several capacities of principal,
teachers, and students, when they look upon the ancient land-
marks as they are herewith placed on record and preserved, and
when they behold how the Lord has hitherto blessed and pros-
pered the peculiar system of Christian education which others
have devised and in which they have embarked, will feel greatly
encouraged to a steadfast and consistent perseverance in this
high and holy calling. And should the information which this
book may convey to the Christian public concerning Moravian
institutions be calculated to enlarge their sphere of usefulness,
there will be additional cause for fervent gratitude to Him for
whose cause and glory they have been established.


A few words as to the sources from which the author has
drawn the details of this work.

Whatever relates to the religious labors of the Moravian
Brethren in this country has been derived from the extensive
and valuable archives of the Church of Bethlehem, this place
having been from the first the central point of their operations,
in its immediate dependencies throughout the adjacent country
and among various Indian tribes. These documents also con-
tain much information bearing on the Female Seminarj' in its
earlier years, which is nowhere else to be found. A large mass
of papers has also, during the lapse of almost three-fourths of a
century, accumulated in the school itself, consisting of the cor-
respondence of former principals, copious diaries commenced in
1788, continuously kept for several years, but of late fragmen-
tary, compositions, in prose and poetry, by teachers and pupils,
such as dialogues on religious and other subjects, essays, &c. :
and also specimens of penmanship, drawings, and music, all of
which were carefully inspected by the writer of this history,
and have proved a valuable means of enabling him to give not
merely a bare record of passing events, but to acquaint the
reader, in some measure, with the internal development of the
school, and also with home-life within its precincts, such as it
was in each successive period.

It is believed that the catalogue of pupils is complete to the
present day. For the large amount of personal information
which this volume contains, the author is indebted to the exer-
tions of several members of the Historical Society of Pennsyl-
vania. The list of the earlier teachers has, with the assistance
of some of their number who still survive, been correctly ar-
ranged, and, it is thought, made complete. In the absence of
a proper record, no little difficulty was encountered in this par-
ticular, and some uncertainty may yet remain.


In conclusion, it is proper to explain that tlie present work
was undertaken by its author at the special request of others.
At a complimentary dinner given to the Board of Trustees and
other friends of the Institution, by the principal of the Bethle-
hem Female Seminary, on the completion of the new building
at the close of the year 1854, the conversation turned on the
present and past condition of the school, and, with the aid of
one of its earliest principals who was of the company, a variety of
interesting matter in its history was brought up in review. It
was at once conceded that a written account of the past sixty-
nine years of the existence of this widely-known Institution
would prove welcome to the large number of its surviving
pupils, and meet with the favor of the public. The execution
of this labor was at the same time proposed to the author of
this volume. He hopes that it may answer its intended pur-
pose, and confer as much pleasure and profit in its perusal as it
has upon the writer in its preparation. This object gained,
the time and labor spent upon it will be to him, in after-years,
but another pleasing " Souvenir."


The first edition of the Bethelehem Seminary Souvenir be-
ing exhausted, and the number of those who might be supposed
to take an interest in the Institution having greatly increased,
it was thought desirable to reprint it, with such additions as
should be found necessary to make it as complete at the pres-
ent time as the original work was in 1858,

The author being prevented by other engagements from
undertaking this work, it was intrusted to the present editor.
The exhaustive and attractive manner in which the former had
traced the history of the Seminary from its original foundation
down to the time of publication in 1858, rendered any attempt
atj improvement of that part of the work unadvisable. The
labor of the present editor has therefore been confined to giv-
ing a continuation of the narrative, and to revising and com-
pleting the Catalogue. In performing the first part of his
labor, he has, after correctness, aimed principally at brevity,
in order not unnecessarily to increase the size and cost of the
book. In the arrangement of the Catalogue, he has adopted
a plan differing materially from that pursued in the first edi-
tion. The names of the students are now arranged in alpha-
betical order under each year. This arrangement he hopes
will make the Catalogue more interesting to former pupils, at
the same time that it will allow of annual additions being made
to it, if deemed desirable.

A careful examination of the original entrance books of the
Institution has supplied many data omitted in the Catalogue of


the former edition : while the information gained in answer to
more than twelve hundred circulars and letters sent out to-
gether with many items of interest furnished by occasional
visitors to Bethlehem, and carefully preserved by the Princi-
pals of the Seminary, have enabled him to make numerous cor-
rections and additions.

Finally, he cannot refrain from publicly expressing his ac-
knowledgments to the lady, well remembered by very many
former pupils — Mrs. Lichtenthaler — to whose retentive memory
and kind assistance he is indebted for much information other-
wise unattainable.

W. H. B.

Bethlehem, February, 1870.


T HE present edition is simply a reprint of the former one,
with the important addition of the heretofore unpublished his-
tory of the Seminary from its founding up to the time when it
was reorganized, in 1785, which is given in the form in which
it was delivered, as the Sesqui-Centennial Address, by its author,
the Rt. Rev. J. Mortimer Levering, at the celebration in June,
1899. Besides this the history of the school is continued in a
very few pages up to the year 1900.

The Catalogue of pupils has been carefully revised, and con-
tinued from the date of the third edition to the year 1900, by
Miss Helen de Schweintz, of Bethlehem, Pa.
Bethlehem, Pa., May, 1901.


^ctlxblxjem ^jetuittarxj M>onvtnix.





Ladies: While I appreciate the honor you have
conferred upon me I realize the difficulty of the task
I have undertaken. The records of the school we are
honoring could easily make up two such volumes as
the well-known Bethlehem Seminary Souvenir. To
sketch but the half of its history, even in a superficial
manner, within the time that may be so used on an
occasion like this is not easy.

There comes the difficulty of selection. A very few
may possibly be interested in all the facts of this his-
tory, many may be interested in some of them, and
yet others may not be interested in any of them, for
thus I have found the tastes of people to vary. I
should not dare to have merely the Bethlehem anti-
quary or the Moravian antiquary any more than
merely the pedagogue or student of church and school
history exclusively in mind. There is material for a
very long paper suitable specially to each of these.
Even if I have only former students of this institution
2 17


as such in mind, this means both the recent school
girl and her grandmother with reminiscences conjured
up out of the shadows of long ago ; and among these
representatives of three generations gathered here who
can tell how many value history or how many respond
in heart to the bringer forth of old things reverently
or to the sketches of things quaintly pretty, or to the
teller of funny things, being of the number of those
who think everything funny that is different from
what we now are and do, just as in time to come others
will consider us very funny creatures with very funny
ways ? This allusion to these various difficulties is
my apology in advance and my plea for indulgence.

The history of the venerable institution we have in
mind since the year of 1785 is an oft-told tale, a story
written many times with elaboration of detail, varying
from the sumptuous volume of six hundred pages to
the magazine article of six hundred words. I believe
that my plan mil meet with approval. It is not to
consume these precious minutes with those well-known
things which you have heard, or read in various pub-
lications, but to bring out of the records some of the
things you have not heard, which are not in print
beyond a brief note and extract here and there, and
can only be found in the manuscript chronicles stored
in the archives of the Moravian Church, and even
there can be found by none but the patient and prac-
ticed searcher.

We are making a new departure in celebrating this


one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, for hitherto the
history of the school has been written only from the
time of its reorganization, October 2, 1785. The fact
that its history runs almost "ab urbe condita," from
the founding of this Moravian city set upon a hill —
yea, even from five years beyond that time — in a con-
tinuous though shifting existence, has been ignored
because prior to 1785 it was conducted on a difi^erent
principle. You will nowhere find more than ten in-
troductory lines about this school prior to its reorgani-
zation in 1785, and you will find practically nothing
about its peripatetic and dismembered existence for
five years prior to the beginning of its continuous local
existence in 1749, which we are now commemorating.
I shall consume most of the time at my disposal in
telling you some things about this school back of 1785,
and then recall some features of the more familiar
period since that year so far as time will permit-
The pioneers of the Moravian Church in America
came over in colonies selected by the Church, under
pious leaders, who were men of intellect, learning,
and executive ability, and they had the pursuit of
philanthropy in view in three general lines — the civ-
ilization and evangelization of the aborigines, the
supply of spiritually destitute settlers with the privi-
leges of religion, and the institution of school work
wherever they could, for their hearts yearned over the
children growing up in the forests and villages of
Pennsylvania in ignorance and godlessness.


In December, 1741, Nicholas Lewis, Count of Zin-
zendorf, patron and protector of the renewed Bohe-
mian and Moravian Brethren's Church, and the
leading spirit in its enterprises at that time, arrived
in Pennsylvania, celebrated Christmas with a little
band of pioneers in the forks of the Delaware, where
the first settlement was called Bethlehem, in com-
memoration of that impressive occasion, and then in
a succession of conferences of religious or union synods
tried to enlist cooperation in large plans for prosecut-
ing these three objects.

The scheme of schools was made known to the
people by circulars and messengers, and its first experi-
ment was made in Germantown by the Countess
Benigna, a girl of 16 years, who accompanied her
father, the Count of Zinzendorf, to Pennsylvania. May
4, 1742, she, with the assistance of two other women
and two men, opened a school in Germantown, on the
old Germantown Poad, in what was called at the time
the "Ashmead House," rented for the Count's use.
June 25, 1743, this Germantown school was transferred
to Bethlehem, where on July 19 a more complete
organization of the girls' and boys' schools was effected.

An appeal had gone out to the people in the town-
ships to send their children to these schools. During
the harvest time little attention was paid to the matter
and later the fathers of Bethlehem, in view of the pre-
judices against them instilled into the minds of the
ignorant backwoodsmen by certain unprincipled and


unscrupulous ecclesiastics, thought it might be better
to attempt their good work for the children at points
other than Bethlehem, though the opinion prevailed
that Bethlehem would become a school center. Some
of the girls from Philadelphia and Germantown were
taken back home, a few from there and elsewhere
remained and the effort was continued on a very small
scale at both places, while the boys' school at Bethle-
hem was maintained. Certain Sisters went to Ger-
mantown and continued the good work until July 3,
1743, when they returned to Bethlehem to await the
completion of better quarters for the girls, and on
October 20, 1743, the school was reopened for the
winter as a boarding school on much better footing
than before. Meanwhile a nucleus of eight or ten boys
went to Nazareth, where only two little log houses
stood, and a school for boys was founded there. Thus
we see at that early period the promise of the future
Young Ladies' Seminary at Bethlehem and Nazareth
Hall at Nazareth, the two historic schools yet standing
as the outcome of that early work.

When Bishop Spangenberg returned to Pennsyl-
vania in October, 1744, to reorganize and more
thoroughly systematize everything in the cooperative
association they had instituted to meet the exigencies
of the time and called "General Economy," both the
mission work and the school work were regulated
anew. The school for girls was moved into the build-
ing then occupied by the young women of the settle-


ment, who had charge of it, at Christmas, 1744, while
in June following the school for boys divided between
Bethlehem and Nazareth was moved down to Freder-
icktown, on the farm of Henry Antes, one of the most
valuable men in the work of the time, who had offered
his farm for the use of a large boarding-school. The
following year his neighbor, William Frey, who like
Antes had removed to Bethlehem, turned over his
farm to the use of the institution.

Meanwhile the large stone house at Nazareth, com-
menced by Moravian mechanics in 1740 for George
Whitefield, the evangelist, for the purpose of a school
for Negro children, had been finished, the whole
estate having become the property of the Moravian
Church, and into this house, yet standing and called
the " Whitefield House," the girls' school was moved
from Bethlehem on May 23, 1745, the single sisters of
Bethlehem following them on June 1. At Bethlehem
remained only the infant school, or nursery as it was
called, for boys and girls under five years of age.
Into this nursery were placed in charge of a matron,
nurses and teachers, the quite young children of mis-
sionaries and of women otherwise so engaged in secu-
lar or spiritual work that they could not properly care
for their little ones.

August 24, 1745, the commencement Avas made at
what soon became the first seminary for girls at Beth-
lehem. It was finished and occupied October 25,
1745. At first it was devoted to their uses. This is


the central portion of the old stone house on the north
side of Church Street, between the old weather-
boarded log parish house, or clergy house, called in
German " Gemeinhaus," i. e., congregation house, with
the later built chapel back of it on the one side and
the present Sisters' House on the other. This old
building, in which the new opening of the girls' school
which we are commemorating today was made, with
its quaint belfry, its weathervane bearing the device
found on the episcopal seal of the Moravian Church,
and its clear-toned small bell telling the boys and girls
of our Parochial School to this day yet that it is school
time, deserves reverent attention.

Though the boarding-school had been transferred to
Nazareth for the time being, a special school was kept
at Bethlehem at convenient hgurs for older girls
employed here who had lacked earlier advantages.
This work of love was engaged in by the Rev. John
Christopher Pyrlaeus, a distinguished scholar, musi-
cian, Indian linguist, and missionary, at this time tem-
porarily in Bethlehem.

January 13, 1746, eight men, whose names are
given, came from Germantown to urgently request the
reopening of a school there, stating that John Bechtel,
the chief man in Germantown, who had joined the
church, offered the use of his commodious house and
extensive premises for the purpose. The matter was
favorably considered, the Synod appointed a com-
mittee of ten Germantown men to cai-ry out the plan,


their names being all given, and on June 6, 1746, ten
children from the other schools, some girls and some
boys, were sent there as a beginning in September.
Here I must mention, though it may seem foreign to
our subject (the reason will appear later), that May 4,

1746, it was decided to open a school on the farm of
Joseph Miiller, in the Long Swamp. This was not a
great distance from the present town of Quakertown.
The school was started in November. January 8,

1747, it was decided to take only the children of
church members as boarders in these schools and other
children as day scholars. This is the general plan fol-
lowed during the next decade. Regular day schools
were being conducted at most of the congregations
which had been founded. A flourishing boarding-
school was being caj-ried on at Oley and another was
opened at the earnest solicitation of the people at
Maguntsche, later called Salisbury, not far from Beth-
lehem, on February 6, 1847, the boys of the school at
Nazareth being transferred there.

May 25, 1747, the school of boys started in Joseph
Miiller's house, in Long Swamp, was moved into the
vacant log house on the south side of the river at
Bethlehem, which had been the dwelling of the Yssel-
stein family before Bethlehem was organized, and Was
called the " Bohringer House," because it was later
occupied by a man of this name. The first school
house in what is now South Bethlehem stood on the
spot where now the yards of the Lehigh Zinc Company


are, quite near to where the steps descend from the
New Street Bridge.

• Meanwhile the condensation of this school work
under heavy financial pressure, Avhich came upon the
church at this time, commenced. The second attempt
at Germantown was not as successful as was expected.
In February, 1748, the boys of that school were trans-
ferred to the Oley School. September 19, 1748,
Bishop John de Watteville, a member of the General
Executive Board, arrived in Bethlehem with a view
to inspect things and make some changes, especiall}^
in the school work. With him came his wife, who
was the Countess Benigna, daughter of Count Zinzen-
dorf, who had opened the original Moravian school
for girls in America six years before. Now she was
here helping again to deliberate on the same impor-
tant subject.

Now a series of changes was again instituted, which
was thought to be for the best interests of all concerned
and which led up to the event which we are commem-
orating. A Synod was held in the present old Colo-
nial Hall of the Seminary and College for Women in
October, 1748, it then being a new and not yet finished
house called the " Brethren's House," because it was to
be the home and Chapel of the Single Brethren, the
unmarried men of the settlement. The completion and
occupation of the large and substantial building now
called Colonial Hall led to many shiftings in other
buildings and to. a series of school movings early in


the approaching new year, preeminent among which
was that which we are celebrating today.

In the diary of the church on January 6, 1749, we
read : "In the afternoon the children arrived from
Nazareth who are henceforth to constitute our little
boarding-school for girls here. There were sixteen of
them, together with the Sisters who are to have charge
of them, and they moved into the rooms newly added
to the house hitherto occupied by married men and
women and with beautiful music and a pleasant love-

The rooms referred to are those at the west end of
the old building with the belfry, which now became
associated with school work. It is called the old

Online LibraryWilliam Cornelius ReichelA history of the Moravian seminary for young ladies, at Bethlehem, Pa → online text (page 1 of 46)