Thursday, August 27, 2015

What do These Two Men Have in Common With The Ephrata Cloister?

Henry Rankin Poore
Joseph Pennell

Both of them were artists and both visited the Ephrata Cloister in the in early 1880’s working together to depict the Ephrata Cloister in artistic renderings for an article written by the historian, Oswald Seidensticker.
Walk in the very footsteps of these renowned artists as you visit the places they depicted back in the 1880’s with this once in a year opportunity.  Special upstairs tours of the historic structures at the Ephrata Cloister during our Founders Day/Block Party, September 12th, 2015.
In 1881 The Century Magazine decided to do a story on the curious decaying old buildings and community of Ephrata.  They hired Oswald Seidensticker, professor of German Language at the University of Pennsylvania, and a specialist in the history of early German immigrants to Pennsylvania, to write the story.  To illustrate the story, “A Colonial Monastery,” The Century Magazine commissioned two young artists who were sharing studio space in Philadelphia: Joseph Pennell and Henry Rankin Poore.  Both artists had studied at the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and were early in their respective careers, and both would go on to become well known in the art world. 
Henry RankinPoore was the son of a prominent clergyman and would have likely followed his father’s profession until he saw paintings at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The works inspired him to take up art and after studying in New York, he came to Philadelphia.  Later he would paint the south-western United States, France, and England where he became known for his sporting and landscape painting.  Joseph Pennell was a native of Philadelphia where he studied and first worked.  Later, he would travel and make his home in England.  He became known for his lithography and illustrations.  During World War I, he produced a shocking poster in support of Liberty Bonds showing the New York harbor under attack and in flames along with the Statue of Liberty in flames. It was an extremely effective piece of war time propaganda, helping to bring the United States into World War I on the side of the Allies.  
Joseph Pennell's Liberty Bonds Poster

The artwork that accompanied the article, written in the romantic literary style of the day, greatly complimented the air of decay and decline and captured the mood perfectly. On Saturday, September 12th, see Ephrata through the eyes of these famous artists and see what they saw in the early 1880’s
“..odd looking antiquated buildings , the larger of which are the convents, the former abodes of the Ephrata Monks and nuns. Their high gable roofs and the irregularly distributed little windows give them a peculiar appearance of a little known place where one can breathe the musty air of langsyne.” 

“In one of the cells of the sister’s house, the Saron, we noticed a huge hamper, much too large for the apertures of the incasing cell.  How was this overgrown basket ever squeezed through so narrow an opening? It never was.  An industrious nun, bent upon doing some good and useful work for the monastery, plied in her cell, for many days and weeks, her busy hands, to weave for domestic needs that extraordinary piece of wicker-work.  She did not discover, until she had finished it, that it was much too large to fit through the door of her cell. And so it remains there, in perpetuam rei memoriam. “

“In the Saron, also, a number of families and single women have been accommodated.  A large number of these rooms are vacant or stored with old furniture, spinning wheels, or household utensils, and the remnants of old five plate cook stoves, the metal plates long gone and only the bricks remaining.”
Learn about these artists as well as Howard Pyle and Andrew Wyeth, both of whom visited and depicted the Ephrata Cloister in their art work. On Saturday, September 12th, you too can take advantage of a rare opportunity to walk in the footsteps of these famous artists as well as visit a part of the Ephrata Cloister rarely open to the public. This coming September 12th, from 10AM-4PM, join us for our Founders’ Day – Block Party Event. A limited number of special guided tours will be given of the upper floors of the Sister’s House and Meetinghouse by reservation only at 10AM, 11:30AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM. See our website for more details.
Nick Siegert

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Andrew Wyeth Was Here! And You Can Be Too!

Andrew Wyeth was here!  And you can be too!
Photo by Deb Grove, Lancaster Online
The photograph above shows Ephrata Cloister Director, Elizabeth Bertheaud standing in the third floor of the 1743, Sisters House or Saron.  She is holding a print of an Andrew Wyeth watercolor the Chester County artist painted in 1949 of the same spot. The painting is titled "The Cloisters."
Wyeth never forgot that painting, and in 1996 he returned to the Cloister to revisit the humble room that a celibate sister of the religious community called home years before the American Revolution. Wyeth died in 2009.
On Saturday, September 12th, you too can take advantage of a rare opportunity to walk in the footsteps of this and other famous artists as well as visit a part of the Ephrata Cloister rarely open to the public.  This coming September 12th, from 10AM-4PM, join us for our Founders’ Day – Block Party Event.  A limited number of special guided tours will be given of the upper floors of the Sister’s House and Meetinghouse by reservation only at 10AM, 11:30AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM. Curator, Virginia O’Hara from the Brandywine Museum of Art will be on hand to speak about Andrew Wyeth and Howard Pyle, another well know artist that portrayed the Cloister in the late 1800’s.  The works of other artists, Henry Rankin Poore, and Joseph Pennell will also be addressed during these special guided tours. 
The Sisters House and Meetinghouse, built in 1743 and 1741 respectively, are open regularly for guided tours on the first floor only. It is only once a year that the upper floors are opened to visitors. 
V.I.P. tickets for this special event are $20.00 each and include a print of Andrew Wyeth’s The Cloisters (1949).  Also included will be a special Q & A opportunity with Ephrata Cloister curator Kerry A. Mohn about Henry Rankin Poore’s painting Plowing of the Brethren(1899) on special exhibit. Tour tickets provide access to the site-wide Block Party event which includes a silent auction, live music, games, and food trucks: (Gourmand from Reading, Pa. & Lickety Split from New Holland, Pa.). For an additional $10.00, purchase an exclusive Founders Day t-shirt.  Call Today to make your reservations for the upstairs tours. Tickets are limited to 25 people per tour. No more tickets will be made available after they sell out. Call for tickets: (717) 733-6600.
General admission tickets will also be made available allowing access to the grounds and first floors of the historic Sisters House and Meetinghouse, but not the special upstairs tours.  General admission tickets will also include access to live music, games and art activities, the silent auction, and food trucks.
 -Nick Siegert

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Sunday Conversation Preview

Why do Amish accept rides in cars and hire vans for transportation, but forbid the ownership  by Amish of them?


Why do some Amish talk on cell phones, but don’t allow them in their homes?

 Why do the Amish use tractors around the farm, but not for plowing?

The answers to these intriguing questions and many more will be given at our next Sunday Afternoon Conversation. Nick Siegert will present The Amish and Technology: How the Amish Deal with Modern Technological Challenge, Sunday, November 16th, 3:00PM. One of the defining characteristics of the Amish is that they put definite limitations on their use of technology, but the Amish do not reject technology.  They are very careful and selective in its use.  They utilize many aspects of modern technology, but are very careful to control its impact on their culture. Nick Siegert will give a PowerPoint presentation and answer questions. The public is welcome.  Admission is Free.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Reflections on our apple orchard and the beloved PA Dutch treat of Apple Dumplings

 The apple tree casts its shadow so still,
Where the lilies abound by God’s Holy will.
-Chronicon Ephratense, 1789

This passage is found in the Chronicon Ephratense, the history of the community published in 1789. Perhaps the author considered the apple tree a symbol of the tree of life while referring to members of Ephrata Cloister as the lilies.  Certainly apple trees were found throughout the community providing food for the residents.  Several visitors to 18th century Ephrata mention an orchard located in the center of the “town”—remember in colonial days the “Cloister,” with about 40 buildings, was the town. 
A woodcut basket of apples from the book called Golden Apples in Silver Bowls
One of the first issues of the Brother’s printing press was a book called Golden Apples in Silver Bowls.  The book, printed in 1745 for the Mennonite community, included a woodcut of a basket of apples.  The Brother’s used the same image on other printed items, including a memorial hymn written for Conrad Beissel in 1768.
We don’t know the varieties of apples grown here historically.  Today, the orchard planted in the mid-20th century behind the Visitor Center contains old varieties like as Johnathan and Smoke House.
Householder Michael Miller sold fresh apples, cider, and dried apples to his neighbors.  The dried apple schnitz were like candy to children in colonial days, and I can imagine mother’s carrying a few to settle the children during a long worship service.  Who doesn’t love a slice of bread with apple butter and  schmierkaes, a kind of cottage cheese?  In all these ways, apples were probably on local tables for most of the year.
Today, our apple dumplings that provide another harvest for Historic Ephrata Cloister.  Thirty-four years ago members of the Ephrata Cloister Associates, inspired by the apple trees on the site, began selling dumplings to raise money for the Back to the Cloister Fund.  This dedicated pool of money has permitted the return of numerous original artifacts to their place of origin. 
Somehow, I’m not sure the apple dumplings of today are made just like those that Swedish visitor Peter Kalm tasted in Pennsylvania during the 18th century.  He wrote:
One apple dish which the English prepare is as follows:  take an apple and pare it, make a dough of water, flour, and butter.  Roll this thin and enclose apple in it.  This is then bound in a clean linen cloth put in a pot, and boiled.  When done, it is taken out, placed on the battle, and served.  While it is war, the crust is cut on one side.  Thereupon they mix butter and sugar which is added to the apples; then the dish is ready”
Boiled apple dumplings?  Where’s the cinnamon? 
An old legend says that the three circles or balls on William Penn’s coat of arms represent apple dumplings!  While I doubt the truth to this claim, I’m sure he would have enjoyed apple dumplings.    Who can’t make a meal of these tasty treats—especially with ice cream!

-Michael Showalter, Museum Educator

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mike Harris military historian visits the Ephrata Cloister for our Sunday Afternoon Series!

For our 2nd Sunday Afternoon conversation, a small, but enthusiastic crowd welcomed author,  Michael Harris who lectured and did a presentation and book signing for his new book,  Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777.
Mr. Harris, former educator at the Brandywine Battlefield, is a specialist on this subject.  It is a common misconception that many of the wounded soldiers from the battle were sent to the hospital at Ephrata, but that is probably not the case.  Most of the soldiers that convalesced at Ephrata probably came from temporary field hospitals in Germantown and others surrounding areas and were mostly suffering from various sicknesses, more than battle wounds.  According to Harris, the Battle of Brandywine was the largest battle of the Revolutionary War, one that encompassed more troops over more land than any combat fought on American soil until the Civil War. Our next Sunday Afternoon Conversation on November, 22nd, and will feature or own Nick Siegert.  He will do a presentation on how the Amish deal with technology.   

-Nick Siegert

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What do the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, the Battle of Brandywine, the Battle of the Clouds, the Paoli Massacre, the Battle of Germantown, the Siege of Fort Mifflin and the Battle of White Marsh all have in common

Ephrata and the Revolutionary War
Period accounts talk of being able to hear cannon fire from the Battle of Brandywine in Philadelphia.  If the cannon could be heard in Philadelphia, I’ll bet they could be heard in Lancaster too!

What do the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, the Battle of Brandywine, the Battle of the Clouds, the Paoli Massacre, the Battle of Germantown, the Siege of Fort Mifflin and the Battle of White Marsh all have in common? They are the Revolutionary War battles that make up what is called the Philadelphia Campaign. To learn more about these battles visit

When General George Washington entered Valley Forge for the winter encampment in December 1777 he had soldiers who were recovering from battle injuries as well as those suffering from the diseases that were rampant in 18th century army camps.  What to do, what to do?  The solution, as he saw it, was to send some of those men to the Brothers and Sisters at Ephrata to care for, as well as to the Moravians in Lititz and Bethlehem.  And maybe, too, this was Washington’s way of keeping tabs on the local German population.  After all, the Hessians were fighting for the British – but that’s a subject for another BLOG. 
Reenactment at the Historic Ephrata Cloister

These poor soldiers arrived at Ephrata in mid-December with little in the way of clothing, blankets or food supplies.  One of the reasons for choosing the Lancaster County locations was the access to food supplies in this agrarian community, and the Brothers and Sisters at Ephrata were well known for their charitable works.   According to the Chronicon Ephratense the “Prayer-House” on Mt. Zion was “converted into a hospital during the war of the Americans.”  Archeological excavations conducted during the summers of 1999, 2000, and 2001 located a building that yielded medicine vials and military artifacts, leading us to conclude that this building likely was one of the “hospital” buildings. 

In 1845 a movement was begun to build a monument to those Revolutionary Soldiers who died at Ephrata, but not until 1902 would this project culminate in the gray obelisk that is located in the Mt. Zion Cemetery.

In piecing together various military reports it is believed that approximately 260 soldiers were sent to Ephrata.  Of these men, 55/60 never left.  Because of the contagious nature of the soldiers’ diseases, the Brothers and Sister and the Ephrata Community also experienced losses as a result of nursing these men.    

Join us on October 19th at 3:00 pm to learn more about the Battle of Brandywine as we welcome Michael Harris, author of the newly released book Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that lost Philadelphia but saved America, September 11, 1777. Books will be available to purchase & sign.

-Elizabeth Bertheaud, Site Administrator

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