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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