In the development
of Christian civilization the doctrines of the reformers came
into conflict with the demands of military service, and made outcasts
of multitudes of the most intelligent and most useful of the inhabitants
of Germany. The people of southern Germany have always possessed
strong powers of endurance, great determination and patient, plodding
perseverance. Harassed and tormented until the land of their ancestors
became intolerable, they fled to a strange country. Here they
hoped to "live apart from the world and its wickedness, and
worship God with joy and fervor unmolested." The topography
and climate of this part of Germany resembles in a marked degree
the conditions in central Pennsylvania, so there has been a natural
drifting toward this part of our country by early settlers.
The German Baptist Brethren denomination
was organized in 1708 near Schwarzenau, Germany. Its members refused
to go to war, would take no oath, were noted for their modesty
of clothing, plain speech and distinguished hospitality. Because
of this belief, John and Gottlieb Heim were imprisoned in 1803
for refusing to bear arms in the levies being made for Napoleon
at that time. After a year in prison they were released upon their
promise to emigrate to America. They at once joined a large company
who thru religious scruples or dread of military service, were
preparing to go to America.
They left Moehringen on June 9th,
1804, spending the first night in Vaingen on the Enz. On the lOth
they passed through Bruchsal to Langen Bruecken, on the llth they
reached Saxheim, the l2th Aller Heilige, and on the l3th Frankfort
on the Main. They remained here until the 16th, when they took
ship for Muinden. They set sail at 7 a. m., spending the night
at Elsfeld, and continued on until noon of the 20th, when they
arrived at Arnheim, Holland. After many delays they set sail on
the morning of July l2th in the ship LULU, and landed at Philadelphia,
Pa., September l8th.
The story of the journey and voyage
is briefly told by George Kiess, Sr., one of the parties, who
kept a diary. It will be noticed in the record that the company
of men, women and children were on the way for one hundred and
one days, sixty-eight of which were spent huddled together on
an overcrowded emigrant ship at sea. It can be safely inferred
that they paid their passage including food, for they complained
that "the food was poor, the water bad and the beer sour."
In spite of this unsanitary situation and the terrorizing experiences,
there were but two deaths, small children, and. one child was
It is related that during the tedious
days of the voyage, religious discussion occupied much of the
time, often becoming very animated and intensely earnest. The
result of this was a splitting into two groups with two distinct
lines of thought. The division was over the adoption of celibacy
as soon as it should become practical.
The party separated upon landing.
The group favoring celibacy selected a leader and went to Butler
County, and after considerable moving about founded what is the
present town of Ambridge.
The second group spent the winter
in Germantown while deciding upon the location of their colony.
Their pastor and leader was Doctor Conrad Haller, who during his
stay in Germantown the year before had become a Dunker, and although
his company were Reformed Lutherans (but called Pietists), they
were easily persuaded to accept this form of faith and practice,
which was an easy transition, so that they came to Lycoming county
known as Dunkers.
colony of 1804 comprised the following named persons:
and Gottlieb Heim, bachelors
Ulmer and family
Staiger and family
George Waltz and family
George Kiess and family
Young and family
Harmon and family
Gross and family
Biehl and family
Frederick Scheel and family
Burghardt and family.
Waltz, and their families.
From this time emigration was prohibited
for ten years, after which time John Heim returned to Germany
and brought out the following families:
Christian Heim, Jacob
two were brothers of John and Gottlieb), Frederick Schafer, John
Wagner, Jacob Guinther, Abraham Schiedt, Jacob Streile, Jacob
Kurtz, John Kurtz, Ulrich Stabler, Abraham Wolf and Michael Stroble.
Other families came from time to
time. Some became converts with the Dunkers, but many settled
nearby and inter-married.
During the winter of 1804-05, Dr.
Haller, Wendel Harmon and a number of the unmarried men began
to look for land to purchase. Wendel Harmon was the financier
in the group and the deed was made in his name. (This original
deed is now in the possession of L. J. Ulmer.)
These men got in with Quaker land
speculators, who abounded around Philadelphia at that time, and
one Jesse Willits persuaded Harmon to buy a tract of about 422
acres called "Hopewell." This was located in what is
now Loyalsock Twp., Lycoming County. Willits had bought the tract
in 1794, paying four dollars. He deeded it to Harmon January 31,
1805, for about $1,500 ($3.65 an acre). Later a fair price for
land in the same vicinity was $1.50 an acre. Those named in the
title purchase were: John Heim, Gottlieb
Heim, Leonard Ulmer,
Michael Bertsch, Leonard Staiger, George Waltz, George Kiess and
Ferdinand F. Scheel.
Harmon remained in the community
until 1840. By this time he was in disrepute with several of his
neighbors because of financial matters and was forced to leave.
It is interesting to note that these
people had their choice of either river bottom or hill land, such
as they chose. The river land was not heavily timbered, while
the other was covered with dense stands of white pine towering
from 100 to 150 feet (the last of these may still be seen just
over the hill to the right of the cemetery). They were used to
the hills in Germany and the lower ground did not seem as healthful
to them. As a result they chose the hill lands and with them much
hard work in clearing and farming.
The route taken by these early settlers
from Germantown led through Reading and what is now Pottsville,
Mt. Carmel and Bears Gap to Danville, the Indian trail was followed
up to Mahoning Creek, after crossing the Susquehanna at Danville,
through the Muncy Hills to the Loyalsock Creek. From there they
followed the Sheshequin path to the end of their journey (some
12 or 15 miles). May 20, 1805, the colonists reached the summit
of Quaker Hill hence they could look down into the valley where
they were to make their homes. The sight they saw (it seemed an
almost impossible one to some) was a valley turned almost white
by the dogwood and rhododendron blossoms in full bloom. The almost
spontaneous exclamation, "A Blooming Grove!" has remained
the name of the community ever since.
These families built a long log
hut where they lived together while the men cleared their own
land and built cabins. This was very hard work and slow, with
nothing but oxen and the axe to work with. First the trees were
girdled and then cut. However, they found that their work was
easier if the trees were cut green. The trunks were cut into lengths
that could be handled by an ox team, put on piles and burned.
Had these logs been sawed, boards three feet wide and twelve to
sixteen feet long would not have been uncommon. Picking stone,
clearing of underbrush and preparation for planting all took many
days before the ground was finally ready for the seed. About this
same time a rude hut of round logs was built on the lower side
of the road from the present old Church building, in which Dr.
HaIler lived and served them as doctor, preacher and schoolmaster.
It was not long before the smoke
of civilization was curling up through the trees from the fireplaces
of the cabins. But work as they might, the frost came so early
they could hardly realize that summer was over. The winter was
so long and severe that the strongest hearts quailed for the sake
of their loved ones. With a ready axe and plenty of trees they
could easily keep the fireplace stocked, and their single-room
houses comfortable. But sufficient clothing had not been provided
for such hardship and exposure: The food supply became exhausted
and starvation hovered over them for many long days.
After the season had settled in
this, their first spring, so that men could be about, some of
the strongest went by way of Indian trails (for there were no
roads for many years) across the hills to Williamsport in search
of food for their people. They did not come back empty-handed,
but with liberal response to their appeal went also the information
of the fishing grounds at the foot of Hepburn's Lane and also
at Jaysburg (Newberry). Here each spring, the people from Blooming
Grove came to lay in their annual supply of shad and other fish,
which they salted down or smoked, for future use. They did not
use firearms because of religious scruples until they were finally
forced to or be destroyed by the wild beasts.
In that early day the streams would
freeze to the bottom, the snow fell to a depth of several feet.
Then hunger and thirst would drive the wild animals ravening for
food, to capture or terrify the domestic animals, or even themselves.
The panthers would scream from the treetops. (The story is told
that one man, hearing such a scream, thought it was a fellow settler
in need of help and answered several times before he realized
what it really was and, just in time, shut his door and darkened
the window, remaining quiet until the panther went away.) The
wolves howled around their cabins at night, and in the daytime
carried off the sheep. The bears would catch young pigs and upset
the bee scaps for the honey. The foxes, owls, hawks, crows, minks,
weasels and skunks would ravage their poultry yards. So, besides
for protection, the use of the gun became indispensable in furnishing
their supply of meat for many years.
What crushing toil consumed that
first spring and summer a year after their arrival, and indeed
many succeeding years, the people of today cannot comprehend.
To cut down those great forest trees, with logging and hauling,
burning and grubbing of timber that would now be worth a fortune.
But then its prompt destruction was imperative that they might
scratch up the ground between the stumps and scatter a little
rye or barley (they knew nothing of corn), and so grow some grain
for their families. The second winter was not much more comfortable
than the first, though previous experience had taught them to
prepare for what they might expect. But from that time oh, their
industry and frugality began to yield their reward.
The spinning wheel and loom became
fixtures in each cabin. The women raised flax, which eventually
came from the wheel as yarn or "fine twined linen."
The wool from the sheep was fashioned into homespun garments or
yarn for knitting.
There were, of course, many deprivations.
Sugar was almost unknown. Once a year someone would come from
Blockhouse with maple sugar. Each family purchased a pound or
two. One of the sources of salt was from two wells about 20 feet
deep, located on Wallis Run, west of Lycoming Creek. It was found
that the brine from these wells yielded about one tablespoon of
salt to eight quarts of water. The people went to the mouth of
Lycoming Creek (about 10 miles) to get their grain ground. Pure
white flour was a luxury to be used only when company was present.
Other times whole-wheat flour and rye flour were used. The problem
of footwear was a serious one. There were tanneries at Williamsport,
and later at Warrensville (a distance of four miles). The settlers
would take a load of bark and some hides to the tannery. They
would leave these hides to be tanned for the half. The process
took one year. During the winter the traveling shoemaker would
go around to the different homes and, for 50c a day and board,
make the family footwear.
As they had been accustomed to worshiping
in secret in Germany, so in the early history of the colony they
naturally gathered at each other's houses or barns for worship
on the Sabbath. In harvest time they would go to Dr. Haller's
on Sunday, take in his crops for him, and afterwards conduct a
religious service at his house or barn, an incident that attracted
no adverse comment. Dr. Haller was permitted to give his services
to his people until they were settled bodily and spiritually.
Then he was stricken with cancer of the throat and went to his
About this time (1828) anew and
larger house of worship was erected, against the slope of the
hill opposite the old cabin. Its dimensions were, 30 feet wide,
40 feet long and 12 feet high in the square. It is built of flat
hewn logs, with joints "chinked and daubed." The girders
are counter hewn and the lumber all worked out by hand. It remains
today just as it was when built, with the exception of the weatherboards,
which were put on for the sake of preservation. The interior,
however, has not been changed, even to the table used by Dr. Haller.
Such splendid pine trees as afforded these logs extending the
entire length of the building, with their broad hewn surfaces
polished by time, are unknown to the present generations.
The long plain benches without back
supports, testify to a race vigorous and robust, and who scorned
any show of comfort or ease. To this building the people would
walk, sometimes as far as six miles, carrying those children who
were not able to walk, to the Sunday afternoon service. The older
people would occupy the seats next to the wall; the women would
occupy the section to the left of the speaker and the men to the
right. After listening to a sermon that lasted over an hour, they
retraced their steps back home. If the children went to sleep
during the service they were laid on the floor under the benches
until it was over. It was only very rarely that evening services
were held. Then the candle holders hanging to the posts contained
the candles supplying the light.
After the death of Dr. Haller in
1828, Gottlieb Heim was chosen to the sacred office. After him,
in 1844, David Young was selected, then Christian Reisch; Frederick
Weinman and Christian "Christly" Heim, who served many
years until his death in 1878. After him, Dr. Adams, John Schaefer,
Gottlieb Heim and Abraham Beidelspacher led in worship.
These Dunker people had no official
organization, and kept no records; never united with any established
body of believers, nor sent delegates to the Conferences. In fact,
their preachers were not ordained at all, but acted on the united
wish of the people, as their spiritual leaders, succeeding each
other as they became too old and enfeebled to discharge their
duties. Their purity of life and fidelity of spirit marked them
as the highest type of Christian character to be found anywhere.
So, as the old Dunker fathers gradually passed away, and not having
provided the means for keeping the young people together, the
followers have now joined other congregations, mostly the Baptists
<Back to Top>
of dwellers in Blooming Grove, born to the new dispensation, can
contrast their present environment with that of their ancestors.
In 1804 there was but one public road
in the West Branch Valley, and that ended at Newberry. All others
were Indian paths brushed out enough to allow a horse to be led
by the rein, and so called "bridle paths." There were
no bridges over the streams. Many hairbreadth escapes and many drownings
occurred in fording through the swift water. There were no railroads
anywhere in the country for twenty-four years. There was no canal
in the valley for 30 years. The settlers before them came up in
canoes or on foot, as they did.
Their mechanical tools consisted of
a clumsy pole axe, a sickle and a mattock, with which they cleared
the land and harvested their crops. For a long time they did their
cooking by an open chimney place in winter, and by a stump in summer.
They heated large quantities of water, when required, by casting
red-hot stones into sections of trees containing water. It was a
day of luxury when the crane was first put into the fireplace, and
another when the first iron kettle was brought into the settlement.
They used wooden platters until they
could buy pewter or, as a luxury, German silver. The earthenware,
made of common red clay, glazed with lead, was made in Jaysburg
by Joseph King, and was used for platters, bowls, crocks, etc.,
for 50 years. They had no matches for 50 years, using the tinder
box, flint and steel. They used pitch pine splints for light, and
only the well-to-do had iron lamps for burning lard or other grease.
They had no envelopes or postage stamps for 50 years.
They had very few bake ovens for a long time. They carried their
unbaked bread as far as two miles to an oven. It is remembered of
the late Joseph Gross, that when a young man, he was sent with the
dough to an oven, and in climbing a fence he lost his balance, and
also his dough, which fell to the ground. He gathered it up, brushed
off the dirt as well as he could, and took it on to the oven.
They had no horses for many years,
using Oxen or hand work altogether. It is not a great while since
the days when the mother would leave her children, and with a great
basket of butter, eggs and produce balanced on her head, would walk
the 15 miles to and from town to serve her customers or barter for
the few store necessities which they required. Neither is it so
long since the ox-teams brought in great loads of cordwood and piled
it along the railroad track. Men armed with bucksaws, would cut
it in two for the locomotives on 'the Williamsport & Elmira
railroad, after the strap road and horses had been abandoned. It
was not known then that coal could be used in locomotives.
The spinning wheel, the loom, the
flax hackle, the sickle, the flail, iron lamp, steelyards arid other
household appliances are now exhibited as curiosities. The use of
the sickle was supplanted by the grain cradle, invented by their
ingenious English neighbor, Samuel Ball, in 1847. He first hunted
in the woods for the naturally crooked sticks for the snathe and
fingers, but when the demand for his contrivance became so great,
he bent them by a steam box and form. These grain cradles are yet
manufactured by the Balls and shipped to various parts of our land.
It was a great day when the first yoke of oxen was trained to the
plow, and thus gave rest to the mattock for loosening the soil.
To the next generations the speech
and the written dialect will be obsolete, though a few still can
speak it and read it. With their passing it will be gone.
<Back to Top>
OF THE HOME
In Blooming Grove the
first homes built were small, round log huts, the joints chinked
and daubed; with puncheon floors or just the hard packed earth.
A clapboard roof, held down with poles, open fireplace, the rude
chimney built outside the hut. From a thinly hewn piece of white
oak, set on edge, and resting on projecting stones within the jambs,
they suspended their long hooks and trammels to hold their pots
and kettles. The hot ashes and coals alone furnished means for cooking
and heating. They had but one window, which was alongside the door,
and was made of greased paper. The door itself was often the hide
of some animal or a blanket hung on wooden pins.
As they became settled in some degree
of comfort, they built new houses. These were larger than the first,
with aloft, reached by means of a ladder inside, or in some cases,
outside. After the walls were up, the irregular surface within was
hewn flat, the joints closed by chunks of wood and clay mortar,
then whitewashed, The more prosperous now introduced the swinging
crane with hooks and trammels, as well as skillets, "Dutch
ovens," etc. They now began to use "bull's eye" glass
in their window, hung their doors on wooden hinges, with great wooden
latches, "with the string always out," as was said in
a spirit of hospitality. They would twist straw into rope and make
bread baskets, bee hives, baby cradles, etc., by working the straw
rope into different forms with white oak splints. Farming implements
made of oak and mounted with iron, now came into use. Well made
sleds and coopers' vessels supplanted the natural crook and dugout
forms. When their log cabins were being built by the men, the women
would walk several miles to the saw mill and carryon their heads
or backs, the boards needed for the gables, floors, doors and other
The next advance was shown in the
house of two or more rooms, chimney inside, board floors and shaved
shingle roofs, hinges for doors and other iron work, such as stands
for their stoves, nails, etc., all made by the blacksmith; also
cellar and spring house of stone; the tin plate stove for heating
in winter. In very small families they were used altogether and
the fireplace abandoned. After a time the people began to cover
their log houses with "weather boards." The new structures
were made of hewn timber frames and sawed lumber, with store hardware.
The log barn gave way to buildings on the same plan as the house.
Both men and women braided rye straw
and made their hats for summer. They reckoned twenty-four yards
of braid for each hat, which was formed over a block. In winter
the men wore a long, conical knit cap of colored wool, with a tassel,
which on special occasions, such as going to church or to town,
was covered with a fur hat, such as were made then in Williamsport.
Fred Biel, a cripple, is remembered as a straw hat maker.
<Back to Top>
The greater portion
of the men who comprised this colony had the courage of their convictions,
even unto death. They were deep thinkers, and extremely well educated.
Many of them had been taught in the higher institutions of learning
in Germany. As a result, they required their children, here in this
sparsely settled community, to get an education, sometimes at great
cost. Many of the children walked four miles morning and evening
each day of the three months term in the bitter winter weather.
The first school in this region was
established by the Quakers, on Quaker Hill, about the beginning
of the 19th century. There was a school at Hepburnville in 1805,
and later one on Christian Hill, east of Warrensville. But these
were English schools and not sectarian. The Germans built their
first school house as a mere hut, with open fireplace and oiled
paper windows, near the present church, where Dr. Haller taught.
Dr. Haller was a highly educated man.
Besides his native German, he spoke French, Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
He not only taught this first school and served many years as the
minister of their Church, but also administered to their medical
needs. He was a severe disciplinarian. One day all the boys in school
were soundly flogged because they played during the noon hour while
he was absent.
Later a better building of hewn logs
was erected near Wendel Harmon's, and afterwards called "Klump's
School," from the name of the blacksmith nearby. It was arranged
with the desks along the wall, with the pupils facing the wall,
the boys on one side, the girls on the other, and the little children
around tables in the center. The teacher's desk was at the rear
of the room. The smallest children had a Primer from which they
learned their letters, and the simplest combinations. They were
then promoted to the "spelling class," then to the "Psalm
class," next to the "Testament class," and finally
to the "Bible class," after which their education was
completed. The teacher would set them "sums to do," and
write '”copies" for them on foolscap paper, to be laboriously
imitated with the goose quill pen. Three months in winter was the
usual term of school.
These people were opposed to the school
law of 1834. They believed the result would be an inferior school.
They were afraid of the taxation that would come and also because
it was designated that the English language was to be used. However,
the law went into effect and an English teacher was put in charge.
The Germans did not like this teacher and so started a school of
their own at one of the farm houses. This was on the farm now owned
by Fernando Heim. The cost of the school was divided among those
Among those teachers who followed
Dr. RaIler were Michael Biel, Joseph Gross, "Christly"
Heim and Gottlieb Heim.
This, then, was Blooming Grove, a community-homes, church and school-founded
by sturdy, religious and well educated Germans, located in a valley
between Quaker Hill on the east, Ball's Mills on the west, parallel
with the West Branch Valley, and seven miles from Market Square,
Williamsport, to the Dunker Church, ''as the crow flies," north.
(Taken from the first history ever
written about the community, by J. H. McMinn, in 1901, and from
a brief sketch written by David C. Ulmer.)
<Back to Top>
(Written by Elma Heim Larimore)
Since weaving seems
to have been one of the main occupations of the first
Heims in this
country. John, Gottlieb and their married brother Jacob all being
weavers, I feel that perhaps a little about that art would be of
interest. Jacob Heim was the last one of the
Heim men to do weaving.
His youngest daughter, Mary Heim Shafer, of Ridgeway, Ontario, still
remembers how it was done. Also one of his grandsons, Jacob S.
Heim, remembers a great deal of it. From these I have gotten the information
for this story.
The flax seed was "broadcasted"
over the ground in May and raked in with the hand rake. It grew
from 12 to 24 inches tall, depending on the season, and had many
pretty, pink blossoms. In September it was pulled in bunches called
"wrists," because each bunch was to be about the size
around of a person's wrist. These were tied and shocked up in little
shocks till partly dried. Then they were taken to the house and
kiln dried in a sort of oven of rocks out of doors, just as it was
needed to work on, not all of it at once. When it was quite brittle,
the seeds were removed by pulling the bunches of stems through a
long toothed, steel comb. This was called a "heckle."
All the flax seed was sold for making paint, except that needed
for the next year's crop.
The stems were then put through a
home made machine called a "flax break." This breaks up
the center core of the stem and leaves the long, tough fibers. These
fibers were then pulled through a series of steel toothed combs,
coarse, medium and fine, the teeth of which were about three or
four inches long. This was done in order to separate out all but
the very best long fibers. These were spun into thread and yarn.
The thread was used for weaving and sewing and the yarn for knitting
The spinning was usually done in the
evenings by the girls and women. Some of the spinning wheels were
hand made and many are still in the possession of the various families
in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, though the art of spinning is lost.
The weaving looms were sometimes hand made and some were bought.
Jacob Heim did weaving whenever he had time to spare from his farm
work. He did custom weaving for anyone in the settlement. In later
years when cloth could be bought in the stores at reasonable prices
he wove only the rag carpet. They often left the linen cloth the
natural color, but sometimes bleached it. Also brown checked and
blue checked cloth was woven, walnut bark being used for brown dye
and indigo for blue. They never faded.
For the wool, they started by washing
the sheep. The sheep were penned near a stream and were taken one
at a time into the running water. The wool was rubbed and squeezed
to get the dirt and burrs out of it. This was done in late May.
When they were thoroughly dry again, the sheep were sheared. The
wool was carded by hand at first and later was taken to the carding
mill at Hepburnville. The wool was spun on a large wheel made for
that purpose, not on the same one used for the flax. After spinning
it was dyed and used for knitting stockings, socks, mittens and
scarfs, and for weaving blankets and cloth for men's and women's
Jacob Heim's loom is now being used
by Helen S. Fisher, daughter of Charles F. and Hannah
of Warrensville, Pa., and a great granddaughter of Jacob Helm. She
uses it for making rugs and shopping bags.
<Back to Top>
BUTTER MAKING IN BLOOMING GROVE, PA.
DURING THE 8O's AND 90's.
When we see in the
stores today the small jar with its fancy label marked "Home
Made Apple Butter," we think, "What do you know about
REAL home made apple butter such as we had stored away in large
gallon crocks in our childhood days," and a memory picture
comes to me! How was it made?
Well, there was, of course, preparation
for the making of it. First of all, the apples were gathered for
cider and taken to a cider press, sometimes five or six miles away.
Other times a hand press was used for small amounts. If possible,
only sweet apples were used, the best ones being put aside for cutting
into "snitz" for the apple butter. There were the "Rambos,"
the "Sheep hose" or "Gilly Flower," the "Seek-No-Farther,"
the "Smokehouse," and the "Bellflower."
For a large kettle of apple butter
a barrel of cider was used, which was boiled down about one-third,
until it was strong and clear. Usually this was done in a large
copper kettle, placed over a furnace in the basement or wash-house
on the same evening while the apples were being cut. If there was
no furnace, it was done out in the open, in a kettle hanging from
chains in a frame over the fire, and many smoky tears were shed
till the work was done.
The evening of the apple cutting was
enjoyed, especially by the young people. It was a social event in
the neighborhood. Early in the evening, relatives who lived near,
and neighbors came in to help. Grandfather and grandmother never
missed one such gathering. They did their full share of work, as
well as adding to the general fun of the evening. At our house we
had a long table in the kitchen and all sat around it with dishes
for the apples in front of them. For one barrel of cider they used
two and a half bushels of pared and quartered apples, always saying,
"five halfbushels of snitz." We had what was then considered
quite a modem convenience, an apple-peeler. Now this same peeler
is found in the museum as an antique. The peeling was done by the
older boys, my brother and a cousin. The girls who were old enough
to cut apples usually gathered about one end of the table, while
the older folks had the other end, and conversation of a more serious
nature. Sometimes there was singing and the new songs then were,
"Twilight Is Stealing," and "Over the Garden Wall."
When we could sing "Nellie Was a Lady," and "Tavern
In the Town" we were considered quite modern. Hymns too, were
sung, such as "Bringing In the Sheaves," and "In
the Sweet Bye and Bye." The younger girls, I among these, were
kept busy bringing the peeled apples to the table and emptying the
"snitz" into tubs out on the porch.
When enough apples were cut, it was
nearing midnight. By this time the smaller children were asleep
in the bed room, and grandfather and grandmother went home to bed.
Then came the midnight lunch, bread, butter, coffee, new cider,
gingerbread and of course, pie. After this came the real work of
boiling. When the apples had been washed they were put into the
boiling cider, just a few at a time. Then began the stirring, with
abroad stirrer having a long handle. This had to be kept up steadily
till the apples were all boiled fine and smooth. When it was nearly
done it was rather hard work and it required two people to use the
stirrer. And I think some of the young couples rather enjoyed this
opportunity for a little chat. From midnight on I can't say 1 was
an eyewitness, for we too, were sent to bed. But in the early morning
the apple butter was done. Sometimes they waited till morning to
begin boiling, and worked most of the day. The last thing, just
before taking it from the fire, spices were added, and an expert
knew just how much cinnamon, cloves or "fennil" to use.
When apples were not sweet enough, sugar was added.
It always tasted the same, and we knew the taste all too well, for
it was a regular dish on our tables and found its way into school
lunches. After the apple butter was pronounced done, the fire was
drawn out and gallon crocks brought out to be filled. Whenever I
see an old gray and blue crock marked with the trade-mark, "Cowden
& Wilcox," or "Sipe & Son," it suggests "apple
butter" to me. These crocks, too, find their way to the museum.
Next day, when they were cool enough,
they were covered with white paper and stored away. It was common
to make 20 or 30 gallons in a season if apples were plentiful. One
boiling, such as I have described, would make from twelve to fourteen
gallons. Some was sold to customers in Williamsport, for as much
as fifty cents a gallon! This was one of the common practices in
the Blooming Grove settlement. Not a family but what boiled its
apple butter every fall. A few details might differ in the various
families, but in general this would fit any of the
Heims, Ulmers, Shafers and any of the others in this history who lived in Blooming
Gone are those days, gone the methods
and gone many of those who were with us then. But we linger on and
memory weaves many happy recollections for us which we want to share
and pass on to those coming after us.
Written by Susan
Little, Williamsport, Pa.
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OF THE NEBRASKA COLONY
(Written by Sophia Heim Ulmer)
In the year of 1870,
David Vetter of Rulo, Nebr., went to Pennsylvania to visit his relatives,
one of who was his cousin, Margaret Staiger Heim, wife of Gottlieb
Heim, on the Loyalsock. He told his story so well that Jacob G.
Heim, son of Gottlieb and Margaret
Heim, and my father, returned
to Nebraska with him to see for himself what the country was like.
At that time the railroad stopped at the Missouri River.
Father fell in love with the country
and wanted to sellout right away, but Mother would not consent.
She could not leave her people and take a large family so far. But
Father kept talking about it and finally she consented when she
realized that in a few years her children would begin to scatter
as in Pennsylvania. They could not get land for them in the old
settlement. Then it took some time to find a buyer for their rocky,
hill farm, so that in all, it took four years.
In the spring of 1873 a group of Blooming
Grove men decided to go west and buy land. Just what part they were
headed for we don't know, but they had been reading or hearing about
the wonderful land in the Republican River valley, in the southern
part of Nebraska, so it is likely that was their goal. In the group
were Frederick Schaefer, John (Johnnie) Heim and John J.
other men sent money with these to be invested in land for them
also. One of these was Christian D. Heim. They intended to stop
in Ohio and Rulo, Nebr., on their way. It seems their intention
was to start another closely-knit colony similar to Blooming Grove.
But knowing now how plentiful the Indians were in that part of the
State at that time, perhaps it is a good thing the plan was abandoned.
While this group was visiting in Ohio,
"Johnnie" Heim received a telegram telling of the death
of his little daughter Martha on May 19. He at once decided to turn
back and the others gave up the plan also and returned to Pennsylvania
with him. They took it as a "sign" that they were not
to carry out this colonization plan. Some of these men later moved
west and some never left Pennsylvania. . If they had continued on
at that time the rest of this history would, no doubt, have been
So in the spring of 1874 father sold
the farm and held a big sale of all his stock, farm implements and
household goods. Everything was sold but bedding, clothes, books
and a very few keepsakes that were packed in with the bedding. They
were told they could buy everything again in Nebraska, but it was
years before we got any but the most necessary things.
For seven weeks after that we visited
in Blooming Grove, and at last about May 23 we bid all our friends
and relatives goodbye and were taken to the train in Williamsport.
Grandfather Heim (Gottlieb
Heim) and Uncle Chris (Christian D.
Heim) went with us to Nebraska. Our own family, besides Father and Mother
were Joe, Sarah, Sam, Jonathan, Rebecca, Solomon, Sophia and Mary.
We were ferried across the Missouri
River at Atchison, Kansas and got on another train to come on up
to Rulo. Here Mr. Vetter helped the folks rent a small house and
get the family moved into it. We spread bedding on the floor and
used a big packing case for a table and the trunks around it to
sit on. Here four of us proceeded to have measles. The other five
had them after we got moved.
Father next bought a team and wagon
at Falls City and he and Mr. Vetter went out looking for land to
buy. Farms near Falls City were already too high for us, so they
went on west to the Henry Allen's (where I. L. Heim now lives).
Mrs. Lib Buser Allen was an old neighbor of father's. Just across
the road from Allen's was an 80-acre farm he could buy from Tom
Fenton. One of its best features was a fine, never failing spring.
They went back to Rulo to get Mother to see it and she thought she'd
like it there, too. So they bought it for $2,300. With it we got
the crops growing on it, some corn in the crib, some hogs and a
few hens. Dawson was then called Dawson's Mill because Joshua Dawson
owned the grist mill and was postmaster. There were hardly a half
dozen houses in the town, but the Atchison & Nebraska Railroad
went through it by then, going as far as Lincoln. We moved to this
farm July 3rd. The house was very poor, just two small rooms, not
plastered or even boarded on the inside. Just the outside up and
down boards with strips over the cracks.
This was a land of terribly cold winters
and three-day blizzards, so we could not live in that house through
the winter. So in August the folks started building a large basement
house, using big blocks of limestone, dug out of the ground near
the old house, for the walls of the basement. It was several years
before the house was entirely finished upstairs, but we moved into
the basement that fall and lived in two rooms of it that first winter.
The day father and the boys hauled
the first loads of lumber for the new house, the grasshoppers arrived.
They were a hungry horde and ate everything but the prairie grass.
We had no screens on doors or windows, and if they got in the house
they ate holes in our clothing. Wheat had been harvested, so we
had that for our flour, and we butchered our own pork, but other
foods were very scarce.
About September 1, Solomon got sick
and on the 4th he died. The doctor from Salem said it was membranous
croup, but doctors now say there is no such thing, so I don't know
what it was, but he choked to death in Mother's arms. Have thought
perhaps it was some after effect of the measles, which he had in
Rulo. Then, about seven weeks later, little sister Mary got sick
and in five days she died, on October 26. The doctor said it was
membranous croup, too, but she did not die the same way at all;
she just got weaker and weaker. The loss of these two children was
such a shock to all of us and made us feel so alone in this wild
prairie country. Father would have left and gone back to Pennsylvania,
but Mother said, "We can't go back; our money is invested here.
Back there, there is no place for us, and if we did go back, our
children would not be there."
So they went on with building the
The next spring, 1875, about the time
the crops were up nicely, the millions of grasshopper eggs that
had been laid the fall before, began to hatch. Those hoppers again
ate everything in sight. By the middle of June they had wings and
all left at once with a rushing noise. We planted corn and got a
fair crop. Late garden also did well.
The first years in Nebraska Sam and
Jonathan herded cattle on the prairie, our own and sometimes neighbors'
cattle with them. There were 200 in the herd sometimes. It was a
lonesome business out there all day with just the cattle, the pony
and the prairie. It was an occasion when some one else with his
herd came along and visited while the cattle grazed. All was prairie
from the railroad north to the old Hill place, and northwest to
the Cornelius farm. A strip between went all the way to the Muddy
Creek. To the northeast it went nearly to where the town of Stella
now is. A few farms had been broken out in those stretches, but
not many. Prairie fires were numerous but never harmed homes because
of the watch each farmer kept. But they were a fearful sight to
see sweeping so swiftly over the long prairie grass, flames and
smoke leaping high in the air.
Father wrote back to relatives in
Pennsylvania and Ohio, and told them if any wanted to come out to
Nebraska, they should be sure to ship their household goods out
and the people could stay at our house till they had a new home
bought. He wanted others to profit by his experiences.
The first people to accept father's
offer were Mr. and Mrs. John Sippley, their children, Henry, Mollie,
Ella and Andrew, and her father, John Gross, all of Bucyrus, Ohio.
They came in March 1879, and bought a farm about a mile east of
us. John Gross was mother's uncle.
In the spring of 1880, came Mr. and
Mrs. Frederick Marquardt and family, of Pennsylvania. She was a
half cousin of mother's. Also in 1880 came Mr. and Mrs. Christian
Wuster and family of Pennsylvania. She was a daughter of the Marquardts.
On May 31, 1880, our baby sister and
the last member of our family, Maggie Emma, was born.
In the winter of 1880 came Mr. and Mrs. David Wagner and sons, George,
Sam and Reuben. Also their son, Will Wagner, and his wife. They
came from Ohio and bought a farm southwest of Dawson. David Wagner
was a brother-in-law of John Gross and a half-uncle to Mrs. John
J. Heim, Johnnie Heim and Mrs. Jacob Ulmer.
On May 27, 1881, Johnnie
Heim and wife Margaret, with their family of Rosa, Regina, Jonas, Chris,
Linda and Alma came from Pennsylvania. They brought a car of household
goods and stayed with us till they could pick out and buy a new
home. They bought a 160-acre farm a half mile north of Dawson, where
Paul Heim now lives. Later they bought the rest of the land from
there on south to the Nemaha River, about 260 acres. It was on part
of this that the Heim Cemetery was laid out. Linden E.
on 180 acres of this land and the remainder was sold. Emanuel Ulmer
came with the Johnnie Heim's in 1881.
In February 1882, came John J.
and wife Rosina, with their family of Elizabeth, Jacob, Anna, Mary,
Israel, William and Lucy. They had sold their 80-acre Pennsylvania
farm for $5,500, and came to Nebraska with a carload of household
goods and stayed with the Johnnie Heims till they bought the Henry
Allen farm of 160 acres for $4,500. This was just across the road
north of us. The buildings on this farm were fairly good, so no
changes were made for several years.
In the spring of 1883, Henry W.
Heim came from Pennsylvania. He was father's nephew, and our only first
cousin in Nebraska. He worked for us for a year and then rented
the O'Donnell place, later buying the farm now owned by All Ramsey
and still later selling it and moving to the Johnnie
In the summer of 1883 we built a big
bank barn. Had a regular old time "barn raising." Up to
that time we had only straw sheds for the stock.
In October of 1883, John and Margaret
Kerr and their four children, Minnie, Charles, Emma and Carrie,
came from Bucyrus, Ohio. Mrs. Kerr's sister, Ella Eckard, also came
with them. They bought a farm a half mile east of us. Later they
sold this and bought another southwest of Dawson. Mrs. Kerr is a
granddaughter of John Gross and a cousin to mother. Also, through
her grandmother she is a cousin to Mrs. John J.
Heim, Johnnie Heim
and Mrs. Jacob Ulmer.
In January 1884, Jacob and Mary Ulmer
and family of Rebecca, Sarah and Solomon, came from Pennsylvania.
They bought the 80-acre farm adjoining Dawson on the northeast and
were also next to us on the south.
In November 1884, Mrs. Catherine Ulmer
(mother of Emanuel) came from Pennsylvania with her family of Israel,
Sarah and Martin. They bought the farm where Berton W. Williamson
now lives and in 1885 Israel and Martin bought the farm where Martin
and I still live, paying $8,000 for it.
In February of 1885, Mr. and Mrs.
John W. Eckard of Ohio, came. For a time they lived in a house on
the John Sippley place, later buying a farm about 31/2 miles east
of Dawson. Mr. Eckard was a brother to Mrs. John Kerr, a grandson
of John Gross, and a cousin to mother. Also, through his grandmother,
he was a cousin to Mrs. John -3. Heim, Johnnie
Heim and Mrs. Jacob
In 1886, William and Mary Stoltz and
family came from Pennsylvania. She was a niece of Mrs. Catherine
Ulmer. They bought a farm several miles northeast of Dawson.
After this no more families came to
Nebraska to live. It may be noted that after the country revived
from the grasshopper years, there was about one new family a year
came for a number of years. It may also be noticed that each year
land was higher in price.
As this is strictly a
several of these families really have no part in it, but since they
were all related to each other in some way, and because the folks
were so glad for every one that came, I have included all. I have
not gone into so much detail about the families who came after we
did, as they did not have quite so many hardships.
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