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Peter G. Bertolet, Oley Township, Native Americans, Abraham DeTurk, Moravians, churches, Bethlehem, Revolutionary War, John Loeser, slavery, horns, corn husking, blumpsack
Handwritten notes copied from the unpublished volume Fragments of the Past: Historical Sketches of Oley and Vicinity by P. G. Bertolet, compiled by Alfred L. Shoemaker, originally dated 1860. Within, a number of stories collected from the Oley Valley detail various subjects including encounters with Native Americans, churches, rock formations, Revolutionary War encampments and husking parties.
Fragments of the Past. Historical Sketches of Oley and Vicinity. P. G. Betz [Bertolet?] 1860
They were too poor to build themselves a mill, and the nearest they had for a long while was at Germantown, on the Wissahickon a distance of about fifty miles. To and from this mill they conveyed their grain and meal in sacks on horses, and the only way leading thither was nothing more than an Indian path. The settlers would go in companies. Mrs. J Reppert, when a girl, accompanied in these trips occasionally.
It is said that an exploring party traveled through [the Oley Valley] about the middle of the seventeenth century, and in their way fell in with a savage company of Indians with whom they had a bloody encounter. This is said to have occurred at or near the spot now occupied by the Oley Churches.
Some fabulous tales of flitting ghosts, are yet extant, in the neighborhood where this is said to have occurred. This was often repeated to us in our boyhood. We were told, that there would at times become visible, and not unseldom so conspicuous in the dusky moonlight; as to alarm not only the credulous people while passing along this place, but even fractious horses would take fright and run away!
p 147-148 [Moravian] School House
In a recent visit to the cemetery with our friend Mr. Abraham DeTurk, one of the oldest inhabitants in the neighborhood, he pointed out to us the broken remains of what was once a slate tomb-stone… the stone is evidently of the same material that is found is some other Moravian burying grounds of the earliest times.
Hitner had then not yet discovered his marble quarry near Philadelphia.
p. 149 Mr. Abraham DeTurk says that fifty years ago (1810) he passed through Bethlehem on his way to Easton, with a load of castings from Oley Furnace. He purposely made his arrangements to noon at Bethlehem, where he stopped at the “Gast House”. Here he met a lively old gentleman, a kind of sine cure about the establishment, and seemed known to everybody by the name Thomas. He seemed everybody’s friend and soon made the acquaintance of DeTurk. He told him that in his younger days he had frequently been to Oley; and at one time our Johannes DeTurk gave him the largest apple he ever saw. This Johannes DeTurk was the grandfather of this guest (whom Zinzendorf had baptized). The old brother became quite interested and told him many adventures of his early life. Among others he told him, that, he had been to the place where Reading now stands, and at that time, there was only one house there, a tavern “das der Venus gerant warde”, this was called the Venus.
p 171 Some of the Indians of this locality were expert basket makers. The baskets they carried around among the settlers. Among these were three Indian brothers, who generally came together. On one occasion as they were carrying about their wares, as they came to the house of John DeTurk, there were but two of them. DeTurk enquired where their brother was and why he was not with them as before. With grinning teeth, one of them replied, “You gill im, we gill you doo,” meaning that the whites had killed their brother and that they would be revenged.
Abraham Bertolet house built in 1736
In those days fish were plentiful in these streams; and in the spring of the year when they ascended the smaller streams, they would come in great numbers into this cellar spring, simply to revel or whether attracted by the viands stored there, we know not. But this we are told that many of these finny adventurers became luckless game for the children, in the evening, who would “gig” them by candlelight, with table forks. It must have been delightful sport for the juveniles. Just think of going to the cellar to catch live fish!
There is not a shadow of truth in the assertion of some itinerant lecturers that the cause of the erection of these two churches in such close proximity was owing to the manner of repeating the Lord's Prayer “Father our” and “Our Father”.
found instead other animals [than pony]- even the modern innovation of mules in place of the noble horse.
p. 252 Lobachsville
David Lobach Esq. is the postmaster and almost the exclusive owner of the whole town and appurtenances, besides he owns a fine vineyard but a short distance above the place - to which he is paying special attention. His vintage last year was almost an entire failure, but on several seasons before it yielded him well and turned out quite an excellent article of native wine. The rot is the trouble of the vintners here as well as elsewhere, all over the country.
On the hill to the east of the village is a singular formation of rocks called the “Chimney Rocks”. They are found on the summit of the hill and rise perpendicularly some fifty feet in height.
p. 262 General Udree was on some business at Reading that he was stopping at a public house, and while sitting there entered a conversation with an old farmer. Presently a near neighbor of the latter dropped in, and the following colloquy occurred in which Udree soon became deeply interested and a silent listener.
Farmer A accosted no. B “Well how do you do and how are you getting along?”
To which no. B replied, “Not very well”.
No. A, “Why, what is wrong?”
No. B "Why things have so changed. Things are not now as they used to be when I was young. I have those big boys, John, Jake, and Pete all grown up, but they won’t work a stroke unless they have the bottle behind and before whenever they are to the least work; and I begin to fear that if this state of affairs is to continue I will ere long be the father of a real set of drunkards. What my friend is to be done? This was not so when we were young and we grew up strong and vigorous. Each did more work without whiskey than they do with it and besides the noisy disturbance on the premises.
John Ponsler p. 288 had his tendon Achilles shot off in [Revolutionary] war
302 When the officers of the American army went around the country to make improvements, many farmers took timely warning to collect their wagons and horses in obscure places to avoid this duty. Kemp’s woods bears the marks of such a camp to the present day. Many particulars in regard to this have been related to me but these particulars and specialties with names, would at the present day not be much rebuked and must therefore be excused for not giving them.
p. 302 Sometime during the Revolutionary War a considerable number of militia had collected close by the Oley church, and here established a fortified camp which was occupied for some time. The usual train of outsiders, of hucksters and soldiers of course gathered thickly around them. After awhile it was discovered that this camp drew pretty extensively upon the fence-rails and other combustible materials for fuel in the neighborhood without any special leave or license.
John Loeser who owned most of the fields in this vicinity found this exceedingly annoying and in his usual way of trickery determined to rid himself of the source of this annoyance. Accordingly one day he came riding up the road from Amity - his horse all in foam and in breathless haste informed the soldiers and people that the British were coming up the road post haste - in pursuit of them - that he had seen the enemy at the White House Tavern; and made this haste to give them a timely warning of the enemy’s approach. The ruse had the desired effect. It was scarcely said and the camp was broken up, the military equipages hastily packed for a march. The hucksters and [illegible] threw their store boxes pell-mell into their wagons and drove off at full gallop - and soon the flight became general helter skelter fashion. They retreated to the hills of Pike Tp. Loeser was thus rid of his annoyance - and too in a manner that he did many of his transactions.
Slavery in Oley 359
Mike had three brothers one named Anthony another Louis. Anthony was slave to Peter Yoder. Both these brothers, Mike and Anthony were celebrated fiddlers. Anthony on several occasions carried nine bushels of wheat at his masters - from the barn to the house.
Louis was slave with his brother Mike to John Loeser. He was treated so cruelly (by L.) that he went away and dug himself a hole in the ground - and harbored in this subterranean retreat until the time of his death, gaining his subsistence mainly from the neighboring hen-roosts. The spot of this excavation was near Peter Griesemer’s house and the indentation, pointed out to be from this circumstance is to be seen to the present day.
p 332 Thos P. Lee introduced the first drilling machine 1846. David Yoder Sr, the first reaper 1845
p. 338 harvest. All retire to rest for the short and warm night - to be ready in the morning before the sun again kisses the hill-tops - to resume their labors in the harvest field - and well do I recollect and after was I one of the company - that did one hour's faithful work before that echoing horn announced to us that breakfast was ready. But that horn - the sound of which was so sweet and reverberated so beautifully over the valley in the dewy morn, like many other things had to make room for the modern innovation of bells - which now supplies this throughout.
We yet distinctly recollect that in the morning we could distinctly hear at the same time the blowing of half a dozen horns - in the neighborhood, not the mere toot, toot, but sweet airs as I went home and of which we knew the performers - from the repetition day after day, had grown as familiar to us as household words. Nay more - they always brought to mind many other dear thoughts. For many of those blowing the many breakfast horns were none other than the hale, fair daughters of our neighbors with whom we had often so pleasantly associated - even as lover and sweetheart. But this must do - only this - those were happy times. Oh, if life could only remain thus, a constant stream of guiltless happiness - there would perhaps be less to answer for than so - as we have grown older. Yet it makes us feel sad and melancholy as we write this, for until but a single exception - all these fair performers - yes those very merry hearts that so often sounded the breakfast horn are slumbering long since in their silent graves.
1860 in Oley:
Milk cows 974
Other cattle 936
Working oxen 10
“Huskings” were at one time a great source of amusement but are not now as common as in former years. Huskings were gotten up, by first hauling a good lot of unhusked corn in the barn or some out building, from the field. Then messengers were dispatched throughout the neighborhood inviting all good young folk - to come in - on some appointed evening to help husking the corn; when the barn was lit up with lanterns etc. to give light on the subject, though this was not essential as the evening waned and the fingers grew weary, some thought it just as pleasant to husk, when the candles had burned into the sockets.
After husking an hour or two - by all hands - men and boys, women and girls, whether much was accomplished or not - it was the custom for the host to treat his company with an entertainment. After the farmer’s good things were dispensed with, the young folks generally had things their own way, and often enjoyed themselves to a late hour, sometimes dancing - sometimes playing “blumpsack”.
“Blumpsack” is a play full of fun and amusement. Some unfledged scruplers, may regard this play as rather flat, yet we are sure, as pure hearts enjoyed it, and just as much, and often with a thousand times less to regret - than from transactions in dazzling scenes of ball rooms, participated by persons of a similar age, pretending to belong to a more refined society.
If you will permit - let us be lookers on for a while and see how it is conducted, and enjoy the hearty laughs of the merry group as the play progresses. The arrangement is that pairs of both sexes are seated in a line, while one of the number is selected to patrol all along the line - as chief officer, displaying the insignia of his position which consists of a firmly plaited 'kerchief called “blumpsack”, whence the name of the play.
He commences by proceeding from one couple to another, and makes inquiry in the state of relation, between the partner of the setts, if all is right he passes quietly to the next - if not he makes it his business to suit them by the selection of another partner. But if all this fails - to adjust minor difficulties - blumpsack is brought to bear quite busily upon the back of delinquents and thus soon settles all in their right place.
The beauty of the play consists in this: if any of the…
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Shoemaker, Alfred L., "Notes From Fragments of the Past: Historical Sketches of Oley and Vicinity" (1950). Alfred L. Shoemaker Folk Cultural Documents. 210.
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