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With a chill in the air Sunday was a good night for graveyard tales
By: LAURIE KNOWLES CALLANAN Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
It was a dark and stormy night… perfect for Sunday’s Moravian Cemetery Tour.
While attendance was down from previous years, the chilly rain didn’t keep about 75 "die-hards" from attending the annual event, which explores Moravian history through the eyes of those who lived before. Lantern-toting guides led visitors to the grave sites of those who had found their final resting places in the church grounds.
This year’s tour examined the Moravians during the Revolutionary War. At that time, the pacifist church was at odds with the colonial fight for freedom from England.
"That put the Moravians in a difficult predicament," noted Dale Shelley, tour organizer.
Shelley used 18th century diaries to prepare stories, which were told by current church members dressed in period garb, for the popular autumn event.
While the Lititz Moravians of the 1770s did not betray their anti-war beliefs, they did their part to aid the Revolutionary cause. The church had houses for single brothers and single sisters, as well as homes for families. When General George Washington’s troops came to Lititz, the brother’s house was taken over and turned into a military hospital.
Two doctors tended to as many as 1,000 sick and wounded soldiers who arrived over an eight-month period in flat bed wagons from battlefields such as Valley Forge, Brandywine and in New Jersey.
One of those physicians, Dr. William Brown, was portrayed Sunday night by an actor who told about the hardships of the time. Soldiers filled every room of the house and spilled into the hallways. They slept on straw. Moravians provided blankets, shoes and care.
"A malignant fever raged through the hospital," he recalled, adding that the doctors became ill, and several of the brothers and sisters died from the camp fever.
This devastating camp fever claimed the lives of 110 soldiers and 10 officers. They were buried to the east of town, and for many years no one knew exactly where. Then, in 1932, a foundation was being dug for a home on Locust Street. To the surprise of the builders, human bones were discovered about three feet deep. The home was built nearby instead.
An account in the Lititz Record from 1932 told how the bodies were laid shoulder to shoulder, with six to eight bodies in each trench. No clothing or buttons were found with the bones. Shelley reported that the bodies of the officers were returned to their homes for burial. But most of the soldiers were young men who never returned home and left families who never knew what happened to them.
The tour also visited the 18th century stone corpse house, where early Moravians kept bodies of the deceased prior to burial. Inside the corpse house, there was a wooden casket and a wheeled corpse-carrier once used to bury the dead. Shelley explained that the building was designed with ventilation. Bodies were kept on a cooling board for three days, then placed in a pine box for burial. The funeral procession was accompanied by the trombone choir.
"It was the custom of the Lititz Moravians to never bring the body into the church," Shelley added.
Some of those who were buried in the Moravian cemetery in the tradition of the time were Linden Hall teacher Salome Hueber, who had nine children and served as a deaconess before her death in 1867. Suzanna Zitzman was a Linden Hall pupil whose husband was landlord of the Lititz Springs Hotel and postmaster for 19 years. She died at age 90 in 1879.
Others who were buried in the cemetery recounted their lives in Lititz, including Johanna Augusta Beck, who married the prominent educator John Beck and died in 1877; Susan Shultz Brickenstein, who was the wife of Rev. A. Brickenstein and died in 1891.
The first baker of "bretzels," later to be known as pretzels, was John William Rauch. He married three times, had seven children, was a tenor singer, trombonist and first violinist.
"I was also a poet," recalled the character of Rauch, who died in 1863.
The tour told the stories of Richard Resh Tshudy, a civil engineer for he railroad and justice of the peace, who died in 1878; John C. Brickenstein, a Moravian pastor in Nazareth and Bethlehem, who came to Lititz to live with his son Hermann Brickenstein until his death in 1880; and Julius Theodore Beckler, a professor who established a private college for girls, Sunnyside, on East Main Street, where the Pilgerhaus was built. Beckler died in 1875.
The cemetery was the final resting place for two other notable Lititz Moravians, Mathias Tshudy Huebner, a store clerk and bank cashier who died in 1884; and Francis William Christ, a deacon, teacher, librarian and assistant Sunday school superintendent, who died in 1883.
"I was justice of the peace," said "Christ," adding that he was appointed postmaster by President Grant.
Perhaps the story of Fredericka Louisa Lindenlos was most dramatic.
Born in Amsterdam, the young woman first lived with a Quaker family in Maryland. She recalled being visited by a richly dressed lady and being induced to go with a seafaring man aboard his ship. Her life was one of mystery and intrigue.
"Whether I was thrown upon the world purposely or kidnapped, this is certain, that my lines were cast in pleasant places, here with the Samuel Sturgis family, the Petersons and finally in the Sister’s House, I found a home," said the character of Lindenlos, who died in 1868.
Despite the rainy weather, Shelley was pleased with the turnout, which was about half the usual number. He said that organizers were not sure if they should proceed with the tour when rain began to fall shortly before the event. But when people came out even in the cold drizzle, they decided to press onward, in the name of history.
"It sets the mood in a way for a cemetery tour," noted Shelley, adding that hot cider and cookies helped warm tour-goers. More CEMETERY TOUR, page A17
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- July 23, 2014