The legacy of John Kline

By on May 25, 2016
The Lancaster New Era did a feature on Century Farm award winners in 2007, including the Klines (left to right): Paul, his brother John, and Paul's son Ronald. (photo by Marty Heisey)

The Lancaster New Era did a feature on Century Farm award winners in 2007, including the Klines (left to right): Paul, his brother John, and Paul’s son Ronald. (photo by Marty Heisey)

John B. Kline, a familiar farmer who lived just north of Lititz in Lexington, sadly passed away last month at the age of 92.

In a unique way, he was a mentor of mine, and I’d like to take the time this month to recognize him for all of his achievements.

Graduating from Warwick Union High School (Rothsville) in 1942, first in his class, John worked as an electrician, farmer, and author throughout his long and productive life. He was also a “tinkerer,” and for many years he lived on the Kline family farm on Snyder Hill Road. A Preserved Century Farm, the property was an original land grant from William Penn to William Kline in 1741. Then, in 1858, Hiram Kline built the farmhouse which is located on the property to this day.

I had the pleasure of visiting and speaking with John several times in 2010 while doing research for my book on Warwick Township. Although he didn’t know me, he always happily answered all of the questions I had. Often, what was supposed to be a quick stop at his farm would yield hour-long chats about local history and mutual people that we knew. Several times, he would even guide me around his property, showing off some of his fruit trees and livestock. I was fascinated, and he always made it interesting and fun.

John was a noted authority on area history, and penned several books on a variety of unique subjects.

His first book, published in 1975 and entitled “Tobacco Farming and Cigar Making,” explored this now lost art and described the skills, tools, and items needed for this once popular local industry. It also contained numerous photos.

John Kline's 1976 book, "The Historic Brunnerville Iron Foundry and Agricultural Works."

John Kline’s 1976 book, “The Historic Brunnerville Iron Foundry and Agricultural Works.”

During America’s bicentennial year of 1976, Kline published his second book and what would become his most widely-known. “The Historic Brunnerville Iron Foundry and Agricultural Works” discussed the history of this once thriving business just north of Lititz. Filled with illustrations and photographs, Kline made the story seem to come to life and jump off the page via his “down-home” descriptions and special storytelling technique.

In 1983, he founded “The Tool Collector Magazine,” an invaluable reference and information guide for collectors all across the United States.

In 1990, he penned “Rural Recreation: The Traditional Adult Game of Cornerball, Plus Country Schools and Their Recess Games.” As the title suggests, this unique volume traced the history of rural games played by local children many years ago.

Later in the 1990s, Kline wrote a series of booklets which contained short stories, anecdotes, and lessons on the Pennsylvania Dutch language.

Unfortunately, most of Kline’s books are now out of print, but remain highly prized by local collectors.

 

John B. Kline died April 12 at age 92. His obituary was published in the April 20 Record Express.

John B. Kline died April 12 at age 92. His obituary was published in the April 20 Record Express.

In 2011, I paid a visit to John on the way to my book release party. I wanted to personally give him a copy, and thank him once again for all the help he had given me. Although I was dressed up for the reception, we once again walked around his property. On this particular visit, he showed me his paw-paw trees and other vegetation around his acreage. Sadly, little did I know that this would be the last time I would see him.

I feel privileged to own copies of all of his books, most of which are autographed. More so, I cherish the times I got to spend with him discussing local history, his farm, and the simple country life.

Thank you, John.

Cory Van Brookhoven is a freelance feature writer who focuses on local history. He is a Lititz Borough councilman and president of the Lititz Historical Foundation.

 

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