The Mass House: Making a Home for the Church

IMPORTANT NOTE

Although this story about Christian Henrich and his wife Margaret and the Mass House, continue to be fascinating, I now believe I was barking up the wrong tree branch, and they are not actually related to me.  I explain elsewhere how that happened.

It is worth noting that the Catholic church history remains important to my family tree, as my father’s grandfather, Henry Allen Butts and his wife Maria Smith were Catholics. But Joseph Kaser and his wife were members of Reform congregations.

BEWARE if you are researching the family of Joseph Kaser. There apparently were two Elizabeth Stahlers from Berks County, and the one I have been researching, whose parents were Adam Stahler and Eva Maria Henrich, is NOT the one who married Joseph Kaser. 

I have left this post for those people who might be researching the Stahler-Henrich lines.

Additionally at the bottom of the post, you will find links to family homesteads in my actual ancestor lines.

——-

Although the “Mass House” built by my 5th great grandfather, Christian Henrich/Heinrich is long gone, someone who visited the spot took this picture of the still extant farmhouse from the 18th century. (NOTE: April 2, 2018. I am now in touch with the Joseph who entered information on Find a Grave, and will probably be making several adjustments to the information below. BEWARE of facts in flux.)

Christia Henrich's home

Home of Christian Henrich in Berks County, PA, built circa 1760. (Outbuildings later additions)*

When I wrote about the Henrich family in my post about Elizabeth Stahler Kaser, I said this (which turns out to apply to a different Elizabeth Stahler who WAS the daughter of Christian Henrich, but NOT the wife of Joseph Kaser.):

According to the records (written in German) kept by Jesuit priest, Rev. John Baptist Ritter, Elizabeth Stahler was born January 19, 1775. The priest baptized her on the 19th of March at her grandfather, Christian Henrich’s home.  Christian (and his wife Mary Margaret) were as religious as his names sounds.  He built a sort of way station for the priests on the circuit who stopped by to say Mass and officiate in church rituals.  The name, Asperum Collem, meaning ‘sharp-pointed mountain’ in Latin, appears frequently in the Goshenhoppen Register as the site of baptisms and marriages. Today the place, in Berks County, near Allentown Pennsylvania, is known as Spitzenberg Mountain (or Hill) (sharp-pointed mountain/hill in German).

When I went looking for more details on Asperem Collem, I found the picture at the top of the page.  It definitely made this an exciting day of research. Today I would like to fill in a little more of the detail in that sketch of Christian Henrich’s home and Asperum Collem.

THE CHURCH

Religion, as I have discussed earlier, was an important part of the immigrants’ lives.  And the influence reached far beyond Sunday services. As in New England with the meeting houses that doubled as places of worship, the Pennsylvania churches provided a place for the community members to gather. Although unlike New England, there were many denominations in the German community. The church kept the language alive. The church provided social welfare and education. But in the early days, settlers were so far apart that they could not build a church building, so they relied on traveling ministers and priests.

A church opened in Goshenhoppen in 1754, established by the Jesuit priest, Father Schneider, to serve the itinerant priests serving the territory too far from the church for regular attendance. (For the complete history of the early Pennsylvania Catholic church and Goshenhoppen Mission, see http://GoReadingBerks.com )

My German ancestors came from both Reform/Lutheran religious roots and from Catholic roots.  When they arrived by ship in Philadelphia in the mid to late 1700s, they moved on as quickly as they could to better farming country in eastern Pennsylvania.  The towns were widely scattered in that area, and, at first, more wilderness than cultivated fields and village streets.

Most importantly for the researcher, the church kept records. Those traveling priests and ministers provide essential records for historians.  And the Goshenhoppen Register, records births, baptisms, marriages and deaths in Berks and other counties (  Bucks, Northampton, Montgomery, Lehigh, and Lebanon) where my German ancestors lived.

DIGRESSION ON HIS BIRTH AND DEATH DATES

At this point, much research remains on Christian Henrich.  Conflicting data shows two possible arrival years on two different ships, I have not yet seen a translation of his probate papers into English, I have more than one possible birth record in Germany, and although there is a picture of a tombstone, I cannot be certain it is correct when it says he was born December 13, 1715 and died when he was 80.  For now, I will assume that the information on the tombstone is correct.  According to the person who put the picture on Find A Grave.com, the picture was taken by a relative several years ‘previously’  and no tombstones remain where it was found. Rather shaky evidence, so you see why I have much research to do.

THE FARM

Whenever he actually arrived, and it looks like 1732  a better date than 1742, by 1746, he bought his first tract of land.  And by 1767 and 1769 he had prospered enough to expand his farm with two more purchases in Berks and Lehigh Counties of Pennsylvania.

If “Joseph” on Find a Grave is correct, the house you see in the picture at the top of the page dates to the 1760s–post Revolutionary War. However, Christian must have built another house prior to the pictured one, to house his growing family, as he had seven/eight children between 1748 and 1757. (One of those was my 4x Great Grandmother, Eva Maria Henrich Stahler, whose story about her struggle with a widow’s pension I have been writing about.)

THE MASS HOUSE

Apparently,Christian and his wife opened their home to Catholic services soon after building it. But at some point, they built a small stone house as a Mass House where priests could hold services, but also could spend the night, if their travels left them in the region more than a day. Because of that, it could also be called the priest’s house.

The Goshenhoppen Register frequently notes that a baptism or marriage took place in  the house of (various parishioners.) Because of those records, we learn that many of the Henrich children and grandchildren were baptized/or married at the house of Christian Henrich, frequently described as “Asperem Collem,” or “near Asperem Collem” (with the Latin named spelled in various ways.) I cannot tell when Christian Henrich built the separate Mass House, but the earliest baptisms that I found recorded at his house took place in November 1762, and the last one that I saw was in November 1785.

THE CEMETERY

The saddest part of the story about the farm involves a cemetery.  Some believe there are approximately 100 graves on the hillside behind the house, but the stones have all disappeared. [I wonder if the imaging that indicated bodies buried might have revealed an Indian burial ground?  At any rate, the jury is out on whether the 100 graves are real or local lore.

What is known, according to Joseph Eckroad, is that there are four stones on the property.  Christian Henrich and his wife, an obelisk of Indian who requested to be buried near his friend Christian, and a foot stone with initials.

These may be the only remnants of a large family and Catholic community that once gathered at Christian and Margaret’s farm.

Christian Henrich Sr. Tombstone

Christian Henrich Sr. gravestone. Photo downloaded from Find a Grave.com

CHRISTIAN
US HENRICH
IST AM -13- DEC
EMBER 1715
GEBOHREN- SEIN
ALTER AUF 80
JAHRE ALT-
AUS DER TIEFE
RUFE ICH, HERR
ZU DIR HOeRE MEINE ST
IMME -PS- 130

The reading above is from the Find a Grave page posted by Joseph Eckroad.  The translation below, is mine (with a little help from Google).

“Christianus Henrich is here, Born 13 December 1715, His age at 80 years old -From the Deep I call to you. Listen to my voice. Psalms 1-30.”

Joseph Eckroad writes to me in an email, that he now believes there is a different reading of the tombstone. He has posted an update, with the first part of the German inscription, and his explanation on his Find a Grave page for Christian(us) Heinrich, Sr.

There is an alternate reading for part of the tombstone (with colons representing the raised dots):

IST:AM:13:DEC
EMBER:____[G]
ESTORBEN:OH
N:OELEEHN:80
JAHRE:ALT

OHn=Ohne Oeleehn=Oil “Without anointing of the Holy Oils”
Auf Hoch Deutsch: Ohne Oel
Auf Platt Deutsch/Tteutsch/Duitsch = “Ohn’ Oleehn”

Auf Englisch: Psalm PS 130
From the depths O Lord, I cry out to you
Hear my voice.
Psalm 130

(Credit is due to my unofficial assistant at Ancestors in Aprons, Cathy Meder-Dempsey, who figured out what PS 1.30 meant. She further furnished me with extra information.

Psalm 130 (Vulgate numbering: Psalm 129) is the 130th psalm of the Book of Psalms, one of the Penitential psalms. The first verse is a call to God in deep sorrow, from “out of the depths” (Out of the deep), as it is translated in the King James Version of the Bible respectively in the Book of Common Prayer.

It has been set to music and is a funeral song. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psalm_130 

It seems obvious that someone has used chalk or paint to bring out the letters on the old stone, and so it is difficult to tell if it is completely accurate.

The gravestones are gone. The Mass House no longer stands.  The picturesque pond was added later and the two outbuildings we see also date after Christian’s time. But it seems to me a small miracle that even part of his house from the 1760’s still stands. I might even get to visit the old homestead if I ever get to eastern Pennsylvania.

EARLIER ARTICLES ON THE OTHER OLD HOMESTEADs

The theme this week in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors Challenge suggests we write about “The Old Homestead.”  You might want to check out some old posts that I wrote about various “old homesteads” in my family.

Jedidiah Brink. This very popular posts uses an app to meld photos taken by a Brink cousin in Ohio and their explanations, plus my research of this great-great grand uncle’s home in Holmes County.

Morgan, Stout, Anderson.  Several homes near Killbuck Ohio that were the homes of my mother’s mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, and great-grandmother.

William Morgan Stout. Three apartments in New York City occupied at various times around 1900 by my great-uncle had some interesting history.

Frederick/Frederich Badertscher Sr.  Turning to my husband’s family I show a really old photo of his great-grandparents, Swiss immigrants, sitting in front of their farmhouse near Kidron, Ohio.

RESEARCH NOTES

(More to come)

Find a Grave.com, Christian Henrich, Sr.  I am deeply indebted to a person on Find a Grave.com for posting his known information. The picture above and description of past and present property is by “Joseph”. I have now corresponded with Joseph Eckroat, who entered the information on Christian Henrich, Sr. and other members of that family.  He is related through marriage to Christian Henrich, Jr.  Joseph  published on Find a Grave a very detailed analysis of the information known and speculated about Christian Henrich and his family.

*Joseph credits the photo on Find a Grave as follows: Courtesy of Duane F. Alwin, Ph.D.,   McCourtney Professor of Sociology & Demography,   Director, Center on Population Health & Aging,     Pennsylvania State University, University Park PA,  Emeritus Senior Research Scientist, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.

Our Henry Home at Prufmond, cited by “Joseph” on FindaGrave.com. Some of the information (for instance, the will and land warrants)  from “Joseph” is sourced from a book called “Our Henry Home at Prufmond” by Jim Henry.  I have not yet been able to locate that book.

Pennsylvania Census 1742, Philadelphia County, from Ancestry.com, Jackson, Ronald V., Accelerated Indexing Systems, comp.. Pennsylvania Census, 1772-1890. Compiled and digitized by Mr. Jackson and AIS from microfilmed schedules of the U.S. Federal Decennial Census, territorial/state censuses, and/or census substitutes.

Pennsylvania Land Warrant, Christian Henrich, 1768, Berks County. Accessed at Ancestry.com, Pennsylvania, Land Warrants, 1733-1987.

(?)Ship List, 1742 Philadelphia, Christian Henrich. STRASSBURGER, RALPH BEAVER. Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808. Edited by William John Hinke. Norristown [PA]: Pennsylvania German Society, 1934. 3 vols. Vols. 1 and 3 reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1964. Repr. 1983. Vol. 1. 1727-1775. 776p. Accessed at Ancestry. com. U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s.    This is the list I am not sure of.

(?)Württemberg, Germany, Family Tables, 1550-1985 A possibility of Christian Henrich’s birth in Germany and his family.  Names a Christianus but date does not agree with tombstone (March 1717). Accessed at Ancestry.com

(?)Württemberg, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1500-1985  Another reference, probably the same person as above, named Christang but same parents and baptism date coincides. Accessed at Ancestry.com

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Vera Marie Badertscher

About Vera Marie Badertscher

I am a grandma and was named for my grandma. I've been an actress, a political strategist and a writer.I grew up in various places, went to high school in Killbuck, Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University. My husband and I moved to Arizona after graduation and have three adult children. I love to travel and read--and have another website for that called A Traveler's Library. I ponder family as I cook.

2 thoughts on “The Mass House: Making a Home for the Church

  1. Mary Martha / Butts - Smith

    Hi, Interesting Aprons: 3 points of info #3 you will really like!
    1. The BUTTS also were in Goshenhoppen of which the town is actually now named the surname of a Catholic priest (think it begins with a C but just don’t remember it right now.) The records are online and are from the (Catholic) Philadelphia Diocese in PA, that’s where there recorded the multiple Goshenhoppen births and deaths.
    2. The CROW family is also related to me either BUTTS or GUENTHER.
    and the most important
    3. POSSIBLE Info upon your Christian who was known as Christian JOHANNES Heinrich and, as some of the German records do, has the records sometimes with the middle name; Magdelen could be the Latinization of the wife’s middle name Margaret : parents, wife’s surname and possibly more appears to be upon FamilySearch.org. Here it is below. The letter/number combination behind the names is what is to be used to Search each name eg. type it in for his father and type her’s in for his mother and etc.
    Enjoy and Take care, Mary Martha
    Johannes Henrich
    8 March 1717 – 12 December 1798 • L6Z4-G8V ​

    Name
    Johannes Henrich
    Sex
    Male
    Birth
    March 8, 1717
    Germany
    Christening
    Add
    Death
    Dec. 12, 1798
    Berks Co., Pennsylvania
    Burial
    Add

    Johannes Henrich
    1717–1798 • L6Z4-G8V ​
    These are the people below who submitted the info. When you are upon FamilySearch / FS click a submitter’s name (under ALL CHANGES on the right side of a person’ page) and then you will be able to send the submitter a message. (As you know, of course, not all people will respond but, it is worth a try. You need to be a member of FS, it’s Free and you don’t have to use your real “Name”, any ID like “Ohio Researcher” even works with a valid email. MOST of the people who use FS are not LDS!)

    Reply
    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Mary Martha, Thanks for your continued interest. I have written you an email regarding your comments, and shortened them somewhat here, since not all the readers will be interested in those details. Basically, the people who have entered that information about Christian have not confirmed it with more than one source and some of it is provably wrong while other is speculation on things I am still looking in to.

      Reply

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