Stones Of Faith - Pennsylvania Germans and their Gravestones

A look at the genealogy, history, folk art and archeology of the PA Germans and their gravestones, with German language translations, at the Ephrata Cloister.




Pennsylvania and American German Gravestone Guide

Lilies and Crown at Ephrata - Crown

In 1744, the Ephrata sect began a movement to include the married couples in the celibates enclosure. The Cloister leaders purposed each couple turn over their property to the order's common fund, and move into buildings built for them on the Cloister grounds. As each pair moved in, they were to be divorced by Biessel, thus becoming members of the celibate order. Many of the householders accepted this idea, but preferred to contribute monies, leaving their farms under the care of their children. Henrick Miller and his wife were exceptions; they sold their property and turned in the proceeds, thus becoming the largest contributors to the project. The couples moved in and everything went according to plan. But the experiment was short lived as people began missing their children and land, most couples reunited and movied back to their farms.

When Henrick and his wife left, Biessel signed over 100 acres of Cloister land (which he didn't own) as compensation. To placate the other contributors, the buildings that had been built to house them were turned into a their meeting houses.9 Henrick Miller built an inn across the road from the Cloister and was called the "tavern keeper" in Cloister records.10 Before the incident described above, he often gave the Cloister gifts of money, once paying for the cost of an entire dedication service for some new Cloister buildings.11 In 1764 Henrick had to sue to get clear title to the land Biessel had given him, finally receiving it in 1765. 12The Henrick Miller Stone After the battle of Brandywine, in 1777, George Washington requisitioned the Cloister buildings as a hospital, and Henrick, his wife, and the other members of the order volunteered to nurse the Revolutionary War wounded. Despite diligent care given by the sect, many of the wounded and their nurses, including Henrick (1728-1778), died of typhus (camp fever), and were buried on Cloister grounds.13/14 The crown and lilies on Henrick Miller's stone reflect his and his sect's view of death. On the wall of the meetinghouse his original contribution helped build hung the following verse:


Were for us in afflictions days, in great sorrow prepared
Here our hope must loom and our faith grow on high
When the world and the flesh endeavor to weaken us in our cause
Oh, What Joy! for we are numbered among the flock of pure Lambs
Who by the immaculate lamb espoused, are redeemed from the world,
Although here are hidden our sacred jewels and crowns
Yet upon yonder morn will crown us Jesus,
the Son of God 15

The crown topping his stone is very similar to one used as a watermark and print type by the Cloister printing press in the 1740s.17 Both the printed and carved crowns were presented as they would appear as if being viewed from below, creating a three dimensional effect. Commonly, crowns were carved frontally with little attempt to portray depth. This sculptor's treatment probably indicates knowledge of the Ephrata printed material.

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Copyright 1985-2005 Sandra J. Hardy. All rights reserved.

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