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Legends, Myths and Ghost Tales from Emmaus, PA
By MaryAnn Miller
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 MaryAnn Miller
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Very Beginning of Our Town
The Moravian Church was the primary church influencing the early history of Emmaus. Although the initial log building was on land that is now God's Acre Cemetery, it was built by Lutheran and Reformed parishioners. After a few years some of them became Moravians. Those who did not change their religion left that church and started other churches. Eventually the log building known as the Gemeinhaus was moved to the current plot of land that is now know as the Moravian Church. Thus the Moravians expanded from that original plot to what was to become the early village of Emmaus. Two original Moravian Church members, Jacob Ehrenhardt and Sebastian Knauss, gave land to the church for the purpose of creating a town.
Today's Moravian Church is still very closely tied to many of the traditions of the early villagers. They still have love-feasts, a church celebration that encourages unity within the church. The congregation still makes the special buns used for that service. They also make the beeswax candles used in the church services. Both of these items today closely resemble the original ones made in colonial days. They also continue to teach the folding technique for the beautiful Moravian Star which is made from a special paper.
In 1790, it was decided that Gemeinhaus (a community house with multiple purposes) needed a new roof. It was also decided to add a belfry. A few months later the roof and belfry were completed and a bell was hung in the belfry. The bell was cast in 1788 by Samuel Park, the same person who cast the liberty bell. Although this bell is smaller, it looks very similar to "our liberty bell". It was part of the Gemeinhaus until 1887. At that time, a chapel was built and the bell was moved and hung in the belfry of the chapel until 1926. That is when major changes were made to the church building. At that time the bell was put in storage. In 1978 the charming weathered bell was put on display. Currently it sits on top of a brick pedestal on the church lawn.
There is a building that is positioned at the back of today's church. The log building was originally a school and later served as a hospital in the Civil War. The Moravians were once again caring for the sick and wounded as they did during the Revolutionary War. Today it is the church's parsonage. The building has undergone many renovations since its original construction. Today there is no evidence of its early origin as a log cabin.
The house at 150 (#1 on village map) Main Street was the home of Sister Ehrenhardt, wife of one of the founding fathers, Jacob Ehrenhardt, who died at a young age in 1760. His widow, Barbara, was pregnant with their ninth child at his death. The home was built by the Moravian Brethren. This house was one of several homes in the village that was used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War. Dr. Preston Barba, author of the book, They Came To Emmaus, lived in this house for many years. Additions to the house have brought it into modern times. Consequently the original log construction is no longer visible from the exterior.
The house at 160 Main Street (#2 village map) which was the location of what is believed to be the first home built in what was the village of Emmaus, no longer exists. The original log house was replaced in 1922 by the building that stands in that location today. The house had major renovations in 1960. Since that time it has been occupied by several businesses.
Chapter TwoAn Averted Attack
When the Moravians first settled in this territory, there was a great friendship with the Native Americans. The colonists showed great respect towards them and they in turn were very helpful to the colonists. When Moravians wanted more land, they purchased it from the Native Americans. The tribe that was native to the area that included Maguntsche (bear swamp), was the Lenni Lenape or Delaware. This area had been their home for a long time-maybe hundreds of years. One attraction to the Lenni Lenape people was the jasper quarries near Vera Cruz.
The Moravian Brethren had a great love for music and education. Many aspects of daily life included those 2 facets as well as the church functions. Records show that as early as 1742 there were plans for a school. By 1746 there was a school. The children in the village and a few children from the surrounding area also attended the school. At one time there were three Native American children-two girls and 1 boy enrolled at the school. The Moravians took very good care of the children both physically and spiritually. When the Native Americans started attacking settlements in this area, the children were moved to Bethlehem. It was considered a safer place. They stayed in Bethlehem from 1750 until it was felt the danger had past. It was during that time period that an unusual event took place. The event will be highlighted in the following paragraphs.
The Moravians love of music blossomed here in the colonies. Among the things they were able to bring with them to their new homes were musical instruments. That included violins, oboes, flutes, and french horns but no trombones. Trombones were too large to fit into their trunks. However trombones were one of their favorite instruments. After living in Bethlehem for 12 years without any trombones, there was an opportunity to order the instruments. They would come from Germany on a ship to this country. Finally, after waiting many months, the trombones arrived. There was great joy at their arrival. It was springtime. The musicians would start practicing immediately and continue until Christmas Eve. At the Christmas Eve celebration, they would be able to have a wonderful concert.
As Christmas Eve was approaching, Native American attacks intensified. The friendly Lenni Lenape Tribe was changing their relationship with the colonists. The Iroquois Tribe, never as friendly as the Lenni Lenape Tribe, started influencing them by saying "they were foolish to ignore and accept the changes that were caused by the colonist's intrusion". Thus the Lenni Lenape started attacking and burning homes and barns close to Bethlehem. Three days before Christmas Eve, a friendly Lenni Lenape Native American arrived in Bethlehem and warned the Bishop that there was an attack planned for the village of Bethlehem. He had run through the night to deliver the warning. Because of the impending danger, some villagers wanted to leave the area. However, it was decided they would stay.
The Christmas Eve celebration did not take place. Instead the Moravians stood watch and waited for what might follow. Nothing happened and it was now Christmas morning. That is when they heard and saw activity on the river bank, which was down the hill from the village of Bethlehem. The Native Americans were poised to attack. The men of the village started to raise their rifles. All of a sudden there was blare of music coming from the roof top of one of the homes. Loud and clear the trombones could be heard. This was a very strange sound to the Native Americans. They never heard anything like it. They became frightened and confused. Their first thought was that the music was coming from the sky. They assumed God was watching over the town. They were instilled with great fear. The Native Americans turned around and disappeared into the forest. An attack was averted!
This fascinating tale was a Bethlehem event but most likely happened about 1750, that is when the Emmaus school children were in Bethlehem for protection from a possible Native American attack. Because of these circumstances, it seems extremely appropriate to include this legend as a part of Emmaus' history.
This story gives very convincing evidence that the colonists were often in great danger from the possibility of a Native American attack. However, the towns of Bethlehem and Emmaus were extremely fortunate to have never experienced such an occurrence.
Chapter ThreeThe Tunnel Legend or Myth
There has always been the assumption that there was a tunnel from the Moravian Church which ran under the street and ended in one or more of the houses on Main St. The information I found is conflicting.
Anyone associated with the Moravian church will say that there definitely was a tunnel from the church to a home or homes across Main St. It was to be used as protection in case of a Native American attack. One observation that has been expressed about the tunnel dilemma is that any information concerning the tunnel has never been recorded in Moravian history. Moravians were very meticulous with their records, so why isn't the tunnel mentioned? An explanation for this lack of information is the fact that the tunnel was always kept secret. It was only known to the Emmaus villagers. To have the existence of the tunnel be common knowledge would have defeated the purpose of the hideaway.
Because the knowledge was not freely shared, the tunnel information has become mystifying and lost. The Moravians have no doubt there was a tunnel. A senior Moravian told me that he actually saw evidence of the tunnel when the Borough of Emmaus dug open Main Street while laying pipes for sewerage. He claims to actually have seen parts of the tunnel thus proving that it existed. It is my understanding that care was taken to not destroy any proof of the tunnel and it was carefully filled in doing the least amount of damage as possible. Of course, now the trench has been completely covered and paved over. I have been told that the colonial house at #151 Main Street, on the NW corner, actually had ovens in the cellar as well as gun portals through the walls. These were to be used in case of a Native American attack. There is no documentation that there ever was a Native American confrontation in Emmaus or in surrounding territory.
That house at 151 Main Street has been replaced by a home that now serves as an apartment house. This sadly leaves us with no proof of the existence of those special features in what was most likely a log house. How thrilled we would be if that house still existed! Now there is only verbal affirmation of the tunnel's existence. This is the customary way to pass along a legend.
In September of 2009, two men associated with the Historical Society, Robert Servacek and Matthew Zentner, decided to do an archeological dig to search for the tunnel. They became fascinated by the possibility of finding any proof of just where it might be. According to local legend, one of the strongest possibilities of seeing some part of the tunnel was in the cellar of the house at #149 Main Street which is on the NE corner of Keystone Avenue and Main Street. This is also one of the homes that's thought to be at the tunnel's end. A business now occupies that house. The owners granted permission for the pair to do excavation work in the basement.
When observing the cellar floor, it was evident that an area had recently been filled in and covered over. It was believed to be a cold cellar, common to older homes before refrigeration. That was the spot where the digging began. The duo worked for 3 days and hauled away what seemed like tons of soil and debris. Finally they saw a stairway that led to a hole about 6' by 4 1/2'. After all that digging, it was concluded that it was a cold cellar as suspected. From the point of view of these diligent "archeologists", there was no tunnel.
I think it is fair to say that there was a tunnel but, today there is no longer any visible physical proof that the tunnel existed. The affirmation from the senior Moravian Church member that he actually saw the evidence in recent times proves there was tunnel. It is a sad reality that the evidence of the tunnel has disappeared but a good thing that word of mouth still carries on the legacy.
Chapter FourThe Coughing Ghost
Catherine, a new employee at the Moravian Church, had what could be considered a paranormal experience.
Around 9:30 one evening as she was getting ready to leave the education building, she wanted to turn out a light. Being a new employee and not familiar with the light switch arrangement, she flipped a switch that turned off all the lights in the building. The building had 3 floors. She was on the third floor.
Suddenly as the room turned black, she heard a cough! This surprised her very much because she was sure she was alone. After finding her way to the second floor, she heard another cough. Thinking to herself, "If someone is here-why don't they turn on the lights"? Continuing to go down another level to the first floor there was a third cough.
Now she was totally perplexed. She looked around as fast as she could-still no one made an appearance. Now she became frightened and bolted to the door. When she was outside, she scanned the parking lot. There was not a car in sight except her car. She surveyed the surrounding area. No sign of anyone and absolutely no light in the building.
To this day Catherine is still baffled. Was there a spirit wafting through the building? That seems like the most logical explanation for this mystifying event.
Chapter FiveThe Revolutionary War Dilemma
Very basic to the values of the Moravian Brethren was the belief that is against God's will to bear arms or to take oaths outside of the church. Early in the history of the Moravians quest in the New World for religious freedom, they left an area in Georgia where they had settled, because of the threat of becoming forced to fight in the Spanish-American War. They were previously given an exemption from military service by the trustees of that area. However when the Spanish-American War broke out, they felt their safety was threatened by the war movement coming north from Florida. Evangelist George Whitefield became aware of their plight and offered the colonists an opportunity to leave the area and go north on his boat. By making that choice, they left behind almost everything that they had worked for in that settlement.
In April 1740 the settlers landed in the port of Philadelphia. At that time George Whitefield made plans to start a school for Negroes. The Moravians planned to assist him with that endeavor. After purchasing land in the Nazareth area, Peter Boehler, one of the Moravians, agreed to supervise the project with help of the other Brethren. After the building was well underway, Peter Boehler visited George Whitefield and they had a disagreement on the subject of predestination. Mr. Whitefield got so angry he told the Moravian Brethren they must vacate his property immediately. A local miller, Nathaniel Irish, who was not necessarily close to any religious cause, interceded and convinced Mr. Whitefield to allow the Brethren to stay on his property until spring. At that time the location of what is now known as the city of Bethlehem was chosen. It was a wood land of 500 acres at the confluence of the Monocacy Creek and the Lehigh River. After settling the newly purchased land, they started on their mission to reach out to the Native Americans and other German settlers. These treks most likely brought them to the Area of Emmaus which at that time was called Maguntsche. Native American trails led to that area. The location of the Shelter House is near one of those trails. The Shelter House today is a hallowed landmark in the Emmaus community.
As 1776 approached with all the plans in progress leading to the possibility of a serious conflict with England, Emmaus residents were beginning to feel the pressure to contribute something to the cause. Earlier the Moravians were granted immunity from serving in any military capacity by Parliament. Soon it became evident that the granted immunity might not continue. The colonial residents of Emmaus didn't have very much allegiance to the highly educated and wealthy English men in Philadelphia who had high ideals concerning our government. Since they were German and had gained religious freedom in this new land, they were satisfied with the status quo. They were common ordinary people who were happy with their success in this new land. However, it was becoming evident that as the conflict kept intensifying, it would be impossible for the Moravians to stay neutral.
The state was required to supply 6000 recruits to the cause during the Revolutionary War. The Moravians and other conscientious objectors refusal to serve in the militia were dealt with harshly. All men between the ages of 16 and 50 had to enlist or pay a fine of 20 shillings a month as well as 4 shillings on his estate. There were other religious sects that had similar values. They were the Mennonites, Quakers, Dunkards, and Schwenkfelders. In addition to the fines, they were asked to play a major part in caring for the sick and wounded. This necessitated setting up hospitals. At one point in 1778, Moravian men were imprisoned for failure to take the oath that would show their allegiance to the war's cause. This oppression lasted for 9 months. During that time the men were moved around and were sent to different prisons. They were subjected to numerous trials while imprisoned.
Excerpted from Legends, Myths and Ghost Tales from Emmaus, PA by MaryAnn Miller Copyright © 2012 by MaryAnn Miller. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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