Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kurtz family story

Abraham and Margaret Kurtz arrived in America in 1740 and lived in Lanaster County. They had two sons when Margaret died. By 1749 Abraham traveled to Europe and married Margaret's sister, Barbara Bollinger. Abraham brought his new bride to America in September, 1749. Eventually they added six children to the family.
When troubles arose in their Amish church, Abraham's son John moved to Juniata Co by 1812. Eventually some of the Kurtz family transferred to the Mennonite Church near Richfield known as the Shelley's Mennonite (or more recently known as Brick Mennonite ) Church.
John's son Samuel (1796-1865) married Barbara Mosser/Musser. His son Abraham married Elizabeth Kauffman. Today Abraham and Elizabeth Kurtz's family Bible with the birth record of their three children, Lidia, Jacob and Catherine are one of the prize pieces of Juniata Mennonite Historical Society's collection.
The more famous Kurtz story begins with the fourth generation, (Samuel & Barbara's son), John M. Kurtz who married Catherine Shelley. John and Catherine assumed ownership of the Shelley farm near the Shelley's small log church building across the road from their farm. The church and it's tiny cemetery overlooked the Shelley/Kurtz farm and the beautiful Juniata Valley. John saw the need to build a new brick church in 1868 to replace the 1800 log building that stood at the edge of their cemetery. Already five of their young children had been laid to rest on the steep hillside cemetery.
Little did the Kurtz family know the overwhelming grief that awaited them. When diphtheria swept through the valley in 1872, the Kurtz family bowed in grief as their oldest son, Samuel (17) succumbed to the dread disease for which there was no known cure. The very next day, Jacob (6) and Anna (4) also fell victims to the same disease. A funeral for all three children was planned for July 28. One grave held all three of these precious children. While they were attending the funeral at the nearby church, the grim reaper claimed the life of their oldest daughter , Barbara (16). The next morning 14 year old Catherine became the next victim of the dread disease. That evening the baby, Sarah (1) followed all her sisters to their heavenly home. Only thirteen year old John S. Kurtz survived. Even though water was forbidden to diphtheria patients, when the doctor heard John's plea for water, he said, "Give him water. He will die anyway." But John was the only survivor, much to their surprise and gratitude. All eleven of his siblings had been laid to rest in the cemetery near the new four-year-old Brick Church. In the weeks ahead, John was so lonely, he wished he had died with his siblings.
Three years later, John and Catherine welcomed a son Abram into their family. The youngest child, Christian was born in 1877 .
John S. Kurtz was ordained as a minister in the Brick Church to serve the Lost Creek congregation when he was single and 27 years old. Not many young people became church members before marriage in those days..much less be ordained as a single man! But John faithfully fulfilled his calling. Eventually he married Maria Horning, from Lancaster County. When he needed a hired man, Maria's brother, Mose Horning agreed to move from his home in Lancaster County to help on John's Juniata County farm. Several years later, Moses Horning was also ordained as a single man.
When troubles arose in the church and a split developed, John Kurtz and Moses Horning decided to return to Lancaster County. Most of the congregation who did not go with the faction to the new Richfield Mennonite Church, started going to nearby Lauvers and Crossroads congregations.
But all was not well in Lancaster County churches either. English preaching and Sunday school were part of the tension that existed. Eventually a significant bishop , Jonas Martin withdrew from the Lancaster Conference. John Kurtz and Moses Horning supported Bishop Martin in his decision and also withdrew.
John S. Kurtz took over a mill when he returned to Lancaster County. When work was slow at the mill, he started to hatch eggs in his homemade incubator as he had done in Juniata County. Eventually the hatchery business grew from it's humble beginning of 50 eggs to a business of
more than two million capacity today.
By 1927, Moses Horning was a bishop and in the middle of the tension concerning the question of whether to allow their members to own cars and trucks. Eventually another church split occurred when Joseph Wenger took his stance against the car and Moses Horning accepted it. Jonas Martin's Old Order group dissolved into two factions with Joseph Wenger and Moses Horning as the significant leaders of the two groups. Even today, the Weaverland Conference is sometimes called the "Horning Church" and the Groffdale Conference is known as the "Wenger Church".
What can we learn from all this? We may view the current situations of our lives as "these difficult times"...but the generations before us knew sorrow and grief in their families and in their churches too. Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today and forever! He will see us through what ever we may face in the days of our lives.
John and Catherine would probably be surprised to meet their many descendants from their three sons who grew to manhood. Today a group of 38 descendants visited the Brick Church and shared their family stories. It was a beautiful day for the occasion. I was blessed to be reminded of God's grace and faithfulness.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Some survivors

Back row- left to right- Carol, Betty Ann, Margaret, Romaine, Walter
Front- Chester, Vernon, Melvin

On Sunday we attended our "Little" (literally) Burkholder reunion. My parents were both Burkholders. But since my mother's family was much smaller than my father's, we dubbed the reunions the Little Burkholder reunion and the Big Burkholder reunion. This year the grand total who attended the Little Burkholder reunion was 14 people! Even my sole surviving aunt who is 96 years old was not able to attend. It is obviously a dying reunion.

However, when you analyze the facts... it is not so bad! Ezra and Lizzie Burkholder had 4 children and 15 grandchildren. There were many times most of us squeezed into their small farm kitchen at once on a Sunday afternoon and/or evening. We have pleasant memories of "them days" as my Dad would say.

Today, of those 15 grandchildren, two are deceased, three do not live in Pennsylvania. If you are doing the math, that leaves ten grandchildren living in our state. Eight of the ten who live in Pennsylvania attended the reunion on Sunday. One lady was there to represent her deceased husband, our cousin. Others who attended were the spouses of some of those in the photo. No one from the next generation attended this time so we could all remember the old days without boring anyone... and just be cousins. It could be the last Little Burkholder reunion, but it was a good one!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Born to serve

Born to Serve...was the heading of three sermons at the annual Berean Mennonite Conference! The messages were soul stirring enough to keep one awake on a hot, muggy afternoon without AC.
Just as an unborn child does not build a house, so we need to be born again to be able to serve our God in His kingdom. My brother preached the one sermon and quoted my mother who would tell us, "You are not here just for pretty." She loved us and we knew it, but she did not wait on us hand and foot when we were healthy and able-bodied. We knew our parents expected us to make a worthwhile contribution to the family according to our abilities.
God does not save us "just for pretty" either so we can sit around saying, "please serve me". Doesn't He expect us to get with the program and be part of His team, using every opportunity to bring glory to His name? We may not be "born workers" but our Father will teach us how to become useful in His kingdom, if we are willing.
In youth or old age, God calls and equips us with His enabling grace to be part of His family team and make a worthwhile contribution for His glory. As parents, we did not expect our three year old son to harvest a wheat crop or a teenage daughter to make mortgage payments. In similar ways, His call for me may change through the years as He gives tasks suited to the stage of life and abilities. It has been surprising to find some of the "hats" He has handed to me. I pray that in spite of me, He may receive the glory for any thing good that has come out of my feeble attempts.
There are so many needs around us...and so many born again believers, let's band together for His glory! And when the trumpet sounds, we will all be done..and can rest forever!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


A few years ago our son and his wife gave a small potted hydrangea bush to me for Mother's Day. I love what ever flower is in season. Right now, even in a heat wave, the hydrangea bush is blooming so beautifully!

I enjoy cut flowers on my table but rarely have a store-bought bouquet...nor do I feel neglected without one. I'm very happy with black-eyed Susans picked along a fence row, dahlias from my own flower bed or even Queen Anne's lace and clover blossoms that do not cost a cent.

This year a daughter gave an enamel pan with perennials for Mother's Day. My husband knows that I prefer a rose bush over long stemmed roses that will fade in a short time. A flowering bush is the "gift that keeps on giving" that is....if I can keep it alive.

Thanks again to my husband and children for giving the sort of flowers that keep on giving.... and bring pleasant memories in every season.

Traveling on....

Today Raymond & Lydian and I went to BWI to see Karen and their daughter Sharon off to Guatemala. We watched them disappear into "security" until we could only see a speck of them in the long line of travelers.
Karen and Sharon will be in language school together for a week, Karen will spend a week with her friend Dorcas Miller at the clinic, and then go back to language school for two more weeks. Karen will return mid-August. Sharon will be serving with Mennonite Air Missions for 18 months. May the Lord bless them real good...and help them to make a difference in the life of at least one person for His glory.