Friday, August 22, 2008

Through this gate.... the past

During our stay in Lancaster, PA a few weeks ago, Tim and Kaylee had the privilege of joining my dad, Harry Habecker, for a brief trip into my family's past. Just a short drive out my parents' road, then a turn onto Habecker Church Road, past Habecker Mennonite Church, and up the lane to the old Habecker homestead and it's well-concealed cemetery.
It's a quick drive to get there, but a long trip into the past.
Three Swiss Mennonite brothers, Jacob, Joseph, and Christian Habbecker (as their names were signed on the Charming Nancy's ship list - along with some women and children whose names were on the list next to theirs: Anna, Maria, Magdalena, and Catrina) set sail from Rotterdam in the summer of 1737, with a required stop in Plymouth, England to register cargo.
They had previously faced persecution from Catholics and other Reformed groups (oh, dear!) in Switzerland and so had fled to the Palatinate area of Germany. This time they were headed to the colonies in the New World, where William Penn (Pennsylvania = Penn's woods) was offering safety and freedom of worship.
And so, following a voyage of 83 days, they registered their names as new arrivals in Philadelphia on Oct. 8, 1737, having signed an Oath of Allegiance to King George (if I remember the details correctly). Later, William Penn's sons granted the brothers some land west of Philadelphia, in Manor Township (Lancaster) to "establish a place of Anabaptist worship."
It's been fascinating to find and read information concerning that trip across the Atlantic, along with other similar ones. Their particular shipload carried the starter-families of Pennsylvania's Mennonite and Amish communities (their ship is sometimes referred to as "The Amish Ship"). One passenger's journal reveals the struggles, hardships, sickness and death - so many women and children, it appears, succumbed to sickness and died on the journey. The following year - 1738 - (when the Charming Nancy again sailed with the same captain , Charles Stedman) many referred to as the year of the visitation of the Angel of Death, due to the great loss of life on ships.
But - back to the visit to the cemetery.
The house and the barn greet you at the end of the lane.
Habecker descendants still live in the house, which they say has some original parts still intact.Then, there's the hike across their property to the cornfield...and THROUGH the cornfield (to the big tree in the middle of it)...and through the weeds(Cemetery Art - vines that attempt to block the way)to the old iron fence and gate.And then you're inside.
(Kaylee and my dad exploring.)
(Tim highlighted the date on this tombstone's photo, just to make it more visible. I wish we could read them better. When I was in high school, I made some rubbings of these - which I still have SOMEWHERE in my closet! I'd probably have to brush up on my German, too, to read some of them.) I believe this says Maria died at 6 years. (Can anybody read these?)
One time (again, when I was in high school) I sat down with my great-aunt and got stories about our family's history and looked at the family Bible. One of the children many generations back (and I'm thinking it may have been a Benjamin) died outside the little nearby school house on a wintry day at lunchtime, following a fast sled-ride that ended in a collision. It's all so much more real when you see the markers in the cemetery.

After some exploring and pondering, they left the little cemetery behind and headed back across the property.

Kaylee reflecting on the beauty of it all (especially that horse down there... or is it a cow?!)
And the tree still stands - and will probably continue to stand
marking the resting place of generations of Habeckers.
(Across the road, at the Habecker Mennonite Church, later generations are buried, including my grandparents: Irwin, my dad's father (whom I never knew because he died when my dad was barely in his teens) and Susan, my dad's mom.
Tim was really struck by this visit into my past.
He was moved by God's faithfulness as He's breathed new life and steadfast godliness into generation after generation.
May he do the same in generations to come.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments.
Psalm 78:2-7

(Another interesting journey could take us into Tim's past - the Covenanters of Scotland. If you ever happen to ask Tim, "Now, what is the history of "your church" -- who are the Reformed Presbyterians anyhow?" - well, put on your seat belt for a great ride! He's a top-notch history teacher, particularly Reformation history. In fact, you can catch 2 hours worth of it this Sunday and next at 9:45 a.m. Or else stop by our house sometimes -- he's leading our family's history studies for awhile.)


fatquiver said...

How fun!
Thank you for this journey.
A late-night e-mail check brought me to this treasure...
Have a blessed Sunday.

teters4 said...

What an awesome family history you all have! I do do you ever come back to California after those Pennsylvania visits? It's sooooooooo beautiful!