Historical Sketch of Snow Hill (Nunnery) 1829-1929; Paper read for the Waynesboro Rotary Club, November 1, 1927 by EMMA C. MONN.  Printed by Caslon Press, June 1929


Transcribed by Cheryll Reed, April 2003



Situated 3 mil. north of Waynesboro, Franklin County, Pa..


True Impressions


In the description of the recent Sesqui Centennial celebration at York, Pa., it was stated that the Continental Congress looked in upon the wounded soldiers being cared for by the German Baptists at Ephrata.


The facts are, that after the Battle of Brandywine, September lI, 1777, five hundred sick and wounded soldiers were removed to the Ephrata Seventh Day Baptist Community and were cared for by the Brothers and Sisters of the Community in their buildings, known as the Ephrata Cloister.


About two hundred died and were buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery on the Cloister farm.  A polished granite shaft forty feet high purchased with the appropriation of $5000 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania erected and unveiled with impressive ceremony May 1, 1902, marks their resting place. On one side is the inscription  “Hier Rhuen die Gebeine von viel Soldaten." Translated, "Here rest the remains of many soldiers.". The other three sides have appropriate inscriptions.


Another act of loyalty during the Revolution was the translation of the Declaration of Independence into seven different languages to be presented to the European courts, by Rev. Peter Miller. a member of the Ephrata Seventh Day Baptist Community. He also conducted the diplomatic correspondence, thus virtually being Secretary of State for the new government, though such office had not yet been created. He was selected as trustworthy for such important work in a time when fugitives and Tories abounded

in plenty. He accepted no pay, desiring only to have the answer of a good conscience for service well done.


Rev. Peter Miller was an honor graduate of Heidleberg University, Germany, educated both in theology and law. He came to America in 1730. For a time he was pastor of a German congregation of Lutherans and Reformed at Tulpehocken.


That I may give you the origin of Snow Hill, it is needful to sketch the rise of Seventh Day Baptists (1728).




This organization had its beginning in the conversion of one, Conrad Beissel. in 1715 in the Palatinate, Germany. The historian, Julius F. Sachse. says Beissel was originally a Presbyterian.


The section known as the Palatinate by an old map, shows Frankfurt on the northeast, Strassberg on the southwest border and Heidleberg on the center of east border.


Conrad Beissel was twenty-five years of age at the time of his conversion. He was a baker by trade and an adept in music, using the violin. In due time he became acquainted with the Pietists.  Pietism may be regarded as an exaltation of the importance of religious feeling and of the practical part of religion, with a corresponding depreciation of doctrinal differences and a contempt for outward ecclesiastical form.”


A large measure of the Spirit showed in his awakening. so that at a banquet he reproved their practices and thus incurred their displeasure. He was accused as a Pietist, arrested and tried before an ecclesiastical court. But not sufficient evidence was found to convict him. Later he was again to be arrested. Because of these persecutions, also those from his fellow-craftsmen, he decided to come to America and join the Brotherhood on the Wissahickon. near Germantown. The leader of that community was Kelpius, who with his chapter of Rosicrucians landed in Philadelphia in June, 1694.


The Rosicrucians, also called Brothers of the Rosy Cross, were members of a secret society professing to be philosophers. in reality charlatans. who made themselves conspicuous in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They claimed to be possessed of secrets of nature. The numeral forty was held of much import; as forty days and nights it rained in the deluge; forty days and nights Moses sojourned on Mt. Sinai; forty hours Christ lay in the Brave.


Conrad Beissel, with others as ship companions, landed at Boston 1720, and came to Philadelphia in October, 1720. Beissel was much disappointed to find the leader of the Brotherhood, Kelpius. had died, and the members were scattered, some living in the vicinity as hermits. He consulted one, Matthai, a hermit, who advised that he learn the Weaver’s art, as the trade of baking offered little pecuniary reward. He acted upon the advice and indentured himself to Peter Becker who had come to America in 1719, and

who, later, became the founder of the German Baptists or Dunkards.


Dunkard is from baptize, "taufen" (German) then "Tunker," later, 'Dunkard" have been corruptions of the word.


Beissel was admitted into the family of Peter Becker, as was the custom of those days. The two men became"warm friends. They often spoke with regret of the lack of religious zeal. and took to heart the forlorn religious condition of their countrymen in

the Province (Pennsylvania). The children were growing up without religious instruction. Even the party brought over by Becker, the year previous, were for the time estranged from their leader.


Beissel suggested he call together the members of his party and try to renew their religious fervor, advice Becker evidently followed.


Having finished his trade, Beissel determincd to carry out his original purpose. Inth e fall of 1721, in company with one of his ship companions, he visited the Conestoga valley in Lancaster County. There in a secluded spot beside a sparkling spring they built a cabin of logs for themselves on the banks of the Muhlback (Mill Creek) a branch of the Conestoga River.


The two men entered upon a life of seclusion and prayer, exhorting their neighbors when opportunity offered, and imparting instruction to the young men who were sent to them.


From this evidence we may assume this the first free school in Lancaster County. And who will gainsay that it practically .laid the foundation stones from which grew in time  [sic] the present noted Franklin and Marshal College, of Lancaster City?


They visited other communities, among them the first Protestant mystic community of the New World. established at Bohemia Manor, 1684.


Other companions joined them. Religious meetings were held at regular hours in the small hut in the forest, and about the country as opportunity offered.


Beissel was a fluent speaker and an  earnest exhorter. By their mode of life and revival services, the attention of the settlers of Conestoga Valley was aroused.


About this time Beissel became a Sabbath observer, his companions gradually following his example. The German Baptists had begun to hold religious services in the German communities of the Province, 1722. At one of the meetings in Lancaster County, Beissel, among others, accepted baptism by his friend and former master November twelfth, 1724. The leaders consulted much with the little company and advised them to organize, saying:


“You can now arrange your affairs among yourselves to the best of your ability; the better you do it the better we will be pleased, since .you constitute together a little congregation. You are in no way to be bound to us, as we are too great a distance from you.  We therefore advise you to arrange your affairs among yourselves, according to your daily circumstances. Neither do we recognize any Pope .who would rule over you. but we commend you to [he Grace of God, which must accomplish everything.” ---(Chronicon Ephratense). This company of believers was known as the Conestoga Congregation. Later, December, 1728, they reorganized and declared themselves Seventh Day Baptists.


This congregation was composed of both the solitary (celibates) and house-fathers (married). Here was introduced the antiphonal or responsive singing, later to become an important feature and attract the attention of the music critics of the Old World.


The cabins here used were built alike, twenty-five feet long, twenty feet wide, and eight and one-half feet to the joist.


Revival services were continued and the congregation grew. Political persecution through the observance of the Sabbath was theirs to bear.


Thus matters continued until February, 1732, when a meeting was called and a general exhortation given in which Beissel earnestly impressed upon the congregation the necessity of remaining steadfast in their faith and convictions. Handing the leaders a copy of the New Testament "to .govern strictly according to the rules of the Book," he resigned his position as Vorsteher (teacher or director) of the congregation, gathered up his papers and, staff in hand, journeyed through the unbroken forest eight miles northwest to the cabin of Emanuel Eckerlin, built on the banks of the Cocalico, by a never failing sprins, here again to lead the life of a solitary.


He was not permitted, however, to enjoy his retirement. Not a week passed without some one of the congregation coming for advice or instruction. Then they began to build and move into the vicinity. Many accessions were made to the settlement. Between 1735 and 1740, buildings were erected both for religious services and as residences. The large Saal, a room for religious services, was dedicated.


It was then the community was endowed with the historic name, Ephrata.


The Seventh Day Baptist Society was organized. Separate houses were built, one for the solitary Brethren and one for the Sisters. They each were under the care of a Vorsteher or director. There was great regularity in the hours for devotion, work, study and sleep.


Ludwig Blum, a musician, now came. He virtually introduced the system of music peculiar to the Ephrata Kloster (cloister), upon which was built up by Conrad Beissel a most unusual and inspiring form of harmony, using the tones of the Aeolian harp as the primary inspiration and standard.


This music was written in four, six and seven parts. One who writes about it, says: “lt is impossible to describe the hearer's feeling. Their musical rendition was such as filled the very soul.”


Industries were organized, the first being a bakery which operated in the interests of the poor settlers (charity).


A printing press was installed in 1742, primarily for printing theological discourses. The Martyr's Mirror, a Mennonite publication, a history of the persecuted Christians from the time of Christ to 1660, was translated from tbe Holland Dutch to high German and printed for them. The paper and ink were made, the printing and binding, all done by the Ephrata Brotherhood. The date is 1748.


The printing press was operated by the Brotherhood till 1793.


During these strenuous seasons there came to Ephrata John Horn. from the Germantown Baptists, 1763, and George Adam Martin. After their reception into the Ephrata Community, they were given letters to the Seventh Day Baptists Congregation in York County  of which Heinrich Lohman (a householder) was then in charge. The next year, 1764, George Adam Martin was found preaching a revival on the southern border of the Province. This evangelistic effort culminated in the organization of a Congregation where the Antietam Creek crosses Mason and Dixon's line. It was called the Antietam congregation. It must have been in the neighborhood of the section now known as Roadside, about two miles southeast of Waynesboro, Pa.


Glowing reports of this awakening reached Ephrata. Beissel concluded to make a personal visit to the ncw congregation. Some of the Brothers and Sisters of the Ephrata Community accompanied him.


The party traveled partly on horseback and partly on foot. They divided into three companies. One division started on horseback and rode a number of miles; the horses were then left and the riders started ahead on foot for an equal distance. When the

second division reached the horses, they mounted and rode ahead a distance equal to that of the first group. This process was repeated to the end of the journey. The third division, led by Beissel, traveled entirely on foot.


During one of their services while Beissel was exhorting the people, a post.rider arrived to tell of the murder, by the Indians the day before (July 26, 1764), of the schoolmaster, Enoch Brown and seven of his pupils. The massacre was but a short distance from

Grcencastlc, Franklin Co., Pa. In the face of this danger Beissel counseled trust in Almighty God, and deprecated recourse to firearms


Before the Ephrata contingent left for home, George Adam Martin was installed as the teacher and leader of the congregation.


Great enthusiasm attended this awakening.  Calls for the personal service of Beissel were frequent and urgent. An almost continuous communication was kept up by visits betwcen the congregation at Antietam and the community at Ephrata. The teachers were George Adam Martin and John Horn, who labored under the supervision of Rev. Peter Miller (Brother Jaebez). Beissel's successor as Vorsteher or head of the Ephrata Community. Beissel died in July 1768, aged seventy-seven years.


Among the earlier settlers in the Antietam country was a certain Swiss, Hans Schneeberger (Snowberger) by name, who came to America in 1750, with his wife and seven children, five boys and two daughters. Andreas, who was nine years old when he came to America, married about the time of the Sabbatarian revival at Antietam, Barbara Karper, daughter of Melchoir Karper. All of these persons were of the Dunkard persuasion. At one of the Antietam meetings during Beissel's exhortation, Barbara became convinced of the truth of the Ephrata doctrine, and was baptized by Beissel. She henceforth observed the Seventh Day. The story is told, that this gave trouble between her and Andreas, and resulted in Barbara taking her child in her arms and starting to walk to Ephrara, for conscience' sake.


After tramping over the mountain for a distance of four miles, she stopped at a house for the night. Early the next morning her husband arrived with a pair of horses: ready to yield to her desire regarding the Sabbath,  if she would return home with him. 


Be the story as it may, Barbara's faith evidently won, for shortly afterward Andreas also was baptized, and their home became a rallying place for Sabbath keepers between the different congregations.


At that time there was in the Ephrata Community a devout young man, Peter Lehman.  He was born May 24, 1757, at the Glades, Somerset Co., Pa. He was first sent to Antietam as a lay brother. In September, 1788, he was notified by the Vorsteher of Ephrata Community, by letter, "that the Holy Spirit had revealed unto him that be (Peter Lehman) was to be consecrated as leader of the Antietam congregation."


Peter Lehman accepted the trust. Toward the close of the eighteenth century he organized his congregation into a community somewhat after the manner of the Ephrata Brotherhood and Sisterhood, which flourished with varying success for upwards of half a

century .


Andreas Schneeberger ( Snowberger) ,about the time he was married, took up a tract of land now known as Snow Hill (Nunnery) property, and erected a log house about a quarter of a mile south of the present buildings. The meetings of the congregation were at first held in the different houses and barns of the members. The necessity for a regular place of worship became more and more apparent, and the desire for a communal life became stronger.


At the beginning of the nineteenth century the Snowberger family consisted of Andreas, the father; Barbara, the mother; and eight children-three boys and five girls--of whom three were married. All were Seventh Day Baptists.


Of the children who remained at home, two daughters, Barbara and Elizabeth, and one son, John, favored .the founding of .a community similar to that at Ephrata.


Eventually a deed was made by Andreas Snowberger to a board of Trustees for certain specified purposes forever. Settlements were made with the married heirs of the Snowbergers and a bond of sixteen hundred dollars was given to the grantor to secure the

balance of the purchase price.


The community was now fairly launched.  In 1814 the first community house was built. This was the original Kloster (Cloister). It is two stories high, and measures thirty by forty feet above the basement. At the east end, on the upper floor, was the ”Saal” or

chapel. Here the meetings were held until 1829, when the meeting-house was built on the other side of the creek, nearby. The second house was built in 1835, is of brick, and measures thirty feet square. It is also two stories. In 1838 the brick house at the

west end was built. It is two stories, and measures thirty by forty feet. This was intended as a Brother House. The house forming the east end of the group was built in 1843, as a Sister House, and is two stories, thirty by forty feet. These houses are built against each other and gave the appearance of one house. The interior plan gave large community rooms with several “Kammern" or sleeping rooms opening into each of them.


The most prosperous period of this institution appears between 1820 and 1845. The number of single persons of both sexes residing upon the grounds at one time during that period ranged from twenty to thirty.




The great bell for rising was rung at five in the morning. One-half hour later, the small bell rang to call all to breakfast in the common dining room on the first. floor, below the Saal, between the Brothers' rooms and the Sisters' rooms. Two long tables stood on one side, covered with snow-white table cloths. Plain benches placed on each side of the table were the seats. A chair was at the head of the table for the “Vorsteher ".  The Brothers ate at one table, the Sisters at the other. A carpet, the kind called rag-carpet, covered the floor. In winter a roaring wood fire burned in the big ten-plate stove near the center of the dining room. Food from the adjoining kitchen was provided plentifully. It was similar to that provided by the ”Pennsylvania Dutch” farmers. The dinner hour was eleven-thirty in the morning, the supper hour was five-thirty in the evening. The Vorsteher led in prayer before meals. At the close of a meal, either a. table hymn was sung, or "thanks" returned.


A rag-carpet also covered the floor of the community or “sitting” rooms, and a ten-plate stove with a wood fire was used for heating. At bed-time all assembled in the Saal for prayer service, which was conducted by the Vorsteher of the Brothers.


On Sabbath the service was held in the Saal at two in the afternoon, after the church was built. The Vorsteher of the Brothers usually conducted it. Singing, prayer, readings of the scripture, exhortation, or reading of theological discourses, was the order.  Most of the singing was from the Ephrata note books, some of which had been transferred to Snow Hill. These manuscript note books were copied by some sisters at Snow Hill, also. The letters used in the manuscript tune books are highly ornamental (transcribers note:  Fraktur).  Each letter was made with a single stroke of the pen. Time and patient industry alone could produce a copy. Devout, sanctified music was considered an important part of worship by the Seventh Day Baptists.


Besides having service in the Saal, the members of the Society. after the church was built, attended the religious services there, conducted by the congregation.


Visitors to the Kloster were welcomed much as hospitality was shown in a home. The life at Snow Hill was in reality a quiet, busy home life where economy was practiced and the necessities and comforts of life appreciated.


Application for membership was made tothe Secretary of the Trustees. He presented it to the Board of Trustees. The applicant came before the Board to answer some questions concerning faith, desire, and motive, then was accepted on a probation, about six months. If applicant still desired membership and had proved a satisfactory inmate, he was accepted. Frequently a special church name was adopted upon becoming a member.


Regulations governing the Society required that only unmarried were admitted as members. Widows and widowers were accepted.  Marriage was not forbidden, but was a forfeiture of membership in the Society, though not in the church. The Brothers dressed in Quaker fashion. The Sisters wore a plain dress, with usually a large white handkerchief about the neck, pinned down over the chest. All were required to labor on the premises, the men on farm, in workshops or mill, the sisters at housework, in the diary [sic] and garden. Each morning the Vorsteher assigned the duties of the day.


The sick members were well cared for and doctors called when required. Members of the Society not infrequently assisted neighbors as helpers, sometimes in house work, more especially in caring for those who were ill.


No request for aid was denied. Hospitality was generous. Tramps there found good meals and a warm bed.




The Society applied to the Legislature of Pennsylvania for a charter December 24, 1833. The application was signed by fifteen members of the Kloster. Witnesses present at the signing were Andrew Fahnestock and John Burger.


The Articles of Association of the Society were examined by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and commended to the Supreme Court, which followed by:


"We, the undersigned, Judges of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, do certify that we have examined and perused the within instrument or Charter of Incorporation, and concur with the Attorney General that the objects, articles,

and conditions therein set forth and contained, are lawful.


“ln testimony whereof we have hereunto set our hands at Harrisburg this sixteenth day of June, A. D. 1834.


John B. Gibson,

Seal. . . . Walter C. Rodgers,

John Kennedy,

Theodore Sergeant."

Then follows the signature of the different officials, including the Governor, George Wolf.


During the administration of Peter Lehman, a Grist Mill was erected upon the Snow Hill property. The power to run it was obtained by using the waters from the beautiful springs at the House, also of the nearby springs. The flour was hauled to Baltimore in the covered wagons, called Conestoga wagons. A fine quality of flour was made, and the brand of "Peter Lehman and Co.,”  was readily accepted by Baltimore merchants.


Mills were then busy hives of industry. Farmers had their wheat ground, hauled the flour to towns and cities, and had all bran and food-stuff for their stock, the miller receiving a toll of about one-tenth bushel of wheat.


A cooper shop in which flour barrels were made by the brothers was also one of the industries.


As the years passed, the spirit that prompted the communal life developed into a broader discernment of the spirit of Christ.  Instead of withholding from touch with the world. the Savior daily went about doing good. And so the following generation would accept Christ as the example. As the members of the Society each passed to his reward. there were none to apply for membership there. The last member, Obed Snowberger, died November. 1895.


Following, his death, some Snowberger heirs brought suit for the property. It remained in litigation some years. In 1900 the Court of Franklin County decreed that the Trustees and their successors, duly elected. hereafter hold the lands and property of the Seventh Day Baptist Society of Snow Hill, in trust under the said deeds, to and for the use of the Seventh Day Baptist Congregation of Snow Hill. the profits to be applied, beside outlay for repairs. etc., to religious and charitable purposes concerning the church.


The new Board of Trustees found a debt had accumulated during the last years of the members of the Society, through feebleness and age, requiring hired labor and care.  The buildings, too. were sadly in need of repair. They went bravely to work, applied the income carefully, paid the debt. made the repairs, and are gradually making bank deposits. Beside this, the church building, though erected by contributions of cash and labor from the congregation, and standing upon the grounds of the property, has been remodeled by painting walls, installing new heat and electric lights, replacing the old with modern seats, adding carpet and a musical instrument.


Formerly, the Trustees, five in number, were elected from the members of the Society and the Congregation. All were entitled to vote at this election, which was held every four years, the first Sunday of the year. No change was made, except that coming by the Society passing out of existence.


The Trustees have the care of a property of 156 acres and some perches, having thereon buildings to keep in repair, also a tract of mountain land. The buildings are now used as a residence for the pastor and his family, and the farmer's family. Some parts are retained to entertain visitors coming from a distance to attend specia1 services. Some changes have been made in the interior of the House for family accommodation. The property is not held for antique display, as many historic places. Its present use is modern and practical. Religious services are regularly conducted in the church upon the Sabbath by the pastor. A live Sabbath School is maintained. Communion services are held four times a year. The spring communion. for which a general invitation is sent out, is spoken of as a lovefeast. And usually is held the first Sabbath in June. This service was formerly very largely attended. People would drive for miles to be present, the number often being calculated as several thousand. A simple meal of bread, butter, apple-butter, cucumber pickles, and hot coffee was provided free for all who came. It was a busy day for the members; often the meal continued until after three in the afternoon. Besides this, many ,drove to Quincy and Waynesboro hotels where special preparations had been made to provide for meals. The greatest number of this class were the young men who had invited their young lady friends to go to "Nunnery Meeting" and therefore desired to show special attention by giving a hotel dinner. During the World War the practice of free meals was omitted because of the ban put upon the unnecessary use of foods. Visitors from a distance are now entertained at the House and by other members. The number coming to the Lovefeast has dwindled considerably because of many other attractions that take precedence of religious services


The Vorstehers, teachers, preachers and pastors have been; George Adam Martin, John Horn, Peter Lehman, Andreas Fahnesrock, Benjamin Specht. --- Ely, Jacob McFerren, John Ridddlesberger, Abram Golley, John Walk, John A. Pentz., W. A. Resser.


The present pastor, Rev. J. A. Pentz. Has officiated during the past thirty-two years.  The German~speaking Seventh Day Baptists were spoken of as German Seventh Day Baptists to distinguish them from the English~speaking Seventh Day Baptists. who organized at Newport, 1671. During the World War their General Conference voted to drop the word .”German.", as all things German were tabooed,. also that they no longer use the German in any religious service. Their denominational name is now “'Seventh Day Baptists" (1728).


The buildings used by the Societies were Kloster (the cloister) which means a place of religious retirement. If we contrast it with the word convent, a home for religious recluse, monastery for men, nunnery for women, we see how misleading the word “Nunnery” is as applied to the Snow Hill institution. Nunnery evidently came through a misunderstood translation from the German word Kloster.


The name "Snow Hill” comes from Schneeberger; Schneeberg means a snow mountain or snow hill.


Seventh Day Baptists have always striven to lay worthy foundation stones for good government, and helped to maintain desirable policies.


"Not enjoyment and not sorrow

Is our destined end or way;

But to act that each tomorrow

Finds us better than today."


.What We Believe