Dr. G. Elmore Reaman, a descendant of pioneer John Reaman an early settler in Vaughan Township became interested in his Pennsylvania German Heritage. At a meeting in York County he was introduced to Dr. Mabel Dunham, author of the Trail of the Conestoga, and Dr. Arthur and Mabel Graeff of Philadelphia Pennsylvania who were active members of the German Folklore Society in Pennsylvania. After attending several Folklore meetings in Pennsylvania, Dr. Reaman became determined to develop an appreciation among his fellow Pennsylvania Germans in Ontario for the contributions made by their ancestors to the development of this Province. With this in mind on October 26, 1951, he founded the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society of Ontario. Six years later he submitted an appraisal of the contributions these people had made as pioneers in Upper Canada which was published under the title “The Trail of the Black Walnut”. In the foreword he writes “this (book) is an effort to speak for those who would not speak for themselves.
Dr. Reaman vividly portrays the unassuming manner of our modest Pennsylvania German ancestors of sturdy moral character; their expertise in agriculture and the application of sound business principles as they quietly laid the solid foundation for the prosperity that distinguishes the localities they founded.
Dr. Reaman retired as President in 1961. He died in 1969.
The PGFSO logo was created by Paul Burkholder, Markham, and depicts the early migrations of our ancestors from Pennsylvania to Upper Canada in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The Pennsylvania German woman and her child, on a horse, led by her husband, with the Conestoga wagon and a cow and calf bringing up the rear, is typical of the mode of travel over 800 kilometers, through forests, swamps, mountains and rivers. The Logo was approved at the Society’s Annual Meeting, 1970.
A historical reflection on the beginnings of PGFSO
At a 1975 Waterloo Chapter annual meeting (Schweitzfest), Beatrice Snyder pays tribute to the 1951 founders of PGFSO.
History of The Pennsylvania German Folklore Society of Ontario (1951 – 1971)
The founding date was October 20, 1951. A small group of people meeting at Waterloo College performed the ritual of formally establishing the Society by electing officers and establishing records of the meeting and the action taken. The mantle of the first presidency fell almost automatically on Dr. G. E. Reaman who had been the moving spirit behind the idea of organizing a society, and who had arranged the calling together of the people for the gathering at Waterloo College. The close ties with the Society in Pennsylvania were epitomized in the presence of Dr. Daniel Hoch and others from Pennsylvania at the meeting. Dr. Hoch was the guest speaker later in the evening when the “founding group” joined the Keystone Literary Society at its meeting held in Elmira.
It has been the custom to invite to the annual meeting a speaker who can help broaden and deepen our appreciation and understanding of the Pennsylvania German heritage.
During these twenty years, seventeen speakers addressed the meetings, three of them returning or a second time. They were: 1952 – Arthur D. Graeff 1953 – Russell Gilbert 1954 – J. F. Henninger 1955 – John J. Stoudt 1956 – Carl Swarr 1957 – William J. Rupp 1958 – Arthur D. Graeff 1959 – Russell Gilberr 1960 – Milton Rubincam 1961 – A. C. Baugher 1962 –G. Elmore Reaman 1963 – Phyllis Wilkelman 1964 – Marion McCrae 1965 – John J. Stoudt 1966 – ]. Winfield Fretz 1967 – Norman II. High 1968 – Jessie Beattie 1969 – Millard E. Gladfelter 1970 – Ivan Groh 1971 – Ernest G. Gehman
Shortly after the provincial Society was formed, Dr. Reaman conceived the idea that there should be established more localized chapters in areas within the province where Pennsylvania German people had settled in earlier days, and in which areas their descendants still lived. Four chapters in all were organized at places and times noted below: Niagara (The Twenty) – March 7, 1953, York – September 18, 1954, Waterloo – February 17, 1956
The Guelph Chapter survived for only a few years. Some of its founding members moved from the area, one key member died, and there was not a sufficiently large and active community base of interest and membership to carry on. The other three Chapters have not only survived, but have expanded their areas of activity and contribution to their communities. Their “brief histories” are included in this record. The Waterloo Chapter was somewhat later in becoming organized, largely because many of the officers of the provincial society were located in the Waterloo area. They acted as initiators of activity in the area until the Chapter was formed in 1956. The organization meeting was held at the “Schwetzfescht”, which had been started a year or two earlier, and continues to this day as a Waterloo Chapter enterprise.
Dr. Reaman believed that special honour should be paid on occasion to outstanding Pennsylvania Germans who had made outstanding contributions to life development of Ontario. With this in mind, the Pioneer Days were instituted. The first three were held in the spring of the year, and the last five were combined with the annual meeting. Dr. Mabel Dunham was present in person at the first one, and she was honoured a second time by the reading of a special citation after her death. The persons honoured and the speakers were: May 29,1953 – Mabel Dunham – S. F. Coffman May 28,1954 – E. W. B. Snider – W. L. Houck May 20, 1955 – A. S. Vop – Harvey A. Robb Oct. 20, 1956 – Benjamin Eby ~ Boyd Cressman Oc[. 19, 1957 – Mabel Dunham – Dorothy Shoemaker (special citation read) Oct. 18, 1958 – Moses F. Rittenhouse – Barbara Coffman Oct. 17, 1959 ~ Jacob Y. Shantz – Mabel Schmidt Oct. 15, 1960 – Thomas Reesor – Paul Burkholder Oct. 21, 1961 – Joseph E. Culp – Barbara Coffman All of these pioneers so honoured, and some of those who voiced the tributes are now deceased.
A fourth organization accomplishment was the role played by the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society of Ontario in the establishment of the Ontario Genealogical Society. Dr. Reaman held the: view that much stimulus for historical and folklore: research came from interest people: had in searching out individual family history. The: Pennsylvania German Folklore Society sponsored the organization in 1961 of the Genealogical Society, and for a couple: of years, the: annual meetings were held jointly. The Genealogical Society has long since operated quite distinctly on its own and in its own right.
So much for organizational history. Much of the spirit of the Society is seen in multitudinous activities and events in which members are engaged throughout the year and in many places. The “brief histories” of the Chapters give clues to some of these ongoing events. Beginning with the “Trek of the Conestoga” in 1952, down through the years, with special and outstanding contributions to the celebrations of the Waterloo County Centennial in 1952, Canada’s Centennial in 1967, participation in planning and organization of Pioneer Villages (Black Creek, Doon, Jordan) as well as participating in ongoing events, demonstrations of crafts of many kinds including preparation and sale of foods at expositions and special celebrations of many kinds, composition and performance of special music, participation in community Folk Art Councils, organizing special excursions to places of special interest for Pennsylvania Germans, publishing materials such as this yearbook and Ben Sauder’s poems in the dialect, stimulating interest in others by pioneering in development of special items depicting our history such as the plates, cups and saucers in 1960 – these and many other items constitute a list of things about which a more detailed story must be told. Norman H. High
NIAGARA CHAPTER With no particular guidelines or pattern to follow, the program of the Niagara Chapter of the Pennsylvania German Folklore society has developed gradually along individual lines. Although the Vineland – Jordan area was the site of the first settlement of the Mennonites from Pennsylvania, it also became the first district to lose the mother tongue. However, the language has left its mark with many quaint expressions and sayings creeping into conversations. Realizing that a wealth of proverbial expressions and childhood jingles were stored in the memory of a few of the older people, one of the first projects of the society was to collect as many of these as possible. The late A. L. Fry and S. F. Coffman were largely responsible for this. Mr. Fry added humor and interest to many programs from his stock of local anecdotes. We have also to thank him for a list of distinguishing nick names, necessary
Food has always been important in Pennsylvania German society and cookery an art. Since this art still flourishes in this community our main program soon took form of an annual dinner meeting, with a program following the typical, old – fashioned meal served by the women of Jordan Station United Church. The dinner is always a sell – out. Soon after the organization of the Folklore society the Jordan Historical museum came into being, adding further interest and appreciation of our heritage. Since much of the material collected by the museum belonged originally to these settlers from Pennsylvania, the household furnishing, implements, tools etc., help us to visualize their way of life.
Frequently the museum board and Folklore society co – operate in community projects. Ten years ago when the museum was host to the annual meeting of the Ontario Historical society our society assisted by sponsoring a dinner and program dealing with the art of cookery and arranging a display of utensils and kitchen tools used in food preparation. In the fall of 1961 the organizations also co – operated in the unveiling of a plaque by the Ontario Archaeological and Historic Sites board to commemorate the arrival of Mennonite in the community. Speakers on this occasion were Dr. H. S. Bender, historian of Goshen College, Indiana, and Dr. G. F. G, Stanley, Kingston representing the Historic Sites board. The unveiling was followed by Dr. Bender.
A special project for Canada’s Centennial was again a co – operative effort of the museum board and the Folklore society. Pioneer day proved so successful that by popular demand it has become an annual fall event. On that day the museum grounds take on an early 19th century atmosphere with numerous demonstrations of early crafts and industries. These include spinning, weaving, quilting, rug making, sausage making, apple schnitzing, the making of butter, apple butter, soap, sauerkraut, candles, ceramics, and a black smith working at his forge. Each year the affair has attracted thousands. Much of the attraction, no doubt, comes from the large food tem where long lines of visitors wait patiently for a plate of Pennsylvania Dutch food, or hot coffee and a freshly made doughnut or apple fritter. Since this requires so much effort on the part of our caterers we have changed the time of our annual meeting from fall to spring. To help ease the load for the United Church women several of these meetings have been potluck supper meetings for members only. The result – many disappointed people in the community who continue to demand their annual “Deutsch” dinner. [Barbara F. Coffman]
YORK COUNTY CHAPTER In the year 1831, Wm. Caternale wrote, “In point of climate, soil and capability for an advantageous settlement, Upper Province is not exceeded, if equaled by any country in the world.” It was to this land, for reasons probably known best to the Pennsylvania Germans themselves, but with encouragement for farm settlers in 1793 by Governor Simcoe, plus the impetus of the opening of Yonge St., that the trek began by way of Niagara to York County. By 1801, thirty – four had settled in Markham Township and seventy – nine in Vaughan.
Three years following the inception of the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society of Ontario, on September 18, 1954, by six charter members, a chapter in York County was organized to learn more of the early history of the Pennsylvania Germans, as well as interest others in the past of our county. However a year was to pass before we heard the call “Kum Essa” that call to a Pennsylvania Dutch meal where food is sure to be good and plentiful. Come they have from that first one hundred and twenty – five guests to the present number limited to two hundred because of accommodation facilities. Perhaps this Annual Dinner has done more than anything else in fulfilling the purpose of interesting others in the early history of York County. So at our second dinner, to implement this interest further. we instituted the presentation of a paper on the history of a local community, alternating each year from Vaughan to Markham Township. These well documented histories have already undergone some scrutiny and could well form the first publication of the York Chapter.
Ever ready to broaden the horizons, the invitation was readily accepted from Black Creek Pioneer Village to participate in a demonstration of food preparation at their first Pennsylvania German Festival, October 5, 1957. From that first successful venture when the Snider family undertook the making of apple – butter, the Reesor family the making of sauerkraut, and the York Chapter the butchering and making of sausage, we have steadily increased our participation in the Festival, until this year the demonstrations will include apple – butter and apple cider, sauerkraut, preparation of sausage, the cooking and serving of sausage and sauerkraut, well digging, chair caning and whittling. There is little doubt that the fun, fellowship, and co – operation experienced at the yearly Black Creek Festivals are reminiscent of many such “work bees” held by our ancestors.
With the interest in the Pennsylvania Germans now fairly well established, but with a seemingly great lack of research in early history, the logical step was to proceed with the writing of a history of Vaughan Township. Thus, in 1963, the York Chapter offered a scholarship for a degree thesis on the History of Vaughan Township to the University of Toronto through Professor). M. S. Careless. The offer was taken up by Mr. Leo Johnston, and his thesis, for which he received an “A”, was a very accurate, well documented, and researched account of the township history from 1794 – 1840. Under other sponsorship, the remaining years of history were completed by the late Dr. E. Reaman, and we now look forward to the publications coming off the press this fall, under the direction of the newly formed Vaughan Historical Society.
The York Chapter, as well as individual members, have maintained an interest in the community though out the years, and lent a hand when the opportunity has arisen. An old log building at Sherwood was purchased for Pioneer Village, and plans are now under way for the chapter to finish the project by putting on a new roof this fall. When the ploughing match was held in Markham Township in 1965, our chapter held a demonstration each day of pioneer butter making. A unique pioneer craft program for school students has been organized at Black Creek Pioneer Village, and we lent a hand by making 11 donation with which to purchase necessary equipment. Simeon Reesor hand crafted two flails and presented them to this same craft program, while the Snider family moved a building from their homestead as a workshop to house the boys’ crafts, and have since added a blacksmith shop. The latest project of the society has been the Thousand Dollar donations to each of the newly formed Historical Societies in Markham and Vaughan Townships. As we scan the achievements through the years progress seems to have been made in the fulfillment of the directive given to us at the formation of the York County Chapter. [Jeanne E. Snider]
WATERLOO CHAPTER The Waterloo Chapter of the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society of Ontario was organized in 1956 at the fourth annual “Schwetzfest” sponsored in Waterloo by the parent society. Since the dialect is still spoken and at least understood by many of our people, the “schwetzfest” continues to be an annual event sponsored by the chapter. Our annual dinner consisting of the traditional 7 sweets and 7 sours, plus other mouth watering dishes of Pennsylvania German cuisine is followed by a business meeting and a program presented in the dialect becoming quite hilarious and “earthy” at times.
Pennsylvania Germans and good food are synonymous. From the very first year of our chapter’s existence, a few of our ladies have co· operated upon request with local Folk Festivals in providing ethnic food displays and demonstrations. Apple fritters, funnel cakes, and crepe rosettes are prepared, sold and consumed on the spot. Mrs. Beatrice Snyder has given superb leadership in the presentation of food and craft displays from the very first project undertaken by our chapter.
Since centennial year, several members of the chapter under the direction of David D. Bergey formed a chorus to present programs in the dialect. Their home – spun performances have been a feature at various programs, including ethnic festivals and historical meetings.
Three of our members have written and composed readings, poems, and songs in the dialect. Mr. Ben Sauder’s collection has been published by the society, and we hope that the compositions of Miss Vera Schweitzer and of Mrs. Lovina Weber will appear in the future volume. of our publications.
Our chapter has also encouraged the erection of local plaques to the memory of contributions made by Pennsylvania German settlers to the development of Waterloo County. [Lorna Bergey]
Taken from; Volume No. 4 – (1971), Canadian-German Folklore publication BRIEF HISTORIES OF THE SOCIETY AND ITS CHAPTERS