Pastor Paul Roth is very involved with the John Kline House and the Brethren and Mennonite Heritage Center. Last month’s Chronicle had an article the Fulks Run Elementary School’s field trip the Center, and this is a follow up with Pastor Roth’s interview.
A great deal of the activities at the Heritage Center include field trips. Up to 800 children a year in the spring and fall get to experience life as it was in the 1800’s.
The buildings that make up the little town have all been donated and moved to the present site. The 2nd oldest building is the log cabin, moved and restored there, and as Roth says, “repurposed for our own use. The logs are original, along with the chinking and the mortar. We wanted to show how the family lived, so we moved the stairs, and the front door. That left the hearth and fireplace more open, like the family lived there. The unique thing about that building is, we put in a moveable wall, It hangs up on the ceiling. When you come in the door, it’s an open space, but the wall is up on the ceiling. That was true of the early Brethren congregations, their homes were called meeting houses, as their homes were built for meetings of the congregation. When it was your turn to host the worship of the congregation of 8-12 families, you would move the furniture out of the way, and hang the wall up on the ceiling. Two other congregation meeting places are here in Broadway -one is the John Kline House, where the wall is fixed. The other is the Tunker House, on Lindsay Ave, and still has the walls that move. That house will eventually be open for tours, after the new owners finish the renovation.”
The third one is the privately owned Samuel Kline House, across from Cornerstone Church, a white brick house. Samuel was John Kline’s younger brother. That was built as a meeting house on the property of the grandparents. There is a family plot back on Robin Roost Rd, behind a wrought iron fence.
At the Heritage Center, the brooder house is fairly new addition, built according to the specifications of the Wampler family. “ The first domestication of turkeys was done by a Mennonite, Longacre. Historically, the Wampler family helped domesticate turkeys, and that is why Rockingham County is called the Turkey Capitol of the World, because it started here.”
The big brick house, on the Heritage property, came from the land where the high school now stands. From 1854, originally the home of Bishop Martin Burkholder, whose father, Peter, was bishop of the Weaver Mennonite Church. Also moved along with the brick house, was the white wash house, circa, 1840.
The Heritage Center one room school house came from Mathias, WV, built by the Whitmer family, as a “Mennonite mission point, because they had preachers come. It was used as a meeting house or church, and a school. When they were no longer using it for worship, the family gave it to us.” The building itself was cut into 3 sections, put on a flatbed and brought to the Heritage Center. When lowering the steeple, the rope broke, the steeple came crashing down, releasing hundreds of bats! Pastor Roth said it might have been a blessing in disguise, that they did not have the original steeple! The steeple and roof were replaced. A new foundation was built, the sections were reassembled. The schoolhouse is used for field trips, special Center functions, and the occasional wedding.
Sing Me High, a music festival, held in the summer, usually has an attendance of 600-1,000 people during the weekend. The school house is used as one of the venues for a group that will be singing. “often it is an acapella group that will be singing there.” Sing Me High will be held on a new date this year, the 2nd weekend in August, with a variety of new groups. There will be a large tent on the campus, a food tent, and the amphitheater. There are 4 acres in the woods where the amphitheater is. “ We have reclaimed an old sinkhole, and we have summer Vesper services. Last year, someone built a wonderful covered stage with lighting and sound. That will be one of the venues.” The family festival is open to the public. That Sunday, they plan to have an acapella sing, anyone can come, with a pot luck after. Check with the Heritage Center for details.
There are 22 acres making up this campus. 10 acres of the property, that is used for hay at other times, is used for parking for the festivals.
There is also a Christmas Heritage event in the works – Watchman Tell Us of the Night –a play of 4 scenes in the fall of 1864. One outside the shoemaker shop, one in the log house, one in the brick house, and one in the wash house. “The scenes are held at 5:27 pm, Christmas Eve, showing the experiences of 2 fictitious families, the Glicks and the Bowmans. The shoemaker is being accosted by Confederate soldiers, an intense scene. It is held from 4-7 pm, each segment about 15 minutes as attendees make the rounds, with 10-12 guests making the rounds to each scene. Refreshments served at the end.
One other building is on the campus, the Brunk Revival Trailer from the 1940’s-50’s. “The trailer is an entire museum in itself,” said Pastor Roth. The Brunk family traveled the country during that time, holding revivals.
The Center demonstrates their core faith values – Peace Keeping, Community, Alien (because of our faith posture we are different), Neighborliness-using the acronym PCAN. Pastor Roth explains “All of our programming needs to meet at least one of those 4 core faith values. For example, the Sing Me High music must reflect something from the core values.”
There is so much more to experience, and history to uncover, when you visit the Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center (BMHC). There are monitors, displays, exhibits, and history within all the buildings, plus many other ongoing activities throughout the year.
Future plans may include a covered pavilion at the top of the hill with picnic tables and public restrooms. It will be a much needed addition to facilitate all of the visitors. Pastor Roth is an enthusiastic supporter and very much involved in the history of the area.
For more information, contact the Heritage Center at 540-438-1275. They are located at 1921 Heritage Center Way, Harrisonburg.
*I must correct an error, noticed by Linda Roth, Paul’s wife, in my last article where I incorrectly referred to the John Kline House as the Paul Kline House! Pastor Paul is very involved! Oops!
Pastor Paul Roth