About

Purpose: The purpose of the Historians is to encourage and implement the research, collection, preservation, and understanding of the history of the Amish and Mennonites of the Casselman River area of Garrett County, Maryland, and Somerset County, Pennsylvania. This geographic area consists mainly of the corridor of the Casselman River stretching from the river’s headwaters near Bittinger, Maryland, to Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. The Amish and Mennonite history of the area is of interest to many of other areas. The Casselman Valley was a stepping stone of Amish migration between the eastern seaboard and states further west, such as Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa, as well as Michigan and Virginia later.  Many individuals in many parts of the country and the world can trace their roots to the Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and Garrett County, Maryland.

Activities: Activities and projects of The Historians include quarterly publication of  an eight-page paper, The Historian; an annual meeting in September open to all interested persons on a relevant theme; and the operation of an archives at Grantsville, Maryland.

Beginnings: 

  • Aug 1983 -- at the annual conference of Conservative Mennonite Conference, the idea of a local historical organization was discussed by Ivan J. Miller, Laban L. Swartzentruber, and Laban Peachey, and Laban Peachey was asked to convene a meeting of interested persons to discuss the possibility.
  • January 31, 1984 -- Laban Peachey issued a letter to potentially interested persons with announcement of a meeting for discussion of the idea. Persons to whom the letter was sent and the setting each was seen as representing included the following: Lowell Bender (Cherry Glade), Ervin Hershberger (Mountain View), Catherine (Kate) Miller (Maple Glen), David I. Miller (Rosedale Mennonite Missions), Ivan J. Miller, Walter Otto (Springs Mennonite), Alta Schrock (Penn Alps), Claude Swartzentruber, Laban L. Swartzentruber, Bennie C. Yoder (Old Order Amish), Elmer Yoder, (Editor of Brotherhood Beacon and Archivist at Rosedale), Paul E. Yoder, Chairman Springs Historical Society.
  • May 5, 1984 -- Meeting, in response to letter or January 31, to discuss the possibility of forming a local historical society, held in the lobby of the Casselman Motel in Grantsville. According to an entry written in early July  by David I. Miller in the Ivan J. Miller family circle letter, the following were in attendance: Lowell Bender, Elmer H. Maust, Ivan Maust, Catherine J. (Kate) Miller, David I. and Erma Miller, Ivan J. and Della Miller, Walter Otto, Laban and Helen Peachey, Alta Schrock, Laban Swartzentruber, Bennie C. Yoder, Ervin H. Yoder, Paul and Naomi Yoder. (The minutes of the meeting of May 5, 1984, state that eighteen persons were in attendance, but the attendees are not named. After listing the above seventeen names, the entry in the circle letter adds: "and possibly one or two others." Simon Tice was elected in that meeting to a planning committee and is remembered as an early participant in the deliberations, and evidently was present that that day.
  • May 5, 1984 -- A Planning Committee, having been elected in the forenoon session of interested persons, met in the afternoon. The committee consisted of David I. Miller, Laban Peachey, Simon Tice, Bennie C. Yoder, and Paul E. Yoder. Paul E. Yoder was elected as chairman and Laban Peachey as secretary.
  • November 30, 1984 -- The Planning  met with Leonard Gross, of the Mennonite Archives in Goshen, Indiana, as consultant. This meeting was held in the Springs Community Center where a Jonas Maust family reunion was in session.
  • November 30, 1984 -- A meeting of interested persons was held in the evening at the Springs Community Center. In this meeting,  Leonard Gross gave input, a decision was made to form an organization to be known as the Casselman River Area Amish and Mennonite Historians, a constitution, prepared by the Planning Committee, was adopted, and the members of the Planning Committee were elected to serve as the standing committee per the constitution.
  • March 15, 1985 -- This meeting,  planned by the Historians' Executive Committee, may be considered the first "annual meeting" of the organization. The agenda included input by Walter Otto on the early Amish presence in the New Germany area
  • September 5, 1987 -- An archives was was dedicated as part of the annual meeting that year. The archives was located in the basement of the Casselman Motel in Grantsville. The archives room was walled-off with concrete blocks and a steel door. Labor for the constructing the room was provided by volunteers (especially Bennie C. Yoder), cost of materials was provided 50% by the Historians and 50% by The Casselman. The space was made available to the Historians without charge.
  • January 1989 -- The first issue of  The Historian bears this date. Previous efforts of communication with members consisted of largely of letters from the secretary. The issuance of a quarterly newsletter was considered important for communication with members and for placing historical material on record.
  • September 15, 2007 -- Dedication of the new archives building at 29 Dorsey Hotel Rd., Grantsville, Maryland. Approximate cost of the building: $160,000. Fund-raising included a benefit auction and contributions from individuals. In addition to donating the land of the building site, Kenneth L. and Ruth Yoder made a notable contribution that enabled to project to proceed and to be completed debt-free.
  • July 2013 -- The Casselman Historian website was unveiled at amishmennonitehistorians.com .

Sources: For the above information: minutes of the Historians' meetings and committee meetings and on an IJM family circle letter entry. Note also Laban Peachey, "How it Began," The Historian, October 2007.

 

 

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