Stones Of Faith - Pennsylvania Germans and their Gravestones

A look at the genealogy, history, folk art and archeology of the PA Germans and their gravestones, with German language translations, at Bergstrasse.




Pennsylvania and American German Gravestone Guide

Memento Mori in Bergstrasse

Image of Georg Junt StoneAt Bergstrasse Lutheran Church in Lancaster Co. is the stone of Georg Junt (1719-1770). His stone marker, with its "Memento Mori", is unusual for a Pennsylvania German tombstone. Death's attributes were not popular with the Pennsylvania Germans. Between 1740 and 1800, when it use died out completely, only three stonecutters, in the geographical area covered by this collection, used this motif on their stones. Appearing for a short time in the 1740s and 50s (primarily in Berks County), Memento Mori reappear in Lancaster in the 1770s.2 Georg Junt's stone is unique for its inclusion of a sickle, the only example, to my knowledge, of the reaping instrument in a collection of Memento Mori in Pennsylvania German gravestone art. The sickles of the German inhabitants of Pennsylvania were appreciated by their English neighbors, who acquired them from the estate sales of their German neighbors.37 The verse on the reverse of this stone emphasizes the "reminders of death" motif of the front but moderates it with the hope of resurrection:

So rest my friend in your grave
until that day when Jesus shall
unite the body with the soul and
bring together the "brotherhood"
with our chorus of children in that
great year of Jubilee.
Put your house in order,
for you too must die.
(Translated by Pastor Frederick S. Weiser, 1990)

The size of this stone, about three and a half feet high, and its carvings and inscriptions, suggest that it may have been a pattern stone, or advertisement. When a stonecutter entered a new area, he often put as many of his stone carving skills and patterns as possible on an important commission hoping this showpiece would impress other customers. Since there is only one other stone by this carver at Bergstrasse, (small, plain, unadorned and dated 1770), Georg's stone doesn't seem to have worked as an effective advertisement.

In the same yard is the stone of Georg Junt's godsonImage of Georg Hinckle Stone3 young Georg Hinckle (1764-1776), whose family owned land in Earl Township, not far from Bergstrasse. When Georg died, his family erected a grayish white sandstone (a stone more popular here then the red sandstone) marker. This stone came from the shop of one of two carvers at Bergstrasse who used this grayish white sandstone exclusively. One was active in the 1750s, and the other in the 1770s. Georg's stone is the last of this stone type to be erected at Bergstrasse, and its winged soul motif, a device popular in other townships in Lancaster, is rare at Bergstrasse.

In researching Georg's stone I came across the will of his father, Georg Senior. Besides the usual phrases and distribution of property, he left, what might seem to our modern eyes, unusual instructions to his wife Barbara, who he had appointed guardian of his children. It seems George Sr. knew there was a possibility of his wife being left with minor children. Figuring a woman with young boys at home, and 400 acres to farm, might have disciplinary problems, George directs his wife to bind out to trade any of the minor sons who were "disobedient to their mother". By the laws of indenture, any male sold into service were required to stay until the age of twenty-one. It was a common practice for poorer families to use indenturing as a way of providing for their children, giving them a chance to learn a trade, but, in this case it seems to be considered a way of dealing with unruly teenagers. George Sr. also states that if his wife decided she didn't want to farm the land or carry on the family business (a flour mill), she was to indenture out the minor sons any way. It would be interesting to find out if she followed her husband's final admonitions.4

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Copyright 1985-2005 Sandra J. Hardy. All rights reserved.

Those more interested in the genealogy, history, folk art and archeology of the PA Germans and their gravestones, with German language translations, at Bergstrasse, see the Links Page and General Symbol Definitions.