Rare H. Winslow Fegley & Amandus Moyer photos show early life in rural Berks
Part 1 of threepart series
The treasure trove of culinary secrets that have been passed down to our Pennsylvania Dutch people by their ancestors explains only in part their unique f ul f i l l ment of life. As an industrious, diligent people, some of which still long prefer to do things by hand rather than machine, the challenge of hard work is met willingly, and the satisfaction that ensues comes from the accomplishment of meeting the challenge.
There is among the peo- ple a sense of yearning to work the soil by our Worldly and Plain Dutch cousins or as we refer to our Mennonite colony, “Born of the soil and subservient to God.” Whether be it a truck patch, a flower garden, or just the grooming of the land, a natural curiosity for gadgetry and simple electronics and not the expansive world of I- phones, tablets, handheld computers, but the inventiveness and ingenuity has enabled their rural economy to keep pace with the nation. Such is also the case with the Old Order Wenger Mennonites who have made their way into the Historic Oley Valley, only recently.
From an anthropologist’s vantage point, it’s near impossible for city people to appreciate the true- grit experiences of an agrar- ian people, and especially those folk who lived in such an original culture as the Oley Valley. The daily expe- riences which made their lives exciting and satisfying are beyond concept of a modern urbanite, who be- ing diminished by affluent living and commercial values, are disqualified in finding enjoyment in the simple pleasures of life. But are certainly able to witness the grind yet beautiful simplicity on their big screen TV’s or tablet popular reality shows such as Mountain Men, The Last Alaskans, or the like that give resemblance to the self- sufficiency once prevalent in the Oley Valley.
In spite of political anxieties with recent presi- dents, social and economic pressure that continue to engulf the East Penn and Oley Valleys, as well as elsewhere, the very same obstinate American individualism that spawned these folk together with the rest of the nation still nurtures the dynamic culture of America today. The development of land in America has been an irreversible process that began with the coming of the white man to the Western shores and the expulsion of
Harvesting tobacco was once a cash crop in the area, especially among the Plain Dutch Wenger Mennonites in the 1950s when the first moved their colony into Kutztown. Here, Worldly Dutch farmers at work. Photo taken by H. Winslow Fegley, courtesy the Schwenkfelder Library Archives, Pennsburg.
Side of Amandus Moyer’s brick residence, these young girls pose for a Moyer photo on horseback. Courtesy Webster Reinert Collection, Photo taken by Amandus Moyer.