Thomas R Brendle Folklife Symposium

Early Pennsylvania Medicine: Curing the Sick


November 2, 2019

Red Men’s Hall – Green Lane, Pennsylvania

Patrick J. Donmoyer,  Alan Viehmeyer, Dr. George Davis, Wayne Skilton


Patrick J. Donmoyer, author of Powwowing in Pennsylvania: Braucherei & the Ritual of Everyday Life

Alan Viehmeyer of the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center on his research on Schwenkfelder doctors

Dr. George Davis, fellow at the College of physicians.  Late 18th and early 19th century obstetrics

Wayne Skilton, Revolutionary War regimental chirurgeon

and more…..

The bi-annual Thomas R Brendle Folklife Symposium is an important part of the educational mission of the Goschenhoppen Historians, Inc. The symposium series was the brainchild of Donald “Abe” Roan and Nancy Roan. The first one was held in 1999. This series continues a long tradition of bringing educational programs to rural areas.

Lyceums were an important early step in the development of adult education in the United States. In the antebellum period, organizations sponsored programs to improve the social, intellectual, and moral conditions of the populace. Programs included lectures, class instruction, debates, and dramatic performances. Another adult education movement was the Chautauqua, which was very popular in the late nineteenth century until about 1920. Programs included entertainers, lecturers, musicians, preachers, and teachers. The reform speech and the inspirational talk were the two main types of lecture. Later topics included current events, travel, and stories, often with a comedic twist.

This symposium series bears the name of the late Reverend Thomas R. Brendle, the dean of Pennsylvania Dutch folklorists. During his years as a pastor of the German Reformed Church, he collected over 15,000 individual entries into ninety notebooks, each entry a Pennsylvania German folk belief, folk practice, dialect vocabulary word, dialect riddle or local dialect name of a geographic feature, (i.e., roads, hills, streams, valleys) and additionally, he made in the 1930s 78 rpm shellac recordings of dialect folk beliefs and music.

The Goschenhoppen Historians owe a good part of their founding to the urging of Reverend Brendle to create a preservationist society in the historic Goschenhoppen folk region in Upper Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Brendle’s admonitions were to collect not only the oral traditions (folklore) but the material culture as well. Our annual Pennsylvania German Folk Festival, the Folklife Library and Museum, various publications, and numerous tape-recorded interviews with local folklife informants carry out his inspiration.

The Goschenhoppen Historians have attempted to include a wide range of topics for its symposium series. The following topics have been visited to date:

1999 – Food Ways 2009 – Decorative Arts

2001 – Textile Traditions 2011 – Music and Dance

2003 – Vernacular Architecture 2013 – Studying the Pennsylvania Dutch

2005 – Plain Sects at Meeting 2015 – Researching Family History

2007 – Tradesmen 2017 – Tradesmen: An Examination of

Early Trades Among the Pennsylvania Dutch

The Historians have hosted many notable speakers. They include Lee Arnold, Bruce Bomberger, Lester Breininger, Raymond Brunner, Patrick Donmoyer, Hedda Durnbaugh, Corinne Earnest, Donald Fitzkee, Donald Herr, Tandy Hersh, Greg Huber, James Lewars, Mark Louden, Alan Keyser, Jefferson Moak, Abe and Nancy Roan, John Ruth, Dan Schwalm, Peter Seibert, Michael Showalter, Iren Snavely, and Don Yoder.