Main content

Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust records


Held at: Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust [Contact Us]6133 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19144

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

In 1947, the General Conference of the Mennonite Church authorized the establishment of the Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation (now the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust), charged with the purpose of preserving the historic 1770 Mennonite Meetinghouse and burial grounds located in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As of 2015, the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust "interpret[s] and share[s] the history, faith and witness of Mennonites in Germantown from 1683 to the present by preserving the historic Meetinghouse & cemetery; maintaining the nearby buildings and grounds; preparing and implementing tours, exhibits, curricula and public programs; and working with Mennonite and Anabaptist churches, conferences and organizations, the Germantown community, and other partners."

Germantown, a neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was the first permanent settlement of Mennonites and Germans in the United States. The first Mennonite Meetinghouse in America was built in Germantown in 1708. The current meetinghouse was built by Jacob Knorr in 1770 on the same site as the original. The 1770 Meetinghouse served as a place of worship for the Germantown Mennonite congregation until 1986, when the congregation became too large for the space. After several years of renting space for its services, the congregation bought and renovated a building just up the road from the 1770 Meetinghouse and officially relocated worship there in 1994. Shortly after, the Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation changed its name to the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust in order to emphasize the distinction between the congregation and the Corporation (now, the Trust).

In the past, Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust has been involved in the management of two other historic sites in the Germantown area: the Johnson House and Historic RittenhouseTown. The Johnson House, a historic 18th century home built by a prominent Quaker family in Germantown and known for the damage it sustained during the Battle of Germantown in 1777 and for serving as a stop on the Underground Railroad in the 19th century, was sold to the Germantown Mennonite Corporation in 1980 by the Woman's Club of Germantown following its dissolution. Under the Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation, the Johnson House was developed as a historic interpretive site. The Johnson House Historic Site, Inc. was established in 1997 and took over the administrative aspects of running the house and grounds. In 2002, Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust transferred ownership of the Johnson House over to Johnson House Historic Site, Inc., ending their joint-ownership.

In 1981, the Fairmount Park Commission granted a lease to the Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation for the Rittenhouse Homestead in Germantown. The Homestead included the home of William Rittenhouse (1644-1708), who founded the first paper mill in the American colonies and served as the first minister of the Germantown Mennonite Church, and the site of his paper mill. The Corporation worked with other properties and organizations in the area to foster a tourism program by providing access to these and other historic homes and sites in Germantown. By 1983, management of these historic properties had put a strain on the Corporation's resources. The "Friends of RittenhouseTown," was established in 1983, expanding the area around the Rittenhouse Homestead to include an historic "village." Over the years, the Friends of RittenhouseTown gradually took on more of the responsibility for the site. In 1991, the Friends of RittenhouseTown took over the lease for the Homestead.


Quoted text from: Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust. "Home." Accessed June 2, 2015.

Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust. "The Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust Story." Accessed June 2, 2015.

Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust. "The Historic 1770 Germantown Meeting House." Accessed June 2, 2015.

This collection consists of records of the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust and its predecessor organization, the Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation, including administrative and financial records, legal and property documents, and photographic and audiovisual materials. There are also papers from individuals and families associated with the Germantown Mennonite Church and/or the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust; publicity and other printed materials from the Trust, the Germantown Mennonite Church, and other Germantown and Mennonite organizations; secondary-source research materials relating to Mennonites and Germantown; and other materials.

Administrative records include: Germantown Mennonite Church Council minutes, 1970s-1980s; Board minutes, 1989; annual meeting minutes and reports, 1960s-1970s; annual business meeting notes, 1975-1986; team meeting minutes, 1976-1978; minutes of the Corporation, 1947-2000 (incomplete); and Philadelphia Mennonite Council minutes, circa 1980s. There is a small amount of correspondence from the 1970s and 1980s, including correspondence relating to publicity materials and the rental of Corporation property. Other records include the Corporation's Charter; guest books from Church events, 1970s; associate member certificates, 1980s; Sunday School attendance books; a library card catalog; member files; and several petitions by the Church in 1975 to close a neighboring liquor store.

Financial and legal documents include receipts, financial reports, treasurer's reports, account books, contracts, by-laws, and congregation agreements from the 1970s. There are financial records and ledger pages from Willis Detweiler, the financial secretary for the Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation from 1979-1987.

Property materials include copies of deeds, blueprints and floor plans for various buildings, and records of the meetinghouse restoration. There is a small portion of materials relating to the Meetinghouse's cemetery including burial records for interments. The records include the name of the deceased, date of birth, date of death, age at time of death, burial cards, and other information. There is also a map, compiled in 1976, of the graveyard with names and locations of the deceased. Additionally, there are several maps and atlases in the collection relating to Germantown and Pennsylvania, including some reprints of 18th century maps.

Photographic and audiovisual materials in the collection include photographs, negatives, contact sheets, several slides, about a dozen audiocassettes, at least one reel-to-reel film. There are also a couple of scrapbooks and photographs albums. The photographs consist of color and black and white prints of the interior and details of the Germantown Meetinghouse, congregants, board meetings, and other events. There are prints of other areas of Germantown, including Johnson House, Cliveden, Keyser House, and Concord School. There are also a few photographic prints of Europe and Mexico from mission trips. There are negatives, some with corresponding prints, of the buildings, community events, and other related subjects. There are a few dozen slides that relate to cemeteries, Anabaptists, Germantown, the Germantown Meetinghouse, RittenhouseTown, and Wyck House. A typed index is available for the slides.

The collection also includes papers from various individuals and families associated with the Germantown Mennonite Church, the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust, or the properties it managed including the Johnson family, Charles Longmire family, Kulp family, William Henry Shelly, Robert (Bob) Ulle, S. M. Grubb, and Bill Gross: Johnson family materials include research on the family, as well as a large amount of the family's correspondence, 1820s-1870s Charles Longmire family materials, circa 1822-1911, include deeds, photographs, textiles, and family ephemera. Kulp family materials include several Christmas cards from the Kulp family, as well as letters, 1857, to Emma Kulp. William Henry Shelly papers, 1930-1962, consist primarily of typed manuscripts of published books relating to Germantown, its history and residents, but also include scrapbooks with original and photocopies of photographs of Germantown and the Germantown Mennonite Community, a scrapbook compiled by Shelly for the 275th anniversary of the Church (1957-1962), reports from the Eastern District Conference, personal notes, books and pamphlets relating to Mennonite history, and files on families relating to Germantown history and Mennonite residents of Germantown. Shelly was a Deacon of the Germantown Mennonite Church in the late 1950s and a scholar of Mennonite history. There is a large portion of materials from Robert (Bob) Ulle (1948-1986), a historian who did his graduate work in Mennonite studies and used the Corporation's library for research in 1973. In 1974 he took the position of "Librarian-Historian" for the Corporation and assumed the role of Administrator from 1975-1978. After moving to Perkasie, PA in 1978, Ulle took a part-time position as Historian, a role he remained in until his death in 1986. Ulle's materials in the collection include research on Germantown history and residents and Germantown Mennonites, as well as Church Corporation documents such as minutes, finance committee materials, and Sunday School materials. There are also transcripts of oral histories he conducted in 1978 as a part of the Germantown Oral History Project. S. M. Grubb materials consists of clippings and excerpts of articles written by William H. Shelly and Grubb. Silas Manasses Grubb (1874-1938) was a minister at the Germantown Mennonite Church during the 1930s. The Bill Gross papers (1980s) include corporation minutes, financial documents, and scrapbooks, as well as materials on Johnson House and Rittenhouse Town. William E. Gross (1920-2007) was a board member of the Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation. There are also papers, 1980s-2000s, from past administrators and directors of the Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation, including Marcus Miller, who served as Administrator from 1980 to 1990, and his successor, Galen Horst-Martz, who served from 1990-2002. The papers relate to their work for the Corporation and include financial and administrative materials, grant applications, board minutes, planning materials, financial materials, property reports, and materials relating to insurance and restoration of the Corporation's properties.

Printed materials include church bulletins, publicity materials, ephemera, pamphlets, tour materials relating to the Church and its various buildings and properties, bicentennial planning materials, RittenhouseTown brochures, and Friends of Germantown newsletters and materials relating to its publishing, 1974-1993. There are also pamphlets and ephemera from other Mennonite organizations and institutions, as well as material relating to Pennsylvania Mennonite missions.

There are small amounts of materials relating to other organizations which at one time, were associated with the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust or the Church, including the Johnson House, formerly administered by the Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust, and the Mennonite Student Fellowship of Philadelphia, a group that held meetings at the Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse. Johnson House materials include strategic plans and historic structure reports, 1990s, and grant and financial files, 1990. Mennonite Student Fellowship of Philadelphia materials consist of meeting minutes, newsletters, and correspondence, 1950s-1970s.

A large portion of the collection consists of secondary-source materials such as photocopies of primary-source documents, research articles, newspaper clippings, and other published materials related to research on various topics including: individuals and families involved with the Germantown Mennonite Church or the Trust, including the Fretz family, Nice family, Samuel Pennypacker, Keyser family, and Pastorius family; genealogy of other families in Germantown and nearby areas; and history of the Germantown Mennonite Church. Copied versions of Church records include typed transcriptions of late 17th and early 18th records and typed versions and photocopies of communion lists, membership lists, deeds, and personal accounts of the Church. Additional secondary-source research materials, as well as pamphlets, ephemera, and handwritten notes, and a few primary-source materials such as deeds have been sorted into subject files. Topics include: African Americans in Philadelphia, RittenhouseTown, the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, the Franconian Conference, Religious Liberties, Germantown history and historic houses, Anabaptists, Mennonites in New Amsterdam and North Carolina, and Church of the Brethren. Another section of subject files focuses on Germantown, Mennonites, and the Germantown Mennonite Church and Church Corporation. Topics include: Germantown history, religious and historical organizations, Mennonite sects and organizations, churches, community organizations and issues, Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation ministries, historical projects, and historic preservation and administration.

The Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust also owns some published materials remaining from the Germantown Mennonite Church Corporation library that are associated with this collection, but were not included in this survey. Materials include books and booklets on the Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish and the Old Order, William Penn, Quakers, Old Philadelphia, and other topics. Of special interest is a 1754 German translation of The Martyrs Mirror, or The Bloody Theater, a book first published in 1660 that documents testimonies of Christian martyrs, especially Anabaptists. After the Bible, this text is considered to be the most significant in Mennonite and Amish homes.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2014-2016 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust directly for more information.

Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Leu and Anastasia Matijkiw through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Access Restrictions

Contact Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust for information about accessing this collection.

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest