Cover Articles

flower run

It’s Time To Add Some Fresh Color To The Garden

(Shopping News Photo by Donald Reese)

These three siblings kept careful watch over the recently-purchased group of flowers in the back of this buggy seen traveling the backroads near Farmersville. Nice temperatures have been offering the perfect environment for outdoor planting and fun.

stadium grad pair

A Gift From Above Provides A Spectacular Backdrop For Cocalico Seniors

(Shopping News Photo by Donald Reese)

Recently high school stadiums were lit in honor of this years’ graduating class, and for those who came out to spend this special time with friends and family at Cocalico High School, it felt like a gift from Heaven as the skies lit up in glorious fashion as the event unfolded. At one point the clouds almost appeared to take the shape of a heart above the high school. All in all it was a special memory for graduating seniors. Shown, from left to right, are Stephanie Wahl, Cali Lunsford, Caroline Baum, Carrie Daub, Carolyn Wahl and Molly Baum.

lone horse

Heritage Of Pennsylvania Heartland – “Folk Art Whimsies”

(Shopping News Photo by Donald Reese)

This week’s Heritage in the Pennsylvania Heartland will be the first part of a two-week series on figural Folk Art from our region. These next two weeks, local auctioneer Tom Horst of Horst Auctioneers, will take a look at figural crafted pieces through carving and sewing. Many of these pieces were created by untrained artists given as gifts, but in some cases they were done by artists as their livelihood. The carving of a horse (shown in the photo) was done by Peter Brubacher (1816-98) of Clay Township and will be described in more detail later in this article.

While Folk Art crafts can be found throughout many fields of the antique world, the articles in the next two weeks will focus on carved “whimsies” and sewn “figural whimsies.” It will discuss why such crafts were made, who made them and some of the stories behind the pieces.

Starting out, a definition of “Folk Art” might help. Folk Art can be essentially defined as a visual art by an untrained or by a native culture member. For instance, in a past article we looked at Hattie Brunner who was a Folk Art painter of regional scenes. She was an untrained artist that painted artwork in her own traditional style.

Although none of these items we will look at were made for sale by craftsman as a trade, they exhibit all the traits of what “Folk Art” is. This week we will focus on carving of Folk Art figures. Folk Art has been done throughout all of history, as evidenced by the petroglyphs or cave drawings and the carved stone effigy figures being examples of man’s attempt to capture a glimpse of his world around him. From the founding of Pennsylvania, regional carvers created objects such as rocking horses, trade signs, pincushions, walking sticks, butter prints, etc., which are examples of carved pieces of “Folk Art.”

This area of Folk Art gained a huge resurgence in the late 19th century, both during and after the Civil War. Some examples that survived were carved by prisoners in prisoner of war camps. These carvings include figures and small curio boxes made from scrap woods and bones. Many of these carvings were created by veterans who were wounded or “shell shocked” during the war and they created these carvings to provide the additional income needed to survive. While the Veterans Homes Administration, which is now under The Veteran Administration, did provide a home and boarding, the veterans supplemented their needs by creating their crafts for sale. Many of these veterans were amputees and most often carved walking sticks for their practical use. These Folk Art carved canes often times included a patriotic theme and may have included their name and possibly a mention of where they were carved. It was their way of recording their own history for others to see.

There was another group of itinerate or “Tramp” carvers that carved items from wood scraps they found. They would carve and paint the figures of animals and people and were known to barter or trade their works for food and essentials needed to survive. The two best known “Tramp” carvers in Central Pennsylvania were Wilhelm Schimmel & “Schtockschnitzler” Simmons.

The first carver, Wilhelm Schimmel (1817-1890), worked primarily in the Carlisle area, Cumberland County. He was born in Germany and evidently arrived in Pennsylvania shortly after the Civil War. He would chip carve or whittle his figures from scraps of salvaged wood scraps he found and would colorfully paint his pieces. He was a prolific carver of various forms and his works were very rough in nature and quite primitive. Most are carved from a singular piece of wood with the figure standing on a solid base. Although most of his pieces were done for barter in exchange for food or whiskey, they are among the most sought after by collectors and museums. His carvings are found in several museums of Pennsylvania Folk Art.

The second well known itinerate carver was known as “Schtockschnitzler” or “cane carver” Simmons (working 1885-1910). He, too, was a German immigrant. While he traveled from farm to farm in the Kutztown-Hamburg region of upper Berks County, he would peddle and trade his carvings for shelter and food. Primarily he carved canes, but also was known to carve figures of birds and then mounted them on bed top turnings salvaged from old rope beds. He would whittle his canes from Dogwood saplings dug up on his travels and would carve figures into the grip and often lightly painted them.

Carvers who had jobs or made their living from other sources may be considered “hobbyists.” They would carve and decorate pieces as gifts or possibly for trade. There were carvers that lived in this region of Lancaster County as well.

Among the most well-known “hobbyist” carvers of our area was George Wolfskill (1872-1940) from the Fivepointville area. He was married and in 1905, after the loss of his wife, started carving. He lived in a small “shack” in Fivepointville and made his meager living by other means, but sometimes traded, gifted or sold his carvings. His carvings typically are brightly painted multi-figures mounted to a board that often times told a story. He would carve scenes that he saw in that area, such as blacksmiths, hunters and farmers. He was especially well known for carvings of foxhunting scenes. On a side note, he was also known to have carved “Naughty” scenes with scantily clad women. Well-known dealer Hattie Brunner liked and sold his “story-carvings” in her Reinholds shop, but refused his erotic carvings.

If you had read the past article on Hattie Brunner, there was mention of the carvers Luke and Walter Gottshall as well. Luke’s carvings often included horse drawn wagons and were fairly primitive. Hattie Brunner sold his works in her shop and referred clients to him as well. Walter was more refined in his craft and sold his works primarily at Folk Art craft shows.

The horse carving in the photo was done by Peter Brubacher (1816-1898) of Clay Township. Unlike the other carvers mentioned, Peter was known to do his carvings only as gifts. Peter was a grandson of one of the early settlers, Abraham Brubacher, who immigrated in 1749. Abraham settled in Clay Township, northwest of Ephrata, and established a farm in that region. Abraham founded and was the first minister of The Indiantown Mennonite Church, built on a corner of his farm.

Peter followed his grandfather’s and father’s tradition as Mennonite farmers, but he was also a cobbler/shoemaker as well. He and his wife Nancy (Weaver) Brubacher had five children. As tradition tells the story of his carvings, he is known to have carved a horse for each of his 12 grandchildren, each being uniquely crafted for that grandchild.

He carved the body of the horse from one piece of wood and each leg was carved and then mortise and pin set into the body. After colorfully painting the horses, he accented the horse with horsehair tails and salvaged leather scraps mounted for ears. These fine gifts became a treasured memory of their grandfather and many were handed down to family members. However, a few were sold at auctions with a detailed provenance and lineage to the maker was provided to the purchasers. Due to the fact that there were only twelve made, and each was unique, they are very rare. These carvings have been noted in two books that focus on Pennsylvania German Folk Art.

Horst Auctioneers had the honor of selling a Peter Brubacher carved horse at the Clarke Hess Estate in 2019. Clarke was a well-known expert and author on Pennsylvania German Folk Art and had featured the horse in his book Mennonite Arts. He used it and another “Brubacher” horse as parts of his focus on figural Folk Art of Mennonite settlement in Central Pennsylvania.

The horse in the photo is painted in brown paint and was originally a gift to Emma (Burkholder) Frantz (1880-1967). She was the daughter of Samuel S. Burkholder and Sarah Weaver (Brubacher) Brubaker. She and her husband Phares Frantz had no children and after her death in 1967, this horse was sold at an estate Public Auction.

A nephew of Sarah’s, Enos Heisey, purchased it at the 1967 estate auction and then the horse was again sold in 1994 at Enos’ public auction and is now part of the Jim Tshudy Estate and will be sold at the upcoming Tshudy Estate auction on June 12. There is a detailed record and provenance to Peter Brubacher as the carver.

Jim Tshudy, following the purchase of this horse, continued to do research on the family and the carver. In 2008, he and Paul W. Brubaker, a descendant of Peter Brubacher, prepared an article for “Cocalico Valley Footnotes,” a publication of “The Cocalico Valley Historical Society (CVHS).” They detailed the family record of Peter and wife Nancy (Weaver) Brubacher as having seven children, with one dying in infancy and fifteen grandchildren. Three of the grandchildren also died in infancy. The Cocalico Footnotes article notes that they believed that the twelve horses were possibly carved as Christmas gifts for the grandchildren from the 1860s to the 1890s based on the grandchildren’s birthdates. A detailed photo record of the known carvings was used in the CVHS “Footnotes” article. It mentioned that there may have been some leather horses done by Peter Brubacher, since he was a cobbler. They included the location of the farm near Stober’s dam near Mt. Airy. It finished by noting, “Peter Brubacher apparently was a man who loved his family, and demonstrated that love with his talents and the work of his hands.”

The detailed records are always important to preserve the history of any “Folk Art” crafted piece. Otherwise, the piece would be described as a “Folk Art” carved horse by unknown carver. The story behind the piece always adds to its value and collectors and museums always want to know the origin of any “Folk Art” figure.

That is the special thing about “Folk Art” carvings done as gifts, they normally exhibit extra care. It was a special token from the artist for the receiver to remember them by. If you have any pieces similar to this carving, be sure to put into writing the history you have of it. If you were given it as a family heirloom, you should always record the history of the piece and who gave it to you. A name written on the base of an item may help, but does not help to date the piece. If you purchased it, you should always record where and when you purchased it, and any other history you have on it. Above all else, if you have something like this, do not throw it away! There is great value to items like this. The horse we sold for the Clarke Hess Estate was purchased for $25,000 probably because of the historical record, and the story behind it.

Next week we will continue to look at “Folk Art” figures again with carving and focus our attention on sewn or needle-crafted Folk Art figures. They hope these articles continue to raise your awareness of the Heritage of the Pennsylvania Heartland.

If you would like to find out more about Pennsylvania Folk Art crafts and figures, the following books would be suggested: Just for Nice, Carving & Whittling Magic of Southeastern Pennsylvania, by Richard & Rosemarie Machmer and Mennonite Arts, by Clarke Hess. Museums that include Pennsylvania Folk Art carving are: Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, Virginia; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Winterthur Museum, in New Castle County, Delaware. The historical record of the Brubacher horses is available at The Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley in Ephrata.

garden spot parade

Garden Spot Senior Class Honored With Parade Through New Holland

(Shopping News Photo by Donald Reese)

A warm and sunny day provided the perfect backdrop for a parade through the streets of New Holland in honoring this years’ graduating class. Multiple fire trucks with lights and sirens activated escorted a long line of cars, each decorated in its own way to commemorate this milestone in each students’ life. Local residents, families and friends gathered along Main Street to show their love and support for the graduates. Shown from top left are: the parade coming down Main Street; a group of friends hang out in and on a Jeep Wrangler (from left to right, Kelly Martin, Hallie Butler, Karli Stoltzfus, Mataya Hostetter, Kendra Halpin, Olivia Usner and Anastasija Gligorevic); graduating senior Ella Gatto is peeking out the sunroof with a bear mascot; and a group of friends sit atop a firetruck they rode during the parade (from left to right, Marissa Spacht, Elise Eberly, Danielle Ford, Julia Sevilla, Ian Marquis, Cassidy Hoover, Mia Sluder, Rosaleen Witwer and Silas Martin).