Natural Fertilizer-Spreading Cow Manure

We used commercial fertilizer on our fields but we also utilize the tons and tons and tons of “free” fertilizer from our beef cattle. Technically it is not free, as it the waste from the cows eating lots of good grain and hay. For several years Gene has been “piling” and has accumulated some huge mounds of now partially composted manure that needed to be spread.

After starting with his chain flail spreader, he became overwhelmed with the magnitude of the job and rented a “big” pik rite HP 380 spreader with vertical beaters from Mr. Knicely in Hinton, Virginia for the week.  This is making the job go much faster as every pik rite load is equivalent to 3-4 of his flail spreader. Or another way of looking at it, he spread 10 acres with the flail spread in 3-1/2 days and 50 acres with the pik rite in the same amount of time.


Vertical beaters on the back give a more even and wider spread.

The pik rite spreads 35 foot wide swaths at a time versus the 8 foot of the flail spreader.

One of the several piles he had to spread. The cows love messing around/playing on top of the piles. The calves often jump and run around and over them.

More piles.

Super Blue Moon-March 31, 2018

This shows my ignorance but I really thought the moon would have a blue tint to it, after all it is called a “blue moon”.  The full moon was huge tonight and beautiful and I got several really nice pictures. I didn’t have any city skyline or magnificent building for a back drop, just a quiet country sky with a million stars shining.

When the moon wasn’t blue, not even a hint of  blue, I went to my friend “google” and did some research. When there are two full moons in one month, the second full moon is called a “blue moon”.  Now, that is not even creative in my mind but what am I to know!

This doesn’t happen often.  Ironically there were two full moons in January (January 2 and 31) of this year, none in February and two in March (March 2 and 31).  This will not happen again until October 2020. The added excitement for tonight’s full moon is that it is just hours from dawn on Easter Sunday. There is a more detailed explanation at the following website 201 2nd Blue Moon on March 31. There is a phenomena when there can actually be a bluish colored moon when there is volcanic dust or smoke in the atmosphere. The other phenomena is when you photo-shop the picture. This is my blue moon!!!

I also love the picture I took of the moon last night as it slid in and out of clouds. I had gotten confused and thought it was blue moon night.



Signs of Spring-March Madness

Spring has sprung. It is officially here even though some days do not feel like it yet. There have been signs for several weeks that spring was around the corner. The signs give us hope and anxious anticipation of warm sunshine, sandals, bare feet, digging in the dirt, supper on the deck, flowers, and the smell of freshly mowed grass, a welcome relief from the cold, colder and coldest days of winter. I know, winter has it’s own beauty and it is a vital part of our balance of seasons, but spring is refreshing and energizing.  I pour over seed catalogs and look at the stunning pictures of vegetables, dreaming of my own garden, fresh vegetables and flower beds.  Even though I can never match Burpee’s standard of excellence, something stirs within me to try again and again and again.

Some pictures from the farm….signs of spring and a last wintery snow fling (hopefully).

One day and then…. the next day!

Robins are a sure sign of spring.

 My early broccoli, cabbage and Red Sails lettuce.

Blackberry bushes covered with snow. They were already shooting new spring growth.

Yes, we had a real March snow storm, however, it was the prefect snow storm: it snowed hard, 3-4 inches, was beautiful, and the next day was gone.

Mating Season: The wild turkeys were out grazing in the pasture and the gobblers were in full strut.

 A herd of seven deer grazed for several hours in the pasture in the warm sunshine.


When I flipped the calendar from February to March it felt like spring was already here. After all, it was March 1 and the signs of spring were all around us. But signs only point to the time, the appointed day when spring officially happens.  It reminds me of a another season of time coming on God’s calendar.

Two thousand plus years ago, Jesus came to earth as a baby, to live among humans, to teach and show us the way to the Father and heaven. He was severely tortured and killed in the most cruel and inhuman way-crucified, not because he was a criminal but for the crime of being the Messiah. Satan did not win that battle and death could not hold Jesus in the tomb. After three days, Jesus arose from the dead, as he said he would do.  This is why Christian believers celebrate Easter. Jesus became the sacrifice for our sins so that we could be saved. To be saved is a choice each person has to make. We have to choose to believe, choose to accept Jesus as our Messiah, Lord and Savior. Before Jesus returned to heaven, he told his disciples (and us) that he would return.

Before Jesus returns,  there will be a terrible time on planet earth as it implodes with evil in a way the world has never seen. When that happens, Jesus warns us that end of the world is near. He has told us what to expect and the signs so we can be faithful and ready, prepared and watching for his return. Matthew 24, Mark 13, II Thessalonians 2, II Timothy 3, and Revelations are just some of the scriptures that refer to and tell us the signs of his second coming. The signs point to a specific time when Jesus will return.  We can not point to a calendar and say this is the day as we do with spring.  But the signs of his return give us hope. It stirs in our spirits that a new day is coming, a glorious day of new beginnings and sin and evil will be conquered once and for all.

The disciples were frightened and troubled at what Jesus told them and wondered when that time would be. Jesus tenderly and firmly spoke words of truth and comfort in John 14:1-3,6.

“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you to myself so that where I am, there you can be also….I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father (God) except by me.”

If this has spoken to your heart, ask Jesus to open your eyes to the truth of His word. Start by reading the Gospel of John and then get on your knees and ask Jesus to forgive your sins. I promise you, He WILL.


A Family Story: Doc Gabe, the Herb Doctor

Gabriel, my great-great-great-great grandfather (4 times great), born in 1789, was a young lad (between 7-10, depending which history source you read) when he rode the wagon south from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to the Shenandoah Valley and his family settled in the shadow of Mole Hill near Hinton, Virginia. The family traveled with the barest of belongings and soon settled into the log cabin.  Even though young, Gabriel would have been a valuable asset to his father helping to clear timber to build a house, tilling the land to plant crops, and working in the clobber shop. Faith was an integral part of the Heatwole life.  He was taught and spoke the German language only.

In 1810, at the age of twenty-one he married Margaret (Polly) Swank. Two years later his first son was born, and by 1816 he had purchased a place of his own on Dry River where he set up a saw mill and cooper shop. “The History of the Heatwole Family” states, “Being of strong constitution, together with an indomitable will, he plied his axe and maul to advantage, and as the forest trees by which he was surrounded grew less in number, so little by little his few tillable acres in the course of time increased to quite a farm, the boundaries of which were so situated that never, through the whole course of his life, did it suit to join fencing with any of his neighbors.” It is recorded that either alone or with others he owned in excess of 3,000 acres. “By the Grace of God” says, “Doc Gabe had a saying which he truly believed and worked hard to make come true: ‘Prosperity comes to those who possess a strong will to succeed.’  Apparently Doc Gabe was born with that will, along with a genius for getting ahead.” He was fascinated with astronomy, studied his almanac, and planted and harvested by the phases of the moon.

From “By The Grace of God” I quote or retell all of the following….

Along with farming, he was a cooper by trade.  In his cooper shop he made many valuable antiques, measuring kegs, churns, baskets, wood flails , farm tools, fence palings, roof shingles and split bottom chairs. He was a woodsman and hunter, scouring the hills for rabbit, squirrel and coon.  It is reported that he used a Pennsylvania blunderbuss and old Yeager rifle which he had inherited from his grandfather Matheus.  It is said he and his eight sons were a lively clan, gadding about, outfitted in cowhide boots, thick, hand knitted salt and pepper socks, rough nutmeg breeches, cinnamon vests and onion-toned homespun collarless shirts. He taught his boys to whittle, whet and whistle. He taught them how to collect herbs and roots that he used in doctoring.

Photo copied from “By the Grace of God” by Nancy Burkholder Hess, page 114.

Doc Gabe

Around the age of 46, Gabe became interested in the study of medicine and ordered text books from a prescribed home study system put together by Dr. Samuel Thomson of Vermont which advocated “Natural remedies only are beneficial to the human body; therefore only vegetable and herb medicines should be taken internally.”  From the Thomson’s school of medicine he acquired the title “Thomsonian Herb Doctor” and the nickname “Doc Gabe”.  It is said that he was a good doctor; who saved lives, doctored during epidemics, delivered babies and answered  community needs. He raised grapes (wine), apples and herbs and yarb which he used in his doctoring. He build a doctoring office attached to the front of the house

A Man of Faith

Gabe was a man of strong faith and for church going, he and his boys would dress up in proper, somber attire. Gabe wore a black Prince Albert frock coat and a tall, wide-brimmed hat. He held to the Mennonite faith and was a pillar in the church as well as the Mole Hill community, supporting his church with his money as well as being vocal. Occasionally he was asked to preach. I quote, “All his children were raised by the Holy Write and fed Scripture pie and cake. They taught their children and grandchildren to live in peace and harmony just like the Great Designer planned”.  In 1847, he donated a portion of land on a bluff overlooking Dry River for a cemetery and a church which he and his boys built, along with their Mennonite neighbors. The Bank Mennonite Church was the third Mennonite church to be built in the Valley.

The Bank Mennonite Church was built in 1847. (Picture was taken around 1900). You can see from the picture the large size of the church and crowd of people signifying the rapid influx and growth of Mennonites in the area. Note the two entrance doors. Men sat on one side and women on the other. Photo was copied from “By the Grace of God” page 114.

Family Life

Gabriel and Polly had twelve children.  Their children were well versed in German and English and attended winter school. In their home was good reading material, singing books, world maps and newspapers from Pennsylvania. They ate well with meat always on the table from their butchered game, lamb, beef, hogs and chicken. He grew bumper crops of grain, hemp, tobacco, maize and hay. He always worked to improve and build up the soil. His animals were sleek and well-fed.  Like their European counterparts who feared contaminated water and threats of typhoid, they did not drink water unless it was boiled but sipped instead on cider and wine which Gabriel made and fermented deep in the dark small room in the cellar. When his children left home and married, he set them up on land from his vast acreage. It is amazing to me the difference in assets and wealth that happened so quickly between David’s father and his generation. Times were quickly changing.

Gabe: The Man

“Gabriel was a pleasant man of medium to small build, with a wide, winning smile, large puffy jaws and a good-sized Adam’s apple which jiggled up and down when he spoke. He had heavy steel brows and warm, dark, expressive Heatwole eyes. He was an ingenious codger, exceptionally intelligent, innovative, and shrewd. He was an ambitious man, robust by nature, hospitable, family-loving, a friend to all and entertaining to be around; ‘A happy contented man.’

Civil War

When he was seventy-two (1861), the Civil War began between the states. He and his family were deeply affected by the war. Being a peace-loving man. he doctored both Yankee and Rebel. Under the house he had a bed of hay where his grandson hid during the Civil War. Under the front room he kept his meat on hooks, safely hidden from marauding solders. During the war a horse was kept hidden in the basement. Once Polly went below and discovered a Yankee searching for food.  She fixed him a hearty meal before he went on his way.

In her book “By the Grace of God” Nancy Hess describes in much detail the horror and destruction of the war and its devastating impact on the valley.  The Mennonites, a peace-loving  people, refused to take up arms to fight. Though Gabriel was unscarred in body from the war, his old heart was torn asunder by the terrible war that had robbed him of his children and scattered his grandchildren. His house and barn was one of the few not burned.  I quote from “By the Grace of God”, page 130, “In this valley of grief, the war was ugly before the Federal General Sheridan came; but after his coming, the destruction wrought was almost incomprehensible……General P.H. Sheridan set out to burn everything. He already had instructions from Grant to make the Valley untenable for the Rebel Army. He used this excuse along with his wrath to devastate this Valley. In L.J. Heatwole’s scrapbook of recollections, he writes, ‘The morning after the terrible burning started, gray smoke hung over Mole Hill, a stench filled the air.’ Nearly every barn in West Rockingham County was burned, as were numerous houses.

There are two stories told about why Gabriel’s house and barn survived. One account has it that in her seventy-fourth year, Gabriel’s wife (Polly) stood by and dared Sheridan’s men to start a fire. When they lit a flame in the hay on the barn floor, she bravely scraped out the fire, not once, but three times. At least one descendant believes the barn was never set afire because of the medical assistance Doc Gabriel gave the North.”

No longer could he stand on Mole Hill and look out across his beautiful acres. Shortly after the war the lovable, old, white-haired doctor, semi-retired, either sold or divided most of his holdings between his twelve children and their children. On June 18, 1875, at the age of 85, he passed on to his reward.


From his fourth child, Joseph, comes my great-grandmother Molly Grace Coffman and from his seventh child, Jacob S, is the family line of great-grandfather Melvin Jasper Heatwole. It is the union of Melvin and Molly that I wrote my book “The Story of Melvin Jasper Heatwole and Molly Grace Coffman” in 1983.


I can not take credit for any of the information posted in this blog. It is a combination of information from:

  1. “History of the Heatwole Family” by Cornelius J. Heatwole, 1907.
  2. “By the Grace of God” by Nancy Burkholder Hess, 1979.  Some is quoted and some rewritten.

Permission from both parties was granted for the story to be retold in my book “The Story of Melvin Jasper Heatwole and Mollie Grace Coffman” by Pat Hertzler, 1982.

Additional blog posts:

A Family Story: Death on the High Seas

A Family Story: Triumph Over Tragedy

A Family Story: Triumph Over Tragedy

David S. Heatwole, my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, (6 times great!) was born in Lancaster County in 1767. Due to his father’s untimely death and the dire circumstances facing his mother, he was bound out as help to learn a trade at the tender age of nine.  The story of his parents is on the blog post A Family Story: Death on the High Seas.

Unfortunately, David was put into the rough hands of a Mr. Bear and was often the victim of extremely harsh treatment. He was so frequently mistreated that he carried scars to his grave from the beatings he received. He finally mustered the courage, ran away and went to live with a man by the name of Momaw until he was eighteen.  Finally his Uncle Christian Haas (later written Hess), his mother’s brother, took him in to live with them and taught him the shoemaker trade. This had to be a welcomed respite and healing for his injured spirit and body.

David excelled under the tutelage of his skilled Uncle and became a master of his trade. It is said that his shoes were never a left or right but fit either foot. He met and married sweet Magdalene Weland, who was five years his senior, in 1788 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Magdalene’s story: Indian Massacre

Magdalene’s parents had left Lancaster County when she was a little girl and establish a frontier home in a new colony about one hundred miles north of Harrisburg, PA in the rich fertile soil of Wyoming Valley on the banks of the upper fork of the Susquehanna River.  It was also known as “the Wilds”. Trouble with the Indians in this Luzerne County settlement started almost as soon as the family moved there. The encroachment of  the “pale faces” upon the Indian hunting grounds angered the hostile Indians. “Squatter Sovereignty” was not embraced in the code of laws by which the “red man” governed themselves. Most of the early settlers of that section learned by sad and fatal experience, that this was a true reality. Twice the Weland family was driven from their home and their buildings burned.

The second raid came on July 4, 1778 when the Indians joined with the British Loyalist to incite trouble.  They swooped down on the unsuspecting colonists in the terrible Wyoming Massacre and many lives were lost. One of Magdalene’s brothers was fatally shot and another wounded.  Fourteen year old Magdalene escaped by lying flat in the bottom of a canoe and floating downstream. She decided to remain with a Grabill family in Lancaster County where she had fled as a fugitive from the harrowing scene of the massacre. The rest of the family barely escaped with their lives.  It was during the seven years that she lived with the Grabills that she met and married David.

Life together….

A modern day picture of David’s first cobbler shop in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

(Photo by Bertha Horst, a great, great, great, great granddaughter, taken in December 2015)

The first two to three years of their marriage, they lived in Lancaster where David set up a shoemaker’s shop and practiced his trade.  They then purchased a small farm in Chambersburg, PA where he set up another shoemaker shop.

Around 1792, quite a few of the German emigrants got restless feet as they heard about the rich, fertile, cheap land of the Shenandoah Valley. David, along with several others,  traveled to the Valley and bought 85 acres in Rockingham County for 300 pounds (approximately $1400.00). He still could not speak English and in giving his name to civil authorities for the deed of land they spelled it by the phonetic utterance of his name, Hetwol. It is thought that he also spent some time with his Uncle Christian Hess who had already settled in Turleytown in Rockingham County and was carrying on his shoemaker trade.

David, grateful for God’s guidance and provision, went back to Pennsylvania and informed his wife of his purchase and intentions. There is a little discrepancy between the two history sources listed below as to the exact timeline. It appears he returned to the valley and built a 16’x11′ cobbler cabin with logs harvested from his land.  He positioned it over a spring so he had fresh water underneath and a loft on top for temporary living until he could built a larger log cabin. Once it was completed, he returned to Pennsylvania, sold his land, loaded up his family and belongings and they traveled by horse and wagon to their new home.  Deed records show that his last name was recorded as Heatwole. The log cabin is still standing to this day.   (More details of the building and structure of the cabin are in Nancy Hess Burkholder’s book, “By the Grace of God” pages 70-75).


History records that David was one of the plain, unassuming men of his time and a strong believer and advocate of the non-resistant doctrine as taught by Menno Simons. He and his wife had both seen and experienced firsthand the horror of violence and war.

He was scrupulously exact in his mode of dress and that of his children, never varying in color or cut of garb. He taught his children the German language only. He was an elder in the Mennonite Church and tried to comply with what he believed to be the will of his Lord and Master.  Magdalene is remembered as a gentle mother who passed on much of the “before” history of the family to her children.

David and Magdalene had eleven children. It is from their oldest child, Gabriel, that my family line continues.  The family record records, “On October 26th, 1789, was born to us our son Gabriel, in the sign of the ‘Waterman.'” (History of the Heatwole Family).  The same format recorded the birth of all eleven children who lived and grew to adulthood. The story of Gabriel, the herb doctor, will be another blog post.

When I read the stories of my ancestors, emotions well up within me as I try to grasp the incredible risks, hardships, danger and sacrifice they endured to seek religious freedom in hopes of a better life for themselves and their children. This family endured horrendous tragedy but triumphed because of an enduring faith in an Almighty God. I am humbled and challenged to remain faithful, just as my ancestors before me.


I can not take credit for any of the information posted in this blog. It is a combination of information from “History of the Heatwole Family” by Cornelius J. Heatwole, 1907, and from “By the Grace of God” by Nancy Burkholder Hess, 1979. Some is quoted and some rewritten. Permission from both parties was granted for the story to be retold in my book “The Story of Melvin Jasper Heatwole and Mollie Grace Coffman” by Pat Hertzler, 1983. The log shoemaker cabin picture is copied from “History of the Heatwole Family, page 69.

If you want a fascinating read….

I highly recommend “By the Grace of God” by Nancy Burkholder Hess. She vividly and poignantly tells the story of the Mennonites  moving into the Shenandoah Valley, the ravages of the Civil War and the rebuilding of homesteads. Faith was such an important part of the settlers and that faith is woven into the stories.

Additional blog posts:

A Family Story: Death on the High Seas

A personal side note:

During my junior high and high school years, I had an extra-ordinary history teacher, James Rush, at least four times. He made history come alive whether it was family, local, state, national or world.  One of our many projects was constructing our family genealogy tree. It stirred a passion within me that has helped define my life, even today. I enjoy family history, especially the Heatwole line, and have written a book about my great-grandparents Melvin and Mollie Heatwole.

For high school, I went to Eastern Mennonite in Harrisonburg, Virginia and in the 1970 senior class of 79 students there were 22 of us that could claim David and Magdalene Heatwole as our ancestors.  We are most closely related through David’s son, Gabriel, and grandson Joseph:  Bonnie, Glenna, Eldon, Pat, Kathy and Edith.  Others more distant cousins are:  Grace, Leon, Kirk, Carol, Curt, Carl, Joy, Rich, Diana, Randy, June, Elaine, David, Keith, Sheldon, and John. (Thanks Edith Layman Rhodes for this tidbit of information).

David’s impact on the history of Rockingham County and the Mennonite community was and still is today, profound.


A Family Story: Death on the High Seas

(Photo taken from “By the Grace of God” by Nancy Burkholder Hess)

When you dig into your family history, you find some fascinating stories about your ancestors. Some are sad and devastating, others are amazing stories of surviving over impossible odds.

One such story is about Johann Matheus (sometimes written Mathias) Hutwohl, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather.  My family can trace it’s roots back to 1545 in Morschbach, Germany to Georg Hutwohl.  Johann is the 6th generation down from Georg.

Johann, who often went by his middle name Matheus, was born in 1711 and is known as the first Heatwole  (Hutwohl) immigrant to America.

On February 11, 1744, when he was thirty-three years old, he married Anna Christina nee Heiderich and they were blessed with two daughters, Christine Elizabeth (October 16, 1745) and Anna Susanna (October 17, 1747).  Religious persecution and the Thirty Year War had ravaged Europe making life bleak and difficult.  During the winter of 1748, Matheus and Anna began quietly making plans to give up their German homeland and sail to America in search of religious freedom.  By mid-summer they said goodbye to their families and homeland, went to the port in Bacharach, loaded a few personal belongings onto a ship and set sail down the Rhine River which branched into the Waal River. After docking at Dordrecht in the Netherlands, they traveled a short distance overland to the Dutch seaport of Rotterdam, arriving in late July.  The party of four booked passage on a vessel christened as the “Two Brothers” and began their journey to a new life in America. Leaving Holland,  they first docked in England where the immigrants obtained proper documentation to continue their advancement to North America.

The conditions on the ship were horrible and the food was bad and rationed.  We do not have the details of their voyage but history records that the conditions on the ship and the mistreatment of the passengers is beyond our comprehension. Passengers were so densely packed together that one sick person had to enhale the breath of another. Because of the stench, filth, and lack of food many developed scurvy, yellow fever, dysentery and other infectious diseases.  It was noted that a ship that could hold 400 would be stuffed with 1200.  The captains would ration food under the pretense that they must guard against famine, allowing only half rations of moldy bread and salt meat. The water was often black, thick and full of worms so that even with the greatest of thirst they could not drink it without disgust.  The mortality rate was high. The Hutwohls were ill prepared for the journey. (More of this story is written in “By the Grace of God” by Nancy Burkholder Hess, pages 63-66).

Three and a half months later on September 15, 1748, Thomas Arnott, Captain of the ship, docked at Mud Island Fort in sight of Philadelphia, PA. Matheus, a Lutheran, was one of the ninety-six German emigrants to sign the ship’s register. When the plank was lowered, he walked down the plank with a broken heart to the New World, alone. He had buried his wife and two little girls, ages 3 and 1, somewhere at sea.  It was reported that children seldom survived the journey across the rough Atlantic Ocean and no records were kept of those buried at sea or under the age of sixteen.

At the age of thirty-seven, he faced a new life alone in a strange land, an unfamiliar language, and very little personal belongings with a bitter grief. He found his way to the Conestoga Valley in Pennsylvania along with some of his other European friends and German neighbors and apparently was taken in by a kind-hearted family until he could get started on a place of his own.

When he arrived in America he had little money, only a good back and strong arms. He soon found land and began the back-breaking task of clearing the land by ox and axe. After the hard task of clearing the land and building shelter was done, God steered a good woman to him.

Around 1765, at the age of 54, he married a Miss Haas and they had six children: David, Jacob, John, Christian, Mary and Anna.  It is through this family that the Heatwole descendants in America can trace their family lineage.

About eleven years later (around 1776), Matheus died suddenly leaving a widow with six small children. He was trying to get a calf into the stable but the animal refused to cooperate and ran off into the woods. Matheus followed but did not return. He was later found in a sitting position, leaning against a tree, dead.

Times were difficult and because of the dire circumstances, it became necessary for his anguished widow to put the children out among strangers. David, through whom my ancestor line descended, was farmed out to work for Mr. Bear.  David’s story will be posted in another blog.


I can not take credit for any of the information in this post. It is a combination of information from “History of the Heatwole Family” by Cornelius J. Heatwole, 1907, and from “By the Grace of God” by Nancy Burkholder Hess, 1979. Some is quoted and some rewritten. Permission from both parties was granted for the story to be retold in my book “The Story of Melvin Jasper Heatwole and Mollie Grace Coffman” by Patricia H. Hertzler, 1983. The Heatwole Coat of Arms also comes from “By The Grace of God” page 66.

If you want a fascinating read….

I highly recommend the “By the Grace of God” by Nancy Burkholder Hess. She vividly and poignantly tells the story of the Mennonites in Germany, the devastation of the wars that ravished Europe.  She tells the story of immigrating to America and the unimaginable deplorable conditions of sailing on a boat to America.  Faith was such an important part of the settlers and that faith is woven into the stories.

Additional blog posts:

A Family Story: Triumph Over Tragedy


A Family Story: An Amazing Birth Miracle

I have never paid much attention to the Layman-Lehman-Lahman-Lemmon-Lamon (and several other variances of spelling) side of my family. Because it ties in through my Grandmother Heatwole’s mother, the Lahman name is only mentioned once in my family genealogy.

I was reminded of an amazing, fascinating story that I have heard about through my growing up years when we attended the “viewing visitation” this week for Laura Layman who passed away.  We were chatting with Martin, the son, and he happened to mentioned that we were fairly closely related. I never knew that. I went home, dug out the Martin A. Lahman  family history books and started to read.

My great-great grandparents, Martin A. Lahman and Catherine “Kate” Shank were married on October 29, 1874 when Kate was nineteen years old.  Kate, the fourth child of Michael and Lydia (Beery) Shank was a very teeny, tiny, preemie when she was born on December 2, 1855 at Edom, Virginia. It is reported that her face was the size of a silver dollar,  a kernel of corn covered her hand and she fit into a quart size cup. She weighed…..once source says  1-1/2 lbs. and another doesn’t mention her weight.  Her mother fed her with a medicine dropper, kept her warm beside the wood stove and tenderly nourished her to health. Until the age of six months she was carried around on a pillow wrapped in a blanket. At the age of nine she weighed 37-1/2 pounds and walked to Pennsylvania beside the wagon that was taking her family to the North to escape the Civil War. In adult life she reached the height of 4 feet 10 inches.

I did some internet research and discovered the following website: How Babies Grow: Part 2.   The following information and pictures I quote from them.

The circles below show the average head circumference of a baby from 16 weeks to 40 weeks of pregnancy. At birth, a baby’s head is about 1/4th of his or her body length, compared to about 1/8th for an adult. To help put these sizes into perspective, let’s compare them to some common foods:

  • 16 weeks: an apricot
  • 20 weeks: an egg
  • 24 weeks: a tangerine
  • 28 weeks: a lemon
  • 32 weeks: a large orange
  • 36 weeks: a grapefruit
  • 40 weeks: a small cantaloupe


We were never told how premature Kate was.  I also did some online research about the development of babies and found that doctors now consider 22 weeks the earliest gestational age when a baby is “viable,” or able to survive outside the womb. Even with today’s technology and advanced medicine, this is still considered extremely premature, and a baby born at this age will need a great deal of medical attention and the risk of permanent disability is very high.  The stats say a 23-week has a 20-35% chance of surviving. The earliest known record in the world is 21 weeks and a few days.

I took a string and cut it to 5 inches to represent the 16-week baby in the chart above and formed it into a circle. It went around a silver dollar perfectly which matches the stated size of Kate’s head.  A 16-week old baby is about 4-1/2 inches long from head to rump and weighs 3-1/2 ounces which would fit into a quart cup. By this time the arms and legs are fully developed,  the head is becoming more erect and toenails have started growing. The patterning on the scalp has begun but there is no hair. The heart is now pumping about 25 quarts of blood a day. The backbone is developing in strength and the nervous system is making connection with the muscles allowing the baby to move, flex, yawn, make facial expressions and suck it’s thumb. The skin is still translucent and you can see blood vessels under the skin and the eyelids are still closed. It makes me wonder, could Kate really have been that premature? It doesn’t seem possible. A fetus at 25 weeks is 13.62 inches long and weighs 1.48 pounds. The skin is beginning to smooth out and it is the size of rutabaga.  This is a more likely except the size of the face and hand do not fit.  However premature she was, whether 16 or 25 weeks, in time it was truly a miracle from God that she survived.

Now, stop and think about this a little. It is the year of 1855.  Babies were not born in a hospital. The baby would have been born at home and this mother was not going to give up on her precious little one.  It is winter, and there would be no incubator, no IV drip, no special lights, no tube feeding, no monitors, no sterile environment and no medical staff 24/7. This diligent mother accomplished an impossible feat. She created her own “incubator” by the wood stove. Can’t you just see her sitting there in her wooden rocker day and night as she nursed and prayed her little one to health and life.  I wonder,  how did she do it? How did she get enough nourishment into her tiny baby?  How did she protect the skin? How did she keep her baby consistently warm in a big old drafty farmhouse with wood heat? This is truly an amazing, God-given miracle. Kate grew, married, and gave birth to 15 children of her own. Her oldest, a daughter named Lydia Frances after Kate’s mother, is my great-grandmother.

Just a bit about Martin and Kate’s life…..

(This information comes from the “Martin A. Lahman Family” book by Helen F. Lahman).

They started housekeeping in Mt. Clinton, Virginia at a place near the crossroads where Mt. Clinton Pike crosses Muddy Creek. They later bought a farm about two miles south of Harrisonburg in the Stone Spring area where they operated a feed and saw mill. They produced large quantities of cane molasses, apple butter and cider. In later years, the city of Harrisonburg purchased the mill, house and 35 acres of land and built a disposal and sewage treatment plant on the property.

Martin was a member of the Virginia committee that compiled the “Church and Sunday School Hymnal” under the auspices of Mennonite General Conference.

In 1904, at the age of 58, Martin passed away and ten years later Kate married a childhood sweetheart, Henry Blosser.  Kate suffered a stroke in 1931 that affected her speech and died from a heart failure in 1932 at the age of 76.

Just a bit about the Lahman names…..

(This information comes from the “Martin A. Lahman Family” book by Helen F. Lahman).

The families of the Lehman-Lahmans came from Swiss-German descent. The first earliest records trace back to central Europe (Zurich, Germany and Berne, Switzerland) during the Protestant Reformation during the time of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. They probably fled and migrated to America because of severe persecution and in search of religious freedom.

According to records, Lehman is from the middle high German “leheman” meaning one who holds land on feudal tenure. This is a man who receives a piece of land as a fief (lehen) and not as his complete possession was called a Lehenman or later Lehman.

The name Lehman has many spelling variations including; Lehmann, Leman, Leeman, Leaman, Lemon, Laman, Lahman, and Layman. Numerous ancestors were found using different spellings on different official records of deeds, marriages and tombstone, even those obviously referring to the same person. This diversity may have been caused by illiteracy or English speaking clerks who tried to understand the thick German accent. The most commonly used variations of the name today are Lahman, Lehman and Layman.

Note: if any of the Lahman-Layman-Lehman  families know more of the story I would love for you to respond.  Also, it would be interesting to know other kinfolk among my friends that I didn’t know I had!

Descendants of Martin and Kate and how we fit together.

Martin and Kate had 15 children.  Listed below is a brief list of you descendants that I know and how we connect. Some of the family lines I do not know any of the descendants. I had no idea some of the folks that connected in-some are even my good friends or folks I have know all my life! An interesting note, all the boys in the family except for Byard changed the spelling of their name to Layman.

  1. Lydia Frances (James Shank):  Fannie (Joseph) Heatwole, Beerys (Old Orders), John Henry (Mary) Brenneman, Byard (Ruth Hertzler) Shank. An interesting note here is that my Uncle Byard married Gene’s Aunt Ruth. However, that did not make Gene and I related-we just had good taste in cousins!
  2. Ada Virginia (Perry Blosser):
  3. Charles L: Died at age 19
  4. Michael Abraham (Sarah Baker) Layman:
  5. John Calvin Layman (1st: Isa Beery, 2nd: Katie Horst): Nathan (Laura) Layman (See more of this story in the “Comment” by Martin Layman).
  6. Joseph Martin (Mamie Miller) Layman:
  7. Abbie Catherine (Daniel Shank):
  8. Emory Aaron: Died at age 9
  9. Hannah Mary (Joseph Brunk) : Gerald (Sophia) Martin, Donna (Nelson) Suter,  Mildred (Harry) Kraus
  10. Ottilla May (Luther Bowman): Brownie (Irving) Burkholder,  Vada (Dwight) Swartz,  Millard (Oma) Bowman, Lelia (James) Heatwole
  11. Byard Earl (Ethel Heatwole) Lahman: Harold (Evelyn) Lahman
  12. Della Pearl (Walter Hartman):
  13. Roy Jacob (Clarice Swartz) Layman: Emory (Luella) Layman
  14. Isa Dora (Emory Coakley):
  15. Clement Weaver (Nina Heatwole) Layman: Wilbur (Helen) Layman. Wilbur’s daughter Edith was my best friend during high school.

There were five of us second-once removed cousins in the 1970 graduating class at Eastern Mennonite High School; Eldon Heatwole, Dwight Layman, Dwight Burkholder, Edith Layman and myself.  And guess what, I never had a clue!


  • “Martin A. Lahman Family” book by Helen F. Lahman,
  • “Martin A. Lahman Family History” by Mildred Brunk Kraus and Harry L. Kraus Sr. 1996.

God’s Faithfulness

I have been thinking about “God’s faithfulness”. I have experienced it over and over and it is probably the one characteristic of God I think about and proclaim the most.

Psalms 119:40 “Your faithfulness endures to all generations.”

Lamentations 3:22 “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

History gives us something to look back and reflect on. History gives us a second perspective on life events.  History gives us our story to share with our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  History shows us our journey; some of it is good, some of it is tough and some of it we prefer to hide or throw away. History can not be changed but we can change the outcome of the future.

I think about the  song “Give Me That Old Time Religion” which we occasionally sang…”It was good for Paul and Silas… it was good in the fiery furnace…. and it’s good enough for me.”  Each generation has its own opportunity to pass on to the next their faith stories; stories of God’s goodness, stories of mountain top experiences and dark valleys. It is so important to tell theses stories to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Each generation has its own history, and its own uniqueness.  We live in a totally different world now than we did “back-in-the-good-ole days,”  but we are still people of faith and our God is still the same.  The important thing is can we see the goodness and faithfulness of God in the ebb and flow of life, the hard times, the good times, our griefs and losses. Looking back and telling our stories help us remember. The words of the Psalmist still ring true, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalms 23)  Like a Good Shepherd, the same God still walks beside us.

Proverbs 30 talks about a generation of people that…

  • Curses their fathers
  • Does not bless their mothers
  • Does what is pure in their own eyes
  • Are not washed from its filthiness
  • Whose eyes are haughty and glances disdainful
  • Whose teeth are like swords

Psalms 45:17  talks about a different kind of generation of people.  A people that remembers God and praises His name.

“I will remember your name to be remembered in all generations. Therefore the people shall praise you forever and forever.”

We can choose.   Joshua, the man God chosen to lead the children of Israel after Moses death, spoke pointedly when he said, “Choose today whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”   (Joshua 24:15)  Our decisions will have a profound impact on the generations that follow. Which generation will you be?  What heritage will you leave?

My challenge to us ….claim the faith of our fathers and make it your own.  Pass on to your children the goodness of God. Praise the name of the Lord, remember Him and you will raise up godly offspring that honors and serves Him.

Isaiah 25:1 “O Lord, You are My God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things, Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.”

Hopefully, when our time on planet earth is finished, we can say like the Psalmist (40:10) “I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness…I have declared your faithfulness…I have not concealed your righteousness and truth.”


Dare to Be a Daniel

A favorite song I learned as a child was “Dare to Be a Daniel” by Philip P. Bliss. We would sing the chorus with emphasis and gusto, “DARE to be a Daniel, DARE to stand alone, DARE to have a purpose firm, DARE to make it known”.

My favorite Biblical person of faith is Daniel. His story is tragic and sad, but it is also a bigger story of triumph and faith as Daniel and his three friends remained faithful to God even when all their other peers did not.

The story of Daniel unfolds in the Old Testament book of Daniel. The first six chapters are the story of Daniel. The last six are visions and fascinating prophecies that God revealed to Daniel, some of which have been fulfilled and some will be at the end of time.

Daniel was a young lad in Judah, somewhere between the age of 16-18 when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem, laid siege and captured the city. The temple was ravished and Daniel along with thousands of other young lads and residents were taken captive back to Babylon, in the area of modern day southeastern Iraq.

The king instructed the master of his eunuchs, Ashpenaz, to bring some of the young Jewish boys who were good-looking, without blemishes, smart and gifted in wisdom, knowledge and learning to be brought to his palace and trained in the Babylonian language and literature for three years so that they could serve his kingdom. In reality, the king planned to reprogram, indoctrinate, brainwash and submerse these young Jewish boys into Babylonian culture and foreign gods. The king is very clever as he dangles power and prestige and for starters he ordered that they be fed the best food of the land, the king’s delicacies and given the royal wine which he drank. Nebuchadnezzar did not want these lads to think about or miss their homes or their God.

We do not know anything about Daniel’s family pedigree except that he was from the tribe of Judah and lived in or close to Jerusalem.  As the story of Daniel unfolds, it is obvious that he had godly parents who had taught him well and ingrained in him a strong faith in God. Daniel was well rooted in the faith of his fathers.

Daniel had three other godly friends; Hananiah, Misheal and Azariah. When these young lads realized what they were facing, together they made a decision. They purposed in their hearts that they would not defile themselves with the king’s food. You see, to eat the king’s food was a direct violation of God’s law. They were not to eat unclean food or food offered to idols. (More details about clean and unclean food is given in Leviticus 11).  There was a spiritual purpose for this. God wanted his people to consecrate themselves to Him and to be holy, for He is holy, to be a separate people from the evil culture from which they came. Daniel knew this and saw the trap. If he ate the food, he violated God’s law and was relinquishing his identity as one of God’s chosen people.

Daniel and his friends handled themselves very carefully and wisely and God gave them favor with the chief of eunuchs. Daniel went to him and asked for exception so that they did not defile themselves. The chief said no. He feared the king and was afraid for his life if the king found out. So, Daniel went to the steward of the chief and ask for a trial, a ten-day only veggie and water test, after which they could be judged on their appearance to see if they were as fit as the other lads. The steward agrees. Ten days they would have eat only vegetables and drink only water and then he would examine them. I can imagine that these lads spent much time facing Jerusalem praying to their God.

At the end of ten days, Daniel and his friends were healthier, fatter and had much better appearance than all the other young men. This had to be a miracle, a ten-day food miracle.  However, if you also consider what teen boys do when given unbridled liberties without parental restrictions, they go on unhinged binges of drinking and eating. It doesn’t take long for bloodshot eyes, puffy faces and loud, drunken behavior to manifest itself. The contrast between Daniel and his friends to the other Jewish lads was so distinct that the steward was willing to risk his head and let the boys continue their diet for the three full years.

The Bible says that God honored and blessed Daniel and his friends with knowledge, wisdom and skill in learning the Babylonian literature so that at the end of three years when they were brought to an interview before the king, the king noticed. He found them ten times better in wisdom and knowledge than all the magicians and astrologers who were in his realm.  The Bible simply says, “therefore they served before the king”.  They were given positions of honor, serving with influence before the king.   Daniel and his three friends had figured out how to make the best of a difficult situation, even though torn from their families and culture and resituated in a strange land, they did not compromise on the important aspects of their faith. The rest of the captive lads are never mentioned again. Later in the story, Daniel was still serving when Cyprus is king.  According to history, that would have made Daniel about 85 years old. Daniel was never able to return to his beloved homeland, but God used the life of this godly man in a heathen culture that literally affected the course of their time and history and still challenges Christians today. Incidentally, there is not one word of wrongdoing written about Daniel.

Daniel resolved, purposed, made a contract with his heart, mind and soul, to stay true to God’s word, even if it meant standing against his peers.

Daniel chose godly friends who encouraged, supported and stood with him.

Daniel chose obedience, not knowing the outcome, but simply trusted in his God.

Daniel had a simple, uncomplicated faith. A faith that says God watches, God cares, and God acts.

Daniel embraced his new situation with a positive outlook, a gracious, forgiving spirit and a creative, willing mind.

Daniel made friends with his captors and gained their respect and honor.

Even though their Hebrews names which spoke of the true God were changed to names reflecting the Babylonian gods, it did not change the hearts of these Jewish lads. There is a saying, “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”  Daniel was taken away from his homeland where God dwelt, but they could not take God out of Daniel.

For reflection…

How important are your roots, your faith, your knowledge of God?

What does it mean to live counter to the culture of our times?

Are you willing to stand for truth in the midst of an ungodly society?

Do you know what truth is?

Is there a difference between the desires of your life to the desires of those who do not know the Lord?

Some thoughts…

If you scorn your roots and foundation, on what will you build? If you build foundations only, you will have width and length, but no height or depth. Choose the foundation you will keep and build wisely upward. A tree without roots cannot grow or weather a storm.

When we let culture dictate our values, we become our own god, becoming a servant to our own standards.

What may appear to be a wrong decision according to our culture, may reveal itself to be wisdom.

It is easy to make a commitment, but it is another thing to keep that commitment. Genuine commitment is staying true to what you say you are going to do, even if you risk losing.

Several Bible verses…

Romans 12:2 “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Proverbs 25:26 “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.”

A story from my faith journey…

When I was in the seventh grade, I left the security and comfort of a small rural elementary school for the big adventure and independence of middle school. I quickly found a good Christian friend, whose name was June, and adapted to the new routine, but lunch was a different experience.

Back in elementary school our teacher always prayed with us before we ate. Not here!  After several days of floundering over what to do, we happened to notice another student sit down at the table and bow his head and pray before eating. Conviction hit strong and June and I had a talk about what to do. We decided we had to do the same.  The next day we headed to the back corner of the cafeteria with our food tray and sat down at a table a long way from our peers. Just as we went to bow our heads, the door open and in came the principal and all his staff for lunch. We thought we were being brave by “hiding” when in fact we had just chosen a seat near the entrance door!!! God really had a sense of humor. We glanced at each other and with blushed faces bowed our heads and silently prayed. We didn’t talk much that day; it was a mixed feeling of embarrassment, relief, and insecurity.

The next day, just before the lunch hour, the principal came on the intercom and announced to the whole school that each day, a student would be asked to come to the office and pray over the intercom for the noon meal. I will never forget that experience and there is no doubt in my mind the principal saw us and being a Christian man himself, was convicted. One male student who quietly prayed alone, led to two girls praying, to a whole school openly praying for at least two years.



Barbecued Bear

A friend gave us a bear roast several weeks ago. I decided to freeze it until Christmas and make it a part of our Christmas festivities when the family was here. It would be something different and create conversation. You never know how people, especially young folks, will react to sometime like bear meat so I decided to keep it a secret and announce “after” they had eaten what it was. My plan worked great except the two boys did not take a serving. Ryan announced he doesn’t eat anything he doesn’t know what it is. Poor fellow. He missed out on a real treat.  Emily and Lauren responded with “they love bear meat”. Karla was the funniest. She rolled her eyes and responded with, “Grandma, I think I’m going to be sick”!!!  The food stayed down and she lived to see the light of the next day.  She did admit it was good when she didn’t know what it was.

The barbecue was very tasty.

If you are interested, here is how I fixed it.

I soaked the roast in salt water a few hours to help remove some of the game flavor and then put it in a roasting pan, covered with my brisket sauce, 1 cup chopped onions and baked at 325 for approximately 4 hours until it was fall apart tender. The leg roast weighed approximately 3 lbs.  It can also be done in a crockpot.

Brisket Sauce

Mix all ingredients together and pour over uncooked meat. This is enough to do a 3 lb. roast or brisket.

1 c. Water

3/4 c. Catsup

2 T. Brown Sugar

1/2 tsp. Chili Powder

1 tsp. Minced Garlic

1/2 tsp. Celery Salt

1/8 tsp. Black Pepper

1/4 c. Worcestershire Sauce

1 T. Vinegar

1/2 tsp. Dry Mustard

1/4 tsp. Red Pepper

1 T. Liquid Smoke (This is a very important ingredient and is found in the grocery store aisle by the Worcestershire Sauce)

1 tsp. Paprika

1 tsp. Salt

Note: the prepared meat with the sauce freezes excellent.

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