Sunday, November 11, 2012

'Pastor and Patriot' Comes to Pottstown

Frederick Muhlenberg's portrait
Did you know that the first person to sign the  Bill of Rights once lived in Trappe?

Neither did I until I read Mike Synder's excellent article in the Nov. 3 Mercury about Frederick Muhlenberg and his times in the house on West Main Street.

According to Snyder, Muhlenberg presided at the Pennsylvania state convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

"Two years later he made the move from state to national politics when he was elected as a representative to the first United States Congress and chosen as the first Speaker of the House and was the first man to sign the Bill of Rights," Snyder wrote.

History geek that I am, I immediate resolved to visit the house, which is still open to the public but, as is the case with many lesser-known landmarks, in desperate need of money.

But if you don't want to leave town, you can mark Monday, Nov. 19 on your calendar.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Minardi
Artist rendering of The Speaker's House by Julie Longacre,
showing the house as it looked when Frederick Muhlenberg
lived there.
That's when the Pottstown Historical Society, of which Snyder just happens to be president, will host Lisa Minardi as the gues speaker.

In addition to being an assistant curator in charge of Pennsylvania German Art at Winterthur Museum in Delaware; an Ursinus graduate with a degree in history and museum studies, she is also president of The Speaker's House, a preservation group overseeing the restoration of the home.

Her first book Pastors and patriots: The Muhlenberg Family of Pennsylvania," was recently published and copies proceeds from the sale of the $30 book, which will be for sale on the night of the meeting, will benefit the Speakers House organization.

The Muhlenbergs came from Germany in 1742, in part because there was a distinct shortage of Lutheran clergymen and the Rev. Henry Muhlenberg is often recognized as the "father of the Lutheran Church in America."

His wife was the daughter of Conrad Weiser, who helped preserve peace with the Iroquis.
The Speaker's House as it appears

Frederick was one his 11 children. His other childrenincluded a famous Revolutionary War general, Peter, and Gottlied Henry Ernst Muhlenberg, who becoame one of America's best known botanists.

His daughter, Maria married a U.S. Congressman and his daughter Eve was mother to Andrew Schultz, a governor of Pennsylvania.

Minardi's talk will focus on the Muhlenberg family during the time of the American Revolution and will include images of houses, portraits, furniture and other artifacts associated with the family that were discovered during research for her book.

Minardi's talk will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the historical society's headquarters, 568 High St.

For more information, go to the historical society's web site.

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