Archives Committee Sponsors Fourth Cemetery Lantern Tour

For the fourth year, the Archives Committee of the Lititz Morvian Congregation is sponsoring a cemetery lantern tour on Sunday evening, October 2 beginning at 7:30 p.m. According to Dale Shelley, who organizes the event, groups of 25 will leave the sanctuary with a guide every five or ten minutes to visit selected gravesites.

“This year,” Shelley says, “We’ll start in front of the Single Brothers’ House, where surgeon William Brown (officer in charge of the Revolutionary War hospital that occupied the building), will tell us about the conditions in the hospital in 1777-78.”

On the way to the cemetery, the tour groups will stop at the Corpse House, where Moravians kept the bodies of deceased Brethren before burial. In the Corpse House can be seen old wooden biers and wooden carts for transporting the bodies of the deceased to God’s Acre.

The tour groups will proceed from the Corpse House to God’s Acre while the Trombone Choir plays chorales for the deceased. The tour provides a sense of an 18-th century Moravian funeral.

After passing the gravesite of General John Augustus Sutter and his wife, Anna, the tour approaches the arched entrance to the cemetery, which is lit for the occasion. On the arch are the German words, “Selig sind die Todten die in dem Herrn sterben” (Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord).

Entering God’s Acre, the tour groups will see that the gravestones lay flat, signifying to early Moravians equality in death. This is the section where burials were by gender, women on the left and men on the right, and then further separated by “Choir,” the divisions of the 18th-century church. The Lititz Church had four choirs: Married People including Widows and Widowers, Single Brethren, Single Sisters, and Children.

As the tour group circles God’s Acre, different gravesites will be visited where scripted characters will briefly tell about the life and death of the deceased. This year, some of the gravesites to be visited include that of Susann Litzman, who lived in the house that is now the Lititz Historical Foundation museum. Another will be that of Susan Shultz Brickenstein, who was the mistress at Linden Hall.

Other gravesites to be visited are those of Johanna Agusta Beck, Richard Rush Tshudy, John C. Brickenstein, Julius Theodore Beckler and Francis William Christ. All will share interesting tales of life in early Lititz.

Following the tour, light refreshments will be served in Fellowship Hall. All are welcome, and there is no charge for the tour or the refreshments, but there will an opportunity for a free-will offering.

Picture captions: 1) Lititz Moravian Cemetery Entry Arch – Photo by Bill Sweger

2) 1786 Corpse House, where Moravians kept bodies of the deceased before burial