Monks of the Wissahickon: Part IV

Photo By Rick Fink

Photo By Rick Fink

By Joe Tyson III

Besides serving as Johannes Kelpius’s secretary and jack-of-all trades, Daniel Geissler worked variously as a court crier, committeeman, tax collector, commissioner of roads, and overseer of fences.  It seems that Germantown’s assembly “drafted” public officials for either no pay, or a pittance.  In any case, early records indicate that Germantown judges fined Daniel on two occasions for failing to perform his duties.  In 1701 he refused to accept the post of “prison tax gatherer” because the notion of building jails grated on his conscience.  The burgesses elected my 7th great-grandfather Cornelius Theissen in his place. However, that did not end the matter for Geissler.  A magistrate subsequently fined him four shillings for failing to show up in court to set forth his reasons for not serving.  On January 8, 1704 Daniel asked to be relieved as Overseer of Ways, arguing that he had absolutely no knowledge of road building or “cart way” maintenance. Three months later Germantown’s judiciary fined him three pounds for shirking his civic duty.  Of course, Daniel was not lazy by any means.  He shared Magister Johannes Kelpius’s aversion to worldly entanglements, and did not relish trudging long distances through wilderness just to inspect fences, or shout “hear ye, hear ye” in the infant borough’s makeshift courtroom.

Daniel Geissler transacted a few real estate deals between 1697 and 1702, most likely at the direction of “civilly dead” Kelpius, with Chapter of Perfection funds.  His major acquisitions, all in Germantown, were 25 acres purchased from Isaac and Mary Dilbeck (December 1, 1697), 50 acres from printer Reynier Janssen (October 20, 1701), and 50 acres from Willem Streypers (April 4, 1702.)

A year or two before Kelpius’s death in 1708 Geissler and Dr. Christopher Witt—both tired of living in the woods-- constructed a cabin on the land purchased from Reynier Janssen, near Christian and Christiana Warmer’s home.  After Kelpius’s death, Daniel kept house, assisted Dr. Witt in his medical practice, and tended their spacious garden, which grew vegetables, fruit trees, medicinal herbs, flowers, and exotic plants.

Daniel Geissler died in the summer of 1745 and left his worldly goods to widow Maria Barbara Schneiderin, who cared for him during his final illness.

The last surviving member of Kelpius’s Chapter of Perfection was English, not German.  Born in Wiltshire, England circa 1675, Christopher Witt studied biology, astronomy, and other sciences as a young man.  He immigrated to America in 1704 and immediately affiliated with the Wissahickon monks.

A polymathic genius, Witt excelled in multiple fields of endeavor, including medicine, astrology, botany, palmistry, dousing, music, drawing, architecture, and clock-making.  He practiced medicine with consummate skill, utilizing science along with folk remedies, the occult, and faith healing.  In 1738 Dr. Witt conferred Pennsylvania’s first medical degree on his intern, Dr. John Kaign of Haddonfield, New Jersey.   Witt’s healing powers were so remarkable that superstitious folks in Germantown deemed him a “hexenmeister.”  Some crossed themselves after passing their “village witch doctor” on the street.  (We know that Amish farmers put hex signs on barns to repel evil spirits.  A “hexenmeister,” or warlock, can impose and lift curses, as well as effect “magical” cures, sometimes through the intercession of evil spirits.)

A well-known citizen of Germantown, Dr. Witt did not fit the image of a recluse.  Unlike Seelig and Matthai, he stayed in regular touch with the Philadelphia area’s English-speaking community. In addition to treating patients daily for over fifty years, he socialized with the Warmers. Leverings, Wistars, Neiles, Johnsons, Withenholzes, Knorrs, and many other families.  Witt formed a cordial friendship Germantown mayor Francis Daniel Pastorius, his next door neighbor for years.  He paid tuition for some poor children at Pastorius’s school—possibly including his own nephew, William Yates.  Witt and Pastorius held a running poetry contest—composing verses in Latin, Greek, German, and English—then reciting them to one another.  Sometimes Pastorius would simply put a written poem in an envelope and toss it over the fence onto his neighbor’s backyard.

Christopher Witt painted North America’s first oil portrait—of Johannes Kelpius—in 1705.  He also made numerous drawings of plants and animals, sending many of them to London’s Royal Society.  Witt supervised the construction of Germantown’s first stone house—which he occupied after the death of Daniel Geissler.  A virtuoso on keyboard instruments, Witt also built and repaired organs, spinnets, harpsichords, and “virginals.” He translated most of Johannes Kelpius’s hymns from German into English.  Julius Sachse credited him with assembling the first clocks to strike quarter hours in Pennsylvania, and with inventing the cuckoo clock’s pull-chain winding mechanism.

Johann Jacob Zimmerman, the Chapter of Perfection’s founder, bequeathed his astrolabes, telescopes, and ephemerides (almanacs) to Johannes Kelpius in 1694.  Kelpius willed those same items back to Zimmerman’s widow, Maria Margarethe in 1708.  She gave them to Christopher Witt.  According to Julius Sachse, Christopher passed them on the Warmer family when he became blind. The American Philosophical Society at 104 S. 5th St. owned the astronomical devices in 1896.  They were not on display, but dumped helter-skelter into a musty storeroom.

With Zimmerman’s eight foot long telescope Witt observed The Great Comet of 1743, and jotted down the following data:

“(The comet’s) atmosphere or tail is not long, but directing
itself to the southeast.  (Its) motion is but slow,
(heading) northwest.  He rises about 10:45 A.M. in the
E.N.E. and passes our meridian at 5:15 P.M. in
latitude 15-30 North and sets three-quarters after night
in the west-northwest.  His latitude with respect to
the ecliptic is 21 degrees 30 minutes…longitude Aries
14 degrees, 30 minutes.”                              

In 1718 Dr. Witt purchased 125 acres of Germantown property from Jan Doeden and his wife Mary for sixty pounds, thus attaining financial security at age 43.  He continued to render medical care to poor people gratis and the solvent for a fee. Included among his services were astrological counsel, palm readings, and divinations performed with the aid of a hazel twig.  Between 1708 and 1745 Witt lived with Daniel Geissler, on the Warmer estate. The pair remained in contact with Conrad Matthai, Johann Seelig, and other surviving Monks of the Ridge.

An avid herbalist, Dr. Witt mailed English naturalist Peter Collinson many specimens of North American plants, including Lychnis, Mountain Ranunculus, Marsh Martogon, Spiroea, hollow-leafed lavender, snake root, and three varieties of Jaceas. Collinson and Philadelphian John Bartram both corresponded with the doctor.  Bartram’s letter of 6/11/1743 to Collinson provided an interesting portrayal of him.

“I have lately been to visit our friend Dr. Witt, where I spent four or five hours very agreeably—sometimes in his garden, where I viewed every kind of plant, I believe that grew therein…We went into his study, which was furnished with books containing different kinds of learning; as Philosophy, Natural Magic, Divinity, nay even Mystic Divinity; all of which were the subjects of our discourse within doors, which alternately gave way to Botany, every time we walked in the garden.  I could have wished thee the enjoyment of so much diversion, as to have heard our (conversation.)…”

After Daniel Geissler passed away in 1745, seventy year old Dr. Witt moved to the large stone home he designed eighteen years earlier for the late Christian Warmer Jr. at Pastorius St. and Germantown Ave.  Circa 1746 Witt purchased a mulatto slave named Robert Claymoore to do gardening, home maintenance, food preparation, and other tasks.  Because Claymoore had exceptional mechanical aptitude, his master also taught him clock-making.

In his late seventies Christopher Witt’s spine became bent, apparently due to arthritis.  He also began going blind.  By the summer of 1761 he was nearly sightless.  In his letter to Peter Collinson of July 19, 1761 John Bartram wrote that Witt had recently visited his West Philadelphia estate.  Bartram reported:  “Dr. Witt was lately in my garden, but could not distinguish a leaf from a flower.”

Christopher Witt died on or about January 30th, 1765.  By a last testament, dated November 7, 1761, he willed most of his land to Christian Warmer III, the grandson of Germantown tailor Christian Warmer Sr. and his wife Christiana, who had shown great kindness to the Wissahickon monks.  Robert Claymoore received his freedom, a piece of land, clock-making tools, furniture, and other household contents.  Witt contributed sixty pounds to Pennsylvania Hospital for treatment of the indigent.  He also left a property at 5073 Germantown Ave. to his nephew, William Yates.

Mourners wrapped Dr. Witt’s body in a linen sheet and reverently placed it in an unvarnished pine box built by Robert Claymoore, on top of a “cushion” of wood shavings. As the early February sun set, they interred him beside Daniel Geissler in a small burial ground on Christian Warmer’s property near High St. and Germantown Ave. Julius Sachse wrote that some citizens reported “spectral blue flames … dancing around his grave…for weeks.” Others claimed to have seen “the shriveled, bent-over form of Dr. Witt (post mortem)… toiling up the hillside behind his house (at Germantown Ave. & Pastorius St.)” In 1859 The Episcopal Diocese of Philadelphia built St. Michael’s Church on top of this graveyard, which locals then called “Spook Hill.”  In addition to the bodies of Geissler, Witt, an unknown number of anonymous monks, assorted Warmer family members, and Robert Claymoore, this unmarked plot holds the remains of a half dozen paupers, plus some Hessian and British soldiers killed in the Battle of Germantown (October 4th, 1777.) Over sixty years ago the Episcopal Diocese sold St. Michael’s to an African-American congregation, which renamed it The High St. Church of God.  A faded stone plaque on one side of the building memorializes the Monks of the Wissahickon.   According to historian David Spencer, the bones of Daniel Geissler and Christopher Witt lie beneath this church’s altar. 

Monks of the Wissahickon: Part III

By Joe Tyson III

Johannes Kelpius always had a delicate constitution and weak lungs.  His health nosedived in July, 1706, when he contracted a series of “colds.”  Germantown tailor Christian Warmer and his wife Christina went to America with The Chapter of Perfection in 1694, and remained lay members.  They took Magister Kelpius into their Germantown home whenever he fell seriously ill. Based on what Sachse and Pennypacker tell us, Kelpius died of either consumption or pneumonia.  We do not know his exact date of death, however it occurred sometime between January 1, 1708 and March 1st of that year when a petition submitted to Pennsylvania’s Provincial Council by Johann Jawert officially categorized him as “now deceased.”

According to Lutheran minister Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Kelpius believed that “he would not die a natural death…but…be transfigured like Elijah…(and) translated bodily into the spiritual world.” As the end neared, he abandoned that delusion.  Reproving himself for grandiosity, he advised disciple Daniel Geissler:  “I have received my answer.  It is that dust I am and to dust I (shall) return. (Genesis 3:19.)  It is ordained that I shall die like …all children of Adam.” By way of putting his affairs in order, Kelpius handed Daniel Geissler a small case of magical artifacts, and instructed him to throw it into the Schuylkill River.  Geissler set out on a two mile hike to the Schuylkill, but decided to hide his master’s chest somewhere along that route.  When he returned to the Warmers’ house, Kelpius slowly sat up and fixed him with a stern, cockeyed gaze (accentuated by his sleepy left eye), exclaiming:  “Daniel, thou hast not done as I bid thee, nor cast the casket into the river, but… have hidden it near the shore!” Startled Geissler, without even attempting to make an excuse, retraced his steps, retrieved the box, and tossed it into the water.  As soon as he did so “the Arcanum exploded…with flashes like lightning and peals like thunder.” For years superstitious Germantown citizens thought that the Philosopher’s Stone laid on the Schuylkill’s bottom, near Philadelphia Canoe Club where Wissahickon Creek flows into the river. 

Judge Samuel W. Pennypacker doubted the veracity of this tale, which paralleled one of the Arthurian romance stories.  King Arthur ordered his aide Sir Bedevere to throw magic sword Excalibur into a lake.  Instead, Bevedere hid the gold-inlaid weapon under shrubbery.  Upon his return, suspicious Arthur interrogated him, divined that he’d failed to follow instructions, and angrily sent him back to carry out the original directive.  Bevedere hurried off, recovered the hidden sword, and hurled it out over the lake.  A thunderbolt struck the water with deafening noise, as a white-robed woman’s arm emerged from its surface, caught Excalibur, shook it three times, then slipped back down into the depths.

At sundown The Monks of the Ridge buried Magister Johannes Kelpius in their community garden, somewhere on the north side of Hermit Lane.  After the last spade full of dirt had been cast on his grave, someone released a white dove into the air to symbolize the return of Master Kelpius’s soul to God.  In unison his spiritual brothers chanted:  “God grant him a blessed Resurrection!”

Johannes Kelpius’s Chapter of Perfection practically disbanded after his death.  Most former brethren left the order to marry and adopt mundane occupations.  However, a hard-core remnant of six monks lingered under the direction of Conrad Matthai.  Mill hands along Wissahickon Creek recalled seeing holy men walking single file on the carriage road, wearing brown robes with hoods and sandals.  Evening strollers still occasionally spot six ghostly figures moving along Forbidden Drive.

Four of the loyalists were Johann Seelig, Conrad Matthai, Daniel Geissler, and Christopher Witt.  Seelig and Matthai continued to live more or less as hermits within the Wissahickon Gorge.  Though still ascetics, Geissler and Witt became more involved with the secular world.  From about 1702 until their deaths, they resided in the hamlet of Germantown.

Johann Gottfried Seelig was born in Lemgo, Germany c. 1668.  He briefly studied for the Lutheran ministry, but his radical views led him to join Johann Jacob Zimmerman’s Chapter of Perfection in 1694.  A scholar in his own right, Seelig became Johannes Kelpius’s closest associate between 1694 and 1708.  Because he had served so long as Deputy Magister, the Monks of the Ridge elected him Magister after Kelpius’s death.  However, due to his profound humility, “Holy John” declined that position.  A versatile individual, Seelig not only taught school, composed hymns, tilled the community garden, and discovered underground water sources by virtue of his gift for dousing, but also worked as a bookbinder and title clerk.  His stylized German script graced many of Germantown’s original deeds.  Local printer Christian Sauer hired him to bind books, including the Bible and The Ephrata Cloister’s 800 page hymnal.  Johann instructed some members of the Ephrata Brotherhood in this trade.  They would eventually operate Pennsylvania’s largest bindery.

 Germantown residents frequently approached Seelig for astrological advice.  He cast birth charts (“nativities”), and furnished prognostications based on planetary transits and progressions.  Colonists recognized him as one of Pennsylvania’s foremost practitioners of elective astrology, which ascertains favorable times for initiating events.  Thus, in 1698 the Swedish Lutherans who planned to erect Gloria Dei Church near the Delaware River enlisted Holy John’s services in selecting a propitious date to lay their building’s cornerstone.  His reckoning must have been correct, for this sturdy landmark (an Episcopal church since 1845) still stands at the intersection of Water and Swanson streets.

From the early 1720’s until his death in April, 1745, Seelig lived in a cabin on the Levering family’s farm near Henry & Monastery Avenues, Roxborough.  There he received many distinguished visitors, including Moravian evangelists Georg Boehnish, August Spangenberg, and David Nitschmann, and the Ephrata Cloister’s leader Conrad Beissel.  In 1741 and 1742 German religious reformer Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf met with Johann Seelig and Conrad Matthai several times.  Although they became friends, and the monks wholeheartedly agreed with Zinzendorf’s opposition to slavery, neither man would endorse the Count’s Church of God in the Spirit, which they perceived to be yet another Protestant sect.

Johann Seelig died on April 26, 1745.  He left all his possessions to William Levering, including ten volumes by Jacob Boehme, five bibles, 124 other books, and five bookbinding presses.  Seelig’s will directed that his walking staff be hurled into the Schuylkill River.  According to legend, it exploded “with a loud report” when it hit the water.  Judge Samuel Pennypacker also dismissed that account as apocryphal, once again citing its suspicious resemblance to the passage in Thomas Mallory’s Morte D’Arthur, wherein dying King Arthur’s sword Excalibur precipitated a lightning flash and thunderclap upon being hurled into an enchanted lake by Sir Bedevere.

Conrad Matthai and Christopher Witt officiated at Seelig’s funeral on William Levering’s property, which was attended by many Germantown residents, as well as Moravians from Bethlehem, and Ephrata Cloister brethren.  Historian Julius F. Sachse described his requiem ceremony in The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania.  “As the last rays of the sun gilded the horizon, the relics of the old theosophist were lowered into the grave, the mystical incantation thrice repeated, while the released dove coursed in wide circles through the air until lost to view in the distance.”

Conrad Matthai emigrated from Switzerland to America in 1704 and joined Kelpius’s Chapter of Perfection.  According to tradition, he came from a wealthy Swiss family.  While at Harburg University, Matthai grew disenchanted with the strife existing among Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, etc.  Intolerant preachers resembled the babblers on the Tower of Babel.  Matthai believed that Jesus would have condemned such bickering, just as he criticized the senseless feud between Pharisees and Saducees in his own day.

The ecumenical attitude of Jacob Boehme’s Signatura Rerum spoke to Matthai’s condition.  The frontispiece of one edition showed an angel blowing a trumpet amid Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and Muslims.  Its caption proclaimed that this work’s message was aimed at all nations:  “Christians, Jews, Turks, and Heathens.”  Matthai recognized the underlying Brotherhood of Mankind and Mystical Unity of Christ’s Church, in spite of theological differences.

Following Kelpius’s death in 1708, and Johann Seelig’s refusal to serve as Magister, the remaining monks nominated Conrad as their leader. The order gradually changed from approximately sixteen men living together in one building to a loose confederation of six anchorites occupying separate dwellings. The monastery on Righters’ Plantation, adjacent to present-day Hermitage Mansion, fell into disrepair. (A hurricane completely destroyed the dilapidated structure in 1770.)

Conrad Matthai possessed both healing powers and second sight.  He interpreted horoscopes, exorcised demons, prophesied future events, and had the ability to project his “astral body.”  In 1740 the wife of a Philadelphia ship captain consulted him.  She inquired about her husband who had left on a voyage to Africa more than six months previously.  In the past he had always sent letters informing her of his whereabouts. This time she’d received no communication from him at all.  Matthai excused himself, told her to stand by, then repaired to his small bedchamber for a “nap.”  After more than an hour of waiting, the woman peered in and saw him lying on his bunk, “pale and motionless as if he were dead.” When Matthai regained consciousness he informed the lady that her spouse sat in a London coffeehouse at that moment and would soon set sail for Philadelphia.


As foreseen, her seafaring husband caught fair winds and returned within two months.  After hearing his wife’s incredible story, he decided to visit the fortune-telling magus.  Upon setting his eyes on Matthai, the mariner declared that he’d encountered him before in a London coffeehouse just before sailing home. Turning to his wife, he said the old gent had given him a start by striding up to his table, delivering a brusque reproof, then disappearing into thin air. In an accusatory tone Father Conrad had muttered something like: “you’ve neglected to post so much as a note to your wife for well past six months.  She’s worried sick about you.”


Matthai and his Wissahickon comrades belonged to no organized religion, convinced that man communicated most effectively with God by means of heart and soul, not merely the unreliable human intellect.  In fact, righteous illuminations derived more from the heart, solar plexus, and gut than the brain. Sophistical arguments led votaries astray by distracting them from essentials such as spiritual evolution and good works. Predestination was doctrine to one faction and heresy to another.  The Monks of the Ridge disparaged theological constructs like Universalism, Trinitarianism, Unitarianism, The Atonement, etc. as figments of the human imagination. Satan employed such unprovable theories to fragment Christendom.  Those issues were beyond the ken of human minds.  Kelpius’s friend Jane Leade referred to dogmas as “lifeless shells.” William Penn noticed that “creed-making” and persecution went hand-in-hand.  Kelpius, Matthai, and their compatriots realized that God transcended defective human logic. Salvation must be achieved through love, faith, and charity, not metaphysical conjecture.

Such freethinking did not endear the monks to all clergymen.  Lutheran minister Henry Melchior Muhlenberg thought that “separatist” Wissahickon monks went too far. In his words: “they cared nothing for the sacraments…Holy Writ is a dead letter to them…They busied themselves with theosophy…and practiced alchemy.”

The Wissahickon monks did study theosophy, astrology, and alchemy, but never dismissed Holy Writ as a “dead letter.” On the contrary, they were obsessed with the Bible. Johann Seelig owned no less than five different translations of it. Kelpius filled his essays and correspondence with scriptural quotes. His May 25, 1706 letter to Hester Palmer cited over forty biblical references within the space of eleven hand-written pages.  Of course, like Jacob Boehme, the monks construed scripture symbolically instead of literally.  Hidden meanings took precedence over surface narratives. For example, Kelpius, Seelig, and Matthai viewed Exodus metaphorically, comparing Moses to the human soul. Like Moses, a properly developing soul must depart from Egypt (bondage to pagan sensuality) and journey toward the Promised Land (state of holiness.)

A familiar figure both in the forest and on Germantown’s streets, Conrad Matthai was described by Julius Sachse as “a well-knit man… with grave demeanor, long-hair, shaggy beard, (who wore) plain, homespun garb, ...sandals, … and carried a walking stick… He spoke but little.” Because of his broad-mindedness he enjoyed friendly relations with Moravians, Dunkers, Mennonites, Quakers, and Ephrata’s Brotherhood.  Shortly after his 1720 arrival in America, Ephrata founder Conrad Beissel had boarded with Matthai for several months.  Like the Moravians, Matthai condemned England’s tolerance of slavery and maltreatment of Native Americans.  He sympathized with Moravian zeal to convert the Indians, institute universal public education, and unite all Christian religions. He taught classes at their school in Germantown. When the Moravians brought three recently baptized Indians to him in 1742, he led a prayer of thanksgiving, then blessed all present.

Matthai’s health deteriorated in 1745, following the deaths of colleagues Johann Seelig and Daniel Geissler.  Moravian schoolteacher Jasper Payne and his wife aided the old mystic whenever possible.  Responding to their appeals, Moravian minister Richard Utley traveled from Bethlehem to assist him further.  Another friend, wine merchant Johannes Wistar, also helped Matthai during his final years, paying for food, clothing, medical care, and burial expenses.  While confined to bed on August 24th, 1748 Father Conrad sent a message to Jasper Payne requesting that he bring the school children to his cabin.  Payne showed up the next day with thirty-some boys and girls who sang “parting hymns” to their dying teacher.  When they finished, he rose from his bed, faced east, prayed with upraised hands, then blessed the children and dismissed them.  He died two days later.

On his deathbed Matthai stated that he wished to be laid to rest north of Hermit Lane with Master Johannes Kelpius—not beside him, but at his feet.  The September 1st, 1748 funeral of this non-sectarian recluse almost turned into an inter-denominational brawl.   Both the Moravians and Conrad Beissel’s Ephrata Brotherhood tried to claim Matthai’s corpse.  Johannes Wistar arbitrated this dispute by allowing each group to conduct graveside services—first Brother Timotheus of the Ephrata Cloisters, then Rev. James Greening of Germantown’s Moravian congregation.  Wistar then saw to it that Magister Conrad’s burial instructions were carried out to the letter.

Monks of The Wissahickon: Part 2

By Joe Tyson III

In August, 1694 William Penn’s Surveyor General Thomas Fairman (possibly on Penn’s instructions) donated 175 acres of woods west of Germantown to the monks.  Kelpius and his men cleared land in the forest near today’s Hermit Lane, planted vegetables and herbs, then started building their priory: a log structure consisting of a “saal” (communal worship area, with tabernacle), small dining room (served by an outdoor kitchen,) forty “kammern” (monks’ cells), and a second story belfry with window, used as an observatory.  Behind that little tower’s window the monks placed Johann Jacob Zimmerman’s telescope, and daily scanned the heavens for signs of The Second Coming.  Heeding Revelation 12:16, Kelpius and his followers expectantly awaited the Woman of the Wilderness and her Infant Son, who was destined to rule God’s New World.

Kelpius’s brotherhood considered the number 40 sacred.  Their numerological reasoning, derived from Zimmerman, assumed that 1 represented unity, 2 repeated unity, 4 harmony.  They esteemed 40, the decade of 4, as the number of perfection, and pointed out its frequency in the Bible.  God made it rain 40 days and 40 nights at the time of the Deluge.  Moses spent 40 days and nights with Yahweh on Mount Sinai.  The Children of Israel roamed through the desert with Moses for 40 years.  Saul and David each ruled Israel 40 years.  The Jerusalem Temple’s sanctuary measured 40 cubits in length (1 Kings 6:17.)  Jesus’s public life lasted about forty months.  He fasted 40 days and 40 nights in the desert (Matthew 4:2.)  The period between his death on the cross (3 P.M. Good Friday) and Resurrection (7 A.M., Easter Sunday) was 40 hours.  The Risen Christ communicated with the apostles 40 days between his Crucifixion and Ascension to Heaven (Acts 1:3.)

In deference to forty, the number of perfection, Kelpius’s community initially consisted of 40 members, who inhabited a large cabin measuring 40 feet by 40 feet, with its corners oriented toward the four cardinal points of the compass. Years after Kelpius’s death, his successors even laid out their 1,600 square foot burial ground in Germantown 40 by 40 feet.  On their monastery’s tabernacle a monk with artistic skill carved the Rosicrucian symbol—a cross within a heart, positioned so that the rising sun’s first rays would imbue it with rose-colored light.

Kelpius’s Chapter of Perfection became popularly known as The Monks of the Wissahickon or Monks of the Ridge.  Each year they commemorated the anniversary of their arrival in the new world on St. John the Baptist’s Eve, June 23rd.  Significantly, that day nearly coincides with the Summer Solstice, when the sun moves from 29 degrees Gemini to 0 Cancer. In those days, before Smoky the Bear’s era, the Holy Brotherhood celebrated by igniting a bonfire in the woods.  As the flames died down they scattered embers to symbolize the sun’s gradual diminution from the summer to winter solstice (approximately December 22nd.).  After the rites on St. John’s Eve, 1701, those assembled (in present-day Valley Green Park) beheld “a white, obscure moving body in the air, which, as it approached, assumed the form and mien of an angel…it receded into the… forest shadows…and appeared again immediately before them as the fairest of the lovely.”

Legend has it that Kelpius used to meditate in a hut made of logs and stone known as “The Laurea.” There still exists a tiny hovel about 200 yards from Hermitage Mansion. The Rosicrucian Society, which claimed him as one of them, placed a small monument next to this humble shanty, which states: “Johannes Kelpius, Ph.D, 1673 (sic) -1708, the contented of the God-loving soul, Magister of the 1st Rosicrucian colony in America, arrived June 24, 1694, then known as Monks of the Ridge;  Fra Kelpius used this cave as a shelter and as a sanctum for his meditations, lovingly erected to his memory by Grand Lodge of the Rosicrucians (AMORC) A.D. 1961.” This man-made “cave”—littered with empty beer cans and other rubbish the last time I visited it—measures 16 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 8 feet high.  According to Julius F. Sachse it once had a small fireplace, plus shelves for books and alchemical equipment.  Amateur archeologists still disagree as to whether this structure was a monk’s cell, springhouse, or chicken coop.  (One hypothesis maintains that the little shack belonged to monk Conrad Matthai, rather than Kelpius.)

Some Germantown residents faulted the highly qualified monks for choosing to live so far from their struggling village, which needed all the help it could get.  In the Gospel of Matthew (5:15), Jesus said: “neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, so that it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”  The hermits’ monasticism—their priory in a remote forest; vows of poverty, chastity, obedience—smacked of medieval Catholicism.  The Protestant Reformation encouraged pragmatism, engagement with the “real” world, free enterprise capitalism, and utilization of modern technology to improve everyone’s standard of living.  University-educated men should not hide their light in the middle of nowhere.  His more bitter detractors bashed Kelpius as a “Papist, Jesuit, and Indian Deist.”

Actually, the monks never shut themselves off from society.  They invited neighbors and friends to their tabernacle for religious services every Saturday (the true Sabbath in their estimation.)  The brothers tutored both children and adults in various subjects, and provided free medical care to the sick.  Their religious services consisted of hymn singing, scripture readings, homilies, but not sacraments, or anything resembling a mass.  They did not perform baptisms, or distribute the Eucharist.  

A few monks helped out local farmers by locating subterranean watercourses for them. Expert dousers such as Johann Seelig would take a witch hazel branch in both hands between thumb and forefinger, with forked end pointing downward, while reciting an incantation.  When he reached an underground spring, the stick would bend toward the ground.

In 1698 the founders of Gloria Dei (“Old Swedes”) Lutheran Church invited the monks to their cornerstone-laying ceremony.  Johann Seelig had already cast a horoscope to determine an auspicious date for the beginning of construction.  His computations must have been accurate since Gloria Dei, the oldest house of worship in Philadelphia, still stands at 929 South Water Street (a.k.a. 916 Swanson Street.)

The Monks of the Wissahickon avoided sectarianism and encouraged ecumenical dialogue.  When Kelpius’s former professor, Dr. Johannes Fabricius, asked him in a letter if he had joined The Society of Friends, Johannes replied on July 23, 1705:

 “I have not become a Quaker.  Such an idea
hath never come into my mind, albeit, I love
them from my inmost soul, even as I do all
other sects that approach and call themselves
Christ’s, the Papists even not excluded … The
Brotherly Love, the Philadelphiac, remains with
me on a firm foundation.”

The monks hosted many pilgrims, including Seventh Day Baptists Abel Noble, John Rodgers, and William Hiscox, renegade Quakers George Keith and William Davis, and Episcopalian minister Evan Evans.  Some visitors, such as Conrad Matthai from Switzerland and Englishman Christopher Witt, joined the Holy Fraternity.  

Though Kelpius had no intention of isolating himself from the public, neither did he wish to become enmeshed in worldly matters.  Former Brotherhood member Daniel Falckner had sailed back to Europe circa 1698, and befriended Frankfurt Land Co. administrator Benjamin Furley.  He also schmoozed Catharina Schutz, a pious widow who owned 25 acres near Germantown, but had no intention of traveling to Pennsylvania.  Furley had grown weary of Frankfurt agent Francis Daniel Pastorius’s endless complaining and occasional negligence in handling the company’s affairs.  Therefore, he succumbed to persuasive Falckner’s pressure and appointed him Plenipotentiary of the corporation. Madame Schutz, who had no use for the land her husband had unwisely purchased across the Atlantic, agreed to hand it over to Falckner “for charitable purposes.”

Upon returning to Pennsylvania in August, 1700, Daniel Falckner stirred up trouble.  Pastorius, despite years of lamenting his thankless job as the Frankfurt Company’s real estate agent, deeply resented being undermined by such a shady upstart.  With some exaggeration, he berated his adversary as a “sot” and “rogue.”  To consolidate his position, Falckner enlisted upright Johannes Jawert and Magister Johannes Kelpius to form a “triumvirate” with him.  In a weak moment Kelpius consented to this dubious arrangement.  He might have disagreed with ex-deputy magister Henry Bernhard Koster’s excommunication of Falckner in 1694, and desired to make amends. In any case, Kelpius did sign dozens real estate transactions during the next year or so. However, he quickly regretted his involvement.  Falckner did not utilize Catharina Schutz’s land for charitable purposes, but his own profit.  Pastorius alleged that he sold a parcel of Frankfurt Company land to a confederate cheap, then bought it back at a drastically reduced price.  Whatever the truth of those charges, Magister Kelpius contacted attorney George Lowther in order to extricate himself completely from the Frankfurt Land Company’s affairs.  Lowther drew up an affidavit, signed by Kelpius circa June, 1702, in which the Magister declared himself “civilly dead.”

Like William Penn, Kelpius respected the Indians, and wondered if they might be one of Israel’s lost tribes.  He produced a pro-Native-American account—likely secondhand—of Penn’s 1701 meeting with a council of sachems at Pennsbury Manor (Andalusia, Bucks County). The Proprietor had preached to the Indians, exhorting them to have faith in Christendom’s God.  One skeptical chief responded: “You ask us to believe on the great Creator, and Ruler of heaven and earth, and yet you yourself do not believe nor trust Him, for you have taken the land unto yourself which we and our friends occupied communally.  You scheme night and day how you may preserve it and that none can take it from you.  Yea, you even connive beyond your life and parcel it out among your children…”

Johannes Kelpius led his religious order into the Wilderness because of Revelation’s prophecies. He also embraced Jacob Boehme’s pantheistic idea that God reveals Himself in Nature.  Kelpius’s May 25, 1706 letter to Hester Palmer of Flushing, New York expressed the idea that God employed omens in Creation (“the wilds”) to effect spiritual awakenings.  “He may open one’s understanding in the hindmost valley.” (Hosea, 2)   To support his conviction that God enlightened humans through contact with Nature, Kelpius cited David’s long retreat into the wilderness, Paul’s seven years in the Arabian desert, Moses’ peregrinations through the Sinai Peninsula, and Elijah’s withdrawal into wastelands prior to exterminating the pagan priests of Baal. 

During Exodus a cloud guided the Israelites by day, and a pillar of fire by night.  Kelpius wrote:  “In (God’s) Fruitful Wilderness we enjoy the leading Cloud by day, out of which so many drops of the heavenly dew as a Baptism of Grace upon us do fall.…The Holy Ghost moved and stirred the waters in our hearts…But there follows a night also upon this day, wherein…the Pillar of Fire is our guide, refining us as gold in the furnace, which is the Baptism of Fire, and is indeed terrible to the old (self), but bright and light to the new (man.)”   He envisioned God as the Great Alchemist, who transmutes our leaden souls into gold. 

Protestant denominations don’t canonize saints.  However, Johannes Kelpius certainly resembled that theological impossibility, a Protestant saint.  His writings rank with those of Meister Eckart, Julian of Norwich, and St. Francis of Assisi.  They provide acute observations about faith, constant prayer, and delegating supplication (the requesting of favors) to the Holy Spirit. Kelpius’s epistles aren’t just historical curiosities; they abound with insights.  With regard to faith he commented: “Believe that God is all goodness and almighty—… never to forsake those who have devoted themselves to Him…The second point of this faithfulness is the resignation or blind giving up, which is void of self-interest and suffers itself to be led by God as a blind man by his guide.”

Magister Kelpius held that the devout can achieve unceasing prayer by going on “cruise control.”  In 1 Thessalonians Paul wrote: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.  In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God.” Kelpius outlined his own technique in “A Short, Easy, and Comprehensive Method of Prayer.”  “There’s a prayer which may be performed at all times and in all places, which by nothing can be interrupted but sin and unfaithfulness.  This inward prayer is performed in the spirit of the inner man…Incessant prayer…consists in an everlasting inclination of the heart to God, which … flows from Love.  This love draws the presence of God into us; so that, as by the operation of divine grace, the love of God is generated in us, so is also the presence of grace increased by this love, that such prayer is performed in us, without … our cogitation.  It is the same as with a person living in the air and drawing it in with his breath without thinking that by it he lives and breathes, because he does not reflect on it…” Ceaseless prayer can therefore take place in a fashion similar to respiration, heart-pumping, glandular secretions, and other operations of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.  The votary may accomplish it in the midst of constructive daily activity, or sleep, by directing love, praise, and thanks to God, via breathing, heartbeats, and brainwaves.

Kelpius recommended that petitioners abide by principles of etiquette when praying.  “In prayers (of supplication) the soul (should) lay her complaints before God; since he who loves discreetly does not concern himself how to pray for what he wants, but only to propose his need, leaving it to the Lord to do as He thinks best—after the manner of Lazarus’s sisters who did not send (Jesus) word that He should come and restore their brother to health, but: “Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick (John 11:3.)”

Johannes Kelpius deemed silent adoration more efficacious than vocal or “thought-out” prayer.  “One may pray without forming … any words, without consideration or speculation of the mind, without holding rational discourse, or making conclusions, yes, without knowing the least thing in a manner relative to the outward senses.   And this prayer is the Prayer of the Heart, the unutterable prayer, the most perfect of which is the fruit of Love…When …requesting something from God, we ought to be silent because we know not what to pray for, nor how to pray.  But if we are silent, the Holy Spirit Himself prays for us with unutterable sighs.” In that sentence Kelpius interpreted Paul’s words in Romans 8:26: “The Spirit…helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

Monks of the Wissahickon: Part 1

By Joseph Tyson III

Historian Julius F. Sachse portrayed the Monks of the Wissahickon as “a company of theosophical enthusiasts—call them Pietists, mystics, Chiliasts, Rosicrucians, Illuminati, Cathars, Puritans, or what you may.” They were devout seekers of Divine Truth who believed that the end times had arrived.

Johannes Kelpius, the monks’ Magister from 1694 to 1708, was born Johann Kelp in 1667, at or near Halwagen, Transylvania (present day Sighisoara, Rumania.)  His father, Georg Kelp, served as a Lutheran pastor. Johann had two older brothers:  Martin and Georg.  Their father died on February 25, 1685. Aware of Johann’s intelligence, three of Reverend Kelp’s friends—Count Valentine Franck, Burgomeister Michael Deli, and Notary Johann Zabanius—agreed to subsidize his education. Thus, the studious youth attended Altdorf, Leipzig, Helmstadt, and Tubingen universities. During his college years he came under the tutelage of several professors with occult leanings, including Philip Jakob Spener, whose writings inspired the Moravians, and theologian-astrologer Johannes Fabricius.  After earning his masters degree from the University of Tubingen in 1689, twenty-two year old Kelp latinized his name to Johannes Kelpius.

As an adjunct to his academic studies, Kelpius read the works of mystical philosopher Jacob Boehme. Wits later applied the malapropism “bohemian” (lower case) to devotees of Boehme.  In colloquial usage the noun “bohemian” doesn’t mean “a citizen of Bohemia,” but a nonconformist who cherishes oddball notions.  For example, conventional Americans in the 1950’s regarded Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and other beatniks as “bohemians.”

A bootmaker by trade, Jacob Boehme was an authentic visionary who influenced not only Pietists, but the Romantic poets, New England Transcendentalists, and Rosicrucians.  Critics have labeled him a “Gnostic Pantheist” because he considered God and Nature to be One.  Boehme conceived of God as “Eternal Unity, the Indivisible Source of All Being, and Predecessor of the First Cause.” According to the Boehmean worldview, human souls emanate from God.  Hence, we can apprehend Divinity by looking within ourselves.  In Epistle thirty-five of his Theosophical Letters, Boehme wrote:  “Understanding of God must come from the Interior Fountain and enter the mind from God’s Living Word within the Soul.  Unless this takes place all teaching about divine things is useless and worthless.”

Boehme’s Internal Spring formed the basis for Quaker notions of Inner Light and Continuing Revelation, which denied the need for hiring priests as mediators, and building “steeple houses.”  Society of Friends prophet George Fox asserted: “God does not dwell in temples… made by (human) hands, but freely in the hearts of men.” 

Boehme wrote of his own personal struggle in Mysterium Supplement VII:  “I wrestled with God that his Blessing might descend upon me…I regarded myself as dead and sought the heart of Jesus.  A light foreign to my unruly nature broke through…God dwells in that which will resign itself up…”  Boehme characterized the leap from idle speculation to belief as a transition from “imagination to Magia,” a miraculous process.  “In Magia faith is discovered.  ...Man should (passively) give up willing to let (God’s) Creation take place through him…There is born within the earthly man…a new spiritual man with Divine perceptions and a Divine will, killing day by day the lusts of the flesh and causing the inner spiritual world to become visible.” 

Boehme accepted the esoteric maxim “as above, so below.”  Man, the microcosm, crudely reflected God, the Macrocosm.  In fact, an individual human being mirrored the physical Universe by consisting of both good and evil.  In Epistle XII of his Theosophical Letters Boehme discerned three interconnected worlds inside himself:   “1) The Divine, angelical, or paradisiacal; 2) The dark world; and 3) The external, visible world (containing a mixture of darkness and Light)…I saw and knew the whole Being in evil and good, how one originates in the other.”

Between 1690 and 1693 Johannes Kelpius supported himself by teaching and writing.  In collaboration with Dr. Fabricius, he wrote and published his master’s thesis.  That sixteen chapter work compared and contrasted the theological views of Augustine, Tertullian, Pope Stephen I, Arius, Marcellus, Pelagius, Faustus, and others.  One admirer of this learned treatise, neurotic genius Johann Jacob Zimmerman, met Kelpius in Nuremberg, and welcomed him to join his new religious brotherhood, The Chapter of Perfection.   The young scholar’s decision to accept that invitation changed his life forever.

Chapter of Perfection founder Johann Jacob Zimmerman (1642 – 1693), was a brilliant, though unstable, mathematician, astronomer, and Lutheran minister.   He graduated with honors from the University of Tubingen in 1664.  The Royal Society of London credited him with discovering and accurately plotting the Great Comet of 1680.  He also mapped the first conic projection star charts.  In 1671 he married, and entered the Lutheran ministry.  His superiors assigned him to a church in Beihingheim, Wurttemburg.

Unfortunately, Zimmerman’s life went awry in 1682, after he contracted a nearly fatal fever that probably caused brain damage.  Dr. Ludwig Brunnquell, an ardent champion of Boehme, treated him during that illness.  On Brunnquell’s recommendation, Zimmerman undertook an intensive study of Boehme’s works.  He soon began promulgating crackpot notions, doing so not only from the pulpit, but by means of inflammatory pamphlets published under pseudonyms.  In one manifesto Zimmerman prophesied:

“The downfall of Babylon in Europe; the
Millenium of the pious and universal
conversion of Jews, Turks, and Gentiles;
true Prophecies existing even now; and
certain doubts concerning (Luther’s) Augsburg
Confession and Apologia.”

Like Jacob Boehme, Zimmerman questioned Luther’s (Pauline) assertion that men were saved by faith alone.  He valued good works above faith. Moreover, Zimmerman doubted the doctrine of Atonement, which sacrilegiously portrayed God the Father as a primitive shaman. The Crucifixion had been a crime perpetrated by fallen mankind, not a pagan blood sacrifice arranged by Father Jehovah.  Zimmerman viewed Jesus’s Incarnation as God’s love offering to humanity.  Besides those heresies, he advocated Copernicus’s “unholy” theory that earth rotated around the sun—a patent contradiction of sacred scripture.

The Baden Synod fired Zimmerman from his pastorate in 1685.  An appeal hearing before the Lutheran Ducal Consistory upheld that action.  Its report judged Zimmerman as a raving crank who treacherously rebelled against the hallowed institution which paid his salary for over fourteen years. The court censured him for exalting Boehme “over the Apostles,” as well as his defamations against the established church.  In its written opinion the Consistory noted that Zimmerman’s anonymous publications—“covert so as to avoid the Light”—had bashed Lutheranism as “a Babel,” and “the Antichrist.” The report writer posed a rhetorical question:  “Why should a man who leads the people away from Lutheran principles still desire to be called a presbyter?”  Because Zimmerman did not take his sacking well, court documents added that

“He…acted after the manner of common people,
complaining greatly of the persecution he was forced
to endure.  He maligned our Consistory and talked
much concerning divine judgement which would
overtake the country on his account.”

Zimmerman allegedly gloated over “the misfortunes and death of his (former) superior,” and attributed France’s invasion of Baden to “nothing more or less than divine retribution.” The panel of judges exiled Zimmerman from Wurttemburg.  He first moved to Frankfurt am Main with his wife Maria Margarethe and their four children, where he established relations with a group of Boehme fanatics.  Shortly thereafter, Zimmerman accepted Heidelburg University’s Chair of Mathematics, a post which he lost due to his religious mania in 1690.  University trustees disapproved of his obsession with trying to foretell the Millenium by means of astrological formulae and quack Bible chronology. From Heidelburg, “the nutty professor” and his family moved to Hamburg.  There Zimmerman worked as a lowly proofreader for Brandt Publishing Company.  In Hamburg he met Johannes Kelpius’s teacher Philip Jakob Spener, and Benjamin Furley, President of William Penn’s Frankfurt Land Company.  He also assembled a small group of fervent believers which he named The Chapter of Perfection.  In consultation with Furley, Zimmerman hatched a scheme to emigrate to Pennsylvania.  His “scientific” calculations predicted the end of the world in November or December, 1693.  Christ’s Second Coming would commence simultaneously.  An ecstatic vision—or hallucination-- revealed to him that the New World would be Jesus’s most likely capital for The Thousand Year Reign. Thus, Zimmerman planned to “depart from these Babilonish shores to… American plantations, being led thereunto by the Divine Spirit’s guidance…” It turned out that the world did not end in Autumn of 1693, but Zimmerman’s life did.  He died suddenly in Rotterdam at the age of fifty-one, just before his party’s embarkation to London.

Zimmerman had recently appointed brilliant Johannes Kelpius as his chief assistant.  Although twenty-six year old Johannes keenly embraced the concept of establishing a utopia for saints in America, he had not anticipated that his master’s untimely death would put him in charge of not only their[PK1]  fledgling religious order, but Zimmerman’s widow and four children.

Kelpius stood no more than five feet, three inches tall, and weighed less than 130 pounds.  His left eyelid could not fully retract.  Therefore, it had a “hooded,” half-closed appearance, especially when his right eye opened widely.  Kelpius spoke softly and had a kind, gentle manner.  He dressed in a dark monk’s robe and usually wore the round felt cap of a 17th century German professor. (The Historical Society of Pennsylvania still possesses Christopher Witt’s 1705 portrait of Kelpius.)

On January 7, 1694 grieving Chapter of Perfection members sailed from Rotterdam to London.  During a stopover in the English capital Kelpius conversed with prophetess Jane Leade, who co-founded the Philadelphiast movement with John Pordage in 1670.  Their Society took its name from the righteous church mentioned in Revelation 3:7, exactly as William Penn did when naming his “green country town” Philadelphia.  Both the Philadelphiasts and Penn were influenced by Revelation, Chapter 3, where an angel of God pronounced the Church of Sardis (present-day Turkey) dead, but the neighboring Church of Philadelphia alive and well.  God assured Philadelphians that He would spare them from the Retribution. “For you have strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My Name…I will keep you from the hour of trial…” 

Leade and Pordage’s group incorporated ideas from Jacob Boehme, George Fox’s Society of Friends, and Rev. Richard Coppin whose concept of Universal Reconciliation held that all men and fallen angels would ultimately be saved through Divine Compassion.  Like the Quakers, Jane Leade and her adherents claimed to be in direct communication with Christ’s Inward Light.  In her essay, “A Fountain of Gardens,” she characterized herself as a medium for “The Virgin Sophia,” who first appeared to her in April, 1670. “…I had great advantage of retirement, often frequenting lonely walks in a grove or wood, contemplating the happy state of the angelical world and how desirous I was to have my conversation there…an overshadowing bright cloud (appeared to me) and in the midst of it the figure of a woman, most richly adorned with transparent gold, her hair hanging down and her face as the terrible crystal for brightness, but her countenance was sweet and mild… (She said:)  “Behold I am God’s Eternal Virgin Wisdom, whom thou hast been inquiring after.  I am to unseal God’s deep wisdom unto thee…” Kelpius tried to persuade Jane to come to America.  She politely declined.

On February 13, 1694 Kelpius and his band of monks, bound for America, boarded the Sarah Maria Hopewell, a cargo and passenger vessel equipped with four cannons.  A destructive gale nearly sunk this ship in the English Channel.  Captain Tanner had to put in at Downs for two months of repairs.  On April 25th they set sail again, escorted by British warship “Providence” to protect them from piracy.  Indeed, French pirates did attack the Sarah Maria on May 10th.  In his diary Kelpius recorded a four hour naval engagement.  He witnessed a French rifleman “rent to pieces” by a British cannon ball while attempting to shoot Captain Tanner.  Kelpius wrote that “the merciful Father made the enemies’ balls drop into the water before our ship… Only one (flew) overhead.” While this battle raged, Kelpius and his monks retreated below to pray for deliverance.  A few moments later the ship’s first mate yelled:  “Ahoy, ye lubbers, the captain wants all o’ ye topside on the double!”  The Magister and his followers promptly complied.  Once on deck they spied the French corsair heading straight toward them, with the obvious intention of landing a boarding party onto the Sarah Maria.  When the French captain saw thirty-some hands on deck, all dressed in dark brown “uniforms,” he mistook them for a platoon of tough marines, and veered off.  The Providence later captured the French boat.  One of the prisoners, a Huguenot who claimed that he’d been kidnapped by the swarthy privateers, subsequently came aboard the Sarah Maria, and participated in the monks’ prayer service.

The Sarah Maria Hopewell sailed smoothly for the rest of this voyage, except for one incident.  Kelpius’s more aggressive assistant, Henry Bernhard Koster (who would soon quit the Brotherhood to set up his own ministry as a fiery evangelist,) had seen fit to excommunicate Chapter of Perfection member Daniel Falckner, a Lutheran minister’s son.  No one today knows the actual reason for that punishment, but conflicting hearsay attributed his downfall to either copulating with a “wench” on board, or getting drunk with Sarah Maria crewmen. Though defrocked, Falckner had no alternative but to remain in the company of his former associates for the next few weeks.  On June 12th the Sarah Maria cruised into the Chesapeake Bay.  All passengers disembarked and trekked overland to New Castle (Delaware,) then caught a sloop to Philadelphia, which arrived on June 22nd or 23rd at the Delaware River’s junction with Dock Creek.  Kelpius and his entourage called upon Philadelphia Captain-General Benjamin Fletcher, who asked Kelpius to explain his reasons for settling in Pennsylvania.  Satisfied with his answers, Fletcher administered the colony’s loyalty oath to the whole assemblage.  At that time Philadelphia had less than five hundred buildings, and very few inns.  Nevertheless, its constabulary strictly enforced vagrancy laws.  To avoid any offense, the Chapter of Perfection marched two-by two like school children to the woods of “Fairmount” (22nd & Market streets, near the Schuylkill River), and slept outdoors.  The next morning, in the same line of pairs, the Germans strode back to Blue Anchor Tavern (Market St. above the Delaware River.)  Of course, Philadelphia had no trains or buses in those days.  After breakfast the monks and Zimmerman family plodded up 2nd Street, past Mulberry (Arch) Street to the edge of Philadelphia’s woodlands. From there, in the company of a guide, they hiked nine miles on a game trail through the wilds of “Fairhill” (North Philadelphia,) until reaching the Germantown residence of Jacob Isaac Van Bebbers, who put them up for the next five months.

Maria Margarethe Zimmerman and her four children—Philip, Matthias, Jacob, and Maria—remained in “Germanopolis” (the original name of Germantown.)  Daughter Maria would eventually wed Ludwig Biedermann, previously a Chapter of Perfection brother, and have a daughter by him.  The boys eventually married and raised families.  Many of their descendants still live in Pennsylvania today.