Pilger Ruh, Pilgrim’s Rest

You see historical markers along the road, but do you regard them at all? I suppose if you’re like Speed Racer you zip by too fast to read them. Perhaps you don’t even care… Well, I do! This week’s little bit of fun history takes us to the border between Schuylkill and Berks counties along route 501 in Bethel Township.

Those Moravians were pretty darn motivated. In search for religious freedom (from their eastern European roots)they ended up in good ole’ Pennsylvania. As well as creating settlements in Nazareth and Bethlehem they also set about converting Native Americans. Their religious leader, Count Zinzendorf, together with a group of followers traveled the Tulpehocken Path north toward modern day Northumberland County. They began that journey at Conrad Weiser’s homestead in Womelsdorf. These “paths” were the primitive versions of the rural highways we know today.

The Tulpehocken Path in historic times ran from Shamokin (Sunbury) at the forks of the Susquehanna to Weiser’s (Womelsdorf) on Tulpehocken Creek. It was used by Iroquois embassies coming from Onondaga (Syracuse) and other parts of the Six Nations country by way of Shamokin to the Tulpehocken region and Philadelphia.

Indian Paths of Pennsylvania by Paul A.W. Wallace (a really cool book, by the way)

Doesn’t everyone need a rest while on a long trip? You betcha! No better place than a natural mountain spring. Well, guess what… that spring still exists. It’s an easy side trail from the Appalachian Trail and many hikers fill their water bottles there. It’s been modernized since the days the of the Count; a pipe was put in for ease of water collection.

Back in the 40’s the Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club placed a memorial stone which reads…”1742 Pilger Ruh. Named by Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf who with Conrad Weiser and Moravian missionaries rested here besides this spring on their way to visit Shawnee Indians in Wyoming Valley.”

Let me be clear, I do not advocate the conversion of indigenous peoples, specifically if it was forced. I am, however, a proponent of learning, of education and of exploration. There is so much history in our own back yards, so why not start there, right? Whether you’re religious or not… whether you’re political or not… let’s all agree that the Moravians had an enormous hand in shaping eastern Pennsylvania. Want to learn a little more about the Moravians and their settlement in Nazareth? Then come back for my next blog. Below is a little taste…

The Gray Cottage, erected in 1740, is the oldest surviving Moravian building in North America. It sits next to the Whitefield House which was built in 1743. It is also home to the Moravian Historical Society and a really neat museum! Join me next time for “More of the Moravians.”


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