As part of its mission, the Kutztown Area Historical Society maintains a modest but diverse and growing library and photographic archive of local and regional history to assist those researching Berks County historical topics.Renovated in the 1990s with funds donated by the family of Major Kermit C. Oswald (1915-1955), the library occupies an alcove on the second floor of the 1892 Public School Building, where Maj. Oswald, a decorated World War 2 veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star Medal in 1945, taught Social Studies and English
and served as guidance counselor for the 1954-55 school term, prior to his 12 May 1955 death. Due to generous donations from many society members over the years, the library presently contains most titles relevant to the area, including:
John S. Ermentrout, Historical Sketch of Kutztown and Maxatawny Township (Kutztown, 1876)W. W. Deatrick & Kutztown Centennial Committee, Centennial History of Kutztown (Kutztown, 1915)Morton L. Montgomery, History & Biographical Sketches of Berks County, Penna. (one-volume edition, 1886; two-volume edition, 1909)Alliene Saeger DeChant, Of the Dutch I Sing and Down Oley Way (reprinted columns from The Patriot)Alfred W. Shoemaker, Christmas in Pennsylvania and Easteride in Pennsylvania (holiday customs)Also available for consultation are a complete back-issue run of the society’s quarterly publication, Along theSaucony, which began in 1977, each issue filled with local history and lore; other local borough, church, and organization histories and anniversaries; selected volumes from the Publications of the Pennsylvania German and Pennsylvania German Folklore Societies; periodicals including Pennsylvania Folklife and the Historical Review of Berks County; books by Kutztown-area authors, both residing locally and connected to Kutztown University; cemetery records for St. John’s/Hope and Fairview Cemeteries, as well as church histories for New Bethel Union (Albany Twp.), Jerusalem Lutheran & U.C.C. (Red Church, Stony Run, Albany Twp.),
St. Peter’s U.C.C. (Richmond Twp.), Heidelberg Union (Saegersville, Lehigh Co.), and Jacob’s Union (Jacksonville, Lynn Twp., Lehigh Co.); and genealogical volumes for certain local establishing families such as Bieber, Deisher, DeTurk, Dreibelbis, Geist, Grunewald, Merkel, Miller, Strasser, and Trexler.Our library and archive are non-circulating and are presently available only by appointment. However, our society’s Librarian & Archivist, Dr. Brendan D. Strasser, also maintains one of the best private research and reference libraries on local (Berks, Lehigh) and Pennsylvania history and Pennsylvania German culture, dialect, folklife, and history in private hands, numbering several thousand volumes and periodicals. While current staffing of our library and museum does not allow us to field all queries or to pursue significant genealogical research for interested parties, Dr. Strasser and our part-time volunteers and university interns will do their best to accommodate requests.
On a more limited basis than our publicly accessible materials, permission may also be granted to utilize the rare books & manuscripts archive, scarce and often fragile volumes owned by the society or Dr. Strasser personally, including copies of virtually every known Kutztown imprint, in German and English, dating to the 1830s; 19th-century manuscript ledgers from such Kutztown institutions as St. John’s Lutheran Church, the Black Horse Hotel, the Pennsylvania House, and the Adonai Lodge;
mid to late 18th-century German Tagebücher (day-books) maintained by the Hottenstein family of physicians, located just east of Kutztown and later in the borough itself; the manuscript diaries of former Patriot editor Alliene S. DeChant; and various 19th- and early 20th-century educational textbooks, representative of the era of our 1892 Victorian Public School Building, in all subjects.To make arrangements to use the society library or to request additional information, please contact Brendan Strasser directly.
One bright autumn day in 1995, Dr. Strasser recovered at a local estate auction the 1876 Centennial Census of Kutztown, mentioned once in Ermentrout’s 1876 Kutztown history and presumed lost for the next 119 years. Conducted at the borough’s request by James F. Wagenhorst to provide a snapshot of the flourishing community on the occasion of America’s 100th birthday, this hand-written reckoning of the borough enumerates 1,194 citizens, their ages, birthplaces, and occupations. A testament to young Mr. Wagenhorst’s dedication, civic pride, and undoubtedly also to his stubbornness, it is the most accurate and thorough 19th-century census of Kutztown in existence, not excepting the Federal Census of 1870 and 1880. To access Dr. Strasser’s transcription of the census record as well as his related research into both the census and its taker, visit the Berks County, PA GenWeb.
Click on “The Census” and look for the six entries at the bottom of the page relating to the 1876 Kutztown Census.
While the Berks GenWeb project presents the most comprehensive on-line genealogical information on Berks County of which we are aware, individuals wishing to pursue further research than outlined above are also encouraged to visit the Berks County Genealogical Society, an excellent facility in Laureldale with a superlative collection of records and a helpful staff.
Although the major surnames and lines traced at this site are related to the Strasser family, dating to 1732 in America and from at least 1749 in Albany Township, information is available on hundreds of local surnames, most copied from local church records, obituaries, and through the Strasser listserv at Rootsweb. Not all of the information has been personally verified and so cannot be guaranteed, but it may provide some helpful leads to those stuck on various early Berks County branches of their family tree. It also provides useful links to other websites of potential interest, courtesy of Rev. Gary Reckart.
For researchers with particular needs relating to Pennsylvania German history, please visit the Pennsylvania German Society, which shares our headquarters in the 1892 Public School Building.
To purchase your own copy of Ruth E. Bonner’s 1965 Sesqui-Centennial History of Kutztown, click here.