Frick's Meetinghouse & Burial Ground
Frick's Meetinghouse is a small single-room Mennonite meetinghouse chapel located on a tract of hayfield on Orvilla Road in Hatfield Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. It has been locally nicknamed "Church Hill". It is situated along the Neshaminy Creek and abuts the former "Ridgedale" (Frick) and Bishop (Clymer) farms.
Jacob Sauter, the first recorded owner of the land on which the meetinghouse sits, deeded a small tract of land in a corner of his farm in the early 18th century to the local Mennonites so that they may establish a burial ground there. Through the years, as the farm's ownership changed hands, the Mennonites continued to utilize the burial ground. It is believed that this burial ground precedes the nearby Line Lexington Meetinghouse (1752) and Plains Meetinghouse (1760).
In 1813, a local Funkite sect erected the first brick meetinghouse on the east side of the cemetery near the creek. However, in 1883, it was demolished due to non-use. Henry H. Rosenberger, bishop of the Silverdale Brethren in Christ congregation, sponsored a new building which was erected on the south side of the cemetery on an adjacent expansion plot donated by farmer Peter Frick. It is this second building that is standing today.
As the 20th century came around, William Rosenberger, a prominent local farmer and founder of Rosenberger's Dairies, assumed ownership and control over the meetinghouse and its land tract. The Rosenbergers' custodianship and maintenance has continued through the generations to the present day through a non-profit conservancy association.
In 2013 the conservancy finished restoration of the cemetery's headstones, some of which mark graves for veterans of the American Revolution, by pouring new cement foundations, repairing breaks and cracks, cleaning, and re-engraving names and epitaphs.
2014's project will collaborate with Hatfield Township, which will expand public access to the site via construction of a paved walking path that will start on Line Lexington Road and parallel the Neshaminy Creek adjacent to Frick's property, cross under the bridge at Orvilla Road and edge Bishop Farm property before terminating at School Lane Park. A loop will branch off from the bridge, cross the creek up to Frick's gravel drive (which will become a paved walking path with a small parking space), loop around the meetinghouse and cemetery, and end at the main trail.
The overall goal of the site is to provide a public place of quiet reflection and solitude. The cemetery is no longer actively used, but descendants of those interred may opt to have their own ashes buried there. A separate Conservancy project recently completed entailed cleaning & mounting dirty & broken headstones and re-engraving all names and epitaphs. The hay is harvested twice annually by the site custodian, but along with the trail, the hayfields will be converted to gardens featuring native Pennsylvania foliage in order to revert the site to its original condition.
Digging History Involvement
The Digging History team engaged in an artifact recovery project in 2013 on behalf of custodian Henry L. Rosenberger (son of William) which is displayed in a shadowbox handmade from local barn wood and will be presented to the Mennonite Heritage Center Museum in Franconia, Pennsylvania.
Through the course of Digging History's artifact recovery we can conclude that there was an 18th-century storage structure erected & dismantled (or destroyed) between the current meetinghouse and the road on the south side of the creek. Most of the artifacts recovered for the Heritage Center project were found in the vicinity of this approximate site, and some foundation is still visible from the creek.
We believe this structure to have been a stable due to the high concentration of horse tack buckles, horseshoe fragments, and perhaps a forge due to some farm tool parts and high iron concentration in the area. Sparse coinage finds have all predated 1800 and may have been laborer pay, or customer payments for roadside services rendered (shoeing, wagon repair, etc). A high concentration of civilian buttons dating from 1770-1830 may indicate either clothing production or periodic religious or family gatherings. Evidence of war or troop activity has not been substantiated for the immediate site but at least one Civil War soldier may have stopped by (or passed through) the meetinghouse due to a period pewter trouser button and lead musket balls found.
Likelihood of a house is unsupported due to the lack of household item finds ~ such as silverware, jewelry, finials (etc) and evidence of indoor-quality metals. In any case, the structure would have probably been present during the ownership of Jacob Sauter and removed by the time the first meetinghouse was erected in 1813.