The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

The Amity Heritage Society looks back on one of the county's most prominent families


By Harrison Long, For 21st Century Media

Monday, March 3, 2014

Through their calendar, the Amity Heritage Society is connecting familial ties within the community.

Charles Miller and Tony Mattassa, respectively the president and treasurer of the Amity Heritage Society, met with Gerald Breitenstein to discuss the history of the Breitenstein family and their ties to Amity.

Breitenstein and Miller had amassed a large amount of old photographs, some dating back to the 1920s, with hopes of making a connection with the people and places in the pictures. As is the mission of the society, Breitenstein and Miller helped reestablish the importance of the Breitenstein family in the community, as well as to educate members of the community about their local history. Traditionally, the Amity Heritage Society reaches out to the members of the township who may have family ties to the area, or at least some history in it. The society would like to connect families who have a common history, but may not know it. Their mission is to collect and distribute as much information as is possible to the members of Amity to help them better understand where they come from. Another big part of what they are responsible for is the preserving of older, historical photographs, as well as being able to date and identify historical buildings in the area. Miller demonstrated how adept he was at dating not only historical buildings, but pieces of furniture and other artifacts as well.

Breitensteinís kitchen with a tin full of old photographs. Geraldís father, Ray, and his father, Jacob, were butchers who owned a shop in Amity, one that was around for nearly 100 years. As Miller pointed out, it was very remarkable to have been in business for that long. It also spoke volumes about how trustworthy the business was in the community because everyone in the township of Amity would have gone to the Breitensteins for their butchering needs. This would have included farmers who raised livestock and needed them butchered.

Before the Breitensteins owned the butcher shop, it was owned by a man named Daniel Spatz in the latter half of the 19th century. He sold it to the Breitensteins who owned it for over 100 years. Once they no longer could stay in business, the shop was sold and it became Fochtís Mower shop which lawn mowers and other such devices from the early 70s, until about 15 years ago. The property then turned into Vincenzoís Ristorante which it remains today. During the construction of the restaurant, some of the out buildings of the old butcher shop were destroyed, and it was after this that the Amity Heritage Society stepped in to preserve the history of the property.

Before the shop changed hands and is what it is today, the Breitensteins provided their community not only with a talented service, but with a network of trustworthy people to rely on year after year. Not only would the local members of the community bring their livestock to the Breitensteins to be butchered, but they had delivery trucks travel around the township to deliver quality meats right to the customerís doorstep.

All of these points about the Breitensteinís business make the family an excellent example of the kind of people who have lived in Amity for the last century. Going back to the mission of the Amity Heritage Society, it is important, as Miller says, for the members of the community who have history in it to share their stories and photos with others as they may be able to connect with someone or fill in a missing gap in another personís family history. He also stressed that it is important for people to know their own history so they can understand where they and their family came from, as it is a good indicator of how they will turn out.

Miller wants any and all to reach out to the heritage society with local any ties they may have to the community. The sharing and collaboration of different families in the area can produce tremendous results and help to paint a vivid picture of Amityís past.

All they ask is that if you have a family photo that you wish to submit to the society, please remember to list all the people in the picture so they can be identified for future generations.

Contact Charles Miller and the Amity Heritage Society at 610-582-2070, amityhs@hotmail.com or visit them online at www.amityheritagesociety.org.