A home-grown Protestant Saint, Mountain Mary became a pioneer model for anyone who lived alone in the Oley Valley, especially hard-working immigrants who were sold into servitude by greedy Colonial sea captains as indentured servants for their passage to the New World; a practiced not abolished by our Congress until 1818. Her story remains a moralistic one about these hard-working immigrants, who through their Christian fellowship, helped each other to survive in the harsh North American wilderness with wild animals. This was also during a unique period of time when local Native Americans took their sick and afflicted loved ones to the base of the Sacred Oak to be cured by a “Tree God,” as well.
“Die Berg Maria” best exemplified religious zeal in the Valley but as a hermit depending on her neighbors and Christian tavern owners such as Mrs. Kreuderin, who introduced her to Oley farmer Frederick Leinbach, the gentlemen that gave her husband, Theodore (Benz) and her a 175-acre tract of land in Pike Township to start a farm in the Oley Valley. However, the tragic death of her patriotic husband in the Battle of Long Island forced her into seclusion with nowhere to turn but God and Reverend Henry Melchior Muhlenberg during the Revolutionary years, whom she met on her voyage here. Unfortunately though, both Maria’s parents had died on this 92-day voyage to America, and subsequently, buried at sea. Young Maria, left alone on this ship with other Germans, who also sought freedom in William Penn’s colony of Pennsylvania was introduced to a young man named Theodore Benz who had befriended her father when he became gravely ill on the ship. Theodore consoled Maria on the way to the port city of Philadelphia.
But unlike Maria, Theodore had not paid for his sea voyage to America, but instead promised to allow the sea captain to sell himself’ as an indentured servant for the next few years upon landing in Philadelphia. Maria, upon remembering that her father had given her money before he died on the ship, offered to pay for Theodore’s passage, however, the greedy sea captain knew that young Theodore’s indenture contract would be worth more when they docked at Philadelphia. Fortunately, Reverend Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, a passenger on the ship overheard Maria Young’s dilemma and interceded on the young couple’s behalf to have the captain accept the price of Theodore’s passage since they [no longer had parents and this young couple were ideal for each other.]
While Maria and Theodore began their life here in the New World, happily living among patriotic other PA Dutch here in southeastern Pennsylvania on their farm,, they, as other inhabitants became discontent with the British crown and their encroachment on theirs and others’ frontier land and freedom of liberty. Aforementioned Reverend Muhlenberg and many other citizens knew that it would not be long before their sons would be called into defending the liberty of their newly adopted homeland. Locally, a volunteer troop under Captain Hiester of Berks County was raised in which Theodore Benz, Isaac Levan, and other Oley Valley natives volunteered, but not before young Theodore and Maria Young were married by Rev. Muhlenberg at the historic Saint Michael’s Church (in Douglassville). However, shortly after Captain Hiester’s volunteer troop left for New England, Maria’s patriotic and beloved husband, Theodore perished with many other soldiers fighting for a young nation’s freedom against the British in the Battle of Long Island, (N.Y.), a decisive victory for the British early on in the American Revolution.