The Mast Gathering connected family members from across the nation and Canada, many for the first time, at Conestoga Mennonite Church in Morgantown Aug. 2 to 4.
“We have a Godly heritage. We look forward to learning about our roots and faith history,” said Lois Ann Mast of Morgantown, co-chair of the event with her husband Lemar Mast. “We are in awe to see how Masts from 20 different states chose to spend this weekend together. The speakers shared some powerful and meaningful research that touched all of us. It became another spiritual highlight for us claiming ‘The lines are fallen unto us in pleasant places, yea, we have a goodly heritage.’ Psalm 16:6.”
Rick Mast attended with his family from Mast Chocolate, Brooklyn, N.Y., knowing that his Grandpa was from Iowa, but not who his Mast immigrant was. He connected with another Mast from Iowa who agreed to research his line.
“We saw connections of long-lost cousins and the sharing of stories so rewarding. We definitely were challenged, that it is our responsibility and privilege to pass along these stories to the next generation. We are a blessed people,” added Lois Ann and Lemar Mast.
This weekend event was a time to tour Berks, Chester, and Lancaster counties where their ancestors had settled and hear the history. This gathering was also a time to worship together.
The Mast Gathering included children’s activities with horse and carriage rides, a fire engine and candy toss, butter making, scavenger hunt, an Artifact Room (exhibiting Bibles, Ausbunds, and immigrant Bishop Mast’s wedding frock), a bookstore with authors signing their books, silent auction and food prepared by the Amish for lunch and supper.
Saturday Morning Seminars were “The Masts from Europe to America and Beyond” by Gerald Mast, “The Mast Immigrant Brothers of 1750 and their Uncles Jacob of 1737 and Johannes of 1750” by Dot Mast Moss www.mastfamilystories.org; and “Learning About Mast Ancestry Through DNA” by Darvin Martin, www.genealogygoldmine.com/. Seminars are available online at www.masthof.com/pages/mast-reunion-2019.
Sunday’s worship service “Remember Who You Are” was held in a pastoral setting in a tent behind the church, overlooking the Conestoga Valley, with Conestoga Mennonite Church Pastor Bob Petersheim welcoming those gathered.
The Greg Petersheim Family and Calvin Kurtz led the worship singing and Children’s Church was led by Carrie Mast of Bluffton, Ohio. Omar Lapp proceeded down the aisle dressed in a replica of Bishop Mast’s wedding frock carrying the immigrant’s original family Bible and read the scriptures from it.
Professor Gerald Mast from Bluffton, Ohio, a descendant of 1737 Jacob Mast, spoke about the importance of the ‘begets’, the genealogy of Jesus recorded in the scriptures, so that we might know we are the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father through Adam and Eve’s son Seth and receive the gifts of our ancestral heritage and know we are in charge of creation—our earth.
The gathering sang a cappella, taught from childhood, singing their parts in soprano, alto, tenor, and bass in perfect harmony.
A total of 245 people registered, half of which boarded two tour buses to explore where the Mast immigrants had settled in America from Guggisberg, Switzerland.
Immigrant Jacob Mast arrived on the ship Charming Nancy into the port of Philadelphia in 1737. Then in 1750, his brother “Uncle” Johannes Hans Mast arrived on the ship Brotherhood, with six nieces and nephews: Jacob Mast, Anna Mast (later Yoder), Magdalena Mast (later Troyer), John Mast, and two unnamed daughters.
The first Masts in the New World settled in what is now northern Berks County, near Hamburg. Uncle John, with his nieces and nephews, moved north about 1753 to what is now Pine Grove, Schuylkill County. In 1755 during the French and Indian War, a number of attacks and massacres occurred, murdering the Mast’s close neighbors. In 1757, the Amish Hochstetler family was attacked, and some were killed at Shartlesville. The Mast property was sold after the war ended.
Morgantown was settled by the Welsh in the 18th century by Colonel Jacob Morgan, a colonel in the French and Indian War, stationed at Fort Northkill west of Shartlesville. Founder of the town named for him in 1779, he was influential, along with Conrad Weiser, in inviting the Amish-Mennonites who lived close to him to move to Morgantown.
In 1760, Bishop Jacob Mast and other Amish moved south and Jacob bought the farm just west of Elverson along Route 23 where the Pine Grove Cemetery is located and where he is now buried.
“Jacob’s son, John, (1763-1832 ) married Mary Kurtz and bought our farm in Morgantown along Mill Road where we live. All of Lemars’ ancestors were born and lived here until his Dad was born in Morgantown,” said Lois Ann Mast.
Today, the farm is also home to Masthof Press and Bookstore. Providentially, this historic land has given root to the publishing of memoirs, genealogies, and the stories of thousands of Anabaptist, Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish, Mennonite, Brethren and more, preserving history for generations. They also lead European Heritage Tours connecting participants to the towns where their ancestors once lived.