Conrad Price, the person for which the small Berks County community of Pricetown bears its name, was among the original 12 Brethren pioneer families who settled here about 1754 and were an outgrowth of the Brethren Plain sect who settled in the Oley Valley.
The attractive 18th Century Dunkard Preacher’s home, adjacent to the Brethren Meetinghouse, is credited as being built by Martin Gaube in 1775, who is buried in the church cemetery alongside (as seen in last week's photo).
An early hand-built balcony above the main entrance of this home calls attention to the fact that the Brethren as other Colonials stored grain in their attics, and perhaps was an architectural vestige of a bygone practice to a more convenient way of moving heavy furniture into the second floor in lieu of the narrow interior staircase as custom in Old World Germany.
Although the Plain men of the Dunkard Community of Pricetown no longer wear their black-brimmed hats in public as they did up to the latter half of the 1900s, the religious social climate of this 18th Century farming community still bore the dogma of their conservative beliefs as late as the turn of the 20th Century.
Brethren, like their Amish and Mennonite cousins, were frugal, successful farmers who always understood Adam Smith’s principles of capitalism in operating their farms and roadside stands — never wasting goods or their work time for fear of eventual want. Leaving this small community at Pricetown traveling north on Route 662, motorists are usually unaware they drive by an ancient Brethren log barn on the left about midway to Fleetwood town limits.
Obscured behind this historic barn in disrepair is one of the earliest log houses of this Brethren settlement (1773) and was the first home of Conrad Price, later was given to his eldest son, Jacob, with its original hand-hewn back porch still intact.
A traditional one-and-a-half story log home of the 18th Century that includes a Continental Pennsylvania German floor plan that once had a central fireplace, the log home survives in excellent shape and has been under immense restoration over the years. The whitewashed log wall of the back porch also reminds me of the custom that almost all log homes were whitewashed annually, a Pennsylvania Dutch practice which saved some of these structures from decay into present day.
Except for a few rustic log barns and Colonial log houses that have been restored built by the Conrad Price family- its original pioneer settlers and their quaint, original fieldstone Brethren meetinghouse located off the main thoroughfare.
No one but the locals would know that this Plain community’s architecture permeates into the 21st Century today and what once remains of a Brethren stronghold.
The several Colonial Brethren who were shoemakers and saddle-harness tradesmen were in a unique position along with wheelwrights and blacksmiths who met the needs of a number of travelers also going from the Oley Valley bottomlands north to the East Penn Valley over the Oley Hills through Pricetown and Fleetwood. And as mentioned in last week's column, a heavily traveled westbound root to the thriving market city of Reading at the time.
My advice to historical enthusiasts is to take a stroll through Pricetown at a much slower rate and take in this architectural vestige of a bygone past. The variety and sheer numbers of Rhinelanders immigrating to Pennsylvania, speaking a Germanic Dialect, made their presence in America obvious, especially when it came to Plain Dutch, such as these Brethren, practicing their freedom of religion.
The port of Philadelphia (Germantown) was a benefactor of The Pennsylvania Dutch as a whole at their skills at printing, and these Rhineland farmers upstate, soon flooded the port city with a quantity of grain, flour, foodstuffs, and industrial exports upon their arrival.