Balmer-Risser Farm: 1615 Brunnerville Road. Lititz, PA
Above: The Balmer-Risser Farm as seen on Google Maps Street View.
The Christian Rissers associated with this Hammer Creek farm are confusing, because there are three Christians. They are:
1. The grandfather: Preacher Christian Risser (1767-1826). Purchased this farm from Balmer family.
2. The son: Christian Risser (1799-1882). Built the barn.
3. The grandson: Bishop Christian S. Risser (1825-1910). Born here and later farmed next door at the Bishop Risser Farm.
Mennonite preacher Christian Risser purchased this farm in Elizabeth Township from the Balmer family, who were historically Lutheran. This farm is the setting for Anna Balmer Myer's historical novel I Lift My Lamp, about the Balmer family who first owned this farm. Immigrant Christian Balmer received the patent (first deed) for this land in 1763 from the William Penn family. Christian Balmer's son Michael then owned this land, followed by Christian Balmer's grandson Martin. And this Martin Balmer then sold it to Preacher Christian Risser.
Preacher Christian's son, Christian Risser (1799-1882), received about 100 acres of this tract from his father. His brother John Risser received the tract that adjoined this farm to the east. Christian Risser, the son, was married to Maria Snyder (Polly Snyder) (1800-1878), who grew up near Mastersonville, Lancaster County.
Christian and Maria raised a family of seven children here on this farm. Son Peter received a farm to the northeast of this home farm. Son Christian S. received the farm adjoining to the north, and later became bishop of Hammer Creek district. Youngest son Henry S. Risser (1827-1908) received this home farm.
About 1858 Henry and wife Barbara Breneman (1838-1924) built the existing frame farmhouse. The little stone house to the east of this farmhouse served as the retirement house of Christian and Maria Risser. This stone house does not appear in the 1815 Direct Tax, and was probably constructed shortly after that tax date, probably by the Rissers. The Swisser bank barn was built in 1838 by Christian and Maria (Snyder Risser). In 1907 Henry and Barbara moved to Lititz in retirement, and lived with their daughter and son-and-law Mr. and Mrs. Nathaniel B. Leaman.
View this farm on a larger Google map.
An 1805 Bible Owned by Abraham Buckwalter,
With Family Records of Preacher Christian and Catharine Risser:
1. Samuel Huber was born the 23rd day of November Anno 1766, and died Anno 1796.
2. Christian Risser died on the 18th of August Anno 1826. His age was 59 years, 4 months, and 13 days.
3. Catarina Schneider was born the first of May 1766 and was married to Samuel Huber. After his death married to Christian Risser and has died 23rd of August 1826. Her age was 60 years, 3 months, and 23 days.
4. Written by me, Abraham Buckwalter.
Huber and Risser historians can thank Abraham Buckwalter for taking the time to write down his family records on this Bible's endpaper. Abraham (1785-1832) was the husband of Esther Huber (1792-1862), who was the daughter of Catharine Snyder and her first husband Samuel Huber. Catharine's second husband was Preacher Christian Risser, who had purchased this Balmer-Risser Farm for his children, as described above. Preacher Christian and wife Catharine lived on the Historian John Hess Farm, which was the farm of her first husband Samuel Huber. (Bible: Clarke Hess Collection)
An 1852 Sampler made by 16-year-old Fanny S. Risser,
While living here at the Balmer-Risser Farm:
"Fenni Risser worket this sambler..."
(Fanny Risser worked this sampler...)
Fanny S. Risser (1835-1898) was a sister of Bishop Christian S. Risser. She was born and raised on this Hammer Creek farm. Fannie used wool threads on a punchcard ground to create this colorful Pennsylvania German sampler. She borrowed motifs from her sister-in-law Catharine L. (Landis) Risser, who was the wife of Bishop Risser, living next door on the Bishop Risser Farm.
Fanny included the initials of her parents and her four siblings. Her text reads, "Fenni Risser worket this sambler in the 17th year of her age in the year of our Lord 1852." Fanny's sister-in-law Catharine misspelled sampler with the same Germanic spelling: "sambler." The sampler is in its original mahogany-veneered frame, so apparently it was intended for display. Fanny later married a Mennonite neighbor Benjamin L. Stauffer. Fanny's sister Catharine Risser (1821-1901) was the second wife of Joseph Bucher, living at the Bucher Homestead.
Fanny Risser's Sampler hits the Big Time:
Above: 1980 Catalog cover for the record-breaking Wetzel auction, where Annie Risser's sampler was sold.
In 1980 Fannie Risser's sampler was sold by Sotheby's at the Berks County estate auction for textile heiress Helen Janssen Wetzel. Helen was a daughter of a Wyomissing textile-mill industrialist. Her antiques auction at her home near Reading lasted six days and realized $3.2 million. This was the second highest total for an American household sale, at that time, surpassed only by the 1979 auction of the collection of Colonel Edgar and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, which brought $3.9 million. Fanny Risser's sampler had made the big time.
Fanny and many of her Risser relatives are buried at Hammer Creek Mennonite Cemetery. Perhaps the Hammer Creek meetinghouse really should have been named Rissers' Meetinghouse rather than Hammer Creek Meetinghouse, because of all the Rissers in that congregation. But there already was a Rissers' Meetinghouse in Mount Joy Township, so the church name is Hammer Creek today, named for the nearby stream. (Sampler: Clarke Hess Collection)
This Balmer-Risser Farm:
It's the Setting for the Historical Novel I Lift My Lamp:
Above: The 1968 first edition, by Anna Balmer Myers.
Below: Anna Balmer Myers, with illustration of the Reist family making apple butter.
If the Hammer Creek Valley has a favorite first edition it might well be I Lift my Lamp, by novelist Anna Balmer Myers. This historical novel, published in 1968, tells a story of early settlers of Lancaster County, including the Balmer family (Lutherans) and Eby family (Mennonites) of Hammer Creek. The author, Anna Balmer Myers, was a school teacher and historian from Manheim, Lancaster County, where she was born and raised in a family of three sisters. Anna and her two sisters never married. Anna's father was a station agent with the Reading Railroad.
Although Anna was not Mennonite, she wrote about Lancaster County plain sects with insider's information. Several of Anna's historical novels are available online free at Internet Archive, here, including Amanda: A Daughter of the Mennonites (1921), and Patchwork: A Story of the "Plain People" (1920).
The 1932 Balmer Family Reunion, with Anna Balmer Myers,
Visiting this Balmer-Risser Farm "the original Balmer Farm":
Lititz Record Newspaper, July 38, 1932
Above: When the Balmer reunion made its 1932 pilgrimage to this Balmer-Risser farm, the property was owned by Christian B. Risser (1857-1939) and wife Lizzie (Wissler) Risser (1858-1941). Christian was one of the most prominent Mennonite farmers of the Lititz area. He was vice president of the Farmers National Bank of Lititz. Plus he was a Warwick Township school director for 15 years, and was a township auditor. He also was a director of several other Lititz businesses.
Christian was born and raised on this Balmer-Risser farm. In his retirement, he and wife Lizzie lived at 301 North Broad Street, today's Lititz House Bed and Breakfast. So when the Balmer reunion visited his farm in 1932 he and Lizzie were the farm owners, but were living in their house on Broad Street.