The Bishop Risser Farm: 510 Sleepy Hollow Road. Lititz, PA.
Above: The Bishop Risser Farm as seen on Google Earth.
Farm of Bishop Christian S. Risser and Catharine Risser.
He was "not an eloquent man", but apparently he was a good farmer.
Bishops generally should be eloquent to be bishop, it would seem. But Mennonite Bishop Risser was not very eloquent. His 1910 Gospel Herald obituary described his personality. "Though not an eloquent man, he was a faithful steward and servant of God and the Church." Perhaps the Bishop was not a dynamic orator. But at least he had a really nice farm.
In 1856 this 110-acre farm was purchased by his father Christian Risser (1799-1882). The father purchased this property from Henry and Catherine Hess, who were living on the Hess Homestead on Lititz Run Road. This Risser farm adjoined the farm that Christian, the father, occupied with wife Polly (Snyder) Risser.
The same year, 1856, Christian deeded this farm to his son Christian S. Risser (1825-1910), who would later become bishop. This Christian, the son, had married fraktur artist Catherine L. Landis in 1850. The present farmhouse on this Risser farm was apparently constructed in two sections: A three-bay dwelling was the earliest configuration, and a two-bay frame addition was added later.
Christian S. Risser was ordained minister of the Hammer Creek congregation in 1874, and became bishop in 1896. Bishop Christian S. Risser always used "the German language" for his sermons, according to historian Martin G. Weaver in the book Mennonites of Lancaster Conference. Perhaps the Bishop's German language was why some people thought Bishop Risser wasn't eloquent. By the 1880s many Mennonite preachers were no longer preaching in German, but were using English. Bishop Risser was old school.
View this farm on a larger Google map.
Above: Postcard of the 1819 Hammer Creek Meeting House, photographed in 1913. The eyebrow window in the gable is a Federal architectural detail that is rarely seen in Mennonite church buildings of this era. This little building was demolished this same year, 1913, and was replaced with the larger building shown below.
Below: The Hammer Creek Meeting House built in 1913.
Above: Christian S. Risser was ordained minister of this congregation near Lititz in 1874, and he became bishop in 1896.
Fraktur by Teenage Mennonite Artist Catharine Landis,
She later became wife of Bishop Christian S. Risser, and they lived here at the Risser Farm:
Below:: Catharine Landis practices her fraktur art in her copybook. (Fraktur: Free Library of Philadelphia)
She wrote, "Christian B. Hartman, Teacher, 1846. Catharine L. Landis made this copybook. Catharine L. Landis 1850."
Catharina Landis (Catherine) (1831-1900) was a young Mennonite fraktur artist whose name became forgotten and unknown to historians and collectors. Her identity was lost in time, until her name first appeared in the book Mennonite Arts, by Clarke Hess, published in 2001.
Catharina Landis was well worthy of being rediscovered. Not much fraktur was created by Mennonite women. Fraktur was traditionally school-related, and for many rural Pennsylvania Germans schooling was reserved for their sons, until public schools became established. Before the public school era, young women frequently received little education and thus had less opportunity to experiment with fraktur art.
Catharine became of the wife of Bishop Christian S. Risser. Catharina lived here at this Risser farm her entire married life, from 1850 to 1900. All of Catherine's known fraktur date to the late 1840s, prior to her marriage. Catharine had been raised on a Mennonite farm in East Lampeter Township, Lancaster County. She was the daughter of prosperous farmers Christian S. and Mary (Landis) Landis.
In her mid teens, Catharine attended a school taught by fraktur artist Christian B. Hartman, "Professor of Pemanship." Catharine's fraktur is reminiscent of the work of Schoolmaster Hartman and of Mennonite fraktur artist / Schoolmaster Abraham Brubaker (1760-1831). Catharine was too young to have known Brubaker, but it is probable that her parents were taught by him. Catharine may have had access to her parents' Vorschriften (hand-writing samples.)
An 1847 Sampler by 15-year-old Fraktur Artist Catharine Landis
Before she became the wife of Bishop Christian S. Risser:
Catharina Landis was a skilled fraktur artist and needlworker, both. She stitched this "sambler" in 1847, and included the initials of her parents Christian S. and Mary R. (Landis) Landis. She also included her own initials, and the initials of her brothers and sisters.
Catherine designed her symmetrical sampler so that the left side mirrored the right side. This sampler layout became popular among Mennonite girls in the mid 1800s, when they borrowed this sampler styling from their Anglo-American neighbors. This type of sampler was intended to be displayed, rather than being stored away with a sewing basket. Catharine's sampler retains its original cherry-wood frame. (Sampler: Clarke Hess Collection)
Fraktur Practice Sheets Inspired by Catharine Landis' Copybook,
Probably Penned by Catharine's son Henry (Heinrich) L. Risser:
Above: These fraktur practice sheets closely resemble the copy book created by Catharine L. Landis. They appear to have been penned either by Catharine or by her son Heinrich L. Risser (1864-1956), whose name fills one page with carefully-crafted lettering. Heinrich was apparently being taught the German language in his home by his parents.
By this time the public schools were conducted in English, but his father, Bishop Christian S. Risser, always preached in German, as described above. Several of these drawings have animals drawn in simplistic design, possibly drawn by a younger Risser sibling. (Fraktur practice sheets: Collection of Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Gift of Hiram and Mary Jane Hershey)
Drawings on the Reverse Side of Heinrich Risser's Fraktur Practice Sheets: