Some Snow Hill pieces will return

August 13, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

QUINCY, Pa. - Though high prices deterred most local buyers from procuring contents of the Nunnery at the Snow Hill Cloister at Monday's auction, some items made it back to the community through local organizations.

Bidders for Renfrew Museum, the Conococheague Institute and the Waynesboro Historical Society managed to get a few pieces at the auction held in Ephrata, Pa. The items will eventually be put on display for the public.

"We're very pleased with what we got," said Gay Buchanan, vice president of the Conococheague Institute, headquartered at Rock Hill Farm in Montgomery Township.


Renfrew Museum Executive Director Shirley Baker bid for the institute and ended up with 10 items, including a wool spinning wheel, a rocking chair, a walnut drop-leaf table, tin utensils and a rye straw basket, Buchanan said.

Institute members have plans to show the items - once they're restored - in a three-room German plan home in Welsh Run, she said.

The 600 pieces of furniture, textiles and pottery that were locked away in the rooms and attic of the 45-room brick building since 1895 sold for a total of $837,860 to 671 registered bidders from 20 states, according to Clarence E. Spohn, who catalogued the items for Horst Auctioneers of Ephrata.

"For the most part the prices were very high and in some cases inflated," Spohn said, attributing it to the historic aspect of the collection.

Forty pottery bowls believed to have been made by Waynesboro potter John Bell brought in a total of $345,400, one selling for a high price of $15,500 and the lowest going for $5,500, he said.

An 11-foot dining room table sold for $40,000, a set of pillow cases went for $450, a communion plate sold for $11,000 and two Jacob Wolf clocks sold for $19,000 and $7,000.

"It's not what I would consider normal sales and what they would normally bring," Spohn said.

Fearing that significant artifacts would be lost to the area, officials at Renfrew Museum raised money to buy as many pieces as they could.

David Thomas, chairman of the museum's executive committee, purchased a bed, a ladder-back chair, a painted chest, linens, a woven coverlet, mirrors and several other items which will be displayed in the museum's Snow Hill Memorial Room.

An adult cradle, a candle stand and a communion chalise will be made available to Renfrew Museum on loan from the Paul Dunlap family, Baker said.

"Snow Hill is not completely gone from us," she said.

Though Waynesboro Historical Society members had their eyes on two bells that hung from Snow Hill's belfry and a printing block used to stamp barrels, the items commanded prices they couldn't afford, society President Todd Dorsett said.

Dorsett did purchase a chair for the society and managed to buy a few things for himself - items in which he had a personal interest as a member of the church.

"I figured I'd never have another opportunity," Dorsett said.

Money raised by the auction will be used to stabilize the remaining buildings at Snow Hill, including the Nunnery.

The Snow Hill Cloister was a spinoff of a religious community known as the Ephrata Cloister, established in Lancaster County, Pa., in 1732. The Quincy cloister was built on land owned by Andrew Snowberger, an early member of the sect. The Nunnery building was built in 1814.

The monastic cloister had as many as 50 members between 1820 and 1840. It outgrew the meeting room upstairs in the Nunnery in 1829 and built a meeting house that is used today by its dwindling congregation, Kearns said.

Many of the sect's members, mostly widows and widowers, were celibate and turned over their worldly goods to the cloister before joining. The men lived on one side of the Nunnery and the women on the other. Married members lived in separate housing.

The members made their own furniture, candlestands, baskets and weavings, all of which were auctioned.

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