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Harmony Borough

Harmony Borough Hall is located at 217 Mercer Street, Harmony PA 16037; phone: 724-452-6780.

Beginnings [1]

Harmony Borough, located in Jackson Township, was incorporated as a borough in 1838. Harmony was founded by the United Society of Germans, known as the Harmonites or Economites, who left Germany in search of religious freedom.

George Rapp, their leader, came beforehand to find a suitable site for their colony in this country. After visiting several states he purchased 5000 acres of land from Dr. Detmar Basse in Butler County. On July 4, 1804, three hundred Harmonites arrived in this country followed very shortly by two more groups. In 1805 the organization and settlement of the 135 families at Harmony were completed.

Development was very rapid. The first year, 150 acres of land were cleared, 50 log cabins, a grist mill, barn, machine shop, and house of worship were built. The next year, 600 acres were cleared, a 4 acre vineyard set up, a distillery, tannery, brick yard, saw mill, and large brick granary were built. In 1810, a woolen factory was established.

The colony had a communistic form of government with everyone sharing equally. There were no rich or poor. The men were employed at one job and became specialists of this job. They were a happy lot, celebrating three customary feasts a year. These feasts were the Love Feast, in early spring; Harvest Home, when the small grains were gathered, and the Feast of Ingathering, when the harvest was over. Harvest Home remained a tradition with the town for many years after the Economites left.

Except for wrought iron and cast iron the community was entirely self-supporting. The products they didn't use were sold in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia in exchange for fancy groceries and produce. Harmony consequently established itself as a trading center for a vast area.

The Harmonist community was one of the greatest influences in the development of the western part of the County.

When the Economites left in 1814 to seek a home having favorable water transportation by which they could more easily transport their products to market, they left behind 130 buildings, of brick, stone, and log. These included a brick house for dying, a brick church, a four story, 80x40 foot frame granary equipped with machinery, a brick and stone distillery, two grist mills, 1 fulling mill with two sets of carding machines, 2 saw mills, 1 fulling and hemp mill with 1 set of cotton carding machines, a well equipped tannery, brick yard, potash factory, rope walk, brewery, smithy with four hearths, four large stable barns, seven large sheep barns, capable of housing 5000 sheep, 20 log buildings and barns in Ramsdale, 20 houses and barns at Eidenau, and about 10 houses and barns at Oilbronn.

They had cleared 3000 acres of land, planted 2 large orchards with 2000 apple trees, planted numerous small orchards, plus two vineyards, and had established a number of sugar camps.

Abraham Ziegler, a Mennonite bought all this property in 1815 for $100,000.00 and attempted to establish a compact Mennonite colony here. This proved very difficult for the Mennonites were mostly tillers of the soil who did not care for town life. He was therefore compelled to call in settlers of other faiths.

The Harmonites in the meantime had settled in Indiana. Their doctrine of celibacy and their failure to actively encourage new members made the life of the society short lived, lasting less than a century.

Early industries after the departure of the Harmonites included a blacksmith shop, tavern, cooper, butcher and a store in 1816. In 1813, Andrew McClure was tarred and feathered for expressing his Tory sentiments. The first church after the Harmonites was the Mennonite Church of 1816.

Abraham Ziegler II was one of the most colorful characters in town, and had the strength of an ox. A two inch oak sill in the Otto Homestead still shows where he broke it with his fist when angered by a derogatory remark made about Lincoln and the War. At another time he and one of his opponents were ordered to shake hands before entering church. His grip was so strong that he forced blood out of his opponents' fingernails.

In 1832, Stephen Foster lived and attended school here. His mother, in one of her letters, described him as a perfectly original person. In 1874, the Harmony Fair was organized and became one of the great events of this region for many years.

The Harmonites and Mennonites left many interesting monuments. Still standing is the balanced revolving stone gate in the Harmonite cemetery. The old Harmonite tower clock, dating from about 1650 and probably the oldest tower dock in America, is still in good condition. This clock was brought over from Germany by George Rapp. It has no minute hand, the time being told by the position of the hour hand after the hour has passed.

Rapp's Seat is barely discernible today. It was a seat cut out of a rock in the side of a steep hill overlooking the community. Here he would meditate. It was reached by a lane running along the creek, then through a stone arch and up 176 stone steps.

The present churches are the Harmony United Methodist Church, Grace Evangelical and Reformed of 1803 and the Harmony Zelienople Presbyterian Church. The Emma Kaufman Camp organized in 1908 as a summer camp for children and mothers of Pittsburgh, includes complete housing and recreation facilities plus a modern swimming pool and athletic field.

  1. Butler County Sesqui-Centennial Association, Butler County 1800-1950: 150 Years of History and Development souvenir book, 1950, Butler PA
**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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