Louise C. Sieger Gernerd
Lydia Sieger Gernerd
Muncy Cemetery, Muncy, PA
Most of the following was excerpted from a Biographical Sketch of Jeremiah M. M. Gernerd, written by T. Kenneth Wood, M.D., who was a friend and personal physician to Jeremiah, and later became editor of Volumes IV and V of Now and Then.
Jeremiah Meitzler Mohr Gernerd was descended from pure German stock, born July 22, 1836, in Fogelsville, Lehigh County, PA. He was the son and only child born to the marriage of David and Lydia (Mohr) Gernerd. The couple moved from their Lehigh County home to Muncy in Lycoming County, PA, in 1839. Jerry, as he was known, was then three years old. David Gernerd died in 1846, and from the time of his fathers death, he and his mother made their home with the Mohrs, his mothers people, who had followed them from Fogelsville to Muncy. After his mothers death, Jerry continued to live with the Mohr family.
Mr. Gernerd attended the early district schools of Muncy until 12 years of age and records that he seldom enjoyed the privilege. He was an accomplished musician, playing the flute and writing several of his own compositions. He was also vegetarian believing if one kept strictly to a vegetarian diet, drank plenty of pure water, breathed pure air and strictly avoided all doctors and their noxious concoctionsthat one had done all that anyone could do to keep well and live long.
He also served in the Civil War, and more can be read about his service by clicking here.
His first employment of consequence was as a clerk in the Muncy Post Office. Here he served for eighteen months.
On July 15, 1862, he married Louise C. Sieger, of Allentown, Pa. (Unfortunately, Jeremiah did not provide any other background information on his wife.) They had one child, Lydia Sieger Gernerd, born in 1868, who died in 1893. More can be read about his daughter by clicking here.
He opened his music and variety store about two years later. He also served as a school director, as a notary public and (at different times, ten years in all) as a bookkeeper in the First National Bank of Muncy. It was during these years that he developed into the antiquarian, the extensive collector of Indian artifacts and the local historian.
In 1868, while conducting his store, he purchased a small hand printing-press with the sole idea of publishing a small serial leaflet as a local advertising medium for his business. He hit upon the title Now and Then as it was his intention (so he states in his first issue) to issue it only: Once in-a-while or as business and inclination prompted. At first he composed all of the reading matter, set all the type, which was extremely small nonpareil (running 143 lines to the foot), and distributed the product at three cents a copy.
Jerrys little leaflets must have greatly pleased the people, largely because they contained some of the personality of the editor, the results of his individual thinking (right or wrong) and his ability to make what appeared common-place appear important and sparkle with interest. This was in high contrast to the country newspapers of that day. The contents of Mr. Gernerds three volumes of Now and Then are not pages of chronologically arranged facts set down with too much regard for detail but a collection of the writings of himself and a coterie of talented friends who wrote accurately enough but strove for literary effect as well. In this respect, he created a highly unique and original method of preserving local history and tradition in an attractive and readable form. Then he fed it to his readers in small doses which always left them thirsting for more.
In 1889, his collection of stone-axes, arrow points, celts, gorgets, pestles, drills, pipes, and pottery fragments started at the age of thirteen consisted of some 7,000 specimens properly labeled and classified. Mr. Gernerds museum was housed in the southeast room of his home and filled it from ceiling to floor. One saw him at his very best among his treasures.
Mr. Gernerd died in 1910 and was survived only a few years by his widow. He had made no disposition in his will of his collection nor apparently had he expressed himself on the subject to anyone. Mr. Norman Henry, then a student at Bucknell University and a descendant of the pioneer Gortner family of Muncy, called the situation to the attention of the financial agent of Bucknell University and the president, Dr. Harris. They came to Muncy and interviewed Mrs. Gernerd and urged upon her the appropriateness of making that local institution the final custodian. They offered her a small sum immediately and an annuity (of the same proportions) so long as she should live. She accepted the offer and the people of Muncy only learned of the transaction long afterwards.
The collection was finally, after a long delay, taken charge of by Professor Nelson Davis, of the department of Biology and arranged for display in his rooms in the old main building. At the time of its construction, there had been no thought of fireproofing it. And then came the great fire in 1932 of which only about one-third of. Mr. Gernerds magnificent personal collection was recovered. But how changed are some of them! Green bird-stoneshave become red while originally red pipe-stones have become white. Stone axes which perhaps have resisted the natural elements for a thousand years, are glazed and warped by the heat while other objects are fused together in masses. His precious glass slides are mere gobs of glass. The fragile pipes, though changed in color and badly chipped, came through better than one would think, the clay ones, of course, best of all.
Other publications bearing Mr. Gernerd's signature are: The Muncy Valley, Snapshots of Scenery, Geology and History, published in 1909 and Heinrich Gernhardt and His Descendants, in 1904, a genealogical history of his own family.
A special thanks to Diane Fetterman Rice, who took the photo, and her
cousin Storres Myers, who provided it for the website.