The Home of Reverend John Philip Boehm

Boehm's Church founder, Reverend John Philip Boehm, had a home that was along Skippack Pike, in between Cathcart and School Roads. Legend said that towards the end of the 18th century, when the home was owned by Jacob Kurr, the home had the reputation of being haunted.


Before we dive into this, now demolished, haunted home, let's dive into the background of the reverend who was an early leader in the German Reformed Church.

John Philip Boehm


John Philip Boehm (1683-1749) was born on November 25th in Höchstadt to Reverend Philip Lewis "Ludwig" Boehm.


Fun Fact #1: His father Philip was a bad-mouthed, rebellious pastor in the village. In 1682, one of the members of the Höchstadt board complained about Philip for scolding publicly for "allowing his son to haul earth during the prayer meeting, which... his son had done contrary to his orders and unknown to him." In 1684, Philip was caught running in the vineyard with his gun, which was a misdemeanor. After three suspensions from the Consistory, they transferred him to Kesselstadt near Hanau.


John Philip decided to follow in his father's footsteps in becoming a pastor. In February 1708, John was a schoolmaster of a Reformed congregation in Worms. Before John arrived in Worms, the town was destroyed by King Louis XIV's troops during a war against France, and was left in runs until 1697.


During his time there, his attitude was similar to his father's when confronting enemies, including Christoper Schmidt, president of the Consistory and most influential member of the Reformed congregation.


When John complained about Bassermann, Schmidt's friend, for keeping his salary to himself and placing it in the alms box to the City Council, he ended up getting punched by Schmidt. Then another incident occurred on August 5, 1714, when a backer named Christopher Erb gave John bread that was too brittle. With John's frustration on the bread, it gave his enemies the opportunity to dismiss him from the church.


But John refused to leave. He replied to the congregation this on September 11th, 1714:

"In the first place I do not accept my dismissal from you. I demand that it be given to me in writing with the reason for such action stated in full. Moreover, I shall appeal to the City Council and lay the whole matter before them. You claim that you act in the name of the congregation. That I want to find out."

The affair continued the next day when Mr. Emrich, one of the congregation members, told him he's no longer a teacher.


John answered:

"I am here at my place, which God and the church have entrusted to me, and I ask you to be quiet, so that I can fulfil my duty. I have not yet received my dismissal, nor do I accept it now."

Meanwhile, Mr. Sauerwein tried to take the Bible away from John, but he held onto it and held it up.


John laid out his case in front of the City Council on September 14, 1714. On November 14, 1714, he answered his charges in full:

  1. They charged Boehm that three years before he had forcibly entered the church and taken money out of the alms box. Boehm answered, that not he but his friends had opened the alms box to take the money that had been given to him. It had, however, been restored afterwards.

  2. The fact that he substituted rye bread at the com- munion service, was not due to his fault, but to the neglect of Mr. Erb.

  3. They claimed that he was a poor teacher and that his school was becoming smaller every day. To this Boehm answered that this was not his fault, but was rather due to his enemies, who had taken their children out of his school and had influenced others to do the same. Yet he claimed that his school was stronger than at the time of his predecessor, for he had forty children of good citizens in it.

  4. They charged him with discontinuing his private instruction. Boehm replied that this was his private affair, in which he could do as he pleased. He had not been required by his call to hold these private instructions, and now they could not compel him to continue them.

  5. They objected to the fact that he had admitted Jewish children into his school. Boehm answered that his enemies ought to be ashamed to make such a complaint. They ought rather be glad that they were coming, which they would cer- tainly be, if they were not actuated by jealousy, being afraid that he might earn some extra money.

  6. They charged that Boehm had gotten into a lawsuit. He answered that he was sorry for that. However, it was not his doing, but had been caused by some who had slandered him. Besides, the case had been settled.

  7. They complained about his indistinct reading and speaking. Boehm answered that this was a peculiar charge to make now after six years, when in the beginning of his service they had given him a trial of six weeks, without finding any fault with him then.

  8. Lastly they charged that the favorable decision of the Council had been secured by "sneaky" conduct. Boehm replied curtly that that charge was too mean to answer.

John had been waiting for the results from the City Council, but it was taking too long for them to respond. John ended up resigning on November 22, 1715.

Boehm's Reformed Church


In 1720, John arrived in Pennsylvania. In total, he organized at least 11 congregations. Out of his 3 original congregations, Whitemarsh, Skippack, and Falkner Swamp, the Falkner Swamp Reformed Church was the one that survived through the present day.

The Boehm's Church was the last congregation to be organized by John when he was aging and couldn't do tours to distant congregations. That was when he decided to establish a church nearby his home in Whitpain.


Reverend Michael Schlatter, who succeeded John as pastor at the Philadelphia Reformed Church, visited John at his home in 1746 where John told Michael he would like to give up Falkner Swamp and Philadelphia churches as it became too difficult for him to handle those churches. He asked Michael to organize a new congregation in Whitpain. As a result, Michael came to John's home to organize a new congregation on February 3, 1747.


Read more about the Boehm's church here!

John Philip Boehm's Home


When he came to Pennsylvania in 1720, he settled in Whitpain where, 14 years later, he purchased 200 acres of land. He wasn't given the deed of his property until 1736.


Fun Fact #2: When John first began preaching in Pennsylvania, he used his home in Whitpain as a meeting place.


After John died, his son Philip inherited his father's 200 acres. He then sold big parts of his father's land to a German named Jacob Kurr in 1759 after he moved to Philadelphia. Philip kept the remaining 60 acres of his father's land until it was sold to Jonas Supplee in 1762. The first dwelling that was built on the former Boehm property was actually built by Jacob Kurr right after he purchased the land.


NOTE: Jacob Kurr came to Whitpain when he was 38 years old. It was said that he was wealthy and hoarded his money. 1,500 pounds (or $7,500) in gold was found at his home.


After Jacob Kurr died in 1797, his executors, Jacob Walker and John Wentz, sold his estate to Samuel Maulsby. Then, it was owned by Abraham Lukens until 1814 when he passed it on to Mahlon Lukens.


From 1814, the owners of the property changed:

  • 1833- Jesse Fitzgerald

  • 1845- Joseph W. Shearer

  • 1866- Charles P. Reiff

  • 1870- John Martin

  • 1878- Enos Roberts

Fun Fact #3: There was a distillery on the former Boehm property with the farm. Apple whiskey was the product of the distillery.

"The farm, later owned by Enos Roberts, was his property, but the first dwelling erected there was by Jacob Kurr, who came after the time of Boehm. Boehm's residence was along the Skippack road, near the site of the later Nolan house, where formerly stood an ancient stone house... The original plantation comprised 200 acres, covering part of the present stock farm of the later Roberts farm and the Rile and Mahan lots."

- E.M.

Atlas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 1871, Page 031; G.M. Hopkins & Company, Publisher
Montgomery County 1877, Whitpain, Rahn Sta., Grater's Ford; J.D. Scott, Publisher
Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left; J.L. Scott, Publisher

Haunted?


The haunted house story went around the time Jacob Kurr lived on his property, which was during the late 18th century. What could be haunting around there?


Was it John Philip Boehm himself haunting around the former Kurr property? It would make sense since he died in his home in 1749.


Had other residents, after Jacob Kurr, felt that their properties were haunted? There were owners during the 19th and 20th century who began starting from scratch to make their homes new and modern as well as expanding or condensing their land. Could that cause the ghosts to roam around the area?


From my earlier post about the road itself, Skippack Pike, it had the reputation of being haunted, but it mostly involved the soldiers from the American Revolution who died while marching on the main road to and from the battles. But was the road haunted only because of the dead soldiers? Could there be something else haunting on Skippack Pike?


What do you think?

Bibliography


Franklin Survey Co. Atlas: Montgomery County 1935 Vol B, Plate 8, 1935.


Heller, William J. History of Northampton County [Pennsylvania] and The Grand Valley of the Lehigh, Volume II. (New York: The American Historical Society, 1920): 203.


Hinke, William John. Life and Letters of the Rev. John Philip Boehm, founder of the Reformed Church in Pennsylvania, 1683-1749. (Philadelphia: Publication and Sunday School Board of the Reformed Church in the United States, 1916): 1-19, 58-81, 145-151.


Hopkins, G.M. Atlas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Page 031, 1871.


"Local History Sketch. Interesting Local Matter Collected by 'E.M.' Home of an Early Reformed Preacher--John Philip Boehm, of Blue Bell--Facts on his Life--Jacob Kurr." Ambler Gazette. August 1, 1901. Page 2. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/wivp-gazett/id/2775/rec/12.


Smith, J. L. Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left, 1893.


"The Home of Rev. Boehm." Ambler Gazette. November 23, 1911. Page 2. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/wivp-gazett/id/10209/rec/15.


"Wissahickon Valley Public Library's Ambler Gazette Collection." POWER Library: Pennsylvania's Electronic Library. Accessed May 17, 2021. http://digitalcollections.powerlibrary.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/wivp-gazett.


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