Behind the Barricades

The grave of Jacob Ehrenhardt, Jr., the son of one of the founders of Emmaus. He was briefly expelled from the Moravian Church for joining the Pennsylvania militia during the Revolutionary War, but then welcomed back when the war was over. (Moravians are traditionally pacifists.)

A somewhat bizarre and truly sad story has unfolded here in Emmaus. It seems that the president of the Emmaus Historical Society recently became embroiled in controversy within the society, and finally stepped down as president yesterday, just before the election for the presidency scheduled for this evening, leaving his opponent in the election uncontested.

Today, the former president barricaded himself into a barn on his property in nearby Upper Milford. Just after lunchtime, he shot himself in the head. He’s 72 and now listed in critical condition at the major hospital on the west end of the Lehigh Valley.

I actually have been entertaining plans to join the historical society for some time, but I may wait a little while, given what’s happened. We’ll see.

Despite the sad futility of this tale, there’s a strange sort of poetry to it, almost fit for a dark and ironic kind of folk music. History and folk music (which are traditionally quite aware of one another, especially the latter of the former) have always included dealing with this kind of incident as part of their vocation. There are certain dark moments in a community’s story that cannot really be incorporated into the collective memory in any other way. I’m sure that 100 years from now, the society’s exhibits may well include a few notes about this poor man.

May he be granted recovery, and may all those affected by this awful moment find grace for the healing.

Update: The scheduled election has been postponed to July 28.

Update: The historical society president has died of his wounds.

One comment:

  1. That’s disturbing. One thing that I think about mortality is that it often helps us put things in a proper perspective. Obviously, mortality did not help this man in that regard.

    It’s amazing the tiny prisons we find ourselves in. How could anyone be so consumed with a historical society as to kill himself? Well, perhaps there were other issues going on there as well. Who knows?

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