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FEATURES
Written by Jennifer Frieze, Correspondent
January 17, 2019

            The Upper Perkiomen Valley and the regions just beyond are rich in history and lore. Growing up, some may have heard of an extraordinary woman that lived in the

Wood-cut Image of Mountain Mary from the Pa. Geman

Cultural Center in Kutztown.

hills of the Oley Valley, not too far over the Berks County Line.

            Her name is Die Berg Maria, Mary Yung, or Mountain Mary. She lived in the secluded hills of what is now Pike Township. Legends of this unique woman have endured for over 200 years. It is recorded that people from Philadelphia would travel to receive her intuitive wisdom and healing. Mary has been referred to as a healer, mystic recluse and powwow healer. There is very little reliable information about this legendary character. Perhaps the mystery adds to the depth of her uniqueness of character.

            Anna Maria Yung was born in the mid 1700's. She emmigrated from Germany with her parents and two sisters. The family arrived at the Port of Philadelphia between 1764 and 1773. The exact date of their arrival is unknown. Father, mother and three daughters settled in Germantown.

            The battle of Germantown in 1777 ravaged the tranquility of the settlement. It is believed that Mary's father died in the battle of Germantown. To escape the wounds of war, Mary along with her mother and sisters relocated to the hills of Berks County.

            Mary's mother passed on and the three daughters maintained the homestead. Her sisters married and moved away. The smallholding was tended by Mary. She lived there in warm solitude growing food, raising animals, and collecting the bounty of nature that surrounded her in the hills of Oley.

            As Mary lived her life, she became known and revered as a kind, generous,

Spring house on the Oley Valley site of Mountain Mary's

home.

brave and pious woman. Self-sufficient and faithful, she cultivated a comfortable life for herself. An exceptional and unusual existence for a woman in her time period.

            Maria Yung raised cows and was noted to take exceptional care of her animals. Her care and attention was rewarded with milk to make cheese and butter. She tended to bees and harvested honey. Mary would harvest hay by hand and then carry it home when dry. She grew medicinal plants and gathered flora from the surrounding hills to makes medicine.

            Mary was a renowned healer. It is said that she treated ailing animals as well as people.

            Mary was industrious and this trait enabled her to sustain herself.  Mountain Mary is referred to as the first travelling nurse and midwife of the area. Legend tells that she had a respectful and open relationship with the indigenous people of the area and that they taught her a significant amount about the healing plants of the region.

            People on foot and horseback would visit "Barricke Mariche" for healing or to receive council from her. She made house calls to the sick and frail and routinely checked on neighbors. She welcomed visitors with bread, cheese, jams and a warm heart.

            There is a published narrative from Benjamin M. Hollinshead of Philadelphia, along with four associates and a German translator, they visited Mary shortly before she passed on. The personal account was published in The Pennsylvania German Magazine in 1902.

            The eyewitness wrote, "Never had I witnessed so unshaken a faith as was manifested in this extraordinary woman. On returning to take our leave, we were surprised to find a table spread with delicious bread, butter, cream, milk and preserved fruits: and we were invited to partake in a manner so sincere and courteous that we did  not distrust our kind hostess when she assured us that we were welcome." This is short exert of the several page article.

            There are two historical documents that provide insight into the life of Mary. The first census in 1790 lists Mary as head of the household with 2 other adult females living on the property. The enumerator referred to her as "Abbess", and old European meaning- a female that is a superior or governess of a community of nuns or holy women. The second document, is her will of 1813, in which she settles the majority of her estate to her niece, Maria Elisabeth Schneider. In her will, she refers to herself as "Leddich"- a single woman and not a "Wittfraa"- a widow. In 1819, during her estate inventory, $600 in cash was found. This was not the norm for a woman of her age, solitude and era.

            There was not a particular incident or aspect of her character that declared her celebrity status. It seems that it was simply the force of her being. 

            The legend and lore of Mountain Mary remains strong and true to the region. May the integrity of her spirit endure and her story continue to be told for generations to come.

· End of article ·  


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