Denise A. Seachrist, Kent State University at Stark

Denise A. Seachrist, Kent State University at Stark, presented “Auctioning Off History: Twenty Years Following the Sad Demise of the Snow Hill Cloister” at the Communal Studies Association Annual Conference in Zoar, Ohio, on Oct. 6, 2017.

Summary: The Snow Hill Cloister (Nunnery) was established in 1829 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, on the farm of Andreas Schneeberger and was considered an offshoot of the more well-known Ephrata Cloister, a communal settlement of German immigrants established in 1732 by Conrad Beissel in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The society itself came to an end in 1889, and the last celibate brother at Snow Hill, Obed Snowberger, died in 1895.

Despite extreme controversy, the contents of the buildings were sold at auction on Aug. 11, 1997. Publicity for the auction induced keen interest in one of America's little-known communal societies, and in fewer than nine hours, a segment of America's history was dispersed before a crowd of 1,500. The sale generated a sum of $837,860. In late 2013, 13 acres housing the buildings and the cemetery were sold to a private buyer.

This paper examines lessons learned 20 years following the infamous auction.

Biographical Statement: Denise A. Seachrist is dean and chief administrative officer of Kent State University at Stark in North Canton, Ohio. She is the past president of the Communal Studies Association. She is a past member of the editorial board for a Pennsylvania-German History and Culture book series (Penn State Press), a past member of the editorial advisory board of American Music (University of Illinois Press) and the past series editor of the World Musics series (Kent State University Press). She has authored 25 refereed journal articles, two book chapters and entries in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik, second edition, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, and The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 3, "the United States and Canada." Seachrist is the author of Snow Hill: In the Shadows of the Ephrata Cloister (2010) and The Musical World of Halim El-Dabh (2003), both published by the Kent State University Press.

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POSTED: Friday, October 20, 2017 11:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, March 30, 2023 05:50 PM