March 26, 2017 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Centre Furnace Mansion
1001 E. College Ave. 16801

Centre County Historical Society
2017 Distinguished Speakers Series

The Pennsylvania German Groundhog Lodges and Versammlinge
Presented by: William W. Donner, Department of Anthropology, Kutztown University

In this talk, Donner will explain the history, cultural context and significance of Pennsylvania German Groundhog Lodges and Versammlinge. The Grundsow (“Groundhog)” Lodges were started in the 1930s by a group of Pennsylvania Germans who wanted to have an occasion for speaking the Pennsylvania German language (Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch) and celebrating Pennsylvania German culture. The first official meeting was held in 1934. There was singing, skits, jokes and serious talks, often with humorous and ironic themes concerning the legendary ability of the groundhog to predict the weather. The entire meeting was held in the Pennsylvania German Deitsch language.  Anyone who spoke in English was fined for each word that was spoken. Eventually, 18 lodges developed in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania. Scores of related Pennsylvania German Versammlinge (“gatherings”) also developed which adopted a very similar format, although not structured around the groundhog. Although membership has dropped in the past few years because there are fewer people who speak Deitsch, they still represent a vibrant cultural traditions. The lodges and Versammlinge are celebrations of tradition that, over time, became themselves an important tradition. They express many American cultural themes at the same time that they also emphasized Pennsylvania German ethnicity and interests.

Copies of, Serious Nonsense, about the groundhog lodges and versammlinge, will be available. All profits from sales go to the Grossdaadi Lodge (“Grandfather Lodge”) that oversees the groundhog lodges.

This distinguished lecture series is underwritten by the Anne Hamilton Henszey Pyle and Kenneth B. Pyle Educational Fund for Regional Heritage Preservation (Henszey Pyle Fund.)

The inspirations for the Henszey-Pyle Fund include the interest that Anne and Kenneth have in the history of the community in which they grew up and their belief in the value of the study of history.  Anne is the great-great-grand daughter of Moses and Mary Irvin Thompson and great-grand daughter of John Hamilton all of whose contributions to regional history are honored at the Centre Furnace Mansion and within the Centre County Historical Society.  Kenneth, who acquired a love of the study of history growing up in State College, is the Henry M. Jackson Professor of History and International Studies Emeritus at the University of Washington where he has taught history for over fifty years.

The lecture series is coordinated by CCHS Board of Governors member Dr. Ford Risley.


The Centre Furnace Mansion is located at 1001 E. College Avenue, State College, PA 16801. Parking is available in the lower lawn along College Avenue, as well as in the Mansion parking lot off of Porter Road. Admission to the program is FREE. Donations are appreciated.  For more information, please call (814) 234-4779.