The Ephrata Cloister or Ephrata Community was a religious community, established in 1732 by Johann Conrad Beissel at Ephrata, Lancaster County. The grounds of the community are now owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and are administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The Cloister’s website can be found at https://ephratacloister.org and provides the following information:
Conrad Beissel, Ephrata’s founder, came to the site in 1732 seeking to live as a hermit following his own religious ideas. He believed earthly life should be spent preparing to achieve a spiritual union with God at the Second Coming he felt would soon occur. By the early 1750s, nearly 80 celibate Brothers and Sisters were housed in impressive Germanic log, stone, and half-timbered buildings. At the same time, nearly 200 family members known as Householders, occupied nearby homes and farms.
Celibate members followed a life of work balanced with hours of private prayer. Wearing white robes, they adopted sparse diets, and slept little, all in an effort to provide discipline as they prepared for an anticipated heavenly existence. Labors included farming, papermaking, carpentry, milling, and textile production. The Cloister was known for the German calligraphic art of Frakturschriften, created in a distinctive style considered the first of this folk art produced in America, self-composed a cappella music written using Beissel’s rules for four-part harmony (with over one-thousand original compositions), and an ambitious printing establishment creating works for the use of the community and neighbors, including the translation and publication of the 1500 page Martyrs Mirror for the Mennonites, the largest book printed in colonial America.
The Society declined after the death of the charismatic Beissel in 1768. The last celibate member died in 1813 and the next year the remaining Householders incorporated into the German Seventh Day Baptist Church. Members continued to live and worship in the Cloister buildings until the close of the Church in 1934. Marie Kachel Bucher, the last surviving resident of the Ephrata Cloister, died on July 27, 2008, at the age of 98.
Here is a look at the exterior of the buildings. There was an event going on that Day called “Charter Day” which was wrapping up as I was arriving in late afternoon.