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Sunday, January 18, 2015

The "Searching for a Read: Part VI - Jacob Eichholtz

This is one more part of my posts I started as part of my recovery from back surgery in late October.  Being bored since I was confined to the house, I went searching for a read on the shelves in our house.  My search stopped when I found a two-part history of my church, St. James Episcopal.  This story deals with one specific item in the church that to this day still holds my attention.


It was an ordinary day.  Sitting in the Chapel at St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster staring at the painting on the wall above the small marble altar.  Mesmerizing depiction of The Crucifixion painted by Lancaster painter Jacob Eichholtz.  For years after it was presented to the church in 1915, it hung in the main church directly above the choir stalls on the southwest side of the church.  Week after week I stood directly under it as a member of: first, the renowned St. James Boys Choir and then as an adult member of the choir.  I could tell you what parts of the oil painting reflected more light during the Sunday morning services and which parts receded deep into the canvas during the evening services throughout the year.  And now, as I sit on a padded chair in the chapel, staring intently at it one more time, I still find it incredible.  
Oil painting done of Jacob Eichholtz.
The painting is believed to have been painted by Jacob in memory of his daughter Anna Mary who was the wife of Lancaster County Sheriff David "Dare Devil Dave" Miller.  It was presented to the church by Helen Miller Wellens and Helen's father William E. Miller.  Jacob Eichholtz was known primarily for his portraits.  He painted over 800 in his life during the time before the camera was invented and when portraits were quite popular and a means to show society of your success in life.  In a 1912 exhibition, presented in Lancaster at it's famous Woolworth Building on North Queen Street in downtown Lancaster, over 300 portraitures were exhibited.  
St. James Chapel with Crucifixion in background above the altar.
More than 100 of those portraitures were Jacob Eichholtz portrai- tures.  Today the Lancaster County Historical Society has 70 in their collection.  Jacob worked not only in Lancaster, but in Philadelphia and as far west as Pittsbugh, Pennsylvania.  He was born in Lancaster in 1776 and died in 1842.  
Eichholtz portraiture of Lancaster's Thadeus Stevens.
He and his family members were buried at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on South Duke Street in Lancaster, but when the church expanded in the early 1850s, the gravestones and coffins of many in the cemetery were moved to nearby Woodward Hill Cemetery.  Jacob was reburied in the same grave with both his wives and their children.  His gravestone, made of marble, has deteriorated over time due to acid rain and is no longer legible.  Recently historians have called for the restoration of his headstone as well as a brass plaque to mark his achievements.  As for me, I could sit for hours staring at the painting that was always part of my experience at St. James.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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