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Ephrata Society

A cloistered, Protestant commune founded at Ephrata, Pennsylvania, by German Pietist mystic J.K. Beissel* and his Dunker disciples. By 1750 some 300 Brethren and Sisters lived in monastic austerity within the cloister, practicing celibacy and pacifism, keeping Saturday as the Sabbath, sharing agricultural and trade labor, and holding all property and profit in common. The society printed about 200 books from 1745 to 1800, most notably Martyr's Mirror by Mennonite J.V.T. Braght and the first American edition of Pilgrim's Progress. The first music printed in America was published at Ephrata, often embellished in the European monastic tradition by the Sisters. Led by scholar and linguist Peter Miller after Beissel's death (1768), the society, with its monastic features deteriorating, incorporated as the German Religious Society of the Seventh-Day Baptists in 1814, finally dissolving in 1934.