Freda Maust becomes matriarch of Springs, Maust family - Our Town: Somerset

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Freda Maust becomes matriarch of Springs, Maust family

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Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 12:00 am

The 90-year-old Mennonite woman became the matriarch of her Springs community and extended family after decades of service, according to her niece, Miriam Achenbach, of Lancaster.

 

“She has very much a heart of helping people and serving others,” Achenbach said.

 

Maust spent years as a licensed practical nurse, newspaper reporter and Springs Historical Society secretary. She helped to start the annual Springs Folk Festival.

 

“I didn’t call it work,” Maust said. “I was doing things for them.”

 

Maust’s own history began in the same house.

 

“I was born right over there,” she said, motioning to a spot in another room. “It’s been home ever since.”

 

Her parent’s wedding picture has been hanging in the same place on the wall since 1904.

 

Maust has projects in every room. A 750-piece puzzle, nearly completed, sits on a table under framed puzzles from previous afternoons. 

 

An old roller towel, a looped towel hung on a rolling rack, will be repurposed during multiple projects.

 

“This towel is an old timer,” she said. “I’m going to use it as a cushion cover for my quilting bench, and also make some potholders. My potholders are old timers.”

 

A large quilt is stretched across a table in her bedroom, ready to be filled with color.

 

A ladybug crawled up and down a curtain by the window.

 

“This here is my friend,” she said.

 

She said it flies down to the quilt every time she works on it.

 

She gazed out the window and down the road.

 

“We had no cars for years and years,” she said. “We walked up the hill and down the hill to get to school and to get to church.”

 

That January afternoon, Amish children made the same trek home from school. The wind whipped down the hill and tangled their capes around them. 

 

She said her school was in a two-story building.

 

“When the weather got bad, real stormy, the schoolhouse would rock — especially the second floor,” she said.

 

Both her mind and her cupboard overflow with historical tidbits, family records and memories.

 

“That’s a lot of history in there,” she said, moving a stack of newspaper clippings and photographs from her cupboard to her lap. Her newspaper collection started with her job. Her mother was a writer for the Meyersdale newspaper, then called the Meyersdale Republican. When she had a stroke, Maust took over. 

 

In a time when few women worked and fewer worked for newspapers, she said most of the writers were female. The newspaper even had a woman publisher, Faye Wentworth.

 

She said the newspaper had a subscription contest one year. Competitors went around Meyersdale and surrounding towns asking people to subscribe. Even without a car, Maust came in fourth place, she recalled as she sorted through her clippings.

 

A newspaper photo announcing her victory displayed her skill with needlework from a young age.

 

“I made that dress,” she said. “I embroidered it.”

 

Farther down the stack was a photo of her grandparents, Simon and Savilla Maust, dressed in plain clothes. Savilla’s head was turned just slightly, making her long locks visible beneath her bonnet.

 

“She had wavy hair, and she said she wasn’t proud of it, but I think she was,” Maust said.

 

More family photos showed her siblings and many nieces and nephews.

 

“My brother, Paul, had 12 children,” she said. “We say he made up for those who weren’t married and never had any children. That’s me.”

 

Her early family history featured Harmon Husband, the founder of Somerset. He was a Quaker preacher inspired during the Great Awakening who fled the wrath of Prince Charles to Somerset. He was instrumental in the Whiskey Rebellion, which led to his imprisonment and death in 1795.

 

“I have a whole lot of stuff about him,” she said, searching through the stack of papers. “I even have the story about how he came out of North Carolina. He and Prince Charles had trouble with each other. He dressed up in ragged clothes, rode an old horse and came to Somerset County.”

 

Maust recalled a family mystery about a previous newspaper story about a relative. When an article about the relative appeared in the paper, family members wondered if she put the article in the paper herself.

 

When Maust was contacted for an interview, she found herself in the same position.

 

“I didn’t want to be in the paper so now I know that it was true,” she said. “I didn’t tell anyone you were coming. I’m going to shock some people.”

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