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Pennsylvania Germans were not the only ones planting by the moon

Rev. Dr. Robert Cathcart (from Gibson's 1886 History of York County)
Rev. Dr. Robert Cathcart
(from Gibson’s 1886 History of York County)

It is exciting when one piece of research ties back into a nother. I was reminded of this when looking at old and new almanacs and the listed moon signs, especially the lore of their influence on planting vegetables. I recently wrote about these almanacs, printed in York and throughout the northeast, both in German and English in my York Sunday News almanac column .

About 10 years ago another one of myYork Sunday News columns focused on Dr. Robert Cathcart , pastor at First Presbyterian Church in York and Hopewell (Round Hill) Presbyterian in Hopewell Township, and avid gardener. My source was a diary kept by Cathcart that is now in the York County History Center Library/Archives. I was fascinated by the array of vegetables cultivated by Cathcart. Many of them have been rediscovered by the general public in the last few decades, but he was planting them here two centuries ago. Click here for my column on Cathcart and his vegetables.

Going back to Cathcart’s brief diary entries, I realized that this Scots-Irish Presbyterian minister consulted his almanac, just like his Pennsylvania German neighbors. On April 27, 1836, he noted: “Planted 5 rows of corn. & 1 of bunch beans, tho not at the time of the moon. 2 rows the next day to see if it made any difference, that being the right time.” On August 16 he noted that they dried corn, but he didn’t mention if one batch produced better than the other. So we will never know how Cathcart’s experiment fared.

We tend to think of the Pennsylvania Germans as being more prone to almanac guidance, but that just might be because the majority of settlers in this area were Pennsylvania Germans. So we associate old and “quaint” customs with those settlers. It’s true that two of the three almanacs still in continuous publication, The http://www.almanack.com/ Hagerstown Town and Country Almanac from Maryland (1797) and Baer’s Agricultural Almanac and Gardener’s Guide (1825) from Lancaster, have Pennsylvania German roots. The very oldest one, however, is the Old Farmer’s Almanac (1792) from Dublin, New Hampshire.

I would like to hear from anyone that does consult the almanac moon signs for planting guidance, and what the results have been. Comments can be sent to me at ycpa89@msn.com.