scripture rock

Located about two hours to the west, in Brookville Pa., Scripture Rocks Heritage Park is one of the most unique sites in Pa.

In August of 2015, we stopped at a geocache named "Scripture Rocks".  I shared this photo, with this description: "About 100 years ago a school teacher got in a fight with a lumberjack. The school teacher needed a plate in his head. Afterwards, he obsessively chiseled scripture into rocks. There are about 50 pieces of his work up here on the mountain"
 
As with most of the history I learn in quick blurbs, this is not exactly true.  Or maybe it is.  There's a book written about Douglass Monroe Stahlman, I just learned of the book, and I look forward to reading it, I suspect it will answer many of my questions?  Or perhaps not.  For now, I have put together newspaper clippings and history as I found it.  When we visited in 2015, they were building the park, but it was not anywhere near complete.  The Park was officially opened in 2016.   I look forward to going back.
 
 
 
Visiting The Park
 
"Hidden in the woods surrounding the town of Brookville, Pennsylvania is a story about a man, his triumphs, his hardships, his obsessions, and his deeply felt religious convictions.  Many local legends abound about the mysterious carved Bible rocks frequently encountered in the wooded hillsides around Brookville, Pennsylvania.   But what is the real story behind the rocks and the man who created them 100 years ago?  We invite you to make plans to explore the Scripture Rocks Heritage Park this summer."
 
The Park is located  on n Route 28, 1/8 mile south of I-80 exit 81 at 560, PA 28, Brookville, PA. It is free to visit, and is open from Dawn To Dusk.
 
Douglass Monroe Stahlman, his history & his legacy

Douglas Monroe Stahlman  was born in 1861 in Jefferson County Pa, the middle child of 10 siblings. He was a school teacher, and then a "book agent" (book keeper).

November 1891
 

In November 1893 there is a blurb in the newspaper "D.M. Stahlman, who spent most of the past year in the South And West, is again home, but not in good health."  If he was indeed attacked "by a lumberjack" while he was a teacher, this might have been when the attack had occurred?

I do know that his 1942 obituary refers to him as being a school teacher "before he was incapacitated" - giving some veracity to the story of the attack.  But then, another obituary states that he was never married, so we know there are often errors in the reporting...

 
What we do know is that on Nov. 4 1897, Douglass Stahlman was back in "the south," in Tennessee, where he married Marion Alsobrook. He was 29 years old at the time of his wedding.

After marrying Marion in Tennesee, he moved to Indiana to attend the normal school (college). There he became caught up in the religious movement of John Alexander Dowie.

Just to recap - Douglas Stahlman is 30 years old. He's been a teacher, and a book keeper. And then he moved to Indiana to return to college. He graduated from the scientific department of the Valparaiso Normal School. I'm not sure what his occupation was at this time, but in 1900 he posted this advertisement in the local paper, and it does not look like he pursued a career in science.

And then in his hometown paper - 
 

Around 1900 John Dowie "went to the Chicago world's fair, and had healing meetings outside the fairgrounds. These meetings were so spectacular that the front wall of the meeting room was covered with crutches, braces, and other medical paraphernalia left by those healed in the meetings. Next, he set up his headquarters in Chicago, where he preached to thousands every Sunday. He bought a building so that people who traveled to Chicago, for healing, would have a place to stay. He began to publish a journal called 'Leaves of Healing,' which went to thousands of people, promoting the divine healing message. Hundreds of people were flocking to his ministry to receive teaching and prayer. Many were healed dramatically. Dowie's congregation fed the poor, were highly evangelistic, and had a major impact on a notoriously corrupt city."

I don't know exactly how or when Stahlman met Dowie.  But we know that he was in Chicago with him in 1901 when his wife became ill, after the birth of their second son.

In 1901, while Douglas was in Chicago,  Marion contracted blood poisoning but was recovering under the care of a physician. When Douglas returned from Chicago, he dismissed the doctor and declared they would rely on faith for her healing.

 

When citizens and neighbors heard of this treatment, they became indignant and prepared to tar and feather him.  He was taken to the county jail for his own safety.

Later a commission, composed of doctors and a justice of the peace, held an inquiry and Stahlman was judged to be insane. The same day, Mrs Stahlman died. Within 24 hours, Stahlman was taken out of the city. 

Marion Stahlman died February 15, 1901, according to her tombstone.  Her youngest sons birthdate is recorded on his tombstone as February 15 1901, the same day.  We know from the newspaper article above that Stahlman was pronounced insane on the evening of Febrary 15th. Marion was buried 3 days later, on February 18th.

An October 1901 newspaper article, concerning the custody battle for Douglas's young sons, gives more details, and helps to explain some of the neighbors outrage. "Stahlman threw a bucket of water on her while she was ill, telling her to get up, and said a doctor would have to walk over his dead body to treat her."

On her death bed, Mrs Stahlman gave her children to her brother James Alsobrooke. The same article tells us that "the father had attempted to take them away by main force, but failed, receiving a well merited beating."  

This timeline seems incredible. If all of the above is correct, was ill, and gave birth, all under the care of a doctor.  Her husband left the fanatical Dowie in Chicago, arrived at home sometime after the birth and with a group of his fellow Dowie fanatics, kicked the dr out, threw a bucket of water at his wife and told her to get up. Marion Stahlman died "within two hours of the doctor being removed." Her death certificate states that her time of death was 3 p.m.

The neighbors were outraged. Douglass tried to take his children from his brother in law, and was beaten. Several articles refer to attacks on his home. He was taken off to the county jail for his own safety, where physicians and a justice of the peace declared him insane. Later newspaper articles, regarding his attempt to regain custody of his sons, tell us that he was "taken from the city within 24 hours" of his wife's death, and that his mother had traveled from Pennsylvania to plead for his release, which was granted on the condition that he never return to Indiana.

 

Marion's death certificate tells us that she had been sick for weeks, so perhaps news had traveled to her husband, and he was returning to pray for her, coincidentally arriving right after the birth of his son. It is 181 miles from Indianapolis to Chicago.  A three-hour drive today, which would have been a MUCH longer trip in 1901.  

We know from newspapers that  Marion's brother arrived from Missouri, and she gave him custody of her children, on her deathbed.  The journey for Marion's brother from Missouri would have been even longer than Douglass's journey. Perhaps she told a neighbor or friend that she wanted him to take her sons? Or perhaps that part was hyperbole in the papers. Or, perhaps he was there days earlier, is possible that Douglass' mental state and fanatical healing beliefs were  not exactly news to the family, and knowing that Marion was ill, her brother had made the trip to intervene? But that is pure speculation on my part.

Douglass' mother arrived from Pennsylvania to plead his case and get him released from prison to return to Pa. with her, within a day of Marion's death. From Brookville, Pa., where Esther Stahlman, Douglass' mother lived,  to Indianapolis, Ind., is a journey of over 400 miles, and would take nearly seven hours in 2019.  Even by train, that would have been a full days journey in 1901.  I'm not sure how his mother received word, and made the trip so quickly.

 

In October of 1901, Douglass attempted to regain custody of his children.  

An article in the October 11, 1901 Chariton Courier tells us of Stahlman's attempt to regain custody of his young sons. The article tells us that "it appears Stahlman has gone daft in following the doctrines of Christian Science," and further notes that while he was a "devout follower of "Dr" John Alexander Dowie, his wife was not."  Later in the article we learn that a commission declared Stahlman of unsound mind and send him to Dongcliffe Asylum, but his mother came from Pa. to plead on his behalf and he was allowed to leave town quietly on the condition he never return to Indiana.

A newspaper in Missouri kindly reported that he had gone crazy over the subject of magnetic healing, but has since regained his reason and been released from confinement.  Most other newspapers were not as kind in their reporting.  In any event, he lost the case, and by all reports, became extremely depressed.

"In 1907, Stahlman came to Brookville from Punxsutawney. He got a room at the Heber House and began compiling Bible work in 3 leaflets and 12 cards. He distributed his work free to 1,500 people."

From the JCHS Collections...
 
This wedge was found at the Port Barnett conglomeration of Scripture Rocks when the archaeological survey was performed a few years ago. We believe the wedge to be a tool which Doug Stahlman used to inscribe his infamous dedicated rocks.

By 1908 he had returned to Brookville and gradually began a personal quest relating to the large rocky outcrops in the nearby woodlands. First he began praying at a secluded rock, and after a year he developed a vision of dedicating rocks with specific names such as HEALTH, VEIL-LIFTING, CONSECRATION, HOPE, LOVE, AND COURAGE which are sometimes supported by verse or biblical reference. He encouraged people to spend time at these locations in prayer and meditation for the dedication that the rock supports."

http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~stahlman/family/00.%20Douglas%20Stahlman%20and%20Scripture%20Rocks.htm

Forming a rough semi-circle around Brookville, Stahlman carved 500 boulders and stone using only a hammer and chisel he had been given. A map of the rock locations can be found here - https://www.scripturerocks.com/other-locations.html
Stahlman also carved into birch trees, using them as an accounting ledger, to record debts, or perceived debts.

In 1909, with the help of friends, he began building outdoor chapels. Newspaper advertisements placed by him schedule outdoor public worship services and he developed a community following. This, however, ends during the following year the community found out about his past family troubles. 

This is Doug Stahlman's famous chapel (located on Chapel Rock) where he preached for a short time. 

In 1911, he moved into a cabin on Altar Rock living almost as a hermit and began penning his Dedicated Rocks Book. Much of his journals can be downloaded and read here - https://www.scripturerocks.com/the-rock-book.html

June 1911, Jeffersonian Democrat
 
"One of the rocks relates to a perceived order from God that he marry a local lady, who apparently was not inclined to be the wife of a man living on a rock."  

The last known rock inscribed is in the Scripture Rocks Park and dated in July 30, 1913...

Find the complete article here. From Valley Girl Views