Village Wisdom: Anchors, E. A. Riehl…by Erwin A. Thompson

Sunset at Evergreen Heights
Evergreen Heights, the place founded by E. A. Riehl and our homeplace still…where he communed with nature and forged paths to become one of the 8 premiere horticulturalist in the world at that time. E. A. Riehl was a pillar of the community, though known not to suffer fools gladly. The lane which ends in the house he built bears his name. This is a family story about my Great Grandfather that reveals his taciturn, but clear and responsible character.—JGR

I do not have an accounting of the building of the church, but this story has been apart of the Riehl heritage all of my lifetime.

My maternal Grandfather E. A. Riehl was not a church going man. Do not confuse this as saying that he was not a religious man.

1) He believed in a Divine Presence, and communed with his God through the love and prorogation of God’s plants and fruits.

2) He also ministers to human problems.

— He “figured out” the ingredients of a salve that he gave freely to the neighbors who had need of ointment and they had no money for doctor’s ministration.

—He made coffins in his shop for those who could not afford the “store-bought” ones.

The only reference I found in his day books was that he had gone to a church meeting and had not been inspired by the sermon. This, the background. His opinions and thoughts on this subject were well known.

Yet, he was actively helping to build the Melville Congregational Church.

One day, and one of the other neighbor volunteers asked him:”Mister Riehl, why are you helping build this church? It is well known that you are not a church going man.”

His reply went something like this: “I commune with my God through my work with God’s creations like the plants and flowers. But a community needs a church for the people who need the formality of worshiping together, and the other things like funerals and weddings. I believe that a community needs a church. I am helping to build it.”

Remember that in that day there were no funeral parlors to take care of funeral services. Weddings were performed in a church, or in the parsonage.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this insight into E.A. Riehl – a family story I hadn’t heard before.

  2. Thanks for giving us a window into a very different world, the one we all come from. I wish that I knew about my great grandfather (I’m named after my paternal great grandfather, and all I know is his name, Shima Baer…I was named Simcha Bayla after him). If I knew him, I would hear about what it was like in Austria, before the great decimation. The world that you’ve described is something outside of my family culture, but at this stage of our family’s evolution, a part of our history and new culture. I think that from I’ve heard from Janet, you are like your grandfather, sharing your home and land, music and the written word. I look forward to hearing more…

  3. Thanks for sharing. I grew up on Riehl Lane (Parents still live there) and I knew Mr. Erwin Thompson and a few of his friends. It is very interested to hear of his life and the lane that I grew up on. I look forward to hearing more also…..

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