Arthur L. Reist
Retired Educator, Farmer & Historian
Arthur Lenz Reist, age 88, of Oak Lawn Farm, Eden Road, Manheim Township, Lancaster, passed away on March 22, 2016. He was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Linnaeus Landis Reist and was married to Marian E. Graybill for 51 years. His wife preceded him in death in 2003.
He graduated from Manheim Township High School in 1945 and Millersville State Teachers College, now Millersville University, in 1949 where he was President of the PAGE Literary Society and the recipient of the Mary S. Sproul Speaking Award at graduation. He did graduate studies at alma mater and additional studies in Agronomy, specializing in tobacco culture at the University of Maryland with Dr. Orman E. Street, formerly of Lancaster.
In 1951, he was honored to be a representative of the United States to the First World Tobacco Congress in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and visited agricultural laboratories in Western Europe. Arthur enjoyed studying nature, Native American culture and artifacts, especially early farming tool and implements, fine arts in addition to Pennsylvania German culture.
He enjoyed working on his ancestral farm in Manheim Township his entire life. His great-grandfather, Simon Reist, developed the Reist Apple. His grandfather, Linnaeus Rohrer Reist, was a county commissioner, bank director and prominent Manheim Township farmer, and supposedly the first farmer to raise tobacco on a large scale in our county. The first tobacco barn was built here in 1835.
Arthur's ancestors first came here in and settled near Lititz in 1723, and he would often tell visitors about his Swiss ancestors who were some of the first settlers here. He is the author of two local publications: Tobacco Lore of Lancaster County, Pa. (1974) and Conestoga Wagon – Masterpiece of the Blacksmith (1976), which had seven printings.
He was one of Lancaster's Bicentennial authors in 1976. With his large collection of antique tools and implements, Arthur initiated the beginning of Agricultural Museum at Sperry, New Holland in 1975. He was a Social Studies teacher for 31 years at Conestoga Valley. And when President Bush visited the school, Arthur put one of his Conestoga wagons in the school's front lawn. Students enjoyed him bringing in various artifacts to enliven his classes. In 1967, Mr. Reist was nominated as a Pennsylvania Master Farmer. Articles about him have appeared in local, state and national magazines as well as national TV.
Arthur was a student historian advisor for more than 25 years. He liked to share his knowledge with others who visited from many parts of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe. He was also a tobacco buyer agent for Bloch Bros. Tobacco Co. of Wheeling, WV for 22 years. Reist is past President of Landis Valley Associates of Landis Valley Museum where he volunteered for many years at special events and donated a very early tobacco wagon for the collection in 1976. He was Chairman of the Bicentennial Celebration of Conestoga Valley School District. In 1977, he was President fo the Reist Family Reunion at Lititz Spring Park. In 1982, Arthur was the recipient of the Dr. Allen C. Harmon Memorial Award for dedicated service and recognition for outstanding contributions as a Pennsylvania Agricultural Historian. During 1983, he received the Distinguished Teacher Award from Lancaster-Lebanon IU-13. On April 13, 1984, then Vice President George R. W. Bush and former Governor and Attorney General, Dick Thornburg, were driven through Lancaster City by Arthur's son in his beautiful surrey with the fringe on top.
Mr. Reist was always interested in local culture and history, and he was among the first members of the Lancaster County Heritage Center. He also served as a board member of the Heritage Center for six years; in addition, he was a board member of the Ganser Library at Millersville University. His Conestoga Wagon led the Wagon Train through Lancaster County starting at the Columbia-Wrightville Bridge. On leap-year day of 1988, the Postal Service issued the first Conestoga Wagon stamps in the town of Conestoga, and one of Arthur's Conestoga Wagons was used for the event, as he was the designated speaker telling the history of the wagons and their importance in US History.
In 1989, his family farm along Eden Road, was listed as a Century Farm. His grandchildren are the sixth generation on the land. He was the Chairman of the Philadelphia-Lancaster Turnpike Bicenntenial Celebration of 1992. Also his historic Band Wagon was loaned to the PA State Museum in Harrisburg for several months during the Nixon-Kennedy Campaign and again at the Hershey Museum during the Carter-Reagan Campaign.
He supplied 13 historic horse-drawn vehicles in 1987 for Franklin & Marshall's Founder's Day Parade. In 1996, the Disney Corporation filmed the movie, “Beloved," and used 18 of his horse-drawn vehicles at various locations in Fairhill Maryland, Newcastle, Delaware, Philadelphia, PA, and at Landis Valley Museum. In 2000, the National Society of the DAR of the State of Ohio awarded him the Mary Lockwood Medals for Outstanding Educational Pursuits.
In 2001, the Manheim Township commissioners presented him with The Beautification Award for Oak Lawn Farm. Arthur was given the Social Studies President Award in 1991 in honor of an outstanding career in Social Studies Education. In 1993, he was given the prestigious Lancaster New Era Red Rose Award for his dedication and service to our community.
Mr. Reist has been recognized for his work as a consultant to the National Geographic Society, the National Park Service, the Swiss Government, the Disney Corporation and others. He has given talks at numerous museums, historical societies and schools in five states. He was also chairman of the Desmond Americana Museum.
Arthur was a charter member of the Highland Presbyterian Church. As a member of the original building committee, he was asked to design the large chancel window which is in the form triptych; each separate element tells a story. He also suggested the name “Highland" for the new Manheim Township church. Mr. Reist served as Deacon, Elder and Sunday School Teacher. He also served as the chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee. He was asked to write the 25 year History for the Donegal Presbytery. He also gave the Layperson's Sermon in October 16, 1960.
His strong interest in local history established him an authority in the fine arts, horse-drawn vehicles, early farming implements and tools, and his special interest: Conestoga Wagons. He freely shared his knowledge with others and instilled that history in his grandchildren.
Memberships include: Lancaster Co. Historical Society, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Conestoga Historical Society, Heritage Center of Lancaster Co., Ephrata Cloister Historical Society, Desmond Americana Museum, Washington Co. Museum of Fine Arts at Hagerstown, Maryland, Pennsylvania Farmer's Association, Grave Concern, and Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees.
Mr. Reist is survived by his children, Douglas S. Reist of Ephrata, Alfred G. married to Jane Wilt Reist, Arthur E. married to Rachel Groff Reist, both of Lancaster, Christine E. Reist Formica married to Carmen Formica, Elizabethtown; and eight grandchildren.
The Funeral will be Friday, Mar. 25, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. at the Chapel at Moravian Manor, 300 W. Lemon St., Lititz. Greeting time with the family, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Interment: Millport Mennonite Cemetery.
Furman's – Leola