The first Bible printed west of the Alleghenies was printed in a log building located where Somerset Trust Company is now headquartered.
"It's sort of frustrating — Goeb is a figure who played an important role in history and in German printing and we know so very little about him," said Mark Ware, director of the Somerset Historic Center. "He did phenomenal work."
What is known is that Charles Frederick Goeb was born in Germany in 1782 and arrived in Philadelphia on Nov. 4, 1804. He settled first in Reading then Stoystown, finally moving to Somerset. He set up a small printing shop and published the Die Westliche Telegraph, a German weekly newspaper on Dec. 12, 1812. In a little log cabin located at 151 West Main St., Somerset, Frederick Goeb published, in 1813, the first Bible west of the Allegheny Mountains. He later moved to Schellsburg, Bedford County.
Historians don't know how many people worked on the Bible, but he assumes that Goeb's wife probably did the binding because most printers' wives did that. No one knows where the paper came from, but the type had to be handset. It is believed that the work took three years. The Goeb Bible is over a foot high and is bound in leather over oak boards. It is possible that Goeb carved the large wooden type for titles and title pages himself, but Ware said that various illustrations, such as those of angels, were standard woodcuts among printers.
In a prologue to the Bible Goeb wrote that he printed the Bible out of love. It was his gift to the people, Ware said. In 1813 the village of Somerset was 18 years old and had a population of 150. Goeb also printed frakturs, which were large illustrated baptismal and other legal certificates. They were printed in black and white, then initial letters were handpainted in. Somerset Historic Center has a Goeb exhibit that will be on display all year.
Somerset Trust is hosting a week-long event in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Goeb Bible June 23-29. Roberta Lohr, senior vice president of marketing, said the big kickoff event will be at 2 p.m. June 23 at St. Paul's United Church of Christ on Union Street. Joe Beer of Gray will impersonate Goeb and talk about the printing process. Beer has previously portrayed Harmon Husband, the first permanent settler in Somerset. Bryan Lohr of Hooversville, musical director of St. Paul's, will perform music of the early 19th century.
The Bible will be on display in the bank's main lobby from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 24-28. Light refreshments of that time period will be served in the lobby on June 28. Living history ghost tours of the uptown Somerset district will be held at 6 p.m. June 28. At 10 a.m. June 29 two separate extended historic and architectural walking tours will be held. For the walking tours, meet at the Historic Building of Somerset Trust on North Center Avenue. The tours are free and open to the public, compliments of Somerset Trust and Somerset Inc.
"We invite people to take advantage of this free week-long celebration of our local history," Lohr said. "What Goeb did was truly an accomplishment."