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       Martha Rittenhouse Treichler 

of birth:
February 6, 1929





William Treichler

Treichler Cottage



Recent issues of  The Crooked Lake Review.


Martha Rittenhouse first read about Black Mountain College in Readers’ Digest (the condensed version of Louis Adamic’s article “Education on a Mountain”). Although she and her parents were interested in the college, after high school she enrolled at Bridgewater College in Virginia. She had grown up in a Church of the Brethren family on a farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and had always planned to attend a Brethren school. After two years at Bridgewater, she applied to Black Mountain.


Martha thrived in Black Mountain's open atmosphere. At Bridgewater College student life was carefully regulated and students were disciplined for infractions such as arriving at the dormitory after 9 p.m. At the same time, her family background which was rural, pacifist and closely bound to the teachings of The Church of the Brethren set her apart from other students.  Her father who was pastor of their local church did not receive or expect much money from his pastoral duties, and the family lived on very little cash. They grew almost all of their own food. Her father did his own car and machinery repairs, and her mother made all of their clothes, many of them from old clothes handed down from another family. Martha recalled that her mother, who had taken tailoring in college, sewed beautifully. Family recreation was free: reading, swimming, softball, parlor games. Except for folk dancing, no dancing was allowed. Despite their limited financial resources, all five siblings were expected to go to college, and it was assumed the college would be church-affiliated. Her mother returned to teaching to bring in more cash.


Martha arrived at Black Mountain with second-hand and homemade clothes, but found that clothes were not important there. “In fact,” she says, “I got compliments on my clothes a few times!” More important than her humble wardrobe, her family sent her with "a certain mind set: a sense of the importance of learning, as well as a sense of fun and of adventure," which served her well at Black Mountain.


Martha was primarily interested in literature and writing. She studied literature first with Edward Dahlberg, who left after a couple of weeks at Black Mountain. She then studied with his replacement, Charles Olson, whom she recalls had a lasting influence on her teaching. Like Olson, she requested her students write daily and bring their work to class for student critiques. She also took art with Josef Albers and linguistics with Frank Rice.


At the end of the year, when her money ran out, Martha returned to her parents’ home. In April 1950, she married Bill Treichler, who also had studied at Black Mountain. They moved to the Treichler family farm in Troy Mills, Iowa where Bill and his father designed and built their home. There they sought to put into practice principles of organic farming and the decentrist, rural, self-sufficient, three-generation-family life-style promoted by Ralph Borsodi.


Martha and Bill raised nearly all their food. Martha canned and froze vegetables and meat, baked bread, churned butter and made cottage cheese. She made draperies for the house, sewed some of her own dresses, hooked rugs and contributed a monthly column of her daily homemaking activities to Mildred Loomis’s decentralist magazine, Green Revolution. She also wrote a chapter in Mrs. Loomis book, Go Ahead and Live.


The family grew rapidly: their first child, Rachel, arrived in June 1951; Joe, in December 1952; George, November 1954; Barbara, December 1956; and John, September 1963. Martha recalled that "nursing her babies was always a pleasant quiet time when [she] could relax and read magazines and books." She still found time to write and occasionally sent off articles to magazines; an article about her children growing up was published in Parents magazine. For five years she was an adult leader for a local girls 4H club and was also an active member of the Troy Mills Homemaker’s club, an off-shoot of the Agricultural Extension Service.


After fifteen years on the Iowa farm, the Treichlers decided that it was time for a change. Bill took a job as ranch manager at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, a college preparatory school. After two years, they moved to The Mountain School near Vershire, Vermont, where Bill ran the farm and taught science. Martha taught English and French part-time while working on her B.A. in Teaching English at Goddard College. Will Hamlin, a former Black Mountain student, taught at Goddard, and she surmises that it was possibly through his intervention that she was given full credit for her Black Mountain studies. When she graduated in 1972, she enrolled at Dartmouth College for her  Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Dartmouth College (1973). During her seven years at The Mountain School, She had five articles published in The Independent School Bulletin . She attended the Middlebury College Breadloaf Writers Conference in 1974 and enjoyed meeting and hearing John Gardner, Lorie Siegel, Walter Goodman, and other well-known writers of the day.


In 1975, when the Barbara, the fourth of her five children, graduated at the Mountain School, the family moved to a farm they had purchased in 1971, near Hammondsport, New York. Martha began working in the Ira Davenport Hospital kitchen and soon became Food Service Director at the hospital. She continued in that position for eight years. During that time she took correspondence courses and attended Mansfield University in Pennsylvania to become a Registered Dietitian. For twenty years she worked as a consultant dietitian at area hospitals and nursing homes. She continues to work as a consultant one day a week.


Martha and Bill live on the Hammondsport farm where they produce much of their food. Four children -- Rachel, a lawyer (and Green Party advocate); Joe, a farmer and builder; George, a mechanical engineer; and John, an electrical engineer -- live nearby. Their daughter Lisa, who lives in Tokyo, put aside her practice as a lawyer to homeschool her four children.


Martha volunteers at the Steuben County Historical Society, where she is now president. She has made a number of doll houses and now builds miniature displays depicting historic rooms that are exhibited in a local annual show. She collects and reads books and subscribes to journals publishing articles on pre-history and archaeology. She is a long-time member of a local book club, a community women’s club and the AAUW. In 1988, she and Bill started a journal of local history, The Crooked Lake Review.  

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