Author: Doug Stringham

Doug Stringham is an instructor and curriculum developer in the ASL & Deaf Studies Department at Utah Valley University who researches, writes, and presents on interpreter education and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century signing communities.

The Shared Signing Community of Lantz Mills

Lantz Mills in Shenandoah County was home to a unique shared signing community in which deaf and hearing residents communicated with one another in a localized sign language. Beginning in the 1760s, Lantz Mills was home to a number of deaf residents, starting with the daughters of Petter Haller and Ann Dorothea Halrin Haller, who emigrated from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. By the time of the 1880 U.S. Census, there were at least fifty-two deaf residents within a five-mile radius of Lantz Mills. Over time, Lantz Mills developed into a community where a majority of members, both hearing and deaf, communicated in a visual language, creating what is known as a shared signing community. Unlike the better-documented shared signing community of Martha’s Vineyard, the Lantz Mills community was largely undocumented until recently. The Lantz Mills shared signing community exemplifies a unique space where community members utilized a visual language.