Author: Kathleen L. Brockway

Kathleen L. Brockway is a culturally Deaf author and historian who researches, writes, and presents on Deaf History and Culture. She received the John H. Adamson Excellence in Presentation award for her work on the shared signing community of Lantz Mills.

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.