Church of God

In 1844 a church was erected on the extreme west end of town along Main Street.  The church was called the “Union Bethel Church”.  Another name it was known commonly as was old Winebrenner Meeting House, named after the founder of this religious sect John Winebrenner.  The church which he founded was formed in 1830 in Harrisburg, PA.  Winebrenner was a practicing Reformed Church minister, who came into conflict with the vestry over revivalism and other church doctrine.  This dispute led to his removal, and later that year along with his followers, they formed a denomination known as the Church of God.

John Winebrenner-circa 1840

John Winebrenner-circa 1840

The Church of God rejected creeds and infant baptisms and practiced immersion and the washing of feet as an ordinance their clergy performed.  At the Jacob W. Grove mill just south of town, was the scene of baptismal rites to crowds of onlookers to witness the ceremony.  Before the meeting house was constructed in 1844, religious services were held in private homes, in the school house, and at the mill.  The building committee for the new church consisted of Elder Thomas Strohm, Christian Kleinfelder, Jacob Kreiser, Adam Petry, and John Desh.  On April 1, 1844, Christian & Susanna Eshelman sold a plot of land to Christian Kleinfelder, Jacob Kresider, and John Desh, Trustees and Wardens of the Church of God for a space to built a new church edifice.

Over the years a number of pastors served this church, including; Rev. George Petry, Rev. John Rupp, Rev. Thomas Strohm, Rev. Emanuel Ghares, Rev.Elmer F. Yoder, Rev. A. E. Siple, Rev. Joseph M. Fahl, Rev. E.N. Wenger, Rev. Daniel R. Bornman,  Rev. William C. Fortney, Rev. Franklin P. Brose, Rev. Peter S. Pease, Rev. Gerald M. Marzolf, Rev. Israel Hay, and Rev. W.H. Snyder.

The church continued to serve the community through the twentieth century.  After the initial growth of the Church from the 1840’s to the turn of the century, many of the more enthusiastic supporters, drifted out of the area, or had died.  Afterwards, church membership declined and by 1910,  fewer than a score of faithful members remained in good standing.  By 1960 the Church of God had ceased any further regular services or activities, by reason of lack of members. Jacob F. Boeshore and Leota Boeshore, acting as Trustees of the Church sold the property  on November 21, 1960 for $1500.00 cash consideration to Vincent and Eva E. Stroh.

The building stood vacant after it was purchased by the Stroh’s for several years.  In 1974 Vincent E. Stroh died with his widow Eva retaining ownership of the property.  After her death in 1987-the First National Bank of Fredericksburg under the terms of her estate, sold the property to the Fredericksburg Community Association with Dale Richard acting as President.  With the sale to the Community Association, they supported the building and dedication of a new local library.

In 1989 the library was dedicated with State Senator David J. Brightbill officiating at the opening.  The library and former church was located at 136 W. Main Street and at the dedication changed it’s name from the Fredericksburg Area Library to the Kathryn Richard Memorial Library, named at the request of George Mathews who was the main benefactor of the library in honor of his Mother.   The library remained in this location until 2003 when it moved to its current location at 102 W. Main Street where it still is today.  From a Church of God to a Community Library, many persons interested in learning have passed through the doors of this hallowed building over the years.

  Photograph of John Winebrenner from History of the Church of God in the United States of North America-1914