St. John’s Reformed/UCC Church

St. John’s congregation built their first church building in 1766.  John Snavely and his wife granted a lot of ground 72 X 15 perches to Michael Hoffman, Andrew Klunk, John Sheirer, Nicholas Woolf, Valentine Emrich, and Issac Wagoner, who together acted as Trustees and Wardens to built and have use for the purposes and benefits of the German Lutheran and Reformed congregations.  The church structure was to be of log design and situated in the section of town called “Nassau”, the former name of Fredericksburg and prior to it being called Stumpstown.  The yearly rent of five shillings sterling was to be paid every first day of May for use of the church.  This log church stood for the next 60 years.

By 1826 the original log structure had become dilapidated and the need for a new structure was immediate and it was torn down.  An agreement between both the Lutheran and Reformed congregations was reached to rebuild the church on the following conditions;

1) The church was to be a Union Church (both Lutheran & Reformed to meet)
2) The new structure was to be built on the same site
3) The church building was to be built of brick, with a tower and bell to be 46 X 48 feet

Those enterprising citizens of town who were on the building committee included Philip Weber, Peter Rudy, Jacob Wagner, John Stein, John Behney, and Jacob Grumbine.  The Reformed church representative was Wagner, and Grumbein was to be the personal representative from the Lutheran congregation.

The fire of Stumpstown that consumed most of the town and occurred on May 8, 1827.  This fire destroyed the greater part of the community.  Fortunately, the timber that was on the ground that was to be used to build the new church was not damaged, however the log school-house across the street at the southwest corner of the cemetery next to the church was totally consumed.

Not only did the fire encourage the citizens of town to rebuild their community, but to make sure that their new church was built and dedicated.   The corner-stone of the new edifice was laid on July 22, 1827 and a proclamation was placed into the stone that read “Both Lutherans and Reformed have united to erect St. John’s Church as a German Church, as that they shall have equal claims and rights”.  The Reformed congregation was to elect their own pastors, but they must be members of the Reformed Classis.

It was also noted that since the Mennonites contributed liberally to the building fund, that their denomination shall have certain rights including; the right to bury their dead in the church graveyard, conduct funeral services, and to hold religious services on unoccupied Sundays.

After the dedication in 1827 the church set about finishing all of the work necessary to gain use of the building.  Prior to 1874 no organ existed in the church.  The cemetery for many decades next to the church was used by both congregations and the Mennonites to bury members and their families.  This was prevalent until January of 1870 when the newly laid out CedarHillCemetery was laid out and dedicated.

Reformed Church-circa 1910

Reformed Church-circa 1910

Later in 1891 another major change occurred that affected both congregations.  A new church (being the third), was erected with a number of industrious citizens of town firmly supporting the building project who formed a building committee in charge, which included; Edward Stroh, President, Mark Hoffa, Secretary, Peter Rudy, William Paine, D.H. Troutman, and Joseph Behney.  The corner-stone was laid for this new structure on September 20, 1891 with Rev. Theodore E. Schmauk officiating at the ceremony.  The new building was dedicated the following spring.
Church membership soured in the twentieth century as the church had a membership of 81 persons in 1920 and by 1976 the numbers grew to 220.   In the early days when membership was recorded in relationship to the consistory of the church, those men who were in charge besides Rev. Charles M. Rissinger in 1920 included; F.M. Werner, W.K. Troutman, Charles C. Bensoing, Jacob G. Gerhart all serving as Elders and Daniel Loser, Edward Miller, Raymond Miller and Reilly Morgan who served as Deacons at that time.

In 1957, the Evangelical and Reformed Church joined with the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches to form the UCC Church. On February 10, 1970 David Bashore and Galen Bollinger, Trustees of the Church of the Brethren in Fredericksburg sold the church edifice and property on west Main Street on the end of town to Verling H. Gingrich, Charles M. Rissinger, and Neal C. Grimes, who acted as Trustees for St. John’s United Church of Christ for $24,000 thereby the UCC Congregation now moved would move into their own church building.  The Lutheran congregation retained ownership of the old church building.

St John Reformed Ministers-1

The list of Pastors who served St. John’s UCC (Former Reformed) Church throughout her history;

John Conrad Templeman, 1740-1743, 1746-1757
William Hendel, 1765-1767
John Conrad Bucher, 1767-1780
John William Runkel, 1780-1784
Andrew Lorentz,  1785-1786
Ludwig Lupp, 1786-1798
William Hiester, 1800-1824
John Gring, 1824-1870
William M Reily, D.D., 1870-1872
Christian H. Mutschler, 1872-1878
Allen R. Bartholomew, D.D., 1878-1882
Tobias Kessler, 1882-1889
Jarius A. Wickert, 1889-1891
Henry Hilbish, 1893-1899
Henry A. Keyser, 1900-1905
Charles A. Butz, 1905-1908
Thomas H. Bachman, 1909-1910
Charles M. Rissinger, 1911-1953
Ralph K. Todd, 1954-1961
Kenneth B. Mulholland, 1962-1966
Eilus F. Haldeman, 1966-1976
Winfield E. Engler, 1976-1977
Scott Shay, 1977-1985
Barry R. Smock, 1985
David Goode, 1985-1992
Reynold Ziegler, 1992-1993
George Heckard, 1993-1997
John Schaeffer, 1997-1999
Thomas Jackman, 1999-2000
Drew Morris, 2000-2004
Linda Lauman-2004-2004
Christopher Rankin, 2004-Present

 

Photographs of Rev. John Gring-from Stories of Old Stumpstown-1910, Rev. William M. Reily-Courtesy of Cedar Crest College, Rev. C.H. Mutschler-courtesy of Wilkes Barre Record, Rev. A.R. Bartholomew-from Brief History, Salem Reformed Church, Allentown, Pa; 1875-1900,  Rev. Tobias Kessler-from 70 Years History of St. Peter’s Reformed Church, Rev. J.A. Wickert-courtesy of Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society-Lancaster, PA