A HISTORY OF ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
OLDWICK, NEW JERSEY
John H. Munnich © August 14, 1939
Oldwick, New Jersey
While our forefathers were founding a little church for worship in their new frontier home, great events were in the making in Europe and in the American colonies. In Europe a new era was opening in which the power of kings fell; and the middle classes, having gained in wealth and knowledge, reached out for political control. Great names were connected with this change in civilization.
In 1714 Voltaire, who was to shake the domination of the clergy, was a youth of twenty; and Rousseau, the liberator of the disfranchised masses, was an infant aged two. Adam Smith, emancipator of the business man and apostle of individual liberties, was born in the year Zion’s first pastor died; and Lavoisier, founder of modern chemistry, was still a boy when the present church was built at Oldwick. James Watt, inventor of the first engine capable of driving a machine, and thus the father of the Industrial Revolution, was born at about the time Zion was host to the first synod held in America. The Romantic Movement in art and literature was then flinging out its banners to demand freedom and justice for the humble and submerged.
Thus the life of Zion Church began even before the time of modern freedom, democracy, science, and mechanized industry. Her pastors ministered to her people, while they were not only conquering a wilderness, but while they were also adapting themselves to a bewildering maze of new ideas flowing in from Europe.
In America, 1714 saw seven year old Benjamin Franklin starting to school in Boston. Augustine Washington was cultivating his Virginia plantation, unaware of the destiny of his son to be named George upon his birth eighteen years later. It was twenty-nine years before Thomas was to be born to the Jeffersons in Virginia.
Zion Church was born exactly three quarters of a century before the birth of the United States. Our church and our country have grown up together.
So we see that this was a time when not only our church was founded, but when in Europe and America a new age and a new civilization was emerging.
JUSTUS FALCKNER (1714 – 1723)
We are fortunate indeed to have information about the first service of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. A historian writing about the church when it was a hundred years old was able to learn nothing about its beginning,. Nor have old letters and papers found in attics mentioned it. Zion’s splendid records tell little of the period before the Revolution. But there are records in distant place: that can tell us much.
The early Lutheran Church in New York City has an item in its parish records of 1714 that gives us a skeleton story of the first service and congregation. From other writings this skeleton can draw flesh and tissue, life and breath. When all the information is drawn. together, we have the following story.
The First Pastor
The Pastor who officiated at the first service was Justus Falckner. This distinguished minister of Christ was born in Germany, the son and grandson of Lutheran clergymen. After studying theology, he came to America in the employ of a company dealing in real estate in Pennsylvania. There he was influenced by the Swedish Lutherans to enter the ministry. lie was the first Protestant ordained in America. His ordination service was prophetic of America in its mingling of races and tongues, for the young German was ordained by the Church of Sweden to serve the Dutch Lutherans of New York City. The service was attended by Indians and English people.
Although he was ordained to preach to the Dutch in New York, his parish was much larger. During his pastorate it grew until he was traveling over 1200 miles per year to cover it.
The Lutheran settlers of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties had hardly arrived before Falckner appeared to call them to worship. Once each summer he came here by boat and horseback to administer the sacraments and preach the gospel to the Lutherans on the Raritan. His visits were events of high importance to our pioneering ancestors.
Dr. Graebner, the Lutheran historian describes Falckner as follows: “A particularly amiable, heart-winning personality it is, which in Pastor Justus Falckner presents itself before our eyes during his twenty years of active life; a man of excellent gifts, of fine acquirements, of lovely temper, of fervently devout disposition, decided in his Lutheranism, diligent and persevering in the pursuit of his calling – in a word, a perfect pastor.”
Such was Zion’s first pastor. Let us look at the parish he entered in 1714. This part of Hunterdon County was a wilderness, practically untouched by axe or plow. Indians were living peacefully in their several local villages, where they remained until the big exodus a generation later. The land which had been purchased from them was being parceled out by wealthy English and Scotch proprietors to actual settlers from Great Britain, Ireland, Holland, and Germany. How recently these settlers had come is indicated by the fact that there was only one settler in Readington Township before 1712. In other words, Zion’s first members were establishing a church for the care of their souls before they had had time enough to provide for the housing, clothing, and feeding of their bodies.
Most of the charter members of the church were Germans from the Rhenish Palatinate. They constituted a small offstream from the largest wave of immigration to come into America in Colonial days, – the real beginning of the flood of Germans who poured into our country to change the course of American history and affect the temper of the American personality. The tellers of American History are only now beginning to sing the epic of the Palatine Refugees.
In their homeland a series of disastrous wars through a century in time had climaxed at last in a war more disastrous than the rest. As if the physical and spiritual poverty of prolonged warfare were not enough, their burdens were pressed heavier by a legend-making bitter winter and by an impossible tax load.
To the Palatines, in their despair, came word that Queen Anne of England wished settlers for her American colonies and would provide passage, in return for which naval stores were to be made for the new fatherland.
13,000 Palatines responded! The following figures hint at the epic story of their immigration. All were settled temporarily in a hastily built tent city in London. Anne, unprepared for such a multitude, could not provide against the starvation and disease which decimated them. After frantic efforts, they were disposed of in these ways. 3,000 Catholics were sent back to Germany. Of the remaining, all Protestant, 3,000 were colonized in Ireland, 1,000 were absorbed into the English population, 650 were sent to North Carolina, hundreds went into the army and navy, a thousand died wretchedly. Only 3,000 sailed for the promised land. Disease claimed 500 of them before 2,000 were finally settled on the Hudson River naval stores project. Many of the other 500, including our charter members, came into New Jersey. What refugees of history have endured more or hoped as much as these men and women of the first Palatine immigration?
The faithful Falckner wrote down in his parish records between 1714 and 1723 the names of 110 people in this parish,– infants, parents, and sponsors. Most of them were Palatines. These families compose the list and constituted, undoubtedly, the bulk of the congregation during his pastorate: Appelman, Braun, Day, Dippel, Fuchs, Hanschutt, Hendershott, Ferman, Kastner, Kremer, Langman, Messner, Niedbber, Pickel, Poel, Puff, Rickman, Reinbol, Reimer, Risch, Rose, Roseboom, Ruxloffsen, Simthinger, Spader, Stein, Schmidt, Schoemacher, Schwalb, Theuss, Tittel, Van Guinea, Vogt, Weidnecht, Wimmer, Weber..
The First Service
The location of the first service is eloquent of democracy and Christianity. It was held in a negro’s home.
Aree von Guinea was born in Dutch Guiana, Africa. Slave hunters captured him and sold him in New York City. In 1705 he and his wife were members of the Lutheran Church in New York. He gained his freedom and was living in the Raritan valley as early as 1708. He is known to have been a property owner at the time of Zion’s first service, but because of a law prohibiting ownership of property by slaves, the deed was not transferred to his name until 16 years later. He was a faithful Christian, honored by his neighbors, and as we shall see, was a good steward of the property entrusted him by Providence.
In his home on August 1st, 1714, Zion Church was born. The distinguished New York pastor here led the people in their first worship service in their new homeland. No doubt the Lord’s supper was administered and a long sermon was preached.
In this service three children were baptized: Johan Balthasar Appelman, Johannes Christoffel Vocht, and Jora Day (colored). Both parents of all three were present. Baltes Pickel was sponsor for the Appelman child, Mr. and Mrs. Von Guinea for the Day infant.
In this first service of Zion, the officiating pastor was the first Protestant clergyman ever ordained in America; its first baptism was also the first baptism of a German child in New Jersey; it was the first service of the oldest active New Jersey Lutheran Church; it was the first service of the congregation which today worships in the oldest New Jersey Lutheran Church building. It was unique for the further reason that a white congregation was then founded in the home of a negro.
The site of this service was in the vicinity of the present Henry store in Potterstown.
Since the above described beginning, Lutheranism has had a continuous history in this district. It is not known when or how the congregation was given a constituted organization. There is every likelihood that Falckner arranged it at once by appointing or having an election of a lay reader and other permanent officers who provided for services with some regularity.
In these early years it is possible to recognize some subdivisions in the large New Jersey parish. Potterstown should be mentioned first.
There are two reasons for giving Potterstown this place of honor.
First: it was the birthplace of Zion Church. Second: after 1731 Potterstown gradually emerged as the center of a vigorous congregation which assumed the leadership in forming the united congregations and building a central church. But Potterstown is in the focus of our historical spotlight for only this one service in 1714 and is forgotten until 1729. During those 15 years, parish activity centered at Whitehouse and Pluckemin.
We mention Whitehouse second because the congregation there had a faithful and resourceful layman, Baltes Pickel, whose hand did much of the moulding of Zion in her plastic years.
Justus Falckner certainly favored Whitehouse during his ministry. His parish records show that all the baptismal services for central New Jersey, were held, in the Pickel homestead through three consecutive years, 1719-1721, and possibly also in 1722.
This would indicate that regular Sunday services were held there also, with a lay reader officiating.
The Pluckemin Congregation
Although Justus Falckner is not known to have mentioned a congregation at Pluckemin, there must have been one of some vitality at that place in his time. For upon his death, the Lutherans there seized the initiative and held the leadership in local Lutheranism for a generation.
Earlier historians say that the members there were mainly Lutherans from Holland, to whom were added the later German settlers. They lived in Bernards, Warren, Bridgewater, and Bedminster Townships. They may have had visits from the Dutch Lutheran pastors of New York even before Falckner’s day.
This congregation was never able to work in complete harmony with the other congregations in our area. The fact that it was predominantly Dutch and the other German might explain the many differences of opinion.
The sudden prominence of the Plunkemin Church may have been due to a gift it received. Both Hartwick and Muhlenberg mentioned that the Pluckemin Church had been given 100 acres of land for a church and parsonage by one Sonneman. If this gift came to them in 1722 or 1723, it would be sufficient explanation of Pluckemin’s emergence at just that time. The gift caused the new pastor to reside in Pluckemin and naturally this residence brought to Pluckemin a new importance.
The Millstone Congregation
Falckner does not record any visits to Millstone, but does mention it as the residence of parents and sponsors of children he baptized. His brother, upon succeeding him, said that he was called to Plunkemin and Millstone. The congregation soon lost its Lutheran identity.
There are records of Lutherans living in this period at Nine Mile Run, Ten Mile Run, Oingens, Rocky Hill, and Piscataque.
During the nine years of Justus Falckner’s pastorate, a comparatively small number of Lutherans was spread over a wide space. The whole area received a one or two-day visit once a year from its Pastor. In the meantime the religious life of the members was left under the guidance of laymen probably appointed or elected for this work. The large parish began to subdivide itself according to geography and leadership. All services were held in private homes.
DANIEL FALCKNER (1723 – 1734)
At his death, the first Pastor of Zion was succeeded by his brother Daniel, in our part of the parish. This elder brother had settled in 1694 near Philadelphia with a group of religious fanatics who are known to history as the “Hermits of the Wissahickon.” In 1700 he returned from a visit to Europe, bringing with him his brother and a commission as agent of the Frankfort Land Company. In 1708 he succeeded Pastorius as Burgomaster of Germantown.
After that his name is lost until 1724, when he was holding together his brother’s congregations on the Hudson River. In the church book at West Camp he wrote that he had been called as pastor to Pluckemin and Millstone. These two congregations sent money in 1727 to the New York Lutherans for their new church.
By 1731 the Lutherans of Whitehouse and Potterstown had already been separated from him for two years. The people of Pluckemin were also ready to receive his resignation, and an unsuccessful candidate was heard. Berkenmeyer, who succeeded Justus Falckner in New York, arranged a call for a Pastor for the reunited Raritan parish.
The Potterstown Congregation
At some time during Daniel Falckner’s Pastorate, Potterstown became a busy center of the parish. By 1729 the members there had shown some independence by separating from the pastor and from Pluckemin. They erected their own church building, and at their invitation, Pastor Berkenmeyer came out from New York to dedicate the new building on Saturday, September 11th, 1731. He, administered the Lord’s Supper on the following day.
If we seek an explanation for the sudden blossoming of this congregation, we can probably find it in the person of Baltes Pickel who, in 1729 removed from Whitehouse to Round Valley, where he was naturally associated with Potterstown.
The Whitehouse Congregation
Tradition says that there were at least two log meeting houses in the vicinity of Whitehouse at a very early date. The Lutheran Church was on the southwest corner of the Davis tract in old Leslysland. This is diagonally opposite the old Methodist cemetery. It was said to have been a log building, with a burying-ground adjacent. It can hardly be wrong to date this building between 1721 and 1729. At the earlier date services were still held in the Pickel home. The later date marks the removal of Baltes Pickel from Whitehouse.
The Pluckemin Congregation
Pluckemin also built its first church in this pastorate. The date usually given for it is 1725. It was set on the hill about one and one-quarter miles east of Pluckemin. The early date of its building and the local residence of the pastor gave Pluckemin a pre-eminence in this period.
The Fox Hill Congregation
At an early date the German settlers had begun to push to the north into Fox Hill, which took its name from Daniel Fuchs, one of the early Palatines.
These people also built their own log church on what was later known as the “Aunt Katie Sutton” farm, now the Hoffman estate. This congregation and church may have originated in this period.
Daniel Falckner had been a man of education and ability who had held positions of responsibility in business and government before he entered the ministry; but now he was getting old – himself stating that his head was like a pumpkin – and he accepted Berkenmeyer’s suggestion that he retire in 1731. In his pastorate we see the large parish beginning to draw its inner and outer boundaries. His successor was to find himself pastor of a twenty-year-old parish, minister to four congregations – each with its own building. Berkenmeyer drew up a call in blank for a new pastor to be sent from Germany.
JOHN AUGUSTUS WOLF (1734 – 1745)
It was not until 1734 that the Reverend John Augustus Wolf arrived from Germany in answer to the call. Wolf was a character totally unfit for the office of the ministry. It was only a few months until he entered into a series of disputes with the congregations concerning salary, parsonage, and his personal conduct. To settle these disputes, the first Lutheran Synod held on American soil was convened in this parish. The delegates and pastors were as follows: from New York, Rev. Berkenneyer, Charles Beekman, Jacob Bos; from Hackensack, Rev. Knoll, John Van Norden, Abraham Van Buskirk; from Uylekill, Peter Frederick; from Potterstown, Rev. Wolf, Baltes Pickel, Lawrence Roelofson; from Pluckemin, Daniel Shoemaker, Hendrick Smith. The Synod resulted in a peace which was short lived, and Wolf continued to menace the congregation’s spiritual welfare until 1745. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg came from Philadelphia in that year in response to our ancestors, appeals, and disposed of the matter with his accustomed dispatch and justice. Wolf left immediately.
During Wolf’s pastorate, the parish had its own school and schoolmaster, and it built or purchased a parsonage. The forms of worship used by the New York churches for the holy communion, marriage, burial, churching of women, etc., were in use here. Dutch and German were the languages of the services.
The congregations were organized according to the Amsterdam Church Constitution. At the beginning of the pastorate, the church was a member of the Amsterdam Synod; in the middle, of the Berkenmeyer Synod (New York); and at the end, they associated themselves with the Philadelphia group who later organized the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, our oldest American Synod.
In this period, Pluckemin was the strongest of the congregations.
The Potterstown church was the first to recognize Wolf’s true character, and they turned from him within a month. At the end of the Wolf pastorate, Muhlenberg began to exercise his great influence through the Potterstown Congregation, resulting in its leadership during the years before the union in 1748.
The Whitehouse Congregation after 1741 had a lay preacher to conduct regular services, a John Langerfeld, who had served as an interim pastor in a Philadelphia church. He gave way in 1745 in favor of the temporary pastors whom Muhlenberg kept sending out until Weygand settled here.
Henry Melchior Muhlenberg
The visit of Muhlenberg was the first of many, and the service rendered then, welcome and helpful as it must have been, was but little when compared with the constant help the busy patriarch gave to the Raritan Lutherans in the next thirty years.
Muhlenberg was a native of Eimbeck, Hanover Province, Germany. A graduate of the University of Goettingen, he had taught one year in the Francke institutions in Halle. In 1741, at the age of thirty, he was superintendent of an orphan home school and pastor of a church. At this time he was asked to go as a missionary to the wilds of America. Accepting, he became pastor of the scattered congregations of Philadelphia, Germantown, Providence, and New Hanover in Pennsylvania. He soon was the recognized leader of Lutherans over a wide area. He set the doctrinal, organizational, liturgical, and practical precedents for American Lutheranism. He sent detailed reports of his work to the pastors at Halle and kept a diary for his personal reference. It is from these documents that much of the early history of the Raritan congregations is drawn.
It is well to mention that Muhlenberg considered these societies as lying outside of his Philadelphia bailiwick and inside the New York. Only after repeated appeals were the early congregations able to secure his oversight and reap the benefits of his extraordinary good sense, tact, and powers of Christian leadership.
AN INTERLUDE (1745 – 1748)
From 1745 until 1748 the churches were without a pastor. They received extended visits, however, from Mr. J. N. Kurtz and Mr. J. N. Schaum, both of whom were being prepared for the ministry by Muhlenberg. For Schaum these visits proved to be eminently worthwhile; for he returned at the time of the dedication of Zion to be married to the daughter of Baltes Pickel.
In these years a satanic character, posing as a prince and a minister, and styling himself Prince Carl Rudolph, was traveling about the colonies preying upon Christian congregations. In 1747 the pastorless people of the Raritans, deceived by his charming manner, welcomed him into their pulpits. Chaos and havoc came with him. After too long a time, his open immorality revealed his true character and turned all against him. Kurtz was recalled to repair the damage.
The Union of the Churches
A little later, in August of 1748, Muhlenberg made a pastoral visitation to the Raritan Churches. After the last of a series of services he selected from each of the four congregations three persons for a general church council. The new body immediately began to discuss before the congregations the question of a new church building. “They desired,” Muhlenberg wrote, “to erect a commodious church in a central locality, where the most distant members would not have to travel more than ten or twelve miles. To this proposition three of the congregations willingly assented, in the fourth, however, were a few obstinate heads who would not agree, but were resolved to build a church of their own. To the latter was given full freedom to build as many churches as they pleased. The three congregations, therefore, (and several people from the fourth), having estimated that the structure would cost three hundred and some pounds with their labor, straightway subscribed among themselves two hundred and forty pounds.”
The Building of Zion
The building was begun in the spring of 1749. By August the walls were built as far as the roof. In the following year the work was completed and the dedication date was set for Advent Sunday, December Second. Muhlenberg was ready to delay the ceremony until better travelling weather in the spring, but he consented to the early date out of consideration for young Schaum, now a pastor, who planned to be married at the time of the dedication. Schaum did not favor postponement.
In Zion’s archives is a yellowed parchment, the document by which the original church property was transferred to the Lutherans. The document – an indenture – is in the handwriting of Ralph Smith, the former owner of the property. Smith was a large landowner, wealthy, and the leading citizen of the village. A staunch Presbyterian, he was a moving spirit in the group which founded the Lamington Church.
This indenture, strangely, was not drawn until November tenth, 1749. Zion, thus, had built a church upon land which was not legally in its possession until the building was almost completed. This explains the meaning of the indenture when it speaks of a church already built on the property when it was transferred.
The above facts clearly indicate that the Zion Church building was planned and financed by the Lutherans and was built by their own hands. The old tradition that it was originally an Episcopal Church has no basis in fact.
JOHN ALBERT WEYGAND (1748 – 1753)
In August of 1748, when the churches had so quickly planned and financed their new church building, they were still without a resident pastor. In those days when ministers were few in America, Muhlenberg had no one to recommend for the Oldwick pulpit. Providence, however, was in action. In November, John Albert Weygand came to the Raritan congregations, was given residence at the home of Balthasar Pickell and began a pastorate which lasted five years.
Weygand was German born. He had studied theology but had not served in the active ministry. A clever booking agent one day offered him free passage to America as ship’s chaplain. The agent used the prestige of a minister’s presence aboard to bait others into making the trip. Upon landing in Philadelphia, the ship owner demanded that Weygand pay his passage on pain of being sold into bondage. He was rescued from his predicament by his fellow passengers, and, penniless, he sought out Muhlenberg. The latter took him under his wing, preparing him for a ministry in America. While still not ordained, he came to the New Jersey congregation at their request. Here he became known as a good preacher and pastor.
The call to Weygand, together with names already known to us, has the following signatures: Johannes Molick, Philip Weiss, Henrich Sauer, Jacob Fasbendar, Samuel Schwackheimer, Adam Fuckroth, Jacob Shubman, Samuel Barnhardt, Philip Duford, Jacob Damrom, Peiter Gass, isaac Von Buscherk, Jacob Klein, Johann Peter Brumeiner, David Rambach, Adam Heiler, Lenard Kretzer, Johannes Bandeler, Jacob Lunger, Jacob Ernst, Stovil Adam, Madeis Drimer, Linerd Nagbard, Michal Hallenbrant, Aree Vangenee, Richard Channel, Christ. Deger (Tiger), Ludwig Ditman, Heinrich Keller, Peter Salmon, Johannes Nikeldonia.
In December 1749, when he had been here only one year, Weygand performed an action which threw a cloud over the remaining years of his pastorate and which almost prevented his ordination. The action was not immmoral, but was ill-advised. In one afternoon he proposed marriage to the daughter of his leading layman and host, Baltes Pickel, and without awaiting Pickel’s final decision, he proposed to another young woman to whom he was married before nightfall. The incident is told because it created the need for a parsonage at a time when the church was already in debt and was involved in church building operations. The church council, without hesitation, purchased a home and a fifty acre farm for the use of the pastor. This property, known as the Glebe, was one and one quarter miles west of town on the Potterstown road.
This parsonage was a sign of the final separation of the union church from Pluckemin, whose parsonage now was unused.
The Original Building
The original church building, completed in 1750, has been described as an “almost exact model of the Episcopal Church built by George Washington at Pohick Valley, Virginia. It had low walls, topped by a barrack shaped roof, sloping to the four sides. The windows were small, square, and high from the ground. The pulpit with its high sounding board was opposite the large doors, which were in the middle of the south wall. In the center of the church, in the broad aisle was a huge pit … filled with glowing charcoal. There were five aisles and two galleries at the sides, one being used as an organ loft and containing a fine instrument for those days,–a valuable relic now unfortunately lost to the church.” (The first organ in New York had been installed just twenty years before.)
Images of Pohick Episcopal Church (model for Zion described above)
The dedication took place on Advent Sunday, December 2nd, 1750. The Reverends Peter Brunnholtz, of Philadelphia, J. P. Handschuh, of Lancaster, J. N. Kurtz, of Tulpehocken, J. H. Schaum of York, and J. C. Hartwick of Rhinebeck, N. Y., were selected to perform the services. They were accompanied by an organist to play on the fine instrument imported from Germany. Muhlenberg, who could not attend, mildly complained that the ceremony “should have taken place at a more convenient season, namely in the spring – but our own dear Brother Schaum was impatient to consummate his betrothal vows.” The above company traveled from Philadelphia in severe weather, Schaum contracting a lameness from which he did not recover for many months.
Early on the morning of the Second of December, 1750, all the clergymen assembled to view the new building. Then they proceeded to the Glebe where the church councilmen, wardens and male members of the congregations were assembled. At this meeting the ordination of Pastor Weygand was approved by clergy and laity. Then in an orderly procession on foot (Schaum limped behind) the entire party moved to the church where a great crowd was assembled for the ceremony.
Each pastor dedicated that which was assigned him. The Reverend Mr. Handschuy preached the principal sermon in German. Then followed the ordination, after which Mr. Hartwick preached a fine English sermon. Between all the acts appropriate hymns, were sung. By five o’clock in the evening the services were over.
There is no information to guide us in describing the parsonage. Dr. John Honeyman, in his history of the church, conjectured that it was a one-story structure of smooth hewn logs, clapboarded and destitute of plaster. It was soon to be remodeled and enlarged for the use of Father Muhlenberg and his family.
By this time Pluckemin had lost the parsonage, most of its 100 acres, and thus had left only a little land and their little church in which no services were held. In 1752, the members requested Zion to permit Mr. Weygand to hold services for them every six or eight weeks. This marked a renewal of relationship, and later Pluckemin and New Germantown were chartered as a two-congregation united parish.
By 1753, Zion had divided into two parties. The trouble took the form of dissatisfaction with the pastor, but underneath this local infection was a poison affecting the whole organism of pioneer Lutheranism in America. For among the thousands of newcomers from Europe were many unworthy people who gained membership in the church. To confound the confusion they caused, there were also adventurers who appointed themselves as pastors and tried to attach themselves as parasites on the earthly body of our Lord. Under this double influence, every petty local issue was likely to swell to the proportions of a decisive battle.
At any rate, Weygand, whose practices were being seriously questioned at New Germantown, was enthusiastically called to the Dutch Lutheran Congregations of New York City and Hackensack, New Jersey. He accepted and served there until his death.
LUDOLPH HENRY SCHRENCK (1753 – 1756)
Muhlenberg, on a visit, cleared the landscape of wreckage and set up the following guideposts to keep the church in progress without danger of collision. Pluckemin was to have the service on each fourth Sunday, and was to pay one fourth of the salary. All members were to pledge in advance their year’s contribution to the salaries of minister and organist. The Synod, not the courts or anyone else, was to mediate all disputes. Finally, Ludolph Henry Schrenk was called to the vacant pulpit.
Schrenk was a well educated German who arrived in Philadelphia in 1749. He was dependent for awhile upon Muhlenberg’s charity and by him was trained as a catechist and lay preacher. He served in this capacity at several towns in Eastern Pennsylvania acceptably enough to be ordained in 1752. The following year he was called to Zion. Here, if history tells his true story, he bit all the hands that fed him.
His first year was as brilliant and promising as had been his services to the Pennsylvanians. Whether the fault lay in his body, mind, or soul is not to be known, but one day he took undue offense at some innocent remarks made by Baltes Pickel and John Melick. At the next public service he read them both out of office and membership. In due time the congregation declared its sympathy with the councilmen and showed the seriousness of its intentions by bringing in an Episcopal missionary who held an Episcopal service in the church. By 1756, Muhlenberg managed to smooth the way again. But Schrenk deserted, although the congregation had displayed patience and forbearance, promising to support his ministry.
These difficult days, under Providence, excited the sympathy of Muhlenberg. It was too much to expect that he should leave his Philadelphia, work to come to New Germantown. But that is exactly what he did.
The Barn List
We know the names of the substantial members of Zion in this period from a subscription list for the repair of the parsonage barn. They are: Adam Fueckroth, Balthas Bikel, Lorentz Rulofson, Jacob Schubmann, Casparus Hindersheitt, Johannes Molich Sr., David Molich, Johannes Molich, Samuel Bernhardt, Matthias Van Horne, Hermanus Rulofson, Leonhardt Streit, Michael Buskercken, Jacob Fasbinder, John Hindersheitt, leonhard Nachbahr, John Stein, Christoph Kern, Matthias Sohnemann, Christoph Durrenberger, Samuel Schwachheimer, Thomas Neil, Rulof Rulofson, Philipp Weiss, Jost Schertz, Georg Albers, Michael Ellick, Anthon Molick, Isaac Van Boskerken, Gothfried Klein, George Dippel.
Next comes a list of delinquents with this statement:
The following have indeed written down their names, but they have not as yet paid up to this 12th January, 1756: Philipp Fueckrot, Philipp Tuffort, Lorentz Slicar, Valentine Caspar (?), Johannes Schortz has paid 10s, Jost Schertz has yet to pay 6s. 4d., Jacob Klein, 5s., Abraham Schertz has paid 10s., Balthes Bickel, Jun., 7s.; the whole amounting to 3. 14s. 4d.”
The Lutheran Church at Long Valley traces its history back to the early days of the Union Church at New Germantown. After the Fox Hill Congregation disappeared in the union, the people of Long Valley had a great distance to travel to worship. For years they did so. It is reported that many of them walked the whole distance barefoot, sitting down to put on their shoes before entering God’s House.
However, their isolation drew then together as a separate congregation, and it was in the first years after the building of Zion that they requested occasional preaching services in their own district.
HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG (1756 – 1760)
Muhlenberg had grown weary of the New Jersey troubles and seemed to be done with the congregations. But after Schrenk left he was persuaded to promise a visit in the following spring. This news was received enthusiastically, especially in Pluckemin where the people at once decided to replace their old church with a fine stone structure.
New Pluckemin Church
In a short time they subscribed 300 pounds to which was added 200 Pounds by the “English Church People” with the understanding that the “preacher would now and then deliver an English sermon.” The Patriarch tried to persuade them to “abstain from their intended expensive church-building, as we were now in the midst of war” (French and Indian). “But they answered that it was better to spend their little means in building a house to the Lord than to save them for the enemy.”
Muhlenberg was again overruled by the persuasive members of Zion, when, as his last objection to their plan for him to be their resident pastor, he said that the parsonage was “too small and unsuitable for my family.” They erected, within four months, with much labor and at heavy cost, a roomy building, of stone next to the old one.
Several Muhlenberg Visits
After Schrenk left and before Muhlenberg settled in the enlarged parsonage, the Patriarch visited New Germantown three times. (1) In the Spring, 1757, for one month. (2) In the fall, for more than a month. (3) In the spring of 1758 for nine weeks.
In the spring of 1759, with his wife and four of the children (Peter was brought later), he came to New Germantown to reside. It was in one of his reports of this period that the name “New Germantown” was first recorded. Previously the town was known as Smithfield.
We have seen the masterful hand of the Patriarch of American Lutheranism settling grievous disputes with ease and skill, after the failure of all other mediators–local leaders, the civil courts, and the New York Churchmen. We have also seen the Pluckemin Congregation springing to new life, planning to build a new and expensive church, merely because Muhlenberg said he would resume his distant oversight of the congregation and make an occasional visitation. These two facts strongly indicate the greatness of this Christian personality. He was prominent, popular, learned, vigorous, handsome, and gifted with a rich, powerful tenor voice. The largest meeting houses of the day were filled to the doors upon announcement that he would preach. He was a preacher, pastor, and executive with superlative talents.
His greatness is not diminished when viewed through the careers of his children. The three sons entered the ministry. Two of them transferred to the service of the newly formed nation after the war for American independence. All three achieved a place of distinction in history.
Henry was not only a splendid preacher and pastor, but a botanist respected in Europe and America, and an educator–the first president of Franklin College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Peter, known to every school boy for his “time to fight” speech, left the pulpit and took up the sword, rising to the rank of Major General under Washington. After the war he was Vice President of Pennsylvania under President Benjamin Franklin; later was a representative in the first, second, and third congresses; and later still, a United States Senator.
Frederick was President of the Pennsylvania State Convention which ratified the Constitution in 1787, and had the honor of being the first Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States.
Three of the male Muhlenbergs, Henry Melchior, Henry Jr., and Peter, were resident pastors of Zion Church.
Of Muhlenberg’s four daughters, one was the mother of Governor Schultze of Pennsylvania, a second married a great preacher and pastor, another married General Francis Swaine, and the fourth was the wife of Matthias Richards, member of Congress.
We need not wonder therefore why Zion’s best historian spoke of Muhlenberg’s pastorate as an “event in the history of venerable Zion, an event that every son and daughter of the church may contemplate with pride.”
Muhlenberg resided in the parsonage from June 14, 1759 to May 1, 1760. His diary gives a detailed account of his work.
During the four years after Schrenk left, the church had a resident pastor for less than one year. Nevertheless it was one of the finest periods in all the long history of the church. The prosperity of Zion between 1756 and 1760 is another one of the many local witnesses to the superlative qualities of the Patriarch of American Lutheranism.
One Rev. Frederick Schultz, who had recently left the Lutheran ministry, was living in New Germantown in 1759 and was paid by the church for his services for “the last half year.” He was not regularly called as pastor but merely served as pulpit supply. He spent his time in alchemistic researches and so aroused the curiosity of the superstitious that they indulged in midnight expeditions, over a long period of years, to dig for treasure in his back yard.
PAUL BRYZELIUS (1760 – 1766)
The Rev. Paul Bryzelius, a Swedish Moravian recently converted to Lutheranism, served the congregation beginning–in 1760. It is known that he was a vigorous, courageous, energetic pastor, zealous in the performance of duty. The congregations, cautious after their unfortunate experiences with frontier pastors, did not give him a regular call until 1765. In the following year he left Zion, and Lutheranism too, to go to London for ordination as rector of a congregation of German, French, Swiss, and English, at Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. The Germans who dominated this group were dissatisfied because Bryzelius became too Episcopal in form and doctrine, and they separated to call their own pastor, the Rev. Frederick Schultz, mentioned above.
In 1767 Muhlenberg was formally elected “Rector” and continued in this capacity until 1775. During this period the Patriarch was not in residence but served the church through assistants.
In the archives of Zion is a fine old parchment, a charter issued by King George III through Governor William Franklin to the, United Churches of Zion, (Oldwick) and St. Paul’s (Pluckemin). Thus after fifty years of ministry to the community, Zion first was established as a legal religious society recognized by its colony and empire.
A month earlier in this same year, a constitution was adopted – Zion’s first, so far as we know.
Muhlenberg and his assistants, Peter Muhlenberg and Christian Streit, served the united congregations by turns from 1767 until February 1769.
PETER MUHLENBERG (1769 – 1772)
In 1769 Peter Muhlenberg settled in New Germantown as resident pastor, officially remaining as assistant to the rector, his father. He lived and worked here for three years.
His regular reports to his father have not been printed and probably are lost. Little is known of the details of his ministry. All entries in the vestry book were made, not by the resident pastor, but by his father.
On June 25th, 1770, an important meeting was held, at which the following, among other decisions were made. Services were to be held in New Germantown every other Sunday; on the alternate Sundays services were to be held at Pluckemin and Long Valley. The three congregations divided between them the burden of debt and some new obligations for the repair of the parsonage and for a wall around the church yard.
The Parish Register
So far as is known, no permanent record of ministerial acts was made locally until 1771, when Peter Muhlenberg inscribed the title page, and the first entries were made. From that day to this the pastors have kept their records with fidelity and all the registers are preserved.
The Worship Service
Schaum, when he came to Zion in 1747, was directed to use the Formula of Worship which was handed him in manuscript. In the following year Muhlenberg and Brunnholtz, who had prepared it, revised it with the help of Handschuh. Later this Formula with few changes was adopted by the Synod for use in all the churches. This Formula was not printed for many years. Of all the manuscripts, only two are preserved. One of them was written by Peter Muhlenberg about the time of his coming to Zion and in all probability was used by him here. This service does not differ greatly from the Common Service in use today.
A Call from Virginia
In the spring of 1771, Peter Muhlenberg received a call to serve in the Shenandoah Valley in a district settled almost entirely by German Lutherans from Pennsylvania. Because the church laws of Virginia had established the Church of England and made it difficult for dissenters, it was necessary for Muhlenberg to go to London for Episcopal ordination. This was a technicality. Muhlenberg remained a Lutheran to the end of his life.
In the spring of 1772, he proceeded to London, was duly ordained and established in the Virginia parish. Here he became an associate of George Washington and Patrick Henry and other Virginians in the pre-Revolution struggles for liberty.
At the outbreak of war, he preached a sermon on the text, “There is a season … to every purpose under heaven,” ending with the words, “A time to preach and a time to pray, but there is also a time to fight, and that time has now come.” After the service he removed his gown to reveal the military uniform he was wearing. Drums at the church door called men to enlist. This was the beginning of the 8th Virginia Regiment, composed almost entirely of Germans from the Shenandoah Valley. Of this Regiment, General Richard Henry Lee said, “It was not only the most complete in numbers, but the best armed, clothed and equipped. His soldiers were alert, zealous and spirited.”
Muhlenberg entered the service as a Colonel, was promoted first to Brigadier General, and then to Major General. He took part in many of the major battles of the War, and was with the suffering troops at Valley Forge.
On one occasion he rode through Oldwick at the head of four thousand troops. There are records indicating that he made several visits to his old parish during the times when his army was quartered nearby.
After the war Muhlenberg continued in the public service until the end of his life. His native state erected a statue in the national capitol at Washington to perpetuate his memory.
HENRY MUHLENBERG, JR. (1771 – 1774)
To succeed his brother as the “constituted assistant,” Henry came to reside in New Germantown for three years. His pastorate was marked by the thoroughness which attended his work throughout his life. This last of the Muhlenbergs to serve here left the congregation strong and prospering.
WILLIAM ANTHONY GRAFF (1775 – 1809)
In the summer of 1775, William Anthony Graff was called from Ramapo and Hackensack to serve the United Congregations of Zion and St. Paul’s. Graff accepted the call which promised him the Glebe and parsonage and three hundred and twenty dollars per year.
Upon Graff’s acceptance, the elder Muhlenberg wrote his last letter to the Raritan Churches, clearing up all his relationships. He never visited the congregations again. Thus after thirty years of difficulties, he was at last able to turn over the affairs of Zion to a competent pastor for a long ministry.
Graff was born of a highly respectable German family. Upon his father’s death his studies in theology at the University of Halle were ended, and he entered upon a career as a soldier. He served with the British in the French and Indian War, after which he was left stranded and penniless in America.
Muhlenberg befriended him, guiding him out of “practical atheism” into the life “which the Spirit may surely build.” Weygand, Muhlenberg, and the people of his congregation unanimously testify to his fifteen years of splendid ministry in Hackensack and Ramapo.
At the age of forty-eight, when he came to Zion, he was a man of God, well experienced in his work. He was a stout, fine looking man, well educated, cheerful and good humored. During his long life in America, he spelled, composed, and pronounced English with difficulty and sometimes with comic results.
Nothing is so harmful to the work of the church as is war and its after effects. When the fifth commandment is suspended, vice and confusion prevail. The church patriotically sends its men to the battle, and the battle returns only a few.
It was Graff’s difficult assignment to hold the people of the Raritan to the faith during the years of war and reconstruction.
Another vexing problem had to be faced at once. Baltes Pickel (II) who had been administering his father’s handsome legacy to the church, was dissatisfied with the use to which the interest was put. After a lengthy controversy the entire legacy was turned over to the church. The income helped the work of the church through many lean years.
The people of New Germantown were for the most part ardent patriots, supporting the Colonies in the struggle for temporal liberties. Early in the war the town was host to the “Council of Safety,” among whose members were Gov. Livingston and William Patterson, a future Governor and Justice of the United States Supreme Court. During 1777-78, a regiment of cavalry wintered here. In 1780 Washington made a military inspection of the town and countryside.
The war-time inflation of currency caused much trouble for the trustees of Zion and the legacy shrank by one-third.
New Synod Connection
Neither why or exactly when is not known, but Zion Church became a member of the Ministerium of New York. Graf was a delegate to the 1792 Convention and the congregation maintained its obligations to this Synod until 1861 when it united with the Synod of New Jersey.
Zion, which had been formed a half century earlier by the union of three congregations, (Leslysland, Fox Hill, Potterstown) which had been united with another established congregation (Pluckemin), and which had been the mother of a fifth (Long Valley), now brought a sixth congregation into the family.
In 1800 the Lutherans at Spruce Run joined with the Reformed to build a union church. It was a frame building which the people did not paint for many years, but finally covered with a fine coat of red!
This new congregation assumed part of the support of the pastor. A portion of its contribution arrived through the winter snow in a caravan of nine sleds, all loaded with provisions and supplies for the parsonage. The names of seven of the drivers are known: Frederick, William and Morris Fritts, Andrew Moore, Christopher Martenis, Christopher Heldebrant, and a Mr. Force.
Pastor Graf, according to a new plan, now preached a round of eight Sunday,–three at New Germantown, two each at Pluckemin and Long Valley, one at Spruce Run.
Long Valley was becoming a stronger congregation but Pluckemin was rapidly heading toward complete dissolution. The latter held its last election of officers in 1798; its last recorded council meeting in 1802. A decade or so later even the building was gone. Its cornerstone, dramatically discovered, part at the bottom of a filled-in cistern, part in a cellar, is now mounted near the doorway of the Pluckemin Presbyterian Church. An altar cloth and a list of the contributors to the building fund are its only other relics.
A Long Pastorate
Graf, who arrived at the beginning of the War for Independence, grew old during his service of the church. His tired body was laid to rest in the cemetery behind the church. He was loved and respected to the very end of his thirty-five year pastorate.
In the hard times during and after the War, the church was helped, perhaps sustained, financially, by the income from a legacy of 1000 Pounds left by Baltes Pickel. Indeed, throughout the entire nineteenth century, it was a substantial part of the church’s income.
Baltes Pickel cannot be forgotten. He was present at the very first service of the congregation. Because of his evident talents the people called him into lay leadership. He exercised his influence toward the building of the Potterstown church, the union of the congregations, and the construction of the present building. His body lies in an appropriate place of honor, under the chancel, which was an addition to the church, built-upon a part of the cemetery.
A regrettable circumstance is the disappearance of the legacy. Amends can be made in the future upon some occasion when the congregation raises a comparable sum for benevolent purposes or for a permanent structure, by attaching this faithful layman’s name to the project.
ERNEST LEWIS HAZELIUS (1809 – 1815)
Providence supplied the church with another fine, able pastor in the person of Ernest Lewis Hazelius. This man, a descendant of a long line of Swedish pastors, was born in Neusalz, province of Silesia, Prussia. His father had left the ministry, and Lutheranism and Sweden. In Germany he married a Moravian lady, a school time friend of Catherine the Great of Russia.
Prince or Preacher?
From his birth until he was twelve, Catherine had sought to adopt young Hazelius as her own son. Finally the lad gave the decision which his parents had postponed. He decided against a life in the Russian Court, and at the same time expressed the conviction that he was called to the ministry of Christ.
The deep gulf between the gospel ministry and Russian Court life is known to all who are acquainted with the wealth, power, and degeneracy of Catherine and her coterie. The lad Hazelius had been offered the whole world and had declined to give his soul in exchange.
After preparing for the ministry, Hazelius came to America as a Moravian missionary, assigned as a classical teacher in the Moravian Seminary at Nazareth, Pa. He landed at Baltimore on October 27th, 1800.
In 1809 he left the Seminary and Moravianism, and settled in Philadelphia earnestly desiring to unite with the church which his ancestors had served. Within a few months he had received and accepted a call to succeed Graff at New Germantown.
A Strong Pastorate
Hazelius found the churches weakened as a result of Graff’s inability, because of failing strength, to minister thoroughly in his last years. The scholarly pastor recalled the people to their old loyalties, and even tried heroically to revive St. Paul’s, Pluckemin. The other congregations were much strengthened during this time.
On the very day Hazelius was called, the council elected seven trustees, an action required by a statute of 1799 in order to administer the church property in a legal manner.
Spruce Run and Long Valley
A short time later, Spruce Run and Long Valley also elected their own trustees. By so doing, they set up for the first time organizations separate from Zion.
A New Parsonage
In 1810, title to the personage and woodlot was transferred to Hazelius. A year later the pastor built the present parsonage and, with his wife, Huldah Cummings Eway, of Clinton, took residence. This became the private home of succeeding pastors. A generation later it was purchased by the church and has been since then maintained by the church as a parsonage.
In the library at the schoolhouse, there hangs a water color, a copy of a drawing of the parsonage made in 1819. It shows the house as originally built, a structure of colonial simplicity and grace. The present kitchen, bay windows, and front porch are all later additions. The original windows were small and many paned. The interior has been remodeled to make way for a handsome staircase and upper and lower hallways.
In 1815, Hazelius re-entered his work as a teacher in theological seminaries, going first to Hartwick, later to Gettysburg, and finally to Southern Seminary. His scholarship was recognized by Union and Columbia with an award of the doctorate in 1824. Lafayette and Princeton offered him professorships. He was a fine teacher and preacher.
THE REV. DAVID HENRICKS (1816 – 1822)
There is scanty information concerning the pastor and pastorate from 1816 to 1822. At the latter part of his six-year period, the Rev. David Hendricks was eager to leave New Germantown. His successor began his parish records with the blunt statement that “there is a deficiency in these records of upward of two years, arising from the neglect of the rector.”
A list of the salary-payers during this period is reproduced in the appendix, in order to show the names of the members at the time of the one hundredth anniversary of the church.
THE REV. HENRY NEWMAN POHLMAN (1822 – 1843)
It is almost a century since Henry Newman Pohlman left Zion Church, but his influence is still strong in its traditions. It is probably correct to say that his unseen hand is stronger in guiding the destinies of Zion and her members than that of any historical figure, excepting only Luther and Christ. Certainly most of the distinctive contributions of Muhlenberg were cancelled or reversed during his twenty-one years in office.
Pohlman upon his call to Zion is described by Dr. John Honeyman as a “very young man” who “had some knowledge of men, acquaintance with business, inflexible resolution without obstinacy, dignity of manners and deportment, sustained without effort or pretension, and who already possessed a good English education and was heartily willing to spend and be spent in the service of his Heavenly Master.”
Henry Bowman Pohlman was born in Albany in 1800. At seventeen he became the first student of Hartwick, the oldest Lutheran theological seminary. Licensed to preach, he accepted a call to Saddle River, New Jersey, and was ordained–all in 1821. In 1822, he and Hendricks exchanged places, and Pohlman was installed in Zion on November 20th by the Reverend Frederick C. Schaeffer of New York City.
At once the congregations began to stir with new life under the youthful pastor’s vigorous leadership. Within a month the interior of the church was painted, and a new pulpit installed.
The Church Remodeled
Nine years later, the church building was so thoroughly remodeled that only the walls of the original building were left. The doorway in the south wall was replaced by a window, and a new doorway was cut at the west end. The native stone walls were stuccoed. “A handsome new high pulpit, elaborately carved, occupied the center of the west wall, resting upon several graceful pillars that formed a background for the semi-circular balustrade. The pulpit was reached by two semicircular stairways of twelve steps each. The altar cloth and the upholstery of the pulpit-desk were of rich crimson damask.
“The west gallery had been removed and the floor at the rear end of the church raised. A heavy ceiling cornice and four circular moulded projections on the ceiling (for hanging lamps) furnished the mural decorations. The interior woodwork and walls had been painted a dazzling white, but the altar, pulpit, and the pew railings were a deep cherry red.”
The Great Revival
In 1839 – 1840 the seed which Dr. Pohlman had been planting was richly harvested. In every way Zion had flourished under his guidance for seventeen years. But now the “Great Revival,” as it is called, more than doubled the church membership. Of approximately two-hundred converts, in the neighborhood, all but about sixty united with the three Lutheran churches.
Spruce Run Calls a Pastor
At first Pohlman preached in New Germantown every second Sunday, and on the others he alternated between Spruce Run and Long Valley. By 1833 he had practically severed his connection with Spruce Run. In 1834 the church called its own pastor, and from that time on maintained complete independence from Zion.
Three months after his arrival in New Germantown Pohlman brought a bride to the parsonage. From their marriage issued a son and three daughters. In 1826, the pastor published a catechism for use in Lutheran churches, printed in Morristown. In 1836 the New York Ministerium convened in New Germantown.
Upon his resignation in 1843 Pohlman became pastor of his parents’ church in Albany, and served there for twenty-four years.
He was president of the New York Ministerium for twenty-two years, of the New York Synod for five years, and was also head of the nation-wide General Synod. He died in 1874.
JAMES ROBERTSON KEISER (1843 – 1849)
James Robertson Keiser was chosen for the difficult task of following Pohlman. Mr. Keiser was born near Waynesborough, Va. in 1812. He attended Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg Seminary, and the seminary at Andover, Mass. He served first at Winchester, Va., and then at New Germantown.
By 1846 the Long Valley congregation had become of sufficient strength that, by mutual consent, she separated from New Germantown and called her own pastor.
The New York Ministerium again met here in 1847. Dr. Pohlman was its president, and Keiser its secretary.
A new constitution was adopted in 1847, replacing that of 1615. It is still effective, although many changes are desirable.
Pastor Keiser, after leaving here, served in Schoharie, N. Y., Gettysburg, Pa., and Dixon, Ill. About 1865 he became a Presbyterian. He died in 1872.
GEORGE SMITH COLLINS (1650 – 1853)
George Smith Collins, called to the New Germantown pastorate in 1850, was a man of brilliant accomplishments and promise. It was said that he could turn the pages of a book and read them almost photographically. He drew about him a circle of the alert young men from the community, inspiring them to sustained and deep mental exertion.
His was the reputation of being the finest pulpit orator, not only of Zion, but of the whole neighborhood. Although the parishioners had to protest that some of his sermons concerned subjects technical beyond understanding, there were many of them that were remembered for years afterward.
His religion was expressed also by a practical self-sacrifice, so thoroughgoing as to keep him continually at the verge of poverty.
In personal appearance he was unique. His spare frame, six feet four inches in height, was clothed with little regard for conventional style, of which he seemed to be oblivious,
The intense energy in Collins was soon burned out after he resigned the local pastorate, for his health failed him. He served one more parish, in the south, and that for one year. We hear of him only that his wife died there and that he removed to another place, a sick man.
JACOB CHRISTIAN DUY (1853 – 1872)
Jacob Christian Duy was born in 1808 in Germantown, Pa. He was graduated from Gettysburg Seminary in 1836, served in Friesburg and Saddle River, N. J., and in Churchtown, N. Y. By his first wife, Elizabeth Moore, he had ten children. After her death in 1849 he married Emeline Murphy of Philadelphia.
He was of solid character, a good workman, sociable, a fine pastor and preacher. In 1854, $1900 was collected for alteration and improvement of the church building. The vestibule was added, a graceful steeple rising above it. (This was blown in the blizzard of 1888.) A bell was purchased to call the people to worship. There was also an “overhauling” of the parsonage.
The. old organ, one of the first in America, perhaps the first in New Jersey, was sold in 1855 to Rev. Mancius S. Hutton of New York City and a second-hand organ was purchased to replace it. In a few years the instrument failed and the congregation bought another from Mr. Labaugh of New York at a cost of $1,000. In its seventy-fourth year, this organ is still in regular service.
The cemetery around the church was now full of graves. The oldest stone in it is dated Dec. 4th, 1761. Many stones have peeled and crumbled until their inscriptions have become illegible; others have sunk, been broken, or carried away; and some of the graves were unmarked from the beginning. Peter and Henry Muhlenberg recorded ten burials there; Pastor Graff, forty-three.
In 1856 an acre of ground was purchased for a new cemetery, and from time to time more land was added to this. In 1910 the “new” cemetery was turned over to the community.
New Jersey Synod
In 1861 the New Jersey churches united to form their own Synod, and the first convention was hold at Spruce Run. The 1868 meeting was held here.
Duy, having left New Germantown, lived in Bergen County until his death ten years later. Dr. Krechting later said of him, “He was a true minister of God; loyal almost to a fault.”
JOHN FRANKLIN DIENER (1872 – 1878)
The successor of Duy, Pastor Diener, was born in Newville, Pa. in 1845. He attended the college and seminary at Gettysburg. After receiving his license, he served a congregation at Uniontown, Md. for the two years preceding his arrival in Now Germantown on September 1st, 1872.
The years following the war were reconstruction years in which hard times visited the people of our community. It became increasingly difficult for the congregation to meet the salary obligation they had assumed.
Pastor Diener began a series of temperance lectures in this parish, and his interest in this social question was maintained throughout his life.
JOHN P. KRECHTING (1878 – 1900)
The parish was vacant for well over a year. The people were eager to bring the Rev. John P. Krechting from Amsterdam, N. Y., and were content to wait while he discharged his promise to remain in his old parish for another year.
Krechting, a native of Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, was born in 1837. After working and traveling for nine years, he entered Hartwick Seminary, graduating at the age of thirty-one. During his nine-year pastorate at Amsterdam he married Miss Louise Pepper.
The thirty-four-year pastorate of Krechting is remembered and respected by the community. In 1927, his memory was honored when a $1,000 ministerial fund was dedicated in his name.
In 1879 the stairway in the parsonage was moved to its present location from the room now in the rear of it, the front windows were enlarged, and the two north rooms were thrown open by cutting a large doorway between them.
The bay windows on the south were added and, in the following year the roof was extended over the eaves.
Remodeling the Church
In 1883 a contract for remodeling the church was let to Abram Hill of Somerville. The architect was a W. Provost of Elizabeth, N.J.
At a cost of $3,060, a new floor was laid; openings were made in the east and west walls for chancel and organ; new ceilings and sidewalls were constructed; new window glass was installed; new pulpit furniture provided; and new pews– now facing east instead of west–were put in place.
The Missionary Society
At this writing the Women’s Missionary Society is in its fifty-fourth year of service to Christ in extending His Kingdom through education and benevolence contributions. The Society was founded in October 1885 with the following charter members: Mrs. S. J. Hegeman, Mrs. J. P. Krechting, Miss Francis Miller (Mrs. William P. Fisher), Miss Anna Melick (later Mrs. Abram Hall), Mrs. J. H. Sayre, Miss Cora F. Sayre (Mrs. W. VanDerbeck), Miss Sarah Todd (Mrs. J. VanNest), Miss Sarah Welsh. The minutes of this organization are full and complete.
“The Children of the Church” (formerly “Light Brigade”)
“The Children of the Church” the junior missionary organization now under the leadership of Miss Marion Waldron, will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 1941. This group was founded under the name of the “New Germantown Mission Band,” and was known later as the “Light Brigade.”
In 1896 The Young People’s Society merged with the General Prayer Meeting to form a group under the name of the “Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor.” The archives contain the minutes of this organization for the years 1896 to 1909.
Amendment to the Constitution
In 1887 the Constitution was amended to provide for a governing committee composed of six trustees, three elders, and three deacons. This division of responsibility is still in effect.
During the previous year, at the pastor’s suggestion, it was decided to use grape juice instead of wine in the Lord’s Supper. This custom obtains today.
The New York and New Jersey Synod met in New Germantown in 1891.
A Long Pastorate
The long association of Pastor Krechting with this congregation had woven a bond of affection which made difficult the separation that was bound to come. Upon his retirement from the active ministry in 1913, Pastor and Mrs. Krechting removed to Washington where their son, Dr. Will Krechting is practicing medicine. Mrs. Krechting visited Oldwick in 1935 on the occasion of the 185th anniversary of the building of the Church.
CHARLES G. EMPIE (1913 – 1922)
On October 1st, 1913, the Rev. Charles G. Empie settled in New Germantown. In the next annual meeting the envelope system of contributions was adopted and was effectively used. During the following summer the church was renovated at a cost of $1,283. Later an artesian well was drilled at the southwest corner of the parsonage. The salary of the pastor was increased during this period from $800 to $1,200.
In 1915 a fine young people’s society was organized and flourished for many years. In 1919, the congregation in annual meeting decided that there would be no dancing at church socials.
At this same meeting, the financial reports showed $45.22 contributed to the Anti-Saloon League–the first of many contributions to this society. Pastor Empie, a temperance advocate, also led the townspeople in a successful battle for prohibition under local option.
These were war years in which New Germantown was inflamed by the universal passion. Patriotically, the townsman changed the name of the community to Oldwick, a coined name meaning “old village.”
The following members of the congregation entered the service during the World War: Allen H. Hall, William H. Alpaugh, Warren Hall, Warren K. Sherman, Arthur Wykoff, George S. Sutton.
Pastor Charles Gideon Empie entered the ministry in 1899 and served at Raymertown, N. Y., and St., Johnsville, N. Y. before coming to Oldwick. He resigned here in 1922 and served five years in Troy, N. Y. After leaving Troy, he established a new congregation, Luther Memorial, in Baltimore, Maryland and is still ministering to the people of this flourishing church.
A son, the Rev. Paul Empie, is the Superintendent of the Lutheran Home for Orphans and the Aged in Philadelphia.
DORR EDWARD FRITTS (1922 – 1927)
The Reverend Dorr Edward Fritts was born in 1890. He married Edith Kuhn and the couple have four children. Pastor Fritts received his arts degree from Wittenberg College in 1918 and was graduated from Hartwick Seminary three years later. He was ordained in 1919 and served in Athens, N.Y. before coming to Oldwick. He was called here in 1922 at a salary of $1500. During these years of prosperity, the benevolence contributions of the little congregation were consistently over $1000 per year, a very creditable work indeed.
In 1925, the congregation adopted the Common Service Book. The pastor’s leadership was extended also in the direction of restoration of other fine points of the Muhlenberg tradition.
The 175th Anniversary of the building of the church was celebrated appropriately in 1925.
For several years a splendid Parish Paper, “Zion’s Beams” was published monthly.
Pastor Fritts, upon his resignation, again succeeded Pastor Empie, this time at Troy, New York, where he still serves.
CHARLES LANE QUINN (1927 – 1934)
The next seven-year period was filled with difficulties for the church. It began in days of prosperity. In 1927 the treasurer of the little congregation expended over $4,000. A fund of $1,000 for ministerial pensions was raised as a memorial to Dr. Krechting. Then came the depression. Receipts dropped to $2,500 in 1933 and to $1,700 in 1935. Such a contraction of the financial program was necessarily fraught with difficulties.
Tragically, the church lost several of its lay leaders in this pastorate. John S. Miller, for 31 years treasurer, died in the new pastor’s second month. A little over a year later, Leroy Miller, a son of John S., also a church council member, died, the last local male member of the line of Miller, a family which had exercised leadership in Zion from the time of Muhlenberg. Two other pillars of the church, William Rinehart and William P. Fisher died, the first in 1928, the latter in 1930. Mrs. Anna Hegeman, a fine Christian woman, whose advice and help were sought by all, died in 1934.
Charles Lane Quinn, the pastor during, these days of financial retrenchment and changing leadership was born in 1885 in Philadelphia. His wife, Margaret Blanche Colvin of Shellsburg, Pa. bore him six children.. Pastor Quinn studied at Temple University, the Reformed Episcopal Seminary of Philadelphia, and the Theological Department of Biblical Seminary, New York City. He served the Reformed Episcopal Church of Brooklyn, N.Y. as a deacon, and was ordained in 1915 by the Allegheny Synod after being called to the Shellsburg, Pa. Lutheran Church where he served for three years. He then served the New Bethlehem, Pa. parish for 2 years and the Melrose, N. Y. church for 2 years. In 1927 he came to Zion Church, Oldwick.
At first the church flourished. Attendances, both at Sunday School and church were large. Later trouble developed, culminating in a request for the pastor’s resignation. Pastor Quinn removed from Oldwick to Whitehouse in April 1934 and is now engaged in pulpit supply work in the Metropolitan Area.
CHARLES O. THOMPSON (1934 – 1938)
The congregation was unable to unite in calling the next pastor, but the sizeable minority did not record its opposition and soon resumed a faithful cooperation under the new leader.
The Reverend Charles O. Thompson was born in New Castle, Pa., in 1906. A graduate of Thiel College and the Philadelphia Seminary, he served for two years as acting pastor of the Lutheran Chapel for Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y. He came to Oldwick in September 1934 with his bride, Ruth Horn, daughter of the Rev. William M. Horn of Ithaca.
In 1934 the congregation thoroughly renovated the parsonage at a cost of $1,400; and in 1938 painted the church and parsonage at a cost of $600.
The old cemetery, which had been overgrown with weeds for a generation, was cleared in the spring of 1936 and provision was made for continuous care.
In February 1935, Mrs. Jacob Casterline, who was celebrating her 40th year as organist, was honored with a purse. In 1938, Mrs. John V. Malick was elected Organist. In these years Mrs. Charles Dickerson directed the choir. Under her leadership fine cantatas were rendered in the Christmas seasons.
At the initiative of the Sunday School staff, a Daily Vacation Bible School was organized in 1937, with the Methodist Church of Oldwick and the Lamington Presbyterian Church co-operating. It stands high among similar schools in the County.
For two years the church organized and operated Camp Justus Falckner, a project which brought fresh air and sunshine to a half-dozen East Side New York youngsters for two weeks each year.
Pastor Thompson left in August 1938, having been called to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Yonkers, N. Y. Two children were born to the Thompsons while in Oldwick, Helen in 1935 and William in 1937.
JOHN HENRY MUNNICH (1938 – )
Pastor Munnich, who assumed his duties on November 1st, 1938, was born in New York City in 1892. He received his divinity degree from Hartwick Seminary in 1922 and his arts degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1927. Graduate study was pursued for one year each at Hama Divinity School, and the University of Chicago. His previous pastorates were at Airmont, N. Y., Delaware, Ohio, and Chicago, Ill. During the decade prior to his coming to Zion he was engaged in the public service in Mount Vernon, N. Y. and in missionary work in the Metropolitan area.
Mrs. Munnich is an Ohioan and a graduate of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.
The present pastor has engaged in a vigorous parish and community program since his arrival less than a year ago. He has organized the Oldwick Boys’ Club with a membership of eighteen, and the Oldwick Young People’s Club whose attendances are up to eighty. An Acousticon has been installed in the church at a cost of $150.
The Brotherhood of Central New Jersey met here on August 14th and the New Jersey Conference met in the church in its Fall Convention, September 19th 1939. In the first week of October 1939 the 225th Anniversary of the founding of the congregation was celebrated with appropriate ceremonies, including a Home-Coming.
A one-page news bulletin called “The Parish Broadcast” has been issued monthly excepting during the summer season.
ZION’S SYNOD CONNECTIONS
|1714-1735||The Church of Sweden|
|1748-1792||Ministerium of Pennsylvania|
|1792-1861||Ministerium of New York (founded in 1786)|
|1861-1867||Synod of New Jersey|
|1867-1908||Synod of New York and New Jersey|
|1908-1929||Synod of New York|
|1929||United Lutheran Synod of New York: New Jersey Conference|
Zion Church has been in the forefront of many of the progressive movements in the larger church. As the Lutheran Church in America went through its successive periods of growth, there were naturally shifts in its synodical bounds, to make the church more efficient. Zion became a charter member of four different synods, and entered two others shortly after their organization.
The first convention of the Berkenmeyer Synod was held in Zion, and the first convention of the New Jersey Synod was held in the Spruce Run Church, which had been united with Zion until a short time before.
At one convention of the New York Ministerium, Zion was host, her pastor was secretary, and a former pastor was president.
The 1891 convention of the New York and New Jersey Conference was held here; and on September 19, 1939, Zion again entertained the Fall convention of the New Jersey Conference.
LISTS OF MEMBERS
220 Years Ago
See Page 2, Paragraph 7.
190 Years Ago
See Page 7, ¶ 2; Page 8, ¶ 9; and Page 9, ¶ 1.
125 Years Ago
Salary Payers between 1814 and 1822
|Matthew Adams||d. 1838||Peter Melick, Jr.||d. 1873|
|Jacob Auble:||Tunis Melick||d. 1862|
|Andrew Bartles||d. 1814||Henry Miller, Jr.||d. 1837|
|Cornelius Brown||d. 1834||George Moore||d. 1834|
|Jacob Brunner||John Moore||d. 1875|
|Peter Case||Jacob Neff, Sr.|
|Silvanus D. Davis||d. 1830||Dr. Oliver Wayne Ogden||d. 1839|
|Wm. Farley (son of Isaac)||Frederick Pickle||d. 1820|
|David Felmly (d. 1829) & Sons||Adam Reger||d. 1830|
|John Felmly||d. 1825||Philip Row & Sons|
|Moses Felmly||d. 1819||Jacob Row|
|Joseph Fisher||John Row|
|Frederick Hannel||d. 1839||Cornelius Rulofson||d. 1827|
|Conrad Hardy||Philip Seals|
|Harmon Henry||d. 1869||Adam Shangle||d. 1831|
|John Henry||d. 1848||Frederick Shangle||d. 1832|
|Philip Hiler||d. 1815||John Shangle||d. 1848|
|Philip Hiler, Jr. (son of Philip)||d. 1871||Leonard Shangle||d. 1833|
|Jacob K. Hiler (son of Philip)||d. 1849||Conrad Swackhamer||d. 1831|
|James Honeyman||d. 1824||Samuel Swackhamer||d. 1850|
|Jacob Kline, Esq.||d. 1823||Peter Teets||d. 1854|
|Jacob Kline, Jr.||d. 1844||Jacob Tiger|
|Peter Kline||d. 1860||John VanFleet|
|William Lambert||d. 1854||Henry VanSyckle|
|James Melick||d. 1868||Jonathan Waterhouse||d. 1815|
|John Melick||d. 1857||Betsey Williams||d. 1831|
|Nicholas E. Melick||d. 1872||Sally Williams||d. 1847|
|Peter Melick||d. 1818||Ezekiel Wooley||d. 1834|