History of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
Introduction to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Chester Springs
On a hill in West Pikeland Township, in northern Chester County, Pennsylvania, stand two
churches. Many visitors ask why there are two edifices on this one high point. They are even
more puzzled when told that once three churches stood on this same hill.
The story of these churches provides a study in small scale
of the history of American Lutheranism for two centuries. The
growth, the divisions, and the reunions of the church have
all been lived and known in this place. These divisions and
reunions are portrayed on St. Peter’s family tree. At first there
was one congregation, founded by German Lutherans who
built on land purchased in 1771. Their church was of logs and
was located between the two present buildings. In 1811, the
Lutherans joined with their German Reformed neighbors to
erect a stone building, which was used until destroyed by fire
in 1835. This was replaced by the building used today by St.
Peter’s United Church of Christ and located on the lower part
of the hill. From 1836 until 1889, the Lutheran and Reformed
congregations shared this building, known as Lower Pikeland.
In 1841, the Lutheran congregation divided, and a second
Lutheran congregation was formed, which built the structure now used by the Lutherans and
located on the top of the hill (Upper Pikeland). In 1889, the original Lutheran congregation
separated from the Reformed congregation to build a church across the road, between the two
Therefore, at the turn of the 20th century, three church buildings stood on this hill. Because of
their relative position, they are remembered, respectively, as: Upper Pikeland, built in 1843,
the present Lutheran Church; Middle Pikeland, built in 1889 and destroyed by fire in 1918; and
Lower Pikeland, built in 1836. As a result of the fire in 1918, the two Lutheran congregations
merged, so that today there are two churches on Pikeland Hill. During these years, through the
efforts of her pastors and the transfer of some of her members, St. Peter’s became the mother
of five other Lutheran congregations. These are shown as branches of the tree. To understand
this story we must go back to the early eighteenth century when the first German settlers
carved farms out of the forest which once covered these hills.
Background of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
Today, St. Peter’s is located on the urban fringe
of Philadelphia. But, just over two centuries ago,
when the first Lutherans came here seeking
religious freedom and a peaceful place to raise their
families, “back home” was Germany, a trip to the
thriving city of Philadelphia required a hard day’s
ride on horseback. Because of poor travel and
communication, each settlement was independent
of the others, and groups of Lutherans worshipping
together were pretty much on their own. They had
no regular pastors, but were dependent on the
ministrations of itinerant preachers, who often were
looking for their own profit rather than to serve God.
The period of isolation and lack of proper pastoral
care came to an end when Henry Melchior
Mehlenberg arrived in Philadelphia in 1742. He
was sent by the church in Halle, Germany, to be
a missionary and to provide pastoral care to three
congregations... one in Philadelphia, one at Trappe, and one at New Hanover. He organized
the first Lutheran synod in North America as a Ministerium of pastors in 1748, and visited
congregations from Georgia to Upper New York. As a missionary, he wrote and transmitted
careful reports of his activities to the church in Germany. In these reports we find the earliest
history of our congregation.
In May of 1744, Muhlenberg records that he baptized seven children of Lutheran families
in this area... families active in St. Peter’s more than a century and a quarter later: Heilman
(Hallman), Moses, Dury (Deery), Stein, and Fedderling. Tradition says he preached in homes
here in 1751, and he mentioned the home of Michael Koenig, or King, as his headquarters.
Buildings of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Chester Springs
Over the past two centuries five buildings have been used for worship by Lutherans on this hill.
The first building was the log structure dedicated by Muhlenberg. In 1811, the deterioration of
this edifice prompted the congregation to cooperate with the German Reformed neighbors in
the construction of a new building. The following account of the cornerstone laying, dedication,
and subsequent installation of an organ, is translated from records in the original German, now
preserved in the library of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
“It is hereby set forth that those who follow may
know of the great love God has shown us and
how he has blessed us; that we, in our great
joy, on August 13, 1811, laid the cornerstone of
a new Church in Pikeland Township, Chester
County. On that day (the organizations of
the Evangelical Lutheran and the Reformed
congregations) laid it with song, prayer, and
discourse in the pastorate of the Rev. Frederick
W. Jasinsky, minister at that time.
The House of God, in the following year, with
God’s help and blessing, was completed, and
on October 4, 1812, under the name of St. Peter’s Church, in a fit and proper manner was
dedicated and consecrated to God. It cost $2,836.45-1/2.
The outstanding accomplishment of the Councils of the Lutheran and Reformed Church of St.
Peter’s, in Pikeland Township, Chester County, was the determination to beautify the Church
service by means of an organ. One was secured for $800 and on November 7, 1819, it was
consecrated to the Worship of God.”
According to tradition, these first two buildings were located in the
middle of the cemetery which now lies between the two churches.
On January 20, 1835, the second building was consumed by
an incendiary fire. The following news account of the fire is
preserved for us:
“The building for public worship in Pikeland Township, Chester
County, denominated St. Peter’s Church, was set fire to, as is
supposed, by some incendiary, on the night of the twentieth
inst., and entirely consumed. Circumstances indicate that the fire
was communicated from the cellar; there had been no fire in the
building for several days. The fire was far advanced before it was
discovered, and the whole building cost 4 or 5,000 dollars was consumed; the silver cups, and
other Church furniture and an organ estimated at 7 or 800 dollars, were entirely destroyed. The
Trustees of the Society offer a reward of $200. for the detection of the villain, and the adjoining
congregation of St. Zion have added $50. more.”
Reconstruction began immediately, and April 15, 1836, the new church was dedicated. This
building of 1835-36 is still standing and is used by St. Peter’s United Church of Christ.
The story of the remaining two buildings will await other developments in congregational life
which will explain why there were three buildings on this hill at the same time.
Founding of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Chester Springs
The first church organization in this vicinity was at Zion’s Church, in Pikeland Township, near
the present Spring City. The Lutherans had a loose church organization in 1743. Then, in
1757, they joined with the German Reformed, secured a piece of land, and built a church.
From Zion’s, the pastor reached out into the “regions beyond”, especially across French Creek
and into this vicinity into the homes of our first members.
“Before long, additional pastors came from Halle, ... including a man who occupies a large
and honorable place in our church in this region... the Rev. J. Ludwig Voigt. He became pastor
at Trappe, Swamp (New Hanover), and Zion’s in 1764. The congregations, especially Zion’s,
grew rapidly, and the old log church was soon too small to hold the people. Though all desired
a new church, there was hopeless division of opinion or desire as to its location. Those living
on the south side of French Creek desired the church to be built nearer them, but the majority
favored the old site.” In 1770, the dispute was taken to the synod which had been founded by
Muhlenberg in 1748. Since there were insufficient pastors to supply the congregations already
in this area, the synod adopted the following recommendations, as recorded in the official
minutes of the Ministerium:
1. “The congregation should, if the building of a church were necessary, build on the old
2. “Those living beyond the France (French) Creek (i.e., St. Peter’s), who wished to
undertake another building, should wait with it, and rather out of Christian love contribute
to this church.”
3. “If after the completion of this church, those across the France Creek also wished to
begin a building for themselves, the Ministerium would promise to assist them on this
side with a preacher of their own as soon as possible.”
4. “And then those living on this side of the France Creek (i.e., Zion’s) should practice the
same Christian love and contribute to the building of the new church. This answer was
given to the delegates in writing.”
The delegates from this side of the French Creek did not follow the recommendation of the
synod. They purchased land on which to build a church... St. Peter’s. “The first authentic
record is that Michael King and Henry Hipple, on May 16, 1771, conveyed to Peter Hartman,
George Emerie, Conrad Miller, and Adam Moses, as trustees, the former one acre and eight
perches for twenty shillings, and the latter forty-five perches for five shillings. On this ground
the Lutheran congregation erected... a log church.”
The next year it is recorded in the synod minutes: “Seeing, therefore, that they, so to say, have
swarmed away from the first Peikstown beehive, and have attached themselves to the new
hive across the Franzkrick, the question arises whether they can be cared for in the new hive,
or shall be left to roving birds of prey.”
Pastor Voigt was chosen to minister to St. Peter’s, along with his numerous other charges. He
and Pastor Muhlenberg dedicated the first building on November 8, 1772. Muhlenberg wrote
a lengthy account of his journey to Pikeland for the dedication, which is preserved for us in his
The Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg
“When the deacons of Peikstown begged me to come there and conduct the service of
dedication, I replied that it should by rights be done by my beloved fellow minister, Pastor
Voigt, because he had hitherto been serving the congregation from New Hannover every
fourth Sunday. The men, however, continued to importune so long that I finally promised to
be present. if possible. Pastor Voigt had set it for the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity and the
men had said that it would please them very much if I could also be present. So, the good
folk went to a great deal of trouble to make the thirty-mile trip down to the city on November 6
with horses and to rent a coach and fetch me there. I invited the Swedish Provost Goransson,
rector of Wicaco, to accompany me and preach the English sermon.”
(Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, The Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Translated by
Theodore G. Tappert and John W. Doberstein (Philadelphia, the Muhlenberg Press, 1945), Vol.
11, pp. 521-26. Used with the kind permission of Fortress Press.)
NOVEMBER 7, Saturday. We started out early in the morning, crossed the Schulkiel River
safely, and by noon had covered fourteen English miles. There we met two elders of the
congregation who had come to meet us with a change of horses. About two o’clock we
continued our journey with sixteen English miles to go, of which seven miles are terrible stony
roads which run over hill and dale. We arrived at the little new church about five o’clock in the
evening and found at least thirty younger and older members busy cleaning and arranging
things in the church. We viewed the new building. It is constructed of wood and well lighted
and so arranged on the inside that about five hundred persons may be seated where all can
see the preacher at the altar and in the pulpit and thus hear and understand the better. The
little church is situated on high ground in a mountainous region about eighteen miles from New
Hannover, twelve miles from Providence (Trappe), thirty miles from Philadelphia, a little over
twenty miles from Barren Hill, and five or six miles from the first church building in Peikstown
which Pastor Voigt has hitherto been serving every fourth Sunday from New Hannover, which
is twelve miles distant. We were taken to the home of the chief deacon, the leader in the
building of the church, for our night’s lodging and we were warmly welcomed and cared for by
the members who lived near by, but we waited in vain for the coming of Pastor Voigt.
NOVEMBER 8, Sunday. The gracious and supreme Benefactor vouchsafed us unusually
pleasant weather for this time of the year. He let His sun rise and shine beneficently upon
the good and the evil. At nine o’clock, we betook ourselves to the church where we found a
great many people already assembled, but Pastor Voigt was not there, which gave me some
concern because I had been depending upon him to conduct the service of dedication and
preach the sermon on such a solemn occasion. He finally arrived about ten o’clock. In the
meantime, a great crowd of people had gathered from far and near; even four good members
from Philadelphia were present. Pastor Voigt opened by reading Psalm 100, and then “Allein
Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr,” etc., was sung. Pastor Voigt then dedicated the building to the Triune
God for the use of the Evangelical congregation founded on the apostles and the prophets, of
which Jesus Christ is the cornerstone, and according to our unaltered Augsburg Confession,
symbolical books and doctrines, and I joined in with prayer, so far as the grace of God
allowed me in my weakness. After this the hymn, “Sei Lob und Ehr dem hochsten Gut,” etc.
was sung. Pastor Voigt, however, pressed the sermon upon me and, though I immediately
excused myself, because I was not really prepared for such a solemn occasion, I had to give in
nevertheless. I selected the familiar text, Genesis 28:20-22, “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying,
If God will be with me,” etc., and made suitable comments and application. The hearers inside
and outside the church were very still and attentive despite the great crowding, and even shed
tears, though nothing may be concluded for certain from these tears. After the sermon we
sang further stanzas of the hymn, “Sei Lob und Ehr dem hochsten Gut,” etc., and asked the
members of the congregation to give their gifts and mites for a charitable collection which was
to be received at the doors. This does not amount to any great sum in the country regions. It
would be much greater if it consisted of turnips and potatoes with which the Lord blesses the
land when accompanied by toil, labor, diligence, and prayer. It was also announced that the
Swedish pastor would preach an English sermon in the afternoon.
In the intervening time, I took opportunity to speak privately with Pastor Voigt about the
circumstances of the congregation, for he had to hasten back home. It is not enough to
build and dedicate churches, but one must also be concerned chiefly with the means of
achieving the most necessary result in souls. I asked him whether he intended, according to
the recommendation of the Reverend Ministerium, to serve both little churches in Peikstown
every fourth Sunday, seeing that they were now six miles apart. He replied that it seemed
impossible to him, because the first church in Peikstown was situated twelve English miles
from his residence in New Hannover and the new church was six miles farther away, making
a distance of eighteen miles. Hence, when the days are short, it would be impossible to
hold services in Peikstown at one church in the morning and at the other in the afternoon
of the same day. He said that it always took him three days to do this work... Saturday to
ride eighteen miles besides crossing the dangerous Schulkiel River to get there, Sunday to
preach twice, and Monday to ride back home again; and when he was away from Hannover
for three days all sorts of necessary ministerial duties turned up, and, if he was not at hand,
the result was confusion, grumbling, and discontent. The congregation in Providence, he said,
was dissatisfied up to now and was decreasing and scattering because they had service only
every fourth Sunday, and there was also another little village or hamlet, called Pottsgrove or
Pottstown, five miles to the left above New Hannover, where a little group of Lutherans had for
a long time been requested that they might be united with the congregation in New Hannover
and be served from there every other Sunday, as was shown by the petition which had been
delivered to me today by delegates, as well as by other previous petitions.
(Here follows a discussion of the alternate ways these congregations might be served
We had to break off our discussion without coming to any decision and hasten into the
church for the afternoon service, for the days are very short. As the English people had now
assembled and the Germans also desired to hear the English sermon, the crowd was even
larger than in the morning. We first sang an edifying German hymn and then Pastor Goransson
preached in English. There were several children to be baptized, but they were unable to get
to the altar, so they had to wait until the congregation was dismissed. Afterward the English
neighbors sent a request that I speak a word of admonition in English for them on the morrow,
in the forenoon, even if it was only for a half-hour, because we were old acquaintances and it
might perhaps be the last time that we would be able to see, hear, and edify one another in this
pilgrimage. The Germans likewise begged for a sermon at the same time, so I could not refuse
In the evening Pastor Voigt took affectionate leave of us in order to get six miles nearer to
his home. After we had eaten supper, about thirty young and old friends unexpectedly came
to our quarters, desiring edifying spiritual conversation, which was a matter of great wonder
and delight, especially to the Swedish provost. We sang a hymn and then, after the prayer,
each one was required to tell what had been noteworthy, intelligible, and awakening to him in
the Word of God preached today. Here one saw childlike simplicity and dove-like innocence.
How carefully the hungry souls had picked up the fallen crumbs! After this I asked each
one individually to try to recollect and tell how and where he or she had received the first
impressions, affections, and awakenings from God’s Word in his or her heart and conscience.
How wonderful are the leadings of the Saviour of the world and His Spirit’s working upon every
soul! I found in several, who had received instruction and confirmation sixteen, seventeen,
or eighteen years before, a few grains of the imperishable seed of God’s living Word which
had taken root among them and brought forth fruit, which reminded me that His Word shall
never return void. The time passed so quickly with this weighty and pleasant discussion that
we marveled and were constrained to say, “It is a blessed day wherein one thinks of Him;
otherwise, alas, much time in our life is wasted,” etc.
NOVEMBER 9, Monday. The most gracious God again vouchsafed us pleasant weather and
a day of salvation for the sake of our Redeemer and Advocate. About nine o’clock we went
to the church, where a small group of Germans and English had assembled. We sang “Auf
Christen Mensch, auf, auf zum Streit,” etc. I first preached in German on the beginning of
yesterday’s Epistle, Ephesians 6, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power
of his might,” etc., and then said farewell for this time. Immediately afterwards I delivered an
English sermon on Luke 24:29, “But they constrained him saying, Abide with us: for it is toward
evening, and the day is far spent.” After this we sang Psalm 1 in English.
A God-fearing housewife who loved Jesus dearly and had an industrious husband and nine
living children, and was nearing the time of her delivery of the tenth, had imitated Martha,
despite her difficult circumstances, and prepared a friendly repast for us. When we went to her
house after the service, many friends went along with us, but she was not at all embarrassed
by the number, but rather was more happy. Despite her heavy burden, it was impossible
to persuade her to sit down. She served the dinner and looked upon the day as a day of
salvation, wherein salvation had come to her house. She refreshed about forty-five persons
with the material blessings which the Lord had vouchsafed her amid hard toil, labor, and prayer
on her farm, and she also edified the guests with heart-strengthening expressions from the
Word, which is spirit and life. I can say quite truthfully that I have not in a long time enjoyed
a meal wherein I tasted and saw more vividly how good the Lord is. She wished, among
other things, to have her prayer answered and see the day when an upright, faithful pastor
would come to dwell in this neighborhood... a pastor who would take an interest especially in
the numerous children and nurture them as lambs, out of constraining love for the Lord who
purchased them with his blood. Though money was scarce, she would be all the more ready
to come to the aid of a faithful servant of Christ with generous gifts of white and yellow turnips,
lettuce, peas, beans, cabbage, dried apples, chickens, home-baked bread, butter, cheese, and
After prayer and a hymn of praise our coach was again hitched up and we had to visit several
leading families on their farms before evening if we were not to be the cause of sadness and
weeping. We took our Martha with us in the coach, and all who could walk followed; the adults
mounted on horseback and did not remain behind. First we viewed the mineral spring, called
the yellow spring, which is tinctured by ironstone, etc., and is visited and used by many people
every year. From there we were able to visit only two more places, where we were welcomed
with joy and spent the time not unprofitably.
In the evening we arrived safely at our lodging where, again, there gathered unexpectedly a
group of about forty people who desired one more farewell devotional session. Among them
was the above-mentioned pregnant mother who was approaching the time of her delivery.
She had walked a mile and a half to get there. I pitied her and feared that it might hurt her,
ut she said that when her soul was refreshed she felt no bodily discomfort and that she did
not want to miss this good opportunity even though it might be ever so toilsome for the flesh.
What is done for love’s sake is not hard. First we sang several powerful stanzas from the
Freylinghausen hymnbook and then took several pointed passages, applied the divine truths
to our hearts, and discussed them together in child likeness and simplicity until ten o’clock,
when we closed with a hymn and prayer and said farewell. The elders and deacons stayed for
a while to ask my advice as to how and in what way this and other small congregations might
be assisted in securing a pastor. I was unable to give them any adequate advice, but promised
that as soon as I got back home I would take the first opportunity to report the circumstances
to The Reverend Directors and Fathers in London and Halle and then await God’s gracious
guidance through their good offices. My traveling companion, Pastor Goransson, who had
been present at all the discussions and devotional sessions and who understands most of
what was said in German, seemed to be greatly pleased with the stirring of souls.
NOVEMBER 10, Tuesday. We arose early and prepared for the journey inasmuch as the days
are very short and the distance of thirty English miles requires steady going. The good people
said a fond farewell and urgently begged us to send someone from Philadelphia to pay them
a visit at least once more this year. I promised, God willing, to send my son Heinrich on the
Sunday five weeks hence, though on condition that they should not think that he might become
their minister, because I myself needed him and he was absolutely indispensable in giving me
help and support. Several persons accompanied us a few miles and took leave of us at the
church. Two elders rode with us for sixteen English miles to a point over half the way, but one
deacon, under God’s gracious protection, took us safely all the way back to Philadelphia with
his horses. There we found Pastor Kunze busy and watchful at his extensive and laborious
post, and the rest of our family was well, God be praised. When I learned that Captain Sutton
had not yet set sail with his ship, I wrote this postscript in haste and am sending it on.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Chester Springs from 1771-1839
At the time of the building of the log church, there was no provision for regular pastoral care.
Since the break with Zion’s was not made with the encouragement of the sister congregation,
her members were unwilling to share with the new congregation the limited time that Pastor
Voigt could spend in Pikeland. By 1776 another pastor was sent over from Halle and Voigt
resigned from all his charges except Pottstown, Zion’s, and St. Peter’s, which he served until
his death in 1800. In 1776, Zion’s and St. Peter’s purchased fifty acres near Zion’s and built a
parsonage. There Pastor Voigt lived until his death. In his late years Rev. J. F. Weinland was
his assistant here.
During Pastor Voigt’s time of service, St. Peter’s played its part in American history. At the
time of St. Peter’s founding, the American colonies were rapidly moving toward a break from
Great Britain. The ensuing Revolution came home to St. Peter’s after the Battle of Brandywine.
According to later accounts, both Zion’s and St. Peter’s were used as hospitals for the sick of
the army on its way to Valley Forge and during its encampment there in the spring of 1778.
Pastor Voigt continued to think of himself as a subject of Great Britain during the Revolution,
and refused to stop praying for the king. On this account he was subjected to persecution.
Following the death of the venerable pastor, there was a period of some confusion. Rev. H. A.
Geissenheiner was elected in St. Peter’s but rejected in Zion’s where Rev. F. Plitt was pastor,
who later also preached here. Rev. Ravenauch also ministered here for a few years “but he
did not live in the parsonage and was discharged on account of his lady.” During these early
years there was no regular pattern by which congregations banded together for the support
of a pastor. For example, about 1805, “the Rev. Henry Anastasius Geissenheiner served St.
Peter’s, Nice’s congregation, East Nantmeal, and the church in Amity.”
A better day dawned when Rev. F. W. Jasinsky became pastor in 1808. He met with marked
success and was beloved by the people. A fine new stone parsonage and barn were built.
During his ministry the new church of 1811 was built. He died in 1815 and at his request
was buried in our cemetery. “The next pastor was Rev. F. W. Geissenheiner, D. D. About
the same time his father, of the same name, was chosen pastor of the adjoining charge in
Montgomery County. Then the father and son united their two fields and served them together.”
“It was during the ministry of these two men that English preaching was permitted on Sunday
afternoon in both churches.” Rev. Jacob Wampole, Sr., began his aggressive ministry in
1827. He built a new church in Montgomery County and organized St. Matthew’s Church in
Chester County, near Chester Springs, in 1833. During his pastorate the fire and subsequent
rebuilding of St. Peter’s occurred. According to a different tradition from that mentioned earlier,
Pastor Wampole introduced English in the services of St. Peter’s. “Then English became from
necessity more and more frequent, until 1844, when the German was entirely discontinued.
Let us conclude this section with a few facts and figures. The Pennsylvania legislature
granted a charter to St. Peter’s in 1789. According to Rev. J. R. Dimm the lowest number
of communicants recorded in the time of Rev. Jasinsky, was sixteen. The highest number,
recorded in Rev. Ruthrauff’s time, was one hundred eighty-three.
Three Lutheran Churches on Pikeland Road
We now come to that part of our story which relates how there came to be three churches on
Pikeland Hill. The divisions represented by Upper, Middle, and Lower Pikeland were not unique
to this place but were part of a nation-wide experience. By the 1830’s there had developed
an “American Christianity,” characterized by the revival meeting and loss of denominational
loyalty which developed on the frontier. Although far from the frontier, many Lutherans desired
to make their churches more “American” by adopting the ways of their neighbors. The older,
eastern Lutherans responded to the changes on the frontier by insisting upon their loyalty to
the worship forms developed in Germany and to the German language.
When the Rev. Frederick Ruthrauff was called as pastor of Zion’s and St. Peter’s, he brought
with him these “new measures” which were favored by English Lutherans. The conservative
German congregation of Zion’s did not approve of “new measures,” and asked their new pastor
to leave, which he did about May of 1840. He moved to the vicinity of Lionville where he had
founded St. Paul’s Lutheran congregation a short time before.
Pastor Ruthrauff remained at St. Peter’s until 1841 when the matter came to a head. A vote
was taken and the majority favored the “new measures” introduced by the pastor. Thirteen of
the most resolute and influential defenders of the old faith and usages of the Lutheran Church
considered themselves no longer welcome in their former congregation. What happened next
is recorded in their own words.
“At a meeting held in Pikeland in the Schoolhouse commonly known as W. Emery’s in the
month of December A.D. 1841 to take into consideration the propriety of organizing an
Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, it was RESOLVED: by the members of the Ev. Lutheran
Church, then and there present, to organize themselves into an Evangelical Lutheran
Congregation, on the Basis of the Augsburg Confession of faith, to enjoy religious worship
and the ministration of the Holy Sacraments according to the time honored usages of the Ev.
Lutheran Church, with the name of “The German Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of St.
Peter’s Church in Pikeland Township, Chester County.:”
An election was held at the same time and place with the following members elected as
officers of the church:
As Trustees: George Deery, Sr., John Moses, Sr., and John Clevenstine.
As Elders: Benjamin Emery, Jacob King, George Orner, George Williams, Jacob Emery, and
As Deacons: Christian Friday, Charles Emery and John Moses, Jr.
At a subsequent meeting of the Vestry and congregation for the election of a minister, the Rev.
C. F. Welden was elected and called to be the Pastor in conjunction with the Ev. Lutheran
Congregation of Zion’s Church.
The Call was accepted by the Pastor-elect who entered upon his ministerial duties April the
First A.D. 1842.
The Vestry and congregation feeling the necessity of having a Church as soon as possible,
resolved in the Spring of 1843, to erect a church as soon as possible, and appointed... a
Committee... who at a subsequent meeting reported that they were offered gratuitously by
Peter King, Esq., a lot of ground (site of present building) for the use of the Congregation. This
offer was gratefully accepted by the Congregation and a Building Committee was appointed...
On the Eighteenth Day of May in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and
Forty Three, the Cornerstone was laid with the usual solemnity by the Pastor aided by the
Rev. I. Miller, D.D., of Reading, Rev. H. S. Miller of the Trappe and Rev. J. Knipe, Pastor of the
The Services on the occasion were in the German and English languages.”
In the same year as the division on Pikeland Hill there occurred a separation in synodical ranks
between the advocates of the “new measures” and the defenders of the German traditions. “In
1842 ten pastors... left the Ministerium and formed the East Pennsylvania Synod. This covered
the same territory as the Ministerium and for many years there was much friction between the
two.” The first regular convention of this body was held at St. Peter’s October 15-18, 1843. Fr.
Ruthrauff was elected the first president.
The division of the Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania into two synods was firmly drawn on
national lines in 1867 when the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and other conservative synods
withdrew from the nationwide General Synod (which had begun in 1820) and formed the
General Council. Thus, in terms of national division, the Americanized Middle Pikeland is the
General Synod Church, and the conservative Upper Pikeland, the General Council Church.
Opinions of the ministry of Frederick Ruthrauff vary... to his opponents he was a scoundrel; to
his followers, a hero. The following verse was found between the pages of a record book of the
“Good Brother Ruthrauff’s body moulders in the grave, but his spirit speaks to us of (the
present) generation in these words of Sorrow, Faith, and Hope. His good works in the battle
of life have been told us by our Fathers, and may the Holy Spirit that led him guide us that we
may acquit ourselves like men. Aug. 1888.”
In 1843, the two buildings presently standing on Pikeland Hill were being used, and, except
for extensive remodeling, would present the viewer with the situation he would see today. But
how came it that once there stood still a third church on this hill? Our story must skip ahead
to 1889 to recount the building of “Middle Pikeland” Lutheran Church. In this year the union of
the Reformed and Lutheran congregations was dissolved, the Reformed congregation retained
the building erected in 1835, and the Lutherans built a new church across the road. This
division was a common one; many Union Churches were dissolved as soon as the respective
congregations felt they could afford their own buildings. For example, St. Paul’s, Lionville, built
a separate Lutheran church in 1852, and St. Matthew’s, Chester Springs, erected a new edifice
for the use of the Lutherans in 1878.
The Lutheran pastor at the time wrote the following account of the separation: “In 1889,
the Lutherans, feeling the need of a church of their own, under the ministry of Rev. J. A.
Hackenberg, moved for a separation. This was accomplished by a public sale of the old
building; the German Reformed becoming the purchasers. The Lutherans at once set to
work to build a church, and having secured a lot on the opposite side of the road, laid the
corner-stone of the present beautiful church August 27, 1889. The pastor was assisted on
this occasion by Rev. M. S. Cressman, of Lionville. The church was dedicated free of debt on
May 7, 1890; the dedication sermon being preached by Rev. J. H. Menges of Philadelphia.”
Contemporary newspaper accounts described the new building: 40 x 50 feet, with an annex 20
x 30 for the Sunday School, usable as one or two rooms. There was a tower, 11 feet square at
the base, and 65 feet high. The building, of pointed stone work, cost about $8500.
This building was used until 1918, when it was destroyed by fire.
The Upper Church at St. Peter’s Chester Springs
From 1842 until 1918, the two Lutheran congregations went their separate ways, and so we
must write two histories.
Records of the Upper, or German, St. Peter’s, are complete from the founding of the
congregation until the present day. From these we get a picture of congregational life in the
mid-nineteenth century. The congregation met annually on Whitmonday or thereabouts to elect
officers. One trustee, two elders, and one deacon were elected to a term of three years. The
treasurer gave an accounting of the finances of the congregation. Frequently it was that the
balance in the treasury was insufficient to pay the outstanding bills. In that case the council
members were instructed to canvass the members to raise the required cash.
There was a succession of pastors during these years. On December 7, 1850, the Rev. C.
Miller was unanimously elected pastor to preach once every two weeks for the yearly salary of
$150. On February 5, 1855, the Rev. William Weaver commenced his time of preaching in St.
Peter’s Church. The pastor’s support in those days was not only provided by cash and the use
of the parsonage. On May 17, 1869, the congregation resolved “to furnish Mr. Miller with hay
and corn, raise money for same by subscription.” In May of 1872 the congregation resolved to
adopt the envelope system of collecting salary for the minister and the current expenses.
Throughout the early years the congregation shared a pastor with neighboring churches. The
report of one of these pastors to synod, dated May 22, 1867, records:
“I continue preaching to the Germans in Phoenixville every 2 weeks in the afternoon, in the
Mennonite Meeting House, things are encouraging. . . Besides attending to my 2 country
congregations, I have commenced preaching in the English language in Springville (now
Spring City), a thriving village in the bounds of my congregation which I consider important.”
This pastor was serving St. Peter’s and Zion’s, as well as providing care for the yet to-be
organized congregations of St. John’s, Phoenixville, and the Spring City Lutheran Church.
For a short time St. Peter’s was a self-supporting congregation. On January 30, 1875, the
congregation separated from Phoenixville and called Mr. Benaiah Snyder, a senior student at
the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia at an annual salary of $600. This was to be
subscribed in monthly installments. Pastor Snyder resigned October 1, 1881, on account of
failing health. For a time following this, the pastor at Phoenixville served as supply.
For the most part, the minute book records transactions of the local business of the
congregation. However, in March 1853, it was recorded that $6.00 was paid toward missionary
purposes. From a copy of the by-laws from these early years we learn that the twelve officers
of the church council together with the minister shall be known as the Church Council, Vestry,
or Board. Membership requirements were communing and worshipping regularly, and the
payment to the church of at least $2.00 annually. One aspect of church life no longer with us is
that males 18 and over were granted a vote. “Females may petition and offer opinions.”
During these years a series
of improvements to the
property was climaxed with
a complete rebuilding of
the church in 1882. In the
summer of 1845 churchyards
and shed walls were built.
They contained 189 perches
at 38 ½ cents per perch
amounting to the sum of
$72.76 ½. In May 1866 the
congregation agreed to repair
the church “by plastering the
outside and repairing the
inside by lowering the Pulpit
and repairing the floor and
repair the wall outside.”
A major building program
was undertaken at a
congregational meeting December 28, 1881. The building was to be lengthened by twelve
feet; a new roof, gothic windows, new pews, repainting, and other necessary repairs were
authorized. This work was to leave the building with the appearance, which it bears to this
day. Short but lively accounts of the building progress were reported in the West Chester Daily
Local. “June 23, 1882. Wagons of serpentine from Brinton quarries in Birmingham Township;
passed through West Chester.” “December 9, 1882. New pews passed over the Pickering
Valley R.R. a day or two ago.” The enlarged and renovated building was rededicated with
appropriate observances on January 4, 1883.
With a new building the congregation soon called a pastor--- the Rev. John P. Deck of Toronto,
Canada, whose time of service began June 1, 1883, at a salary of $550. We learn that facilities
for heating the church were not always adequate in those days; on February 21, 1884, it is
recorded that the congregation “met in the sheds, it being too cold and damp in the church.”
Pastor Deck resigned in November, 1884, to be followed by Mr. Klingensmith, to whom a call
was issued January 10, 1885, at a salary of $600 (or $500 and the parsonage).
Finances continued to occupy most of the attention at council meetings for the following
years. In July 1886, the council voted to meet quarterly to keep the financial affairs of the
congregation in good condition. Meetings were held during the following year periodically
(but not quarterly) at which the council figured out how to pay the bills. Meetings were held
in the homes of members. Although this was done because of the lack of heated facilities at
the church, it surely contributed to the good fellowship of the men during the evening. One
interesting financial resolution of 1890 is that “collecting synodical money be left in charge of
The time of the vestry was not wholly given over to finances. In October 1890, it is recorded
that the use of violins and horns in the choir was permitted. Some socializing was discussed
in 1893 when there was talk about holding a festival in Fegley’s grove. This is reported in a
publication of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church---Our Banner--- August 5, 1893. “Matthew’s
Choral Reunion took place in Fegley’s grove. Among the musical organizations present was
Upper Pikeland Lutheran Choir. The day was very sultry, the dust in many places shoe deep.”
On June 6, 1892, Mr. Klingensmith resigned, to be followed by the Rev. C. Mader, who stayed
only a short time. Then in March 1895, a call was extended to Mr. Edward Henry Trafford, a
seminarian. Pastor Trafford served until 1903, when he was called as a missionary to India.
He returned to St. Peter’s in 1915, and remained until 1919 as the first pastor of the (re)united
Although 21 years in the future, merger of the two Pikeland Lutheran congregations appeared
on the agenda of the council March 24, 1897. As a result of overtures made by Middle
Pikeland, a joint committee met on April 7, but no conclusion as to merger was reached. In the
fall renovation of the church interior and the installation of a furnace was approved. Concern
for travelers was expressed by this resolution from 1902:
“Resolved: That steps be taken towards having a well bored and that contributions be solicited
from the members of the church, friends and public, believing that it will be a public good to all
traveling over the hills.”
Heating the church was quite a concern of the council early in this century. In September 1908,
it was decided to install steam heat in the church.
Pastor Trafford was followed by Pastor Wenner, who resigned effective July 1, 1908. Care of
supply pastors during the vacancy was to be provided by one of the ladies of Kimberton for
fifty cents a meal, and one of the members was to bring the preachers to church for a dollar a
Sunday. The vacancy was a short one--- soon the Rev. Bernard Repass was elected pastor in
August of 1908.
One action of 1916 which might be easily overlooked is a change proposed in the constitution.
On December 24, 1916, the constitution was amended by the removal of the word “male.” The
women had been granted suffrage in the affairs of the congregation.
Amicable relations with the Lower Church are reflected in the action of October 1918, in
which the Reformed Church transferred the rod of ground in front of the Upper Church to this
congregation in return for its putting a fence across the property line.
The Middle Church at St. Peter’s Chester Springs
We now pick up the history of the Lutheran congregation which, after the Lutherans divided in
1840, continued to worship in the building erected in 1835. Because this congregation built a
third edifice across the road and between the two structures now standing on Pikeland Hill, it is
remembered as Middle Pikeland, even though it worshipped for most of its history in the lower
building and was known as Lower Pikeland Lutheran Church. The construction of the middle
building (described earlier) and its subsequent loss to a fire are the most outstanding parts of
the history of this congregation, which was associated with the East Pennsylvania Synod and
the General Synod.
The records of the parish, with the exception of a parish register which includes records
made from time to time 1771-1880, are apparently lost. We do have newspaper clippings
and notations in this register, which give us a flavor of life in this nineteenth-century English
Lutheran Church. In the parish register we read:
“September the 27th, 1849.
P. Raby became Pastor of St. Peter’s Church.
Special Communion December 16th, 1849.
The day being unfavourable, the members were not very generally present. Some who
gave in their names on Saturday were not present on Sabbath. Hence we omit recording the
One notation which appears from time to time is the report that persons have been expelled
from the congregation for immorality. Their names were publicly read; they were not returned
to the communing fellowship until they had publicly acknowledged their guilt and repented.
On October 10, 1868 there was organized an auxiliary which served St. Peter’s for many
years. Originally called the “Mite Society,” the group is remembered in more recent years as
the “Willing Aid.” The group met regularly for fellowship and programs. Funds were raised for
the work of the local congregation and for the mission work of the church. The organization
was dissolved in July of 1961.
In the library of the Chester County Historical Society is found the following news clipping:
“January 27, 1872: Charlestown Items--- Protracted Meeting--- A protracted meeting is
being held at St. Peter’s Church, Pikeland, under the auspices of Rev. Mr. (N. H.) Cornell. The
meeting has been in progress during the past few weeks, and we learn that some converts
have been the result.”
Such lengthy revival meetings, which today we do not associate with the Lutheran Church,
were quite common in the “Americanized” Lutheran congregations of a century ago.
Through the efforts of her pastors and by the transfer of her members to the new
organizations, Middle Pikeland became the mother of two congregations around the time
of the Centennial observance of American independence. The Central Lutheran Church of
Phoenixville was organized by the Rev. S. S. Palmer on December 5, 1875. The congregation
took over the building and debts of the Mennonite congregation in Phoenixville, which was
about to abandon their work in the town. Pastor Palmer resigned from the Pikeland charge
and devoted his efforts to building up the new Central congregation. The Centennial Lutheran
Church of Kimberton was organized in 1876 by the Rev. J. F. Hartman. They purchased
a Quaker meetinghouse and fitted it up for a place of worship, dedicating it in 1877. This
congregation has, until very recent times, been connected with St. Peter’s to form the (West)
Pikeland charge. Communion records for 1876 indicate a number of members dismissed to the
new congregations in Kimberton or Phoenixville.
In the beginning of the year 1880 newspapers reported the calling of the Rev. J. R. Dimm to
the pastorate of the Pikeland and Kimberton congregations. Pastor Dimm, who had formerly
been a professor in an academy at Baltimore, was to direct the “Pickering Institute, an
institution for learning of both sexes at Kimberton.” Pastor Dimm, following his predecessors,
conducted revival meetings. He is known to us mainly through a history of the congregation
he wrote and published in 1881 and which has been used in compiling this and previous
histories. During his ministry the Philadelphia Conference of the Ev. Lutheran Synod of East
Pennsylvania met at St. Peter’s on Monday, May 29, 1882. The paper announced: “May 26,
1882. Take cars at Ninth and Green Streets at 4:30 for Chester Springs, carriage waiting for
train at 6:15 p.m.”
For nearly fifty years this congregation owned a parsonage at West Pikeland, about two miles
from the church. In 1884 it was sold and a new one built at Kimberton.
During the pastorate of the Rev. J. A. Hackenberg, Pastor Dimm’s successor, the new building
was constructed across the road, and the congregation moved from the lower to the middle
building. From this time Lower Pikeland Lutheran was known as Middle Pikeland. Following
the erection of the new church building, our records are limited to a list of the succession of
pastors until 1917. The pulpit was apparently vacant when, on March 29, 1918, the building
was consumed by fire. The members then entered into negotiations with their neighbors in the
Lutheran church up the hill to effect a merger.
One survivor of Middle Pikeland is a ladies auxiliary, which continued as an independent
organization. The Wimodasi Society (Wives, MOthers, DAughters, SIsters) was begun in 1911.
The United Congregations at St. Peter’s Chester Springs
The era of the United Lutheran Church on Pikeland Hill began, as did the previous epochs, as
part of a nation-wide movement. In conjunction with the celebration of the 400th anniversary
of the Reformation, three national Lutheran organizations--- the General Synod, the General
Council, and the United Synod of the South, joined in forming the United Lutheran Church of
America on November 18, 1918.
Less than two weeks later, the General Synod congregation and the General Council
congregation on Pikeland Hill united into one congregation. Faced with the loss of the building
of Middle Pikeland, and realizing that the differences which divided them in the past century
no longer applied to the twentieth century, the two congregations met as one, elected a new
council for the United congregation, and set in order the financial affairs. The Rev. Edward
H. Trafford, who had been pastor of Upper Pikeland, was elected pastor of the United
congregation on December 1, 1918.
Pastor Trafford resigned from the parish in July 1919, on account of health, and was
succeeded by the Rev. G. S. Seaman in November 1919.
Certain improvements to the property were undertaken during the first years of the United
congregation. In August 1919, the council authorized the tearing down of the walls of the
Middle church. This was done and the ground leveled and sown in grass. A portion of the
corner stone of the Middle Church can still be seen today lying along the cemetery fence near
the place where the church building once stood. In 1919 a wall was built in front of the church,
a fence placed upon the wall, and the ground leveled to the height of the wall. In 1920 the choir
space at the church was enlarged. Extensive repairs in 1923 included the replastering and
repainting of the outside. In 1925 a curtain was placed around the gallery for Sunday School
classes, and in 1926 book racks were ordered for the church. Improvements to the parsonage
in Kimberton during 1919 and 1920 included the construction of a new stable or “garage” on
the grounds. Lumber was purchased to build an outside toilet at the parsonage and Pastor
Seaman offered to do the work. The parsonage was electrically lighted in 1923. In 1924 the
Sewing Circle purchased an enameled range for the parsonage and an automatic water
system was installed in 1926.
The 150th anniversary of the congregation was celebrated on August 29, 1920. Pastor
Seaman prepared a brief history of the congregation, which was published for the occasions.
At the morning service the Rev. H. A. Weller, D.D., president of the Evangelical Lutheran
Ministerium of Pennsylvania addressed the congregation. At the afternoon service greetings
were brought by former pastors and those pastors of congregations affiliated with St.
Peter’s over the years. The guests present that day signed the book in which the minutes of
congregational meetings are kept to this day. Their names may be found following page 83 in
this minute book.
In April of 1922, a group of ladies of the church met in Kimberton to form the Sewing Circle.
Rev. G. S. Seaman resigned at the end of December 1926. During the following year the
council concerned itself with the endowment fund of the congregation. On November 7, 1927,
and January 16, 1928, money was invested in stocks and bonds of various utility companies.
On January 8, 1928,
the council resolved: “to
establish a permanent
fund for the upkeep
of the cemetery and
the Church Council
was directed to make
provisions for the
same.” Here it might
be appropriate to say
a few things about the
history of the cemetery.
We assume that the
cemetery was begun
the same time as the
congregation. In fact,
there is a tradition that
“previous to the worship
of God on Pikeland Hill
by the Protestants, there existed an Indian burying ground. This is borne out by several stones
being cut with figures of hearts and trees, which may possibly be Indian markings. The oldest
date and stone is 1690.” Originally the cemetery was jointly controlled by the Lutheran and
Reformed congregations. When the Lutherans divided in 1840, the desire to worship near the
graves of their ancestors was cited by the German Lutherans as a chief reason for erecting a
second church on this hill. Again in 1889 when the English Lutherans withdrew from the Union
Church, nearness to the cemetery was cited as the reason for building across the road.
A deed in the Chester County Historical Society dated 1870 indicates that by that time lots
were sold to individuals and clear title to the use of the land given to the lot owner. Such
was not always the case. Only two years before the council of the Upper Church ordered
that strangers were to pay $2.00 for each burial in the old graveyard, while for contributing
members there was to be no charge. This indicates that lots were not sold but that appropriate
arrangements were made for each burial. Lots were sold by the Upper Church by 1873, when
$8.00 was set as the price of a lot in the burying ground. Other charges relating to burials
are mentioned over the years. In 1891 a charge of $2.00 was set for the use of the church
for funerals to all persons outside of the congregation. In 1906 and again in 1910 it was first
equested and then ordered that lot holders pay at least one dollar annually for the upkeep of
The establishment of the trust fund in 1928 put the care of the cemetery on a firmer footing.
In July of that year the congregation executed an agreement with what was then the
Phoenixville Trust Company to set up and manage a fund for the purpose of maintaining the
cemetery. Income from this fund was to be used for the maintenance of the cemetery, with
unused income being added to the principal each year. After the fund reached $10,000 or
more, excess income could be used for other purposes of the church. If the congregation
should cease to exist, the bank will take care of the cemetery, and pay excess income to the
denomination for use in mission purposes.
For a number of years persons were paid to mow the cemetery. Then from the mid-fifties until
the mid-sixties the members of the congregation mowed the cemetery as volunteers, during
which years the fund was built up well past the $10,000 aggregate envisioned by the council
in 1928. Today income is sufficient to pay persons to mow the cemetery as needed during the
In 1928 there began the longest pastorate in our congregation since that of the first pastor---
the ministry of Lewis S. Trump which lasted twenty years. The installation of a pipe organ was
a highlight of the early part of Pastor Trump’s ministry. The congregation agreed to purchase
this in 1930 after discussions which had been going on at least since 1927. In that year the
council contacted the societies of the church for contributions toward the purchase of a pipe
organ. This was dedicated with appropriate services which included the observance of the
160th anniversary of the congregation in 1931.
For a number of years the endowment of the church was invested in real estate. In recent
years many hours were spent at council meetings discussing the upkeep of these houses.
They were all sold by 1966.
Among improvements made to the church during these years was the painting of the interior
in 1936. Installation of electric service at the church was approved in 1937. This had first been
discussed in 1928. The contract in 1937 called for a minimum charge of $2 per month--- costs
have risen since then.
In 1947 a concrete block building at the lower end of the parking lot was constructed. The
sheds which stood along the wall had been removed in part as early as 1929, and the
emainder were destroyed by fire during the early 1940’s. In March of 1948 the Rev. Lewis
S. Trump presented his resignation. He had served at West Pikeland almost 21 years and 45
years in the ministry.
After the Second World War the American churches experienced a period of boom that lasted
about fifteen years. St. Peter’s shared in this period of prosperity for churches. The new
day dawned with the calling of Mr. Robert W. Kiefer, a student at the Philadelphia seminary,
as pastor in April 1948. With the coming of a young pastor, several changes were made in
the worship life. Candles were placed on the altar; Lenten services were held jointly with
Centennial, Kimberton, with the offerings designated for Lutheran World Action; the Advent
Wreath was introduced; new hymnals were purchased and the racks enlarged; gowns were
purchased for the choir; Rogation Sunday was observed with the planting of shrubs around
the church; an acolyte and server were selected to assist in The Service; a missal and missal
stand were placed on the altar; a bowl was purchased for the baptismal font; the parish register
was brought up to date by the removal of the names of those who were no longer active in
the congregation. Renovations included the placing of new cushions on the pews at a cost of
$600 and the painting of the inside of the church. Beginning in 1950, the annual congregational
meeting was held in conjunction with a covered-dish supper. Lodge halls, a private home,
and the basements of other churches were used until 1957, when our own basement was
completed and used for the annual meeting. In September of 1952 Pastor Kiefer presented his
resignation in order to enter the Navy as a chaplain.
In January of 1953, Seminarian Paul Howells was elected as pastor of the West Pikeland
Parish. One of the first activities he reported was a cooperative Vacation Church School with
Kimberton. Held at Centennial Church, the school had 13 teachers and 80 pupils enrolled.
Previous to this time, Vacation Church Schools had been held in cooperation with a number
of churches. For several years, all-day outdoor sessions were held at St. Peter’s with children
from this church, St. John’s, and Central of Phoenixville, and Centennial, Kimberton.
At the annual congregational meeting, January 29, 1954, an offering was received to start
a Parish House Fund. With this building program began a series of improvements which
continued for a number of years. Prior to the agreement to build new facilities at the church,
an altar rail was installed in July 1953, and a screen put in front of the organ. During the year
1954, the windows were removed and releaded at a cost of $2100. At the congregational
meeting in 1955, plans were presented by the building committee for excavating the basement.
At the next year’s meeting, it was decided to excavate the basement instead of erecting
a parish house as a separate structure. In 1955, the Sewing Circle sponsored the first
annual Country Fair on the fourth Saturday in August. The money realized from this activity
was applied first to the cost of the basement, and since then has helped to finance many
improvements to the church’s property. Work on the basement was begun April 1956, with a
basic contract for $13,495.
During the time of the construction of the basement, Pastor Howells resigned, and the Rev.
Ralph A. Boyer, III, was called as pastor by Centennial and St. Peter’s. A reception for Pastor
and Mrs. Boyer in December 1956 was the first dinner in the new basement for the entire
At the congregational meeting in 1957, the Long Range Planning Committee outlined its
functions. Under the guidance of this committee subsequent improvements to the property
were made. In March 1959, the partition wall which had formerly been used for the primary
department was torn out by the men of the congregation to make a spacious narthex. This
was one of many projects carried out by work parties to finish the basement and remodel
the nave. Improvements to the church had a slight setback in December 1959, when a
puff-back of the oil burner soiled the church. The cost of cleaning the walls and ceiling was
covered by insurance. In the beginning of 1960, the church was painted, the timbers were
stained, and new red cloth drapes for the choir and balcony were installed. June of 1960
saw the authorization of cement walks. In December 1961, plans for new flooring, carpeting,
and refinishing of pews were revealed. This was completed, and the new furnishings were
dedicated September 23rd by Pastor Boyer. In October of 1963, the paving of the parking lot
and driveway was approved. In April 1965, a work party installed the communion card racks on
the backs of the pews.
About the time of Easter 1965, the organ, installed in 1931, stopped functioning. After much
investigation by the Worship and Music Committee, the congregation met in June and
accepted the recommendation to purchase a Baldwin electronic organ for the sum of $4395.
In June of 1966, a work party installed folding partitions in the basement to make individual
classrooms for the Sunday Church School.
About this time the West Pikeland Parish was divided, and St. Peter’s became an independent
congregation. The details of the division will be discussed at a later point. As far as building
programs are concerned, the division made plans for a parsonage necessary. In May of
1966, the parsonage on Hare’s Hill Road, Kimberton, owned by St. Peter’s for many years,
was sold and the money set aside for construction of a new parsonage. As early as 1964,
members of the congregation had been negotiating with neighboring landowners with regard
to purchasing a plot of land near the church. During the summer of 1967, a small plot adjoining
the church was purchased from the Lower Church. On this was erected a parsonage. A
contract for $27,500 was given in October of 1967, and excavation begun on October 31,
1967. Construction proceeded over the winter, and Pastor and Mrs. Conz moved in May 10,
1968. The parsonage and organ were dedicated at The Service on September 29, 1968. One
more change to the church property should be mentioned before the close of this section. In
May of 1967, the four trees that stood in front of the church for many years, were cut down and
replaced with four young trees. It will be a number of years before shade is again enjoyed in
front of the church.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Chester Springs Parsonage (Built 1967-1968)
During these years of building additions and renovations, changes were also made in the
activities and organization of the congregation’ In February of 1955 an evangelism committee
was formed with six couples. These were trained and sent out to visit in the community to
encourage those without a church to come to St. Peter’s. From February 1-14, 1957, the
congregation participated in a Lutheran Evangelism Mission. This was a denomination-wide
program, consisting of services conducted by a guest pastor, visits, and an organized effort
by the congregation to bring members and neighbors alike into the church. The Rev. Roy W.
Meck was the missioner. In October of 1955 several innovations were presented in the worship
of the congregation. A children’s choir and altar guild were formed. Gowns for the children’s
choir were acquired in 1960. Ushers were scheduled for one month at a time. February 1956
saw the approval of a paper drive. In March of 1957 the constitution was amended to allow
teenagers to vote on the acceptance of a pastor and councilmen. Lenten services were held
in 1957 with the first several services at Centennial, the last three at St. Peter’s, each to be
followed by a coffee hour. From July 9-11, 1957, a team of Luther League Caravaners visited
the parish. The four young people were from the states of Oregon, California, Iowa, and North
Carolina. Choir gowns were purchased in 1958. They were black and of academic style. 1959
marked a first in the history of St. Peter’s with the election of a woman to the church council.
Pastor Boyer resigned, effective June 1, 1960, to become Director of Home Missions for the
Ministerium of Pennsylvania. He was succeeded by the Rev. Edwin P. Bastian on November 1,
Throughout this history we have tried to tie local events to national developments in the
churches. About 1960 a leveling-off occurred in church life, after many years of growth. Pastor
Bastian wrote with regard to this in his report to the congregation in January of 1961:
“In understanding past gains and losses and in planning for the future, we must understand
the gradual transition from strictly farm life to gentleman farming, our proximity to other
Lutheran and non-Lutheran Churches, the cultural and ethnic background of the old and newer
residents, the terrain of the land insofar as it may affect future building development, zoning
laws, and the unbelievably widely scattered parishioners of the Church.
“Standing still or losing ground in membership rolls isn’t necessarily bad. If the potential is
missing for the time being, no one (and we have had wonderful pastors at St. Peter’s) under
the most advantageous conditions (and the aftermath of the wars and prosperity were indeed
conductive to Church growth) can produce a large increase out of thin air. Becoming bitter and
resentful is, however, bad and can lead to many other sins which can destroy the soul.”
Midweek Lenten Services for 1962 consisted of guest preachers according to a schedule
whereby the pastors of the local ministerial group rotated among the congregations. In October
1962, the congregation enrolled in the “Every Home Plan” for subscription to The Lutheran.
A nursery for the care, of small children in the basement during the Service was established
in December of 1963. In August of 1964 the three-year program of catechetical instruction
as recommended by the Lutheran Church in America was adopted. In June of 1965 money
realized from the sale of real estate which the congregation had held as an investment was
placed in “The Common Investing Fund of the LCA.” Since 1918 two congregations had been
worshipping as one at St. Peter’s. That commonly known as Middle Pikeland was incorporated
on September 29, 1789; Upper Pikeland was incorporated on February 20, 1846. On January
7, 1965, articles of consolidation were recorded at the County Court House, and the two
congregations legally became one. Pastor Bastian resigned from the West Pikeland Parish
effective November 16, 1965.
With the vacancy following this resignation, the two congregations of the West Pikeland Parish
pressed for resolution of a matter which had been considered for some time - the division
of the parish. Over the years St. Peter’s has shared pastors with almost every Lutheran
congregation in northern Chester County and southern Montgomery County. For short periods
St. Peter’s supported a pastor of its own, but a shared-support arrangement was soon
restored. Throughout the modern history of St. Peter’s, that is since the merger of 1918, St.
Peter’s, West Pikeland, and Centennial, Kimberton, had constituted the West Pikeland Parish.
Beginning in 1963, discussions looking forward to separation from Centennial were held from
time to time. The decision in 1963 -, was that the time was not ripe for decision. A restudy was
called for in 1965. In 1965 the question was one of merger - between St. Peter’s, Centennial,
and maybe Zion’s, the mother of our congregation. Merger was voted out, and on March
6, 1966, by a vote of 46 to 28, the congregation accepted a resolution that St. Peter’s be
constituted a single congregation parish effective March 15, 1966.
One of the results of the division - the building of a new parsonage – has already been
discussed. Changes in program came about as a result of the division. Previous to this
time many activities were held on a parish basis. In June of 1966, St. Peter’s held its first
Vacation Church School without the assistance of any other congregation. In January of 1967
a new constitution, patterned after that recommended by the Lutheran Church in America,
was adopted. And on April 2, 1967, the Rev. John G. Conz was called to serve St. Peter’s
as a single-congregation parish. A number of innovations have been introduced in worship
in the last few years. Good Friday has been observed with a Prayer Vigil from noon to 8
p.m., followed by a service of Tenebrae, or Shadows; council members have been invited
to read The Lesson and The Epistle during the Service; children have been included in the
Communion Service by an invitation to come to the altar rail for a blessing. The most dramatic
change for many members has been the introduction of the Service Book and Hymnal,
published by the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America in 1958, and
first used at St. Peter’s December 1, 1968. A questionnaire sent to members in 1968 indicated
that a more aggressive youth program was desired; this resulted in a visit by a Youth Ministry
Team for one week in August, 1969, The Vacation Church School, which continued for a
second year as an independent program, has since been held in cooperation with neighboring
churches. In 1968, St. Matthew’s Lutheran; 1969, St. Peter’s United Church of Christ; and
1970, the U.C.C. and the Charlestown Methodist Church. In 1969 and 1970 one-week schools
were held with outings in the afternoon. In 1969 a third event joined the Country Fair and
Christmas candlelight service as a big day at St. Peter’s. This was the hosting of the Pickering
Hunt Thanksgiving Service. About 200 carloads of people were in attendance to participate
in the service and to witness the hounds and mounted horsemen of the hunt. Pastor Conz
resigned effective November 1, 1970.
As we look back over two centuries of being the church on Pikeland Hill we have seen how
the drama of Christianity in America has been lived in miniature in this place. We have been
inspired by the witness of those who have gone before us; unfortunately, we cannot record
their names, because many have not been preserved in the records, and those who we know
have been too numerous to include in so short a history.