History of St. Peter's Lutheran Church


History of St. Peter's Lutheran Church

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

older edifices.

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 7th

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 8th

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

more effectively.)

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

either group.

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 9th

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

the like.

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 10th

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

Joseph Pennypacker.

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

Reformed Church.

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

English congregation:

“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 cemetery.

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.

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