October 3rd, 2007
According to the earliest records of First Evangelical Lutheran Church a meeting was held at the Academy Building on February 17, 1866 to appoint a committee consisting of Peter Schaeffer, Silas Rambach, E. Everitt, Philip Winterstein and William H. Follmer to solicit subscriptions. On March 21, 1866 it was unanimously agreed to purchase the two lots known as the Piper lots from Ario Pardee for the sum of $500. These lots were located on the northeast corner of Main and Fourth Streets. The subscriptions to that point amounted to $3,467.50. A building committee was elected at that meeting consisting of two members of the Reformed congregation, Peter Schaeffer and William H. Follmer; and two members of the Lutheran congregation, Samuel Miller and Samuel Witman. At a meeting of the building committee on April 5, 1866 at Goodman’s Store, the committee elected Peter Schaeffer president and by unanimous consent it was recommended to build a brick church 50 feet long and 36 feet wide, the height to be determined later.
On July 14, 1866 the Articles of Agreement were adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran and German Reformed congregations. These articles dealt with the name, the building, the use of the church, its upkeep, and the final manner of dissolution if that became desirable. The following day ground was broke for the new building and the church was named St. Bartholomew’s Evangelical Lutheran and German Reformed Church. The Union Church was dedicated on May 12, 1867.
The Lutheran congregation at Watsontown was organized in 1867 or 1868 and was considered one station (parish) with two churches, St. Bartholomew’s and St. John’s (Delaware Run). The church was connected with the Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Church, the Synod being newly organized itself in 1867.
In 1886, the Lutheran and Reformed congregations by friendly agreement dissolved their union and the Lutheran congregation purchased the Reformed interest in the Union Church. The old church was razed and the new building was constructed in 1886-87. The congregation also changed its name from St. Bartholomew’s to First Evangelical Lutheran Church. Those serving on the building committee of the present church included: George W. Rombach, Dr. J.H. Harley, Samuel M. Miller, Charles Heilman, Isaac Stryker and J.G. Bower. The cornerstone along with the old Union Church cornerstone was laid July 25, 1886 and the church was dedicated March 6, 1887. The cost of the building and grounds was $23,000. On the day of the dedication provision was made for the entire indebtedness, but owing to the financial depression of the town immediately after the dedication of the church, about $1,500 of the subscription was not paid, leaving a debt on the property of $1,500.
On August 5, 1886 a notice of incorporation for First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Watsontown was published, “the character and objects of which is the worship of Almighty God according to the formula for the government and discipline of the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States of America.” The names of the subscribers to the certificate of organization were the Rev. F.W. Staley, S.M. Miller, G.W. Rombach, Thompson Bower, J.H. Harley, T.H. Kisner, Isaac Stryker, W.A. Nicely, Edward Waltman, E.M. McLain and J.M. Rhoads.
In 1891 the present parsonage was built costing approximately $5,000. The old parsonage that was shared with the St. John’s Delaware Run located at 505 Ash Street was sold. In 1906 the new parsonage was wired for electricity and a steam plant was installed in 1910.
In 1904 a pipe organ was added to the auditorium costing abut $3,000. This was made possible by a matching fund supplied by Andrew Carnegie whose desire it was to aid churches throughout Pennsylvania in the purchase of fine musical instruments.
In 1923 the Brotherhood Bible Class excavated the church basement for social rooms. In 1926-27 an addition was built to the Sunday school, and the basement enlarged to include social rooms and a kitchen.
An extensive program of renovation was started in the church sanctuary in 1941. The chancel was enlarged, the organ console brought down from the choir loft to the chancel, new chairs provided for the chancel choir. A new reredos, wood paneling and altar rail were provided and church pews replaced the old type opera seats. New carpet was laid in the sanctuary and new lighting fixtures were placed throughout. Metal radiator enclosures were also provided. The entire interior of the church was redecorated and the organ was rebuilt and chimes were added. In addition to this, the church steeple, which had been struck by lightening three times and was considered to be unsafe, was rebuilt into a modern tower design. The entire Sunday school and social rooms were refinished inside and outside, including sand blasting of the bricks of the church, and the painting of the woodwork of the church and parsonage. Rededication services were held December 14, 1941.
In 1959 the sanctuary and Sunday school rooms were again completely renovated and redecorated. The altar and reredos were accented to create a “focal point.” The reredos panel was covered with a satin damask bossal in ecclesiastical designs of gold on a red background. A hanging sanctuary lamp was installed in the chancel area and side lights were installed to illuminate the altar and appointments. The Sunday school rooms were refinished and the parsonage kitchen renovated and modernized.
In 1961 the councils of First Lutheran and St. John’s mutually agreed to divide the parish and on July 15, 1964 each council voted to make this separation effective September 13, 1964. The Reverend Lloyd Wilson was then installed as the first full time pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Delaware Run.
At the annual congregational meeting in January 1966 First Church approved a building and renovation program. A capital funds campaign was conducted in connection with the 100th anniversary celebration in May 1966 in which the congregation subscribed $53,000 during the succeeding 100 weeks in addition to the $22,000 on hand.
Contracts were let and construction began August 1, 1966. It was substantially complete by Christmas 1966 when the congregation again occupied the newly renovated facilities.
During construction the Sunday school met in the new facilities of the Methodist Church the hour after that congregation’s school met. First Presbyterian Church provided facilities for the church office. Final total cost of the program was $125,000. This included complete renovation of the educational facilities of the church providing 20 individual classrooms, three storage rooms, men’s and women’s choir robing rooms, a Sunday school office, church office, pastor’s sacristy, storage room, modern stairwell in the original building, church kitchen, Fellowship Hall, an addition at the rear of the building, modern rest rooms, new sidewalks and curbs around the church and parsonage, complete repainting of the church and parsonage and a new parsonage garage. New equipment for all classrooms, sacristy and Fellowship Hall was included.
The altar painting of Christ in Gethsemene was placed as a memorial by the Ward Truckenmiller family in November, 1971.
The new Lutheran Book of Worship were dedicated in October 1978.
A number of the congregational members have answered the call to ordained ministry including: Rev. D.E. McLain, Rev. Charles A. Hoy, Rev. William I. Redcay, Rev. Hunter Watt, Rev. Otto G. Lantz, Dr. J.W. Shannon, Rev. Edmund Bieber, Rev. Eugene McVicker, Rev. Clarence Walck, Rev. Marvin Hoffman, and Rev. Wilson Dewald.
Pastors serving First Lutheran Church include:
|Thomas C. Billheimer||1866-1869||William E. Swoope||1921-1924|
|Jacob B. Keller||1869-1871||Howard K. Hilner||1924-1932|
|P.S. Mack||1871-1873||Eugene S. Keller||1932-1940|
|Samuel P. Orwig||1873-1878||Harold A. Ahalt||1940-1961|
|Amos K. Zimmerman||1879-1882||Harry S. Bowman||1961-1971|
|Samuel G. Shannon||1882-1885||Harold R. Stoudt||1972-1977|
|F.W. Staley||1885-1890||Peter W. Fauerebach||1978-1982|
|M.H. Fishburn||1890-1894||Kenneth C. Louder||1983-1997|
|Albert O. Mullen||1894-1903||Terrence Goad||1998-2001|
|J.S. English||1904-1905||Wm. Stevens Shipman||2001-2007|
|Herbert D. Shimer||1905-1912||James Fladland||2009-|
|M. Stanley Kemp||1912-1920|
[The Milton Standard, August 11, 1967, pg 14, 37, 41; First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Watsontown, PA - 125th Anniversary Booklet, 1991]
Last Modified: 03.08.09