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Jacob's Lutheran Church-Washington County

Jacob's Lutheran Church-Washington County

A.K.A. 'Peace Chapel' and  'Frieden's Kirche'

Source:  Centennial History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Maryland 1820-1920, Wentz

Jacobs Church is the oldest institution in Leitersburg District. The Lutheran congregation that worshipped on the banks of the Antietam in 1754 doubtless numbered among its membership some of the families that afterward embraced in the constituency of Jacobs Church. Others were members of St. John's at Hagerstown, organized prior to 1769 or of Zion Lutheran  Church at Greencastle, also one of the oldest in Franklin County. The date at which Jacobs Church was organized cannot be confirmed, but there is reason to believe that it was in 1791. The grounds for this conclusion are as follows:

The records of St. John's Church at Hagerstown show that several Lutheran families from this locality were members from 1770 to 1780. Peter and Anthony Hell were among those whose names are seen; and as they lived within a mile of Jacobs Church, so if it were in existence at that time, it is not likely they would have travelled to St. John’s.  In 1786 Rev. John George Young of Hagerstown prepared a brief historical sketch of the churches of his charge in which, referring to Beard's, he says: ''From this congregation four others have originated, Hagerstown, Funkstown, Manorland, and Conococheague.

Mr. Young's pastorate covered all four, as well as others in Frederick County. If Jacobs Church had been organized at this time it is more than probable that it would have been part of his charge, or that he would in any case have mentioned it; hence its omission affords strong presumptive evidence that it had no existence in 1786. Furthermore, the initial church grounds were not acquired from the State until 1787, and it is extremely improbable that a church building would have been erected there before that date.

It may be positively stated that the church was organized in the year 1791 or prior thereto, as the protocol of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania shows that the Rev. Günther Wingardt was pastor from 1791 to 1795. Wingardt was succeeded by Rev. John Ruthrauff in 1795, and with this date adequate local records begin.

Within a few years after the Rev. John Ruthrauff became pastor he proposed a constitution for the   church, which was duly adopted and signed by the officers and members on September 23, 1798. This document is entitled "Constitution for the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation situated at the Maryland and Pennsylvania line, called Peace Church." It defines in detail the duties of pastor, council, and members.  The church council at that time was composed of Jacob Rider, Anthony Bell, Philip Ripple, David Goll, and John Bell.

The membership at this time was widely scattered. Four other Lutheran churches have since been organized upon the original territory of Jacobs Church, located, respectively, at Waynesboro, Leitersburg, Quincy, and Rouzerville. The formation of the two first named reduced the congregation.  In 1796 the number of communicants was thirty-three, but in 1798 one hundred five persons attached their names to the constitution as members and officers. The formation of the Waynesboro congregation in 1818 undoubtedly deprived the mother church of many members, but defective records at this period render it impossible to estimate the loss. In 1826, after the organization of the Leitersburg Church, there were still seventy-six communicants at Jacobs. In 1830 the number was 93 ; in 1835, 67 ; May 26, 1839, 65 ; April, 30, 1843, 87 ; May 11, 1845, 88 ; June 4," 1848, 97 ; May 19, 1850, 102; May 13, 1855; 85; May 19, 1860, 70; November 21, 1869, 64; April 27, 1879, 65; September 20, 1885, 61 ; October 31, 1897, 69. The following note is appended to a communion record in 1855: "This congregation has lost a considerable number of members by moving."

The site of the church and the burial ground adjacent are in a tract contained on a tract of land called Martin's Good Hope. Martin Jacobs secured a warrant for the survey of this tract on the twenty-first of August, 1787; the survey was made on the first of April, 1788, and a patent was issued in his favor, September 21, 1790. The area of the tract was eighteen acres. The church land was deeded by Martin Jacobs to Christian Lantz "for the use of the German Lutheran congregations and their successors," November 18, 1799, at the nominal consideration of five shillings”.

It contained three-fourths of an acre and thirty-four perches of land "together with the church thereon and other the appurtenances thereunto belonging.''  From this deed for the church land it is evident that the church building had been erected at the time; how much earlier it may have been built is a matter of conjecture, but it is extremely improbable that this occurred prior to 1787, when the land was acquired by Martin Jacobs. For this was a substantial and somewhat pretentious building, one that the projectors would scarcely have erected upon ground that might possibly have become vested in an owner indifferent or unfriendly to their interests.

It survived for a while, however, it served it usefulness and a new church was needed.  In 1841 the old church was dismantled and the logs were hauled to Leitersburg and used in the construction of houses.

On September 10, 1841, the corner stone of the new building was laid and on the following December 5th the church was complete and dedicated. This was during the pastorate of Rev. F. W. Conrad. The new church occupies the site of the old.

The old one was named Friedens Kirche, but the new one was named Jacobs Church.

In 1854 the church building was enlarged by an addition about sixteen feet in length at the western end. Extensive repairs were again made in 1881. Ten years later the interior was again remodeled, the principal improvement being the present pews.

The following is a list of pastors of Jacobs Church since 1791:

Rev. Ouenther Wingardt 1791-1795
Rev. John Rutuhraff 1795-1835
Rev. Jeremiah Harpel 1835-1837
Rev. Jacob Martin 1837-1839
Rev. Peter Sahm D.D. 1840
Rev. F. W. Conrad D.D. 1841-1844
Rev. John Heck 1845-1856
Rev. J. F. Campbell 1857-1862
Rev. Edwin Dorsey 1863
Rev. Alfred Buhrman 1864-1871
Rev. C. L. Keedy 1871-1875
Rev. P. Bergstresser D.D. 1876-1887
Rev. H. S. Cook 1888-1899
Rev. C. H. Rockey 1900-1911
Rev. A. A. Kelly 1911-1916

Wingardt resided at Taneytown, Maryland, and was pastor of the following churches: Taneytown, Jacobs, Winter's, Thomas Creek, Upper Bermudian, Zion, and Flohr's. The charge to which Ruthrauff was assigned in 1795 was composed of Greencastle, Jacobs, Beard's, Mayfield, and Mercersberg, but its limits varied at different times during his long pastorate. He resided at Greencastle, and Jacobs was part of the Greencastle charge until 1841, when the Waynesboro charge was formed ; the original constituent churches were Waynesboro, Jacobs, Quincy, and Funkstown. For some years past the Waynesboro and Jacobs Churches have constituted a charge.

In the summer of 1916 the brethren of the Waynesboro Church felt that their church demanded all the time of their pastor and determined to sever their relations with the Jacobs Church. Some thought the church should be abandoned, for many of the members had died or had moved out of the district, leaving a community in which there were few Lutheran families. The church at the time had a communicant membership of twenty-nine and the members were scattered: they could attend the Waynesboro Church as easily as they could attend their own church. Others, not willing to abandon the old church entirely, thought preaching services should be held there occasionally.

But there were many, accustomed to worship there for years, who were unwilling to abandon it at all. These last prevailed. A few families transferred their membership to the Waynesboro Church but the majority remained. Later that year the church was attached to the Leitersburg charge.

In 1920 the communicant membership of Jacobs Church numbers thirty-eight. Preaching services are held there every two weeks in the afternoon. The Sunday school has an enrollment of eighty.

Jacob's Lutheran Church no longer stands and the cemetery is poorly maintained.  There are many broken stones.  The church used to sit in the middle of the winding country road off of the North end of the Leitersburg Pike (Rte. 60).  It is located between Hagerstown and Smithsburg and Wayesboro PA.  

Anyone having information on this church after 1920 and would like to share that information, please send it to germanmarylanders@gmail.com.

Information at the Maryland State Archives, MSA S 1512-2749 (00/59/06/37)

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