St. Benjamin’s Lutheran-Taneytown
Church Website: http://stbenslutheran.org/stbens-history.htm
St. Benjamin's is the second oldest Lutheran church in Carroll County (Immanuel in Manchester is the oldest), although historians tell us that this group of persons may have been meeting as early as 1757 in the homes or schoolhouses. St. Benjamin's was founded in
St. Benjamin's at first was known as "The Church at Pfeiff Krick". Although Pfeiff Krick clearly refers to Pipe Creek, that creek is located a considerable distance away; we can only assume the name refers some other, forgotten waterway.
The only reference to the date of organization is found in Rev. P.H. Miller's "History of Grace Lutheran Church, Westminster". In his brief sketch of our church, Dr. Miller states that St. Benjamin's was organized August 12, 1761. This date, no doubt, is authentic as he had access to sources which are no longer available to us. It is more than likely that Rev. John Bager, minister of St. Matthew's, Hanover, PA at the time, helped to organize the church. Rev. Bager was noted for his zeal in organizing new congregations - among them St. Mary's of Silver Run in 1762.
The milieu in 1761
The Palatine region of what is now Germany was a fertile, productive valley both sides of the lower Rhine. Tilled for centuries by the tireless husbandry of its farmers, it had become a cauldron of misery by the close of the 17th century. Between 1545 and 1685, alternating Lutheran and Reformed rulers imposed their creed on the populace. When the last of these died without an heir, the government passed to Philip William, a Catholic. Louis XIV of France attempted to exploit this situation, was rebuffed, and in response ordered his armies to devastate the Palatinate with a despotic vengeance. At least part of that fury was punishment for the asylum which the previous Palatinate rulers granted French and Swiss Huguenots during the previous 150 years.
From 1688 to 1720, savage wars (both military and economic) brutalized the farmers of Palatine, killing them outright or through slow starvation. By the end of that period, the religious and political climate in the Catholic Palatinate was intolerable for pious Lutheran and Reformed farmers. The conditions here and elsewhere among Reformed and Lutheran members spurred a migration to America. The three "waves" of immigration generally agreed upon are:
1683-1710, during which William Penn actively courted emigrees in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Germany. Germantown, PA, was created during this time.
1710-1727, during which German immigration dramatically increased, and where most settlement was in southeast and south-central PA. Swiss Mennonites constituted a large percentage of immigrants.
1727-1776, a period where immigration reached a sustained peak and which saw significant numbers of them seeking a homestead in Maryland and Virginia. A preponderance of these were Palatines, and geneological research shows that most of the settlers in the Westminster area arrived during this period.
In the early 18th century, some monied gentlemen were obtaining land grants from the British crown and immediately selling or mortgaging subdivisions (some things never change). By 1754, this rather benign practice had begun to have ill consequences, as (sometimes violent) boundary disputes arose near the border separating Pennsylvania and Maryland. This was due to (1) poor accuracy achievable with the colonial surveying instruments, (2) sloppy surveying by careless land speculators, and (3) the potential for being doubly taxed if property was found to be straddling the line. Only in 1763 would Mason and Dixon begin their authoritative boundary line. Clearly, the wise settler would move travel well south of the line before stopping, and some of these wise settlers would eventually found the church at Pfeiff Krick.
Also, by 1761, the Seven Years' War, or French and Indian War, was raging in the wilderness west of what is now Frederick county. Most of the immigrants knew to avoid land too far west of the Monocacy river; there was no sense in getting oneself killed by settling on someone else's battlefield. This was another good reason to settle around Westminster.
These tough German farmers were certainly up to the task of building a farm out of the wilderness they started with, but that left little time for house-building, much less church-building. While the Lutheran and the Reformed settlers clung fast to their respective doctrines, they recognized their common purpose under the difficult circumstances. Thus it was commonplace for these to religions to form "union" churches which permitted one building to be shared by both congregations. Krider's was one such Union church, being constructed of logs in the same manner as the members' first houses.
Early in 1763 the Reformed and Lutheran congregations erected a log church on ground donated by a man named Greyder. This building was used by both congregations until 1809. When the old church was taken down, the logs were used to build a dwelling at 114 East Main Street. On the thirteenth day of April 1809, Daniel Frock, John Crowl, George Myerly and John Diffenbaugh, trustees, bought of John Benter, one acre of ground from a tract called "Brown's Delight" for the sum of $2.00 to be used by Benjamin's Church. On this ground a two-story brick church was erected. This building was "so severely damaged by storm and lightning" in 1889, that it was considered unsafe and in 1890 was torn down. The building materials were divided equally between the two congregations. A marker in the joint cemetery marks the spot where the church stood.
The decade in which the second church was used may have been one of trial and confusion. There is some significance in the fact that the early records omit the communion roll from 1802-1813 and mentions no baptism from 1810-1813. In 1813, thirty-six young people were confirmed, which shows the church came to life again. In 1818, Benjamin's and Morelock's churches requested the ministerium to permit Rev. Henry Graeber, Jr. to become their pastor. He had attended the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in York County, PA, and was ordained in 1819. In October of his first year, he held communion and confirmed a class of seventeen.
For the first time in fifty-five years, Benjamin's enjoyed the luxury of having a minister who lived in Westminster. From 1819-1827, Rev. Graeber served Benjamin's Silver Run, Bast's (Baust) and Pine Creek (Concordia). After 1827 Uniontown charge was without a pastor; so Benjamin's began to look toward the Manchester area for help. In 1834, our parish records a baptism by the minister at Manchester. Rev. Jacob Albert came to Manchester in 1831-1837. Benjamin's was probably one of the six congregations which he served.
A sexton house, built of logs, was erected soon after the first church. This house, the joint property of the Lutheran and Reformed churches, now known as Benjamin's, but more familiarly as Krider's, has disappeared to give place to a modern and more commodius and convenient structure. The building was one of the oldest in this county. The present sexton house was built in 1909, and is maintained jointly by Krider's Reformed and Krider's Lutheran congregations. The original first cemetery is maintained jointly by both churches also.
The origin of the name "Krider" is not certain. There are two theories: First, tradition says that a man by the name of Greider donated the ground for the church, and that his name later was corrupted to read "Krider". The early Reformed Record contains the name of one Johannes Greider. It appears in the first communion roll of the Reformed congregation. Johannes Greider is also listed as the father of three children who were baptized. Second: The Reformed record also states that the two congregations purchased two acres of land from John Krauter: "There have been bought from John Krauter two acres of land, lying in and around the church-garden, and previously called 'Brown's Delight'; we hereby promise that this land shall be devoted to no other uses, but that it shall forever be applied and used for a church school and church yard (graveyard)." The name Krauter might easily have been changed to Krider. Is it likely that Johannes Greider and John Krauter were the same person? Greider-Krauter-Krider!
The reasons for the St. Benjamin name are lost to history. There is some tenuous evidence, however, that the church had at some point been associated with a local man named Benjamin and, over time and through a combination of surmise and wishfulness, the church had acquired the name St. Benjamin's.
St. Benjamin was a martyr in medieval Persia.
700 Krider's Cemetery Road
Westminster, MD 21158