St. John’s Lutheran-Creagerstown-Thurmont
Church Website: http://www.emmitsburg.net/sjlc/index.htm
The beginnings of Lutheranism in Maryland and the early beginnings of our nation are closely parallel. In 1732, the same year which George Washington was born, St. John's Evangelical Church was organized. Time has erased the location, but not the date and gives it the distinction of being the oldest Lutheran congregation in continuous operation in western Maryland.
The congregation was organized in 1732 in "Monocacy" village, an early settlement on the west bank of the river near Hunting Creek, 10 miles north of present day Frederick. According to early writings Monocacy was a place of importance located near where the Indian Trail crossed the river and extended into Pennsylvania. It undoubtedly contained a store or trading post, a tavern, a blacksmith shop, a mill, several log buildings and a combination Schoolhouse and Church building. The Church building is described in the early record book, as being log with ground floor. As the settlers spread from the area another congregation was formed in Frederick, six years later.
Rev. John C. Stoever was the first pastor to serve the Monocacy German church. Along with Frederick and others formed to the north of the settlement made up the charge. As time passed the congregations changed, but was never fewer than four. Rev. Stoever served the parish periodically for ten years in addition to a charge in York, Pennsylvania. He relinquished his duties at Monocacy and restricted his labors to eastern Pennsylvania. Before doing so he ordained David Candler, a schoolmaster of Conewago (Hanover, PA) on April 28, 1743 and assigned him to the Monocacy and York congregations.
Due to the scarcity of ministers, pretenders plagued the congregation for a number of years, and then trouble arose because of the teaching of the Moravian doctrines, and late in 1745 or early 1746 they were refused the use of the church. Those teachers and their sympathizers moved three miles away and founded a settlement now known as Graceham.
In 1747, the settlement was blessed by the visit of two great parsonages, Rev. Michael Schlatter, organizer of the German Reformed Churches in America, and Rev. Henry Muhlenberg, the father of American Lutheranism. The Reformed Brethren were granted permission to use the church building. On June 24th, Rev. Muhlenberg wrote articles of faith in the Church Record Book, which was purchased at the urging of Rev. Gabriel Naesman on this visit October 31, 1746, in order that baptisms, marriages and deaths might be recorded. These articles would meet any legal requirements that could occur on a colony governed by the English.
John Creager, who owned a large tract of and on higher and more advantageous ground, about a mile from the settlement, laid out a village (1760-1770) which became known as Creagerstown. It soon became one of the first cross-roads of the nation. The junction of the Baltimore-Pittsburg road with the Washington Buffalo Road, made Creagerstown an important stagecoach point with four taverns and stables to change horses. Many families and tradesmen, with the exception of the millers who needed the waters of Hunting Creek and the Monocacy, moved to the new village.
The old Monocacy building became unfit for use and another Union Church was built in 1791, after the ground was deeded to them February 9, 1787. The new building of hewn logs, and later weatherboarded, stood closer to the street about 20 feet northwest of the brick church still standing. Rev. Andrew Krug was Pastor at the time. He came from Reading, Pennsylvania on April 28, 1771 and served the charge as a faithful loving pastor for 25 years.
In 1808, Rev. Frederick Schaffer, a man of striking personality, came to serve the five church charge which now included Apples and Mechanicstown. By the year 1810, it seemed advisable to separate the charge. Creagerstown was then separated from Frederick after approximately 67 years of continuous connection. Rev. Frederick Haas took the new parish with six churches: Creagerstown, Apples, Woodsboro, Haugh's Rocky Hill, and another, not recorded.
Rev. Michael Wachter was the pastor when the old brick church was built, the inscription on the cornerstone is September 27, 1834, and upon his death the charge was again divided. The Monocacy River was used as the dividing line and the parish now consisted of Creagerstown, Apples, Utica, and Bethel.
Some 12 ministers served the next 50 years with the average stay of two to six years. During the pastorate of Rev. John U. Asper, the Lutherans decided to withdraw and build. In 1904, ground was purchased, but the building did not start right away as difficulties arose over the move. Rev. Asper resigned and was followed by Rev. George W. Crist (served 7-4-1906 to 7-8-1914).
Construction proceeded on the new building, making it the fourth building occupied by the Lutherans. It was completed late in 1908, but not furnished or dedicated until May 16, 1909.
In 1926, the new Creagerstown School was occupied and the church purchased the old school and it has been known since as "The Parish House".
Rev. Frederick R. Seibel, Jr. came to the charge in 1929, and with his leadership, observed the 200th Anniversary with a week of Services and festivities. The church continued to grow and repairs and improvements were made to the properties.
In 1939, the Reformed congregation disbanded and in 1944 the Lutherans purchased their share of the building from the Potomac Synod. (It is interesting to note in the early records that it was the custom to worship in the Union Church one Sunday a year to profess half ownership of the building.) The beautiful kerosene chandelier, dating back to 1876, was electrified by Richard Smith and moved into our nave. The chestnut pews, altar, pulpit, and lecturn, were also exchanged. All but the pews are being used in the church and church school rooms today.
In October of 1947, Rev. E. Koontz Helwig assumed the pastorate. In the next ten years, extensive repairs were made to the pipe organ, a new furnace and stoker unit was installed, and the interior of the church was painted. The youth group was very active. They presented several plays and participated in sending clothing, medicine, and a Holstein heifer to Hungary and Puerto Rico.
The church school, a teaching agency, has held the congregation together over the years during vacancies, and many faithful members are to be remembered for their leadership.
The choir was active with their part in the worship services. They held several son festivals, led the music and offered special numbers with the Evangelism Mission held February 16, 1956.
The Faithful Workers lived up to their name; improving their kitchen, holding suppers, banquets and food sales to assist with financial responsibilities.
On October 27, 1957, we recognized the 225th Anniversary with a full day of services and fellowship. Pastors Frederick R. Seibel, Jr., Jacob M. Spangler, and Francis E. Reinberger were able to help in the day's celebration and bring back to us many memories.
1957 - 1982
The 225th Anniversary was followed by the regular fall activities; Thanks-giving Day Dinner, Christmas Church services and many organizational activities. At the Congregational meeting in January 1958, Rev. and Mrs. Helwig were honored with a cherry rocker for their ten years of diligent service. Soon after-wards, the Synod started plans of re-alignment of multiple church charges. As this progressed, the parish split, Pastor Helwig accepted a charge in Baltimore, leaving on May 22, 1960. Walkersville and Bethel became a charge and Creagerstown was jointed with Utica. As of January 16, 1962 the charge became officially known as the Creagerstown-Utica Parish.
Rev. Charles A. Pollard was issued a call and came to us from Seminary, serving from 1961 - 1969. This, of course, made it necessary to have a parsonage. Ground was acquired and a contract awarded to the Ausherman Construction Company. With the help of each organization of the churches, through numerous projects and fund drives, Pastor and Mrs. Pollard were able to move into the parsonage on June 15, 1961 to serve the charge. The dedication service was held October 29, 1961. During Pastor Pollard's years the monthly newsletter was started, the Advent Wreath was used for the first time, and numerous study courses were held. Children's sermons were started and with the help of Mrs. Pollard, a Youth Choir was organized.
In 1959, it was approved by vote to excavate under the Church for new Sunday School rooms. These were completed and dedicated April 8, 1962.
In 1961 the Faithful Workers Society celebrated their 75th Anniversary. They have remained active and through the years have raised funds for the drilling of a new well, repointing the exterior of the Parish House, refurbishing the kitchen and paneled the walls of the dining room in the Parish House. They sponsor a May dinner to benefit the Cemetery and street lights, a June dinner and the Colorfest dinner to benefit the Church, and of course, we cannot omit the annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner, which has been held since 1892, making this year its' 90th Anniversary.
In 1966 the bricks of the church were cleaned and repointed. Through the years, the woodwork and windows have been kept in shape, many times by our own members.
In May of 1969 we had a 60th Birthday Celebration of the present church building. Many clippings, books, letters and pictures were on display and the congregation enjoyed a covered dish lunch together. A bazaar was held in October to start a fund for redecoration of the interior of the church. This later developed into the Colorfest Weekend and Apple Butter Boiling, from which profits have been realized and has become a great boost toward increased expenses and extras.
August of 1969 brought us the resignation of Pastor Pollard. He had decided to take a post as chaplain at the Bethphage Mission in Axtell, Nebraska. A call was issued to Rev. Thomas M. White with his acceptance on conditions that he be allowed to take a graduation gift first, that being a trip to Europe. This was agreed upon and services for the time period were planned by lay people, using Seminarians and for serving of sacraments ordained ministers. Pastor White's first service as our Pastor was on August 9, 1970 and he served the parish until September of 1978.
During the year of 1971, the entire inside of the church was redecorated, including a new paint job and carpeting throughout. The picture above the Altar was removed to be cleaned and restored. It was then placed on the wall above the choir loft. A new Rodgers organ was installed in 1972.
The chimes that were donated in 1938, and used in the old organ, were electrified and transferred to the present organ. The pews and Altar furniture were refinished and two of the 1909 chairs were cleaned and upholstered.
Pastor White brought us many new ideas. We had our first Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, with wrought iron holders being made for each pew and holders with globes for the windows. He started the use of bread instead of wafers and the use of a pouring chalice for Communion Services. The children were invited to the Communion Rail, with their parents, to receive a blessing. With the use of the chalice for communion, it became necessary to have pall and burste sets made to match the paraments. Stoles were also made to match. Deacons were trained and installed to help with the distribution of Communion. The Council approved Pastor White's request for monthly Communion services. We started the use of the lectionary inserts with the Advent Season of 1973. A Church Directory was printed to give each of our church families' current addresses and phone numbers. The first Easter Sunrise Service was held in 1975, and an Easter Garden has been assembled each year since 1976.
In an effort to unify liturgy and hymns of the various synods, two hymnals were printed. One was printed in 1958, the other in 1979 which we purchased and used. The majority of the cost was covered through memorial gifts.
Throughout the years, the Youth in the congregation have been active in many parts of our church life. Their name was changed to Luther League in 1972 when they became charter members of LCA. In 1971 they presented new flags to the church for the altar area. Various chancel dramas have been presented and they have read the scripture lessons during worship services for special occasions.
In November 1978 the Rev. Robert S. McEllroy, III began his ministry with the congregation and Parish, serving initially as Vice-Pastor and being called to serve the Parish full time effective September 1, 1979. During Pastor Bob's pastorate several Parish Services have been instituted; Epiphany, with the burning of the greens; Maundy Thursday with Holy Communion; and an annual Thanksgiving Communion Service on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The role of liturgical deacon was expanded to include participation in Baptisms and Confirmation. In 1981, a Youth Choir was formed under the direction of Mrs. Pat McEllroy.
Pastor Bob initiated a Wednesday morning Bible Study Class, an annual Parish Picnic, and an annual Confirmation Retreat to provide additional opportunities for Parish fellowship and learning. Later this year (1982) we will begin the "Word and Witness" program in the Parish to deepen our faith and to strengthen our ability to witness in our daily lives.
Recently our congregation supported the Mar-Lu-Ridge 20/20 Appeal and the Gettysburg Seminary Capital Appeal and are participating in the Born Anew to Serve Stewardship Program to extend our Synod ministry, and of developing our potential as Christian Stewards of the Gospel.
The Sunday School celebrated the 200th Anniversary of the founding of the Sunday School Movement in September 1980. A special program was held with a reading on how the first Sunday School came into being. A display of song books, lesson materials, and many pictures were of great interest to all while enjoying punch and cookies.
In 1981 the outside of the church building was painted and an outside stairway to the organ chamber was built. We are presently expanding our ministry to the elderly and disabled with the construction of a ramp for easy access to our building and with designated parking.
Giving thanks to God for His faithful blessings upon us as a congregation and building upon the dedication, witness and foundation of our brothers and sisters in Christ for 250 years, we look forward to the future with great anticipation and fervent desire to serve our Lord in this community to the honor of His Name and to the furtherance of his Kingdom in our midst.
8619 Blacks Mill Rd.
Thurmont, Md 21788