Beard's Lutheran Church-Washington County

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

Beard's Church is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, congregation in Washington County. There is conclusive evidence that it existed earlier than any other place of worship in the county, with the possible exception of St. Paul's near Clear Spring, and the Episcopal Chapel near Chapel Woods School in the Funkstown district.

Reliable church history shows a Lutheran congregation and church building on the banks of the Antietam in 1756, two miles west of our present building. The county records place them earlier than 1754. The will of Robert Downing, dated November 1, 1754, in a clause referring to that church says.; 'I give to my daughter Esther all that tract of land one hundred and thirteen acres (indicating terminals) excepting ten acres convenient to the meeting house, providing the people resorting thereto pay for it, etc."

On June 9, 1787, nine and a half acres of the reserved ten were sold bv Martin Ridenour and John Bard to William Shanafeld reserving one-half acre on which were located the church and burial ground, to be forever exempted. This occurred in 1787 when the site of the church was changed to the present one. Just a century later when Rev. V. Miller, the pastor, was preparing a centennial sermon he visited this place and found in an open field part of the unplowed graveyard about twelve by thirty-five feet with eight or ten old sand gravestones lying on the ground, showing burials as early as 1763. Certainly this was the site of the first Beard's Church erected probably before 1754.

In the journal of Rev. Schlatter a missionary of the Reformed Church there is record of his preaching, etc. in 1747 in a church on the west bank of Conococheague Creek. That church was the original of the present St. Paul's ten or twelve miles west of Beard's Church, and as all settlements went westward most likely Beard's Church was organized before 1747 as Mr. Downing's will record of 1754 speaks familiarly of a church building and graveyard as if it had existed for years.

Owing to want of records previous to 1799 we can but imperfectly give a record of pastors of that period. From Rev. J. G. Young, pastor at Hagerstown, 1773-91, we have the statement in 1786 that Beard's was served several years by Pastors Haushihl and Schwerdtfeger from Frederick, we know not whether as pastor or supply, probably the latter. Haushihl arrived at Annapolis in 1752, removed to Frederick in 1758, and Schwerdtfeger was pastor at Frederick from 1763 to 1768 when he returned to Europe leaving Rev. Hartwig over his congregations, possibly including Beard's.

In the journal of Rev. Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, 1769, we find a petition to the Ministerium of Pennsylvania of laymen in Pennsylvania, in Maryland on the Antietam, on the Conocoheague and Sharpsburg, in Virginia from Shepherdstown and Winchester, asking the ministerium to admit Rev. "Wildbahn to its body. He resided then near Littlestown and in 1770 removed to what is now Hanover. In the minutes of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania of 1772 is this entry, ' ' A delegate from vacant congregations between Pennsylvania and Virginia in Maryland, called by Indians Conococheague, which Senior Kurtz visited now and then and ministered the means of grace, laid before the ministerium a petition for an able teacher and pastor and to me privately said they desired the older Mr. Kurtz." The younger Kurtz was sent but the minutes of the next year, 1773, says, "Four congregations in Conococheague district in Maryland petition for Frederick Muhlenberg as pastor and teacher, because Mr. Kurtz, Jr., could not get along well."Rev. F. A. Muhlenberg acted as a supply for a short time. Later he became a member of Congress and the first speaker of the first House of Representatives of the United States.

Rev. J. George Young, pastor at Hagerstown from 1773 till his death in 1791, served Beard's till 1785 and was followed there by Rev. Daniel Schroeter, of Hanover. Pennsylvania. He served congregations in Frederick and Washington Counties, Maryland, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and died 1806. He probably served when the second church was built in 1787 on the site of the present church, almost two miles east of the first church. He is believed to have come to America with the Hessian troops, as many students did and remained here and became a minister.

The oldest church record of infant baptisms in the church, but not first recorded were, Elizabeth, daughter of J. G. and Catherine Hammel, and John Jacob, son of Peter and Anna M. Luber, both baptized May 9, 1790. The minister's name is not recorded but from the similarity of the writing recording an adult baptism and confirmation on June 17, 1791, we doubt not that he was Rev. Joel G. Hale, and that record is that Catharine Retsin, first wife of Christian, was born and bred in York County, Pennsylvania, and that her parents were William and Margaret Hart. On June 12, 1791, she was baptized and confirmed, and by her side was Christina Bart. This was signed by J. G. Hale. This clearly shows that he was pastor in 1790 and 1791. Unfortunately after that record of a minister's name, we have no other till that in 1848 of Rev. J. J. Reimensnyder, although there are records of baptisms. How long Rev. Hale served or when he left is not known, but in 1798 we are assured Rev. John Ruthrauff was pastor as his name is attached to the Congregational Kirchen Articles. He was pastor at Greencastle, Pennsylvania, from 1795 to 1837 when he died.

How long Rev. Ruthrauff served here is not shown but in December, 1806, the name of Rev. J. G. Schmucker appears in the minutes of a council meeting as pastor. As he served at Hagerstown from 1793 to 1810 and as Rev. Ruthrauff was certainly pastor of Beard's in 1798 it follows that Rev. Schmucker served here only in his later ministry in Hagerstown, presumably from 1806 to 1810, and it is likely that Rev. Ruthrauff served from 1797 to 1805.

Rev. Solomon Schaeffer served from 1810 to 1813. Rev. Baughey who served during 1812-1814 was unworthy and was suspended. Rev. B. Kurtz served from 1814 to 1831. He and former pastors, except Ruthrauff. had charge of Hagerstown, Beard's, St. Paul's, Williarnsport, Funkstown and later Leiters burg. In 1825-26 he visited Europe soliciting aid for the Gettysburg institutions. Revs. Ruthrauff and Medtart supplied his charges during this absence.

In 1828 a new charge was formed of Beard's, Leitersburg, Smithsburg and Mt. Moriah with Rev. S. K. Hoshour, pastor, who served 1828-30. He was followed by Rev. John Reck, 1830-32 ; J. P. Kline, 183346; J. J. Reimensnyder, 1848-51; Daniel H. Bittle, 1851-53; J. F. Probst, 1853-56; J. Heck, 1857-61, who died just as the present building was being completed ; W. F. Eyster, 1861-65, M. C. Horine, D.D., 1866-69; S. McHenry, 1870-72; X. J. Richardson, 1872-80, when a peaceful division occurred, Leitersburg and Beard 's forming the Leitersburg charge and Smithsburg and Mt. Moriah forming the Smithsburg charge which retained Rev. X. J. Richardson.

In January, 1881, Rev. V. Miller accepted the call to Leitersburg and served until 1914, when Rev. J. S. Koser was elected.

The first two buildings were of logs, the second one having galleries on three sides and a pipe organ built in 1787. The church site was changed and the third church, forty-two by sixty feet, was erected with brick in 1860. German was used until replaced in 1828 by English.

From Beard's came these clergymen: John. Solomon and Samuel Oswald, W. B. Bachtell, Christian and Clinton Hoover, C. Lepley, L. J. Bell, Ezra K. Bell, Albert Bell, A. A. Buhrman, J. F. Kayhoe, L. F. Miller, S. J. Miller, and probably others.