Bethel Lutheran Church

Bethel Utica Frederick

Source: Centennial History of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod 1820-1920, Wentz

The Monocacy Valley was filled with German settles during the late 18th century. Small groups formed at Utica where an old schoolhouse served as a center of worship, not just for the Lutherans in the area, but for at least three other denominations. One such schoolhouse was built about 1760 and was called Bethel. The Bethel Lutheran Church was built on this site.

John Krug, pastor of Frederick from 1771 to 1796, gave occasional sermons here and also came to bury the dead. David F. Schaeffer (pastor of Frederick in 1808) also filled in on occasion. The people here belonged to Frederick at the time and went to Frederick for communion.

Rev. Michael Wachter a native of this section, who was licensed in 1821 and received ordination in 1881 also assisted Rev. Schaeffer in his work and preached in the schoolhouse occasionally. Still it was a mere supply under the Frederick pastors.

After Dr. D. F. Schaeffer's death. Rev. Simeon W. Harkey his successor at Frederick, also took charge of this schoolhouse appointment. He had the revivalistic temper and awakened the spirit within the people and their desire to have a church. In the spring of 1888 ground was broken, the wall built, and the corner stone laid of a union church. The church was dedicated that same year. Dr. Harkey and the Reformed pastor holding the dedication. Dr. Harkey, of Frederick resigned in August 1850, and hence his services at Bethel also closed at that time.

Rev. George William Anderson accepted the charge, composed of Creagerstown, Utica and Bethel, He began his labors in January 1853 and lived at Creagerstown, being unmarried. He served the charge until the autumn of 1856, when he married, resigned and served the church elsewhere for many years.

Rev. William Hunt became pastor in the fall of 1856 and served over four years. His first communion was held October, 1856, and his last May 26, I860. His highest number of communicants was fifty-seven.

Rev. William II. Harrison became pastor on July 1, 1800. His pastorate continued until 1862, when he resigned to enter upon educational work, for which he was well adapted, as he was a man of more than ordinary ability.

His successor was Rev. S. Curtis, whose baptisms date from August 22, 1862. His labors closed August 1. 1866. He was a faithful shepherd and served many years in the ministry.

Rev. John Unruh served this charge from August 1, 1866, and continued five years. He baptized fifty children and confirmed thirty-three persons. On November 18, 1866, his first communion, ninety-two members availed themselves of that grace. This was the largest on record to that time. Father Unruh served five years, closing his labors August 1, 1871.

His successor was Rev. J. Summers, and his charge consisted of Creagerstown, Utica and Bethel. Many members were received and the church was built up. He served for six years, from 1871to 1877. Twenty-two were confirmed and others were received by letter and baptism.

Rev. S. A. Hedges became pastor of the charge November 1, 1877, and he continued in the charge for six years, during which time his labors were abundant, lie received forty-seven into the church. In 1881 a movement was made to rebuild the old church, which had always been a union church, Lutheran and Reformed. But a majority of the Reformed, desiring their own church, withdrew under the direction of Rev. Hench, to Charlesville, where they established a church and cemetery.

The Lutherans, under a competent building committee composed of the pastor. S. A. Hedges. Abraham Michel, Henry Wachteh, Philip Wachter and Lewis H.Wachter, leveled the old building and built the present well adapted and comfortable house of worship. It was dedicated on May 28, 1882, Rev. Hedges performing the holy act of consecration. The church cost about $3.000. It has been improved since and will remain a monument of the fidelity and piety of the fathers of the church. Rev. Hedges closed his labors November 1, 1883, and removed from the charge.

John Milton Snyder became pastor of the charge on September 1m 1884, and continued in the charge to January 1, 1889. He lived in the parsonage at Lewistown, which had been purchased during the early part of Rev. Hedges' ministry. Bethel now had one hundred members. Rev. Snyder confirmed thirty –four adults and baptized fifty children. His labors were appreciated and his ministry successful.

Rev. J. E. Zerger assumed the labors of the pastorate in the spring of 1889. His records are meager, but we learn that he received twenty-two members, baptized ten infants, and held communion six times, the last being April 3, 1892, indicating a three years' service.

John U. Asper became pastor of the charge in July, 1892. His first sacramental feast numbered only thirty-seven. His last communion on record notes fifty-one members communed. His pastorate was very fruitful, and continued until November 1, 1905, a period of thirteen years and four months.

In 1893 Walkersville congregation was received into the charge and it then consisted of four congregations. Rev. Asper resigned the charge on November 1. 1905.

Rev. G. W. Crist, who became pastor July 4, 1906, continued his pastorate until his death, July 8. 1914. He was an efficient pastor and loved by all.

On February 14, 1915, Charles A. Shilke, then a student in the Seminary at Gettysburg, was called to be pastor. Immediately after graduation, May 20. 1915, he took charge of the work of the congregation.

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