First German Reformed Baltimore
History of Baltimore City & County; John Thomas Scharf, 1881, J.B. Lippencott & Company, publishers, Philadelphia PA.
History of Baltimore, 1729-1898; SB Nelson, Publisher
Society for the History of Germans in Maryland, ‘The German Reformed Congregation in Baltimore Town’, page 29-31.
History of Baltimore 1729-1898, Elliott (Published 1898 S.B. Nelson, Publisher)
The German Reformed Church in this country was founded by emigrants from Germany and Switzerland, about the year 1730. Its stronghold at first was in eastern Pennsylvania, but its adherents were scattered also throughout the other colonies, the more especially toward the South. Just when the first congregation was formed in Baltimore is not definitely known. however, historical manuscripts point to the decade between 1750-1760.
Up until the year 1758, we find church records that indicate the German Reformed worshiped with the Lutheran congregation, harmoniously, at Zion Lutheran Church on Gay St. It was that year, however, the Reformed congregation resolved to build their own church. The first church owned by the German Reformed was built about 1756-1758. It was located on North Charles Street, corner of Saratoga almost directly opposite St. Paul's Church. Mr. Christophe Faber was pastor of the church for about fourteen years. Mr. Faber served the congregation until 1771.
It would appear that Charles Carroll of the city of Annapolis conveyed lots 151 and 152 in fee simple to Valentine Larsch, Conrode Smith and Jacob Keepaut for eighteen pounds sterling ground for the congregation (Baltimore County-now city land records liber B No. H on folio 164). These lots were conveyed to the Elders of the High Dutch Reformed Calvinist Congregation in Baltimore Town on August 29, 1763 (liber B No. L folio 505) which is evidence that the lots were bought originally by the three men for the use of the congregation. The grounds were again sold in April, 1806 between John Henry Dreyer, the pastor of ‘The German Reformed Congregation’ in Baltimore Town. The grounds were transferred at a cost of five thousand dollars.
At that time, a young minister, a Rev. Mr. Swope had just arrived from Germany and the congregation had hoped to have Rev. Faber retire and Rev. Swope step in. Rev. Faber didn’t have the same plans and continued in his spot as pastor, causing a split in the congregation in 1770. Those members that opposed withdrew and built the second Reformed church and named Rev. Swope their pastor. At the resignation of Rev. Faber, Rev. George Wallauer replaced him in 1772. Rev. Wallauer left to join the British army. He was succeeded by Rev. Charles L. Boehme, who was later dismissed because of unbecoming behavior. He was succeeded by the Rev. Nicholas Pomp, who was finally a successful minister to the congregation.
Around 1783, the congregation resolved to build a new church. It was located at the northwest corner of Baltimore and Front Streets and dedicated on June 20, 1787.
This church was built in 1785 and cost $20,000. In 1791 the Rev. George Troldenier was called from York, Pa., to succeed the Rev. Mr. Pomp.
In 1795 the congregation was incorporated by an act of the State Legislature. In 1796 the church was sold to the vestry of St. Paul's Church and was subsequently given to the 'old Christ Church' congregation. A new site was selected on Second street (now Water Street), near the intersection of the present Holliday street, and a new church was erected thereupon. It was dedicated in 1797. The building measured fifty by eighty feet and the steeple, which was erected in 1805 stood nearly two hundred feet high.
In 1818, a petition that was drawn by the Consistory solicited permission to have English preaching in the church every Sunday afternoon. Dr. Becker was opposed and in the midst of the excitement which the movement created, Dr. Becker died. After the death of Pastor Becker, Rev. Lewis Mayer was called to visit and preach a German and English service. This was the first time English had been preached in the congregation.
In 1819, Rev. Albert Helffenstein, Sr., was called from his congregation in Carlisle, PA., to serve as pastor. Part of the reasoning behind his calling was his ability to preach in both languages, however, he was not as adamant about the German language as was Rev. Becker. As the years progressed, German became less and less frequent and in 1827, it was abandoned altogether. Mr. Helffenstein resigned in 1835.
The opening of Holliday Street, to make room for the park, made it necessary to move and closing services at that church were held on July 8, 1866. The new church was built on the west side of Calvert Street, south of Read and dedicated on October 6, 1867.
The next pastor was the Rev. Elias Heiner, who succeeded to the charge in 1835 and faithfully filled his office until his death in 1863. He was succeeded by the Rev. E. R. Eschbach. When Holliday street was opened, it was necessary to move the church. A lot was chosen on Calvert Street near Reed. The new church was built in 1867. The pastor in 1898 was the Rev. Joel T. Rossiter, D. D.
In 1918, the First Reformed merged with St. Stephens Reformed Church and later became the First and St. Stephen’s United Church of Christ.
The Maryland archives indicate that the church was operational from 1867 to 1932 and have it at several addresses including:
- 816 N. Calvert Street
- 300/400 block of Water Street
- 6915 York Rd.
Pastors of the First German Reformed:
Rev. John Christian Faber to 1771
Rev. George Wallauer 1772
Rev. Charles Boehme
Rev. Nicholas Pomp
Rev. George Troldenier 1791 (Died 12-12-1800)
Rev. John H. Dryer 1802-1806
Rev. Dr. Christian Becker 1806-1818 (Died 7-12-1818)
Rev. Albert Helffenstein 1819-1835
Rev. Elias Heiner 1835-1863 (Died 10-20-1863)
Rev. E.R. Eschbach
Rev. Joel T. Rossiter