Mount Moriah German Reformed

Information on Mount Moriah contributed by Joe Davis

Mount Moriah German Reformed Church was created in 1850 when the group split from their Lutheran neighbors in Bakersville. They had shared a Union Church with the Lutherans since 1810. The split was likely sparked by the issue of slavery. Positions on the issue were hardening in the nation and in Bakersville at the time.

The Rench, Grimes, Schnebly, Dellinger, Stonebraker, and Davis families, who were charter members, were all slave holders. All these families would hold on to their slaves until they were emancipated by the State of Maryland in 1864.

Andrew Rench and Daniel Schnebly were the two wealthiest of the founders and seemed to have led the move. Schnebly supplied the land and the name of the church was taken from the Rench homeplace called Mount Moriah which was nearby. The location of the church was northwest of Bakersville on the Bakersville Road at the intersection of Route 63. The church was constructed from brick and was dedicated on Christmas Day 1850.1

Another indication of the leanings of the congregation was their choice of ministers during this time. Mortimer Shuford was their minister from 1857 to 1863. Shuford was a southerner who was born in North Carolina and had previously had a church in Virginia. During his tenure he lived in Sharpsburg and his biography said that he suffered greatly during the Civil War. The Hagerstown newspaper reported on January 16, 1861 that he suffered a sad accident and on March 4, 1863, his son was killed when a shell he found exploded. The shell was a leftover from the Battle of Antietam and was thought to be safe because it was in a pond. Shuford left for Boonsboro in 1863 and September 1865 was arrested for insulting the flag and spent two weeks in jail.

Their next minister was Robert Douglas who lived on the Potomac River opposite Shepherdstown. Douglas was born in Ireland but somehow attended the Seminary in York, Pennsylvania and become a German Reformed minister. After his son, Henry Kyd Douglas, joined the Confederate army, he was viewed with suspicion by the Unionists. He was called “That Old Rebel Preacher’ and it was said that his sermons were reported and the very prayers that he offered over the graves of those he buried were searched for words of treason.

After the battle of Antietam, the Union army stripped his farm of all crops and animals and burned many of his out buildings. He wrote a letter of complaint but it was ignored. In October 1862, he was arrested by Federal soldiers for allegedly passing messages to his son across the Potomac River. He was taken outside of Harpers Ferry and left outside in the snow for three days and nights. No trial was ever held but General Burnside offered to release him if he would take an oath of allegiance. He refused and was taken as a prisoner to Fort McHenry in Baltimore. His health began to fail him and he was released after six weeks.

Once home, his family wanted him to retire from the ministry due to his poor health but he refused. In August 1867 after preaching at Mt. Moriah in the morning, he collapsed after his sermon in Keedysville and only lived for a few days. His devoted parishioners at Mt. Moriah recalled the sermon “as full of truth, honesty, and resignation”. 2

The church doors were closed on the 4th of September 1947, when the consistory sold the building to James G. Malone for $1500. Members of the consistory at the closing were Harvey Friend, George Downey, Henry Dellinger, Davis Delauder, William Davis, and Charles Shafer.

(Land records Book 244 page 154)

It has now been converted into a residence. The white rectangle below the semicircle is the date stone. It reads “German Reformed Church Founded August 1850”. The two entrances at the front have been converted into windows but the diamond paned transoms remain.

The church never had a full-time minister. In 1879, it was part of a charge with Sharpsburg and Keedysville. They joined together to buy a parsonage in Keedysville for $3,000. (Land records Book 78 page 284)

Being a rural church, the highlight of the church year was the Harvest Home Service which was held each fall. The farmers would save the pick of the crop for the service and display it in the sanctuary. The vegetables and canned items would then be taken to the Homewood Home for the Aged in Williamsport on Sunday afternoon.3

1. Herald of Freedom December 11, 18502. American Bastille, history of illegal arrests and imprisonment. John A. Marshall, 1871, p156 Rev. Robert Douglass3. Personal Memories of Hiram E. Davis