Second German Reformed Otterbein
History of Baltimore City & County; John Thomas Scharf, 1881, J.B. Lippencott & Company, publishers, Philadelphia PA.
History of Baltimore, 1729-1898, SB Nelson, Publisher
Old Otterbein Church, by Robert R. Willasch, April 1992
The denomination of the United Brethren in Christ had its origin around 1781 under Rev. Philip William Otterbein, who was a devoted German minister. Mr. Otterbein (1726-1813) came to Baltimore in 1751 as a missionary to German colonists in Pennsylvania. In 1774, he accepted the pastorate and organized the Evangelical Reformed Church under the name of United Brethren. The original name of the church was "The German Evangelical Reformed Church of Howard's Hill".
Pastor Otterbein and Rev. Martin Boehm were the first bishops. Old Otterbein is the mother church of the United Brethren in Christ and the oldest church still standing in Baltimore.
Pastor Otterbein had a close relationship with Francis Asbury and in 1784 assisted him in founding the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The congregation was composed of those that seceded from the First German Reformed Church a few years earlier under the leadership of Rev. Mr. Swope. In 1775 the lot on Conway Street near Sharpe was purchased and a wooden structure built.
The bells were cast in Bremen and were placed in the belfry. Even though no record exists, it has been written that a lottery was held in order to raise the $637.00 needed to hang the bells. The larger of the bells is 33 inches in diameter and 28 inches high. The smaller is 29 inches in diameter and 23 inches high and the words 'For Dee Evangelisch Reformirte Gemeinde Auf Howard's Hill in Der Stadt Baltimore 1789'. The bells were used for many purposes including fire alarms, including the great Baltimore Fire of 1904; alarm for the invasion at North Point in the War of 1812; the ending of WWI and WWII; greeting of German ships entering the harbor and the arrival and departures of friends and family from Germany.
The church also houses one of the six remaining Niemann organs in opertion today. It was dedicated on November 14, 1897 in the honor of Mr. & Mrs. Carl Greasley at a cost of $1500. The organs were made in Baltimore and are known for their clarity and powerful sound. It has had one major overhaul in 1927 and in 1992 the church was in the process of raising funds for a $65,000 restoration project on the organ.
Mr. Otterbein remained pastor until his death on November 17, 1813.
The present church structure was built in 1785, taking place of the frame structure build around 1771, and the parsonage in 1811. Philip William Otterbein is buried in the churchyard and a monument was placed at his grave in 1913. The interior of the church has been remodeled several times, however, the sanctuary remains the oldest in continuous use in Baltimore and the only extant eighteenth century church in the city.
Otterbein Chapel at the corner of Scott (527) and St. Peter Streets (now Carroll Street) is a branch of Otterbein Church. The cornerstone was laid on June 30, 1857 and the basement of the building was dedicated on December 27, 1857. The entire building was dedicated on March 27, 1859. In 1881, the pastor was Rev. J.P. Anthony.
Pastors of Otterbein:
- Rev. Benedict Schwope 1771-1774
- Rev. Philip Otterbein 1774-1813
- Rev. Mr. Schaeffer
- Rev. Mr. Snyder
- Rev. Mr. Neidig
- Rev. William Brown
- Rev. John Krack
- Rev. John Miller
- Rev. John Russel
- Rev. Mr. Hermann
- Bishop John Russel
- Bishop Erb
- Rev. Henry Schrob
- Rev. John A. Sand
- Rev. Charles Syder
- Rev. Nehemiah Altman
- Rev. Jacob Doerkson
- Rev. A. Kraus
OLD OTTERBEIN UMC
112 West Conway St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Tel: (410) 685-4703
Fax: (410) 637-3996