St. John's Lutheran Myersville

St. John's Myersville

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

Jerusalem 1774…North of Myersville, Union ceased to exist in 1790 became St. John’s.

St. John 's charge was composed of St. John 's Church, located at Church Hill, about two miles north of Myersville, and Wolfsville Church, about four miles farther north, at the north end of the famous Middletown Valley.

The earliest available records indicate that St. John's congregation was organized in 1790, during the ministry of Rev. George Hehl, and a humble log church was erected on a tract of about three acres of land bought of Mr. Daniel Gaver for "five pounds of current money”. Rev. Hehl served the double office of pastor and parochial school teacher. He lived in a part of the school building which was burned while he occupied it, and his work seems to have closed with that event.

There are some data indicating that this school house had been built as early as 1772 but no records of an organized congregation can be found. No doubt there was an earlier organization in the community known as "Jerusalem." about a mile and a half southwest of the present location of St. John's Church. There is on record a deed by P. Rodenpiller dated September 28, 1786, conveying a tract of land called "Second Choice" to Jacob Sagasser, an elder of the Reformed Church, and Michael Troutman, an elder of the German Lutheran Church, for the joint use of the two churches. On this ground a church building was erected and a burying-ground laid out and used jointly by the two churches. There is frequent reference in the minutes of St. John's council to the sale of this building and the old cemetery which was cared for by the council of St. John's church; so there must have been an organized congregation, but no records of the organization can be found.

The log building erected in 1790 served as a place of worship until 1830 when it was torn down and the logs were sold to Mr. George Hark and with them he built a dwelling now owned by Mr. Charles Gaver, son of the late Henry Gaver. On or near the same site the next church, a substantial stone structure, with galleries on three sides, was built in 1880 during Rev. Reek's pastorate.

St. John's congregation formed a part of the Middletown pastorate, or at least was served by the Middletown pastors from the close of Rev. Hehl's pastorate until 1850, when the Wolfsville congregation was united with St. John's, forming the St. John's charge, under the pastoral care of Rev. David Smith, who served for fifteen months. He was followed by Rev. J. P. Probst, who served from 1851 to 1853. On the sixteenth of October, 1853, Rev. C. Startzman was elected pastor and served until 1860. During his pastorate, in 1856, St. Paul's congregation, of Myersville, was organized and connected with the charge and remained in connection with it until 1903, when St. Paul's withdrew and became the Myersville pastorate, and St. John's and Wolfsville congregations again formed the St. John's pastorate and continue to operate.

Following Rev. Startzman, Rev. J. M. Graybill was pastor from 1860 to 1862. Then Rev. C. Startzman was recalled January 1, 1863, and served until November 17, 1866. Rev. Hiram Knodle became pastor in July, 1867 and ceased his labors January 5, 1872. Rev. J. J. Kerr became pastor in 1872 and resigned in 1875. Rev. J. C. Forsythe was pastor from December 1, 1875 to1878. The next pastor was Rev. H. G. Bowers, whose ministry began in March, 1879, and closed in March, 1882. The longest pastorate was that of Rev. A. M. Smith, which began June 25, 1882, and continued to September 25, 1895. Then came Rev. W. L. Remsburg, in 1896, and served till November, 1902. He was the last pastor before St. Paul's withdrew and formed the new pastorate of Myersville. During his term of service the interior of St. Johns was rearranged and beautified.

Rev. G. W. Stroup became the first pastor after the charge was divided, taking charge in August, 1904 and resigning April 1, 1910. During his pastorate the parsonage was burned, in 1905, and immediately rebuilt, and the "Wolfsville church was repaired and a vestibule and tower added at a cost of $1,100 and reopened June 6, 1909.

Rev. W. D. Nicoll became pastor May 1, 1910, and served not quite two years. Rev. A. H. Burk became pastor April 1, 1913 and served until his death, March 28, 1914. He had taken hold of the work with energy and consecration that promised great results when he died suddenly. He drove three miles to Harmony, taught a catechetical class, came home and passed.

The charge was then vacant till June 15, 1915, when Rev. .J. B. Umberger was called to the work. During this vacancy it was supplied by students from Gettysburg Theological Seminary. Rev. J. G. C. Knipple, a student, supplied the charge very well in the summer of 1914.

The parsonage was built by St. John's congregation, in 1850 on a plot of ground adjoining the church grounds, at a cost of $1,600, of which the Middletown congregation gave $239. The building of this parsonage was made memorable and peculiarly sad by the accidental death of Mr. Enos Routzahn, one of the most highly esteemed members of the church, who was killed while assisting in placing some heavy timbers in the building.

During the early 20th century, extensive improvements have been were made to the church and the cemetery and surroundings.

St. John's congregation in 1920 had supplied three of her sons for the Gospel ministry: the Rev. J. Elmer Bittle, D.D., son of the late T. F. Bittle, and for many years Missionary Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Synod; and the Rev. Elmer F. Rice and Rev. Clay E. Rice, sons of Mr. and Mrs. M. L. Rice, both of whom served in the Pittsburgh and East Pennsylvania Synods, respectively.

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