St. Mary's United Church of Christ -Silver Run


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The early days of the church read like an American History book. The area around Silver Run was settled predominantly by Germans who made their way across the Atlantic Ocean to Philadelphia and then south to the rich fertile land of this vicinity. Here they built their homes, started their farms and raised their families. There are still families in this congregation whose roots go back to these early residents of the Silver Run area in the mid 1700’s.

The German heritage in the church is strong. All the early records and documents were written in German. Services were conducted strictly in German until about 1876 and the use of German was not entirely discontinued until the mid 1890’s. The inscription above the altar – “Allein Zu Gottes Ehre”, roughly translated --- All to the Glory of God, reflects that heritage.

St. Mary’s began as a Union Church of two congregations, Lutheran and Reformed, on May 31, 1762. A log building was erected on a 15-acre lot by the members. The log building sufficed for almost 60 years. In 1821, another building was erected, again a union church, across the street from where St. Mary's United Church of Christ is built today. This building, made of brick, was completed and dedicated in 1822.

Lutheran and Reformed people began settling in the valleys along the Silver Run, the Deep Run, and the Great Pipe Creek of what became northern Carroll county, Maryland, in the late 1740s and 1750s. Some came from the older Conewago settlement in Adams and York counties, Pennsylvania, some from other Pennsylvania German settlements, some directly from Europe, perhaps by the port of Philadelphia, perhaps by the ports of Baltimore and Annapolis. They were followed very soon by the clergy, in this case Jacob Lischy (1719-c. 1799), Reformed, and John George Bager, or Baugher, (1725 - 1791), Lutheran. It is apparent from Lischy's register of baptisms that he was ministering fairly regularly in the late 1750s to persons who were members of the Silver Run church when it adopted a union agreement, 31 May 1762, the earliest contemporary reference there is to it.

That document states clearly that a church was already standing, and that it was named Saint Mary's. Even the German documents from the eighteenth century are unanimous in calling the church Saint Mary's, and not St. Maria or die Marienkirche, German forms by which both Protestant and Catholic churches dedicated to the mother of Jesus are known.

The church building in place by May of 1762 was most likely a log structure covered with clapboard siding and hardly to be distinguished on the outside from the modest first-generation residences of the area. Tradition has it that it was located at a spring at the edge of the floodplain adjoining the Silver Run, hardly a typical church location in the eighteenth century, for which elevation and drainage for cemetery purposes were preferred. A residence near the spring, on the other hand, would have been customary. Perhaps tradition has confused a residence there with the church; perhaps a church was built there with the intention that it be used temporarily for worship and later as a home. There is no mention of another church in the records of either congregation until 1821, so that it probably served the congregations for nearly six decades. Of its interior no description has survived. It was sufficiently documented that Peter Mach, one of the members, purchased it for $90.69, for which he gave three notes "von wegen der alden Kirche die er gekauft hat" [on account for the old church which he bought. Ledger, page 27.]

Valentine Nicodemus (1730 - 1812), an "irregular' (that is, not member of the general church body), served as Reformed pastor at Silver Run for over 35 years from 1774 to 1812. His successor, Jacob Wiestling (1793 - 1826), died prematurely, but he began a register of baptisms for the Reformed in 1812, since if there was an earlier one, as seems likely, it was lost. Jacob Geiger (1793 - 1848), began a long and successful pastorate in 1817. Lutheran John Gropb (d. 1829) served from 1803 to 1819 and was followed by Heinrich Greber (1793 - 1843) who served until 1827. In 1820 the two young clergmen (Geiger and Greber) apparently saw to it that a new union constitution was adopted on 19 April. This document contained a provision, "If, however, in the futrue a Baumeister [building master] should become necessary, they [sic] shall also be elected by the congregation". That this provision had specific reference is suggested by the fact that a joint leger of the congregation begun about this time lists bills that were paid for the new "Sant Marias Kirge" from 28 May 1821 on. The Lutheran register contains a copy of a document placed in the cornerstone on 13 September 1821. The list of bills begins to be dated in 1822 (months and dates were not given) with the 35th of 67 entries, and concludes in that year. Two dated subscription lists survive as well as a third for the stove and pipe dated 1823. There is no record of consecration of the church, although a financial statement of 23 January 1823 mentions the collection at such a service. At the Ascension Day 1833 (16 May) accounting there is a notation that the debt was paid in full. In the next year, in January, there is the first reference to a service of worship in English.

Since the records of construction of the edifice survive surprisingly completely and since the building was not demolished until 1902, and there are many pictures of it, and even elements of the structure to be found, this building project may be described in some detail and serve as a typical case of how a German congregation went about building a new church, not only in the period of this structure, but before and after as well.

The 1820 constitution designated the key person(s) in this process when it provided ambiguously for the election of one or more Baumeister should it be necessary. The term literally means building master, but a close description of the position will show that no English word fully describes this office since it has completely disappeared from modern life. The Baumeister was architect, building committee and contractor in one person. As is still true in Germany, erecting a building among the Pennsylvania Germans required the owner to make individual "contracts" with the craftsman responsible for each phase of the building, to coordinate the timing of their work, and to supervise it. This the Baumeister did in a congregation. Moreover large amounts of labor were donated by members, as we shall see, and the Baumeister had the task of organizing that too. No wonder he or they were elected and not appointed. No wonder they were paid for their time. The job was a major responsibility demanding skill and tact.

Site selection (drainage, flatness, soil condition were factors), site preparation (removal of growth, excavation -- not for a cellar, which churches did not have, but for the foundation), placing the foundation, making the bricks (in this case, or cutting stone or wood), hauling the bricks, making the mortar, laying the bricks, building the roof, setting the windows and glazing them, plastering, "finishing" (putting the interior woodwork in place), painting or whitewashing were all steps along the way. When it was time the cornerstone was laid with appropriate ritural, duly announced in the local papers to attract a large crowd and a commensurate offering. Sometimes the announcements of such events advised the peddlers to stay away, since these ceremonies were major social events, but if not they appeared to hawk such things as Lebkuchen, a large soft cookie, cake, and other treats. Several clergymen would speak, perhaps less of a treat. A choir of children or adults might sing, depending on the musical sills of the organist-schoolmaster. Sometimes the pastor wrote an anthem and the schoolmaster the music; sometimes the pastor cast words to rhyme to be sung to a familiar hymn tune. A booklet was printed with the order of the day's events and the text of the hymns, so that people did not need to carry their hymnals with them as they had to do on Sundays. (Churches did not provide these for worshippers as a general rule. At most they had a few on hand for guests.) A proclamation was read and placed in the cornerstone.

Among Pennsylvania Germans a church was usually not consecrated until it was both finished and paid for. It was on this occasion that a name was given the building in the eighteenth century. One pastor usually was given the honor of selecting the name and of announcing it as a surprise during the consecration ceremonies. Names thus selected did not always "take", however, and local nicknames could prevail instead. In the case of St. Mary's church, the name of the circa 1762 building was automatically applied to the new one, as happened throughout the nineteenth century so that congregations and not buildings any longer were thought to bear the name. There is only a brief reference to a service of dedication in this instance. The debt itself took over a decade to absolve. The same expectation of the cornerstone ceremony would have applied again, including the desire to attract a crowed and a large offering.

The financial register kept for both congregations of Saint Mary's church contains five blocks of material pertinent to the erection of the church in 1821 and 1822.

The union building shared by the Lutherans and Reformed lasted about 130 years, but the time came for separation. In 1893, the Reformed congregation dedicated the current St. Mary's United Church of Christ. On a corner lot at the bottom of the hill, along the main highway, the Lutherans consecrated a site for their church. The laying of the corner stone of St. Mary's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Silver Run, Maryland, was on July 8, 1894, led by the Reverend H. C. Fultz. Our stone church was officially dedicated on December 20th, 1896, by Pastor W. H. Ehrhart.

On May 24, 1879, with the founding of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church at Pleasant Valley, St. Mary's became a two-church parish. This relationship with St. Matthew's lasted until January 14, 1990, when St. Mary's and St. Matthew's voted to discontinue the partnership and call their own pastor.

The Pastors of St. Mary’s UCC

Johannes G. Bager 1762 - 1768

Frederick Wildbaum 1768 - 1782

John Daniel Shroeder 1782 - 1789

John Grobp 1803 - 1819

Heinrich Graeber 1819 -1827

John Jacob Albert 1827 - 1837

Jeremiah Harpel 1837 - 1841

Peter Willard 1842 - 1843

Peter Sheurer 1843 - 1858

Samuel Henry 1859 - 1869

Monroe J. Alleman 1869 - 1875

John W. Lake 1875 - 1877

Monroe J. Alleman 1877 - 1881

O. C. Roth 1881 - 1883

Peter Scheeder 1883 - 1887

H. C. Fultz 1887 - 1895

W. H. Ehrhart 1896 - 1903

H. D. Newcomer 1904 - 1905

John O. Yoder 1905 - 1912

J. Luther Hoffman 1912 - 1917

Atkin G. Wolf 1917 - 1926

Willard E. Saltzgiver 1927 - 1942

Frederick R. Seibel 1943 - 1958

Lloyd H. Seiler 1958 - 1962

Roland A. Ries 1963 - 1985

Paul A. Haack 1986 - 1989

Revs. Fisher & Slinghuff 1989 - 1991

(interim pastors)

H. Lee Brumback, II 1991 - Present

Maryland State Archives Information: MSA SC4652


St. Mary's United Church of Christ

1441 East Mayberry Road

Westminster, Maryland 21158