From the Church on the Corner, to the Church on the Hill
St. Paul's Lutheran-Cumberland 1920
Sources: Centennial History of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Maryland 1820-1920, Wentz;
From Generation to Generation-St. Paul’s English Lutheran Church of Cumberland Maryland 1794-1944 by Hixon Tracey Bowersox, D.D. Pastor of St. Paul’s.
St. Paul's English Lutheran Church, formerly known as "Christ's English Lutheran" was organized May 11, 1794.
The original constitution written in the German language is still preserved, though yellow with age, and is signed by twelve persons, Frederick William Lange, Pastor; Nicholas Leyberger, John Rice, George Rizer, Andrew Harry, Christian Brotemarkle, George Shuck. Christian Kohlhalfer, Frederick Loch, Jacob Valentine, John Cramer, Jacob Ganner. The records from that date are found in the 'Kirchen Buch fuer die Evangelische Gemeinde in Cumberland, Maryland'.
Having been duly organized, the congregation on June 20, 1794, purchased an acre of land for the sum of fifteen pounds ($72.80). The lot had a frontage on Baltimore Street and Centre Street. In the same year, 1794, a small log church was erected by John Rice (Baumeister), which was used by German and English Lutherans for worship. Likewise it was the place of worship for both the Episcopalians and Presbyterians (a very close union existed between the Lutherans and the Presbyterians) until the year 1830, when it was converted to a parsonage. It served as a place of worship until 1844. A new building was built and in 1855 a combination commercial and educational building was erected. That building was sold in 1874.
It is interesting to note that it is written that the first old bell hung in a large cherry tree and was used by the Protestant and Catholic alike in the tolling for the death of a member of their respective congregations. The sexton could charge fifty cents to provide this service. It is known that the bell did hang between two large beams and that was the intention by the builder. The bell was moved inside when the vestibule was built in 1821. The town at this time had less than thirty houses, so that the church stands as one of the oldest factors in Cumberland's development.
The church experience a dark time after the death of Pastor Butler. The congregation amounted to about eleven and the then frontier of Cumberland was strong with Methodist ‘Revivals’ and an abundance of Methodist ‘circuit riders’ (those that would minister to the needs of the people as they rode through their towns). Many during this time converted to Methodist. This was a time that saw tremendous competition and little cooperation between the denominations. One man, Martin Rizer remained loyal to his Lutheran Church. Within a few years many began to come back and in 1818 several men signed a petition and presented it to the Ministerium of Pennsylvania requesting a pastor who could preach in both German and English. Their answer was Rev. J.F.C. Heyer. One positive thing in the beginning was seeing the effectiveness of the ‘revival’, Rev. Heyer held his own for the Lutheran Church in June 1819. They hosted the Synod of Maryland and Virginia for the 1822 session. This event and having so many Lutheran ministers preach in both the German and English language gave the church the charge it needed. Lutheranism in Cumberland spread.
In 1829 a congregational meeting elected a Vestry of elders, Martin Rizer, Jr., and John Miller of Jacob and also included deacons Emanuel Easter, Thomas Dowden, James Moore (of the Presbyterian Church) and Martin Rizer of M. They were inducted into office and met soon after to adopt rules and regulations for the government of Christ’s Lutheran Church. This meeting established all standing committees and all committee members were soon after appointed.
The Presbyterians again shared the church while there church was being built. From March 1836 to December 1838, the pastors and the vestry of both denominations met together to conduct the business of the church. There is no mention of why this was discontinued. Pastor Bowersox speculates that it could be because the church being built for the Presbyterians was near completion and could be used, or it could be that a congregation for the German Lutherans formed by Rev. Kehler was not going to get the time and energy previously given to the Presbyterians. Since that time, the church has been used almost exclusively by the Lutherans.
It was also during this time (1836 to 1843) that Cumberland began to see to big influx of immigrants from Europe. A large number were German Lutherans. By this time, Christ’s Lutheran Church preached predominantly in English, those services being introduced by Pastor Butler and increased services by Pastor Heyer. The church at this time, because many of these Europeans were requesting interment in the church cemetery, agreed that no foreigner could be buried in their cemetery unless they were a contributing member of the congregation. Then if they wished interment in the church cemetery, the cost to them would be one dollar. Those that wish to be buried there that were not contributing members would be charged three dollars. The foreigners did not speak English and wanted to hear preaching in their native tongue. They went to Rev. Kehler and asked him to provide a service to them in German and he agreed. This resulted in the organization of the German Lutheran Church on January 1, 1838. Beginning in 1839, every six months, communion was administered in the German language.
The German population in Cumberland grew and by 1841 the German Lutheran Congregation was organized and had a Vestry. It was around this time that they little log church was just about beyond repair and was even becoming an unsafe place to worship. The German Congregation assumed some of the expenses of the pastor’s salary, the parsonage, but very little. The expenses for the upkeep of the church and grounds were split 1/3 paid by the German congregation and 2/3 being paid by the English congregation and two of their country congregations, Murley’s Branch and Union).For years, at least since 1836, the issue of a new church was discussed. It was postponed for many reasons, the primary being monetary including the ‘panic of 1837’ and banking failures that followed.
The new church: This was the first brick church in Cumberland. Under the direction of Rev. Winecoff and a committee consisting of Samuel Eckels, Henry Wineow, John Rabolt, William Peterman , Jesse Magee, Gideon Butler, William Beall, Daniel Saylor, Philip Feagy and Daniel McClary. The corner stone was laid in 1842. Building operations continued until July 1843 when they ceased due to lack of funds. Another committee was established and charged with completing the church piece by piece as funds became available. The Lecture room in the basement was first and blessed on Sunday morning May 5, 1844. Little by little the church was completed…Sunday school room, pulpit (built by the Pastor and M. Rizer and used in September 1844) It was consecrated under the title, ‘St. Paul’s’ and was the first reference of St. Pauls. A fable of old (or maybe not) was of one of the church vestrymen wanted the church ten feet longer than the others planned it, so without a word to anyone this shrewd vestryman got up one night and put the stakes ten feet forward. The mistake was not discovered until the builders were ready for the roof. The church completed was ten feet longer.
The congregation instructed the Vestry to secure funds to build a belfry or steeple. After many delays and many heated debates, the steeple was built. The old log church was updated and made the Pastor’s parsonage.
Just as with many of the other churches you have read about on these pages, the language became an issue. In fact, it was sometimes a divisive issue, making it almost impossible to obtain bi-lingual pastors. If the German congregation was pleased, the English were not and vice versa. This came to a boiling point when Rev. Finckel resigned in 1846. The English found a viable replacement, as did the Germans, but neither were acceptable to the other. It was at this time the Vestry added to the constitution a resolution that the Vestry of the English Lutheran Church would have regular preaching in the English language and that a pastor be called exclusive and separate from all other. So each congregation had their own pastor. This didn’t end the struggle because now both felt they had property rights on the new church (since both congregations contributed). Things escalated and items such as service times, which Sunday the Germans could enjoy communion, two languages, two ministers, etc., broadened the chasm between the two until a separation was necessary. The English Vestry met on June 18, 1847 and resolved, “Whereas, the German Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Cumberland, has no part, claim, interest, right or share in the property of ‘Christ’s Church’ of the same place and,
“Whereas the said German Congregation has, for several years, been allowed the use of said property, which allowance is now found to be inconvenient to the congregation of said Christ’s Church
Therefore be it
“Resolved that the Elders and Deacons of said ‘Christ’s Church’ in Vestry assembled, that said German Congregation be, and hereby is requested and notified to discontinue all appointments in said ‘Christ’s Church’ after the first day of October, eighteen hundred and forty eight.
There was more give and take but the separation did occur and did leave a great financial burden on the English congregation. The separation also led to the dissolution of the two country congregations. Most of the bills for the next several years were done by subscription…there were no wealthy parishioners. Another method used was ‘pewletting’ where pews were rented to members of the congregation and proceeds used to pay the expenses of the church. This was introduced in 1845. From 1844 to 1880, parts and parcel of the land owned by the church, as well as right of ways to the alley, etc., were sold to pay for the bills. It was a very difficult time. One merchant, the son of Rev. John Butler, Jonathan, loved the church so much that every year he contributed as he paid ‘due bills’ with merchandise from his store on Mechanic Street. The church also entered the real estate market with plans to use the land of the old log church to build a three story building, first floor retail/trade; 2nd floor religious and intellectual/cultural activity and the third floor use of a hall for the areas benevolent groups. This was in 1854. The Vestry was charged to borrow $2,000 for the building, instead borrowing $2,500….adding to the church mortgage. When they were given construction numbers of $3,500 (over budget) they decided to eliminate one of the floors. The building was completed in May 1855. The congregation was not happy with the decision of the Vestry and in some cases, their support of the church was withheld. When the pastor, Rev. Campbell, requested his pay and back pay, the church could not pay, nor could they borrow because of the recent loan for the new building, the pastor gave his three month notice. The congregation supported their pastor and they won in the long run. Rev. Campbell did resign a few short months later. The building was unprofitable and unsellable and was part of an exchange with a member of the church Kennedy H. Butler. He traded his property and brick house on South Liberty Street for the brick building and lot owned by the congregation on Centre Street. He assumed the mortgage of $2,500. Less than two years later, the church re-purchased the brick building for $150 which covered the repairs done by Mr. Butler. There is no record of the mortgage being renegotiated or sold. Records of these transactions are in the church books only…there are no recorded deeds in the Allegany County Land Records. The Centre Street property was sold again in 1870 when a member Mr. George Dietz offered to give his property on Decatur Street and $600 for the church property. Again there are no land records. This chapter of the church’s activities in real estate finally came to a close in 1874 when the brick building on the log church lot was sold to Kennedy Butler in addition to another piece of ground for $6600. The two positives about this building were that for a while it did serve as a Sunday School building, which was a real upgrade from the Lecture room in the basement. It was also used as a hospital during the Civil War. The hospitals maintained by the US Government at Clarysville were transferred to Cumberland in October 1862.
The economic picture at the church picked up under the direction of Rev. Weddell. Two notes were paid, his salary increased and when he left in 1868, the congregation was free from debt for the first time in its history. He was one of the most prosperous pastors and he did this during a bad economy and the civil war. Rev. Bowersox’s book provides a very effective overview of Cumberland and the happenings during the Civil War.
The next big event was the building of the new church, but this decision took several years..whether to sell the existing and purchase a new location or rebuild at the current location or the renovate at the current location. Even after the congregation approved rebuilding at the current location in 1893, the Vestry voted to ‘not build at this time’, which did not bode well since the Vestry received its authority from the congregation, which had already spoken. After about another year, the congregation was informed that the new church building would begin and during that time, they would worship in the Jewish Synagogue at Union and South Centre Sts. Pastor Finkbiner resigned shortly before completion of the new church, which was dedicated September 22, 1895.
The church went through some very difficult times during and after the tenure of Pastor T.J. Yost. During Yost’s ministry, many of the congregation was not in agreement with his teaching and many voiced this disapproval through the collection plate. Bills became overdue etc., and eventually the Vestry asked for the resignation of Pastor Yost. Pastor Yost agreed to resign when his salary was paid in full. Following a meeting, however, it became apparent that this split was going to have long-term repercussions. Sunday school teachers and vestrymen quit, the Young People’s Society sought to divorce itself from the church. This eventually led to Pastor Yost and 86 persons seceding from St. Paul’s and against the will of the Synod and their direct notice to ‘cease’, organized the ‘The First English Lutheran Church of Cumberland’. On April 1902 this was changed to ‘St Stephen’s Lutheran Church’. They were disowned by the Maryland Synod, but were accepted by the Allegany Synod in Pennsylvania. It remained with that Synod until it merged with St. Paul’s in 1927.
It was re-united during the pastorate of Rev. Bowersox in 1927. It was also during Rev. Bowersox’s tenure that Cumberland experienced the worst flood in its history on March 18, 1936. An earlier flood in 1924 affected only the furnace room, but had no other impact on the church. This flood, however, flooded the church. There was at least four feet of water in the Sunday school room. After assessing the damage, it was discovered that three pianos, they hymnals and literature were destroyed. There was other damage to the chairs, tables and furnishings. All of the damage amounted to $1800.
1938 saw many radical but nice improvements including updating to the Chancel, the Altar and the Pulpit, new carpeting and lighter wall treatments. The total cost was $4650.
This takes us to 1944 and a very important year for the church. On May 14, 1944, the congregation celebrated the One Hundred Fiftieth Anniversary. The morning sermon was delivered by former pastor Dr. Martin Luther Enders and the evening sermon by another past pastor, the Rev. J. William McCarley. The celebration continued for several days with many surrounding churches and those associated with the history of the church offering greetings and good will. The congregation was presented with the ‘History of St. Paul’s English Lutheran Church’, which I have used as reference. It was written by the then pastor, Dr. Bowersox. During these years, the country was at war and many renovations and plans were put on the back burner. There were memorial services for those giving the ultimate sacrifice.
The parish house was sold in 1947 (the old St. Stephen’s)
Again, the issue of moving from the corner and rebuilding was surfacing. When it was apparent they had outgrown their Sunday school. This time, however, the congregation rallied around the change and a special congregational meeting held on October 3, 1949 led to the approval of the Vestry purchasing a piece of land described as the Roman property on Washington Street. The property was purchased for $62,250.00 and the deed executed on December 28, 1949. The funds came from the sale of the Parish House or St. Stephen’s. Building was delayed by yet another war when in 1952 building supplies were being rationed. Special events and fund drives were established to shore up the building fund. With the skills of Rev. Bowersox, campaigns and fundraisers were successful. The paper carried articles praising him for his oratory skills and united the church in their cause. The Bowersox era was truly remarkable. He suffered and was ill for many months prior to his retirement. He was unable to be part of the dedication of the new church as he was killed in an automobile accident on January 16, 1960. His was the first funeral service held in the new church and the old bell tolled seventy times.
In reading the history, Dr. Bowersox and his wife had such an impact and lasting relationship with the congregation. He stayed at St. Paul’s longer than any other clergy. They celebrated his silver anniversary with the church and his fortieth anniversary of his ordination on November 10, 1950.
A new pastor arrived on February 1, 1957. Pastor John F. Sammel accepted the call and was installed on March 3, 1957.
In June 1957, St. Paul’s held their first Vacation Bible School.
The congregation accepted plans for the new church and the low bid of $667,800 was accepted on March 24, 1958. Hazelwood Construction Company won the bid. The groundbreaking was on March 30, 1958. The new cornerstone was laid on Reformation Sunday, October 26, 1958. The last service was held on the corner church on March 8. 1959. They called this ‘Golden Membership’ Day and honored those that had celebrated there for fifty years. Many treasures were taken from the old church to the new including the old bell and Kirchen Buch from 1794. Many of the windows were disassembled and reassembled at the new church. The third oldest item, the Chancel seat from 1842, the altar of the 1894 church, and the stones from previous churches on the corner were among some of the treasures. Dedication Sunday was held on November 22, 1959.
After some legal concerns, the name of the church was changed ‘officially’ to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Cumberland, the name that had been used for many years. It was also at this time changes were made to the charter with regards to the amount of property that could be owned by the church. Unfortunately, like so many other older churches we forget that time changes as does monetary needs. Most charters do not keep up with inflation.
In 1963 a ‘Carillon’ was given to the church by Miss Anna Kraft. The bells (fourteen in all) were displayed on Sunday September 22, 1963. They were installed in the belfry the following week. Each bell was inscribed with a name and scripture. They were given the names of the leaders of the Christian faith during the first century and also indicated their weight.
The mortgage to the new church was paid in full on March 6, 1968. It was celebrated throughout the week.
In July 1968, Rev. David R. Shaheen was installed as an assistant pastor. He was newly graduated from seminary and would be serving St. Paul in the capacity of youth director and director of Christian Education.
On May 11, 1969, the church celebrated their one hundred and seventy fifth birthday.
The church has also been active theatrically. They actually performed the Passion Play with more than 100 actors from the ranks of the congregation. In 1968, they presented a ‘Live Nativity’ and several programs have been presented by the youth, many during the folk service.
Pastor Sammel resigns effective July 1, 1969 and Pastor Shaheen Resigns on August 5, 1969.
The church will begin the new year, 1970, with a new Pastor, Rev. Richard Manning of Baltimore city arrived at St. Paul’s on February 1, 1970. His installation took place on February 20, 1970. Pastor Manning made many changes to the service and the way things were done at St. Paul’s. He added services, changed communion Sundays for shut ins, etc. He also gave winning arguments about the removal of a mural of ‘The Conversion of St. Paul’ from behind the altar. This was similar to arguments regarding the ‘Luther’ painting at Zion in Baltimore primarily that the altar and cross are the central points of our worship. The painting was removed on April 13, 1971. The picture was placed in ‘Fellowship Hall’ with appropriate words of thanks to the donors. It was also decided not to request an Assistant pastor.
It was also in 1971 that the church held their first ‘Fastnacht Party’ or Fasching…another direct link to their German roots.
1972-Females were permitted to acolyte.
In 1975 two new stained glass windows were added in the Narthex.
In 1979 the parsonage was sold and the pastor moved to a home in town. The parsonage was sold for 75,000. The pastor was provided a housing allowance.
The organ was replaced and the new organ used for the first time on October 26, 1980. It was paid for, due primarily to several recitals, memorials, etc., in 1981. The cost was $109,000.
Pastor Manning resigned on December 13, 1985.
St. Paul’s new Pastor, John J. Duffus began January 2, 1987. After finding proper housing, his family also moved to Cumberland. This year was also the year that the church adopted the use of the new ‘Lutheran Book of Worship’. It was also Cumberland’s bicentennial and as the first Lutheran church in Cumberland, St. Paul’s had a special part in the opening worship service. Throughout his years Pastor Duffus introduced several educational opportunities. There were many additions, enhancements and repairs made to the property during his tenure. There was also the formation of the Lutheran Cluster with the five Lutheran churches in Cumberland sharing special services, etc. During this time a 25 passenger bus was purchased as well for the youth of the church, but was used by all of the church groups.
In 1993, the youth of St. Paul’s received the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award’. The congregation also extended a call for an Assistant Pastor at this time.
The following pastors served this historic Lutheran congregation:
· Rev. Frederick William Lange 1794-1805, German born and founder of St. Paul’s. Died in 1814
· Rev. John George Boettler (English. Butler) 4.22.1874 to 12.12.1816; Service to St. Paul’s 1805-1816.
· Period without pastoral care 1816-1819
· Rev. Christian F. Heyer 7.10.1793 in Helmstadt, Germany to 11.7.1873. Service to St. Paul’s 1819-1824
· Period without pastoral care 1824-1825
· Rev. Nathan B. Little – Service to St. Paul’s 1826-1829
· Rev. H. Haverstick (11.29.1807 to 1.20.1884) Service to St. Paul’s 1829-1833 (During his service in 1822 a fever hit Cumberland. Not a family escaped and Rev. Haverstick himself was ill. He also lost a son, Charles Henry to this fever, which was malaria.)
· Rev. John KehIer –Service to St. Paul’s 1833-1841 (A tragic fire hit Cumberland on April 14, 1833 on Mechanic Street. The church was spared, however, many houses and businesses were destroyed. Many of the congregation was left without homes and all three physicians in town lost their property and medicines. It was estimated that 2/3s of the inhabitants of the town were left homeless.)
· Rev. Jesse Winecoff – Service to St. Paul’s 1841-1844
· Rev. Samuel De Vin Finckel (2.22.1811 to 2.13.1873). Service to St. Paul’s 1844-1847
· Rev. J. A. Seiss (3-18-1823 to 6-20-1904) Service to St. Paul’s 1847-1852 (English Congregation) (During the pastorate of Dr. Seiss the Germans withdrew and built the church home known as the St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church. The language became an issue at this time and even though St. Paul’s was founded as Christ’s Church a German Lutheran Congregation, the pastors since Rev. Heyer wished English to be the primary language of the services).
· Rev. Peter Rizer (5.7.1812 to 8.25.1886) (son of Christ’s Church-German Congregation)
· Rev. John Francis Campbell (2.17.1811 to 1.3.1892) Service to St. Paul’s 1852-1857
· Rev. A. J. Weddell (dod: 1887) Service to St.Paul’s 1857-1868 (Again with an economic downturn in Cumberland, the church suffered, Rev. Weddell resigned when he did not receive his promised payment/salary, however, the congregation rallied behind him and all debts were fully paid. He stayed another seven years.)
· Rev. H. C. Holloway (9.17.1838 to 5.5.1924) Service to St. Paul’s 1868-1879 (made changes to the choir, minor changes to the building and did hold the 82nd Anniversary celebration
· Rev. J. Q. McAtee (11.25.1838 to 2.9.1920) Service to St. Paul’s 1879-1884
· Rev. J. W. Finkbiner (7.4.1843 to 7.11.1923) Service to St. Paul’s 1884-1894 (new church building begun during this period-this was after multiple efforts and failures to determine a) repair existing church, b) raze and build at current location or c) purchase new ground/new location; Rev. Finkbeiner was also instrumental in the organization of a Sunday School in Southern Cumberland, which eventually became St. John’s Lutheran Congregation-incorporated October 25, 1892)
· Rev. T. J. Yost (9.12.1847 to 3.28.1929) Service to St. Paul’s 1895-1902 (New Church building completed and dedicated on September 22, 1895. A new pipe organ built by M.P. Moller was also installed as part of the building construction and the initial organ/choir recital on September 24, 1895). Pastor Yost was requested to tenure his resignation.
· Rev. J. W. McCauley (10.8.1878 to ) Service to St. Paul’s 1902-1910 (Entire debt relieved/paid during this period). Pastor McCauley left in 1910 (resignation was reluctantly accepted) to take the lead at the Church of the Incarnation in Baltimore.
· Rev. Martin Luther Enders (1878 to )Service to St. Paul’s 1910-1924 (Church renovated, Sunday School refurnished, organ chimes added, parsonage bought (232 Baltimore Avenue)…all for $18,000 and all paid). It is said that he made the church ‘real Lutherans’.
· Visiting Pastors from January 1, 1925 to March 1, 1925
· Rev. W. E. Stahler, D.D. , Service to St. Paul’s March 1925 to May 1925
· Rev. H.T. Bowersox, D.D. (5.18.1889 to 1-16-1960)1925-Responsible for the re-uniting of St. Paul’s and St. Stephen’s (seceded from St. Paul’s in 1902)
· Rev. John F. Sammel (12.5.1915 to ) Service to St. Paul’s 1957-1969
· Rev. David Shaheen, Associate Pastor Service to St. Paul’s 1968-1969
· Rev. Richard Manning (9.17.1929 to )Service to St. Paul’s 1970-1986
· Interim Ministers – 12 pastors- 2 seminarians, 1986
· Rev. John J. Duffus (11.7.1944 to )Service to St. Paul’s 1986
Rev. Marsha S. Garrett -Pastor in 201
St. Paul's Church Council-1920
The Graveyard at St. Paul’s Cumberland
The congregation purchased an acre of ground from Thomas Beall of Samuel, part of which was set aside for a burial ground. Most churches at that time owned a burial ground and being a member of the church often carried the benefit of being buried in the cemetery, most often for free.
The first reference to the graveyard was in 1816, when St. Paul’s second pastor, John Butler, was buried there. The Vestry adopted specific rules such as depth of graves, Sexton’s payment for digging graves and the price of the lots were adopted in 1829.
Multiple efforts to enclose the area with a fence failed. In 1844 the Vestry adopted a resolution to dispose of the graveyard and using the funds to purchase a new burying ground and building a parsonage. The membership did not wish to sell the graveyard so the resolution failed.
They continued to service the graveyard and lot prices were increased. They also prohibited non-members, non-contributing members and Europeans from being buried in the graveyard.
For several years, parts of the graveyard were rented to farmers for farming and some were rented and used for storage. This was discontinued in 1853.
It was resolved in 1867 to sell the graveyard in the back of the church. The portion of lot that was set aside was sold to the Board of School Commissioners in 1867 for $2500, and sold again by that Board in 1868 to Sarah Butler.
Removal of those interred there for more than three quarters of a century was a difficult task. It was difficult just to determine the number of interred which they based on the number of deaths recorded. This problem was expounded by the fact that after 1841 many of the pastors did not record the deaths. If the rate of death was constant, it is estimated that four or five hundred bodies were to be removed. Some became more difficult when instructions allowed for the removal of bodies and granted that right to only one person (the book provides an example where the right was given to Kennedy Butler, who was building a factory on the site and paying for those bodies to be removed to Rose Hill).
The Vestry reported that all bodies had been removed and reinterred by October 30, 1867.