Sources: Church Website: http://www.stpaulsreformedchurchcs.com/history/
Centennial History of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in Maryland 1820-1920, Wentz
History of Western Maryland, J.Thomas Scharf (Vol. II)
Majestically nestled among giant cedars and whispering pines St. Paul's Church, with it's unequaled beauty, stands tall and proud on the north side of the National Pike nine miles west of Hagerstown and three miles east of the town of Clear Spring. Flashing yellow traffic lights at a nearby intersection seem to call the attention of passers-by to this picturesque sight. St. Paul's was acknowledged as the oldest congregation in the Washington County Bi-centennial pageant held in Hagerstown in 1937.
St. Paul's is unique not only because it celebrated its sesquibicentennial anniversary in 1997, but also because for over 250 years now it has housed two separate congregations. The Lutheran congregation begins its hour of worship at 8:15 a.m. each Sunday morning. Members of the Reformed Congregation open their hour of service at 11:00 a.m. Members of both congregations join together for an hour of Sunday School classes between the church services beginning at 9:45 a.m.
As we look into the history of St. Paul's Congregation, we must realize that the towns that we know so well today, such as Hagerstown, Williamsport and Clear Spring, did not exist when the church was established and the National Pike was just a wagon trail.
The log blockhouse church was built within the confines of Conococheage Stockade Fort, which was erected to protect settlers from Indian attacks during the
French and Indian War. Many settlers worked their farms by day and stayed in the fort at night. This fort was built on the south west side of the Conococheague Creek on land known as "The Resurvey Of The Mountains Of Wales", which had been deeded to the congregation by Gabriel Friend, son of Charles Friend, the first settler of Washington County. Tall cedar trees enhanced the three-acre tract. The graveyard was located half a mile to the northeast on a high slate bluff on the creek. Some gravestones were still visible in 1962 when a group of church members visited the site. Stones from the foundation of the church were later used for the foundation of the Wilson Chapel.
To reach the church from the east, traveling ministers had to find the property owned by the Kershner Family, located just east of the Conococheague Creek on Route 40. The only access to the church was across Kershner's Ford, a diagonal ridge of rock which can be seen, when the water is low, looking south from the Conococheage Bridge. Even today, with the stretch of one's imagination one could still see the ruts in the rocks from the iron carriage wheels as they made the hard pull for the west bank. As the minister arrived, the deacons would help him out of his carriage and take care of his horse. The elders would gather around him to express their joy at seeing him again. Often the waters of the creek would be high and swift. Eighteenth century minister, Rev. Jonathan Rahauser, died of pneumonia after high waters swept through his carriage.
In this country the Christian Church closely followed the explorers and pioneers. The church's history can be traced back to within a few years of the settlement of each area. It spiritualized the people and tamed crude surroundings and rough manners. Truly, the church has played a much larger role in the making of our country than is usually observed.
Early in the eighteenth century, Swiss and German immigrants were attracted to this area by the fine woodland. They reasoned that soil which would produce such tall trees must be fertile and would produce good crops. These people were far from civilization, surrounded by perils, and often lonely and destitute. These hardships only served to increase their dependence upon God.
The first recorded documentation that the Conococheague Congregation existed was when Michael Schlatter, missionary and Reformed minister who visited Monocacy near Frederick, wrote in his diary on May 6, 1747, "If this congregation (Monocacy) were united with another called Conococheage lying 30 miles distant, these two would be able to sustain a minister". Some sources indicated that a congregation existed as early as 1738, holding church services in their homes for several years prior to joining with the Monocacy Congregation. The first church was built in 1747 and was known as the Lutheran and Presbyterian Congregation. The word Presbyterian, referred to the form of government used by the Reformed Congregation. The first Lutheran minister associated with the congregation was Rev. Charles Friedrich Wildbahn.
Education was usually under the direction of the church, with its own school. Often catechization was entrusted to the schoolmaster. The teachers were paid by the parents but some allowance was made by the Synod. Until Reformed minister, Rev. Mr. Ebaugh came in 1817 sermons and classes were taught in the German language. Thereafter the services were conducted in English. Serving the Lutheran Parish from 1815 to 1823 was Rev. Benjamin Kurtz, a prominent figure in the development of the Lutheran church in the nineteenth century.
The first record of a church register of births and baptisms, to our knowledge, is dated 1787 and written in German script. It was placed in the library of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore for safekeeping in 1947.
The old log church had met the needs of its people well, but time and weather had worked against it, and there was a need for a new building. According to a newspaper article dated August 21, 1897, the original plan was to build the new church one mile northwest on land bordering the farms of Henry Fiery and John T. Ankeney centered on the Broadfording Road. It is not known why the plan was changed, but in 1795 a cornerstone was laid and a new stone was erected on the present site, approximately two miles west of the first church. Standing on the crest of a hill, being one of the finest church sites in Washington County. The church overlooks a wide range of the Washington County Valley and can be seen for miles around. The land had been deeded to the joint council-consistory for 7 1/2 shillings, which amounted to $1.80.
Although construction was begun in 1795, the church was not finished until 1798. Its stone was secured from woods a mile south of its location. There is no record of the building committee, the cost, the amounts contributed or the reason they changed the location of the church. When the church was completed, the front gable inclined inward so much that the church officials were hesitant to take it off the contractor's hands. This may account for the church not having been completed for three years.
The new church was a high rectangular building with galleries on three sides and a pulpit shaped like a wine goblet placed midway between the floor and the ceiling. The pews were high backed; candles were their source of light.
It was always a ‘Union’ Church serving the two denominations. It was incorporated under the general act of Assembly of Maryland, passed in 1800. There was a joint council. In 1806 the two congregations incorporated and were known as the Evangelical Lutheran and Evangelical Reformed Congregations west of the Conococheague Creek. The articles of government provided that the vestry would consist of five members from each congregation and both ministers. Each congregation would pay half the expenses for repairs, the janitor's salary and other incidentals. They would also share equally in the use of the church by using it on alternate Sundays.
At an early unknown date, a school house, a house for the schoolmaster, and another building, probably for the sexton, were erected at St. Paul's. They were removed sometime between 1834 and 1836.
In 1837, during the ministry of Rev. Christian Startzman, the interior of St. Paul’s was thoroughly repaired and remodeled. The pulpit which stood on the north side was moved from to the west side and lowered, but kept its circular form and was covered with black alpaca gathered in plaits. The three galleries were merged into one on the east side. The door on the south side was closed and two doors were placed at the east end, one for the men and one for the women. Separate doors were used in order to discourage promiscuity. The old pews with the high backs were removed and replaced with more modern seats.
The first Lutheran pastor was Rev. Dr. George Schmucker and he served the congregation longer than any of its pastors from 1795 to 1809.
The third St. Paul's Church was dedicated Sunday, March 20, 1898, in a service attended by many ministers and fully a thousand people with the Rev. William Goodrich and Pastor E.H. Jones presiding. On December 12, 1896, the joint council-consistory had met to decide whether or not the existing stone church should be remodeled. The walls were found to be insecure, so they decided to build a new church on the same site. Much of the stone from the old building was used in constructing the foundation and the walls of the new church, but none showed on the face. The new building, designed by J.A. Hunter, was a beautiful example of Gothic architecture built of limestone with brownstone trimmings. The walls were twenty inches thick and furred out on the inside so as to leave a hollowed space between the stone and the plastering for protection from the cold. The interior was finished in natural wood with walls of sand finish. The high paneled ceiling had open roof trussing with hard oil finish.
During the Johnstown Flood in 1889, the Bivens covered bridge east of Hancock was washed out in high waters of the Potomac River and lodged in Little Pool. At twenty-eight years of age, William Frantz, senior partner in Frantz Furniture of Clear Spring, and his helpers salvaged the bridge, and stored it for several years. When he learned of the rebuilding of St. Paul's Church, Frantz began to prepare the wood which would later be used for the ceiling and part of the interior trim. David Summers was the contractor who installed the cabinet work, trimmings and chancel furnishings, all of which were carpeted. The sanctuary could comfortably seat 350 people and when the wooden doors to the Sunday school were raised there was space for 200 more people. The roof and tower were covered with slate and had galvanized cornices. The cost of the new building was approximately $7,000. Three corner stones are displayed on the southwest corner of the church: 1747, the date of the first church building along the Conococheague Creek; 1795, when the stone building in which both congregations had worshiped for more than a century had been built; and 1897, when the third building was constructed. At the 1897 dedication, the building committee chairman stated that another $2,500 was needed in addition to what had already been subscribed to cover the cost of the church. The work of raising that amount was begun by an "urging and soliciting in a happy manner" from the pulpit by Dr. Fiery. The people responded to this call liberally and in little over an hour $2,800 was raised. The extra contributions would be used towards the purchase of an organ and lamps. The entire service lasted about four hours.
In 1930 it was decided that a new and larger Sunday school should be built. The new addition was modern in arrangement, with a social hall in the basement. After June 1937, church services were held every Sunday rather that every other week, and afternoon services were discontinued.
A section of Route 40 was rebuilt in 1937. At that same time the State Roads Commission rebuilt a retaining wall along the pike in front of the church and placed a marker along the highway to identify Old St. Paul's.
A new Moller Pipe Organ was installed at a cost of $3,700 and the chancel rebuilt in 1938-39.
The Union congregation purchased the school house on the adjoining property in 1941 for $700. The following October it was voted to remodel it for the use of the sexton who had been living in a house on the southeast corner of Route 40 and Charlton Road. To give him easier access to the church, steps were built starting at the retaining wall. When the new wall was built, the State wanted to eliminate the steps but the church insisted that they remain, and so they were rebuilt. Today the steps seem to end abruptly but, apparently, they were adequate for the sexton's needs at the time. Although these steps have been in existence for more than fifty years, many people don't realize they are there.
The area around St. Paul's Church had been almost exclusively a rural farming community with many large and small farms. By 1947 this had changed dramatically; small farms had disappeared because the equipment needed to operate them was too expensive. Some farmers went into dairying on a large scale while others sold ground frontage for the building of homes and super highways.
Interstate highways were designed to make it easier to commute to jobs farther away while new industries were springing up; nearby communities were growing and new churches and schools were being built. Changes were being made at St. Paul's also. In 1954 indoor plumbing was installed and restrooms were built in the basement of the church.
On October 11, 1955, Mr. Harold Snyder donated a set of twenty-one Mass Chimes to the church in memory of his grandfather, Mr. David Summers (builder of St. Paul's Church) and his mother, Mrs. Elva Summers Snyder. St. Paul's would later become one of the heirs to his estate.
In 1957, the Evangelical Reformed Church merged with the Congregational Christian Church to become the United Church of Christ.
In 1962, the Clear Spring Ministerium Association was organized and community worship services were started. Since then community worship services have been and are still being held at various churches throughout the community with church choirs presenting special music and all of the ministers in the area participating.
Between 1965 and 1968 a Joint Study Committee was formed to discuss the possibility of church union between the St. Paul's Lutheran and United Church of Christ congregation. However, after many discussions pro and con, the congregations decided that the present arrangement was satisfactory and they wished it to remain as it was. Joint congregational services include Christmas Eve Services, Lenten Services, Sunrise Services, Vacation Bible School and special Anniversary celebrations.
It was during the 1970's that women began making their appearance as elected church officials. In 1970, Mrs. Margaret Cornett was the first woman to be elected to the office of Sunday School Superintendent. She had many new ideas and a lot of enthusiasm. In 1971, Miss Patricia Martin was the first woman to serve on the Lutheran, and in 1972, Mrs. Judy Rosenberry was the first woman to serve on the United Church of Christ Consistory.
In 1972, new stained glass lights were installed in the sanctuary and vestibule through donations and memorials from church members. Extensive renovations to the Sunday School were completed in 1974 providing space for more Sunday School classes. A fire tower was built onto the rear of the church building providing handicapped accessibility. In 1975, an oil painting of the first stone church was completed by Mrs. Joan Hull, art teacher and local historian, and was donated to be sold at an upcoming bazaar. It was purchased by members of the joint council-consistory and presented to the church where it can be seen today hanging in the sanctuary. A cassette regarding the painting, narrated by Mrs. Hull, can be found in the Sunday School Library.
In 1870, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Clear Spring and Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church at Fairview joined together and were known as one charge and meant, in this case, the pastor would have three congregations instead of one. St. Peter's left the charge in 1967, but Mt. Tabor and St. Paul's remain sister churches and are known as the Conococheague Lutheran Parish.
In 1836, St. John's Reformed Church and St. Paul's Reformed Church became the Clear Spring Charge served by one minister. It remained this way until December 31, 1976 when this union was officially dissolved. Rev. Stephen Robertson was called by St. Paul's United Church of Christ in 1978 to be its first full-time minister.
Over the years different organizations have been established at St. Paul's to promote Christian fellowship and to help offer financial aid to the respective congregations. Organizations for the Reformed congregation were: Churchmen's Brotherhood, The Women's Guild, The Missionary Society, The Ladies Aid Society, and The Youth Fellowship. The Lutheran organizations included: The Lutheran Aid Society, and The Lutheran Missionary Society. Today's Groups continue the same philosophy and include the Evangelical Lutheran Church Women and St. Paul's United Church of Christ Sunshine Circle. The Union Sunday School Board, Junior and Senior Youth Groups and St. Paul's Women are for Lutheran and UCC members together. These shared activities reflect the uniqueness of this church community. As St. Paul's was founded, two congregations formed a congenial union with one another. The union remains strong today, and St. Paul's is the only such "union" church in Washington County.
Memorials and donations have supplied many of the latest renovations and enhancements to St. Paul's Church: in 1988, the padding and covering of the pews, and new carpeting to match in the sanctuary, in 1989, a large new cross installed above the chancel; in 1990, new chandeliers in the sanctuary and vestibule, and landscaping in front of the church; in 1991, a new roof on the church building; in 1992, a well drilled at the church and another rest room added on the first floor; in 1993, air conditioning installed throughout the church and Sunday school, and parking lot blacktopped; and in 1996, new carpeting in the ladies class and nursery.
The story of St. Paul's Church is a fascinating one. May we always remember and treasure our past and as we continue into our next 250 years let us rededicate our service to God and to the continued unity of our churches. As we look to the future of St. Paul's, we invite former members families, friends and newcomers to visit anytime and become involved as part of our church family adding to our
"250 years of growing together as God's people".
In September 2005 the UCC congregation voted to disaffiliate from the United Church of Christ and recently changed its name to reclaim its’ rich heritage in the Reformed church tradition.
On a visit to Western Maryland in June 2015, we stopped at St. Paul's. Unfortunately, we just missed a festival, but were able to meet some of the volunteers cleaning up. There was certainly a 'pride' in the history and the church.
On that visit we also visited the church cemetery. To see our transcriptions and photos, click here.
Early Pastors of the Lutheran Church
· Rev. Dr. George Schmucker 1795-1809
· Rev. Solomon Schaefer 1809-1813
· Rev. Henry Baughy 1813-1815
· Rev. Benjamin Kurtz 1816-1825
· Rev. Frederick Ruthrauff 1826-1827
· Rev. John Winter 1827-1832
· Rev. Simeon Harkey 1832-1835
· Rev. Daniel Miller 1836-1839
· Rev. Christian Startzman 1839-1850
· Rev. Henry Bishop 1850-1853
· Rev. William Greaver 1854-1856
· Rev. Joseph Barclay 1857-1859
· Rev. Christian Lepley 1860-1864
· Rev. C. Berlin 1864-1866
· Rev. M.L. Culler 1867-1869
· Rev. Christian Startzman 1869-1873
· Rev. David Swope 1875
· Dr. Fiery
Early Pastors of the German Reformed
· Rev. Jonathan Rahauser 1795-1817
· Rev. Mr. Ebaugh 1817-1818
· Rev. James Reily 1818-1825
· Rev. Mr. Martin 1825-1826
· Rev. Mr. Keller 1826-1827
· Rev. Mr. Bruner 1827-1831
· Rev. Daniel Bragonier 1831-1836
· Rev. David Leopold 1836-1839
· Rev. Charles Ewing 1840-1842
· Rev. Dr. Neill 1842-1846
· Rev. Mr. Callender 1846-1850
· Rev. Mr. Beck 1850-1852
· Rev. Jonathan Rebaugh 1852-1864
· Rev. Mr. Goodrich 1865
14234 National Pike
Clear Spring Maryland 21722
The Church is located at 14106 National Pike.