Source: Centennial History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Maryland 1820-1920, Wentz
This church is one of the oldest in the Synod. It was made memorable by the part that it played in the battle of Antietam. The church building that stood at the time of the battle was in the thick of the fight and the building that has taken the place of the old one is a memorial to the Federal soldiers who fought and died in that battle.
On March 16, 1768, a deed for a site for a church and burial ground was executed by Colonel Joseph Chapline to the Lutheran vestrymen, who were Dr. Christopher Cruss, Matthias Need, Nicholas Sam and William Hawker. The vestrymen of the church began at once to erect a building of logs and roughcast, 33 by 38 feet in dimensions in the northeast corner of the graveyard. This quaint, old-fashioned structure, which was a century and a quarter old, was surmounted by a tower in which hung a bell of English make. The interior of the church was ancient looking. The pews were straight –backed and high. The pulpit was goblet-formed and half way up the wall, arid was reached by a flight of ten or twelve steps. Over the pulpit and just above the preacher's head was suspended from an iron rod in the ceiling, a canopy, or sounding-board, as it was termed, which resembled in form an open umbrella.
The vestrymen occupied one corner of the church, seated on a platform considerably elevated, so that they could be readily distinguished from the rest of the congregation. The foresinger, or leader of the singing, with his tuning-fork and note-book, was seated on a high chair in the center of the church. The singing, praying and preaching, from the organization of the congregation until the year 1831, was conducted in the German language.
The early records of the church having been lost or destroyed, it is impossible to give a very correct account of the ministers who officiated here in the very early times. It seems quite evident, however, that this church at the beginning was supplied by ministers from Frederick City, Middletown and Hagerstown, as Frederick City Lutheran Church was organized in 1737, Middletown in the year 1755, and Hagerstown in the year 1770. The records of Middletown Lutheran Church show that Rev. Johann George Graeber officiated occasionally at Boonsboro, Ringer's Church, and Sharpsburg in early times.
From the records of our oldest inhabitants, we find that Revs. Schmucker and Kurtz preached regularly to this congregation, and they were ministers stationed at Hagerstown. The following is the list of the ministers stationed at Sharpsburg Lutheran Church from the year 1800 to around 1920:
Revs. Ravenock, Baughey, D. F. Schaeffer, Little, Schnay, John Winter, Peter Rizer, D. Oswald, George Diehl, William Hunt, John N. Unruh, G. J. Martz, J. C. Lunger, I. J. Stine, Christian Startzman, Alfred Buhrman, G. W. Weills, George H. Beckley 1871-1884, D. B. Floyd, 1892; Ellis II. Jones, 1884-1891; J. W. Lingle, 1891-1896, and Rev. A. A. Kerlin, since 1896-1920.
This quaint old building remained until the year 1864. During the Battle of Antietam, September 7, 1862, it was shelled considerably. After the battle it was taken possession of and used by the Federal troops for a hospital, and filled with sick and wounded, by which use it was so much damaged as to render it totally unfit for worship. It was therefore torn down, and the ground exchanged for the site on which the newer church edifice stands. The corner stone for the second church was laid September 15, 1866. The building was dedicated May 23, 1869, the sermon on that occasion being preached by the Rev. Alfred Buhrman, assisted by Revs. G. H. Beckley, G. W. Anderson, M. W. Fair, and Revs. Cronise and Wilson of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The second church was a poorly constructed building and in a few years began to show signs of decay. The walls began to give way, and it was deemed unsafe to worship in it. On Sunday, December 13, 1891, it was unanimously agreed by the pastor, vestry and members to build a new church, to be known as The Memorial Lutheran Church, to perpetuate the memory of the Federal soldiers, who fought and those who fell at the Battle of Antietam, September 17. 1862.
In the spring of 1892, the second church was torn down and preparations were made to erect a third church. The building committee were: Rev. J. W. Lingle and Messrs. George Hess, John Benner, Martin K. Suavely, Jacob McGraw and William Earley. On September 17, 1892, the thirtieth anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the corner stone was laid. The church is cruciform in design, with gothic windows and corner spire, 95 feet from base to top and is surmounted by a cross. The lecture room was finished and ready for worship December 25, 1893, and was used until the completion of the auditorium. The windows in the lecture room are memorials of aged departed members of the church.
Dr. Christopher Cruss, whose name appears among the early vestrymen was a German chemist and emigrated to this county from Germany about the time of the settlement of the town. He was associated with James Rumsey in the construction of the first steamboat built in the United States.
Matthias Need, another of the vestry, was a brave soldier in the war of the Revolution and participated in a number of battles, doing honorable service. He lies buried somewhere in an unmarked grave in the old Lutheran graveyard.
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