CHURCHES BETWEEN THE MOUNTAINS
A HISTORY OF THE
LUTHERAN CONGREGATIONS IN
PERRY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
REV. D. H. FOCHT, A.M.
CHURCH NEAR NEW BUFFALO
ON THE SUSQUEHANNA IN WATTS TWP.
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The history of this church is involved in
considerable obscurity, as we have no data to guide us with certainty. It
is located in Watts Township, about one mile west of the borough of New Buffalo
on the west bank of the Susquehanna. The town of New Buffalo was laid out
in 1800 by Jacob Baughman. In a survey of land, adjoining the church-land,
made May 29th, 1800, it is said, "Vacant land for church and school
purposes." As here stated, about three acres of land lay vacant for
the purposes specified, though it would seems no church was as yet built on
it. No legal right was secured for this land till 1840, when we find the
following: "Warrant to Samuel Albright in trust for the Presbyterian
and Lutheran congregations, dated September 28th, 1840." On the basis
of this warrant, some years ago, Mr. Albright made a deed to the congregation
Tradition says that in the Half-Falls Mountain Gap a small church was erected by
the early settlers some eighty years ago, near a beautiful spring, on land
vacant only a few years ago. This church, in the heart of Half-Falls
Mountain, was burnt down about the beginning of the present century. The stones
which served as the foundation of the building may still be seen lying in the
order they were placed by the builders. There is no graveyard here. It is
supposed this church was located here in order that the settlers on both sides
of the mountain might enjoy the advantages of divine worship. Where the
present church is located, in the valley on the southeast of Half-Falls
Mountain, there is an old and very large graveyard, and here the early settlers
buried their dead. When, therefore, the old church in the Gap of the
Mountain and been burnt, another church was erected, at the beginning of the
present century, on the three acres of land, which contained the graveyard and
was reserved "for church and school purposes," about one mile west of
New Buffalo on the west bank of the Susquehanna River. This was about the
origin of this church.
Among the earliest settlers of this region on the west of the Susquehanna were
Germans, belonging to the Lutheran Church. In 1767, Christopher Mann
located the land on which New Buffalo was afterwards laid out. In 1772,
George Albright (German, Albrecht) settled on the "south side of Buffalo
Mountain," and Jacob Buck (German, Bock), on land called "Buck's
Field," now the east end of Buck's Valley on the Susquehanna. In
1773, Christopher Heyne, Jacob Luckenbeel, Augustus Millichsack, and, in 1774,
Frederick Hummel and Nicholas Littich settled this section of country.
These pioneer settlers were from time to time joined by others from the east of
the river, so that before the close of last century their number was
considerable. It is not known who preached first for them. The first
minister whose name is remembered was
Rev. Mathias Guntzel,
who preached also for the early Lutheran
settlers in Foutz's Valley. The length of time he preached here is not
known for certain; it must have been, however, from about 1789 to 1796. He
preached in the old log church on Half-Falls Mountain. He was succeeded,
in 1796, by the
Rev. John Herbst,
of Carlisle, who no doubt preached also in
the old church in Half-Falls Mountain Gap. We suppose the members had at
this time only occasional visits by the minister, who performed home missionary
labor in a new and sparsely settled district of country. Rev. Herbst
resigned at Carlisle in 1801, and, in 1804, he was succeeded in Foutz's Valley
Rev. Conrad Walter,*
then residing at Middleburg, Snyder County,
Pa., who, we are told by aged persons, preached also here. He preached in
Foutz's Valley from 1804 to 1809, and about the same time at this place.
So far as we can learn, it was during this time that the church was built on the
three acres of vacant land near New Buffalo. It was a log structure
without galleries, about thirty-six by forty feet in size. If the church
had a distinctive name, we have never heard it. It is probable that,
during winter, school was also kept here for some time. This old church
was removed in the fall of 1860, and a new one, just completed, has been erected
on the same site by the Lutherans and Presbyterians. An unusually large,
and, to all appearance, old graveyard is attached to the property. For
more than a century the dead of this vicinity have been buried here. The
pioneer settlers of this region repose here, and from year to year has the
ground been broken to receive the remains of three generations. What a
heaving of earth will there be here on the resurrection day!
*Rev. Conrad Walter died at Middleburg on the 11th of August,
1819, in his 44th year. At the time of his death he served eight
congregations, of which he had been pastor for fifteen years. It is
supposed that not less than fifteen hundred persons attended his funeral.
He was a good man and highly esteemed by his people, and did much towards the
establishment of congregations over a large territory of country.
In 1809, Rev. Walter ceased to preach in the territory now embraced in
Perry County. Rev. J. George Heim succeeded him that year in Foutz's
Valley and at Liverpool; but as Mr. Heim has himself told us, he did not preach
at the New Buffalo Church. Hence, we suppose Rev. Osterloh preached
occasionally for this congregation from 1809 to 1814, or perhaps they were
visited at times by some minister from the east of the Susquehanna, or there was
perhaps no preaching here during that time. There is not a document or man
to be found that can give us the desired information.
Rev. John William Heim,
at the request and under the care of Rev.
Walter, first visited the congregation in April, 1814. He received license
to preach in June, 1814, and then commenced to preach here regularly once every
four weeks. In his pastoral journal he says: "On the 18th of
June, 1814, I preached the third time at Buck's from Luke 13:18.
Hymn: Ich will von meiner missethat, &c. At Liverpool I
preached from John 3:16. Hymn: Also hat Gott die welt geliebet,
&c. Baptized nine infants." Some families by the name
of Buck (German, Bock) resided then in the vicinity of the church, and hence
Rev. Heim called it Buck's Church or School-House. We have no means of
knowing the numerical strength of the congregation, or who the members were at
the time Rev. Heim commenced to preach here.
During the summer of 1816, Rev. Heim instructed at this place a class of
catechumens, and as he says in his journal: "On the 30th of November,
1816, I preached the preparatory sermon at Buck's from Gal. 6:4,5.
Hymn: Ich will von meiner missethat, &c. Baptized three
of my catechumens. December 1st, 1816, I preached the communion sermon
from John 7:37. Hymn: Der gnaden-brunn, &c. At
Liverpool I preached from Rom. 13:11-14. Hymn: Such wer da will,
&c. Baptized one infant." This was the first time Rev.
Heim held communion here. Who and how many were confirmed, or what the
number of members was at this time, we have no means of knowing.
Rev. Heim preached here till about 1830. As his charge was so very large,
and, as we think, this congregation was not large, he did not preach regularly
here, and only visited it at long intervals during the last four or five years
he was pastor of it. Then for about three years the congregation had no
preaching at all.
In 1833, the Liverpool pastorate was formed, of which, in the same year, the
Rev. C. G. Erlenmeyer
took charge. For a time Rev. Erlenmeyer
preached here regularly, then only occasionally, and in 1836 or 1837 ceased
altogether. After this, we are told, Father Heim again visited and
preached for the congregation on week-days. Rev. Erlenmeyer resigned the
Liverpool pastorate in the spring of 1842. In November of the same year,
Rev. Andrew Berg,
partly in the capacity of a home missionary,
took charge of Liverpool and the congregations and preaching places connected
with it. He preached also occasionally at New Buffalo for about six
months. But to the regret of these weak and struggling congregations, Rev.
Berg resigned in June, 1843. In the fall of 1843,
Rev. Levi T. Williams
took charge of the congregation at
Petersburg, and also preached sometimes at New Buffalo. We are unable to
say whether he confirmed any here or not, or what the condition of the
congregation was at this time. Neglected and only partially supplied with
preaching, it could not but dwindle down to a mere fragment of what it once
was. In September, 1845, Rev. Williams resigned, and on the 1st of October
Rev. Lloyd Knight
took charge of the congregation and served it
in connection with Bloomfield. At the first communion he held here, in the
fall of 1845, he found seventeen communicant members. During the early
part of 1848, he instructed some persons in the Catechism, and on the 28th of
May, 1848, the following were confirmed:
William Finicle; Samuel Littig; Louisa Finicle; Sarah Littig.
Again, on the 20th of August, the same year, the following persons were
confirmed, viz., Levi Siders and Catharine Siders.
Having preached here about three years and a half, Rev. Knight resigned in June,
1849, and in July following, the
Rev. Jacob Martin
took charge of the congregation and served
it about one year in connection with Bloomfield. In February, 1850, when
the Petersburg charge was formed, this congregation was attached to that charge.
Rev. John P. Hiester
took charge of the Petersburg pastorate in
November, 1850. He preached for the congregation, though not regularly,
and he met with no success. For reasons we have not been able to learn,
the congregation was opposed to being attached to the Petersburg charge.
Hence Synod, in September, 1852, "appointed a committee, consisting of
Revs. Gerhardt, Erlenmeyer, and Williams, to go to Buffalo, to preach for the
Lutheran congregation of the place, and endeavor to bring them into connection
with the Petersburg charge." The congregation afterwards united with
said charge. In November, 1853, Rev. Hiester resigned, and in June, 1854,
Rev. George A. Nixdorff
took charge of the pastorate. He
preached occasionally at New Buffalo. It was counted only as a
preaching-place. It seems various difficulties were in the way of success
whilst he was pastor of the congregation. In May, 1858, Rev. Nixdorff
resigned, and in August of the same year, he was succeeded by the present
Rev. William H. Diven,
who has since been preaching regularly
here. Hitherto the want of a more suitable house of worship had been a
great hindrance to the growth of the congregation. The old church had
become dilapidated, was inconvenient and in every respect unsuitable.
Hence, in the fall of 1860, the old building was removed, and on the site of it
a new church was erected, of frame, and thirty by thirty-five feet in
size. This new church was dedicated on the 2d of June, 1861, when the Rev.
Diven preached a suitable discourse. The church and land connected with it
belong to the Lutherans and Presbyterians.
This congregation has in a measure been neglected for a long time, and as a
consequence the members were gradually scattered and their number was greatly
reduced. Difficulties, also, of various kinds seemed constantly to be in
the way of its progress. The want of a suitable house, the transition from
the German to the English language, the want of regular preaching, and the
fluctuating nature of the population along the river, as well as abounding
wickedness, tended all to retard and bear down the rise and progress of the
congregation. The few members still left are a noble band; and now that
they have a new church and regular preaching, it is to be hoped that a brighter
day will dawn upon them, and this congregation will ere long attain its pristine
strength and glory. May the Lord revive his work among this people, and
glorify his name in their godly lives and final salvation!
On the 1st of June, 1861, the following were admitted to membership by
Mary Gray; Lydia Hemperly, Mary A. Shatto.
On the 9th of February, 1862, the following persons were admitted by certificate
John Garman, Esq; Frederick Liddig; Elizabeth Liddig; Samuel Liddig; Sarah
Liddig; Benjamin Livingston; Esther Livingston.
At this time (June, 1862), the congregation consists of the following members,
John Garman, Esq.
J. Liddig (German, Littick)
Mary A. Shatto
"Yes! we trust the day
Joyful times are near at hand:
God the mighty God, is speaking
By his word in ev'ry land:
When he chooses
Darkness flies at his command.
"Let us hail the joyful season;
Let us hail the dawning ray:
When the Lord appears, there's reason
To expect a glorious day:
At his presence,
Gloom and darkness flee away."
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