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Jacob's Church marks 250 years

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Taking part in the 250th anniversary service were The Rev. David Pflieger, Lutheran 1966-72; The Rev. James Levan, who was raised and ordained at Jacob's, now at First Baptist of Slatington; Pastor Ruth Schaefer, daughter…
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Taking part in the 250th anniversary service were The Rev. David Pflieger, Lutheran 1966-72; The Rev. James Levan, who was raised and ordained at Jacob's, now at First Baptist of Slatington; Pastor Ruth Schaefer, daughter of the Rev. Clarence Rahn and wife of the Rev. Richard Schaefer; The Rev. Scott Shay, current pastor; The Rev. Ann Paynter, Lutheran 1985-86; and the Rev. Richard Solliday, UCC pastor, 1984-87.
Published July 29. 2011 05:02PM

"We thank you Lord God for brave and believing people who planted your message in this place."

Call to Worship, Homecoming, May 22, 2011

The Church of the open doors,

The Church of the open Bible,

The Church of the open hand,

The Church of the open heart,

The Church open to the Spirit of the Living Christ.

The Rev. Richard Solliday, served 1984-1987

In observance of its 250th anniversary, Jacob's Church of Jacksonville celebrated each of its four church buildings with a special service. As early as 1730 settlers of Lynn Township wanted a place for religious worship.

They met under trees and longed for a building where they could meet, rain or shine. Sermons were given by schoolteachers or traveling ministers.

The earliest recorded church was built across a main path used by the Indians. Consequently, settlers went to church toting a gun and an axe.

It is believed there may have been an earlier building but there is no written record so history is taken as being from 1761 when Jacob's Church, a log structure with dirt floors, was built across the road (Koenig Strasse or Kings Highway) from the present location.

John and Anna Maria "Sechler" Hamm donated two acres to the Reformed congregation. They also granted the right to go to a nearby spring for water which was why that side of the road was chosen.

The church was dedicated by the Reformed minister Philip Jacob Michael. The earliest church register is from 1774 and contains baptisms recorded by the Rev. Conrad Steiner Jr.

The cemetery grew up around the church with the oldest stones reaching back to the 1740s. A log schoolhouse was built nearby.

In 1807 it became a union church when the Lutherans joined. They were required to pay for their share of the furnishings. The original two acres belonged exclusively to the Reformed congregation, but when Hamms sold to the church a third acre it was with the condition that the entire three acres would belong to the union church.

A second church of log and stone was built in 1808. Only eight Lutheran services were held that year. The Reformed church was part of the Jacksonville charge and the Lutherans were part of the New Tripoli parish, said Pastor Scott Shay.

A double log schoolhouse was built in 1822. In 1838 the Free School Law was passed and the township rented the school and hired the teachers. In a joint project of the parish and township, a new two-story schoolhouse was built in 1858.

Oysters for the annual oyster suppers were cooked in the schoolhouse and carried over to the church. The present brick schoolhouse (now used for storage) was erected in 1871.

Charles Heintzelman built an organ for the church. It was dedicated by Pastors Johann Zulich and Owen Leopold in October 1849, said Faye Foulk.

The receipt signed by Samuel Hermany in the amount of $30.35 is still among the church records. The money had been collected by William Mosser.

Pastor John Roth, who served from 1771 to 1774, was supposedly buried under the altar. His name is on a wall at the cemetery. Pastor John Zulich was buried in the cemetery after serving 59 years. The land where the first church stood remains open in the cemetery. A gate that had fallen into disrepair was restored. It has the words Jacob's Kirche on it.

The third church, a brick building, was erected in 1862-63. It was considered a beautiful place to worship. Pastors Johann Zulich and Samuel Snyder conducted the service when the cornerstone was laid. They also served at the dedication ceremony.

Two years later David Follweiler and William Mosser formed the committee to find a bell. The 590-pound bell came from Buckeye Bell Foundry and cost $200.

A meeting was held in 1895 to adopt rules pertaining to selling land in order to build sheds to protect the horses and vehicles from the weather.

The church steeple was struck by lightning twice so lightning rods were installed, said Foulk.

Services were in the German language until 1905 when they voted to buy English Bibles and services were in both languages as they gradually made the switch to English. Pastor Clarence Rahn was hired because he could speak both languages. His daughter attended the anniversary dinner on May 22.

Since the church had been damaged it was decided to build a fourth church. Their architect went to serve in World War I and the committee decided to hold off on the new construction. It was 1925 when the decision was made to build. The construction contract went to the Tamaqua Company.

Alfred Ebert and Rahn were pastors at the time. Rahn served 53 years until he retired in 1976. He was offered more money at another church but said Jacob's were "his" people.

"It's amazing that we have all these records," said Shay.

The Reformed Church became United Church of Christ in the 1950s. In 1986 the Lutheran Church disbanded and most members joined the UCC. The Lutheran side of the union church was always smaller, said Neil Oswald.

People gathered to watch the demolition of the third church.

A computer system now controls the carillon bells. An activity center was begun in 1999. Most of the work was done by church members. A kitchen is a recent addition.

Three hundred attended the 250th anniversary service and dinner on May 22. Committee members wore red for the occasion.

"It was a wonderful celebration," said Shay. "Many precious memories were shared. It was nice to have so many former pastors here. It was a great day with good fellowship."

Anniversary events include the service, a cantata, pens, Christmas ornaments, paper weights, mugs, a pictorial directory, historical book and a recipe book.

An old cross with lights was found upstairs and was on the altar for the special service.

"A lot of people put a lot of time in it," said Oswald.

Committee members are Neil and Mary Ann Oswald, Emily Surman, Sue and Bob Stufflet, Pearl Follweiler, Brian and Kayla Fusselman, Ruth and Charles Kaley, Michael Sacks, Faye Foulk and Gladys and Earl Leiby.

IF THERE IS ROOM - it was their request

Reformed ministers at Jacob's Church

Johann Widderstein, reader, prior to 1761; Philip Michael, 1761-70; Jacob Weymer, 1770-71; Johannes Roth, 1771-74; John Steiner Jr., 1774-90; Heinrich Hertzel, 1777-90, Johannes Roth, 1790-95; Peter Miller, 1795-07; Henry Dieffenbach, 1807-16; Johann Zulich, 1816-75; Benjamin Weiss, 1875-77; James Bachman, 1877-05; Jesse Mengel, 1905-11; Milton Klingaman, 1912-22; Clarence Rahn, 1922-76; James Moyer, 1977-81; Richard Druckenbrod, interim, 1981-84; Charles Zweizig, interim, 1984-87; Richard Solliday, 1984-87; Scott Shay, 1988-present.

Lutheran ministers at Jacob's Church

Herman Schellhardt, prior to 1807; John Lehman, reader; Heinrich Geissenhainer, 1807-11; Johannes Knoske, 1811-19; Frederich Engel,1816-18; Gottlieb Jaeger, 1819-50; Issac Roeller, 1850-58; Owen Leopold, 1858-61; Samuel Klein, 1861-64; Benjamin Kramlich, 1864-69; Henry Fegley, 1869-06; Alfred Ebert, 1906-34; Leroy Bond, 1935-48; Luther Linn, 1949-57; George Ziegenfuss, 1957-59; Richard Schaefer, 1959-65; David Pflieger, 1966-72; John Light, 1973-75; Bruce Potteiger, 1975-84; Ann Paynter, 1985-86; Richard Solliday, vice pastor, 1986.

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