St. Marks Lutheran Church
175th Anniversary 1824 - 1999
Armstrong County derives its name from Col. John Armstrong, who, with his little army
of 300 men, destroyed the Delaware Indian village at Kittanning on September 8, 1756. Because of the troubled condition of the frontier, there were few settlers in the county before 1796. The first settlers were Scotch-Irish from Lancaster County, and Pennsylvania Germans from Lehigh and Northampton Counties in Eastern Pennsylvania. These German settlers founded the early Lutheran congregations in the county.
Armstrong County became a political unit on March 12, 1800. Kittanning was settled and
laid out as a town in 1804. The rust settler in Washington Township, formerly a part of Sugar-Creek Township, was Jacob Steelsmith who lies buried, with his wife and family, in the Fair Cemetery. Michael Fair married his daughter, Mary B. Steelsmith, and purchased land in the valley in 1822.
Among the early settlers in the Adrian section were Mr. and Mrs. John Christmann, who
built a house and lived near Adrian where William Shaffer now resides. The big spring beside his house was well known in the early days. Other German settlers who located here early in the nineteenth century included Wolfs, Ellenbergers, Schalls, Toys, Davis, Hellams and Hagermans.
It was a German community, and the settlers came from eastern Pennsylvania.
Rev. John Michael Steck was the first pioneer Lutheran pastor to preach to the German
settlers in Armstrong County. His itinerant ministry continued from 1796 to 1815, and it is possible that he may have been the first Lutheran minister to preach to the scattered German settlers in Washington Township. Other Lutheran pastors who came early into the county were Rev. John Gothfried Lampbrecht (1813-1815). Rev. Peter Rupert (1815), Rev John Adam Mohler (1817-1823). The oldest Lutheran churches in the county are: St. Michael's, Rupp's, Fork's, South Bend, St. Mark's at Adrian, Gastown, St. John's at Kittanning, Plum Creek, and Kellersburg.
The first reference to St. Mark's Church in the records of the Ohio Synod, to which the
above churches then belonged, was made in 1824. A letter was received from seven congregations, or assemblies of Lutherans, asking that the Ohio Synod grant a license to preach to Karl Moritz Zeilfels so that he might assume the full duties of a pastor in serving the preaching appointments at "Klingenschmidts, Schaeffers, Mechlings, Zions, Eisenmanns, Kittanning and Limestone congregations." St. Mark's was then known as -the Limestone Congregation. The license was granted, and Rev. Zeilfels became the flfSt Lutheran pastor for these small congregations.
Rev. Zeilfels organized St. Mark's congregation in July 1824, and the congregation was
called the "Limestone Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washington Township." Rev. Zeilfels served these congregations only two years, (1824-1825), and left the parish under unhappy circumstances. There was now almost a three-year vacancy.
Rev. Gabriel Adam Reichert assumed charge of the parish in 1828, and remained until
1837, a nine year pastorate. Services were held in the home of John Christmann, near Adrian, and
for this reason the appointment was called "Christmanns" in his private diary. Services at St. Mark's were held every two months, and Communion was administered every summer, usually in June, and sometimes twice a year. The Communion service held on June 25, 1828, was attended by nineteen persons, and on June 27, 1829, there were thirty-six persons present to receive the Holy Sacrament. The first class of catechumens was confirmed by Pastor Reichert on June 27, 1829. Pastor Reichert preached his farewell sermon in the home of Michael Fair on December 16, 1837.
From 1824 to 1843 church services were held in the home of John Christmann. From 1843 to 1856 services were held in the home of Leonard Fair, on the farm where Mrs. Millie Lasher resided. The old house stood on the hill above the present house. Sometimes, services were held in Leonard Fair's barn. For 31 years church services were held in private houses as the small congregation had no house of worship. Rev. John Esensee transferred the services from John Christmann's house to Leonard
Fair's house, and during these years, 1844 to 1855, the St. Mark's appointment was known as "Fairs", and occasionally "Bethlehem." The German language was used exclusively in the early days. Pastors K. M. Zeilfels, G. A. Reichert, H. D. Keyl, John Esensee and Gottlieb Kranz, preached exclusively in the German language.
Rev. J. A. Nuner introduced the English language for the benefit of the younger members. This innovation was so offensive to the German element that many of them withdrew their membership from the church during Rev. Nuner's pastorate. Since 1854 St. Mark's has been an English congregation. Rev. Thomas Steck preached at St. Mark's from 1851 to 1854 and services were in the German language, with an occasional sermon in the English language for the benefit of the younger members.
The members of the congregation, after worshipping in private homes for 31 years, longed for a house of worship. Steps were taken to this end when a plot of ground was deeded to the congregation by Philip Crissman of 34 and 1/2perches of land, and another plot beside, by Leonard Fair, consisting of 135 perches of land. These deeds were transferred to the congregation on October 24, 1849, with Jacob Toy and John Fair, Jr., acting as trustees for the congregation. The congregation later enlarged their plot by the purchase of one acre of land from Joseph Crissman at a cost of $50.
On this plot of ground, during pastorate of Rev. A. C. Ehrenfeld, the first church building
was erected and dedicated by Rev. Ehrenfeld in June,1856. This old frame church building, which was 30 feet by 40 feet, stood a little below the site of the present church structure. The building was plain, built of local lumber and by local men. Much of the timber and lumber in the building were cut from the church plot. The pews were home-made and a partition separated the men from the women's side of the sanctuary. The church seated about 150 people, and it probably did not cost more than $2,000.00. But it called forth the sacrifices of those early members and saved the congregation as a house of worship from 1856 to 1900. The present church structure was erected under the supervision of Rev. J. W. Schwartz in 1900 at a cost of $3,278.44; of this amount $1900 was collected by solicitation from among the members before the day dedication.
This church was erected in 1900 and is 38 feet wide and 54 feet long. The cornerstone was laid on May 20, 1900, with Rev. J. W. Rornich preaching the sermon, and the church was completed and dedicated on September 23, 1900, with Rev. C. B. King of Pittsburgh preaching the dedication sermon, while Dr. Schwartz conducted the service and formally dedicated the church.
The stonework on the building was done by J. M. Swan, and the main structure was erected by McGregor and Schaeffer of Kittanning. Much labor was donated and many gifts were received. The pews cost $390.00, the pulpit $18.00, the windows $91.00, and communion table $10.00. The pulpit chairs cost $40.00, the carpet $45.93, matting $37 .88 and the choir chairs cost $12.00. The architect's fees were $25.00, and the foundation cost $133.40, while the superstructure cost $1,951.51. Members of the congregation gave free labor valued at $400.00. Samuel Crissman sawed lumber and so did William Hays, Sr., Howard Lytle, Roland Wolf. Lincoln Rogers donated stone for the foundation and stone steps at the entrance. Mrs. S. J. Linton gave a communion set to the congregation.
This same House of Worship still serves the congregation. Only the front of the church has been altered with altar, cross, candle holders, and vases. The same pulpit is still in use but a new lectern was added to the chancel furniture by Rev. Charles Barnett, while the altar and altar gifts were added during the pastorate of Rev. Charles Schlotter. Many of the early members of the church were buried in the Fair cemetery. The local cemetery has been here a long time. The former rule was that only trustees could authorize the digging of graves which were to remain at least 25 feet from the church building. On April 9, 1898, Leonard Fair donated the cemetery to the church, for which a vote of thanks was given him, and the Council accepted the gift. We now maintain two cemeteries. The Church was legally incorporated in 1887.
Early records of St. Mark's Church, prior to the pastorate of Dr. J. W. Schwartz are
meager and incomplete. Many ministerial acts are not recorded and others are lost. Dr. Schwartz began his long pastorate here in 1867 and kept quite accurate records. These books are at the parsonage.
Under the pastorate of Rev. A. C. Ehrenfeld, St. Mark's united with the Worthington
Lutheran Church, to constitute the Worthington Lutheran Parish in 1855. The Pastor lived at Worthington. With the exception of four years, these churches were united in one Parish from 1855 to 1949.
When Dr. Schwartz became pastor in 1867, he divided his time equally between the two churches and each church paid half of the salary which was $600 per year, $300 for each church. In 1893, the Worthington Church requested St. Mark's congregation to let it have the pastor's time every Sabbath for a service, agreeing to relieve St. Mark's of $125 a year of its share of the salary for each year. St. Mark's accepted the proposition. St. Mark's share of the salary was now $175 per year. This was later increased to $225 a year when the pastor's salary was $760 per year.
The membership of the church had a steady growth throughout the long years, notwithstanding heavy losses by death and removals to other communities. In 1867 it had 62 members. By 1900 it had 197, by 1919 there were 250, and in 1949 we had 273 members.
The Woman's Missionary Society was organized by Dr. and Mrs. Schwartz in 1879 and from 1897 to 1900 contributed $203 for Mission Work.
The church is now free of debt, has a considerable endowment fund for the church and
cemetery upkeep and has a confirmed membership of 273 members.
The Pastorate of Harry Dollman was a brief one. He originally came as Assistant Pastor
to John Schwartz. Due to illness he became full pastor shortly after his arrival on October 22, 1911. As occasionally happens, the pastor became interested in a young lady of the parish, Lou Shearer. His departure after their marriage on October 12, 1912, followed a long held custom of a pastor leaving after a marriage to a parish member. Pastor Dollman went to Pine Grove, Pa. after serving here and later was a chaplain during World War I.
Pastor Smith's first period with us was eventful. On July 6, 1917 a great celebration took place on J. W. Schwartz' 50th Anniversary in this area. A bad influenza epidemic took the lives of many members during this time. The congregations bought a Ford automobile for Pastor Smith and set-up alternating morning and afternoon worship services each week. On May 23, 1919, Pastor Smith conducted the funeral of J. W. Schwartz. On Aug.
24,1919, he submitted his resignation (to) become pastor at St. John's Williamsport October 1, 1919.
The fifteenth pastor of Saint Mark's, P. T. Emery Stockslager, was called Dec. 27, 1919 and began services here on February 22, 1920. It was a time of growth. He was an able and devoted preacher. During his time here, Pastor Stockslager's wife passed away, which might have been a factor in his leaving in the Spring of 1924 to serve in Central Pennsylvania. On October 22, 1922 land was purchased west of the church to the public road from Samuel Crissman for $100. He resigned February 24, 1924.
A time of missionary zeal was in store for the parish, as Roy L. Yund, who had served as
a missionary in Liberia, Africa (1922-24), became pastor on November 16, 1924. His four year term was a wonderful time for the organizations of the congregation. In the summer of 1928 the congregation purchased an electric light power plant. Pastor Yund resigned September 9, 1928 effective October 7. It was during the negotiations with Worthington for Pastor Yund's successor that members decided to dissolve the Worthington Parish for the first time. It was at a meeting on November 11, 1928 that the members voted down by a 3 to 1 margin, the shared ministry plan.
It was on June 9, 1929 that the members voted to call J. W. Dean as pastor and to buy
the property of David Alexander for a parson-age. The stock market crash and subsequent
Depression put extreme pressures on the potential success of the first separate pastorate. In spite of the economic problems, the church grew. A Luther League and Brotherhood were organized. There were three choirs and three baseball teams started.
He held preaching missions at Tarrtown, Bridgeburg, Furnace Run, and Reesdale.
Average attendance in 1932 was 126. In 1930 the Cemetery was chartered and the church council was changed to twelve members, with 1/3 retiring each year. Pastor Dean resigned October 9, 1932. During his pastorate, Pastor Dean also worked at the Department of Welfare in Kittanning.
In 1933, the economic conditions forced the realignment of St. Mark's and Worthington.
The two churches called Pastor Charles W. Barnett on August 15, 1933. Events during this time included: authority to sell the "Alexander" parsonage property, the celebration of the 110th Anniversary on August 16, 1934, approval of the first Boy Scout troop in 1935, and some important building improvements. On May 1, 1935 permission was given to begin excavating under the church building for a basement. The young men's Bible Class was given the job, and George Wolff was made foreman. On March 4, 1938 the basement project was dedicated. Many of the children of the congregation will hardly believe it, but the first public utility electric power was not extended to St. Mark's until late 1939. An application was made to REA on November 3, 1939.
It was through the influence of Pastor Dean and the follow-up by Pastor Barnett's personal interest that brought two of our members to accept the call to the ministry (the only two in our history.) Carl Thornton Hays was ordained in 1938 and Robert E. Wolfe in 1940. On October 5, 1941 Pastor Barnett submitted a resignation effective November 15. He retired to live in Brookville.
Charles T. Schlotter became the pastor of the parish on December 7, 1941. The day in history set the tone for his ministry. Pastor Schlotter assisted the members through the trying years of World War II. His pastorate included the following events and decisions: the current pattern of worship at 9:30 a.m. was initiated by a vote on Mary 5, 1944 to try moving the 2 p.m. service at St. Mark's to 9:30 a.m. during the months of June through October. Two property transactions were carried out--exchange of ground with the Eyman family to expand the Cemetery, and the decision on November 2, 1945 to sell the old parsonage to D. L. Brown for $1,800. It was during the Schlotter pastorate that new altar, cross, candleholders, flower vases and Baptismal font were added. Pastor Schlotter left February 1, 1946 to become pastor at Youngwood.
After serving 27 years in Central Pennsylvania at Williamsport and Berwick, Pastor A.
W. Smith returned to the parish on June 1, 1946. His ten years were very active. In preparation for the 125th Anniversary celebration in July 1949, the nave interior was painted and frescoed, new carpet was laid, the basement and kitchen were improved, and some new hymnals and choir chairs bought. The principal addition for the anniversary was the purchase on July 9, 1949 of a Hammond Church Model Organ at a cost of $2087. Additional money raised permitted the purchase of choir robes and an organ cover. The choir raised these funds. Other activities of the Smith pastorate include: reorganization of a Luther League, $1000 was raised for the cemetery through a $500 gift given as a matching fund, the cemetery tool shed was built, the old chimneys were removed and roof repairs made in 1950. In early 1951, the house and land of Russell and Edna Lemmon was purchased for $2,600 and one year free rent. After the deed of transfer in Feb., 1952, over $1,100 of repairs were made to this property. This acquisition increased the size of the cemetery, too. During 1953, wells at the church and Lemmon house were completed and pumps installed. Memorial stained glass windows were installed during 1955. This was the last major project of Pastor Smith's service. In June, 1956 his second pastorate ended as he retired from the active ministry. A. W. Smith's total service at Worthington and St. Mark's gives him the second longest pastorate here. He served 12 years and 8 months, totally.
On February 3, 1957 a call was issued to James B. Slingluff to take over the parish, which he did in March. Under Pastor Slingluff's leadership the congregation began moving toward its biggest and most costly project to that point in history -the J. E. Educational Addition project. The decisions about this project were not easy. In January and August of 1958, the congregation had to develop a plan consistent with all government regulations. The first plans were rejected and modified. Bids were let in September, 1959, but the old bid that was received was too high and lost. During 1960 the project finally got going. King Bowser did the basement and front porch project, William Sanders, the furnace, and Fred Lundgren, Inc. was the addition contractor. The new addition was dedicated on August 6, 1961. It was paid off in 1963.
During the winter of 1960, plans were approved to remodel the basement and front of the
church. This included a new kitchen and restrooms and a new entrance. Also, there was approval to build an educational unit. These projects were completed through 1961 and the dedication was observed on August 6, 1961. Later in April of 1970, the addition to the building was renamed, the J. E. Leard Educational unit.
Other activities during the ministry of James Slingluff included the organization of a joint
parish Luther League in 1958, purchase and dedication on Feb. 12, 1961 of new paraments; establishment of a library in 1962, an Evangelism mission was held in the fall of 1962 with Pastor Bennett of Export, missioner. On Jan. 11, 1963 the congregation voted to institute the Lutheran Every Home Plan, and in March of 1963 the decision was made to allow only flat headstones in the new section of the cemetery.
On December 31, 1963 a joint meeting of the Worthington and St. Mark's councils was
held at which Worthington announced their desire to dissolve the parish. With the resignation of Pastor Slingluff effective Jan. 10, 1964, this left St. Mark's with its most important decision concerning the future in our history. Under the new LCA constitution, Pastor Bruce Gibson of Ford City became Vice Pastor during 1964.
On March 1, 1964, by a 61-25 vote, the membership of St. Mark's chose to become a single parish. Through 1964, the congregation explored many things: a relationship with St. John's, Kittanning, two pastors considered, and an attempt to buy the Montgomeryville Baptist parsonage as a home for the pastor.
Lawrence R. Camberg was called on January 3, 1965 to become pastor of St. Mark's as a
separate church. He began his ministry on March 3rd, Ash Wednesday and was installed on March 21st. The congregation provided housing at the summer home of Mrs. D. B. Wolfe on a rental basis until a parsonage could be obtained. During the pastorate of Pastor Camberg, a new parsonage was built in 1966 on ground that was given by Mr. and Mrs. Ward Johns. The new tri-level house was dedicated on Mary 7, 1967, with the mortgage paid by December of 1969. The 150th Anniversary was observed in 1974.
An arson fire partially damaged the church on March 11, 1979. The congregation lost the
use of the church for worship and education for one week, but necessary repairs were quickly made. However, major repairs were completed by the fall of that year. Damage to the church was $20,000. Pastor Camberg resigned as pastor on December 31, 1982 to become assistant to the Bishop of the Synod.
During the years of 1985-1991, the church was actively part of the Town and Country
Lutheran Ministry, under the leadership of Pastors David and Kimberly Saylor. The use of several interns from the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg aided in the ministry.
The congregation, under this strategy of ministry, was directed by the Northwestern Pa. Synod. From 1991 through the early months of 1993, Pastor Kirk Bish, of St. John's of Kittanning, who gave guidance to the ministry. When Pastor Donald E. Hebrank was called in April 1993, a combined ministry with St. John's was proposed. With this arrangement, a consistent ministry continues at St. Mark's, and the Pastor is also the Assistant Pastor at St. John's for additional ministry there. In June of 1996, St. Mark's reunited with its former synod, the Southwestern Pa. Synod.
In December of 1993, the interior of the church was repainted with new sheetrock walls placed on the side. The Sunday School and basement areas were repainted. A new roof was placed on the north side of the church, the bell tower and the structure of the flat roof on the Sunday School addition were done, at a cost of $15,000 and completed by August 15, 1994. The chancel area of the church was redesigned and build by Veryl Wolfe, the grandson of Millie Lasher, whose home was used many years ago for worship. There is a free standing altar, new cupboard base for the retable and a new communion rail surrounding the altar. The first use was Harvest Sunday in 1994 with dedication one week later, on Reformation Sunday. Pew cushions were placed in the church by Advent of 1995.
At the beginning of the year 1997, the congregation approved the purchase of a 2 manual 5 rank Wicks Pipe Organ at the cost of $40,000. Guided by the direction of the church
organist, Dr. James Hooks, the organ was built and the money raised. A total of $43,241 was raised and the organ was paid for by the dedication date in February 1998. Bishop Donald S. McCoid of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, was the preacher for the occasion in February, 1998. The last purchase of an organ was in 1949, a Hammond Electronic at the price of $2,087. Through the years, an additional Hammond organ was given by M. Kathleen McAuley.
In July 1999,the congregation celebrates its 175th year of ministry. Our thanksgiving is
to God but also the many pastors and lay people who served in teaching, preaching, visitation and service to the community and world.
With a strengthening commitment and consistent pattern of ministry, the congregation, on February 14, 1999, voted to separate from the cooperative ministry with St. John's, Kittanning, and engage in a full time ministry, commensurate on May 15, 1999.
THE PASTORS AT ST. MARK'S
M. C. Ziefels, 1824-1825; Gabriel Adam Reichert, 1828-1837; Henry David Keyl, 1838-1842:
John Esensee, 1942-1843; Gottlieb Kranz, 1844-1847; John A. Nuner, 1849-1851; Thomas
Steck, 1851-1854; A. C. Ehrenfeld, 1854-1858; Frederick Ruthrauff, 1859; Charles Witmer,
1860-1862; Jacob Singer and Lewis M. Kuhns (supplies), 1863-1864; Hans J. H. Lemcke, 1864-
1866; John W. Schwartz, D. D., 1867-1911; Harry Dollman. D. D., 1911-1912; J. W. Schwartz,
D. D., 1912-1916; A. W. Smith, 1917-1919; P. T. E. Stockslager, 1920-1924; Roy L. Yund, 1924-1928; J. W. Dean, 1929-1932; Charles W. Barnett, 1933-1941; Charles T. Schlotter, 1942-1946; A. W. Smith, 1946-1957; J. B. Slingluff 1957-1964; Lawrence R. Camberg, 1965-1982; William G. Rappold, 1983-1984; David and Kimberly Saylor, 1985-1991; Donald E. Hebrank, 1993 to present.
Contributed by Cheryl Fair for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)
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