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History of Alsace Lutheran Church, Alsace, Pennsylvania

The following history is from The History of Berks County by Morton Montgomery published in 1908 (p. 1145).


A brief but interesting history of the Alsace Lutheran Church has been prepared by the Rev. Mr. [Charles E.] Kistler, and is here appended in full:

"Alsace Lutheran Church. Encouraged by Penn to come to his Province, the people who left Alsace, Germany, in 1681, pushed their way up the Schuylkill Valley until they reached a place surrounded by hills like their home in the Fatherland. So many of these Alsatians settled here after 1735 that when the township was erected in 1744 it was named Alsace in their honor. Scarcely had they erected their rude homes when they began to build a little log church for a place of worship. This was the first Alsace Church. It was built in 1737, eleven years before the city of Reading was laid out, and fifteen before Berks county was erected. It was a union church from the beginning. Since a number of the people were Huguenots, there was occasional French preaching. Muhlenberg in his report to Halle, wrote: 'As both Lutherans and Reformed, because of poverty and want of regular pastors, took up with tramp preachers, they were continually involved in strife with one another, until the Reformed left the church and their share of the cost of the building was paid back to them.' The little log church was replaced by a stone edifice erected by the Lutherans about 1752. In 1796 the Lutherans and Reformed united again, and built a two-story brick building which stood where Grace Reformed church now stands. The school-room and home of the organist and teacher took up the first floor, while the church auditorium was on the second floor. The last services in this building were held, March 30, 1850, when it was torn down so that the material could be used in the construction of the new edifice, which was dedicated on Sunday, Oct 20, 1850. It stood till the summer of 1908, when the Lutherans and Reformed after a peaceable separation built and dedicated the twin, granite edifices which now stand there.

"From the beginning of Trinity, Reading, in 1752, Alsace became a part of Trinity charge and remained so for an hundred years. On account of this it numbers among its former pastors some of the best educated and most prominent Lutheran ministers in the early history of the Church in America. The following have been the pastors of the Alsace church: Rev. Mr. Wagner, previous to 1754; Rev. Mr. Schumacher, 1754-58; Rev. John C. Hartwick, founder of Hartwick Seminary, 1758; Rev. Bernhard Haushil, graduate of the University of Strassburg, pastor in Philadelphia and New York, 1758-63; Rev. John Krug, 1764-71; Rev. F. Niemeyer and Rev. P J. Krotz, 1771-74; Henry Moller, 1774-76; Rev. F. A. Muhlenberg, who afterward became the first speaker of the Congress of the United States, 1776-78; Rev. Daniel Lehman and Rev. Charles F. Wildbahn, 1778-96; Rev. Mr. Marcard, 1796-97; Rev. Daniel Lehman, 1797-1801; supplies, 1801-03; Rev. H. A. Muhlenberg, D. D., 1803-29; Rev. Jacob Miller, D. D., 1829-50 (the last two both served as president of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania; and Rev. Dr. Muhlenberg was a member of Congress, declined a seat in Van Buren's cabinet, and in 1838 became United States minister to Austria); Rev. A. T. Geisenheiner, 1851-52; Rev. R. S. Wagner, 1852-57; Rev. T. T. Iaeger, 1857-65; Rev. Mr. Wicklein, 1865-73; Rev. F. K. Huntzinger, 1873-97; Rev. Charles E. Kistler, 1898 to the present time.

"The cemetery near the church was laid out and used soon after the first Alsace church was built. Many of the inscriptions on the sandstone tombstones are no longer legible. The dates on the tombstones of John Theodore Baum, who died in 1762, and John Fisher, who died in 1763, can still be read. Subsequently the cemetery was enlarged and incorporated. It remains under the control of the Alsace Lutheran and Reformed congregations.

"The Alsace Union Sunday-school was organized about 1887. With the exception of brief intervals, Mr. D. D. Becker has been the superintendent during its existence. Although the Lutheran Sunday-school is only a little over a year old it is much stronger than the Union School has ever been. Mr. Becker is still superintending it.

"For more than a century the growth of the Alsace Lutheran congregation was very slow. With the approach of the city of Reading and the rapid development of Muhlenberg township, very remarkable progress has been made during the last decade. With its present equipments, its willing workers and its splendid field, the prospects of the congregation could hardly be brighter.

"The following are the members of the vestry: Howard E. Ahrens, president; Joseph C. Frederick, vice-president; Garson M. Huyett, treasurer; Daniel D. Becker, secretary; deacons: Fred Leas, Paul Leas, Jacob Wertz, Charles Hirleman, Clayton Rissmiller and Robert Cunnius."

Gillis Sampler

Last Modified Thursday, 16-Oct-2008 21:07:44 EDT

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