St. Michael's 200 Anniversary Picture - 2006
A BRIEF HISTORY OF
ST. MICHAEL'S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
St. Michael's Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Burrell Township, Armstrong County, was organized by Rev. Michael Steck, of Greensburg, in 1806. Some records indicate that Rev. Steck came into this area as early as 1796, preaching in private homes or barns. The home of George Peter Schaeffer in the community then known as the Schaeffer settlement was one of those used as a meeting place. There were twenty four charter members, twelve men and their wives, as follows:
John George Heliferick George Peter Schaeffer John Philip Schaeffer Michael Schall, Sr. Isaac Wagley, Sr. Jacob Waltenbaugh Henry Davis Jacob George, Sr. William Hefflefinger Adam Wilhelm Philip Hartman George A. King
John George Heliferick and George Peter Schaeffer were chosen to serve as elders.
The first church building was a log structure, 30x40 feet, with a gallery and a raised pulpit, built in 1820, on land then owned by George Peter Schaeffer. On August 3, 1830, Mr. Schaeffer conveyed the title to five acres and eight perches 0+ land, for one dollar, with Peter Rupert and John P. Schaeffer acting as trustees for the church. (Deed Book Vol.7, page 55)
The log church building was dedicated on Sunday, September 16, 1832, with the Revs. Steck and Hacke, of Greensburg, officiating. Rev. Steck was Lutheran, and Rev. Hacke was of the German Reformed Church. The language in common use at the time was German. Rev. G.A. Reichert was pastor (1825 to 1837). During this pastorate, 227 baptisms and 33 confirmations were recorded.
This site is now known as the Old Schaeffer Cemetery, and the location of the log church is marked by a sun-dial monument, bearing the names of the charter members. The monument was erected in 1920, under the leadership of Rev. R.W. Yeany. (1918-1920). An annual memorial service is held at the site, usually on the fourth Sunday in August.
By 1850, it was apparent that a larger building was needed. Anthony Helfferick gave an acre of land at the cross-roads, now the village of Brick Church, for a church and cemetery. An additional two acres was purchased from King and Woodward. The new church, of red brick, 44x60 feet, with a ceiling height of 14 feet, was built during the pastorate of Rev. David Earhart. The cornerstone was laid on September 4, 1852, and the dedication ceremonies were held on October 23, 1 853. St. Michael's Evangelical Lutheran Church was incorporated by the proper court, March 20, 1850. Serving as charter officers were the pastor, Rev. George F. Ehrenfeldt, the elders, George King and Isaac Kinnard, and the deacons, Samuel Woodward, George Riggle and Peter Heilman.
The new church building was destroyed by a violent storm on July 29, 1860. A stone inset an the exterior front of the building reads:
St. Michael's Ev. Lutheran Church
Blown down July 29
Rebuilt September A.D. 1860
Twice since then the building has been damaged by storms, in 1880 and again in 1899, when the roof was blown off.
Most of the early settlers in this area were German Lutherans and they spoke the German language. Conforming to the changing times, the younger people were speaking English as their principal language, and from 1851 until 1860, St. Michael's held services in two languages. Rev. David Earhart used the English, and Rev. Michael Schweigert preached in German, and ministered chiefly to the older people, those who held to their German tradition, or who did not understand English.
From early times, St. Michael's has shared a parish with other churches in the area. Beginning in 1817, Rev. John A. Mohler served five congregations:
- St. Michael's, Christ Church (Rupp's)
- Zion (Forks), St. Matthew's (South Buffalo Twp.)
- Hebron (Leechburg)
By 1867, St. Michael's, St. John's, and Bethel had formed the Crooked Creek Parish. From time to time, several other churches were affiliated with St. Michael's. In 1920, St. Matthew's (not United Rockville) joined St. Michael's and St. John's to form the Brick Church Parish. Currently, the Parish consists of two congregations, United Rockville and St. Michael's, who share the services of a pastor, an organist, a secretary and in various aspects of the church's work in the community.
Changes were made as the need for them, or the opportunity, emerged Land was secured from Mr. Artman, and the parsonage was built in 1873. The Sunday School was opened about 1870. Beer's History of Armstrong
County reports that St. Michael's of Brick Church had 100 Sabbath School Scholars in 1876. Women were given the right to vote on church matters in 1887. Electricity was installed in the church and parsonage in 1938. A water well was drilled at the parsonage in 1939, and a water system completed in 1940. In 1939, a new coal furnace was installed in the church. Coal for heating has been out-moded. An automatic gas furnace has been in use in the church since 1975. The electric organ was purchased in 1940. A Ladies' Aid Society was organized in 1918, and continues its work as Lutheran Church Women.
The building fund was established by congregational action at a meeting on December 1, 1923. The first gift was a bequest of $1,000.00 left by Mr.
H. A. King. The fund grew slowly, totaling $8,069.41 in 1943, $19,569.24 in 1963, and $75,982.61 in 1978.
In 1939, Owen J. King gave the church approximately 2-1/2 acres of land to be used as the site for a new church, and/or for the cemetery. This gift carried the proviso that it would revert to the King heirs in 99 years, if it had not been used for church purposes. Rev. G. W. W. Amick was pastor when the building fund was started. Serving on Council at that time were J E. Kinnard, E. E. Schaeffer, W. M. Rearick, 0. J. King, J. P. Knell, and L. F. Schaeffer.
Ground breaking ceremonies for the new church were held an August 12, 1979.
One hundred seventy-four years have gone by since St. Michael's was formally organized in 1806. Twenty-eight men have served as pastors. Two of them, Rev. G. A. Reichert and Rev. David Earhart, returned to serve a second pastorate, so the list that follows contains thirty names, with the dates of service.
John Michael Steck 1800-1813 J. G. Lamprecht 1813-1815 J. A. Mohler 1817-1823 K. M. Zeilfels 1824-1825 Gabriel A. Reichert 1825-1837 J. H. Bernheim 1838-1846 G. F. Ehrenfeld 1846-1851 David Earhart 1851-1860 Michael Schweigert (German) 1851-1860 J. H. Wright 1860-1861 David McKee 1861-1866 Gabriel A. Reichert (2nd Term) 1866-1867 Jonathan Sarver 1868-1872 Philip Doerr 1873-1877 W. A. C. Mueller 1878-1881 David Earhart (2nd Term) 1882-1887 R. G. Rosenbaum 1887-1892 D. D. Miller 1892-1901 Wilson Yeisley 1902-1910 John N. Wetzler, D. D. 1911-1918 R. W. Yeany 1918-1920 G. W. W. Amick 1921-1926 Theodore Hoffmeister 1927-1936 Charles Pryor, Jr. 1936-1942 J. Earl Reed 1943-1951 Charles H. Zacher 1951-1954 Paul B. Blank 1955-1958 Ernest A. Felker 1958-1962 Richard T. Ebel 1962-1967 Philip S. Ramstad 1971-1978
Since November, 1978, the parish has had the assistance of two vice-pastors. Rev. John Ludwig of Bethel, who served until December, 1979, and Rev. J. Paul Kennedy. On June 1, 1980, Pastor Donald D. Hake began his ministry in this parish. He was graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in May, 1980. He was ordained on Saturday, June 7, 1980, at Thiel College, Greenville, Pennsylvania, at the convention of the Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia Synod of the Lutheran Church of America.
Written by Madge Bruce.
Transcribed for the Armstrong County Genealogy Project by Larry K. Shick October 12, 1998.
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