This church is situated one-half' mile north of South Bend, and is usually known as the "Hill Church" or the "White church." It is the second oldest church of the General Synod in Armstrong county. In 1817 Jacob Frantz came from Westmoreland County, and became the owner of the land around South Bend. Two acres of ground were donated by him for a church and cemetery, to which was added one-half acre, purchased from the Hart heirs.
This is now the Union Cemetery of the Reformed and Lutheran churches. Before a deed could be executed, Jacob Frantz died, but his son, John Frantz, gave a deed for it. The first body laid to rest in this cemetery was that of John Allison, a schoolmaster, on the l0th day of May, 1823.
The first Lutheran pastor to preach in this community was Rev. John Michael Steck, who held his services in an old grist mill of Jacob Frantz. Because of this fact, and because of the land that was donated by Mr. Frantz, this church was known as the "Frantz church" for many years. It is the only name by which the congregation is known on the records of the Ohio Synod, of which body it was a member from 1842 to 1860.
The first regular organization of the congregation was effected May 1, 1823. It was a union church, the Reformed being represented by Rev. William Weinel, and the Lutherans by Rev. G. A. Reichart. On that same day, a communion service was held by Rev. Weinel, in which both Lutherans and Reformed participated. The relations between the two bodies in those days were exceedingly cordial. The rights of each party were respected by the other, and they lived and labored as brethren.
Both denominations, for a long time, conducted their services exclusively in the German language. Rev. Reichart was the Lutheran pastor from 1823 to 1837. On the 22d of August, 1829, he confirmed a large class of forty-two and administered the: holy commurion to eighty-six persons. This indicates that, even at this early date, there was quite a large Lutheran constituency in this community: but it is to be remembered that Lutherans in those days were not afraid to journey many miles in order to hear the gospel and partake of the sacrament.
We regret that Father Reichart has not given us the names of the persons who communed at this time. No names of communicants were recorded in the old “Kirchen Buch” until June 11, 1843, when Rev. Jacob Zimmerman administered the communion to the following members.
Carl Rubbert Isaac Townsend Magdalena Hiesly Hanna Elizabeth Rubbert Margaret Townsend Polly Heisly Johannes Linsenbigler Elizabeth Townsend Susan Hiesly Wilhelm Heinselman Regina Linsenbigler Andrew Dornmeyer John Alcorn Catherine Rubbert Hanna Dornmeyer Hanna Jane Alcorn Esther Row Elizabeth Young Leonard George Sarah Row Samuel Stauch Sarah George Magdalena Dillinger Hanna Stauch Margaret Hellelfinger John Frantz John Schmidt Jacob George, Jr. Maria Frantz Lydia Schmidt Elizabeth George Jacob George, III Jacob Henke Polly George Jacob Dornmeyer Catherine Klingensmith Sarah Fritz Elizabeth Dornmeyer Elizabeth Kimmel Jacob George Eva Dornmeyer Daniel Kimmel George Potts Magdalena Henke 9now Hankey) Barbara Iseman David Heilman Jacob Rubbert Peter Iseman Susanna Heilman Magdalena Rubbert Anna Maria Snyder Anna Elizabeth Rubbert Michael Rubbert Samuel Klingensmaith Michael Heisley Peter Heffelfinger Esther Rubbert Catherine Heffelfinger Peter Rubbert Elizabeth Rubbert Isaac Rubbert Peter Rubbert
The following persons communed for the first time,having been confirmed the day before:
George Henry Adam Koenig Philip Frantz Sabilla Heinselman Jacob Dornmeyer Mary Koenig Christine Rubbert Elizabeth Rubbert Frederick Rubbert Mary Rubbert Sarah Rubbert Susanna Fulmer Hannah Rowley Solomon Dornmeyer Peter Young Frederick Rubbert Hannah Dornmeyer Christina Harper Abraham Heisly Absalom Rubbert Catherine Frantz Isaac Rubbert Magdalena Rubbert Elizabeth Dillinger Simon P. Fulmer Leonard Hiesly Hezzekiah Row Hetty Heinselman Daniel Rubbert Catherine Koenig David Rubbert Elizabeth Frantz Jacob Heisley Sarah Rubbert Sarah Dillinger Catherine Young
The first house of worship was built of logs, perhaps as early as the year 1820. The second building was a large frame church erected about the year 1842. In this church, the Lutherans and Reformed worshipped together for thirty-eight years. On the 14th day of January, 1881, the Lutherans dedicated their present house of worship, Rev. George I. Leisher preaching the dedicatory sermon and Rev. Jacob H. Wright, the pastor, consecrating the building to sacred use.
It was built upon a quarter-acre lot, adjoining the old property, which was given for this purpose by Mr. Frantz George. Later, the Reformed congregation built a church in South Bend, and the last act of the two churches in common was to dispose of the old church building at public outcry. The cost of the present church was $2,305. Mr. A. J. Kunkle was the contractor and builder.
The first Lutheran pastor to preach in the comununity, as already stated, was Rev. John M. Steck, who preached only a few times and never effected any organization. Whether Rev. John Adam Moher ever preached in the community is not known, although he was pastor of neighboring churches from 1817 to 1823.
The regular pastors of the church have been the following: Rev. G.A. Reichart, 1823-1837; Rev. John H. Bernheim, 1838-1843; Rev. Jacob Zimmerman, 1843-1859; Rev. David McKee, l860-1866; Rev. Jacob H. Wright) 1866-1.887; Rev. J.W. Hutchison, 1.887-1889; Rev. Thomas J. Frederick, 1690-1896; Rev. C.M. Wachter, 1896-1898; Rev. J.A. Flickinger, 1899-1900; Rev. Jacob M. Hankey, 1900-1903; Rev. C.L. Wiswaesser, the present pastor.
The synodical relationships of this venerable congregation have been quite varied. From 1823 to 1825 it was in connection with the Ministerium of Pennsylvania; from 1825 to 1842 it was in the West Pennsylvania Synod; from 1842-1860 it was in the Ohio Synod, and since 1860 it has been a member of the Pittsburgh Synod of the General Synod. In no case, however, save one, have these Synodical changes been the result of congregational action. They simply followed their pastors, allowing them to distribute their offerings for benevolence, according to their judgment. The one exception referred to was a congregational meeting held April 7, 1860, when the constitution recommended by the Pittsburgh Synod was adopted, and a formal request was made to that body for reception into its fellowship.
In the year 1867 a determined effort was made by outsiders to swing the congregation into the General Council. During the absence of the regular pastor, Rev. Wright, and without his knowledge or consent, three General Council pastors held a conference in the South Bend church with a view, as one of them expressed it, of "knocking the trotters from under Wright." When the pastor returned and the people found how they had been deceived, it made them more strongly attached to the General Synod than ever. The South Bend church now has a membership of 125, and is served in connection with the Mount Union and Gastown congregations.