Berlin Lutheran Church

Created: Monday, 14 September 2015 Last Updated: Monday, 14 September 2015 Written by Administrator Print Email

The Berlin charge of the Evangelical Lutheran church comprises four congregations— Berlin, St. Michael’s, St. Matthew’s and Stony Creek. Sketches of each will be found in the history of the townships in which the churches are situated.

There seem to have been Calvinistic and Lutheran congregations founded in the locality of Berlin as early as 1775 to 1780. We find that on April 4, 1786, the supreme executive council of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted to Jacob Keffer (in trust) for the Calvinistic and Lutheran churches, for the support of schools, a tract of land comprising forty and one-half acres of land, on the headwaters of Stony creek, upon which said Calvinistic and Lutheran congregations had laid out a town, calling it Berlin. The name of the tract of land upon which Berlin is built was Pious Springs.

On April 22, 1789, a charter was obtained from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, signed by Gov. Thomas McKean, for the addition to Berlin, whereby the proprietors of said addition gave the ground rent of one Spanish milled dollar yearly to the Evangelical Lutheran congregation, of Berlin, forever. We find from the early records that Rev. Michael Hey was pastor of the Berlin charge from 1789 to 1793, and was succeeded by Rev. F. William Lange, who commenced his labors in 1794. During the above-named pastorates the congregation worshiped in a log schoolhouse located near the site of the present Sunday-school building. During the pastorate of Rev. Lange in the years 1800 and 1801, a log church was erected on the northeast corner of the Lutheran burial-ground. In 1795, the Berlin pastorate comprised the following extended territory: Berlin, Pine Hill, Cumberland, Will’s Mountain, Will’s Creek, John Miller’s, Quemahoning, Barron’s and Bucher’s. Rev. Lange continued in the Berlin charge until 1813, and was succeeded by Rev. Ernest H. Yedeman, who continued as pastor until 1819. In 1819 Rev. Jacob Crigler, of Madison county, Virginia, became pastor and continued as such until 1834. While Rev. Crigler was pastor the territory of the charge was somewhat changed, and consisted of Berlin, Pine Hill, Comp’s, Will’s Creek, Shafer’s, Mull’s, Stony Creek, Gebhard’s and Sanner’s congregations.

At a meeting of the West Pennsylvania synod of the Lutheran church (of which Rev. Smucker was then president), held in Berlin, September 10, 1826, the Berlin pastorate was received into the West Pennsylvania synod.

In January, 1825, through the efforts of the pastor, Rev. Jacob Crigler, and John Fletcher (layman), the Lutheran sabbath school of Berlin was organized. John Fletcher, a member of the Berlin congregation and sabbath school, who died June 6, 1838, left a balance of his estate to be equally divided between the Reformed and Lutheran congregations, and to be safely invested by first mortgage in real estate, the interest thereof, collected annually, to be applied to the purchasing of religious reading matter for the use of said schools, and that each scholar shall receive the present of a bible as boon as he or she is able to read. The estate when settled left a balance of over two thousand dollars for each school. Up to this date the Lutheran sabbath school, according to bequest, has presented five hundred and fifty-three children with morocco-bound bibles.

Subsequently, by an act of the legislature of Pennsylvania, eight hundred dollars of said fund was diverted and applied to the erection of a Sunday-school building. After Rev. Jacob Crigler, the succession of pastors has been as follows:
Rev. George Leiter, 1834-5; Rev. Charles Reese, 1836-40; Rev. Louis Geistiniani, 1841-2; Rev. Charles Reese, 1842-3; Rev. Jesse Winecoff, 1843-6; Rev. Charles Young, 1846-51; Rev. Eli Fare, 1852-6; Rev. Philip Sheeder, 1856-64; Rev. Jesse Winecoff, 1864-72; Rev. A.M. Strauss, 1872-5; Rev. J.W. Poffinberger, 1875, present pastor.

In 1846 a brick Sunday-school building, which is still used, was erected. It is worthy of note that the sabbath school has held two sessions each sabbath for nearly sixty years. December 11, 1852, the congregation took preliminary steps toward the erection of the present church edifice. Soon after Col. Jacob Zorn contracted for the erection of a brick building, 45x65 feet, with an audience-room eighteen feet in height, for the sum of two thousand one hundred and forty dollars. The church was completed and dedicated the following year. During the year 1873 the north wing of the Sunday-school building was erected. At present the membership of the congregation and Sunday school is about five hundred.

(Source: History of Bedford, Somerset & Fulton Counties, PA; 1884)