Beginning towards the end of the 1730s the first settlements occured in Oley and Goschenhoppen. From there, they went by way of Longswamp to Weisenberg, Allemaengel, and Lynntown. They traveled through all the land that lies between the Lehigh Mountain and the Blue Mountain. They did not stop until the Blue Mountain stood before their eyes, and they saw its heights and the hills and valleys at its feet, the fresh water, and beautiful forests. Prior to the building of the first church, religious services had been held in the woods and in the homes of the settlers, for they were pious people, having brought with them their Bibles and singing books. Sermons were read by the school master and occasionally by ministers such as Lehman, Schumacher, Widderstein, and others who came from a distance.
The first efforts to establish a church was on February 1, 1761, when John Daniel (Ham) Hamm and his wife, Anna Maria Sechler Hamm, donated two acres of land for the construction of a Reformed Church. The parcel of land given for this purpose lies along the (Koenig Strasse) King’s Highway, about half a mile from the house of Abraham Long. Along with this parcel they granted the right to go to the spring to drink. This spring is not far from where the church shall be built. The deed was signed by John Daniel Hamm and Anna Maria Hamm. Witnesses: George Hermany, Jacob Baer, Peter Frantz, John Nyer, Henry Brednich, Jacob Hoffman, and Marx Wannemacher. The first building was put up in that year and stood about fifty steps southwest from the present site. It was built of logs and had noflooring or boards at the side, and was dedicated by Rev. Philip Jacob Michael, first pastor.
No church register remains from the earliest times. There probably was one that was burned by the Indians when they ravaged this parish with their attacks of arson and murder. It is believed that the Indians burned the church building, and a second log church was built. No other region suffered more than this one during the Indian wars. It was the outermost frontier of white settlements. Before the Indians could attack the whites who lived further back, they had to cross this frontier. For this reason, their acts of murder and arson began here. One of the Indians’ main paths went straight through the middle of this settlement. It was known as Wiederstein’s Path, because this man used it later, and was killed there with his wife. Murderous arson attacks were common in Lynn, and all of the inhabitants often fled to the settlements further south for protection. But they always returned.
On Aaron Donat’s land, a man named Eckenroth was shot dead while plowing. His daughter, Maria Elizabeth Eckenroth married Frederich Lutz, and another daughter was taken captive. Another person was killed at the spring in Jonathan Muthhard’s swampland at Lynnport and lies buried there. When the old settlers went to bed they took their loaded guns and sharpened axes with them. They also took these weapons along to church on Sundays, because they did not know when they might be attacked by the savages. The side walls of the log church had port holes to place their loaded guns through to fire in case of an attack.
The earliest remaining church register is from around 1774. It contains the earliest baptisms recorded by Rev. Conrad Steiner, Jr., who was then the pastor here. Because of the lack of papers, we are rather in the dark about the early history of this parish.
On March 2, 1797, the Reformed congregation of Jacob’s, went together with New Bethel, and New Tripoli parishes to acquire a parsonate north of Lynnport, where Reuben Brobst once lived. We know very little about the number of members of this congregation in the earliest times. In the year 1804, the church register reports that Pastor Hoffmeier celebrated Holy Communion with 51 communicants. About the year 1812 this house with the surrounding land was sold.
From the beginning until 1807 the property was in sole ownership of the Reformed Congregation; then equal rights were given to the Lutherans, and a third acre of land was acquired from John Daniel Hamm and his wife, Anna Maria Sechler Hamm. On November 7, 1807, it was determined to erect a new second church on the extra land secured, this was finished in 1808, dedicated by the two congregations. The building was of stone; in dimensions, 36 feet wide, 42 feet long, and 28 feet high and cost $1407.92. The master-mason was Abraham Von Bremer, who received $226.67; and the master-carpenter was Nicholas Bachman, who received $349.34. The church council then was Elders: Casper Wannamacher, John Nyer, Jacob Fetherolf, and Michael Stein. Deacons: Conrad Stump, John Everett, and Martin Baer. Building Committee: Bernhart Follweiler, John Oswald, Jacob Koenig, and Heinrich Fusselman. Treasurer: John Smied. The ministers were: Lutheran, Heinrich Greisenheimer, and Reformed, Henry Dieffenbach. At the same time, a constitution was drafted, which was revised and expanded in 1854, by a committee consisting of Samuel Oswald, Aaron Donat, and Levi Kistler.
In 1761, a log schoolhouse was erected in which Dannecker, Frantz, Spittler, Robert Singler, and others taught. Around the year 1822, a new double log schoolhouse for education in both languages was erected about 20 paces south of the present day schoolhouse. The teachers were hired by the congregation and the inhabitants of the surrounding area, until the township ratified the Free School Law in 1838 and rented the building for this purpose. This building was used until a new two-story brick schoolhouse was erected as a joint project by the parish and the township. It was dedicated on October 9, 1858. The members pledged the sum of $483.00, which satisfied the township.
The third church made of brick was built in the years 1862 and 1863. The church registers survive from that point onward, but are unfortunately far from perfect or complete. A new constitution was drafted and then printed and distributed to every family. With a few exceptions, this constitution served its purpose well. The corner stone was laid April 27, 1862, and the worship service was conducted by the pastors of the parish, Reverends John Zulich, S. S. Klein, and assisted by Joshua Derr and Boyer. The church was dedicated on May 24, 1863, the pastors who were present were those of the parish, Zulich, Klein, Miese, Dubbs, and Leopold. The church council at that time consisted of: the elders David Fetherolf, Henry Braucher, Jacob Klingaman, and David Follweiler, the executive committee members were Benjamin Glase, Thomas Long, James K. Moser, Samuel Sechler, John F. Follweiler, and Charles Everitt; the building committee members were Aaron Donat, Reuben Buck, Joshua Smith and Levi Kistler: the trustees Henry Long and Daniel Wannemacher; the president Samuel Hermany, the secretary Reuben Ross and the treasurer William Mosser. For the construction of this church, the members pledged the sum of $5522.92, but the cost came to $6500.00. The master mason was John Stimer, who received $800.00, the master carpenter was August Hollenbach, who received $775.00 and extra for the steeple.
In 1865, William Mosser, and David Follweiler were appointed to a committee to purchase a bell. They purchased a 590 pound bell from Buckeye Bell Foundry for $200.00.
The old cemetery was filled with graves, then expanded and filled again. For this reason, a cemetery was laid out by David Follweiler in the year 1865. The trustees, Jacob Sechler, and James K. Mosser, bought 1 acre and 146 square rods for this purpose from Abraham Merkel for $653.75. Even earlier (1855-1856), the parish had bought 18 square rods from Jacob Oswald and 2 square rods from John F. Follweiler to form a triangle with the old cemetery. At the same time, 1865, the parish sold 1 acre and 64 square rods from the original 2 acres to E. F. Lutz for $490.00. In the year 1885, the parish found it necessary to enlarge the cemetery once again. The trustees Edwin Sheetz and Charles Henry purchased 1 acre and 98 square rods for this purpose from John Leiby for $635.00. The new section was also laid out in proper plots by A. F. Creitz.
In 1881, the iron fence was constructed around the church by Frank Peter and Brothers, costing $822.32.
On Sunday, June 21, 1925, it was decided by a vote of the congregation to erect a new church building, the fourth. The officers of the joint consistory, when the decision was made to erect a new building were: President, Arthur B. Klingaman; Secretary, Samuel M. Follweiler, and Treasurer, George A. Billig. The pastors serving at this time were: the Luther Congregation, Rev. A. O. Ebert; the Reformed Congregation, the Rev. C. R. Rahn. The Building Committee consisted of: Henry F. Kistler, Milton D. Leiby, Charles Koenig, Charles S. Oswald, William Fetherolf, MD., and William K. Snyder. The committee began to function at once, and after visiting a number of churches and thoroughly discussing the matter, the plan proposed by Architect D. M. Rothenberger, was approved by the congregation.
The Building Committee then advertised for bids on the plans and specifications as presented by the architect. A number of bids were on hand. These bids varied greatly, and after giving all due consideration, the contract was awarded to the Tamaqua Construction Company. A large crowd of people gathered to see the old building demolished and a feeling of sadness filled the hearts of all as the steeple that for 64 years had been a landmark fell to the ground. But the old must ever give way to the new.
A finance committee was appointed by the joint consistory and challenged with the task of raising funds for the new building. This committee consisted of Rev. C. R. Rahn, Rev. A. O. Ebert, Clinton D. Fetherolf, Charles O. Oswald, James A. Bailey, and George A. Leiby. The finance committee was fortunate in securing the able assistance of Attorney H. Seidel Throm, of Reading. JacobÕs congregation owes a lasting debt of gratitude to Mr. Throm for his contribution of time, energy and direction in the campaign for funds. At the time of dedication $74,441.53 was pledged, and of this amount $68,215.56 had already been paid. The cornerstone of the fourth church was laid July 25, 1926. The dedication services were held during the week of August 21-27, 1926. The members of the joint consistory at the time of dedication were: Luther Deacons: Warren Bond, Ezra Trexler, William Berk, Adam Bailey. Reformed Deacons: Paul Smith, Anson Lutz, Clarence Lenhart, Robert Hamm, Lutheran Trustees: C. D. Fetherolf, Edwin Fetherolf, Reformed Trustees: Frank Jones, Samuel M. Follweiler, Lutheran Elders: Maurice Henry, George Billig, Reformed Elders: Harry Hermany, Charles O. Oswald.
A second drive for funds was started in March, 1927, resulting in a total of $84,106.58. By December 31, 1931, the financial depression then made itself felt among our people, and for a number of years the members and organizations of the church worked hard to meet the interest payments and reduce the principal. At the annual meeting of January 1, 1945, it was decided to inaugurate a campaign to clear the church of this last indebtedness. The finance committee, to direct the campaigns, consisted of: Rev. C. R. Rahn, Rev. L. M. Bond, Anson N. Lutz, Miles E. Graff, Eugene Hartman, Victor Koenig, Dr. William J. Fetherolf, and Milton D. Leiby. The present church, which cost approximately $109,000, was cleared of the remaining debt. This achievement was celebrated at a special service on Sunday, September 2, 1945. The mortgage was burned before the eyes of a group of happy people because it culminated years of dreaming, praying and working.
Since 1945, a Fritzsche Pipe Organ was installed, two new heating systems have been utilized, nine acres of land adjoining the original site have been purchased, along with repairs and remodeling have been done to the rest room areas, the former balcony area converted into Christian Education Rooms, and the Fellowship Hall on the lower level has been totally refurbished. Also, the entire sanctuary has been repainted with all the pews and wood work being revarnished. The adjoining residence now known as the Parish House was purchased and remodeled for use as meeting rooms, office space with the second floor having the potential for temporary, emergency housing.
On May 18, 1986, the Lutheran and UCC Congregations of Jacob’s Church voted to consolidate the two congregations and form a new church. This new church is named “Jacob’s Church, A Congregation of the United Church of Christ” and became effective January 4, 1987. The 225th anniversary celebration on October 19, 1986 marked yet another milestone in the life of Jacob’s Church. The congregation is excited about their new beginning as they serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the Jacksonville area.
As was stated at the time the third church was razed in order to erect the present edifice, Òthe old must ever give way to the new.Ó In 1989, at a cost of $30,430.00 the congregation voted to install a handicapped ramp, and entranceway on the east side of the church, to install new handicapped bathrooms in the northeast corner of the sanctuary level, to repaint and aluminize our “Little Red Schoolhouse”. The congregation also erected outside spotlights to illuminate our beautiful “Blue Mountain Stone Tower.”
An extensive repair of our Stone Tower and Front Entrance was completed in 1992 at a cost of $41,728.00. In 1996 the Schulmerich Electronic Carillon System was installed for the bell tower.
In 1997, the congregation voted to install a paved parking lot at a cost of $50,225.00 and to completely rebuild our beautiful Fritzsche Pipe Organ at a cost of $66,572.15.
At our 1999-2000 Annual Congregational Meeting it was decided to erect an Activity Center. It was the hope of the Jacob’s Church Board and Congregation that people of all ages, along with community churches and organizations, will all benefit from the 7,000 square foot Activity Center. The cost of this building was approximately $100,000.00. Extensive volunteer help was secured to complete this project enabling the church to experience a very substantial savings. Also at our 1999-2000 meeting a spiritual need was sensed to call a part time youth leader. The importance of reaching our children for Christ at an early age was the deciding factor in hiring a Youth Leader. The Activity Center was dedicated in 2001.
In 2002, we hired an Activity Center Director. In the same year we replaced the carpet through the church, purchased pew cushions, painted the sanctuary, installed a heating system conversion at a cost of $30,000 and started to repair the stain glass windows. On Reformation Sunday, October 30, 2005, JacobÕs Church voted 181 yes and 15 no to leave the United Church of Christ Denomination and affiliate with the Evangelical Congregational Denomination in an “observer status,” with Pastor Shay serving as minister. This vote was prompted by the denomination”s stand on endorsing same sex marriage, the ordination of pro-choice stance on abortion and the liberal interpretation of scripture. As a congregation we had been struggling with the United Church of Christ Denomination over these issues for over twenty years.
There was an interest in starting a preschool for ages 3-5 and that was accomplished in 2007. On Sunday, December 7, 2008, at our Annual Congregational meeting the congregation voted 84-7 to remain independent and to not affiliate with the Evangelical Congregational Denomination at that time. We also built a kitchen adjoining the Activity Center at a cost of $125,000 and we also included a power point system in the sanctuary. And in 2009 we remodeled the church basement to include preschool and Sunday school classrooms. Last but not least, a playground was added. We are a church writing new history each day as we grow in the Lord.
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