Church History

This is the history of our church as taken from a document  written in the late 1930’s


A congregation of Lutherans existed as early as 1828, served  by Rev. John Wint€];’ ot the Smithfield Charge. This congregation worshipped in  the Old Free Church, which was subsequently burned, and a Protestant Episcopal  Church was built on its site. This little band having no church property of  their own and no shepherd to guide and protect them dissolved.


The Rev. T.P. Smeltzer, by recommendation of the Maryland  Synod on October 12, 1848, came to Harpers Ferry “in search of the  scattered of our Lutheran Zion.” Mrs. Susannah Wentzel was the only  remaining member of this little flock when he arrived. (The Rev. LA. Geiss of  Shepherdstown was invited in 1843 to form a congregation, but did not accept.)


On January 14, 1849, in the Presbyterian Church on  Shenandoah Street (the old bakery), Rev. Smeltzer preached his first sermon and  invited all Lutherans to remaIn after the service, but no one remained. On two  occasions his appeal to organize met with the same result. However, it was  after Rev. Smeltzer’s stirring message from Jeremiah 8:22 on February 18, 1849,  in a crowded schoolroom (Nunemaker place, later the Holmes property) in Bolivar  that the Lutherans remained and the congregation was organized. Its first  officers were Martin Eichelberger, George W. Berry, Henry Rhul, and Thomas  Landerkin. Within three weeks its membership reached thirty, principally those  already confirmed by Lutheran pastors.


Since the schoolroom was very inadequate for their needs  they resolved /I to build for the service of God, a house of worship to be  called The Evangelical Lutheran Christ’s Church of Harpers Ferry,  Virginia.” Many difficulties faced them, but in spite of these, plans were  made for the erection of the church edifice. The corner stone WClS laid on  April 30, 1850. The Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, and the Red Men were  present in full regalia. Rev. G.c. Culler offered prayer, Rev. S.W. Harkey  delivered the address, and Rev. Smeltzer laid the stone and deposited the names  of the officers and members, a hymn book containing the constitution, a U.s.  coin, and constitutions of the different Orders presen.f. The collection lifted  on the occasion amounted to $214.50. The church edifice was completed at the  cost of $3692 and dedicated on August 1, 1852 by T.G.

Morris of Baltimore, Maryland.


The land upon which the church was built and a lot adjoining  were given by the Federal Government (the deed was signed February 21, 1850 by  William Bellknap, Secretary of War), but at no time was it financially possible  to build a parsonage. As early as 1854 the council asked Jefferson Davis, then  Secretary of War, permission to use the parsonage lot as a congregational  cemetery, but the request was refused. Eventually the land for the cemetery was  purchased from Messrs. Cavalier and Froggert.


It was hardly a decade after the dedication of the new  church until services were discontinued due to the Civil War, and the building  was taken over by the U.S. Government and used as a hospital. The marks can  still be seen where the walls were shattered by a canon ball fired troIn  Maryland Heights. As a result of the war, services were not held in the church  until 1869. Even then the congregation could not support a pastor and make the  necessary repairs, so the council agreed to finish the basement as a  schoolroom, and the money from the same was to be applied to the pastor’s  salary.


The congregation had its good and its bad season. Several  times it was impossible to support itself and had to depend on the Home Mission  Board. In calling pastors from time to time, the congregation united with other  congregations, namely St. Paul’ 8, Loudon County, Locust Grove, Weverton, and  Brunswick.


Toward the close of the century, the congregation flourished  and became one of the strongest in the town with a growing Sunday school, an  active ladies organization, and a full choir (in the balcony) consisting of  about twenty members. On many occasions the church was filled to the doors, but  in the early part of the present century a division grew in the congregation  and the church was closed (1908). It remained closed for twenty years and many  of its members drifted away or united with other churches.


What seemed to be a hopeless situation to many, was to a  faithful few, a season of growing anxiety for the old church that led eventually  to the re-opening of her doors. Rev. Hesse, a former pastor, suggested the  reopening of the church, and urged Mrs. Mina J. Rau to call the Lutherans  together. Rev. Hesse volunteered to conduct the services, which were held in  the home of Mrs. Rau and later in the Jonadab Hall (now the morgue). Due to the  courage and determination of the few remaining Lutherans the congregation was  re-organized and the church edifice re-opened on July 8, 1928. Those who were  members at the time of the re-opening were Julia Ruhl, Mina J. Rau, Mrs.  Roeder, Goldie Noland, Catherine Myers, Bertha Jones, Daisy Show, Julia  Sponseller, Mamie Marquette, Allen Dinkle, Richard Loman, Chas. Rau, and Chas.  B. Wentzell.


The Lutheran Church was liThe Mother Church” to many  people who cooperated in the re-opening. It was necessary to borrow $1100 to  repair and renovate the building, which had fallen into decay.

The ministers present at the re-opening and re-dedication  services were: Rev. Byers, D.D., Pres. of Synod; Rev. William A. Wade, D.D.,  Sec. of Synod; Rev. Frederick R. Wagner, pastor at Martinsburg; and Rev. Fred  R. Seibel, student pastor of the congregation. Those baptized at the service  were Anna Oram, Peggy Oram, and Joseph K. Mauzy.


The congregation was served six years by student pastors,  who remained with the congregation during the summers, and supplied the pulpit  on Sundays, only, during the other seasons of the year. In May 1934, st. John’s  Trinity near Martinsburg, and St. Paul’s at Neersville, Virginia, became one charge  by consent of the Maryland Synod, and extended a call to the present pastor,  Rev. E. Koontz Helwig.


For the past ten years the Sunday school and congregation  have been steadily growing and enlarging their field of endeavor. The Sunday  school, which was organized by Rev. Speck in 1929, with about one dozen  members, now numbers eighty. The congregation of thirteen has gradually  increased to twenty-nine. The Luther League, organized in September 1934,  consisting of twenty young people, played a very active role for two years.  This year appears to be a record breaking year for attendance in both the  Sunday school and the cngregation, which can be partly attributed to Class  organizations and the Honor Roll System used in the Sunday school. With the  increase in numbers it is felt that the congregation had manifested an active  spiritual life.


Surely it is fitting to recall the enduring Grace and  Inspiration of God, the early efforts of the founders, and the courage and  faith of those who have taken up the work so nobly begun ninety years ago.  “Other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors”.




Rev. T.P. Smeltzer                                   1848-1859

Rev. L.J. Bell                                          1860

Rev. J.I. Miller                                        1861

Rev. Wm. S. McClanahan                         1869

Rev. Webster Eichelberger                        1869-1873

Rev. J.M. Friday                                      1873-1877

Rev. Martin L. Young                               1877

Rev. George W. Crist                               1877-1879

Rev. Isaac W. Bobst                                 1879-1880

Rev. Charles S. Trump                              1881-1883

Rev. JS. Heilig                                         1884-1885

Rev. L.P. Scherer                                     1885-1888

Rev. William Hesse                                   1889-1890

Rev. C.H. Rockey                                     1895-1899

Rev. C.W. Hess                                        1899-1905

Rev. William Hesse                                    1928

Rev. Fred R. Seibel                                   1928

Rev.AJbertE.Speck                                   1929

Rev. Paul DeLauter                                   1929

Rev. J.E. Mauer                                        1930

Rev. Bradley T. Gaver                              1931

Rev. Harold L. Harm                                1932,1933

Rev. E. Koontz Helwig                              1934  –