History

Our Church

The ground St. Paul's United Church of Christ is located on was part of a tract of land granted by William Penn to a Peter Bonn in 1704. A gentleman named David Hary became the owner in 1716, later selling ninety-nine acres to a John Boyer, while one acre was set aside, presumably for a burial ground.

Although the Swedes were the first white settlers of Amityville, they rarely left the banks of the Manatawny. Germans, who came in great numbers after 1725, were largely of the Reformed and Lutheran faith and were without the services of a regular pastor for a long time. In Morlatton (present-day Douglassville), services were held in Swedish or English, neither of which could be understood by the Germans, who were extremely poor and could not employ a pastor or build a church in these early years. There is evidence that a Pastor Brunholz was preaching in Amityville homes as early as 1745. These gatherings for worship most certainly hastened the setting aside of a parcel of ground for the burying of the dead. Two tombostones inscribed with the dates 1742 and 1740 respectively, indicate a burial ground before a church was erected.

The first church (of log construction) was built in 1753 and was used as a church and school. In 1754, Reverend Henry M. Muhlenberg visited Amityville and found a union meeting house erected by the two congregations. The cornerstone was laid on September 18,1795 for a new stone church measuring 40 x 50 feet with a seating capacity of 500 people. The building cost approximately $2,325. In 1797, the new stone church was dedicated and the log meeting house was torn down. The debt was fully paid by 1816. An organ was purchased at a cost of $889 in 1817.

In 1840, the young people of St. Paul's became dissatisfied with the use of the German language in the church services. A petition to change the services to English was denied by the elders leading to a division and in 1844, a group of young Lutherans broke away and built a small church just north of the present building on newly acquired ground, joined shortly by the young Reformers. Four years later, the mother church, in an effort to appease, began conducting alternate services in English and German with German services finally being discontinued in 1890. The small church built by the young Lutherans stood for over 100 years. At one time it was used by the Church of the Brethren and from 1928 it was used as the Amity Historical Society Museum. The roof was severely damaged by a thunderstorm in the early 1950's and was torn down when the church ground and the graveyard walls were renovated for the 200th Anniversary celebration of St. Paul's in 1953.

On August 12, 1872, the cornerstone was laid for a new brick church. The stone church was torn down and services were held in the small church. Dedicated in August of 1873, the new brick church measured 52 x 81 feet, seated 700 people, and cost $21,635. It's steeple stood 123 feet high. In 1892, a clock was placed in the steeple, where it could be heard tolling every hour at a distance of up to three miles. A tornado struck and leveled the brick church on June 11, 1922. Men, women, and even children donated one day's work each week until the wreckage was cleared.

The present yellow brick church was dedicated in May 1925 and cost $121,000. A union building fund remained in effect until this church was paid in full. During 1952 and 1953, extensive improvements were made to the outside church grounds, largely through the generosity of Mr. John Z. Harner, a Reformed layman.

Throughout their long history, both congregations of the Union church belonged to parishes, meaning their pastors served one or more congregations. On November 3, 1958, St. Paul's Reformed Congregation hired the Reverend William H. Solly as their full-time pastor. The Lutheran congregation soon followed suit. At this time, each congregation held weekly services, alternating between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.

At the annual joint congregational meeting on January 9, 1963, a report cited that conditions teaching Sunday School had become intolerable because of overcrowding. On July 28th, ground-breaking services were held and by April 26, 1964, a Service of Dedication was held for the new Christian Education Building. The two story building measured 50 x 82 feet and was built at a cost of $92,337.00, with the cost being shared equally between both congregations. In February 1969, the Union Sunday School was discontinued, with each congregation becoming responsible for its own educational program. Beginning in February 1969, each congregation had its own regular hour for worship.

A Union Study Committee was organized in 1967. The Lutheran church soon indicated the desire to terminate the Union church relationship that had existed since 1753. After many discussions and a lengthy period of negotiation, a dissolution agreement was signed on March 21, 1973 to become effective July 1, 1973. Under the terms of the dissolution agreement, the United Church of Christ congregation purchased the Lutheran congregation's equity for the sum of $100,000 with the Lutheran congregation paying rent to the UCC while their new church was being built.

On May 25, 1975, a Joint Service of Thanksgiving was conducted. By June 1, 1975, the Lutheran congregation had moved into its new church and the United Church of Christ congregation became the sole occupant of the church in Amityville. The final payment of $20,000 was made to the Lutheran congregation on July 1,1975.

Our Chapel

St. Paul's chapel dates back to 1794, when a log house was built on the site adjacent to the church. In 1839, the log house was demolished and a brick schoolhouse was erected on the site. Considering German frugality, the logs from the old school were used to build a horse stable, known as the "minister's stable."

The brick schoolhouse was built in the spring of 1839. Jacob Ludwig and Ezekiel Rhoads were the building committee, John Redcay and Samuel Greiner were the carpenters, Godried and William Trexel were the chief masons. The schoolhouse measured 30 feet x 36 feet and cost $950. Upon completion, the school was used for educational purposes until 1869 and after 1880, the basement of the schoolhouse was used by the Amityville Library Association.

In 1889, the schoolhouse was torn down and in July, another brick building was constructed at the same location. This was the first structure built specifically for Sunday School purposes. It was built by the Amityville Union Sunday School with several stipulations:

  • Amityville Union Sunday School may build on the church grounds without charge or rent.
  • The chapel shall be used only for Sunday School services and activities.
  • The congregation shall have a right to hold congregational and vestry meetings.
  • The pastors shall have the privilege to conduct their catechetical lecutres in the chapel.
  • If the chapel remains unused for Sunday School purposes for one year it shall become the property of the congregations.
  • If the congregations at any time want to have the chapel they must allow the School what the chapel cost to build.
  • No preaching of any kind shall be permitted in the chapel, except in the case that both congregations and Sunday School unite in consenting.
  • So long as the Sunday School uses the chapel for Sunday School purposes, the officers of the congregations shall in no way molest them or interfere with their enjoyment of their rights as granted in this agreement.

The list of contributors toward the brick schoolhouse in 1889 included families who were connected with the congregations in 1839. They are as follows: Ezekiel Rhoads, Jacob Ludwig, Jacob Coleman, David Herner, Henry Herner, Samuel Achey, Dan Knabb, William Rhoads, Jacob Willman, Jacob Deturk, Sam Francis, John Lorah.

The building committee for the chapel consisted of: S.H. Romig (foreman), Harvey V. Reed, H.Y. Harbold, U.P. Heilman. The wall was constructed by John Rhoads and his hands from Freidensburg. In order to offset the cost of the chapel and furniture ($2300), an oyster supper was held in November of 1889. Furthermore, a sewing society of thirty or more women met every Saturday afternoon in private homes near the Sunday School to make garments, quilts, and needlework to sell at the Sunday School fairs.

Unlike many areas at the time, the congregations and the Amityville Sunday School had cordial relations. The Amityville Sunday School Easter Festival was held on March 1888 in the church building. On June 3, 1894 (Children's Day), over 1500 people were in attendance who had arrived in 270 carriages. The various Sunday Schools in the area such as Weavertown, Monocacy, Glendale, and Stonersville participated in this program.

On Good Friday of 1917, the chapel burned down during the night. Trees on the property had been trimmed during the previous day with the brush being burned in piles. The wind picked up during the night and sparks flew into the steeple, igniting bird's nests and the roof. Church members were left with only the piano and books, which were saved by the local undertaker Harvey Van Reed.

Following the fire of 1917, the steeple was enclosed and Sunday School classes resumed, however attendance dropped significantly and it became evident that steps needed to be taken in getting a suitable place to hold services. Committees were appointed for the purpose of finding a different home for the Sunday School and it was decided that a new chapel be built on the site of the old one. The old walls were used to build the present chapel which was erected at a cost of $4500.

The new chapel was equipped with electric lights, heated by a hot air heater, while its spacious kitchen was used for suppers. The new chapel soon became the center of activity for residents in the area. Spring festivals and Easter and Christmas programs all drew large numbers in attendance, providing the Sunday School with a source of revenue.

In the Union Sunday School, officers were both from the Lutheran and Reformed congregations. The respective superintendents had authority on alternate Sundays, these superintendents included: David Ludwig, Charles S. Rhoads, Henry Body, W. Jacob Moser, George Thompson, W.S. Kutz, Alice Kutz, Ida Trainer, Olivia Ehst, Leroy Haas, Herbert Weiss, Marie Kutz.

The first Vacation Bible School of the Union Sunday School was held during the summer of 1953. In the late 1960's, the Sunday School was rented to the Daniel Boone School District while a new school was being built. Although the chapel was no longer used, it continued to be a joint entity until the dissolution of the partnership between the Lutheran and Reformed churches. The final joint service was held on May 25, 1975.

During the annual congregational meeting of St. Paul's United Church of Christ in November of 1995, approval was given for a committee to be formed that would study the future of St. Paul's chapel. The chapel had gone unused for many years and the time had to come to either restore it or demolish it. Harold (Butch) Boyer volunteered to be chairman of the committee along with the following members: Jean Barto, Ken Biles, Nancy Casner, Arlene Hafer, Louise Selwyn, Gary Steppler, Ruth Wiltraut.

Six months later, the committee recommended that the chapel be restored rather than demolish it. At the time, the historical value along with the estimated cost for restoration was $100,000. The chapel was to be restored in three phases as funds became available. On June 6, 1998, a rededication program was held to commemorate the restoration of the Amityville Sunday School chapel.