Churches of Baltimore

Last Updated: Thursday, 13-Sep-2018 20:00:57 MDT
Field Trip to Baltimore


The First German Reformed Church of Baltimore was founded circa 1750. The congregation dedicated their first church in 1758. It was located on North Charles near Saratoga. During the early 1770s a division formed within the First Reformed Church of Baltimore. One segment of the congregation thought the pastor, Rev. John Christian Faber, was too distant and impersonal in his offerings of faith. This group sought to replace Rev. Faber and when they failed, they formed their own congregation, Second Reformed (later Old Otterbein).(1)

In 1787 the First Reformed congregation moved to a new church, built on the northeast corner of Baltimore and Front streets. Less than ten years later this building was sold to St. Paul's Episcopal Church and the congregation moved once more. In his book, History of Baltimore City and County: From the Earliest Period to the Present Day, J. Thomas Scharf indicates that the new structure was located on "the north side of Second Street, nearly in the present bed of Holliday Street." The city later opted to extend Holliday Street from Baltimore to Second (now Water) and it was necessary for the congregation to find yet another location. Final services were held in the Second Street church on 8 July 1866. The majority of the First Reformed community built a new church in 1867. It was situated on the west side of Calvert, just south of Read Street. At this time some members of the Second Street congregation split to form their own churches as noted below. In 1918 First Reformed merged with St. Stephens Reformed Church and later became First and St. Stephen's United Church of Christ. That congregation is located at 6915 York Road.

Image copyrighted by the MHS.  Used here with their permission.
Second Street German Reformed Church
Source: The Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland

Originally I thought FIRST REFORMED CHURCH OF BALTIMORE and the SECOND STREET GERMAN REFORMED CHURCH were two different congregations. They were actually one and the same. The sketch above, courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, depicts the church when it was located on Second Street. The 1849 city directory lists "E. Heiner" [Elias Heiner] as pastor of "1st German Reformed" on Second Street. It is likely that after the community moved from the Second Street location in 1866 later generations forgot that the church had once been referred to as the "Second Street German Reformed". Indeed, the name "Second Street" disappears from city maps altogether in the twentieth century, as that portion of road between South Street and Market Place became an extension of Water Street.

A 1861 newspaper clipping, "A Pastorate of a Quarter of a Century", found within the pages of Sophia Kaylor Keehne's family bible reports the silver anniversary of Rev. Dr. Elias Heiner's pastorate of First German Reformed Church on Second Street:

"On Sabbath, Jan 3th, the Rev. Dr. Heiner, pastor of the Second Street German Reformed Church, completed his twenty-fifth year's ministry among that people. The Second street congregation is one of the oldest in the city. It was organized in 1750, 110 years ago and has had three different places of worship. It has had nine pastors, Dr. Heiner having served it for the last twenty-five years. The pastor stated in his discourse on the above anniversary occasion, that during his ministry he had solemnized 510 marriages, baptized 820 persons, confirmed to the church 570, and buried 560. Of those who were present at his first communion, only 16 communicants are left. The present congregation is almost entirely a new one. Nearly all have passed away who sat under the pastor's early ministry. Great peace and harmony have prevailed in the church during these long years. The sermon was replete with interesting reminiscences of the congregation for the last quarter of a century."

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A wonderful description of the church on Second Street can be found in the personal writing of Baltimorean Baltis H. Kennard (1827-1907). Below are excerpts from his "Family Register", portions of which can be found on Elizabeth J. Rivers Peters' web site, "The Rivers/Briel Family Tree". Elizabeth, also known as B.J., is the gr-gr-granddaughter of Kennard and the transcriber of these notes. In the excerpt below, Kennard is writing about his grandmother, Margaret Spies. This is the first time I have seen the church referred to as the "Town Clock Church". A special thanks to B.J. Peters for permitting the excerpt to be included here.(2)

Image copyrighted by the MHS.  Used here with their permission.
Source: The Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland
"For many years of her life from her husband's day, she was a Member of the Town Clock as it was then called - Lutheran Church on Second Street, now Water St.  It was a handsome Church in design and finish, and stood within a large enclosure of rural beauty.   Dr. Heiner, a worthy and distinguished Minister was at one time the pastor.   This Edifice had a city historic feature [BJ's note: The word "about" was written here and crossed out. Then the new sentence began].   It had a Fire alarm in the steeple that surmounted it, which was used by the City on all serious Fire occasions and at the time was a notable feature in Baltimore City and was famed as the town ___.   The alarm given from a large triangle, and the metal when struck gave out a vigorous round that could be heard within the City limits.   It was well constructed and the sound it gave out well represented an alarm while at the same time preserving a musical tone.   The city had the use of it on all Fire occasions of a threatening character.   Every boy and man in the City knew the sound and when it pealed forth its clangor every one knew that the city was threatened with a dangerous conflagration.   Then the City fire service was a volunteer organization, and all took a hand, and too frequently the free play of young America made it in some instances a disorganization.   Where this
church stood and near by, was indeed in much measure, part of historic Baltimore, and possessed a primity beauty and refined taste in its buildings which gave earnest of the substantial men that lived there, and engaged in Commercial pursuits, and helped to give Baltimore its start.   Now nearly all the landmarks of former years have, and are disappearing and Modern, and larger structures are taking their places but the vines, trees, flowers and grass plots are not in sight.   Many of the important and valuable men of the City were Members of the Town Clock Church.   Long since with its worthy membership the Town Clock Church vanished.  Holiday St. was cut through and the church being in its path was removed." (2)

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Some early ministers who served First Reformed Church of Baltimore:(3)

  • Rev. John Christian Faber
  • Rev. George Wallauer
  • Rev. Charles Boehme
  • Rev. Nicholas Pomp
  • Rev. George Troldenier
  • Rev. John H. Dryer
  • Rev. Dr. Christian L. Becker
  • Rev. Albert Helffenstein, Sr.
  • Rev. Elias Heiner

Over the course of years, a number of churches were formed as off-shoots of First Reformed Church of Baltimore. They are listed below with year of secession and original location of the new church:(4)

  • Second Reformed (Old Otterbein), 1770 - Conway & Sharp
  • Third Reformed, 1844 - Paca & Saratoga
  • St. Johannes' (German) Reformed, 1845 - Calvert near Saratoga
  • Fifth German Reformed, 1858
  • Aisquith Street German Reformed, 1867 - Aisquith near McElderry
  • The Emmanuel or Sixth German Reformed, 1867 - Saratoga & Schroeder
  • St. Paul's (English) Reformed, 1879 - Lexington near Carrollton (seceded from Third Reformed)

    Elenora Green passed along the following information about Fifth German Reformed. Her source was "New Baltimore" published in 1905 in German. She indicated that it was translated by a woman who formerly worked at Zion Lutheran. According to Elenora:

    "Fifth German Reformed grew from the Sunday School founded in 1854 by Hyden. In 1858 the Fifth Evangelical German Reformed Congregation purchased the Baptist Church on Canton Avenue, east of Broadway. In 1866, the church burned and in 1867 it was rebuilt. Rev. Grimm was one of four ministers to serve the Fifth German Reformed. Dr Bachman served from 1864 until a second fire claimed the church in 1904. The last service to be held at the church was on 7 Feb 1904. The church was not rebuilt and the Council sold the property."


    Records for First Reformed were first published as part of the Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin and are now available in various formats:

          Records of the First Reformed Church of Baltimore, 1768-1899, Family Line, 1995, 440pp., index. Records span the years 1768 to 1899.

          FTM CD #208: Genealogical Records: Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin, 1600s-1900s, Volumes 1-38

          FTM CD #178: Church Records: Maryland and Delaware 1600s-1800s

    The records are also available on microfilm at Maryland Historical Society and Maryland State Archives.

  •      (1)  Joseph Henry Dubbs, D.D., Historic Manual of the Reformed Church in the United States, Lancaster, PA, 1885, pp 216-217;  J. Thomas Scharf, History of Baltimore City and County: From the Earliest Period to the Present Day, Philidelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881, p 571.
         (2)   Transcribed from Baltis' notes in the year 2000, by his gr-gr-granddaughter, Elizabeth J. Rivers Peters. These hand written pages were passed from the hand of Lorelle Parrott Weidlein [b. 15 Feb 1911, d. Jan, 1995] to her cousin, Robert Elmer McCullough. Peters received copies of the text from McCullough's daughter, Karen L. Kidd of Tennessee.
         (3)  Scharf, pp 571-572.
         (4)  Scharf, pp 572-573.

    If you find any errors on these pages,
    or if you have additional information
    regarding availability of records,
    please contact me.

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