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Jerusalem (Red) Lutheran
and United Church of Christ Church
(Union since 1812)
by William A. Brobst
Just a quarter mile northeast of Stony Run (formerly Wessnerville),
Pennsylvania, on the road to Lynnville, is the site of the Lutheran Jerusalem
Union (Red) Church, home of the first Lutheran Allemaengle congregation,
established personally by Rev. Henry Melchoir Mühlenberg, the father of
the Lutheran church in America. The present small village of Stony Run is in
the immediate area where the many of the German immigrants settled, including
Philip Jacob and Johann Michael, and their families, as well as the Stambach
and Kistler families. It lies on the Lynn Township (Lehigh County) line, just a
few miles from the present Big Valley Ski Area.
According to one record, in 1740, the 50 acres of land for this church was
bought for Pastor Mühlenberg by his father-in-law, Conrad Weiser, for the
purpose of construction of a church building for the new Lutheran congregation.
In 1746, he secured in his own name a warrant for those 50 acres "situate
above Maxatawny", and invited the Lutherans to use this land for a church
Mühlenberg had made a previous visit to the area in 1743, and found
"many German people, poor and destitute, and in want of spiritual and
material sustenance. Many grew into a state of wildness, and no longer paid
heed to church or school." He was alarmed that the Moravians, whom he
disliked intensely, were moving into the area and proselytizing the German
Lutherans. This provided a great motivation for him to establish Lutheran
churches in that area.
In March 1747, Mühlenberg wrote in his journal:
"... on this land they were to build a wooden schoolhouse or church and,
if in time they became able to support a school master, the children would at
least be given some help. The schoolmaster was to read a sermon for them on
Sundays, and I proposed to visit them once or twice during the year. It
appeared as though the majority were agreed to approve the proposal and they
went ahead and built a wooden church."
The new settlers accepted the invitation, organized their efforts, and in
1747 began to construct the first Lutheran church there, a log structure, and
also a log schoolhouse. The church was formally dedicated later in 1747 by
Pastor Mühlenberg, even though the building had no roof and construction
was not completed until 1756, the same year that an Indian massacre killed many
members of the congregation. They withstood an attempt by the Moravians to take
over (discussed in more detail later), aided by the fact that the land was now
in Mühlenberg's name.
The early log church was located down the hill from the present church, on
Wessnerville Road in the direction of Stony Run, about two hundred yards. The
location is marked with a white granite marker, erected in 1997, after the site
was discovered recently by Floyd Kistler, a Brobst/Kistler descendant.
One document gives some history of the church:
"Though the date of the organization of the Jerusalem Church is usually
given as 1748, there are a number of facts which, if considered, will allow an
earlier date. The visit of Mühlenberg in 1743 to the Tulpehocken region,
his sending of (Rev.) J. N. Kurz in March, 1746, to Allemäengel; his own
visit to members who had moved from New Hanover to Allemäengel in 1747;
his request that Conrad Weiser, his father-in-law, should purchase for him a
tract of fifty acres to be used for church purposes in 1746; all these things
considered show that it is not presumptuous to claim an organization as early
as 1745 or even earlier. The writer inclines to 1743 because a communion
flagon, in the possession of the congregation, contains the initials G. F. and
C. B. and the date 1743. (A communion cup has the date 1766 -- Matthias
Though the lack of funds prevented the initial completion of the church,
services seem to have been held therein. Mühlenberg preached in it in 1747
even though it had no roof at the time! The church was heated by two
pot-bellied stoves in the center of the church; oil lamps were used for
illumination. Brobst family members were major players in the initial church
planning and operation. For many years, it was called the "Erste
Evangelisch Lutherische Kirche im Allemäengle," and also referred to
for a short time as "Brobst's Allemäengle Church".
The church membership grew quickly with the influx of German Lutherans into
the area. Rev. Mühlenberg later wrote, "The congregation, barely
exceeding one hundred in membership, has furnished eight sons for the gospel
ministry. They were: Samuel Kistler Brobst, Reuben Brobst Kistler, Alfred W.
Kistler, William U. Kistler, Charles E. Kistler, Edwin L. Kistler, D. Elmer
Fetherolf, and Jonas O. Henry." All names common in Brobst history! It is
also noted that there are more Kistlers -- over 200 -- buried at the church
than members of any other family.
The Moravians became interested in the church, much to Mühlenberg's
dismay. In 1746-1751, persistent efforts were put forth by the Moravians from
Emmaus to cooperate in completing the church and in carrying on the work of the
congregation. While the first log building was a'building, the Moravian
emissaries from Emmaus (Bethlehem), PA, appeared on the scene and proclaimed
themselves the genuine Lutherans. This was an echo of the "Tulpehocken
Confusion" and the controversy that raged between the three parties which
sprang up was quite bitter. Operations were suspended before the roof was
placed on the structure. The Moravians, thinking they had gained some
advantage, undertook to complete the edifice "with the understanding that
it should be a Brethren Church." But the title to the property being in
the name of Mühlenberg, the attempt by the Moravians to gain a permanent
foothold failed. They resigned and began their own congregation and church in
The record shows that Rev. Mühlenberg actually kept title to the Red
Church until July 10, 1770, at which time he deeded the land and building to
the trustees appointed by the congregation of the new Evangelical Lutheran
Society -- Philip Stambach, Jacob Gortner, Jean Valentine Brobst (1724), all of
Albany Township, Berks County; and to Matthias Brobst (1736) and George Kistler
of Lynn Township, Northampton County. While most of the family members of the
early church lived in Lynn Township, Lehigh County, the church stood just
across the county line in Albany Township, Berks County. Indeed, the county
line runs through the back part of the church cemetery, adding some confusion
in the records as to where some family members were buried! Some of the graves
are in Berks County, some in Lehigh County!!
It was in this church that Rev. Daniel Schumacher, who served the church
from 1755 to 1770, greeted his flock on Sunday mornings with the words,
"Guten morgen, meine Freunden, besonders alles was Küstler
heist." (Good morning, my friends, especially everyone who is called
But Rev. Mühlenberg was able to return to the Allemaengel area once
more, and urged improvements in the church. A second log church, built in 1768,
either took the place of the first, or the first log church was greatly
improved, under the supervision of E. Fossellman, G. Lambert, G. Kistler, P.
Stambach, J. Gardner [Gortner], M. Haas, and M. Hollenbach."
Later in 1768, the Rev. Schumacher allowed the members of the Reformed
Church the privilege of holding services in the church at such times as would
not interfere with the regular services of the Lutherans. The Rev. Schumacher
served both this church and several others in the neighborhood, but many the
members of this church were concerned with what they saw as conflict of
interest. He was a controversial figure, and the church board dismissed him in
1770. Mühlenberg came once again to preach, and a peaceful union was
developed with the Reformed congregation for joint use of the church. This
union proved most useful when it came time to rebuild the church in the late
1700s. The second church was painted red, including the roof, which resulted in
its being referred to as the "Red Church".
It became a Union church in 1812 when the Pennsylvania State Legislature
passed an act permitting the Lutherans to sell an equal part of the church to
the Reformed congregation. At that time, the name "Jerusalem" was
also chosen. At that time, a new church was begun, jointly supported by both
congregations. The cornerstone was laid on Ascension Day, May 7, 1812. The
third church -- the current one, completed in May 1814 at a cost of just under
$2000 -- has a red door in commemoration of the second church, and is faced
with brick, with unusual stained glass windows. The building committee for the
1812 rebuilding was Michael Brobst, Samuel Kistler, John Weiss, and Jacob
Bachman; the Treasurer was John Probst.
In 1881, it was renovated, adding a bell and bell tower, and completely
rearranging the interior, moving the pulpit and choir loft. In 1908, another
renovation project was approved, and was completed around 1911. It is still
called the "Red" (or "Red Door") church to distinguish it
from another nearby Jerusalem Church with a white door. The confusion with the
Moravians had resulted in Rev. Schumacher withdrawing from the Red Church, with
many of the members, and building a separate church about a half-mile to the
south, also near Wessnerville. This church was called the "New
Allemäengel" or "White" Church; the latter name still
clings, as does the name "Red" Church for the original church. The
White Church is now officially named the Frieden's Church. So much for
confusion -- around the 1900 era, the Jerusalem (Red) Church was also referred
to as the "New Jerusalem Church"!
In 1908, major improvements were made to the interior of the church. New
commodious pews and altar furniture, new carpet, and a new pulpit were placed
in the church. The church interior was painted and frescoed. It was rededicated
on October 25, 1908.
The church is one of few left in the area that is "pulpit
centered", i.e., the pulpit is raised up and back of the alter. Balconies
are along the north and south sides, and at the west end. The organ and choir
loft are on the west balcony.
Rev Mühlenberg's influence is still felt in Berks and Lehigh Counties.
Muhlenberg College is in Allen town. Rev. Samuel Brobst was the co-founder,
along with Rev. Mühlenberg.
The cemetery has many dozens of Brobsts buried there, most of whom are
descendants of Christophel and Philip Jacob. Among them are Hans and Elisabeth
Probst Vosselman, Phillip Jacob's sister and brother-in- law; their new grave
marker is shown earlier in this report. Complete records of the cemetery
burials may be found at the library of the Berks County Genealogical Society in
Early Lutheran ministers who served the church as pastors included Tobias
Wagner (1749 to 1754), Casper Kirchner, Daniel Schumacher (1755 to 1770), Peter
Mischler, Andrew Friederichs, Frederick Miller (1778 to 1779), and Daniel
Lehman (1784 and possibly earlier to 1810). Some were regular pastors, others
were itinerant ministers who came to the church during those periods of time
when the regular pastor was absent. There appeared to be no regular pastor from
1779 to 1782.
Reprinted here with permission from: "Brobst, William A., CDR,
USNR (Ret.)," The Brobst Family Chronicles, A History of the Early
Brobst/Probst Families in Pennsylvania, (Kitty Hawk, NC; July 1,
This page was last updated on Monday, 21-Feb-2011 18:18:50 MST
Copyright© 1998-2011 by The National Brobst Family Historical Registry