MIFFLIN- On Aug. 28, the congregation at St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church will look back 175 years ago to its log cabin beginning in Juniata County
"Every Sunday morning at 9 a.m., members of various and varied backgrounds, from farmers to businessmen and women, unite in worship, singing hymns and reading scripture, giving praise for times that are good and seeking guidance when times are not," member Bryan Partner wrote in a history he prepared of the church.
Time led the congregation from log walls to bricks, coal heat and oil lamps to electricity, a new building and multiple renovations, a cemetery and a lightning strike.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
The St. Paul’s Lutheran Church will celebrate its 175th anniversary with a special celebration on Aug. 29 at the church in Nook.
The original church was a simple log structure, located very near the present structure, with oil lamps hanging by ribbons and candles, wood-burning stoves and a simple altar covered in a red calico cloth.
Perhaps unusual for a church, the each of the original church benches included earthenware spittoons for spat juice during the services. Later when the brick church was built, there were no spittoons but, for a time, members brought their own bowls to worship, according to the history.
While the church founding date is commonly agreed upon as Feb. 21, 1835, the actual founder is debated. Some favor the Rev. Jacob Martin, while others name the Revs. Simon Boyer and Charles Weyl.
The church's first official minister was the Rev. Jacob Martin, who served the parish from 1835 to 1848. During the last two years of his ministry, the St. Paul church joined the Mifflintown-Port Royal charge; and Martin oversaw both congregations.
During the next few decades, the church underwent multiple repairs and additions as the congregation grew. In 1875, the congregation decided that they needed to build a new structure and began fundraising.
After some discussion of what materials to use, the parishioners decided to build a brick church. The clay for the bricks was dug, ground, molded and burned on the site at the back of the church, and members of the congregation donated lumber. The building was dedicated on Dec. 31, 1876.
Thirty years later, the church added a tower and vestibule, new furnishings and a bell. In the 1920s, the church excavated the basement to make room for Sunday school rooms, a social hall and later a kitchen.
It was not until 1955 that the church drilled its well for drinking water. Previously, St. Paul's parishioners had to bring fresh drinking water in milk pails.
Likewise in 1960, the kitchen was re-wired to accommodate an electric stove. All previous social functions that involved cooking were done on a coal or wood range.
In 1926, the congregation incorporated its cemetery; but by 1944, the area was full. To accommodate the need, members Howard and Norman Henry bought a parcel of land and donated it to St. Paul's free of charge.
Throughout the history, the congregation members always generously donated time and materials to enhance their spaces of worship, according to the history.
"St. Paul's has certainly changed aesthetically over the years ... but a church is not a building alone, it is a result of the people and the faith that reside in the brick, wood or stone structure," Partner wrote. "The membership is more than faith, however-it is family as well. Much of the congregation has grown with the church through the years- from firing the building bricks to overseeing the recent basement renovations. Members have been born and baptized, confirmed and married, mourned and interred on St. Paul's grounds, and as such, a rich history exists, not only of the church, but of the community ..."
St. Paul's current pastor is the Rev. Charles Hershberger, who began serving the charge in 2007. He also serves the Port Royal Lutheran Parish. The church holds weekly Sunday school and church services at 9 and 10:15 a.m. nestled between the mountains in the Juniata County village of Nook.
The church will celebrate its 175th anniversary on Aug. 29 with a special service beginning at 10 a.m. Music will be provided by The Boyz and a quartet from the church band. A commemorative plate will be available for purchase, and historical items will be on display.
For more information about the service and the plates, call Linda Partner at 436-8576 or the church office at 527-4581.
Historical information for this article was provided by Bryan and Barbara Partner.