PASTORS OF THE LUTHERAN/REFORMED DENOMINATION
DOTTERER, JOHN—Jul 1, 1874. Preached at Curllsville until 1877 (obit below)
EHENRENFIELD, G.E. (1840s—St. John’s Memorial
GARELS, JACK (1980s)
GEORGE, DAN—Grace Community Church (1993) lay pastor
GILDS, NICHOLAS E. — Mar 1854-1856 Licking Reformed
HOFFMAN, HENRY (1845-1847) - Licking Reformed
LADY, DAVID B. (Mar 1, 1885—1887 Licking Reformed)
LEBERMAN, L.D. (1848 Licking Reformed)
METZGER, JOHN L. (Mt. Zion, St. John and Mt. Calvary Churches) - (more below)
SHANOR, B.E. (1890s)
SHOEMAKER, JOSEPH/JOSHUA G.—abt 1856—served 18 years
STOUFER, SAMUEL E.—Curllsville Lutheran minister in 1870
WELDRON, REV.—1877 Licking Methodist
WOLFF, GEORGE (1849-1854 Licking Reformed)
In 1840s-1877+ St. John's Memorial Evangelical Lutheran, at Churchville, Piney Township.
On the Piney/Licking Twp border is the Mt. Zion Lutheran (Church Hill) site. A small monument appears at the cemetery reading:
Site of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church
Organized May 19, 1846 by Pastor G.E. Ehrenfield
Land donated Jan. 25, 1847 by Christian Over
Cornerstone laid May 20, 1847
Building dedicated Dec. 12, 1847
by Pastor William Uhl.
Final service October 27, 1996.
In 1907, The Reformed church review - Page 375 Reformed Church in the United States. Publication Board - writes on the experiences of ghosts and mediums, mentioning Curllsville: “Between Rimersburg and Curllsville in Clarion Co., Pa., there is a wooded swamp, which was known, twenty years ago, as "Spooky Hollow," on account of the ghosts said to have been seen there.”
1887 Davis History of Curllsville Gives the following information:
Churches. - Methodist Church - The town contains two churches. The Methodist Church at present served by Rev. Weldron, is near the edge of the village on the Rimersburg road; it is a neat wooden building, seating over three hundred worshipers, and surmounted by a belfry containing a sweet-toned bell. The church was erected in 1870.
Grace Reformed Church - The other church is known as Grace Reformed Church. The building is on the south side of the Brookville road, near the center of the village; it is a wooden building, about thirty-eight by fifty-four feet, neatly furnished within, and glistening in its fresh coat of white paint, is a conspicuous object as seen by the traveler as he crosses the brow of the hills surrounding the town. it is located in a yard of considerable size, in which have been planted numbers of trees which promise to afford a grateful shade in the near future. The building is equipped with a bell. This church and congregation was formerly called "Licking," and also "St. John's." A number of the Reformed families moved to this section of the country in the beginning of the century; the Brinkers among others were here in 1802. Occasionally a Reformed minister would visit these people and remain a short time, preaching the Gospel to them. At that time the church in the east was accustomed to send candidates for the ministry on long missionary tours to North Carolina, Western Pennsylvania, and Ohio. In this way the people were kept together, and had broken to them occasionally the bread of life. Rev. William ____ and Rev. H.E.F. Voight are remembered by some of the most aged among the present members. There is also a Rev. Ho____, who remained here for over a year, and served the people in spiritual things.
The first settled minister was Rev. Henry Koch, who was pastor from 1819 to 1838. Rev. Henry Hoffman, from the Seminary at Mercerburg, took charge of a part of the field of labor about 1845. Shortly before this young brother reached his destination the old servant of the Lord (Mr. Koch) laid down his armor in death on the 7th of August 1845. At the end of two years Rev. Hoffman was succeeded by Rev. L.D. Leberman. A year afterward (1849) Rev. George Wolfff was called to this field. He remained about five years. The next minister was Rev. Nicholas E. Gilds, who began his work here in March, 1854. He remained two years. His successor was Rev. Joseph G. Shoemaker, who served the charge eighteen years. After him came Rev. John Dotterer, July 1, 1874. Rev. John M. Evans took charge November 1, 1878, and Rev. David B. Lady, March 1, 1885. The latter is still pastor. There was organized out of material belongings to this congregation at different times the Salem congregation at Frogtown, Jerusalem congregation at Rimersburg, St. Luke's congregation at Squirrel Hill, and Zion's congregation at Mt. Zion, two miles northeast of Callensburg.
The first church of logs, erected about 1818. A brick edifice took its place in 1841. These buildings were owned jointly by the Reformed and Lutherans. In 1873 the Reformed congregation built the present church at Curllsville, owned and occupied by them exclusively. At this time the name was changed from St. John's to Grace. There is also a parsonage, owned by this and the neighboring congregations served by the same pastor. This parsonage is nearly opposite the church. It has lately been repaired. Services are held in the church every alternate Sunday. Sunday-school is held every Lord's day during nine months of the year. The membership of the congregation at present is one hundred and twenty-five.
—The following history is taken from the Leader-Vindicator, Wednesday, October 5, 2005 —
For many years the congregation held services in a log schoolhouse during winter months, and outdoors in summer months. They and the Lutheran congregation, which had formed in 1814, built a log church in which both denominations worshiped. The structure was destroyed by fire. A brick building was erected in Churchville.
A constitution was drawn up preventing pastors unable to preach in both German and English from serving the congregations. The Rev. Koch, who did not speak English well, could not qualify so he was replaced by the Rev. Hoffman in 1845, who, in 1848, was succeeded by the Rev. J.G. Shoemaker. In 1873, the Reformed congregation built the present frame structure in the center of Curllsville on the Todd Curll property.
A stone marker in the Churchville Cemetery next to Licking Presbyterian Church is the only visible evidence of the Lutheran congregation that once shared buildings with the Reformed (now Grace) church that stood on the adjacent property. "In memory of the Reformed and Lutheran Log Church of 1814," it succinctly states "replaced by brick church in 1841, remodeled in 1875, destroyed by storm April 16, 1921."
Shortly after erecting its own facility in 1878, Grace Reformed was yoked with Jerusalem Church at Rimersburg, St. Luke's at Squirrel Hill, and Widnoon Reformed, forming the Rimersburg Charge. During the pastorate of the Rev. Morris Cooper, a full basement was dug, a concrete floor poured, and a kitchen was installed.
The church changed names again and was called Grace Evangelical and Reformed, then later was combined with two others forming the United Church of Christ. In the 1980s, under leadership of the Rev. Jack Garels, the interior was renovated, and the 1990s saw facility upgrades and exterior work.
When the pulpit became vacant in 1993, DAN GEORGE from Rimersburg was asked to serve as lay pastor and is present serving in that position.
The church is no longer a member of any denomination, preferring to be independent. The congregation has approximately 120 members, with additional worshipers regularly attending services.
The building is currently being reconstructed. The sanctuary has been extended, the size of the kitchen has been doubled, new restrooms and education rooms have been added, and the exterior has been remodeled.
"It's still the same simple church it has always been," says lifelong member, MARTHA ELLIOTT. "In fact, there's still a pulpit here that was made in the Curllsville furniture factory."
"Everything used to be about the church," notes JOYCE (NEELY) BORLAND, whose family attended Licking Presbyterian Church. "Grandma's diary from 1920 proves it. Every entry was something about the church. It was choir practice at the church, play practice at the church, a potluck at the church, services at the church, and on and on."
The churches of Curllsville have remained strong and true to their community. The dividing lines of denominational differences seem to matter little. Over the years the congregations have shared buildings, holiday programs, ice cream socials, and even family members. Yet, somehow, they have kept this farming town bundled together as tightly as a bale of hay.
1903 For Science Building
Nov. 21 from Curllsville charge $145.00
Feb. 18 from Curllsville charge $51.00
May 21 from Curllsville charge $11.00
OBITUARY OF REV. JOHN DOTTERER
1871 Rev. John Dotterer, the son of John & Elizabeth (Hauck) Dotterer, was born in Colebrookdale township, Berks county, Pa., March 31, 1844. He was a brother of Rev. Abraham H. Dotter (1867) whose obituary appeared in the first number of this Record (p. 216). The family is descended from George Phillip Dodderer, who settled on lands in Frederick, now New Hanover township, Montgomery county, and died there in 1741. John Dotterer worked on his father's farm in summer and attended public school in winter until his nineteenth year, when he taught a public school. After a careful study of the Heidelberg catechism in German, he was confirmed by Rev. R.A. Van Court in Falkner Swamp Reformed Church, Montgomery county, at the age of eighteen. While preparing for college, he attended the Washington Hall school, at Trappe, Montgomery county, in the spring, worked on the farm through the summer and fall, and taught public school during the winter for six years. In the fall of 1868 he entered the Sophomore class of Franklin and Marshall College, form which he was graduated in 1871. He stood fourth in his class, and was a member of the Diagnothian Society. The fall after his graduation he entered the Seminary at Lancaster, and graduated from it, May 13, 1874. His summer vacations were spent in teaching a select school at Jacksonville, Centre county, Pa., to secure the funds to continue his studies. At a special meeting of Goshenhoppen Classis at Pottstown, Pa., May 26, 1874, Mr. Dotterer was licensed to preach the Gospel. Dr. C.Z. Weiser (1850) was chairman of the examining committee. Mr. Dotterer's first charge was Curllsville, Clarion county, Pa., consisting of three congregations. On July 11, 1874, he was received into Clarion Classis, and on the following Sunday he was ordained by a committee of that body, consisting of Rev. Henry Hoffman, Rev. D.O. Shoemaker, and Rev. D.W. Wolf. Mr. Dotterer served the Curllsville charge for three years, when he resigned and accepted a call to the New Berlin (Pa.) charge, consisting of four congregations. In this second charge he labored one year and then resigned on account of ill health. After resting nearly a year he became pastor of the Pine Run charge, Westmoreland county, Pa., consisting of only one congregation. He served this charge as pastor for six years, when he resigned, May 11, 1885, but continued to supply Pine Run in connection with St. James and Olive congregations for six months longer. Mr. Dotterer's fourth charge was Rebersburg, Centre county, Pa., consisting of five congregations. Here he labored three years and nine months, from January 11, 1886 to October 31, 1889, when he resigned on account of failing health. He hoped that a short season of rest would enable him to resume the work of the ministry, but in this hope he was sadly disappointed. After waiting over two years he found it necessary to abandon the ministry and devote himself to secular work as a means of supporting himself and family. Accordingly, in March, 1892, he removed from Madisonburg to the Meyer homestead in Clinton county, his wife's native place. There he engaged in farming, still hoping that his health might be restored, but this hope was not realized, though he preached when opportunity offered and his strength permitted. During his ministry of fifteen years Mr. Dotterer baptized 185 persons, confirmed 146, buried 108, and married 76 couples. Mr. Dotterer died August 20, 1897, and was buried in the graveyard of Mount Bethel Reformed church, where he and his family had worshipped for five years. On December 9, 1874, he was married to Miss Mary C. Meyer of Clintondale, Pa., who with the following children survives: Wm. Nevin, Elizabeth Meyer, Ray H., Beza C., Irene A., and Ernest A. Source: Obituary Record By Alumni Association, Marshall College (Mercersburg, Pa.), Franklin and Marshall College pg 264-265 transcribed by Pamela Myers-Grewell
Metzger, John L. - Metzger, Rev. J. L., Callensburg p. o., Licking, pastor of the Mt. Zion, St. John and Mt. Calvary Churches, of the Lutheran Church of Clarion County, was born in Myersville, Frederick County, Md., on June 20, 1858. He was graduated from Penn College and from the Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. On October 5, 1884, at the meeting of the Maryland Synod, at Taneytown, Ind., he was licensed to preach the gospel. He was graduated from the theological seminary in June, 1885. He entered upon his duties as a pastor July 19, 1885, at Callensburg. He was married on November 1885, to Alice M. Brown, of Myersville, Ind. His father, William Metzger, was born in Manchester, York County, on July 17, 1809.
The Reformed Church Review, by Reformed Church in the United States 1920 by H.H. Wiandt.
The Israelites, God's chosen people, were frequently admonished to relate to their children what God had done for His people. In this way the early history of mankind was handed down from one generation to another. Especially is this true in regard to the calling and preservation of God's chosen people. The privileges and requirements of religion were never to be forgotten.
When Moses the great law-giver of Israel, realized that the end of his pilgrimage was at hand, he gathered the people together and earnestly exhorted them to be faithful to their father's God. He encouraged them in these words, " Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them; for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." Deut. 31: 6. In the song of Moses we find these words, " Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask thy father, and He will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee." Deut. 32: 7.
Joshua earnestly challenged the people in these words, " Now therefore put away the strange Gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel." Josh. 24: 23.
The Psalmist sings, " We have heard with our ears 0 God, our fathers have told us what work thou didst in their days, in the time of old." 44: 1.
The sentiments of these Old Testament passages have a peculiar application to the founding and early history of the Reformed Church in northwestern Pennsylvania. There were trials and triumphs in the founding of the Church in this section. There were conflicts and conquests in the history of the Church during the pastorates of the pioneer clergymen in the early part of the nineteenth century. More than half a century ago the eminent Reverend Dr. Henry Harbaugh said, "to forget the past, is to forget our mercies, and to forget our mercies is to forget our God."
I hope you will all appreciate the proportions of the task that has been assigned to me. A century ago our forbears were not as systematic and painstaking as we are in gathering and preserving historical data. When we consider the primitiveness of the times in which they lived; how widely separated pastors were the one from the other; we are amazed that the historical records contain as much as they do. I think the modern dominie must have had in mind the parishes of the early part of the nineteenth century when he used these descriptive words: " My parish is bounded on the north by the aurora borealis; on the south by the equator; on the east by the rising sun, and on the west by the day of judgment." If there is any one living today within the limits of the almost boundless parish of the Reverend Henry Koch, who remembers him distinctly, such a person must be more than four score years old. It is lacking but three days of seventy-five years since this man of God went to his spirit home.
i Address delivered at the Henry Koch Memorial and The One Hundredth Anniversary of Trinity Reformed Church, Alcola, Pa., August 4-5, 1920.
The data found in this historical sketch was received from the following persons and sources: Mrs. W. P. Keltz—Christina Koch —a granddaughter of the Reverend Henry Koch; Mrs. Catharine Slaugenhoupt, of DuBois, Pa., who was born November 5, 1836. On January 13, 1837, she was baptized by the Reverend Henry Koch. She is now in her 84th year; Elder P. I. Shakely, of Chicora, Pa. The Fathers of the Reformed Church, by Dr. Henry Harbaugh, Vol. Ill, page 299. The portfolio of the Reformed Church in western Pennsylvania—1895—by Reverend J. N. Naly. The minutes of Synod 1819-1846. The manuscripts of my father, the Reverend Jacob Fahr Wiant, who was baptized by Father Koch on May 8, 1840. The one manuscript is a historical sermon that was preached in ten congregations within the bounds of Clarion and Allegheny Classes in 1887 and 1888. This sermon was preached and funds were solicited for the erection of a suitable monument to mark the resting place of the Reverend Henry Koch in God's acre in Rimersburg, Pa. The other manuscript is the address that was delivered at the dedication of the monument.
Clarion County was formed from Armstrong and Venango Counties September 1, 1840. It seems that the Indians never had a settled habitation in what is now Clarion County. This section seems to have been reserved for a hunting ground. Many evidences of their camps were found by the early settlers. Many of the carry settlers were emigrants. They came from Germany and Switzerland. Many came too, from counties in the eastern part of Pennsylvania. The population was German speaking. A large proportion of these were confirmed members of the Reformed Church.
The Reverend John William Weber was the pioneer Reformed minister in western Pennsylvania. In 1783 he came to Westmoreland County. Later he moved to Pittsburgh. His ministry there was "before there were any other priests or persons outside of Fort Pitt." Perhaps as early as 1800 this pioneer minister occasionally visited the scattered members of the Reformed Church in Armstrong, Butler, Venango, Crawford and Erie Counties. He conducted services, baptized children, and held communion. As he was then beyond the age of three score and ten, the labor and exposure of these long missionary journeys were too great for him to bear. As early as 1813 requests were sent from western Pennsylvania, to the Synod of the Reformed Church which met in Fredericktown, Maryland, May 16, 1813. The Reformed constituency pleaded for one or more young ministers to be sent out to assist the aged and infirm pastor. Synod resolved that as soon as possible this request would be granted.
In 1815 Henry Habliston and William Weinel, licentiates of the Synod, were sent to Westmoreland and adjacent counties. Reverend Weinel visited the territory now in Clarion County. This led to the demand for more ministers for western Pennsylvania. In response to this call for more laborers in this part of the Master's vineyard, two of the Reverend Doctor Becker's students offered themselves. These men were Nicholas P. Hacke and Henry Koch. This was before the day of theological seminaries in our Church. In the spring of 1819, these young men set out on horseback from Northampton County, for the long and tedious journey over the mountains. On the second day they reached Reading. The heavens opened and showered a continuous, drenching rain, which soaked the travelers to the skin. It was before th day of macadam or concrete roads. The already bad roads were made almost impassable. The long and muddy ride, through rain and gloom no doubt disheartened the young soldiers of the cross. When the mountain was reached, the clouds scattered. The sun shone forth in all its brilliance and glory. The gloomy spirits of the young men were dispelled. By the time Greensburg was reached the hardships of the week's journey had made them stronger. With certain inward joyful anticipations they entered the town. To the surprise of the young men they heard only English spoken on the streets. This no doubt made them long for the more familiar German dialects of Eastern Pennsylvania. Mother Drum, a venerable matron of Greensburg, however, allayed their fears. She assured them that the surrounding country element was quite German enough to make their labors useful, and their ministrations acceptable in that tongue.
Student Hacke, then not twenty years old, preached in a number of organized congregations in Westmoreland County. He was elected as their pastor. This sacred office he filled for fifty- eight years.
Student Koch travelled northward to Armstrong, Butler and Venango Counties. He found few organized congregations. He found a number of members of the Reformed Church. The call for him to become the shepherd of these shepherdless sheep sounded so loud that he could not turn a deaf ear to it. After a survey of the field, conducting services at different places, he returned to Westmoreland County. He and his fellow-student and companion Hacke returned to the east by way of the northern turnpike. Their destination was their student home, the Stone Church Parsonage in Northampton County. Here they continued their studies until September of that year. Student Koch presented himself before the Synod which met in Lancaster, September 5, 1819, as a candidate for licensure and ordination. The committee of examination consisted of the Reverends Casper Walk, Jonathan Helfenstein, Frederick A. Rahauser, and Charles Helfenstein. The examination having been satisfactory he was licensed to preach the Gospel and ordained to the work of the Christian ministry. On the 9th of September, 1819, fourteen young men were ordained to the Gospel ministry. The committee consisted of Reverends Lewis Mayer, D.D., President of Synod; William Handel, Jr., D.D., and J. Theobald Faber, Jr. The Reverend Casper Walk, who occupied considerable prominence in the ministry in his day is reported to have preached a very appropriate and edifying sermon.
As there were no regularly organized congregations in northwestern Pennsylvania, to extend a call, it is recorded in the minutes of Synod, that "communications were received from Venango and adjacent counties, requesting that a young man named Koch be admitted to the ministry."
Henry Koch was born near Easton, in Allen Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, on August 21, 1795. He was the youngest son of George and Elizabeth Koch. Mrs. Koch was a daughter of the Reverend John Egidius Hecker, a minister of the Reformed Church. When Henry Koch was sixteen years old, his father died. The young boy attended school in Allen Township. " Early in life he was animated with a desire to become a minister of the Gospel. His pious parents endeavored to encourage him in his youthful impressions by conversation and example." After having attended a course of catechetical instruction under the Reverend Thomas Pomp, he was received into the full communion of the church of his father's, and of his own choice, at the age of sixteen, by the solemn rite of confirmation. Shortly after his confirmation, he began his studies under the Reverend Frederick William Vandersloot. He continued them under the learned, eloquent, and warm-hearted, Reverend Doctor C. L. Becker, in Baltimore, Maryland. After the death of his preceptor on July 12, 1818, Mr. Koch continued his studies under the son of his former teacher, the Reverend Doctor Jacob C. Becker, in Northampton County. His brothers helped him in a financial way to pursue his studies. His accounts give the following: " Took with me in 1817, forty dollars." "Took from brother Adam with me to Baltimore in 1818, forty-five dollars."
Shortly after their ordination to the ministry of the Gospel, Reverends Hacke and Koch returned to western Pennsylvania. When they passed the residence of Jacob Hugus, near Greensburg, several of the eight daughters were introduced to the young clergymen. Mr. Hacke pointed to one of the girls and remarked: "There is my wife." Not to be outdone Mr. Koch pointed to another and said, "There is my wife." It was true prophecy. Each married the woman of his choice. Mr. Hacke preached trial sermons at Greensburg and the neighboring congregations. To quote his own words: " I trembled in my boots, afraid I should be elected to go to the back woods to preach." Mr. Koch, learning the preference of his friend said: " Stay here, Brother Hacke, and I will go the wilderness."
Reverend Henry Koch travelled north and pitched his tent in what is now Clarion County. Here he began his labor of love and self-denial among the scattered German-speaking inhabitants. There were five preaching points. Reverend Koch's record of trial sermons is as follows: "October 31, 1819, Millerstown; November 7, 1819, Richland; November 14, 1819, Licking Creek; November 21, 1819, Redbank; on the first Christmas day, 1819, at Maglens (McLanes), Parker Township." The latter has passed out of existence, or has been lost to our denomination. There were unorganized congregations worshipping in school houses at Millerstown, Richland, Licking, and Redbank. It was customary to hold services in the log school houses in winter, and in the open air in summer. The Richland Church—now St. Paul's in Beaver Township—was organized in 1820. The frame church was dedicated June 3, 1827. The collection amounted to $15.05. In the winter of 1819 or the spring of 1820, the Licking or St. John's congregation one mile east of Curllsville, was organized. The Redbank congregation—now Trinity—was organized August 10, 1820. St. Peter's congregation at St. Petersburg, Pa., was organized March 1, 1834. The corner-stone of the edifice was laid May 1, 1837. The congregation at Salem, in Salem Township was organized in 1837. The first church was built in 1838.
The Economite Church at Harmony, Pa., was built in 1805. The church building is still standing. Reverend Koch was pastor here in 1826 and 1827.
The Sugar Creek school house was built in 1803. The church record here reports a baptism by Rev. Mr. Koch on October 18, 1822.
On December 12, 1819, Reverend Mr. Koch took up his residence at the John Kribbs home. Here he remained one year. In the spring of 1822 he married Mary Magdalene (born December 14, 1801) daughter of Jacob and Catherine (Flick) Hugus. The ceremony was performed by the Reverend N. P. Hacke, the bride's pastor and the former student companion of the groom. A numher of young people from his charge rode on horseback with the groom to attend the ceremony. This union was blessed with four children, two sons and two daughters. Reverend and Mrs. Koch lived at Curllsville until 1828. For a while they lived on the Philip Bittenbender farm. Then a log house was built for the minister and his family on the George Means farm, west of Curllsville. On March 6, 1828, he bought the "Honnes" Miller farm of fifty acres, one mile northwest of Rimersburg. Here he made his home the rest of his life. His post office address was Maple Grove, Armstrong County, Pa.
When he began his ministry the country was thinly inhabited. There was no State highway department. There were no roads worthy of the name. There were only foot-paths. There were marked trees to serve as guides from clearing to clearing, and from one log cabin to another. The country abounds in streams, both large and small. There were no bridges—no ferries. There were only fordings. On one occasion the Reverend Mr. Hacke and wife visited the Koch home. They started from their home in Greensburg in a vehicle. They were compelled to cut their way through the forest, with an axe, for some miles to get to the humble earthly dwelling of their relatives.
My aged aunt tells me that she remembers very distinctly when pastor Koch officiated at the funeral of my great-grandmother. The house was small. People who attended the funeral, assembled on the lawn under the shade trees. The pastor stood in the open, but was protected from the sun's rays, by an umbrella, which was held over him by one of the relatives.
There was no stipulated salary. A large proportion of the meager salary was paid in produce, such as wheat, rye, corn, oats, buckwheat and leather. " It is interesting to look over the old subscription lists and to find after the names of some of the early settlers—one bushel wheat; one bushel rye. The largest subscription seems to have been three bushels of rye." The family of this pioneer clergyman shared the hardships with the early settlers. There were times when some of them had nothing to eat. Then they followed the cattle in the woods to see what plants they would eat. More than once the early settlers made potato soup by robbing the potato hills, three weeks after the planting season. When crops were a failure, the faithful pastor would tell his people to come to the parsonage and get wheat of the salary grain in the attic. Many a family was tided over a food crisis by doing so.
When plans were being laid for the building of a church at Rimersburg, money was subscribed for the purchase of a lot. Tradition tells us that Reverend Mr. Koch preached a year free of charge. The salary money of the members went toward the purchase of a lot.
Pastor Koch ministered to a constituency that loved the church. In their efforts to establish the Kingdom of God they were zealous. No sacrifices were too great for them. Some years ago an old father in Israel remarked, " It was not too far for us to go twelve miles to divine service, with our guns in our hands, for it was then dangerous." Today many so-called saints claim exemption from the services of God's house. They much prefer to lounge on the comfortable front porch; rusticate and carouse in the park; go joy-riding in the automobile, or immerse themselves in the fashion plates of the secular press.
In one of his sermons, perhaps the first he preached as a pastor on a confirmation occasion, he said: " That day and the feelings of my heart are now vividly before me—the solemn occasion, when I but a few years ago bowed my trembling knees before the altar, giving myself unreservedly to my Lord and Master Jesus Christ. Oh how awfully solemn was that moment, confessing in weakness with my mouth what my heart believed. May the good spirit of our Lord impress you with similar feelings, so that you may confess with your mouth what your hearts really believe."
A hundred years ago the mode of travel was very primitive. It was before the day of the automobile or aeroplane. Pastor Koch for some years walked from preaching place to preaching place. From Rimersburg to Sugar Creek is a distance of twenty- three miles. From Sugar Creek to Harmony it is thirty miles. This was fifty-three miles distant from the pastor's home. Some of the good parishoners in that early day bought a horse and presented it to their pastor. Then the mode of travel was horse-back.
Frequently would his parishioners go with him to the Clarion River to see him cross it when the banks were full. With trembling hearts they often beheld his faithful horse plunge into the awful, angry, swollen stream. More than once he made his horse swim the Clarion River to reach his appointments. In the fall and winter seasons, almost as soon as he would come out of the river the pastor's clothes would freeze stiff on his body. Then he would have many more miles to travel in this condition. He frequently crossed the Clarion River leaping from ice cake to ice cake.
On one occasion he had been preaching in Armstrong and Butler Counties. He remained absent from his family beyond the promised time, on account of the continued falling of snow and rain. He was accustomed to cross the Allegheny River near Brady's Bend. Feeling that he could not delay his return home any longer, the pastor and Elder Peter Kemmerer started out. They soon arrived at the Allegheny River. They found it very high. The ice was going out. The ice cakes were grinding each other fiercely. They knelt down on the bank of the river. In fervent prayer they committed themselves into the keeping of their faithful God and Father. Pastor Koch gave his horse into the keeping of his Elder. He then leaped from ice cake to ice cake. In this way he crossed the Allegheny River. When he reached the eastern shore, he reverently took off his hat, and called across to his Elder, "Nun lasset uns Gott danken"—"Now let us thank God." Arriving at home he found his little family, then living in the woods, in a suffering state.
Reverend Mr. Koch was primarily a pastor and preacher and educator. He was also a theologian. Dr. W. N. Clarke says: "A Theologian needs to know the life and spirit of his own time. Theology is the science of religion. Religion is a life. It has always changed with the changing life of successive generations, and can never cease to do so. It stagnates when cut off from present life and thinking." This pioneer minister meditated upon the things of God. He gave himself wholly to them. He loved the Church. He loved the symbols of her faith. He preached the truths of the Bible, and preached them in a scriptural way. In his large pastoral charge, he watched for souls. In splendid sacrifice, he poured out his life blood.
Nearly all of pastor Koch's ministry was before the day of free schools. There were then only subscription schools. In the very limited circumstances of the early settlers, the expense of from one to three month's schooling, for one or a few children, was all they could afford. Some children had very little opportunity to get even the rudiments of an education. Some had none at all. The difficulties were increased by the fact that in the families and neighborhoods, the German was spoken. In the schools the English was taught. In many instances the ministers had to teach persons to read, before they could study the catechism. Catechizing them meant hard work for the pastor. Usually a number of days—perhaps a whole week—was spent in catechizing in one place. The sessions lasted a whole day, with an intermission at noon. Thus for months, one week out of every three or four was spent in a congregation. We can see how nearly all of the pastor's time was taken up away from home. The thoroughness of Pastor Koch's catechetical instruction is attested by the devoted and steadfast character of those persons who were members of the church a generation ago and more. Those who were privileged to come under the tutelage of pastor Koch were firmly indoctrinated in the truths and principles of our holy religion. There is but a step from the sublime to the ridiculous. With all the earnestness and seriousness in catechizing, frequently very ludicrous things occurred. Question and answer number four were being studied on one occasion. The question runs, "What doth the law of God require?" The answer is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind and strength; and thy neighbor as thyself." Pastor Koch asked the question who is your neighbor? In seriousness he addressed this question to a lady, recently married. With equal seriousness her reply was, " My neighbor is my husband, John."
Pastor Koch labored in this region for a number of years as the only settled German minister. In addition to serving the Reformed people he also in a large measure supplied the membership of the Lutheran church. They were only occasionally visited and supplied by ministers of their denomination from a distance.
This consecrated spiritual leader had difficulties to overcome. A German minister of a sister denomination always kissed him when they met. By fair speech and profession of brotherly love and sympathy he gave pastor Koch opportunity to tell of his trials, as well as the nature and method of his work. In due time, Judas like, he betrayed pastor Koch into the hands of his enemies. Had it not been for his known faithfulness to his Lord and Master, and his approved truthfulness and sincerity, he could not have withstood and outlived that traitorous deed. But he did.
About 1838, at the time when the so-called new measures were introduced into some of the Reformation churches, he was debarred from preaching in St. John's church, which was about to be rebuilt. When the arrangements for the new brick church were made—a so-called union Lutheran and Reformed church—a few leading and designing persons formed a constitution, prohibiting " anyone to be stated pastor in this house who is unable to preach in German and English." When this constitution was read at the laying of the corner-stone, the faithful servant, who had stood by his flock so long, and endured so many hardships in the service there, had to leave. With tears in his eyes he said, " This is the dishonesty of the mourners' bench system." He foresaw that if the shepherd was kept from the flock, the sheep would become an easy prey. Thus this congregation was deprived of his services the last seven years of his ministry. He did not consider himself competent to preach in the English language. The congregation was unable to sustain a minister alone. For a time the members were as sheep without a shepherd. This led in the beginning of 1841 to the organization of the Jerusalem congregation, which for some years worshiped in Arner's school house, three fourths of a mile south of Rimersburg. The debarring also led to the organization in 1844 of Salem congregation—now Nevin Memorial—in Limestone township. Long years ago the psalmist sang, " Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee." 76: 10:
Of the eight original classes in the Reformed church, the classis of West Pennsylvania was one. Reverend Koch was one of the charter members of this body. West Pennsylvania Classis extended from the western line of Franklin county into Ohio. In 1835 this ecclesiastical body met in New Lisbon, Ohio. Rev. Koch was on the finance committee. In 1837, the classis met in Pittsburgh. Rev. Koch was on the committee of overtures. Some very important papers passed through the hands of this committee. It was at the time of the transfer of the classis to the Synod of Ohio. Among other papers was one from the consistory of the union congregation in Pittsburgh, with the request that classis should do all in its power to effect a union between the Lutheran and Reformed churches.
Pastor Koch was at classis at St. Jacob's church, South Bend. Armstrong county, on June 10, 1845. He earnestly requested that classis should meet in his charge. The meeting for 1846 was appointed to be held in St. John's church at Licking Creek. But before the meeting was held, he had passed from the church militant to the church triumphant.
In the summer of 1845, he was stricken with a malignant disease. It has been said that he refused all medicine during his illness. He realized the seriousnses of his condition—that there was no remedy for him. Before he departed this life he called his family, and some members of the Reformed church to his bedside, and said: "Be true to your God and to your church, of which I have been a minister, and the time is at hand when she will arise and shine and become strong and influential." After this short admonition he went home to God, on August 7, 1845, at the age of 49 years, 11 months and 16 days.
The funeral service was conducted by the Rev. Wm. Weinel, of Leechburg, Pa. Though he lived forty miles away, he was the nearest pastor of the Reformed faith. The funeral was largely attended. The casket was placed under an apple tree in the orchard. Here the remains were viewed by neighbors and parishoners. The interment was in the old Reformed graveyard in Rimersburg. The body was removed by his sons April 1, 1878, and placed in the beautiful Rimersburg cemetery.
When Synod met in 1846, the Rev. D. B. Ernst was chairman of the committee on State of the Church. He referred to the fact that, during the year, three of the ministers were called upon to give an account of their stewardship. One of these was Rev. Henry Koch. Then follow the words: "They were beloved and esteemed brethren, and we are called upon gratefully to cherish their memories in our hearts. They were devoted and successful servants in their master's vineyard, and having finished the work which was given them to do, we indulge the pleasing hope they have been transferred to some brighter department of the creator's universe, and advanced to more previous service and enjoyments in their Redeemer's heaven."
The statistics of his ministerial functions are not complete. Many of the copies of the minutes of synod contain the words, "No report." In the year 1824 it was reported that there were two Sunday Schools. From the nine yearly reports given of baptisms, pastor Koch reported seven hundred and sixty-seven, or an average per year of eighty-five. If this is a fair average, we conclude that the total number of baptisms was about twenty-two hundred. Four annual reports of confirmation were made, with a total of one hundred and fifty, or an average per year of thirty- seven. If this average was maintained during his pastorate of twenty-six years, the total number of confirmations was about nine hundred and sixty.
As to personal appearance pastor Koch has been described as physically strong; firmly built; well proportioned, and somewhat above the average in height. He had blue eyes, fair skin, thin, light brown hair, and smooth face.
Mrs. Koch was married to John Benn, of Curllsville, about 1854. She died at the Brock Farm near Rimersburg, September 16, 1884, at the age of 82 years, 9 months, and two days. Her body lies in the Rimersburg cemetery. A marker was placed at her grave on May 15, 1919, by her grandchildren. The family historian reports 29 grandchildren, and 63 great-grandchildren.
For a number of years the final resting place of pastor Koch was unmarked. When the membership of the congregations, in what was once his charge, was challenged to contribute to the purchase of a suitable monument, they contributed liberally. This beautiful monument was dedicated, June 21, 1889. The Reverend D. B. Lady, D.D., who was then pastor of the Curllsville charge, presided at the exercises. The address was delivered by the Reverend J. F. Wiant. Other clergymen present were the Reverends W. W. Deatrick, R. C. Bowling, and S. T. Wagner.
Father Koch, though dead, three quarters of a century, yet lives and speaks. He lives and speaks in the blessed results of his self-sacrificing ministry. The field cultivated by him has grown into a number of congregations and pastoral charges, which now constitute important portions of two Classes.
The splendid heritage handed down to us by men of the caliber of the Reverend Henry Koch is priceless. They lived and served in the truest sense of the term. We today, are challenged to act well our part. It has been said that "the splendid idealism of yesterday has given place to the crude materialism of today." Forget not that a hundred years ago there was a Forward Movement in the Reformed Church. Its objective was extensive. It functioned splendidly. Reverend Henry Koch was one of the live wires in this movement. Today this same Reformed Church is in the midst of a Forward Movement. Its object is not only extensive. It is intensive. It is a challenge for consecration and loyalty and devotion and service. Materialism must be dethroned. Idealism must be enthroned. It must be the realism of Jesus Christ. Shame on the church of today, if it fails. This progressive movement dare not fail. It will not fail, if we keenly appreciate our heritage. It will not fail, if we are genuinely conscious of our responsibilities and opportunities. It will not fail, if we earnestly desire to make the life of the church primary in our lives. Our age demands men of vision. We must be genuinely Christ-like. We must create an atmosphere of hopefulness and brotherhood. We must speak the golden words of kindness and good cheer. We must prove that our hearts beat right. We dare not be religious slackers. We must be willing to make any sacrifice for the full coming of the Kingdom of God. We must pray for, and we must work for, the reign of the golden rule. Pittsburgh, Pa.
Grace Reformed Church, Curllsville
Photo by Pamela Myers-Grewell