Churches of Upper Providence

from Bean’s 1884 History of Montgomery County


The churches of Upper Providence are the following: Augustus Lutheran,
St. Luke’s Reformed, Evangelical, Mennonite, Friends’, Dunkard, Trinity
Christian and Episcopalian.

THE AUGUSTUS LUTHERAN CHURCH, Trappe, is the most noted in the township.
The old church building, erected in 1743, is still standing in a good state
of preservation. Ten years before this time the Lutheran congregation of
Providence was organized. In 1732, John Christian Schultz became the first
pastor, and remained one year, leaving as a successor John Casper Stoever.
In 1742 the Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg arrived from Germany, and
because, the pastor, and built the church in 1743. He has since became
widely known as the founder of the Lutheran Church in America, and the
Trappe Church as the oldest Lutheran Church in America, now standing. The
cornerstone was laid May 2, 1743. The first service was held therein on
September 12th, but it was not until October 6, 1745, that the church was
dedicated. Three negroes were baptized on that occasion. The General Synod
of the colonies met in this church on June 17, 1750. On October 7, 1787,
Dr. Muhlenberg died, and his honored ashes now repose immediately in the
rear of the old church. The congregation continued to worship in this-
building until the 6th of November, 1853, when the present large brick
building was dedicated. Since that time the old church was used for Sunday-
school purposes until quite recently. The present structure was recently
entirely remodeled, making it a two-story building. This improvement was
made under the pastorate of the present incumbent, Rev. 0. P. Smith.
Adjoining the church is the graveyard, containing numerous tombstones.


Among the distinguished Dead here buried can be mentioned
Rev. Dr. Henry M. Muhlenberg
General Peter Muhlenberg
Hon. Frederick A. Muhlenberg
Governor Francis R. Shunk
Hon. Jacob Fry and
Joseph Royer.
The principal family names are

The pastors of this church have been as follows:

1732, John Christian Schultz
1733, John Casper Stoever
1742, Henry M. Muhlenberg
1765, John L. Voigt
1793, Frederick G. Weinland
1809, J. P. Hecht
1814, Henry A. Geissenhainer
1821, Frederick W. Geissenhainer
1823, Frederick W. Geissenhainer, Jr.
1827, Jacob Wampole
1834, John W. Richards
1838, Henry S. Miller
1853, G. A. Wentzel
1854, A. S. Link
1859, G. Sill
1864, John Kohler
1874, 0. P. Smith.
REV. OLIVER PETER SMITH, A.M., son of Frederick and Mary Smith, was born
September 4, 1848, at New Tripoli, Lehigh Co., Pa., and is the youngest of
eight children. His early instruction was received from his father, who was
then teacher of the public school of that place, and at the age of ten
years his brother, Theodore, became his tutor. In his fourteenth year his
father, not having employment for him at home or means to send him away to
school, gave him the privilege of starting in life for himself. At the age
of fifteen he was appointed teacher of one of the public schools of his
native township, Lynn, and after the close of the school term he entered
the Military and Collegiate Institute at Allentown, Pa., with a view to
preparation for college, teaching in winter to meet his expenses. In the
fall of 1867 be entered Muhlenberg College as a member of the freshman
class, having just recovered from a severe attack of typhoid fever. He
graduated in June, 1871, having during his college course embraced every
available opportunity to earn money, that the outlay of his course might be
met. For one year, while at college, be filled an appointment under the
school board of Allentown as instructor of German in the public schools. In
the fall of 1871 the subject of this sketch entered the Theological
Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Philadelphia, and finished
his three years theological course in the spring of 1874, teaching during
the summer vacations and preparing young men for college. He was ordained
as minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Lancaster, Pa., June 3d.
Having received a call from the Trappe charge, composed of Augustus congregation
(Trappe), St. James’ congregation (Limerick) and Jerusalem congregation
(Schwenksville), he was installed as pastor of the charge in the Trappe
Church the Sunday following his ordination, of which charge be is still
pastor. Here has been spent, thus far, the most useful part of his life
laboring earnestly and zealously in the pulpit and out of it for the
salvation of souls and the glory of Christ, the head of the church. The
congregations have doubled in membership through his pastorate, church
properties greatly improved and the liberality of the people advanced. The
church at the Trappe is one of the finest houses of worship in the county,
and Augustus congregation is one of the oldest and most important Lutheran
congregations in this country, having had for its first regular pastor H.
M. Muhlenberg, D.D., the father of Lutheranism in America. Among the list
of the pastors of this congregation are the following names well known in
the church:

Van Buskirk
Kohler, the last-named the predecessor of Rev. Mr. Smith.

A Young People’s Lyceum has been organized in the Trappe congregation under
Mr. Smith’s direction, which has been the means of cultivating and
stimulating a literary taste and establishing a fine congregational library.

At the meeting of the executive committee of the Ministerium of
Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1884, Rev. Mr. Smith was appointed to
deliver, at the One Hundred and Thirty-seventh Annual Convention of the
Synod, the educational sermon, which was preached at Reading, and received
with great favor.


The subject of this sketch uses the English and German languages with
equal ease and fluency, which give him the qualifications for distinguished
usefulness in his church. His style in the pulpit is free and earnest,
accompanied with great force. When preparing his sermons he draws them up
with great care in manuscript form, but never uses a note in the pulpit,
which makes him especially popular as a speaker.

Rev. Mr. Smith has also been connected with Washington Hall Collegiate
Institute, of Trappe, filling the place in the faculty of professor of the
German language.
He was married, June 23, 1874, to Miss Laura Affie Barnes, second
daughter of Ezra R. Barnes, Esq., of Bridgeport, Conn. Mrs. Smith died June
30,1884. By the death of this accomplished and estimable lady, Mr. Smith
lost a most faithful and affectionate wife, one who never wearied in the
assistance she rendered him in his work. Rev. Mr. Smith was baptized in
infancy, and confirmed as a member of the Lutheran Church at the age of
fourteen years. Shortly after his confirmation he felt called upon to enter
the ministry. His character illustrates the maxim “where there is a will
there is a way.
THE ST. LUKE’S REFORMED CHURCH, whose building now stands at the lower end
of Trappe, was founded October 18, 1742, by the Rev. Michael Schlatter. For
a few years they worshiped in the Augustus Lutheran Church, but shortly
thereafter, in 1755, they bought a small tract of land and built thereon a
log church. This church stood in the present cemetery lot. Here, in this
log house, the congregation continued to worship until the beginning of the
present century. The first regular pastor of the church was the Rev. Philip
Boehm, of whom we learn elsewhere in this history.


He continued until September 15, 1748. On October 9, 1748, the Rev. John
Philip Leydick was installed as pastor. Rev. Mr. Leydick was born in
Germany in 1715, and emigrated to this country in 1748, when he took charge
of the churches at Providence and Falkner Swamp. He continued to serve here
until about 1780. He died January 4, 1784, and is buried in Frederick
Township. From March 28, 1784, to April 9, 1787, Rev. John Herman Winkhaus
served the congregation. Next appears the name of Rev. Frederick William
Vandersloot, Sr., who served until about 1813, when he was followed by his
son, Frederick William Vandersloot, Jr., from November 11, 1813, to
December 29,1818. Rev. Lebecht Frederick Herman, D.D., served several
years, and was followed by his student, Rev. John C. Guldin, D.D., who
continued until 1840. It was during the pastorate of Rev. Dr. Guldin that
the Reformed congregation left worshiping in the Lutheran Church and built
a church upon the site of their first log building. This church edifice was
built and dedicated in the year 1835. Following this pastorate was that of
the Rev. Jacob William Hangen, who served from April 27, 1841, until the
time of his death, February 22, 1843. From the fall of 1843 the Rev. Andrew
S. Young served the church, and was, in turn, succeeded by Rev. John R.
Kooken, whose pastorate extended from 1844 to 1846. On August 1, 1847, Rev.
A. B. Shenkle was installed as pastor, and served for twenty years, until
April 1, 1867. He was followed by Rev. H. H. W. Hibshman, D.D., who served
from October 15, 1867, to July 1869. During this short time the
congregation built a parsonage, which still stands. On April 1, 1870, Rev.
J. H. A. Bomberger, D.D., was installed as pastor, and served the
congregation in connection with his work as president of Ursinus College.
In 1874 the old church building, erected in 1835, was torn down, and in its
stead the congregation erected the present large church edifice upon the
opposite side of the turnpike and by the side of the parsonage. Dr.
Bomberger resigned October 1, 1883. The present incumbent, Rev. H. T.
Spangler, took charge of the church April 1, 1884, and continues as a
successful pastor.

The cemetery is still on the east side of the turnpike, where the
churches formerly stood. The oldest tombstone therein is that marking the
last resting-place of Lodwick Ewalt, who died March 16, 1760. The family
names found therein are


THE FRIENDS’ MEETING-HOUSE was one of the early houses of worship in the
township. It is situate one and a half miles northeast of Port Providence.
On Scull’s map, in 1770, it is marked and had been there many years. It was
built in 1730, of logs. At that time the portion of the township along the
river Schuylkill was settled by Friends, and the best families of that
neighborhood worshiped in the old log meeting-house.

The land whereon the building was erected was donated by David Hamer, who
came to Providence with his brothers, James and Adam, in 1717.

Among those worshiping in this first building may be mentioned

Corson and

The log house was, in 1828, replaced by the present one-story stone
meeting-house. It is now very much dilapidated, and very few Friends are
now found in its vicinity.

THE PROVIDENCE MENNONITE CHURCH is a very old one. When Father Muhlenberg
arrived in Trappe, in 1742, he states that there were two houses of worship
in Providence, -the Episcopal at Evansburg and one built by the Mennonists.
The Mennonists now have a church near Yerkes Station, which was built about
1820. It is a large, plain, stone structure, and no doubt this was preceded
by a former building, which was the one referred to by Dr. Muhlenberg. The
land on which the present structure is built was given by Abraham
Rosenberger. John Hunsicker and Henry Bean were the first preachers, but
the latter was soon after deposed on account of some irregularity, and Elias


Landes was chosen in his stead. George Detwiler and John Hunsberger were still
later ordained as ministers. Services are now held every two weeks, most of
the preaching being in German. The following are names found on the tombstones:

Sunday-school, begun, in about 1828, by Mrs. Rachel Wetherill, widow of
the late Samuel Wetherill, of Philadelphia, in the latter years of her
life, at her summer residence, and which she continued to teach herself
until her death, about 1844.

To meet the wants of this school, and also of a place, of public worship
in this community, she built an edifice at “Wetherill’s Corner,” in Lower
Providence, on her own land, and being a consistent member of the
Protestant Episcopal Church herself, she immediately established the
worship of the same in third year building by securing, as she could obtain
them, the services of the clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church from
Philadelphia and the neighboring regions and maintained them at her own
cost as long as she lived.

Her family continued the same, and in the same manner, after her death,
until about 1850, when Mr. George Mintzer, then rector of St. James’ Church,
Perkiomen, at Evansburg, undertook to supply regularly with services this
nucleus of a parish by preaching on alternate Sundays.

In 1852, Mrs. Rebecca Gumbes, daughter of Mrs. Rachel Wetherill, had
repairs made in this building, fitting up a chancel-rail, communion table
and other churchly appliances, and further built a chapel to be used in
connection with it upon the lawn of her own residence, on the opposite side
of the creek, in Upper Providence.

This chapel, upon the lawn of the late Mr. Samuel W. Gumbes, is still
used (by sufferance) for a Sunday-school house to the, present time.

Five years later, 1857, Rev. George Mintzer resigned his charge of St.
James’ Church, Perkiomen, and accepted a call to this new and yet
unorganized parish, and Mrs. Rebecca Gumbes installed him in a house which
has ever since been used as a parsonage, and which, in her will, she
bequeathed to that perpetual use, with ten thousand dollars, the income of
which was to be paid to the resident minister of Union Church. Until this
time all the records of the ministrations here had been kept in the
register of St. James’ Church; but from this date, 1857, a regular record of
such acts here has been kept, until they have merged down into, and are
bound up with, the registry of St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Upper

Rev. Mr. Mintzer died in 1860, and Rev. James May, D.D., late professor
in the Theological Seminary of Virginia, who had resigned his professorship
in that institution at the beginning of the war troubles, and had been
elected a professor in the Divinity School of the Protestant Episcopal
Church in Philadelphia, wag called to fill the post made vacant by the
death of Rev. George Mintzer.

He entered on his duties in 1861, and continued to fulfill them until his
death, in 1864.

Rev. C. N. Chevrier was called to succeed him, in 1865, and continued
minister in charge until he resigned, in 1868, to remove to another parish.

During the incumbency of Rev. C. N. Chevrier, a parish was organized, and
a charter was obtained for a church, which was to be built as a “Memorial
to Rev. James May, deceased,” -that good man who had died in this pastorate,
so widely revered and so, deeply beloved by this whole community.

Before, however, this new church building was begun the Rev. Joel Rudderow
was called to be resident minister of Union Church and the chapel, in 1869.
Mrs. Rebecca Gumbes, who had already deeded a commodious lot immediately
alongside of the parsonage to this new corporation and who had also headed
a subscription with five thousand dollars towards building the same,
installed him in the parsonage. The vestry of St. Paul’s Memorial Church,
Upper Providence, also elected him their rector. He is still in charge of
the parish.

This good woman, Mrs. Rebecca Gumbes, who, by her large-hearted
munificence, had been emphatically the support of this enterprise since her
mother’s death, and through whose liberality principally the new church was
completed, died December 1869.

In the year 1871 the corner-stone of the new building was laid. It was
finished in 1872, and the first service, its consecration, was held by the
bishop of the diocese, Right Rev. William Bacon Stevens, D.D., LL.D., on
October 20th of that same year, it being the twenty-first Sunday after
Trinity, 1872.

The church, which is of the English rural order, is built of the light-
gray sandstone from Rhodes’ quarry, with Hummelstown trimmings, in rubble;
with porch, bell-gable and crow, with interior finished in natural woods
(ash and walnut), and open roof, ceiled in pine and oiled, and with
stained-glass windows. It is thirty-two by sixty feet, with arch in rear
wall to admit of piercing without injury when enlargement shall be needed.
It will seat comfortably about two hundred and ten persons.

St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Upper Providence, continue the services in
(so called) Union Church, as one of their chapels, and they hold their
Sundayschool in the chapel upon the lawn of Mrs. Frances S., widow of the
late Samuel W. Gumbes.

THE TRINITY CHRISTIAN CHURCH, AT FREELAND, has a fine, large stone church
building. This church was founded in 1854. Rev. Abraham Hunsicker, a bishop
of the Mennonite Church, on account of his advanced views on education,
communion and other matters, was prevented from preaching in the Mennonite
Churches at Skippack, Worcester and Providence, in the year 1851.


He and his adherents, therefore, constituted themselves a new body, and
proceeded to erect a church building at Freeland, upon land donated by Mr.
Hunsicker. The building was finished and consecrated in 1855. It was first
called “Christian Meeting,” and the congregation was chartered as “The
Christian Society of Freeland.” There was no regular minister. Rev. Abraham
Hunsicker, who preached in German, and Rev. Israel Beidle, who preached in
English, assisted by Rev. Henry A. Hunsicker, made themselves responsible
for the religious services. Thus matters continued for several years. On
May 24, 1861, a council was organized by electing deacons and elders. The
first council consisted of:

Henry A. Hunsicker
Joseph H. Hendricks

Gideon Fetterolf
Abraham Hendricks

Henry D. Swartly
Daniel H. Reiff.

At the same time arrangements were made for five ministers to alternate in
preaching in the following order:
Revs. Israel Beidler
Henry A. Hunsicker
Abraham Hunsicker
Abraham Grater
Joseph H. Hendericks

It was not until 1862 that a regular pastor was elected, when the Rev.
Joseph H. Hendricks was called to fill this position. He had been ordained
to the ministry June 23, 1861, but entered upon his duties of pastor April
1, 1862. Since that time he has filled that position acceptably to his
people, having in all these years, missed but one appointment and that by
reason of sickness. In 1862 the title of the congregation was changed to
“Trinity Christian Church at Freeland.”

The church building was considerably enlarged and somewhat remodeled
during the summer of 1874, and was rededicated October 3 and 4, 1874. The
building is two stories high; the basement is divided into two rooms: a
large one in which the Sunday-school is held, the other a small one for
prayer-meetings and business meetings. The second floor is the main
audience-room. The church is not connected with any other denomination,
being entirely independent. There is a church at Skippackville, Perkiomen
township, which is a branch of the Freeland Church, both being in the same
charge and served by the same pastor. The church is liberal in its creed,
yet strictly orthodox, recognizing all Christian Churches as parts of the
true church. It has a membership of about three hundred and fifty.

THE DUNKARD MEETING-HOUSE, AT GREEN TREE, was built in 1833. In 1831 a
congregation was here organized, with Revs. John H. Umstad and Isaac Price
as ministers, and a church were erected, in 1833, on lands donated by Mr.
Umstad. It is a large one story stone building. At present there is a large
congregation worshiping there, with the Rev. Mr. Myers as pastor. The
cemetery was enlarged in 1858.

On tombstones are found the following names:


Near the Limerick line and the borough of Royer’s Ford is situate the
Dismants’ burying-ground, being inclosed with a wall. This is nearly one
hundred years old, being bequeathed by the Dismants, who were the first
settlers in that locality. Several of the Dismants have made bequests to
have the ground put in proper shape. There are here buried the Rambos,
Dismants, Tysons, Stahls and others. Just back of the Lutheran Church,
Trappe, there is a small brick building used as a house of worship by the
Evangelical Association. It is of recent founding and has a fair-sized