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Gateway to the Mountains

George Wireman

Chapter 2: Apples Church

The exact date of the origin of the German Churches in Frederick County is lost. Some have placed it as early as 1732, but there is no evidence. The earliest proved date is 1742 at which time "The Monocacy Church" (Lutheran and Reformed) was in existence, and by 1745 had a church building two miles from Graceham and about one mile from Michael Reissner's plantation. David Candler of Conewago (Littlestown) was the pastor of the Lutheran congregation, but the Reformed did not, as yet, have a minister.

In 1746, a group from both congregations withdrew to found a Moravian congregation at the house of Jacob Weller. This eventually became the Graceham Moravian Church.

The French and Indian War, with the terrible massacres which followed Braddock's defeat, led to a mass evacuation of the mountain farms all along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Those who stayed behind fortified Graceham Church as a place of refuge much to the horror of the peaceful Moravians. By the time the people re-turned to their farms in the 1760's a need for new schools and churches was very evident.

Peter Apple, who had become one of the large landholders in the neighborhood, on March 19, 1760, gave a deed for one acre of land to Matthias Ambrose, Jacob Matthews and Jacob Ambrose as trustees for a school house. It is more than probable that church services were held in this school house by visiting ministers of both denominations, and that, as was customary in all country congregations of the day, sermons were read by the schoolmaster from time to time.

It is generally conceded that the log church on the same lot as the school, was built in 1765, and on December 26, 1768, the trustees of the school gave a Deed of Trust for the lawful use of the church to Martin Dustmain and Henry Firor, trustees of the Lutheran and Reformed congregations respectively.

As there were very few ministers of either denomination in this part of Maryland, at this date, it was obvious that the church could only be served now and then by ministers who had to come from a distance over the mountain roads. For the Reformed Congregation, the Rev. Jacob Weymer of Conococheague was instructed in 1770 to preach occasionally, and there is evidence that the Rev. Ludwig Henop of Frederick, also took a kindly interest in the little congregation. Of the Lutheran congregation the Rev. Philip Matthews, a son of Conrad Matthews, and grandson of Peter Apple, is frequently said to have been "probably" the first minister. The Philip Mattes, who appears in the minutes of the Lutheran ministerium of Pennsylvania, did not apply for ordination until 1807, but there may have been an earlier minister, or he may have served as a lay leader. In 1793 there appears a new and distinctive handwriting in the Lutheran records of the church, which continues until 1804, so that the Lutherans obviously had a regular minister at this date.

After the death of Rev. Weymer in 1790, his successor at Conococheague, Jonathan Rahauser, assumed the responsibility for the mountain churches. His brother Friedrich Rahauser was at the time studying with him for the ministry, and was doubtless sent out to supply the small congregation. After his ordination, he was named pastor of the Emmitsburg charge where he served from 1795 until 1817. From this date until 1858, the Reformed Congregation at Apple's Church was continually a part of this charge. The first minister specifically assigned to the care of the Lutheran congregation was Johannes Rothrauff, of Greencastle, who from 1805 until 1809, included Apple's Church among his numerous congregations.

On September 7, 1813, Rules and Regulations for the two congregations were drawn up, and signed by the pastors and officers, and were recorded in the Frederick County deed book. In the same year, added land was purchased for the churchyard, and extensive repairs on the old log building were undertaken. This included making pews, installing glazed windows and the interesting item of "flooring the ceiling."

In 1822 the church records included an item of twenty cents (20c) for the purchase of a bowl. This small pottery bowl, undoubtedly made at Lynn's Pottery, was used by the church for a long time as a baptismal bowl, and is now a part of the collection of the Historical Society of the Reformed Church.

In 1823, a gallery was put in, but this was not enough to care for the needs of the growing congregation. In 1826, it was finally decided to build a new church, which is the present stone building. The cornerstone was laid on April 13, 1826, and the construction of the church was begun under the auspices of the Rev. J. G. Grubb. It was a one room structure and had a high pulpit, gallery and two tiers of windows. A gun rack was placed in one corner for stacking of guns. Many of the members traveled great distances through the mountains to attend services, and the guns were carried for protection against marauding Indians and the wild beasts.

The detailed settlement of accounts for this project was made at a joint congregational meeting on January 9, 1828, by the joint managers of the operation, John Harbaugh and George Houver, Sr.

This report, recorded in the account book of the church is extremely interesting. It not only shows detailed costs of building materials, but also gives evidence of the extent to which a small community like this was still self-sufficient. Although the name of William Cruger, the contractor, does not appear on the church records, the family was definitely of the neighborhood. Joseph Kuhn, the mason, was a member of the Reformed congregation. Daniel Rouzer, David Willhide, George Houver, Frederick Troxell, and others were paid for labor and materials. It would seem that the stone was quarried and the lumber cut in the locality, and the Millers, Herbachs and Damuths did the hauling. All iron work was done by Jacob Weller, the blacksmith, including altering some of the ironwork from the old church. Daniel Firor furnished scantling, Frederick and Adam Eyler, shingles, and Henry Poorman, larhs. David Willhide made a settee for five dollars (pews were not mentioned in this re-port so it is assumed that those made for the old church were used). Indeed, except for a few small items purchased from A. and C. Quinn of Frederick, and Lewis Motter and Son of Emmitsburg, practically all of the work was done by members of both congregations, which may account for the fact that the total cost, $1,306.20, was so small, even for that day and age; and also for the cheerful readiness with which the joint membership subscribed, at that settlement meeting, all that was lacking in the amounts already subscribed at the cornerstone laying and the consecration. It is of interest to note here that the old church was sold for $43.51.

In 1857, the Lutheran congregation announced their intention of withdrawing from Apple's Church and building their own church in Mechanicstown, which they did the following year. The Reformed congregation in 1858 adopted a Constitution as an independent organization, and at the same time applied to Maryland Classis to be associated with a smaller charge, so that they might be assured of more services from the pastor. Accordingly, in 1859, a new charge was organized, known as the Mechanicstown Charge, consisting of Valley, Apples and Creagerstown churches. Their share in the old Emmitsburg parsonage was sold, and a new parsonage was purchased in Mechanicstown. The first minister of this new charge was Henry Irving Comfort.

Apple's Church About 1823

Apple's Church was now one of the strongest churches in the area, and had some of the ablest preachers of the time. The sermons were preached solely in German until 1830, then alternated for a few years between German and English, then all English was adopted.

In May 1870, a great centennial celebration was held at the church. However, in 1879, the congregation as a whole, decided, like the Lutherans, to abandon the old church, and to move into Mechanicstown where they built Trinity Church. In 1880, a few services were still held, for the families who lived near the church, but after that, for five years, the church was abandoned entirely. This was a great grief to families who had grown up in the congregation, and in 1885, they approached the Rev. A. B. Stoner, with the request that, if they would clean and repair the old building, he should hold a few services there during the summer with the hope of reviving the old congregation. This was so successful that in August of 1885, a petition was signed by 35 members pledging $80.00 a year toward the minister's salary, if the services in the old church were resumed. At the first communion service, held the following day, the entire congregation of Trinity Church was present.

Since then the little old stone church has never been abandoned. In 1912, the building was remodeled. The walls were lowered, the gallery, wine-glass pulpit, and top tier of windows were taken out. This improved the outward appearance of the church, and the comfort and efficiency of the interior.

Anniversary celebrations were held in 1920, 1926, and in 1951. At the 1926 celebration, a fund for the care of the cemetery was raised. In preparation for the 1951 services, the members of the church imitated their ancestors of 1826, and gave of their services and skills, and the products of their farms and woodlands to repair and redecorate the church.

At the annual congregational meeting in 1964, after much discussion, a building committee was selected to begin plans for a new educational building. The Building Committee was composed of Richard Troxell, Marian Troxell, George Fleagle, and Edna Tressler. To encourage the congregation, the Women's Guild announced it already had established a building fund. With a large church school attendance and the membership still growing, work on the educational building was begun on July 1, 1964. This little congregation is quite proud of the fact that like their ancestors, practically all of the work was done by the members of the church and Sunday School. In March of 1965 the new facilities were complete and in use. The cost of the educational building was approximately $2,500 and here again the congregation showed their love for this little stone church by paying off the loan just one year from the date the building was completed.

On June 26, 1966 the new educational building was dedicated with special services. Rev. Francis Pirazinni was the guest speaker and music was provided by choirs from Mount Tabor and Trinity churches. A large crowd was in attendance and following the service refreshments were served on the lawn of the church. The dedication committee was composed of Mabel Troxell, Chairman, Donald Stitely, Barbara Weddle Freeze, Donald Weddle, Roger Troxell, Betty Lee Rickerd and Rev. Richard Ruof.

The names of the early members of this little stone church have not been obtained, but looking into succeeding generations one can find the names of those who were among the most prominent and enterprising Christian men and women in the vicinity. This canonically bespeaks the character and devotion of their forefathers who now rest in peace in the cemetery beside the church they worked so diligently to obtain and loved so well. Nevertheless, Apple's Church still remains a historical landmark, one of the many attractions of Thurmont, Maryland.

Listed below are the ministers who have served Apple's Church from 1770 to the present.


Reformed Congregation Lutheran Congregation
  • Jacob Weyner 1770-1790
  • Jonathan Rahauser 1790-1795
  • Friedrich Rahauser 1795-1817
  • William Runkle 1818-1820
  • David Bossier 1821-1833
  • Elias Heiner 1834-1835
  • Samuel R. Fisher 1836-1842
  • Andrew P. Friese 1843-1844
  • William Philips 1844-1846
  • George W. Aughinbaugh 1846-1856
  • E. E. Higbee 1857
  • Henry Irving Comfort 1858-1866
  • Vacant 1866-1867
  • Nicholas E. Gilds 1867-1874
  • Henry Wissler 1875-1880
  • Church Closed 1880-1885
  • Phillip Matthews
  • Handwriting of two distinct ministers appear before 1804
  •  Johannes Rothrauff 1805-1809
  • David F. Schaeffer 1809-1816
  • N. M. F. Haas 1817-1818
  • Johannes G. Grubb 1819
  • Michael Wachter 1828-1834
  • L. W. Harkey 1835-1836
  • Reuben Weiser 1837-1842
  • John J. Riemensnyder 1843-1845
  • Michael Wachter 1846-1848
  • John Richards
  • George W. Anderson
  • William Hunt
  • Lutherans withdrew in 1857

Ministers after reorganization of Reformed Congregation

  • Abraham B. Stoner 1885-1887
  • George A. Whitmore 1889-1906
  • Guy P. Bready 1906-1909
  • John W. Reinecke 1909-1910
  • J. B. Shontz supply
  • Peter E. Heimer 1913-1929
  • Edward D. Bright 1931-1946
  • William H. Groff 1947 Vacant 1948-1950
  • Edouard H. Taylor 1950-1955
  • Samuel A. Moyer 1957-1962
  • Richard A. Ruof 1962-1967
  • GeorgeB. Halteman 1968

Chapter Index | Chapter 3: The Catoctin Iron Works

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