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Gateway to the Mountains

George Wireman

Chapter 24:  Church Of The Brethren

It is hard to establish the exact date when the Brethren first held services in Mechanicstown (Thurmont), since no actual records were kept. As the early Brethren settled in Maryland, they would gather together for preaching services at the most convenient places. Services were held mostly in private homes and when the gatherings were of a larger nature, requiring additional facilities, they would meet elsewhere.

Some of the leaders or ministers settled to the West of the first range of mountains as did Daniel Leatherman, who in 1756, located on the plateau of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the site of the old post office building at Garfield.

Garfield was sometimes referred to as Gravel Hill. Due to the Indian raids on these early settlers, the Leatherman family moved out of the mountains into the valley below. Since Leatherman was just a few miles from the little village of Mechanicstown, he made it a point to include this community as one of his preaching places. This was around 1761. Daniel Leatherman was later made the elder and the first Bishop of the Maryland churches. He began preaching in the homes of the early German settlers and kept up his work with the aid of Jacob Danner.

Daniel Leatherman was also assisted by Daniel Sayler after 1792. Both of these men were pioneers in the work of the church in Harbaugh Valley. After Leatherman's death in 1798, the appointments were somewhat neglected for a few years until Jacob Leather-man, known as the "walking preacher," and a grandson of Daniel, took up the burden and did a most remarkable job. Jacob Leather-man walked to the four preaching points, and remained very active in church work until his death. His mission points were Welby on the North, Brownsville across the mountains, Braddock on the

South, and Mechanicstown on the East. It has been reported that Jacob walked over 22,000 miles on his preaching circuit.

Jacob Leather and Daniel Saylor were co-workers at Mechanicstown and served the church well. In 1831 a union church was built in Mechanicstown and a small group of Brethren joined the congregation. Services were combined and this arrangement lasted for about 30 years. A doctrinal sermon by Daniel Saylor on baptism caused such a commotion and discussion that eventually the Brethren decided to withdraw. They began holding services in a stone school house.

For more than one hundred years preaching had been carried on in and around the valley of Mechanicstown, and although the community was served by many outstanding ministers, the congregation was slow in building up.

On February 18, 1882, a number of Brethren got together and purchased a tract of land from Warner and Sarah Grimes. The land was located on Green Alley (Now Altamont Avenue) directly opposite the present church structure. On this property was a small stone school house, and it was here that services were conducted for a number of years.

In 1892, Daniel R. Saylor moved from Beaver Dam to Mechanics-town and immediately began to lay plans for the building of a church. He was a carpenter by trade and enjoyed his work. The church was then placed under the care of the Monocacy Church. The home elders and ministers at Monocacy were Daniel R. Saylor, Thomas Kolb, F. C. Remmer, John Flohr, George Hoover, Daniel Boyer, Daniel Harp, John Weybright, L. J. Flohr, Charles Stover, Bruce Whitmore, Elmer Schildt and Calvin Byers.

The Monocacy church has since built five churches including those of Rocky Ridge, Fountain Park, Detour, Mountaindale and Thurmont.

Around 1922 the Thurmont and Monocacy congregations divided as it was, thought that Thurmont could be self-supporting. T. S. Fike was then chosen as elder of the Thurmont congregation with Rev. Authur Rice as minister. The deacons at that time were A. D. Hoover, Layton Moser, and Roy Rice. Deacons which have been added since include George Hoke, Milton O. Lawyer, C. Lloyd Green, Strafford Lawyer, Tolbert Lawyer, David Saylor and Walter Harper.

After the church house was organized, a new church house was built. The old one was then made into a parsonage. By 1923 the new church was dedicated with Elder T. S. Fike serving as pastor until his death.

In 1939, the church was redecorated and upon completion of the work special services were conducted with the ministers of the community taking part.

Following the death of T. S. Fike in 1938, the church was with-out a regular minister and the pulpit was filled by members of the General Missions Board.

Shortly after the church was erected, the need for a Sunday School was felt. Plans were drawn up and an educational school was organized. About this same time the church organized their women's work. In 1922 a group of young people met and organized a Young People's Group.

The Church of the Brethren has grown rapidly in recent years and several outstanding ministers have served the congregation including Linford Rotenberger, Ray Kurtz, Chester Royer, Carl Yoder, David K. Hanawalt, David Pryor and Wayne Eberly.

In September 1954 Rev. Phillip M. Kulp was called to serve the local congregation and remained a faithful minister until August 1958. Rev. Kulp resigned to join the Foreign Mission Field in Africa and he was succeeded by the Rev. David Eberly.

During the pastorate of Rev. Eberly the church made great strides and the Church School membership increased considerably, which brought the need for additional facilities.

In the early 60's plans were drawn up on an educational building and work was begun immediately. Today the church boasts of one of the most modern educational buildings in the community and these facilities have helped to strengthen the congregation and further the work of the church in the community.

The present pastor, Rev. K. L. Franklin has done much to build this little church into a strong and active organization and the Church of the Brethren is proud of the part it has played in community life.

In the words of Rev. Eberly, "may God richly bless each individual member and the church collectively as we look toward the future."

Chapter Index | Chapter 26: Eby's Shoe Repair Shop

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