Jackson Township
Cambria County, Pennsylvania

Chapter 13

Annals of Jackson Township

Mrs. Betty Burkhart
Nanty Glo Journal

July 9, 1942

Churches

In 1708 on the banks of the river Eber in Schwarzenau, Germany, a little group met in the early dawn.  They were Pietists who had taken refuge in that town from persecution.  A difference of opinion concerning baptism had arisen and those whose opinions were the same agreed to "dwell together in the unity of faith," as a society.  The leader of this band was Alexander Mack who was asked to perform the ceremony of baptism, but not yet having received the service, another was asked to do so and the ceremony was performed solemnly and humbly, using the three-fold immersion for the first time in the history of the Protestant church.

Following this proceeding, the Taufers, or German Baptist church was organized. The new sect grew and prospered and later went to the lower Rhine and in 1719 the migration to America started.  They first settled in the neighborhood of Germantown, and from there scattered all over the United States.  In 1723 the formal organization of the church took place and it was then that Peter Becker led a group of believers to the bank of a little stream and again the sacred ceremony was performed. "German Baptist" was the official name of the group, but the name Tunkers or Dunkers, given in derision, was often used and the name stuck.  Today it is referred to as the Dunkard church.  In Jackson township we have now three churches direct offshoots of this first group.  At Mundy’s Corner we have the Progressive Brethren, at Vinco the Progressive Brethren, and at Singer Hill we have the newly-built and newly organized Grace Brethren Church, all of whose beliefs and practices remain much the same.

The old Horner church, long since torn down, was also of the German Baptist denomination.  There were also the "Conservative Brethren” or “Church of the Brethren” who believed in plain dress and plain living although not in the strict sense that  the Old Order, or original group did, and do to this day.  The women of the Conservative group wore thin prayer caps while in the church, or otherwise kept their hair covered and wore no jewelry.

In June, 1843, John J. Horner and his wife deeded to Jacob Waters, Jacob Good and William Roberts "for the sum of six cents" a piece of land on a small tributary of the Hinkston Run in Conemaugh and Jackson townships.  It was a piece of ground near the old Web Brallier place, (now occupied by the Larkin family), and was at that time a large tract of ground surveyed originally for Elijah Adams on Feb. 10,1794.  Later it was deeded to John Barron "to whom same was patented" on Jan. 12,1795, and thus by deed it passed to Abraham Morrison, Esq., then in 1830 was deeded to John Horner.  This ground was "to be used in trust for the Congregation of the Brethren of Cambria county as a place of worship" with the reservation that "if the congregation should abandon same as place of worship then the land hereby granted to revert to Horner heirs."  But any buildings erected on the ground, meanwhile, would be the property of the congregation.

The building erected was a very large one, probable estimates being given as 100 by 50 feet.  It had a membership of 200 persons and people from surrounding communities attended services there.  Revival services or "protracted meetings" were held once or twice each year, as was the communion services, or "love feast."  This latter service was conducted in a slightly different manner than it is today, it literally being a feast. Soup, slices of various kinds of meat, pickles, bread and other food would be served.  The basement of the edifice had a large kitchen, pantry and dining room and often all day services were held on Sunday with plenty of food for any who might come.

The Horner church was rebuilt several times, once in 1876.  In 1884 a difference of opinion arose among the people of that faith which resulted in a division of the local group, as well as the whole denomination.  It was thought best that each group have a place of worship so "the Fraternity of the German Baptists at the Horner church appointed Samuel Brallier, John Strayer and William Sruver as trustees to convey to the Pike church a piece of ground for one dollar."  Then the Horner church became the property of the other or Conservative group.  This weakened the church, as divisions always do, so in 1900 the church disbanded because of loss of members.  George Reid of Wesley Chapel purchased the building and dismantelling it, used the lumber for other building purposes.

Today there is nothing to mark  the spot where this large church of active religious people worshipped, but many of our older residents recall with pleasure the many times they visited the old church. On September 8, 1883 we read: "A piece of ground was deeded to Abram Byers, John Snyder and Frederick Grove, trustees of the Church of the Brethren, from Jeremiah Hays, John Laymon and H.R. Shaffer, trustees of the United Brethren in Chnst, the church property at Vinco for the sum of $700, this ground to be held in trust for them and their successors in office."   This land came off of the Jonathan Custer property.  The United Brethren group owned it but were unable to keep it so Mr. Custer bought it back at a sheriffs sale and sold it to the Progressive Brethren for the same amount he paid for it.  The church building, which the United Brethren group built, had a frontage of three rods by five rods.

The original building had been remodeled from time to time and was undergoing extensive repairs in May of 1941 when a disastrous fire broke out during the early hours of the evening, probably caused by spontaneous combustion, which completely destroyed the building.  The members of the congregation, however, under the leadership of their pastor and his wife, Rev. and Mrs. C. Y. Gilmer, immediately made plans to erect a new church, which they did, completing the work within the year. On May 24, 1942 the new building, a fieldstone structure valued at $20,000, was dedicated to divine worship.

Among the pastors who have served the church were Rev.Smouse, 1886-1889; William Byer, Stephen Hildebrand, Joseph Reighard, Revs.Long, Koontz, Hall, Hollenbaugh, Roy Long, Earl Flora, Forrest Byers, J. L. Bowman, George Jones, Robert Ashman and Ord Gehman. In the early part of 1940 a group of Brethren from the Vinco church withdrew and built a church on the George Singer property on Singer Hill.  Mr. Singer, a son of James A. Singer, well-known township resident, gave the land for the use of the congregation that became the Grace Brethren church.  The group, under the leadership of Rev. and Mrs. Ord Gehman, erected the lower story of their large church building where services of  worship are held regularly.

On August 28, 1871 E.A.Vickroy deeded to the committee of German Baptists tract of land at Mundy's Corner, for the sum of one dollar. The committee was Wm. Byers, Samuel Brallier and Joseph Burkhart.  This land was located across the road from where the Brethren church now stands.  At one time two churches stood there, the German Baptists, or Dunkard church, and the Evangelical, known as the Albright Church.  The latter was a small frame structure and at one time enjoyed active membership.  The Mundy family were members of this church.  The membership of the church declined and in 1910 it was sold.  Henry Riblett of Conemaugh tore it down and used the lumber in building a house in Conemaugh.  The building stood where the old cemetery is.

To Be Continued Next Week

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