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St. Daniel's History

old church

St. Daniel's Lutheran Church celebrated its 250th anniversary from June, 2001 through May, 2002. With roots that date to more than 20 years before our nation's Revolutionary War, the first deeds for the church property were signed by Conrad Weiser, then a Justice of the Peace. Berks was not yet a county. Thomas Jefferson was only seven years old, and George Washington was a teenager. The first group of Tulpehocken German settlers arrived in 1723. They met for worship at Reed's-Zion, Christ Lutheran, Stouchsburg, Christ Little Tulpehocken, and Northkill (Frieden's) in Bernville.

Among the first members were Johannes Artz, Michael Schauer and Abraham Lauch who donated adjoining tracts of land, (three "corners" of their farm properties) for "a place to erect a house of religious worship, and a place to bury their dead." Hence, the early name for the church as "Eck Kirche" or "Corner Church." The cornerstone was laid in 1751. The first building, located in the northwest corner of the present Memorial site, was constructed of stone (rather uncommon construction in that era of log dwellings) and completed in 1754.

The oldest graves in the cemetery are those of John Martin Pfatteicher and his wife, Anna Barbara, both who died in April, 1761. By 1773 more land was acquired, and by 1880, nine tracts of land formed a church property of ten acres. A second building, also constructed of stone, was erected from 1814 to 1817 at the intersection of North Church Street and Big Spring Road (on the old graveyard property).

The congregation, led by Pastor Daniel Ulrich from 1811 to 1853, took the name, "St. Daniel's." The building was remodeled in 1849. In 1911 extensive alterations took place, adding a tower and bell, modern decor, and steam heat. Prior to the modern day Sunday School, the early church had a schoolhouse, located where the current sexton's home, erected in 1903, now stands. They began to save money for a "schoolhouse" as early as 1758. Rev. Christopher Shultz, who served the congregation from 1771 to 1809 reported he had as many schools as congregations.

Schoolmasters served the congregation as "Vorsingers," leading the congregation in singing, and prior to the home erected in 1903, it was known that the dwelling on the Fisher property served as a residence of the schoolmasters of the "church school," as well as the organist and "Vorsinger." Andrew Fisher served as schoolmaster in 1812, and Philip Guth served as "Vorsinger" in 1813. St. Daniel's strong music program had its origins in those early years. The church has had a long and proud history of both vocal and bell choirs for all age groups.

The church is true to its heritage of education in operating St. Daniel's Preschool. Christian education is an essential part of St. Daniel's ministry. The congregation has always been Lutheran, but in 1876, permission was given to the Reformed congregation to worship and hold services in St. Daniel's building. For the annual sum of one dollar, the Reformed congregation continued services there until 1905 when they constructed their own building, now St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Robesonia.

Over the 250 years, St. Daniel's (formerly Heidelberg) Lutheran Church has been yoked with numerous other Lutheran congregations, sharing a pastor at times, with one or more of the following churches: Zion, Womelsdorf; Rehrersburg; Myerstown; Schaefferstown; Newmanstown; Northkill (Bernville); Little Tulpehocken; Sinking Spring; North Heidelberg; Bern; Reed's; Belleman's; Geigertown; Kissinger's; Alsace; St. Michael; St. John's, Host; and Strausstown (Blue Mountain). The Womelsdorf Parish of 1887 consisted of St. Daniel's; Zion, Womelsdorf; St. John's, Host; and Zion, Strausstown. Strausstown was dropped in 1913 and Trinity Lutheran, Robesonia was added to create the Womelsdorf Parish in 1917. In 1943, St. Daniel's and Trinity formed the Robesonia Parish with the Rev. Elmer Leisey as pastor. The Robesonia Parish was dissolved in 1957 when St. Daniel's called its own pastor, the Rev. James B. Miller. In its two and one half centuries, St. Daniel's has had a relatively few number of pastors, beginning with the Rev. John Nicholas Kurtz in 1750, and including the 17th and present pastor, the Rev. Wayne Heintzelman. Pastor Heintzelman was installed February 11 of this anniversary year. Sons of the congregation include the Rev. David Wartluft and the Rev. Harry Gruber.