History of St. Peter's Lutheran Church Chester Springs Middle Church
We now pick up the history of the Lutheran congregation which, after the Lutherans divided in 1840, continued to worship in the building erected in 1835. Because this congregation built a third edifice across the road and between the two structures now standing on Pikeland Hill, it is remembered as Middle Pikeland, even though it worshipped for most of its history in the lower building and was known as Lower Pikeland Lutheran Church. The construction of the middle building (described earlier) and its subsequent loss to a fire are the most outstanding parts of the history of this congregation, which was associated with the East Pennsylvania Synod and the General Synod.
The records of the parish, with the exception of a parish register which includes records made from time to time 1771-1880, are apparently lost. We do have newspaper clippings and notations in this register, which give us a flavor of life in this nineteenth-century English Lutheran Church. In the parish register we read:
“September the 27th, 1849.
P. Raby became Pastor of St. Peter’s Church.
Special Communion December 16th, 1849.
The day being unfavourable, the members were not very generally present. Some who gave in their names on Saturday were not present on Sabbath. Hence we omit recording the names.”
One notation which appears from time to time is the report that persons have been expelled from the congregation for immorality. Their names were publicly read; they were not returned to the communing fellowship until they had publicly acknowledged their guilt and repented.
On October 10, 1868 there was organized an auxiliary which served St. Peter’s for many years. Originally called the “Mite Society,” the group is remembered in more recent years as the “Willing Aid.” The group met regularly for fellowship and programs. Funds were raised for the work of the local congregation and for the mission work of the church. The organization was dissolved in July of 1961.
In the library of the Chester County Historical Society is found the following news clipping:
“January 27, 1872: Charlestown Items--- Protracted Meeting--- A protracted meeting is being held at St. Peter’s Church, Pikeland, under the auspices of Rev. Mr. (N. H.) Cornell. The meeting has been in progress during the past few weeks, and we learn that some converts have been the result.”
Such lengthy revival meetings, which today we do not associate with the Lutheran Church, were quite common in the “Americanized” Lutheran congregations of a century ago.
Through the efforts of her pastors and by the transfer of her members to the new organizations, Middle Pikeland became the mother of two congregations around the time of the Centennial observance of American independence. The Central Lutheran Church of Phoenixville was organized by the Rev. S. S. Palmer on December 5, 1875. The congregation took over the building and debts of the Mennonite congregation in Phoenixville, which was about to abandon their work in the town. Pastor Palmer resigned from the Pikeland charge and devoted his efforts to building up the new Central congregation. The Centennial Lutheran Church of Kimberton was organized in 1876 by the Rev. J. F. Hartman. They purchased a Quaker meetinghouse and fitted it up for a place of worship, dedicating it in 1877. This congregation has, until very recent times, been connected with St. Peter’s to form the (West) Pikeland charge. Communion records for 1876 indicate a number of members dismissed to the new congregations in Kimberton or Phoenixville.
In the beginning of the year 1880 newspapers reported the calling of the Rev. J. R. Dimm to the pastorate of the Pikeland and Kimberton congregations. Pastor Dimm, who had formerly been a professor in an academy at Baltimore, was to direct the “Pickering Institute, an institution for learning of both sexes at Kimberton.” Pastor Dimm, following his predecessors, conducted revival meetings. He is known to us mainly through a history of the congregation he wrote and published in 1881 and which has been used in compiling this and previous histories. During his ministry the Philadelphia Conference of the Ev. Lutheran Synod of East Pennsylvania met at St. Peter’s on Monday, May 29, 1882. The paper announced: “May 26, 1882. Take cars at Ninth and Green Streets at 4:30 for Chester Springs, carriage waiting for train at 6:15 p.m.”
For nearly fifty years this congregation owned a parsonage at West Pikeland, about two miles from the church. In 1884 it was sold and a new one built at Kimberton.
During the pastorate of the Rev. J. A. Hackenberg, Pastor Dimm’s successor, the new building was constructed across the road, and the congregation moved from the lower to the middle building. From this time Lower Pikeland Lutheran was known as Middle Pikeland. Following the erection of the new church building, our records are limited to a list of the succession of pastors until 1917. The pulpit was apparently vacant when, on March 29, 1918, the building was consumed by fire. The members then entered into negotiations with their neighbors in the Lutheran church up the hill to effect a merger.