Muddy Creek Evangelical Lutheran Church
11 South Muddy Creek Rd. Denver, PA 17517
Muddy Creek Lutheran Church's History
Information Taken From "History of Muddy Creek Church"
by, H. Martin Lausch
The Muddy Creek Church, founded as a Union church for use of the Lutheran and Reformed Congregations. It was located in East Cocalico Township (known as Cocalico Township until 1838) Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, along the former Route 222, now route 272. The name was derived from the stream of the same name "Moden Creek" flowing through the township, whose riled waters caused it to be named Muddy Creek, hence the name Muddy Creek Church. Only three Lutheran Churches in Lancaster County were founded prior to Muddy Creek: Emmanuel, Brickerville: Holy Trinity, Lancaster; and Trinity, New Holland, which were founded in 1730.
When The German immigrants migrated to Pennsylvania, they came not with pastors and schoolmasters, but as families or in groups in search of a new home. Although they had their Bibles, many groups or communities were served by roving or itinerant preachers, many of whom were without theological training or had a very poor education. Some came as self-appointed teachers and set themselves up as preachers. These men produced much strife and gave good cause for slander and proselytizing among the members of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches. Many of these self-appointed preachers gave Henry Melchior Mulenberg all sorts of trouble in his administration of the affairs of the church and the organization of the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and adjacent states.
Muddy Creek Church was founded in an opportune time to give religious stability to a rural society. Its conspicuous location, along the road from Lancaster to Reading, is a living emblem of its spiritual and cultural influence on our agricultural community.
The nine and one-half acres of land for this historical site were sold by the sons of William Penn, Richard and William, to Jacob Fry, trustee of the Lutheran congregation and Henry Haller, trustee of the Reformed congregation for one pound, eight shillings, eleven pence. The deed was executed in 1744 but for some reason was not delivered until 1762, the second year of the reign of King George III, of Great Britain.
Probably 1732 or 1733 the congregations built a log church to worship in, one without a floor. During the cold weather in winter, logs were places in the center of the church with a bonfire to keep warm, while the early pioneer pastors preached. It was necessary for a few men to keep watch with firearms in case of Indians. For the next 200 years under the leadership of devoted pastors these two congregations flourished both spiritually and numerically.
About 1748 or 1750 the second church was built of stone with a tile or brick floor. This building remained until the third building, an antique-type sandstone building, unique in every respect, was executed at total cost of $1,909.96. This beautiful and artistic edifice was consecrated and dedicated to Almighty God in 1847. In 1850 a bell was procured to call the faithful to worship and to mournfully toll the years of the member who passed away. The inscription on the bell reads: "Muddy Creek Church, Lancaster County, Penna." In 1938 when it was removed, it was found to be in perfect condition and, therefore, was placed in the tower of the present building where we hear its beautiful tone every Lord's day.
About 1869 a pipe organ that was pumped by hand was purchased from Samuel Bohler of Reading for $750.00 and dedicated the same year. In 1938 this organ was reconditioned, electrified and placed in the lower room of the present church building. For several years it was used for the worship service by the Sunday School. In 1871 Isaac S. Becker, famous as a local musician, singing school master, and builder of the famous Becker organs at Denver, became the organist and leader of singing at services. A Becker organ in Grace Chapel was used by the Sunday School for forty years and is presently in the basement of the Lutheran Parsonage. After twenty-three years of service Organist Becker retired in 1894, and John Ernst and George Arnold filled his position in the music department.
The Old Stone Church, unique in its exterior and interior grew spiritually and materially from modest beginnings, and its became a cornerstone in the community, extending beyond the confines of the immediate area.
As the years passed, it became increasingly evident that "The Old Stone Church, "(demolished in 1938) at Muddy Creek, which had served as a Spiritual home for the Lutheran and Reformed Congregations for approximately ninety years, would no longer be able to meet the changing needs of the growing congregations as well as the needs of a changing society.
So in the mid or late twenties, serious thought was being generated to build a new edifice that would more adequately meet these needs as well as a changing culture which was reaching not only into everyday lives but into the churches as well.
It was after much thought, deliberation, and many hours of planning and prayers that concentrated plans for a new building, which would include a beautiful sanctuary for worship services as well as educational facilities for teaching the word of God, where as long last becoming a reality.
The last few years the congregations worshiped in Grace Chapel during the winter months because, as years went by, it had become very difficult to heat the old stone building.
It was after countless hours of planning hard work, and prayers that the new building became reality in 1938.
In hindsight it is felt by many that with more foresight at the time that "The Old Stone Building" should have been left to live, so that future generations would be able to see how their forefathers had worshiped. With fond recollection the writer remembers the hard pews with straight wooden boards which served for backs, two potbellied stoves in the center of the building, bare floors except for runners in the aisles, the beautiful stairway that led to the hanging pulpit, and the organ being pumped by hand. He fondly recalls the balconies on each side, with the older men sitting on one side and the young men sitting on the other side, thus being able to see the young girls who sat beneath the other balcony. Lack of comfort facilities, taken for granted today, must have been a problem at that time because of the mode of transportation and distance involved in attending church.
The simple austerity of the interior as well as the exterior of the stone building itself would have preserved a very precious and documented source of history for today and for future generations. It is believed that today it would be designated as one of the oldest churches in the state, and it would also be a State Historical Monuments had it been allowed to remain standing.
The present beautiful edifice, designed along Gothic lines with a native red sandstone base, and a red brick superstructure trimmed with Indian cast stone, costing $59,000.00, was dedicated on February 26, 1939. It has a beautiful Lutheran chancel with all the proper appointments. The windows are of antique cathedral glass. Scenes from the life of Christ are depicted in the windows in the nave, while the windows in the annex portray the parables. The old pipe organ was reconditioned and placed in the basement. A two manual pipe organ, with chimes, built by the A. Gottfries Company, was purchased for the church auditorium. The fine basement is used by the Sunday School, who gave their building, Grace Chapel, to the church for a fee simple conveyance to be used as a social hall for the congregations.