Our mission is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We will go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that God has commanded us.
Humbly Serving Others as the Hands and Feet of Jesus
Shiremanstown got its beginning the way many towns did in the early 1800s. The area was comprised of farms but as farmers became older and turned their farms over to their sons, they wanted to build homes in towns. In the late 1700s, a man named Daniel Shireman owned a considerable amount of land, several hundred acres, and much of it is where Shiremanstown, east of Shireman Manor, is located today. Daniel Shireman was a farmer, merchant, and hotel owner and his son, Samuel, is the namesake of Shiremanstown.
Shiremanstown was desirable to people because land was less expensive than land along Trindle Road as well as less occupied. Unlike Carlisle, the town was not laid out in advance. Lots were not planned until 1841. In 1845, additional lots were laid out by Jacob Merkel in an area that became known as Merkel’s Addition. This is the area of Shiremanstown along Green Street, then known as Second Street. In 1827, the town was officially named Shiremanstown, although Daniel Shireman referred to it as such in his will of 1810. In 1874, the official articles of incorporation were filed and Daniel Shireman’s son, Samuel Shireman, was named the Town Founder although the town itself is named after Samuel’s father, Daniel. In the late 1800s, Shiremanstown was known for its shops that built coaches and wagons, and at one time, had 3 different manufactories.
Our Church Under Many Names
From 1800 to 1827 we were The Shopp Farm, a house church in the emerging United Brethren in Christ Church and a part of the Cumberland Circuit. From 1827 to 1843 our church was then Shopps United Brethren in Christ Church and belonged to the Carlisle Circuit. From 1843 to 1896 we were still called Shopps United Brethren in Christ Church. We were one of a number of churches serving together and known as Shopps Station. From 1896 to 1946 another long period we were known as Shiremanstown United Brethren in Christ Church. From 1946 to 1968 many of our congregation remember the name, Shiremanstown Evangelical United Brethren Church. From 1968 to the present time, our current name has been Shiremanstown United Methodist Church.
The Shopp Farmhouse
The land between St. John’s Road and the Susquehanna River, bounded on the north by the Conodiquinet Creek and on the south by the Yellow Breeches Creek, was originally an Indian Reservation set aside by William Penn. It was called Louther Manor and whites were not allowed to settle there. By 1767, the Penns had worked out a new agreement with the Indians and this land was available for purchase. On September 20, 1774 Ulrick Shupe, son of John Shopp of Lancaster County, purchased the land called “Manington” as his first farm west of the Susquehanna. He added additional parcels of land from time to time, some of it purchased directly from John Penn, grandson of William Penn. Ulrick built a two room log cabin near where the stone house stands today. His children were subsequently born in this log cabin. When he died in 1788, he left his farm to his son, Johannes. After his father’s death, Johannes sold the log cabin to the community for 15 pounds. It was moved to near the Peace Church, eventually covered with weather board clapping, and used as a school house and church for 104 years until it was torn down in 1902. Johannes Shopp (Johannes on his tombstone but John on his feed bags) built the stone house that sits here today. The house was made entirely from stone found on the farm with the exception of two flat slabs that formed the mantel in the front parlor. One fireplace had a keystone formed into it to represent Pennsylvania, and again, all stone was from the farm. The floors were oak and the doors solid walnut – all wood was also from the farm. It had 23 rooms, was 4 stories and had exterior stone walls of an 18 inch thickness. But it had no closets. There was also a cave in the cellar, believed to have possibly had water in it at one time from a spring close to the house. During the Civil War, mules and fodder were taken from the farm. And during WW I, the army requisitioned walnut trees for gun stocks.
The first preaching place of the United Brethren in the lower end of the Cumberland Valley was here, in the home of Johannes Shopp, in 1800 when Christian Newcomer preached here on March 24 and again on October 3. In 1803, Christian Newcomer again preached here, accompanied by Bishop Martin Boehm. Revival meetings as well as preaching services were often held.
In 1821, Johannes died and left the farm to his son, Johann or John as we see his name in the history of our church. John continued on with his father’s devotion to the church. A conference of the United Brethren Church was held in the Shopp’s home in 1826 with 42 ministers present. At that conference, a discussion was held about the viability of building a meeting house. John Shopp donated land and on October 14, 1827, Bishop Christian Newcomer led the service to dedicate the newly constructed church known as the “Shopp’s Meeting House”. This meeting house was located where the church cemetery now lies and was only the 9th United Brethren Church to be constructed after 1800 and the 12th to be built overall.
Various pastors of the Carlisle Circuit served Shopp’s Meeting House until 1843 when a new circuit was created called “Shopp’s Station”. Shopp’s Station included our church as well as Fishing Creek, Wormleysburg, West Fairview and a location near Blue Mountain. In 1896, the name was changed from Shopp’s Station to Shiremanstown.
The first Sunday school in the area around Shiremanstown was organized on June 16, 1850 and had 28 adults and 69 children the first Sunday. It was held in the Shopp’s Meeting House. It was also the first to offer year round classes as the tradition was to close during winter months.
The Shopp Cemetery
On March 26, 1827, John Shopp donated one acre, triangular in nature, for a church cemetery. On September 3, 1887, just shy of a month of his death, he purchased three lots in the cemetery for $75. While there are no pictures of the Shopp’s Meeting House and its exact location is not known, oral history says that the pulpit was located were Bishop Jacob Erb is now buried. The cemetery was not used for a number of years, the last burial being in 1957, but is now once again being utilized.
The Church Buildings
In 1854, despite protests and resistance from many in the congregation, the decision was made that the church needed to be moved into Shiremanstown. In July of 1855, the new church was dedicated. It was from the belfry of this new church that Union soldiers rang the bell to warn of Confederate soldiers approaching on Sunday, June 28, 1863. The 16th Virginia Regiment had advanced east from Mechanicsburg and were near the Peace Church. Cannons were occasionally fired in the direction of Shiremanstown and Camp Hill. 28th Street in Camp Hill marks the real high water mark of the Civil War. On the evening of June 29, Confederate troops, in good position to overtake Harrisburg, retreated in order to follow General Lee’s orders to proceed immediately to Gettysburg.
In 1917, the church exterior was remodeled. The brick was painted white, the fence and shutters removed. In 1943, to try and accommodate a growing congregation, the basement was expanded and a small extension was built on the back of the church (no longer there). In 1954, due to the continuing growth of the congregation, it was determined that expansion was again needed. It proved neither economical or feasible to remodel the existing church. A two phase approach was taken.
First, the Christian Education building was constructed for a cost of $115,000 and
dedicated on December 18, 1955. In 1962, the congregation voted to build a new sanctuary.
In late summer of 1962, the limestone and brick church was torn down and groundbreaking services for the new sanctuary were held just a few weeks later on September 16. The cornerstone was laid on April 21, 1963 and dedication occurred on April 21, 1963. The new sanctuary cost $180,000.
The First Circuit Rider
The first recorded visit to the Shopp Farm was on March 24, 1800. Christian Newcomer a United Brethren minister spent the night at the farm. He rode to Dauphin County on the 25th. On the 26th he returned to the Shopp Farm, and “preached here with great freedom”. In the years ahead nearly every pioneer United Brethren minister preached at the Shopp Farm. Christian Newcomer, the first circuit riding “St. Paul” of the United Brethren church recorded in his journal visits on March 24 and Oct. 3 in 1800, two visits in 1801, May 17 and Dec. 3, and on May 28, 1802.
The First Building
In the year 1826 the inconvenience of worshiping in private homes became apparent. In 1827 a church was built on Shopp’s land. It was described as a commodius building, constructed of limestone, and was an honor to the membership of that day. Bishop Newcomer made the following record in his journal. Sunday Oct. 13, 1827: We had a sacramental meeting in the new meeting house at Shopp’s. Brothers Neidig, Snieder, Winebrenner and others were present. I spoke from John 3:14-18. He records that he spoke there the following day and again on Sunday Feb. 8, 1829. This first building called Shopp’s Church was only the ninth building in United Brethren history since 1800.
From Cumberland Valley to Carlisle Circuit
As early as 1802 ministers were assigned to the Cumberland Valley Circuit. They were required to visit twice a year, stopping in Franklin, York, and Cumberland counties. In 1818, Bishop John Russel “traveled an immense circuit extending from Hagerstown to the Susquehanna River and had in his list of appointments Shopp’s near Shiremanstown,” From 1827 through 1843 the Shopp’s Church was part of the Carlisle Circuit. There were two ministers assigned to the church at the same time for two reasons. Often one pastor spoke English and the other spoke German. This served to reach members using either language. Also the large number of places for the pastors to serve required more than one.
In 1843 the Carlisle Circuit was divided and the following group of churches became known as Shopp’s Station: Fishing Creek, Wormleysburg, West Fairview and an appointment near the Blue Mountain. Later in 1860 the number of churches on Shopp’s Station was increased to 10. The name Shopp’s Station continued in use until 1896 when the name was changed to Shiremanstown. The Rev. John Fohl was the first pastor assigned to the newly formed circuit. He organized classes at Shopp’s Church. Class #1 under the leadership of Samuel Eberly was composed of 41 members. Class #2 led by Isaac Neidig had 48 members. Daniel Eberly reports “These 89 members were among the most highly respected and honorable citizens in that part of the country.”
First Sunday School
On May 14, 1887, K.A. Eberly read a history of the United Brethren Sunday School. This document in the secretary’s handwriting was returned to our church March 10, 1933. It was from Rev. G.K. Hartman of The Dalles, Oregon. He was superintendent of the Sunday School when the history was written and read. From this we learn that Sunday School was first organized June 16, 1850, during the pastorate of Rev. Alexander Owen in, the church known as Shopp’s Church. This was a novelty for the town and caused much interest among the children. On the first Sunday, there were 28 adults and 69 children present. Among the names connected with the early history are the Shopps, Eberlys, Merkels, Erbs, Longneckers, Kauffmans, Markleys, Hefflefingers, Keims, Palsleys, Dr. Stouffer and others.
Rev. Wagner Serves During Building
In January of 1854, Rev. William B. Wagner was appointed pastor. At this time Bishop Erb and several leaders of the church agreed that the success of the church depended on being located in Shiremanstown. Although there was considerable opposition from the congregation the move was planned. The population of Shiremanstown at the time was around 300. The new location was about a half mile west and next to Bishop Erb’s home. Pastor Wagner was aggressive in pushing forward the interests committed to him. This made him unpopular and he was up against a great deal of opposition. During this time the Bethel in Shiremanstown also known as the Church of God was used for services. A successful winter revival was held during the building period.
Construction and Dedication
The frugal German background of the local people is evident in the construction of the new building. Anything that could be used was given new life. The basement was formed from the limestone walls of the old church. The old high-backed pews lost 6″ for basement seating. The stove and any useful lumber was moved and used. The dedication took place in July of 1855 led by Rev. Wagner with a sermon preached by Rev. John Dickson. A “money effort” was made and met with ordinary success. Shortly after a few members paid the balance and reportedly felt none the worse for it. It was also noted that due to the July humidity the fresh blue paint on the pews caused some members to become stuck or tinted. At the end of the service it was reported that un-evangelical expressions of displeasure were uttered by some.
A Lowpoint and a Historian
In 1856 Rev. Wagner, who served during the time of construction in Shiremanstown, was elected Presiding Elder. The stationing comittee failed to appoint a pastor to Shopp’s Church. At times William Owen, a local Methodist minister from West Fairview would preach. This was a low point for the church. The congregation was lacking in enthusiasm. In Dec. 1857 Rev. John Dickson and Rev. Samuel Deatrick were appointed to Shopp’s Station. The Shiremanstown congregation now had 112 members. Rev. Dickson served effectively for 4 years and went on to be elected Bishop where he served for 24 years. We also owe much thanks to Rev. Daniel Eberly for recording so much of the early history. He kept records from the beginning through the 1860’s and published Landmark History of the United Brethren Church.
Sunday School Ups and Downs 1850-1863
This new idea of a Sunday School was very popular. Ours went on during the winter when it was customary to close. The first constitution was adopted June 24, 1850. This, with some other documents were lost in the excitement of General Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. A 2nd constitution and by-laws were adopted in the summer of 1863. A meeting on June 19 was adjourned because of a threat of a rebel raid in Shiremanstown. Indeed forces entered on June 27th and stayed 2 days. This caused Sabbath School to be canceled for 2 more Sundays. For 5 winters and also during the construction of the new church in town the Sunday School was closed. It is considered remarkable that more girls attended than boys. It is also stated that on a Sunday all male teachers were absent. This has never been recorded of the ladies. There were days of debt and apathy and discouragement. But the Lord had prospered the work and the seed that was sown in other years and by other hands was springing up and bearing fruit after many days.
The history of Shiremanstown United Methodist Church has its roots in many people. One family to remember is the Shopp family, beginning with Johannes and Anna who first welcomed the pioneer preachers into their home. The Shopps were contributors of land, family members, leadership, and financial support. Johann and Louise Shopp were faithful throughout their lives. They were the ones who contributed the land for the first church built in 1827. It is unfortunate we have no pictures of that first church, but the Shopp Cemetery remains as part of our heritage. The Shopp family is still assiociated with Shiremanstown and has had family members continue in ministry.
Samuel Eberly and Son Daniel
In 1816 Samuel Eberly married Catherine Erb. In the spring of 1817 they moved to a farm near the Shopp farm. Samuel was converted through the preaching of Rev. John Neidig. This started a full life of church service. He was a class steward, leader, exhorter, and ordained preacher in 1835. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Conference from 1832. He was active in promoting both the 1827 and 1854 church buildings. His desire to spread the gospel was met by construction of these larger buildings. He also organized camp meetings. His son Daniel did a great service for history by publishing A Landmark History of the United Brethren Church in 1911. Much of the information came from Johanne Shopp born in 1794, his father, Bishop Erb and his own memories from 1840 to 1860. Daniel also served as pastor in 1859 to 1860 and from 1864 to 1865.
Bishop Jacob Erb
At the age of 6 Jacob Erb’s family moved to Cumberland County from Manheim. In May of 1823 he joined the Pennsylvania Conference and had the distinction of being present at 60 consecutive annual conferences. He served the Lancaster Charge and walked to 40 locations to preach. In 1837 he was elected Bishop for 4 years, then again in 1841 and 1849. During his residence in Shiremanstown he was an influential visionary. He supported the move of the church to the heart of town. He served many times as pastor beginning in 1829 and the final time was 1856 through 1857. Samuel Eberly said of him, “In German he was a forceful and eloquent preacher, in English he ranked as a plain but very scriptural preacher. His style was clear and always hit the mark.” He died at Shiremanstown on April 29, 1883 at almost 80 years of age. He is buried in the Shopp Cemetery.
When Shopp’s Church was erected in 1827, the town of Shiremanstown was about a dozen buildings. The first house was built in 1813 with all of the south side of the road being a dense forest. In 1814 a house was built for Dr. Mateer, the town’s first resident physician. This house went to Bishop Erb in 1849 and later was used as a hotel and a store. In 1827 or 1828 the town was named after Daniel Shireman. By 1845 there were 60 dwellings, 2 stores, 1 tavern, a school, and a Union Church. The population was 275. On Sunday, June 28th, 1863 Union sentries stationed in the steeple of Shiremanstown United Brethren Church rang the church bell to warn of Confederate troops approaching from Mechanicsburg. The 16th Virginia regiment was advancing on Simpson Ferry Road. Near Peace Church 4 cannons were trained on Camp Hill. By nightfall of June 29th the Confederate troops withdrew to Gettysburg. In 1874 Shiremanstown was incorporated as a borough.
For the first 146 years our church was a United Brethren Church, which was exactly how long the United Brethren Church existed. As early as 1813 there was hope of union with the Evangelical Church. Founder Jacob Albright and Christian Newcomer of the United Brethren Church made efforts toward this but ultimatley the union was not consummated until Nov. 16, 1946. This took place in Johnstown, PA at a specially called General Conference. The history of the Methodist Church closely parallels that of the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The main difference was language. Methodists spoke English and E.U.B. spoke German. At one point United Brethren were known as “German Methodists”. Finally on April 24, 1968 in Dallas, Texas the merger of E.U.B. and Methodist took place. Dr. Paul Cressman, Sr., Lay Leader, was our delegate at Dallas. On Jan 1, 1970 Shiremanstown United Methodist Church became part of the Central PA Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The Church Organ
The story of our present church organ begins in 1945. Dr. Paul Cressman a member of our church learned of an available pipe organ in Huntingdon, PA. Arrangements were made and the small organ was installed and it greatly enhanced the tonal beauty of the worship service. In 1963 when the new church was erected this small organ was no longer satisfactory. The M.P. Moller Pipe Organ Company of Hagerstown, MD was contracted to install a small but what was felt to be adequate pipe organ. Four years later some minor construction was done to allow the sound to flow more easily. The sound problem persisted and enlargement was recommended in 1972 and 1979. The cost seemed prohibitive and the idea was dropped. In 1986 a member sparked new enthusiasm with a $25,000 donation. The project went forward. By Dec. 1, 1986 the expanded pipe organ was installed and paid in full. Through the generosity of our members and friends, the organ expansion project of $63.700 total was debt free.
Our Church Our Country Our Soldier Boys
In 1942 During World War II the congregation of Shiremanstown United Brethren Church felt the need to honor the soldiers who were serving our country. A 3 ft. x 5 ft. American flag was placed in the Sunday School. The flag was dedicated to those serving in the Armed Forces on June 21, 1942. “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent, one from another”. These words were on the dedication booklet. There were 9 members listed as our Soldier Boys. They were, Private 1st Class John C. Nester, Private James E. West, Corporal Robert E. Kuhnert, 1st Lieutenant Albert E. Konstant, Private Chelse A Zimmerman, Metalsmith C. Herman Stansfield, Private Robert G. Sipe, Private Glenn B. Grove, Private Lyman H. Orr. All had a home address of Shiremanstown, PA. All of them came home.
Ad Board Highlights 1900-1901
At this time our church was United Brethren. Susie Eberly was the recording secretary and her beautifully hand written record books are in our archives. Some interesting notes were found. On Nov 6, 1900 Rev. A.B. Mower chaired , led the prayer and six members responded to roll call. The Pastor’s salary of $27.50 for the month and the janitor J.A. Bash’s salary of $5.83 for the month were approved. There was also an order drawn in favor of one load of corn cobs at $1.50. We hope these were used to light the fire in the stoves!? On February 5, 1901 the ad board met with 6 members present. They again voted to pay the pastor & the janitor. Mr. Bash had a bill to turn in for 75 cents. This detailed list included 1 box of stove polish 10 cents, 1 box of matches 2 cents, 1 lamp chimney 10 cents, 1 gal. oil 12 cents, 1 broom 25 cents, 4 shutter catchers 16 cents. It seems Mr. Bash did very well with his 75 cents. Then on March 8, 1901 the board met under the new pastor, the Reverend J.C. Gardner. This time 12 answered the roll call. Susie records that the most absorbing subject was the pastor’s salary. The motion was raised and passed. He would receive $40.00 a month and they would pay his moving expenses of $19.50.
History of Church Hymnal
It is said that the Protestant Reformation was born with a song in its heart. We are a singing church and the earliest hymnal on record of the United Brethren Church was first published in 1841. We owe many thanks to Mr. William Hanby, the collector and publisher of The Church Harp or simply The Harp. This amazing man began his ministry as a circuit rider in Ohio. He was licensed to preach in 1831. During this time he traveled 170 miles each month and was paid $35.00 a year for his work. Although he had no formal education, by 1834 he was a presiding elder and in 1837 he became the publisher agent of the church. In 1839 he was the editor of the Religious Telescope and in 1845 he became Bishop. This remarkable man was not a song writer but a compiler of many great hymns. During his years as a circuit rider he gathered hymns from his grandparents from their memories of English hymns and others from colonists who settled in Ohio. Among these were a group of songs called “White Appalachian Spirituals” and even one from a converted Indian preacher called “In De Dark Wood”. We know that the early editions of the Harp only contained words that were printed with a meter indicated. Not until 1874 did music and words appear together. It is also a mystery why an 1852 revised edition contained not one Charles Wesley hymn even though there were hundreds in circulation. We do know there were 29 subjects and seasons. These included one seven stanza hymn for a foot washing service, four for funerals, two for weddings, two anti slavery, seven under Backsliding, one patriotic and one temperance hymn. Although early U.B. was a singing church they greatly opposed choirs and musical instruments. In 1861 the General Conference urged hymn singing but added “we kindly forbid the introduction of choirs”. In 1865 they banned musical instruments but by the next conference they just “earnestly advised against choirs and musical instrumental music”. Praise God, the first organ was used in a U.B. Church in Ohio in 1865, and the musical talents of many before us and still to come will continue to enrich our lives.
The Christian Education Building
On Sunday April 17, 1955 the Shiremanstown United Brethren Church held a special ceremony for the laying of a cornerstone for the new $115,000 Christian Education Building. Rev. R. A. Strasbaugh applied the mortar after Clarence G. Stoner, chairman of the building committee, had placed a copper box containing commemorative tokens in the stone. Tokens included a Bible, copies of the church disciplines and membership roll, lists of the trustees and members of the building committee, copies of the Patriot and Evening News, the United States, Christian and Temperance flags, a set of U.S. coins, church publications, a brochure on plans of the church and a photograph of the church. Nearly 200 members were on hand for the ceremony.
Emma Nester — Member 82 Years
Our church likes to honor our members of long standing. One woman some of us may recall is Emma Nester. Emma was born on December 19, 1887. In 1900 at the age of 13 she was baptized by A. B. Mower and joined the Church on Confession of Faith. She remained a member for 82 years until her death at age 94. She was married in our church in 1912 by Rev. Emenheiser to John Nester. She was secretary of the helping Hand Bible Class for over 35 years. What changes she lived through! There were 3 major name changes during her lifetime. Her church grew from a one room building to the current sanctuary and multiroom structure. It is noted in her memorial — She loved her church and was a faithful member under the pastorates of 18 ministers. She has been a blessing to all of us here on earth and is a blessing to all in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Following the building of the Educational Building the church proceeded with plans for the new sanctuary. Remodeling had been considered neither feasible nor economical. In late summer of 1962 the old church building was removed. On September 16 a groundbreaking service was held. Dr. Paul Horn, the Conference Superintendent presided. On April 21, 1963 there was a Cornerstone Laying ceremony. On September 15, 1963 the new sanctuary was dedicated. Rev. Robert Reasey and Dr. Horn led the service. Some of the details about our new sanctuary of 1963, – the architect was Buchart Associates of York, PA and the General Contractor was R. W. White, Inc. of Mechanicsburg, PA. The cost of the project was around $178,000. The sanctuary is a colonial design constructed of brick and Indiana limestone. The seating capacity is 400 with an additional 200 in overflow. Our pews are African Sapele wood. The chancel floor is flagstone. This beautiful new sanctuary was truly a time for rejoicing as noted by Rev. Reasey: “This sanctuary, which we have built for the Worship of Almighty God, is a worthy tool in the fulfilling of our mission to this community. These facilities are not an end, but a means to a grateful and enthusiastic sharing of the Good News of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ our Lord”. In 1993 the sanctuary was given a facelift. Some were sad to see the blue paint go but the fresh paint and recovered pews turned out so beautiful it would be hard to find complaint. Many of our congregation furnished gifts and memorials at that time. These included flower vases, offering plates, communion service, cross, pulpit, lectern, paraments, baptismal font, pews and hymnals. The chandeliers were added in 1993 and the eternity light was a gift from Gladys Townsend Ensor and was dedicated in 1996.
Early Ad Board 1900
The earliest recorded minutes of Official Board Meetings in the church’s possession begin in 1900. These records reflect the problems of every new movement as it becomes more institutionalized. In the early days there were no buildings to be maintained, no full time pastor’s salary to be met, no membership rolls to be kept, and no conference or other obligations to be paid. With time and growth, all these problems became the concern of the Official Board. The earliest budget on record was adopted for 1901. It shows Pastor’s salary – $480.00, Janitor’s salary – $70.00, toward Presiding Elder’s salary – $44.00, light and fuel – $84.00, incidentals – $75.00 for a total budget of $753.00.
On March 26, 1827, Johann Shopp “had one acre, triangular in shape, neat measure of his land surveyed for a graveyard of the Society of the United Brethren.” This cemetery was the burial place of church members into the 20th century. When it was not actively being used the care of it was neglected and was soon over run with weeds and brambles. During 1920-1927 Pastor A. A. Long with church leader M. S. Etter paid visits to families asking for contributions toward a continual care fund. Fortunately they were successful and the interest from this fund continues to maintain this historic cemetery. The original church stood on this ground although the exact site is unknown. It is believed that the tombstone of Bishop Jacob Erb is on the site of the pulpit. Johannes and Anna Shopp are buried here also and their tombstone inscriptions are in German.
Rev. Ralph Strasbaugh 1886–1971
Ralph A. Strasbaugh was born on September 23, 1886 at Menges Mills, York County. Though orphaned early in life, losing his father at ten and mother at 15, he along with 2 brothers and 2 sisters maintained a home and endeavored to carry on a normal family life. He entered the teaching profession and then in 1909 married Elsie Beshore and went to work at the Pennsylvania Railroad. He resisted the call to ministry for 12 years but ultimately was ordained in 1924. He served at Shiremanstown from 1936–1959. He was always good humored, affectionate and considerate in nature. He had a real gift of relating to people and bringing the grace of Christ into difficult situations. He loved the church and was loyal to it. His declining health prevented active participation. However the same enthusiasm for the church lasted until he fell asleep in the Lord on January 23, 1971. A memorial service led by Rev. Martin Trostle was held on January 26, 1971.
Modern Conveniences 1898–1908
What a difference a century makes! We know that stoves were used and fueled by coal for heat. Some early trustee minutes also show us the repairs and concerns of the church around the turn of the century. On June 9, 1882 the concern to complying with borough ordinances led to setting a curb 16 feet from range of horses, laying pavement in front of parsonage, fixing bank and putting in hitching posts. On February 24, 1898 Trustees appointed Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Kauffman as committee on Repairs and Supplies. They were instructed to build a water closet as soon as possible. We aren’t sure exactly when that was built, but not until 1909 was the sexton instructed to “open the water closet when he rings the bell for Sabbath School and close it after services. The closet to be open during all services”. A coal house was built in 1890. It is unknown when electricity was introduced but in June 1899 a bill was paid to Heat, Light & Power Co. in the amount of $1.50 for extra wiring. By 1908 there must have been enough growth that the motion to remove the chicken yard at the back to make a hitching ground passed easily. There never seems to be enough parking.
Women in the Church
We all may know or know of a female Pastor. It might be surprising to us that women were eligible for ordination and clergy rights since 1889. Yes that is 1889. Sadly women lost the right to clergy after the union of our United Brethren with the Evangelical Church in 1946. Fortunately the union of E.U.B. and Methodist included plans for full clergy status for women. Other milestones for women include laity rights. Women were not admitted as delegates to the General Conference until 1893. Today women have been admitted to the ordained ministry, appointed to the district superintendency, elected to positions of denominational leadership and consecrated as bishops. In 1980 Marjorie Matthews was the first woman elected to the church’s episcopacy.
Rev. George C. Kerr
In 1947 Rev. George C. Kerr came to Harrisburg to establish a Goodwill Industries branch. But the story actually begins in 1922. While working as a missionary in Peking, China, he met and married another missionary, Miss June Patterson. They served several tours in China, then returned to Pennsylvania in 1935. While working in Reading he was asked to go to the Cumbola Circuit, in the heart of a poverty ridden coal mining district. He accepted, thinking he would be there for a few weeks. His charge lasted 7 years. To help the people in his charge, he asked for donations be brought to the Reading YMCA. He trucked the goods home in his station wagon. A friend recommended him to Goodwill Industries. He started by working with the handicapped in Scranton. From there he was sent to Harrisburg to start a branch. By 1948 the necessary 15 people were on the Board of Directors. Rev. and Mrs. Kerr moved to Bethany Village in 1970. Some of you may remember Rev. Kerr. He was our visitation pastor in the early 70’s.
Membership Rolls 1840-1850
An 1840’s handwritten membership roll yields many interesting notations. Among the less flattering were backslider, dropt or expelled. One couple withdrew amidst a great deal of shouting and ill nature, leaving a prediction of the downfall of the church. Another member left during the same fracas. Her notation reads, “It is a pity the church was not delivered of her long before as anyone would say who knew her.” Apparently the recorder was not saddened of their leaving. Many more notations are of a kinder nature. One couples read, “Gone to Iowa, both left with the warmest affection of the whole church and took certificates of goodstanding with them. Some read simply, Gone west, gone to parts unknown, and called north. A person could be removed with or without a certificate of goodstanding, as in removed to Ohio. A death listed the day departed and age including months and days. Some remarks include- “His last words were, I am ready all is well” And then fell asleep in Jesus. One reads Died May 7 , 1852 with a good hope of immortality and eternal life. One last one that so aptly describes a good life, “He died happy in the Lord. The church lost an efficient and useful member, but he gained heaven.”
Duties of Members – 1913
The following is from the Book of Discipline of the United Brethren in Christ Church. This book published in 1913 set forth certain duties of members. Means of Grace – Every member shall endeavor to lead a godly life; observe the ordinances of God’s house, be diligent in prayer, particularly in private, and attend our prayer and class meetings and meetings for public worship. Family Piety – Heads of families should never omit to pray with their families, morning and evening, and to set them to a good example in all the Christian virtues. Sabbath School – It is the duty of our members to encourage our Sabbath schools by their presence and always give them aid and influence. Receiving Ministers – It is the duty of all districts, stations, circuits and missions cheerfully to receive the preachers appointed by the stationing committee. Care of the Poor – Each member of our church should willingly and freely contribute quarterly, or oftener if need be as God has prospered him, to the support of the helpless poor.