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Jerusalem Western Salisbury
3441 Devonshire Road
Allentown, PA 18103
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Office: 610-797-4242 or 610-791-4979
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I am elated to hear of the interest that seems to be present in our church's rich history. For this article, I wanted to focus on a church artifact that is very important to our understanding of our history, but is probably not noticed too often. The artifact that I am speaking of is an old church sampler, dated 1880, and donated to the church in 1931 by Joseph Muhr. It is presently located in the vestibule on the right side after you enter the front red doors of the church. The importance of this delicate textile is that it gives us a picture of what our church looked like from the outside, before extensive renovations took place in 1884 to modernize the building.
As a little background, let us review the three buildings that our congregations have used for worship. Our first church, built in 1741, was a log cabin structure, perhaps 20 feet by 30 feet, with rough-hewn logs as benches and a plain dirt floor. This structure most likely was located to the north of the present church in the Old Cemetery. In 1769, it was decided that a new structure was necessary. In our first history book, the 1911 History of Western Salisbury Church, Rev. Myron O. Rath, a pastor of the Lutheran congregation at the time, stated that the second church was a frame structure (Rev. Myron had been assisting his father, Rev. William Rath as pastor since 1877 and certainly remembered the old church; Rev. Myron served the Lutheran congregation as sole pastor from 1890, when he succeeded his father, through the year 1920).
We have no further data to suggest what church looked like, however, it can be assumed it was bigger that the log church, however smaller than the present edifice. The second church building lasted for 50 years, when in 1819, the old building had become unstable and the present building was erected. The cornerstone for the building was laid on Ascension Day, May 20, 1819 and the church was completed and dedicated one year later on Sunday and Monday, May 21 and May 22, 1820. As one might note, a present building has served us for almost 200 years.
Again, in the 1911 History Book, Rev. Rath states "the change that was made in 1884, was made at the expense of what was old." This statement tells us that the church did not originally look like it does today. So what did it look like? Well this sampler gives us a good visual depiction of the outside of the 1819 Church Building before renovations. I intend only to discuss the exterior features of the church at the present time; the interior features will be a good topic for a future article.
I hope the next time you come in the church; you will pause to look at the sampler, an important link to our past. The sampler is hand stitched and has begun to yellow and fade with age, but nonetheless tells us much about the building. Across the top of the sampler are the initials R.S., B. G., W. G., and R. F. (most likely, the second and third pair of initials stands for Benjamin German and William German, both former Lutheran pastors; I have not figured out what the other initials stand for.) Next is stitched W. Rath, standing for Rev. William Rath. On the next line is 1819 and 1880, the dates the church was built and the present date of the sampler. On the left side of the sampler about a third of the way down in large stitched letters are the letters P. R (presumed initials of the person who made the sampler) and in the middle of the church are the letters, S.C, presumably for Salisbury Church. At the bottom left of the sampler are the initials P.K. and on the bottom right J. B. I am sure these initials are for Philip Kline and Johannes Bogert, who both served on the building committee of the church in 1819.
Now let us look at what the sampler shows about the building. The sampler indicates that the main entrance to the church was on the south wall, along the old Devonshire Road, with an entrance in the west wall, and presumably in the east wall as well. All window configurations are the same as present. On the west and east sides of the church at the roofline are two chimneys for the stove that was inside the sanctuary at the time to heat the building. The style of church that the sampler suggests is a meetinghouse style church building, common in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth centuries.
The building also exhibits the Georgian architectural style, with its large Palladian windows on the west and east walls of the church. If you were to slice the church down the middle at the original front door on the south wall, the church would be symmetrical, the left side being a mirror image of the right side. The noticeable differences to the present church are the lack of a tower and steeple, the lack of the present vestibule and the lack of the original front door on the south side of the building, all part of the renovations of 1884 (more about them another time.)
We are very fortunate to have this sampler as an artifact that "gives us a window to the past." This delicate textile was given to the church in 1931, by someone who seemingly had no ties to the congregations at the time. This man had the forethought that this object should be in the possession of the church which is depicted on the sampler. Of course, time has taken its toll on the textile and it is in need of conservation.
As we prepare for the 275th Anniversary in 2016, I will be looking for a textile conservator to give us an estimate on the best way to preserve the object, as it appears that mold may be present on the fabric and moisture stains may have further discolored it. It will also need to be stretched and reframed, for the sampler is no longer lying flat in its frame. This will be just one of the projects that our History Committee will be undertaking to help preserve the rich history of our church.
If you have a curiosity about our church and its history or you need help in investigating your family tree with the records of our church, please contact me through the church office or at Finkyx@aol.com.
Joshua A. Fink, Historian