A history of the Goshenhoppen Reformed charge, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (1727-1819)

Title:A history of the Goshenhoppen Reformed charge, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (1727-1819)
Author:Hinke, William John
Publication date:1920
Publisher:Lancaster [Press of the New era printing company]
Digitizing Sponsor:MSN
Contributor:New York Public Library
Repository:Internet Archive
A history of the Goshenhoppen Reformed charge, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
A history of the Goshenhoppen Reformed charge, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Reformed Church History in this country has long been a subject of study. It is interesting to note that the first printed history of the Reformed Church in the United States was published not in America but in Germany. In the year 1846, the Rev. Dr. J. G. Buettner, the first pro-fessor of the first Theological Seminary in the State of Ohio, published ” Die Hochdeutsche Reformirte Kirche in den Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-Amerika,” in Schleiz, Germany. But even before that time, the Rev. Dr. Lewis Mayer, the first professor of the Reformed Theological Seminary at York, Pa., had been busy gathering materials for the history of the Reformed Church. Unfortunately he died at York, in 1849, before he had fully utilized the documents he had so carefully collected and copied. Only a brief sketch from his pen appeared in I. Daniel Rupp’s ” History of the Religious Denominations in the United States,” Philadelphia, 1844. A few years afterwards the Rev. Dr. John W. Nevin included a sketch of the German Reformed Church in America in his ” History and Genius of the Heidelberg Catechism,” Chambersburg, 1847. In it he lamented that the Journal of Michael Schlatter was “the only record we have on the general state of the American German Reformed Church in the middle of the last century.”

In 1849, the Rev. Dr. Philip Schaff published in his ” Kirchenfreund,” Vol. II, a series of three articles on the ” History of the German Church in America,” in which he traced the origin and growth of the Reformed and Lutheran churches through three successive periods. But the man who may well be called the father of Reformed history in America was the Rev. Dr. Henry Harbaugh. He not only secured the manuscripts and documents of Dr. Mayer for the use of the church and added to them many others which he collected himself, but upon the basis of these documents he wrote two splendid volumes, which told the story of Reformed history in America with such real enthusiasm and beauty of style, that they have always remained sources of inspiration for later students. They were: “Schlatter’s Life and Travels,” Philadelphia, 1857, and “The Fathers of the Reformed Church,” Vol. I, Philadelphia, 1857. In 1872, Dr. Harbaugh added a second volume to the ” Fathers ” of the church. In these volumes the lives and labors of the most important German Reformed ministers in America were set forth.

It remained for a former president of the Pennsylvania German Society, the late Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Dubbs, to write the first connected history in his “Historic Manual of the Reformed Church in the United States,” Lancaster, 1885. Later he corrected and completed the story in his contribution to the “American Church History Series,” Vol. VIII, New York, 1895, and especially in his beautifully illustrated and well-written work “The Reformed Church in Pennsylvania,” published by our Society in 1902 as part IX of its “Narrative and Critical History.”

A new era was ushered in, however, in 1 895-1 898, when the rich treasures of manuscripts and documents, stored in the archives of the Reformed Church of Holland, were discovered and made accessible to American students. It was in this connection that the writer first became inter-ested in Reformed Church history. In the summer of 1897, his friend and colleague, the Rev. Dr. James I. Good, asked him to go to Holland, in order to copy and photograph the records which had been found. He car-ried out this commission in the summers of 1897 and 1898, with the result that, on the basis of the newly found docu-ments, the history of the Reformed Church in the United States could be entirely rewritten. This was done by Dr. Good in his important book “History of the Reformed Church in the United States, 1725-1792,” Reading, 1899.

The writer himself had the privilege of translating and editing two volumes of documents, in 1903 the “Minutes and Letters of the Coetus of Pennsylvania,” and in 19 16 the “Life and Letters of the Rev. John Philip Boehm.” They have placed German Reformed Church History in America upon a safe foundation.

But there are other sources of Reformed history which ought to be made accessible to students. By no means the least important of them are the church records of the oldest Reformed congregations. This volume may be re-garded as a contribution to that subject. These church records have long been an object of serious study by the writer. Even before the year 1900 he had copied the first volume of the Goshenhoppen records. It was published in 1900 in Mr. Dotterer’s ” Perkiomen Region,” volume III, and later, with notes, in the American Monthly Maga-zine of the Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Vol. XLII, 19 13. It is now republished, with some corrections, together with the other volumes of church records, which, when combined and correctly inter-preted, tell the story of the Goshenhoppen Charge. It is such a complicated story, that the records by themselves were insufficient to unravel the various difficulties and per-plexities. They became intelligible only when studied in the light of all the evidence which had become available in Europe and America. In the history of the Goshenhop-pen churches the writer has made use of all the documents which have come to light, with the result that he has been able to piece together a fairly complete and well-authenti-cated history. The manuscript was prepared in 19 14, hence many letters of Boehm are quoted more at length than they would have been if written after the appearance of Boehm’s letters in 19 16.

There only remains for the writer the pleasant duty to express his deep obligation to the pastors of the churches whose records are published in this volume. They placed most readily and gladly all their records and other his-torical documents at his disposal. They answered letters and sent photographs, most of which could unfortunately not be utilized, because of the high cost of engraving at the present time. The completeness of the book owes much to their kind cooperation. The writer is under spe-cial obligation to his dear friend, the Rev. John B. Stoudt, who first encouraged him to undertake the writing of this history, and then gave his most loyal assistance in every difficulty that arose. To him the book is most fittingly dedicated as a token of the author’s indebtedness and appreciation.

Notes About the Book

  • no. 43 of 230 autograph copies


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