On January 6, 1849, thirty-two people met at the home of Joseph Yetter and unanimously voted to erect a church building on the southeast corner of a piece of land in Decatur Township. The three-quarter-acre property was donated by Samuel Barr for the sum of $1.00 to the Board of Trustees of the Lutheran and German Reformed congregations. An article in the Lewistown Gazette on June 13, 1912, reported, "These congregations were a considerable portion of the members of the church at Black Oak Ridge (St. John's) living west of that place, some a great distance, who came to the conclusion to put up a church building more convenient for them."
The building committee obligated itself to construct the stone foundation, and on November 3, 1849, the cornerstone was laid. The completed structure was two stories high with interior balconies on three sides. The exterior was weather-boarded and painted white, with an overall dimension of 40 feet in length and 32 feet in breadth. The church was dedicated on June 16, 1851.
All but $350 was raised within the congregation, and an appeal for help was made to the Christian public to assist with paying off the remainder of the debt. At its dedication service, the church was named Samuel's Church after the owner of the land, and Rev. J. P. Shindle led the ceremonies before a large gathering of people.
On November 6, 1851, Rev. Shindle began as the pastor of the Lutheran congregation, and Rev. N. G. Hackman began as the pastor of the German Reformed congregation, Beaver Dam Charge. The two pastors preached alternately every 2 weeks.
The first communion was held on May 1, 1853, when 96 Lutheran members met for worship. Rev. Shindle continued to preach until November 1857, when on account of ill health and physical weakness he resigned the congregation after having served as the Lutheran pastor for 5 years. Rev. Hackman served as the Reformed pastor until 1853.
On November 19, 1862, two coal stoves were bought for the church, and in 1857, 1860, and 1862, money was collected for the construction of a stable.
In 1883, Rev. William Landis reported on his first year's work with the Sunday school program. It read: "The Salem's Reformed School and Samuel's Union School have resolved to do something for our foreign missions in Japan; the latter by raising corn, etc. and giving the contributions of the last 3 months of the year. A number of the scholars of Samuel's school planted corn last spring and are now ready to gather their harvest and give it to the Lord. We hope that the other schools may soon follow the good example of these two. Let all our children be made to interest themselves in the cause of Christ's kingdom."
The First Constitution
On December 9, 1884, Rev. Landis called a meeting of the congregation to resolve the need for a church constitution. He presented a proposed by-law and a constitution for examination, and after being read, the congregation adopted them article by article.
According to the constitution, the name of the church at that time was Samuel's Reformed Church. "The officers of this congregation shall be a pastor, 4 elders, 4 deacons, and 1 trustee. The pastor, elders, and deacons shall constitute the consistory (Church Counsel) of this congregation…the consistory shall meet annually on the 3rd Saturday in November… and at such other times as occasion may require. It shall be the duty of every member of this congregation to labor and to promote its general welfare and to contribute fifty cents a year and upwards according to his or her ability to the support of the pastor."
The final article indicated that by this time, Samuel's Church was part of the charge called the Beaver Springs Charge.
The Second Church Building
The first reference to the need for a new building appeared in the Church Counsel minutes for September 24, 1889. At a meeting the next month, action was taken to build a new church a short distance west of the old church. In November 1889, it was decided the new building would be 60 feet long and 36 feet wide. Jacob Smith was contracted to build the church at a cost of $1,985.00. This included the price of pews and pulpit, but no other furniture or carpeting.
Work began on the new church in the fall of 1890, with the cornerstone being laid by Rev. Landis on September 7. The pastors, Rev. Zimmerman, Lutheran, and Rev. Landis, Reformed, preached the sermons and performed the ceremonies.
After the roof was finished, cold weather set in and made it necessary to put off construction until the spring of 1891. The old church was torn down in 1891 and services began in the new church in October of the same year. The finished dimensions were 60 feet by 38 feet with a tower in front containing a vestibule and a spire for a bell. The membership of the church was close to 110 in the Reformed congregation and 50 in the Lutheran.
An interesting article was discovered in an old journal dated January 10, 1873, and reads: "At a meeting of the joint council of the Adamsburg Mosser Valley Church, and Samuel's Church congregations it was resolved that…Samuel's Church is to be used exclusively by the Lutherans on the 19th of January, 1873, and by the Reformed on the 26th, and so on alternately until otherwise ordered by the joint council and consistory of both denominations. Signed by the Council of Adamsburg on the 10th day of January 1873."
A single sheet of paper found among others reveals that the Reformed congregation purchased an organ in August 1885 for $110, but they would not let the Lutheran congregation use it for services until they bought half of it for $55. The Lutherans voted to buy half in September 1885, but were not allowed to use it until they paid for it on January 17, 1886.
On a piece of paper about 3 x 4 inches long, this item was found: "April 4, 1889, there was a funeral at Samuel's Church near Bannerville that was a very sad affair. The father Aaron Shilling and daughter were buried in the same grave. He was 55 years and she was 18 years old (Middle Post, 1889)."
In 1890 a certain man pledged $25 toward the church. He became dissatisfied with the minister and refused to pay. Action was taken by the Church Counsel to put his debt into the hands of a Justice of the Peace for collection.
In the minutes of the Joint Lutheran Councils January 7, 1929 appears this interesting note: "Matters of interest to the parish were discussed, after which it was unanimously voted that we do our best and leave the rest to the Lord."
Sunday School Addition
Discussion for building an addition to the church for Sunday School purposes was first held on January 8, 1950. The congregation voted for either (1) excavating for a basement, (2) an addition to the rear of the church, or (3) no improvement. The vote was in favor of an addition. The April 22, 1950, meeting decided to add a 36 feet by 24 feet addition to the north end of the sanctuary and to install an oil heater and wall-to-wall carpeting. The total cost of the addition was $5,600, and all but $3,000 was paid by the time of the combination Hundredth Anniversary and Dedication Service in October of 1950. An article in the Lewistown Sentinel in September of 1950 stated, "Stately Samuel's Union Church that stands alone on a little knoll just inside the boundaries of the eastern extremities of Mifflin County will be the scene of a two-fold celebration next week. Congregations of the church will observe the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the church and the dedication of the new addition at the rear of the church building to be used by the church school. The addition measures approximately 36 by 24 feet. The room has its own heating system oil-fired, flush with the floor space heaters, a portion of which is located to the rear of the building. Windowpanes are of amber glass and additional light is furnished by six fluorescent lights. The floor is carpeted. The room will be used as the educational department for tiny tots and younger children of the Sunday School."
Samuel's United Church Of Christ
On January 7, 1962, a Unifying Service was held for the purpose of uniting the Lutheran and Reformed congregations into the Samuel's United Church of Christ congregation. From that time forward, Pastor Elden E. Ehrhart began holding services every Sunday in Samuel's church, and in order to have his three services on alternate Sundays, he rotated them at 8:45 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11:15 a.m. The first service of Communion as a united denomination was held on January 28, 1962.
The New Basement
On February 5, 1962, contractor Richard Marker was accepted to build a basement under the church for $27,800.00. Plans called for folding doors to be included in order to make individual classrooms, for a sink to be installed, and for a shuffleboard game to be included in the tile floor. After several Building Committee and Church Council meetings, the original plans to install oil heat were changed to install electric heat instead.
Work began on March 15, 1962, and on March 18 it was decided to purchase a cornerstone and place inside it a Bible, a current newspaper, a silver dollar, and the names of the pastor, the Church Council, and the building committee. At the same time the basement was being built, a 90' well was drilled by Milton Romig, a deacon of the church, and insulation was installed by the men of the church in the ceiling of the sanctuary and in the floor of the rear addition. The entire cost of the basement and renovations was $38,641.97. On February 16 a meeting was held to discuss ways of raising money for the project. It was decided that each member be contacted by a member of the Church Counsel to see how much he or she would give or pledge. It was also decided that a special offering would be taken each Sunday in Sunday School, and that the loose offering in the worship service would be used. From February 1 to July 30 of that year, $9,000 was raised toward the project. Dedication services were held on September 4, 5, 6, and 9. Headlines in the local newspaper, The Plain Dealer, on August 30, 1962, read, "SAMUEL'S FIRST CHURCH IN AREA TO BE HEATED BY ELECTRICITY."
In 1982, the January 4 Church Counsel discussed the request to purchase a tape system for $1,000 with money from the memorial fund. The tape system was installed later. On June 7, the minutes of the Council meeting noted that lightning struck and hit the water pump and cost the church $594.12 to repair.
In July 1984, the first church directory was made and the first church youth group was held.
On December 5, 1887 the congregation voted to revise the church constitution to include a statement of faith and to drop Samuel's Church's association with the U.C.C.
In October 1992, Sam Yoder agreed to sell a piece of his land to the church. Later in October and November of 1993, the men of the church built a pavilion on the new property.
The New Addition
On March 25, 1995, an ice-cream social was held in order to discuss ways to improve the ministries of the church. One of the pressing needs discussed called for more classrooms for Sunday school and V.B.S. meetings. Several suggestions were made, one being to build an addition on the east side of the church sanctuary and basement. On April 17, 1995, the Church Counsel directed that a building committee be formed to draw up plans for a church addition, and on December 10, 1995, the committee presented its proposal at a congregational meeting. The plan called for adding a 64-foot by 18-foot addition to the east side of both the sanctuary and basement levels of the church. Folding partitions on each level would allow for up to eight additional Sunday school rooms to be created, and a chair lift would make the basement accessible to the handicapped. Following the presentation, the congregation's vote on the plan passed.
In March 1996, the R. A. Marker Construction Company began work on the new addition. At the same time, the men of the church lowered the bell tower and bell and made several needed repairs. By June of 1996, the new addition was open and in use for Sunday School and V.B.S.
December 7, 1997, the congregation met and voted to officially change the name of the church from Samuell's U.C.C. Church to the original name of Samuel's Church.
In April of 1998, the Council approved the motion to have a church website (www.geocities.com/samuelschurch).
On September 19, 1999, a special 150th Anniversary Celebration was held during the Sunday morning worship service.
Pastors Who Have Served Samuel’s Church
Lutheran Evangelical and Reformed
Rev. J. P. Shindle 1851-1857 Rev. N. G. Hackman 1849-1853
Rev. George Groemiller Rev. G. M. Shultz 1853-1863
Rev. Jacob Kempfer
Rev. J. G. Brininger 1863-1865 Rev. L. C. Edmonds 1863-1876
Rev. Richard Lazarus 1865-1869
Rev. Jacob Kempfer 1869-1871
Rev. Mr. Weiand 1872-1880 Rev. Abraham Romick 1876-1880
Rev. Gettle 3 mo.1880
Rev. M. L. Ditzler 1880-1885 Rev. L. C. Edmonds (2nd time) 1880-1883
Rev. H. A. Letterman 1885-1886 Rev. William Landis 1883-1898
Rev. J. M. Stover 1887-1890
Rev. A. K. Zimmerman 1890-1894
Rev. W. H. Hilbish 1895-1902 Rev. H. H. Spahn 1899-1904
Rev. Dutt 1902-1904
Rev. O. H. Reynolds 1905-1906 Rev. Franklin Brown 1904-1913
Rev. Harvey D. Hoover 1906-1908
Rev. George Clark 1908-1909
Rev. C. F. Gephart 1909-1913
Rev. G. L. Courtney 1913-1915 Rev. Herman Snyder 1913-1916
Rev. A. C. Farscht 1916-1921 Rev. Thomas Matterness 1917-1920
Rev. E. E. Gilbert 1922-1927 Rev. Edward Zechman 1921-1937
Rev. W.H. Hilbish 1927-1932
Rev. S. N. Carpenter 1932-1944 Rev. Herbert Zechman 1937-1958
Rev. Carl E. Yost 1945-1957
Rev. Kenneth Swanson 1958-1960 Rev. James Ishler Summer 1959
Rev. George Sturgen 1959-1960
Rev. George Butz Summer 1960
United Church of Christ
Rev. Elden E. Ehrhart 1960-1973
Rev. Dean Bobb 1974-1979
Rev. John A. Denlinger 1979-1982
Rev. William H. Hunsicker 1984-1993
Rev. Clark Kelsey 1994-Present