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Civil War Blog

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Coleman’s Church in Lykens Township

Posted By on April 26, 2013

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St. Matthew’s or Coleman’s Church in Lykens Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, was organized as a Union Church of Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Congregations on Whitsunday, 1857 (Pentecost, or seven weeks after Easter).  The first church building was erected shortly thereafter and resembled the present structure (shown above), except that it didn’t have a basement.  Today, the congregation is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

A description of the Civil War period church appeared in the congregational history compiled by Dr. Glenn P. Schwalm in 1971:

The roof was of the simple gable type with its peak oriented in a north to south direction.  It was of frame construction with 1 1/2 tongue and groove flooring, weather board siding with white paint and two-foot wooden shingles to cover the roof.  The vestibule with attached belfry and bell was located on the south side of the church, and entry was afforded to the vestibule by a door located on the west side.  There were three ordinary windows located on the west and east side respectively, and two small window on the north side locate to each side of the pulpit.

The interior of the church was firred with wooden lath and hair plaster used to plaster the walls. There was no gallery.  The elevated pulpit was located on the north side with seats for the choir members located on either side of the pulpit.  A communion rail extended the full width of the church and in front of the pulpit.  The stove was located centrally in the church and the pews extended east and west from the central aisle.

The church was completed in 1858 and served as the place of worship until 1919 when it was torn down.

The present building was dedicated in 1923… and is located about fifty feet to the east of the site of the old church.

Dr. Schwalm also disclosed that a school was located on this site prior to the construction of the church in 1858, and in the year of the congregational organizations the first meetings were held there.  The outline of the foundation of the school building can be seen today, just south of the middle of the cemetery.

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Rev. Augustus Bergner

During the Civil War, Rev. Jared Fritzinger was pastor of the Reformed Congregation, serving in the “Deep Creek Charge” (which included Coleman’s) from 1855-1870.  It is believed that the same pastor who served the Lutheran Church in Gratz (Simeon’s) also served Coleman’s church in the Civil War years.  Those pastors included Rev. Augustus Bergner, serving from 1843-1860; Rev. W. R. C. Hasskarl, serving from 1861-1863; and Rev. Jeremiah Shindel, serving from 1865-1870.  However, additional pastors are named in the early Coleman’s Lutheran records and include:  Rev. Daniel Sanner, serving from 1863-1864; and Rev. Augustus Aingerer, serving in 1865.  Rev. Shindel was a Civil War veteran.

Although it is possible that more baptisms took place at this church in the Civil War years,  the records of only seven have survived.  They include children from the Koppenhaver, Schwalm, Frank, Reed, Unger, and Sallade families.

Cemetery records pre-date the existence of the church at this site, with evidence of some burials before 1834.  However, the original land warrant, recorded in Harrisburg, is dated 19 November 1834, and was issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the purposes of a schoolhouse and a “burrying ground.”  Reformed Church records seem to indicate the existence of an organized congregation at this site as early as 1817 (as a member of the Deep Creek Charge), that the burying ground was used as early as 1795, and that the school was built many years before the 1858 church.

There are surprisingly few Civil War soldiers buried in Coleman’s Cemetery.

Tomorrow:  Civil War Veterans Buried at Coleman’s Cemetery.

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The history and records of this church were compiled by Dr. Glenn P. Schwalm and published in 1991 by Schuylkill Roots as Saint Matthew’s (Coleman’s) Evangelical Lutheran Church and Cemetery Records (1872-1966), Lykens Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The portrait of Rev. Bergner is from Simeon United Lutheran Church. a 1979 publication of the church.


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