The Reformed Congregation in Hellertown
The Reformed Congregation in Hellertown was organized on July 26, 1870, with the names of the first officers recorded in the original church record book as follows: Elders: Thomas R. Laubach and Philip R. Lerch; Deacons: Lewis H. Heft, Sammuel Hofford, J. F. Roth; Trustee: Rev. Samuel Hess.6 The congregation belonged to the Lower Saucon charge and was serviced by Rev. T.O. Stem.
An official charter for the Union Church was obtained in 1874.8
Rev. Tilghman O. Stem
Rev. T. O. Stem, records the following:
“After having taken charge of the Lower Saucon Charge, the members of the Reformed Church, living in Hellertown, made application through me to Goshenhoppen Classis, for permission to organize themselves into a congregation. Such permission having been given by the Classis, our members met in Hellertown Hall on July 26, 1870, and organized themselves into a congregation to be known by the name of Christ Reformed Church of Hellertown. Services were held at first in the old schoolhouse (site of the present Evangelical Church) and afterward in Hellertown Hall (corner of Durham and Main Streets.)
The corner-stone for the church was laid on July 30, 1870 and on May 28, 1871, the new church was dedicated. I served this congregation for a period of a little over six years, during which time large accessions of such as should be saved were made to the Church. On Sunday, July 30, 1876 I preached my farewell sermon. May God bless the congregation and make it a source of rich blessing to the community!”6
The Sunday School connected with the church was a continuation of the Sunday School which had been in existence for some thirty years, and at this particular time was under the superintendency of Jeremiah S. Hess. It numbered about one hundred and twenty-five students and twenty- five teachers and officers. In September, 1876, the Sunday School undertook the work of excavating and placing a basement under the church.
Rev. Tilghman O. Stem served as pastor until September, 1876. Rev. William Roth was the Lutheran Clergyman. In this church, called Christ Union Church, services were held in two languages – one-half German and one-half English.
Rev. Abraham B. Koplin, D.D.
Upon the resignation Rev. T.O. Stem, the Rev. Abraham B. Koplin began his pastorate on June 1, 1877. Rev. Koplin served as the Reformed pastor, part of the Lower Saucon Charge.8
It was during the fruitful pastorate of Dr. Koplin that enduring foundations were laid for the future growth of the Church and Kingdom. Pastor and people were bound in mutual Christian fellowship whose influence lives on in the Church and community.7
It is interesting to note that Dr. Koplin was a co-founder of Phoebe Deaconess and Old Folks Home (now Phoebe-Devitt Home) at Allentown, PA.
“Tragedy struck on July 17, 1890, when a cyclone passed over Hellertown and raised the steeple into the air and laid it by the side of the church. Subsequently, the steeple was replaced and a new church bell purchased and replaced.”7
“Providence again intervened six years later, when on April 17. 1896 the church was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.”7
“An interesting sidelight to the tragedy was that it led to the founding of Dewey Fire Company of Hellertown.”8
After the fire, “The Union Congregation continued to meet in the Odd Fellows Hall, where, on May 3, 1896, they decided to build a New Union Church. Serving on the joint building committee was J.S. Hess, George B. Deemer, Charles H. Bright, Charles Leidich, T.R. Laubach, and J.B. Leith.
The new building was built of brick and timber from the land of Tobias Rentzheimer and Thomas Laubach. Sanctuary, offices and education annex were completed at a cost of $13,254.94. The building was dedicated on May 2, 1897. The new bell in the tower was a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Rentzheimer, and was first tolled for the funeral of Mrs. Rentzheimer later that month.” 8
The Church continued to grow in strength, numerically and spiritually, during Dr. Koplin’s pastorate of forty years.7 During this time, a member of the church, James Boehm, was ordained into the Christian ministry (1911).
Rev. Koplin, the “sainted Pastor, fell asleep in Christ, March 5, 1917.”7
NEXT – Part 4: The Church – 1917