Religious foundations in Cumberland
Religious Foundations in Cumberland
FELIX G. ROBINSON
Visitors to Cumberland during the past hundred years, according to numerous written descriptions, have been impressed by the exemplary Gothic Church on the forted mount facing, like the sentinel of an ancient watchtower, the busy mart of the Queen City of the Alleghenies. Perhaps no other American city, especially in these days of towering skyscrapers, provides a more dominant position for the spires of faith. Along with Emmanuel Episcopal Church that of the First Presbyterian Church across from it, and a few blocks west the spire and monastery of SS. Peter and Paul now occupy the hill where once stood the westernmost frontier fort of the American colonies.
By eighteen hundred there were three church societies that had been formed, purchased lots, and erected houses of worship in Cumberland, Maryland. These were the Roman Catholic, the Lutheran, and the Methodist. Lowdermilk claims, with whom later historians concur, that the Lutherans had built a log-meeting house prior to 1787. It was in that year that "The Methodist Society was the first organized church in Cumberland, and at last Methodists had a regular meeting place in the little log church built, and shared with other denominations, by Lutherans who had not yet organized.'' (From "History of Centre Street Methodist Church"—a booklet published in 1946). Dr. Hixon Tracey Bowersox, author of "The History of St. Paul's Lutheran Church" states, "By 1794 sufficient strength had been marshalled to effect such an organization, and on May 11, 1794, under the leadership of Friedrich Wilhelm Lange, 'The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cumberland, Maryland' was organized. Later this congregation became known as 'Christ's Lutheran Congregation,' and since 1895 as St. Paul's Lutheran Congregation.' June 20, 1794, the congregation purchased a lot from Thomas Beall of Samuel, and later in the same year erected a log church upon it."
If there was an earlier log church built by the Lutherans and used by different denominations, it was certainly not the one referred to above. When and where it was built no one seems to know. If it did exist it served all the churches, and was what one might term a community church, a type of church very common in frontier communities until such time the Christians composed of the various sects had sufficient numbers of their own denomination to organize and call a Pastor.
Felix G. Robinson
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland
22 x 15 cms