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FROM THE FIRST RECOND OF TRINITY CHURCH - APRIL 1, 1876
Lebanon April 1st, 1876
When I took charge of Trinity Church on the 1st of March 1876, I found no Historical Record of the church, and believing that such a record would not only be interesting, but also , perhaps, useful in after years, I made an effort to secure the same. Rev. G. W. M. Rigor, the Presiding Elder, being the first pastor of the congregation, was appointed by the second quarterly conference of the conference year of 1876 to write out the history of the same - His being connected with the congregation in its first efforts, together with his general knowledge of church history has enabled him to give a concise statement of the history up to 1876.
His report was read before the last quarterly conference for the year 1876 and by that approved, and accordingly is entered upon the Record as the general outlines of the history of Trinity Church Lebanon Pennsylvania.
L. Peters, Pastor 1976
HISTORICAL RECORD OF TRINITY U. B. CHURCH
The planting of the church of the United Brethren in Christ in the vicinity of town of Lebanon Penn. began at a very early period in the history of the denomination. Abraham Draksel a member of the first General Conference of 1815, resided near Lebanon (about 2 miles north) and opened his house as a regular preaching place, for which purpose a large room was provided. Bishop Newcomer in his journal speaks of attending a quarterly meeting at this place on the 30th of April 1795 [(1796) Brane].
Among the early preachers, besides those already named, who labored for the establishment of the church in the Lebanon Valley, was John Neidig. Felix Light and his two sons John and Casper, all of whom were extensively known and highly esteemed in Easter Pennsylvania
The first Untied Brethren Meeting house was erected in Lebanon about the year 1800 (this may not be the exact date. I could find no record. G.W.M. Rigor) and was located on Seventh Street, then known as Pine Grove Street north of the present location of the Reading Railroad.
This house becoming too small to accommodate the congregation, a large and more commodious one was built on Market, now Ninth Street, in the year 1845 which was dedicated as the Salem United Brethren Church and still remains. Here the Church grew rapidly in numbers, wealth, and influence until its membership was numbered by hundreds of devout, spiritual worshippers.
Originally, the services of the Church were conducted in the German language, but with the increase of members came the introduction of English speaking people, and English services, so that about the year 1860 one of the ten classes of the Salem church was constituted as English one, numbering about forty members. Up to this period, however, quite a number of the children of United Brethren families had sought and found homes among other denomination of Christians, hence in the tardiness of the East Pennsylvania Conference, (in connection with the congregation) in establishing an English church in Lebanon much valuable ground was lost.
Several efforts, which looked toward consummation of this long desired and much needed object had been made, but, it remained for the Annual Conference of 1866 which convened at Columbia Lancaster County Pa. to take definite action, and provide for the organization of an English church by constituting an English mission in Lebanon and appointing G.W.M. Rigor to the work, who at once proceeded to the work assigned him and soon found that the English class and a few other, (amounting in all to fifty-nine) from the Salem church would go into the organization of an English church. In April 1866 two classes were organized and arrangements were made with the Salem church authorities for the use of the church once each Sabbath. Soon thereafter the erection of a house of worship was projected, and accordingly on the 1st of April 1867 the property on the North East corner of Ninth and Willow Street was purchased for five thousand two hundred and fifty dollars.
Preparations were made at once to build a church and parsonage. Plans and specification were perfected and on the (no day of month given) of July 1867 (*) the corner stone of Trinity United Brethren Church of Lebanon was laid, Rev. W. S. H. Keys officiating.
(* The opening of the Cornerstone, September 11, 1966, revealed the exact date of the laying of the cornerstone: Sunday, September 15, 1867, Rev. G. W. Miles Rigor, in compiling his historical sketch nine years later, used his judgment rather than the fact. - H. E. Beamesderfer, October 12, 1966.)
The work proceeded and the parsonage was put under roof before winter set in, but the church was not put under roof until the spring of 1868. On the __ of July of the same year the Lecture and class rooms were completed and formally dedicated to the service of God, Bishop J. J. Glossbrenner officiating.
The work of finishing the main audience room was then pushed forward and by the 23rd day of May 1869 Bishop J. Weaver preached the dedicatory sermon in the presence of the General Conference of the United Brethren Church then in session in the Salem Church, and on the 30th of May, one week later, eight thousand dollars were secured. This was the amount needed to free the church from debt and finish the tower and steeple. The House was accordingly dedicated to the worship of God on the 30th day of May 1869. (Much of the above subscription never being available, the tower and steeple was not finished, until the year 1875 when it was finished under the labors of Rev. D. Eberly, and on my taking charge of the congregation in the Spring of 1876 I found the church still embarrassed to the amount of over $6,500 by actual debt and accumulated interest. (These remarks were thrown in here to avoid future confusion in reference to the debt. L. Peters, Pastor 1876 -.)
In the meantime the labors of the pastor had been owned and blessed of God in numerous revivals of Religion through which the church and Sunday School had been greatly strengthened, so that at the close of the conference year or 1869 and 70 being the forth year of his (Rev. Rigor's) pastorate the church numbered 139 members and the Sunday School 193 scholars and 37 officers and teachers. At the conference which convened in Reading Penn. in the year 1870 Rev. W. S. H. Keys was appointed to the charge. His pastorate continued during the four years from 1870 to 1874 - during which time some valuable members were added to the church. At the close of his term the number of members was reported to be 156. During Rev. Key's term of service no historical record was kept, and the financial condition of the church only increased in embarrassment through the accumulation of unpaid interest.
Rev. D. Eberly succeeded Rev. Keys whose pastorate continued two years, 1874-1875. He likewise kept no historical record. During the year 1875 the steeple was finished and some other improvements made which added to the beautifying of the church. At the close of the term of Rev. Eberly 185 members were reported, but on examination it was found that no revision of the class books or Church Record had been made which would have materially lessened the number of members reported.
Having gathered as nearly as possible all the items of historical interest in connection with Trinity Church, I respectfully submit them for your consideration.
(Signed) G. W. M. Rigor
At the conference held in Hummelstown, Dauphin Co. Penn in the year 1876 L. Peters was appointed to the charge. On taking charge of the work I soon found that difficulties of a serious nature existed, which would in no small degree hinder the progress of the work of the Church for the time being. For charity's sake I will throw over this part of the history of Trinity church and mention no names. This however I will record, that those who were most abused, were the ones who carried the Church through the crisis. Among the plans proposed for the liquidation of the church debt by the former pastor was the assessment plan. This was given me when I took charge of the work - but I soon found that it was doomed to failure through the studied efforts of some who had an object in view of no very righteous nature.
On examination by the Official Board and trustees during the year I found that the whole amount of indebtedness with maturing interest up to April 1st 1877 would amount to about ($6,500.00) Six thousand five hundred dollars. Under the existing circumstances it did not require much of a mathematician to calculate the financial condition, or rather doom, of Trinity Church in the near future, unless something tangible be done speedily to give relief.
In this emergency Brothers George A. Mark, Joseph Euston, L. W. Craumer, John B. Rauch and John Young assumed the indebtedness of the church and parsonage promising to carry the entire indebtedness for five years (commencing April 1st 1877) and paying all interest on the same at their own expense for the said five years. They also further promised (providing the church would do a reasonable share toward paying the indebtedness during these five years) at the expiration of the said five years to cancel the balance and deliver the mortgage and call Trinity church free from the indebtedness resting upon her at the time this agreement was entered into, namely April 1st 1877. Thus the financial embarrassment was removed and we were permitted to feel that something at least had been accomplished for the welfare of the work. And had it not been for the evil influences at work from certain sources no doubt a very successful year would have been enjoyed. As it was, much good, I am sure, was accomplished. The spiritual condition of the church did not seem to be much improved, yet the meetings as a general thing were good. Some were converted and eleven persons were added to the church. But on account of the loose manner of reporting by the former pastor, (arising no doubt from the neglect of revising the class books and the church Record) a large decrease in membership was reported to the annual conference. The finances were all attended to and for the first time for a number of years the full assessments were reported to the conference.
After a year of more than ordinary anxiety yet of great spiritual enjoymentnt he folling report was made to the annual conference - Members at the end of the year 158 (1877).
Preachers salary $750.00
Presiding Elders 76.00
Conference Assessments 150.00
Church Expenses 564.38
Sunday School 247.90
Presents to Pastor 64.00
Total for all purposes $1852.28
These few items of historical facts are recorded "with malice toward none and love for all."
Prayerfully - L. Peters, Pastor
At the conference held in Harrisburg February 14th to 19th 1877 I was returned to Trinity Charge and continued on the same until the 1st of August 1877 when I resigned to take charge of the financial Agency of Lebanon Valley College.
Thus closed my pastoral relations to Trinity Charge. Here I will be permitted to say (without being considered out of place) that among the most earnest friendship ever shown me as pastor, I received from Trinity Charge.
It will ever be pleasant to me to remember this. The associations as well as the tangible marks of kindness among the large majority of this charge will be green places in memory's field where I shall often sit and rejoice as I walk through life's journey. Rev. J. T. Shaffer of the Penn. Annual Conference was appointed my successor by Rev. G. W. M. Rigor P. Elder who took charge of the work August 1st 1887. May great grace rest upon his labors.
L. Peters, Pastor