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250th Anniversary, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 1765-2015

By Staff | Sep 11, 2015

During the Civil War, life in Shepherdstown was far from normal. Even the publication of the local newspaper was discontinued. Historians are not sure how many times the town changed hands. Elias Baker, a Lutheran and postmaster of the town, sent his daughter out each morning to see who was in control so that he could wear the appropriate uniform that day. After the Battle of Antietam, local churches, as well as many of the homes, housed the Confederate wounded and dying. The Lutheran Choir sang at the burial ceremony of some of these soldiers at Elmwood Cemetery

After the war the original Lutheran Church building on East German Street was remodeled and expanded in 1868 with a basement added under the new addition. Soon afterwards the first pipe organ was purchased and placed in the gallery.

The location of the church next to the railroad tracks motivated members to consider a move. It seemed that the Norfolk and Western sent a long freight train through every Sunday at the time of the pastor’s sermon. Another argument concerned safety, especially for the children, since they had to cross the tracks to reach the church. In the early 1900’s two re-location sites were considered–one at the corner of Duke and New Streets and the other on the hill at King and High Streets. After considerable debate and several votes, the Ladies Aid Society bought the lot at King and High Streets for $1,280. This active group of ladies embarked on a series of money-making projects for the new building, from selling aprons and handcrafted items to holding bake sales and church suppers.

The cornerstone laying for the new church took place on Saturday, November 10, 1906, Martin Luther’s birthday. The festive occasion included a procession through town with clergy and church officers led by the Shepherdstown Band. The 1795 and 1868 cornerstones from the old church plus the new 1906 cornerstone were placed into the northeast corner with proper Masonic rituals. The inscription on the 1906 cornerstone reads as follows:





The King Street structure of native blue limestone is Gothic in style, with Ohio granite trimmings and a massive yet graceful tower. The limestone was hand dug from a quarry on C. S. Wysong’s farm on Moler Road near Shepherdstown and hauled to town in a horse-drawn wagon. Local mason, Charlie Jones and his sons did the work –their first such job.

The interior carpentry was done by A.S. Link of Duffields. His descendants still reside in Jefferson County and are active in the Lutheran Church. Three beautiful stained glass windows adorn the interior. One window depicts the appearance of the angel to the shepherds in the fields; another the Madonna and child in the stable. The rear window, behind the altar, represents Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, the world famous painting by Heinrich Hoffman.

The new church building was completed in July 1908, and the first services were held on Sunday, Aug. 2. The church was dedicated on Sunday, August 9, 1908.