Born in 1711, Johann came to America in 1749, arriving September 19th in the port of Philadelphia on the ship “Patience” at the age of 38 and settled in Greenwich Township, Berks Count, Pennsylvania. (Daniel and David Kamp arrived with him and settled in Windsor and Richmond Townships.)
George Kamp was recognized by the pastors at the anfanger (beginner) and supporter of the Lutheran Congregation in Greenwich, and throughout his life was usually accorded honorary first place in the Council and at the Alter. He purchased the Church Record book (in reading, p.8), was the first signer of its Opening in 1763 and the Articles of Government in 1764. He also signed the Interdenominational Agreement in 1778.
The two tracts of land one of two acres, and one of 50 acres, were part of a Penn warrant granted October 17,1753 to Michael Schmeidt (Smith) for 200 acres adjoining lands of George Kamp and Christian Ungerer, and were titled to Kamp and Ungerer, trustees of the Lutheran Congregation, in 1763 according to Court records. However, the Congregation broke ground for the church in the spring of 1761 and probably had the use of the school land and building much earlier, or conducted their religious functions elsewhere.
George Kamp owned 150 acres of land, forty of it cleared, and was a wheelwright by trade according to the tax list of 1765. He lived to see his son Andreas (1755 – 1847) elected to the Church Council in 1794, his son-in-law Christopher Kremer on a committee of two for the erection of the second schoolhouse in 1796, and his son Andreas one of four “Bau-meister” appointed for the construction of the second church in 1803. On the 2nd of July in 1803 when the second Church was being “auf-geschlagen”, Georg Kamp attended the celebration thereof at the grand age of 92 years, according to the Church records.
In 1798 he made his will. He then had living five sons, Andreas, Georg Henrich, Johannes, Friedrich (1761 – 1834) and Georg Adam and a daughter, Catherina, wife of Christoph Kremer. He bequeathed his large bible to his daughter. Letters testamentary were granted to his son Andreas on January 14, 1805. This would indicate that George Kakmp died early in 1805 or late in 1804 at the age of 93 years. His wife , Anna Maria (Koriner) died in 1795.
On January 4, 1807 Andreas Kamp accounted to the Church for a bequest from his father’s estate. There is no trace of any tombstone for George Kamp or his wife. These pioneer Americans now rest in unmarked graves.
Religious freedom for everyone enticed settlers to the area, and we know that a group of Lutherans from Germany were among the farmers in the vicinity of Grimsville in 1742 when Count von Zinzendorf preached at an old mill, which is now north of Kutztown and south of Krumsville. Without formal organization, the Lutherans in this area kept their religion alive by worship in private homes.
The Germans settling in the vicinity of Greenwich Township to till the soil brought with them their Bibles, hymn books, and prayer books in order to remain faithful to the teachings of the Christian religion they obtained in Germany, which they considered essential for their salvation. They had occasional services by traveling missionaries, among them was Count von Zinzendorf in 1742.
Four other congregations had been established in a radius of about 5 or 6 miles by foot or horseback, Dunkel’s – – near Lenhartsville, New Jerusalem Red – to the north in Albany Township, Ziegel – to the east in Weisenberg Township, and Maxatawny – to the south in the same named township. An additional church at the hub was justified by the increasing population, but retarded by the French and Indian War.
Then, in the Spring of 1761, the Evangelical Lutherans of Greenwich resolved to build a church. A tract of land containing two acres was bought. Even before this happened, the cornerstone was laid on the 18th day of May by the Reverend Bernhard Hausihl of Reading. On June 19, 1762, George Kamp, a delegate of the congregation, called on the Reverend Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg with a letter requesting admission to the Synod, and the services of Reverend Johan Schaum as pastor.
The completed church was dedicated on October 3, 1762, by Reverend Schaum and named “Bethel”. While the neighboring churches mentioned were all of log construction, this new church was the first one of solid stone masonry and popularly known as “The Stone Church”. It served the congregation for 41 years until it was considered inadequate to properly accommodate the increasing membership. By a vote of 21 to 5, it was decided to build a new stone building.
An interdenominational agreement was also signed in 1761 between the Lutherans and German Reformed that, while the Church was to be on Lutheran ground, the Reformed would also hold their services therein. This agreement was renewed in 1778. A second tract of land containing 50 acres was bought from Michael Smith for $243.00 in order to build a parochial schoolhouse to preserve the Christian doctrine on a Lutheran foundation, which also was shared with the Reformed congregation.
Stone for the second church was broken in January 1803, on land nearby. The corner-stone was laid on Whitmonday, May 30, 1803. The building was completed by October and dedicated on November 6, 1803, by the Reverend John Frederich Obenhausen. At this time the name was changed to New Bethel Zion.
Although it had been exclusively Lutheran ownership since 1761, on September 22, 1844, it was agreed by both Lutherans and Reformed congregations, that the entire church and school property should be used jointly creating a “Union Church”. The constitution contained nineteen specific articles which gave each congregation joint ownership and equal rights. They accomplished this while John Tyler was president of the United States and David Porter was governor of Pennsylvania. The Reformed were required to pay $100.00 for their rights to all the property and this amount was to be used for the upkeep of the building.
In 1882 the church was thoroughly remodeled, a steeple build and a bell purchased. The cost of these improvements was over $5,000.
With alterations and repairs, the stone structure which they erected in 1803, stood until 1923, when it was finally razed to make room for a larger church. The present church was built from 1923 – 1925 at a cost of $75,000 during the pastorate of the Reverend J.O. Schlenker. The two congregations dedicated the new church on May 31, 1925. It is interesting to note that the excavation of the basement was done with a pick and shovel. Horses and ground scoops were used to drag the ground out of the basement, where it was hand loaded and hauled away by wagon. Some of the stones of the old church were used to build the basement walls of the new church. The rest of the stones were hauled by wagons from a quarry. During the time that the new church was being built, the congregation worshipped in the one room school house across the street.
On Pentecost Sunday, 1924, the cornerstone was laid and on Pentecost Sunday in May 1925, the new “Stone Church” was considered consecrated. Reverend Schlenker died soon after the dedication and the Reverend Ira Klick served as pastor from 1927 – 1947.
In those early days, some happy memories were of the Sunday School picnics. These picnics were usually held in June by the New Bethel members. Before the outdoor stage was build, entertainment took place on wagon beds which farmers brought to the church for that purpose. They would place the wagons side by side and end to end. People sat on planks supported by cement block and the soda stand was a large wooden trough. The highlight of the picnic was a cake walk featuring a nut cake or other special type cake.
From October 1947 until his death on December 4, 1948, the Reverend Addison C. Planz served as our pastor. Reverend Craig J. Dorward was called to be pastor on July 10, 1949 and served until August 1957.
Due to the shortage of pastors from the earliest days, this congregation was part of what was called the Grimsville Parish. This parish consisted of Dunkel’s; Frieden’s Stony Run; New Bethel, Kempton; and this congregation New Bethel Zion, Grimsville.
On May 11, 1958, Reverend Paul H. Spohn was called as pastor. He was the pastor of the four church parish until 1962 when the four parish arrangement was discontinued. The two northern churches Frieden’s, Stony Run and New Bethel, Kempton became a two church parish; while Dunkel’s and New Bethel Zion, Grimsville became another two church parish.
In 1962, Reverend Spohn left New Bethel Zion to serve the northern parish. Reverend Donald Wert was called in May 1962 to be the pastor of Dunkel’s and New Bethel Zion, Grimsville.
In 1969, when total membership reached five hundred under the direction of Rev. Donald Wert, the two church parish ended and some of Dunkel’s Lutheran members joined New Bethel Zion. In 1976, the Lutheran and Reformed union arrangement was dissolved. The Lutheran congregation conducted a Capital Fund Campaign to raise the money to purchase the half of the church which belonged to the Reformed congregation, and the latter built a new church in nearby Krumsville, became incorporated as Mt. Zion Lutheran Church and the Reformed congregation erected a new church in Krumsville, known as New Jerusalem Zion United Church of Christ. On March 31, 1976, the Lutheran congregation officially changed the name from “New Bethel Zion” to the present “Mount Zion Lutheran Church”.
Our new name comes from Psalm 48:2 “Beautiful for salvation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mt. Zion;…. the home of the great king!”
After serving our congregation for almost twelve years, Reverend Werr resigned in February 1974. In September 1974 Reverend Israel Yost became our pastor, but he was never installed. Reverend Yost resigned March 31, 1975.
Reverend Ernest Flothmeier was called to his congregation on September 14, 1975. Pastor Flothmeier retired on December 31, 1983, after serving eight years. On June 17, 1984, Reverend Jeffrey Bortz became our pastor. He resigned on August 22, 1991. Reverend David S. Fritch took office in April 1994 after serving in Woodstock, Virginia for eleven years. Pastor Fritch retired two years later on May 31, 1996, due to illness. On October 6, 1996, Reverend Guy Grube began his pastorate at Mt. Zion after serving eleven years at Lehighton, Pennsylvania. He retired in 2001.
Reverend James R. Hammond was installed in 2002 and resigned January 31, 2015. The Rev. Dr. Dennis Ritter became interim minister as of February 2, 2015 and served through 2017 until a replacement was found for permanent service.
On August 1, 2017 the council entered into a contract with Vicar Jeremiah T. Heydt to serve as the Pastoral Care Provider. Vicar Heydt, who was born and raised in Kutztown, PA. was serving a congregation in Wichita Falls, TX. His desire to return to the area enabled this congregation to complete its search for a perfect match.
The families of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church are honored with the heritage and history of our congregation, and we continue to spread the good new of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We continue to be true to our past as well as to God’s call to continually be transformed as a creation, a new congregation, a vital powerful force for God in this place and throughout the world.
The Zimmerman organ was made by the Austin Company, Hartford, Connecticut in 1934. The organ is an Opus 1849 with twelve rank pipes plus chimes; this totals six hundred seventy-four pipes. This type of organ is an action electro-pneumatic universal wind chest.
The Zimmerman organ was presented by Mr. & Mrs. Nathan Zimmerman on May 20, 1934.
The first burial on record in the original cemetery was of Catharine Christ who was born in 1741 and died in 1765. This original cemetery has two hundred seven lots with five hundred sixty-five burials. Eleven of these burials date back to the Civil War from 1861-1865.
The first board of directors were elders and deacons of the church in 1792. This board consisted of Jorg Kamp, Andres Tressler, Carl Uhl, Johannes Schlenker, Christian Braucher, and Mary Rischel. The New Bethel Zion Cemetery Association was incorporated in 1959. The board of directors always consists of three Lutheran members from Mt. Zion and three Reformed members from New Jerusalem Zion United Church of Christ.
At a special meeting on February 3, 1963, the New Bethel Zion Cemetery Association, Incorporated accepted a deed from the Lutheran and Reformed congregations of the church containing 50.7346 acres of land for the cemetery. The new cemetery area consists of six hundred nineteen lots with one thousand ninety-five burials.
Count Nicholas L. von Zinzendorf
Original Missionary First Church Building (Made of Wood)
“BETHEL LUTHERAN CHURCH”
1761 – 18031762 – 1778 – Johann Helfrich Schaum (Dedicated 1st Church; died)
1789 – ? – Johann Friedrich Ernst (Uncertain start and ending)
1792 – ? – Johannes Schwarbach (Uncertain start end ending)
1794 – 1806 – John F. Obenhausen (Dedicated 2nd Church building)
Second Church Building (Made of Stone)
“NEW BETHEL ZION LUTHERAN CHURCH”
1803 – 1925? – 1811 – Daniel Lehman (Died while serving)
1811 – 1839 – John Knoske (Served 28 years)
1839 – 1873 – G. F. Yeager (Served 34 years)
(* On Sept. 22, 1844, the Union Church Constitution was adopted) “New Bethel Zion Union Church”
1844 – 1925
Rev. B.S. Small
1874 – 1890
Rev. F.K. Bernd
1891 – 1896
Rev. O.S. Scheirer
1896 – 1914
Rev. J.O. Schlenker
1914 – 1926
(Dedicated 3rd Building)
Third Church Building (Made of Stone)
“NEW BETHEL ZION UNION CHURCH”
1925 – 1969
Rev. Ira W. Klick
1927 – 1947
Rev. Craig Dorward
1949 – 1957
Rev. Paul Spohn
1958 – 1962
Rev. Donald Wert
1962 – 1974
1947 – 1948 – Addison Planz (Died while serving – No picture available)
(* The Union Church agreement ended in 1969; the name was changed in 1971)
“MOUNT ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH”
1971 – Present
1974 – 1975 – Israel Yost (Served 5 months; never installed)
Rev. Ernest Flothmeier
1975 – 1983
Rev. Jeffrey Bortz
1984 – 1991
(*Mount Zion had no permanent pastor from August, 1991 to April, 1994)
Rev. David Fritch
1994 – 1996
Rev. Guy R. Grube
1996 – 2001
Rev. James Hammond
2002 – 2015
2015 – 2017
Vicar Jeremiah T. Heydt
2017 – Present
Acknowledgements: A special thank you to the late Dr. Rodney E. Ring for translating the old German records of the church into English and to Mrs. Dorothea Boyer for gathering the information contained in this history. Without the help of Mrs. Nancy Dorwart, Mr & Mrs. Ira Dietrich, Mr. & Mrs. Paul Grim, Mrs. Naomi R. Drumheller, the Fritzsche Organ Company, and other Mr. Zion family members too numerous to list, this “History of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church” history would not have been completed.
Thank you to everyone who helped with this endeavor. Additional details are inserted by Mrs. April Osterstock as they develop.
During the 250th Anniversary observance in 2011-2012, additional information was obtained and added by Sharon Billger, Jean & Wayne Dietrich, Naomi Ring, April Osterstock (History Committee Chairwoman), Eloise Tucker and Jacob Wessner. Our deepest gratitude is extended for their commitment and hard work for these contributions. Additional source is The Historical Introduction and Church Constitution of 1844, published in 1890 in Kutztown by the “Journal & Patriot Publ. Co. (translated in 1995 by Rodney E. Ring0 and the “Brief History” of the 1925 Dedication Bulletin.
Information for the founder section is taken from the translation of ‘The 1761 to 1802 Record of the New Bethel Zion Church’ copied by the Reverend Amandus S. Leiby, Pen Argyl, PA. with collaboration of Zoltan Lenky and Calvin Herring and first published in 1952.