Saturday, February 12, 2011

Old Log Church

Old Log Church Marker, Bedford Co., PABedford County, PA

Marker Text: On land granted by John Schell for the purpose of erecting a union church, construction of this primitive log church building was begun in 1806 by the Reformed and Lutheran Congregations of this area.

Location: On the Lincoln Highway (U.S. Route 30), near Cemetery Road, just West of Schellsburg, PA. Erected by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1974.

Old Log Church, Church in far background (Click to Enlarge)  I have taken many photos of old churches and their related historical markers. Many of the surviving church buildings were constructed in flemish bond brick or other brick structures and only a few were wooden frame. In looking at the history of many churches, you discover that they frequently began as log churches and most were replaced by brick structures over time. A few of these original log churches do exist, such as this one outside of Schellsburg, PA, which celebrated their 200th anniversary in 2006.

Old Log Church built 1806 (Click to Enlarge)

  Over two hundred years ago, a German named John Schell, moved further west from early settlements in eastern Pennsylvania about 1798-1799. He purchased a large tract of land nine miles west of Bedford, PA. Schell was a very religious man and decided that this unsettled land needed a church and he donated about six acres of land for the purpose of building a church. In 1806, settlers of the German Reformed and Lutheran faith built this log structure to serve as their place of worship. Later in the 19th century the log structure had siding put over the logs. After the church was completed, Schell “laid out” the town of Schellsburg, Pennsylvania in 1807.

Grave of John Schell (Click to Enlarge)  The church was built to accommodate the union of the Reformed and Lutheran denominations. The deed for the church was given on March 17, 1807. The construction of the church began in 1806. The church is 25 X 30 feet; two stories high, galleries on three sides with a wine glass pulpit. The church was built of logs that were furnished by John Schell, John Mowry, Jacob Hillegass, and George Rock, each furnishing one side.

  The Old Log Church was used for worship until about 1852. The Lutheran denomination erected a large brick church in Schellsburg around 1843. The Reformed congregation broke ground for their new church in Schellsburg on March 1, 1851. The old log church lies on a remnant of the old Lincoln Highway.

Gravestone for Frederick C. Goeb (Click to Enlarge)  Members of the Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches were named as corporators of the cemetery of which the governor approved the charter on March 17, 1860 for the formation of the Chestnut Ridge and Schellsburg Union Cemetery. The land for the cemetery was deeded in 1897. In 1806 the first burial took place and since that time has been used as a burial place for area residents. John Schell's grave is in this cemetery. While looking through the gravestones, I discovered the tombstone for Frederick C. Goeb who was an early printer who moved to this area. He is credited with printing the first Bible in Somerset in 1813. This reportedly was the first printing of the Bible west of the Alleghenies or the Susquehanna River depending on what account you read. I was not able to learn to much other information about him.

  Nearly 200 years later the "Old Log Church," as residents have come to refer to the church, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in January of 2005.


  1. I love the history of our Nation and thank you, Lee for this information. I hope you will publish it someday so I can have a permanent record for my children and grandchildren.

  2. As a minister, you may be interested in the further history of the congregations of Schellsburg. By 1852, there were four active churches in the boro, the original Lutheran and German Reformed which began in the Old Log Church along with a Presbyterian congregation and a Methodist society. Eventually, the four churches had to begin cooperative ministries due to the economic conditions of the Great Depression. None of them had a full-time pastor, nor did any of them have worship on a weekly basis.

    The Methodist building burned in 1945, solidifying a relationship between this congregation and the Presbyterian church. Meanwhile, at the national level, efforts were in the works to help small rural churches survive the changing economic and sociological times. Schellsburg with its four small, struggling churches was chosen in 1962 as the site of a landmark experiment due to existing partnerships among the churches in town: could four small congregations become one larger, stronger congregation?

    Rev. Daniel Kratz (UCC) was called to lead the merger process along with a council of 12, three from each church. It wasn't easy, but the merger process reached a milestone when on November 22, 1964, the charter of the United Church of Schellsburg United Church of Christ was signed by 216 members of the new church.

    We're still going strong with 214 members 46 years later. It never has been easy, but we all know that Schellsburg wouldn't have a church at all without the work of our eldest members. What began as a Union church, where two congregations shared facilities and a pastor but maintained separate books and membership lists is now a truly united church. I am privileged to be the pastor of the congregation!

    Rev. Ruth Shaver
    Pastor and Teacher
    United Church of Schellsburg UCC
    Schellsburg, PA

  3. Thanks, Ruth for your comments and additional information about how the faith community in Schellsburg is developing beyond its beginnings as the Old Log Church. Your comments are the type of interest and participation I had hoped my blog would create. Thanks, Lee