Early History of Organ Church, Rowan County, NC



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Bernheim, G.D., 1872 History of the German Settlements and the Lutheran Church in North and South Carolina. Google Books


Early History of Organ Church, Rowan County, N. C.

The proper name of this congregation is " Zion's Church," but there are few persons, even among its members, who are acquainted with its true name. The fact that it was, until recently, the only Lutheran church in North Carolina which was possessed of such an instrument of music, has given it this sobriquet, by which it is generally known and so called in all the records of the Lutheran Church in the State. The old organ—a relic of the past—is still there, but its voice is no longer heard in the worship of the congregation; like the voices of its contemporaries, who are now mouldering in the adjoining graveyard, its spirit of music is fled, and the external remains, encompassing a number of broken and disarranged pipes, are all that is left to remind us of a former age, a former congregation, and of a master whom it once honored. How forcibly, under such circumstances, do the following lines of Moore's Melodies strike the mind!

"The harp that once, through Tara's halls,
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls,
As if that soul were fled."

The history of this congregation is gathered from the old German church-book, which is still carefully preserved, and the historic records are made therein by one of the first pastors, Rev. C. A. G. Storch, from which a correct idea may be obtained of the past transactions of the people who worshiped there.

The first German settlers of that portion of Rowan County, along Second Creek, came from Pennsylvania, and were members of the Lutheran and German Reformed Churches, but in numbers far too few to erect a church for the sole use of either denomination; hence they concluded to build a temporary house of worship to be owned by themselves jointly, and which was called " The Hickory Church." According to the statement of the late Rev. J. A. Linn, this church occupied the site on which St. Peter's Lutheran Church now stands, and was built by permission on the land of Mr. Pullenwider, who, however, never gave the two congregations a title for this spot of ground, as the church was considered a temporary building only, to be occupied alternately by both these denominations, each of which expected to erect their own house of worship at a later period. The term "Hickory Church" also indicates of what perishable material this house of worship was built, and was in keeping with the original idea. It was soon left unoccupied, and in course of a few years it crumbled into ruins. More than half a century later a want for a church to be built on this same site was again felt, when St. Peter's Lutheran Church was organized, and a more durable building was erected.

As was the case with all the first German settlers in North Carolina, who did not bring their pastor with them, so likewise were the Lutheran members of the Hickory Church destitute of the means of grace for some length of time, and as no other hope of obtaining a regularly ordained minister of the Gospel presented itself, the members were resolved to send to Germany for a pastor. In this manner they secured the services of Rev. Adolph Nussmann as their pastor, and Gottfried Arndt as their schoolteacher. The new pastor preached but one year in the Hickory Church to both denominations, after which some dissension arose, and a majority of the Lutherans then resolved to build a church for themselves, and in this manner originated Zion's Church, better known as Organ Church. The members of the German Reformed Church soon followed the example of their Lutheran brethren, and likewise built a new church on another location, which they named Grace Church, but ia more frequently called "The Lower Stone Church," on account of its position lower dowu the stream above mentioned, and built of the same material as Organ Church.

Before the building of Organ Church was quite completed, Rev. A. Nussmann left this congregation, and went as pastor to Buffalo Creek Church, in Cabarrus County. The congregation, which now had a church but. no pastor, sent their schoolteacher, Gottfried Arndt, to be ordained to the office of the ministry, in the year 1775. He served them through the trying period of the Revolution, until 1786, when he moved to the Catawba River, residing in Lincoln County, and labored in that field to the close of his life.