History


The Geeseytown-Newry Lutheran Parish was formed in 2008, for the purpose of mutual ministry and being able to better serve our communities.  Though this parish is new our member churches are two of the oldest congregations in Central Pennsylvania.  Newry Lutheran was founded in 1801 and Geeseytown Lutheran was formed in 1883, some of our historical ‘highlights’ are listed below.

 

Newry Lutheran Church:

Was founded in 1801 when Patrick Cassidy deeded a tract of land for the building of a Lutheran Congregation with the stipulation that a church be built on the site within one year.  The congregation did form and put up a log church, however it was apparently several years before the building was completely finished.  Popular history within the congregation is that in the first years the church had a dirt floor, did not have proper pews, and held a pulpit made from unfinished lumber. However, records indicate that by 1816 the congregation had improved the building enough that it was able to purchase a new pulpit for $40.

 

During these early years Newry had many different pastors, most serving from 2 - 3 years.  One of the most notable was Rev. JCF “Father” Heyer.  Pastor Heyer was the pastor at Newry from 1820-22.  He is more famously known as the first American Lutheran missionary.  Father Heyer opened up the mission fields in India, and is seen by many as the ‘father’ of Lutheranism in India. 

 

Newry was the primary Lutheran church in our area throughout the 19th century.  The ‘Newry Charge’ served as a base of operation for ‘missionary pastors’ who served as circuit riders into western Pennsylvania.  Newry also served as the ‘Mother Church’ for several congregations in this area offering financial support and members to form new congregations.  Churches that were formed out of Newry Lutheran or which Newry was instrumental in the formation  were 1st and 2nd Lutheran in Altoona, churches in St. Paul East Freedom, Christ in Claysburg, St. Luke Roaring Spring, and Evangelical Duncansville.

 

This spirit of reaching out and assisting in mission and outreach has always been a part of the work here at Newry.  One of the lasting missions of the church is Camp Sequanota  www.sequanota.com (the summer camp of the Allegheny Synod) in Jennerstown, PA.  When Camp Sequanota was formed in the late 1940s, members of the Newry congregation, led by Mr. Charles Shaw were instrumental in the construction of the camp.  Mr. Shaw organized work details from Newry to travel to the camp site and clear land and build some of the initial buildings.  Mr. Shaw’s team constructed what is now the camp office, the nature building, helped bring in cabins, and worked with the structures already on the site to convert them for camp use.  Newry has always supported Sequanota with regular financial contributions.  The church has also sent a large number of campers and counselors to the camp.

               

Geeseytown Lutheran Church:

The history of Geeseytown Lutheran begins in what was know as the Frankstown Lutheran Congregation that met in “The Old Log Church”.  The church was a two story log building, 30 feet by 30 feet with which was furnished with slab seats and a small table for a pulpit.  This church began being used in 1813 though the work of ‘finishing’ the church went on until 1825.  The building stood on the ground that is now the upper part of the Geeseytown cemetery, roughly 400 yards from the current Church.

             

Worship in the “Old Log Church” declined in the 1840s for two reasons.  In 1832 members of the congregation who were travelling from Hollidaysburg petitioned the synod that they might be allowed to have services held there.  This was granted, and by 1839 this group had formed built a church and had organized as Zion Lutheran. 

 

Through the 1840s, there was a move away from German language services.  The Frankstown congregation, however, doggedly held to their traditional services.  This began an exodus of members from this congregation as they moved toward the English language services in Hollidaysburg.  Eventually the numbers got so small that the congregation could no longer support a pastor, and it closed.

             

For the next 40 years Lutherans in the area were served by the congregations in Hollidaysburg and Williamsburg.  But in 1882, a move began by those members of the Hollidaysburg congregations that lived at Frankstown to reestablish a congregation at the old church.  Seventy members organized and the synod allowed the reestablishment of the congregation in 1883.  However it was decided that it would be better to build a new church rather than repair the original.  From this the Geeseytown Lutheran Church was formed, the cornerstone of the new church being laid August 19, 1883.

             

So what have we been doing for the last 125 years?  Geeseytown Lutheran has faithfully served as a spiritual home for the people of Geeseytown, Turkey Valley, Scotch and Juniata Valley.  We have been marked by strong Sunday School programs and involvement of children in the church.  If anything we believe that our congregation (both congregations of our parish) are places that are welcoming and open to all people.  We will never be a mega church.  But we are a place where you can come in and meet people, where everyone will know your name, and where people are hoping to meet you.