St. James Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Founded in 1750

Church history - Synopsis

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   One cannot find a definite date for the organization of this congregation in the region called the Forks of the Delaware. It is believed to have been formed in 1750 by people who had been members of the Lutheran Church on Morgan's Hill, south of Easton, Pennsylvania. That church was disbanded, and those living on the New Jersey side of the river organized this congregation.

  This early church was named St. John's. The congregation was modeled on the union church in Germany and so was made up of Lutherans and German Reformed members. The German Reformed Group, through death, removal, and other causes, dwindled to nothing and the Lutherans acquired sole possession of the property. They changed the name to Saint James Lutheran Church in the 1760's and affiliated with St. Michael's in Philadelphia.

   It is noted in the publication "Hallesche Nachrichten" published in Halle, Germany, that in the year 1760, letters were receeved from Lutherans living in Greenwich Township asking for the preaching of the Gospel. Many of these German immigrants had come to the United States to escape the ongoing conflicts along the French border.

   According to the Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, volume II, page 448, translated by Theodore G. Tappert and John W. Doberstein, we find these entries:

"June 29, 1770, Friday: Went out with Magister Streit (who would later become St. James' second pastor) and my host in order to visit the families and members of our congregation (St. James), and particularly the school."

"July 2, 1770, Monday: " … (St. James) requested that young Mr. Streit be allowed to preach and catechize there until help comes from … Europe. In their opinion, no one would be better filled for this than Peter Muhlenberg or Pastor Schultz. The first church erected in 1750 was called St. John's. It was built of logs and thatched with straw, from which it is still known as 'Straw Church'."


   J. Peter Muhlenberg, son of the Lutheran pioneer pastor, Henry M. Muhlenberg, is believed to have been the first resident pastor of the congregation in 1769. He went on to serve as a major-general in the Revolutionary War.

   It is generally believed that the other Lutheran churches in the Phillipsburg (Grace & St. John's), Stewartsville and Riegelsville areas all originated from St. James "Straw" Church.

   According to a note from Mildred Shimer Holden, the Sunday School program was started in 1849. This note is attached to the portrait of Sophia Sharps found in Fellowship Hall. Initially the "Sunday School" program went by the name of the "Sabbath School".

   The current church edifice was constructed in 1834 and continues to serve the congregation. The cupola which houses the speakers for the carillon bells was added on in March, 1960. The new education building, now known as Fellowship Hall, was dedicated in December of the same year.


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Modified: 04/18/03

 Church history - Synopsis

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