Pennsylvania German roots

New Berlin ChurchFor those of us with Pennsylvania German roots, we know the Amish gets all the headlines, and confuses the question of the religious background of our ancestors. I had assumed my own family were either from the Lutheran or Reformed traditons. But I have discovered that instead they were active members and founders of Jacob Albright’s Evangelical Association, or “Albright’s People” as they were called. In the early 1800s around Middleburg, Snyder County and New Berlin, Union County, Pennsylvania, this revivalist movement with roots in Methodism reached out to the German-speaking families that lived along Penn’s Creek. Active in this movement were the families of George Adam Bowersox, Henry Walter, and Jacob Kehr—all ancestors of mine. Additionally, George Adam Bowersox’s 1802 log cabin hosted Albright and other early Evangelical leaders.

    It is encouraging to me that my family history includes such people of faith and devotion. They held services in their homes and shared their faith and love for God. Eventually, they built a church in 1817 in New Berlin which served as headquarters for the Evangelical Association until 1853. The General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church lists the site of this church as a Heritage Landmark.

    The history of this movement and its people are detailed in the Annals of the Evangelical Association of North America and History of the United Evangelical Church, available online or for download at http://archive.org/details/cu31924050899610

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