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German Baptist Brethren in Mifflin, PA

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Location: Mifflin, Pennsylvania, United Statesmap
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German Baptist Brethren in Mifflin, PA

"Arthur Buchanan became the first settler in Mifflin county, when in 1755 he built a cabin where Lewistown now stands. Among the settlers that followed there were a few families of Brethren. From the beginning the Indian name Kishacoquillas Valley was applied to the church composed of scattered membership in parts of Huntingdon, Center and Mifflin Counties, though they were considered for a time a branch of the Aughwick congregation.

"In an early day Henry Nearhoof of Aughwick and Peter Shellenberger of Lost Creek preached for these members but it is believed that John Swigart who migrated from Berks County in 1792 or thereabouts, was the first resident minister. He died November 28, 1806 ... About the same time Jacob Kinsel also moved from Berks Countyand became a leading spirit among the members. He died in March, 1832, aged seventy-four ... Another early settler is Abram Miller, who came from Dauphin County and by some it is claimed that he was the first resident minister. He died in 1803 ... His daughter, Catherine, married John Swigart, son of John Swigart above mentioned, and after the birth of two daughters died at the early age of twenty-two. Mary, one of these daughters, became the wife of Bishop Joseph R. Hanawalt and is the mother of George and John S. Hanawalt." (Royer 1924, pp 27-28)

"The original Lewistown District embraces a part of Centre County, ... a part of Huntingdon County (Stone Valley) ... and all of Mifflin County, except Wayne township and the southwestern part of Bratton township ... [Subsequent reorganization aligned the Lewistown District very closely with Mifflin County.] Of the earliest history of the Brethren in the Lewistown District but little is known. Their work can be traced to about the time of the Revolutionary War. The field seems to have been first worked by Henry Nearhoof, of Aughwick, and Peter Shellenberger, of Lost Creek. The first resident [minister was] Jacob Kinsel, who settled near the present site of the Spring Run Church ..." ( Ellis 1886, p 540)

"About 1800 the members organized themselves into a congregation but there is no record who presided over the church in these times. Neither is it known when the congregation changed its name to Lewistown" (Royer 1924, p 28). Somewhat inconsitently, "The Record of the Faith [Published in 1882 by Howard Miller] states that the Dry Valley congregation—properly called Lewistown, was organized in 1781 with ten members ... [its earliest elected ministers were] Abraham Miller, John Swigart, Jacob Kinsel ..." (ibid, pp 34-35).

"[Ministers after Jacob Kinsel included] Joseph Rothrock, who lived four miles northeast of Lewistown; and John Hanawalt, one mile east of Mount Union. The last named was probably the first speaker in the English language among the Brethren in this region. ... Joseph Rothrock was a son of John Rothrock, who came from Northampton County before the Revolutionary War ... He was an able German preacher [who served] for many years and [was] probably the first resident bishop in the district. His son Abraham succeeded him in the ministry and bishopric, but afterwards moved to Kansas. Abraham was succeeded by Joseph Rothrock Hanawalt, who presided over the congregation in 1865, when the district was divided into its present congregations ...

"Joseph R. Hanawalt was an able speaker in the English language and a mission worker of untiring zeal. He was elected to the ministry September 25, 1845, and some years previous to this the church had decided to have one-half of the devotional exercises conducted in the English language ... English devotions increased until about 1845, the year in which Joseph R. Hanawalt was elected, when the whole services were conducted in the English language. The congregation at this time had no meeting-houses and the membership was largely scattered over the county. ... They decided to build two houses, one in the eastern part and the other in the western. Accordingly, in 1859 they built the present two large and substantial houses now known as Spring Run Church and Dry Valley Church.

"Joseph R. Hanawalt was heard to say, about this time, that when he first became a member of the church there were but thirty-five members and but six of this number living, while at this time there are about three hundred members. Joseph R. Hanawalt was a nephew of John Hanawalt, and died in the year 1877 at the age of sixty-seven. He was succeeded in the bishopric of the Spring Run Church by Peter S. Myers, the present incumbent." (Ellis 1886, pp 540-541)


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