As early as 1770 religious services were held at homes in the “Brush Creek Settlement” by immigrants of mostly German descent and of Lutheran and Reformed faiths. By the year 1773 simple services were held in the first log schoolhouse dedicated to school and church purposes. This simple structure of hewn logs with one door at the gable end and a common table for an altar was burned by Indians in 1781 or 1782, but the settlers then built a log church edifice, located in what is now known as the old section of the Brush Creek Cemetery, and it served as a place of worship until 1819 or 1820. Anton Ulrich Lleutge, a missionary pastor served the congregation during the period from 1782 to 1791. Early records are scarce, in part because they were usually written in German and often not retained by later generations of English-speaking people.
Pastor Luetge was succeeded by John Michael Steck, also a missionary pastor, and Pastor Steck served until his death in 1830. During his pastorate the Lutheran and Reformed congregations purchased 182 aces of land in 1797 from a Dr. David Marchand. Attached to the deed were specific conditions assuring joint ownership by the High German Lutheran and Calvanist Reformed Congregations, now know respectively as Brush Creek Lutheran and United Church of Christ congregations.
Early in the 19th century both congregations enjoyed phenomenal growth so that the log church and school building was no longer adequate, and in 1816 the cornerstone was laid for a new building. Under the terms of a Union Constitution the church was identified as “The Brush Creek Salem Church”. The construction was funded in part by the sale of 82 acres from the original deed. The building was completed and dedicated in 1820, and stands today a a House of Worship and historical site. The building is two-story brick with seating gallery on three sides of the Sanctuary, and originally included a rare wine-glass shaped pulpit which was removed in 1864. In 1829 the Rev. Michael J. Steck became assistant to his father; he succeeded his father in 1830 and served until his death in 1848. Through the years discussions were held regarding splitting the church bodies into separate buildings, but the union lasted until the middle of the 20th century.
The Brush Creek Lutheran congregation grew to a communicant membership of at least 400 by the year 1848. Since the Brush Creek settlement was of German descent, German was the primary language of the settlers in their worship as well as secular lives. Controversy over the use of English in the church services was a cause of bitter dispute despite intercession by the Pittsburgh Synod. Efforts to retain a pastor who could minister in both English and German were unsuccessful, and by majority vote it was decided that the Brush Creek Service was to remain purely German. In fact, in 1848 Rev. Jonas Mechling was chosen as pastor with the specific understanding that he was to preach only in German, and the church changed affiliation to the Synod of Ohio. Rev. Mechling served until his death in 1868. Between 1859 and 1868 he was assisted by his son, the Rev. G. W. Mechling, D.D., who was largely responsible for introducing the English language into the Services at Brush Creek. In addition to Brush Creek, their charge included First Church, Greensburg, Harrold’s, Manor and Hill’s.
As a result of the above language controversy, part of the membership split in 1849 and formed a new church in Adamsburg which was named the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Trinity Church of the Borough and Vincinity of Adamsburg. A brick church was built and dedicated in 1850.
Rev. J. S. Fink served the Lutherans as pastor from 1868 to 1881. With re-alignment following Rev. Mechling’s death, Rev. Fink’s parish included Manor and Hill’s as well as Brush Creek; but in 1874 he resigned the Manor and Hill’s churches.
Also in 1874 the Brush Creek and Reformed Cemetery was incorporated with a deed for 24 acres with stipulation that the cemetery was to be managed by 5 members each from the two congregations. The church farm of approximately 70 acres was also later sold to the Cemetery Association. In 1875 Brush Creek was brought back into the Pittsburgh Synod. Rev. Fink was succeeded by Rev. E. G. Lund in 1881, who, at the time of his call to Brush Creek, was serving the Adams Church, the English Lutheran Church at Irwin, and the Swedish Lutheran Church at Irwin. As pastor to the 4 churches, he was required to preach in 3 languages. He served Brush Creek until 1883. His successor, Rev. Charles Hemsath, served the Brush Creek and Adamsburg churches between 1883 and 1886.
While pastor at Adamsburg and Brush Creek between 1887 and 1889 the Rev Charles Seaman organized a Lutheran Sunday School at the Adamsburg Church. Rev. Seaman died of typhoid at age 35, but he was succeeded by his brother George who held Lutheran Services alternately at Brush Creek and Adamsburg, and also served the Arona congregation. The Sunday School was moved from Adamsburg to Brush Creek by the latter Seaman, who served until 1896.
The practice of alternating Sunday Services by the Lutheran and Reformed Congregations was begun under Rev. Philip Doerr, who served the Penn Evangelical Lutheran Church as well as Brush Creek from 1897 to 1908. Rev. Doerr resigned following a stoke on September 28, 1908, just two days after the last Service at the Adamsburg Church.
Rev. Edgar H. Daugherty served the congregation from 1909 until 1941. In 1908 the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Penn severed its relationship with the Brush Creek Church, but in 1910 the Unity Lutheran Church of Manor joined with Brush Creek, a union that lasted until 1941. Also in 1910 a portion of the basement was excavated to install a hot air heating system to replace the pot-bellied stove that had provided heat during the winter months. Rev. Daugherty devoted much time and effort to unifying the congregation as the Adamsburg church gradually was dissolved back into the Brush Creek Congregation.
In February of 1913 the congregation was incorporated under the title, name and designation of “Brush Creek Evangelical Lutheran Church: of Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. In 1916, under Pastor Daugherty, the joint Lutheran and Reformed Congregations held a Centennial Observance of the laying of the cornerstone at the Old Church, a celebration of several services which was attended by thousands of friends and former members.
In 1944 discussions on the “possibility and probability” of a new church building were held under the leadership of Rev. Nelson G. Fattman, who served as pastor from 1941 to 1953. In 1948 a Building Fund was established. During the ministry of Russell L. McCullough, who served as pastor from 1953 to 1971, the Brush Creek Lutheran and Reformed congregations agreed to separate. The approximate 3.65 remaining acres on which the Old Church was situated was split into 1.82 acres for each congregation. Groundbreaking for a new Lutheran Church was held in August of 1956 and the cornerstone was laid in December of that year. Dedication of the present church, a red brick and stone trimmed building with a cross-topped cupola and adjoining education/social wing was held on Pentecost, May 25, 1958.
During the latter half of the 20th century the Lutheran Congregation continues to celebrate its heritage. In 1973, under the pastorate of Rev. Edward M. Miller, Jr., who served from 1971 to 1995, the congregation celebrated its 200th Anniversary with a year-long series of events; in 1983 a 210th Anniversary celebration included several special Services of Worship and music. In 1998, under the leadership of Rev. William L. Hauser , who served as pastor from 1995 until his retirement in 2004, the congregation celebrated it’s 225th Anniversary with a year-long series of events. The celebrations of 1973 and 1998 included Services of Worship with the United Church of Christ in the Old Church.
The Rev. Herbert Dubler served as our interim pastor from February 2004 until May 1, 2006, at which time Rev. Dr. A. Michael Boggs, began his pastorate at our congregation. Pastor Boggs was installed as pastor at Brush Creek Evangelical Lutheran Church on June 11, 2006 and served as pastor until 2007. From then until August 2009, several interim pastors served our congregation. At that time, Pastor Pamela J. Power accepted a call to serve our congregation and was installed on September 21, 2009 and served until June 2014, when Pastor Power accepted another call. In June 2018 we entered into a ministry co-operative with Penn Lutheran and Zion Lutheran Churches under the leadership of Pastor Roger Steiner.
– Brief History of Brush Creek Evangelical Lutheran Church at Irwin by Earl L. May –