St. Paul’s Chapel
At a public meeting held in August 1883, a movement was begun to erect a Chapel in the community. On a plot of ground on North Franklin Street donated by George Sholl, a brick edifice, costing $7,000, forty by seventy feet, and crowned with a steeple more than one hundred feet high with a bell weighing 2,034 pounds was erected. The cornerstone was laid on September 28, 1883, and the Chapel was dedicated in October, 1884, “for the use of any denomination professing the teachings of Christ and His followers, on proper consent obtained from the board of trustees controlling the house.”
By 1911 the flourishing condition of the Sunday School made it necessary to add a two-story annex. Because the Chapel was so conveniently situated, the congregations began to hold more of their services in it; consequently, the Chapel was maintained principally by them. On September 25, 1921, by a decree from the Court of Berks County, the Church Council and the Consistory of St. Paul’s Union Church were given absolute rights to all matters pertaining to St. Paul’s Chapel.
In 1936 a renovation program was undertaken: a Dorner Organ was installed, the choir loft lowered, and the chancel entirely refurnished.
On October 24, 1954, when definite action had been taken by both congregations to build separate churches, the Ladies Aid Society conducted a Dissolution Service. An auction was held on September 15, 1958, to dispose of items from both churches which could not be equitably divided or which neither congregation desired to own. The building was to be sold.
In the summer of 1959 the Chapel was demolished and became the site of the new Post Office.
St. Paul’s Union Sunday School
St. Paul’s Union Sunday School had its beginning shortly after the Civil War on the first floor of the Old Church built in 1841. The members were divided into small classes of four or five, according to age, and each class had its own teacher. Accompaniment for the singing was provided by the church organ probably played by Richard Peter, then organist. Oil lamps in wall brackets and a long oil lamp chandelier hanging from the ceiling made it possible to have Christmas entertainments in the evening. These programs were well attended since the town offered very little other entertainment.
When the four-room high school was erected in 1877, the Sunday School was moved from the Old Church to the second floor of the school building. The two rooms on this floor had a partition made of sliding panels; when these were opened, the resulting area provided a large space for Sunday School activities. A small organ provided music, the children sat at the desks, and the teachers stood before the pupils to teach.
In 1883 George Sholl donated a tract of land on North Franklin Street for the erection of a Chapel to be used especially for Sunday School, Commencements, Christmas festivals, and interdenominational services. The Sunday School was then moved from the school building into the Chapel in 1884. Each class occupied the halves of two benches with reversible backs which made it possible for ten or twelve pupils and a teacher to sit facing each other during the lesson period.
By 1911 the school had reached such large proportions that it was necessary to build a two-story annex. The first floor was used by the Primary Department and the second floor as a storeroom until 1914 when the Everyman’s Bible Class arranged it as a classroom for their lesson period using seats from the defunct Onyx Theater on West Main Street.
In 1913 the Everyman’s Bible Class secured a charter from the Pennsylvania Sabbath School Association; the Ladies’ Bible Class (later Willing Workers’ Class) organized about two years later, followed by the Sunshine Class, and several others. St. Paul’s also boasted a Ladies’ Bible Class conducted in German from about 1906 to 1926. This class occupied four benches in the forward right hand corner of the Chapel, later occupied by the officers of the school. Mr. Franz Kurzweg was the teacher and his wife served as substitute.
The superintendents and officers, although elected by the members, stayed in office as long as they desired to serve. Mr. Calvin H. Adam was superintendent continuously for thirty-two years and Mr. Oscar M. Koller was treasurer for fifty-four. In 1926 a Lutheran and a Reformed superintendent were elected, who alternated in opening and closing the sessions and coordinated all Sunday School activities.
The ticket system of awards was used in the Old Church, continued in the school building, and in the Chapel until about 1906 when Little’s Cross and Crown System for perfect attendance took its place. Because of the many bars accumulated by some faithful attendants, which became cumbersome to wear, the Sunday School, about 1923, devised its own system of attendance awards.
One of the important annual events was the picnic or excursion on the first Saturday in August. The earliest picnics were held in Dumns’ Grove, east of the Old Church. About 1876 the children were piled into farmers’ hay wagons and conveyed to woods opposite the present Kirbyville Hotel. Another year, about 1882, an excursion went to Calipso Island Park located on an island in the Lehigh River that was reached by a ferry. Other picnics were held at Mt. Gretna, Lititz Park, Menlo Park, Dunkle’s Park, Rittersville Park, Hilbert’s Grove, Willow Grove, Fogelsville Park, Ontelaunee Park, Carsonia Park, Dorney Park, and for many years, Hershey Park. The Hershey Park Picnic was a joint community endeavor for a number of years.
On June 9, 1957, the Union Sunday School became a part of history when the Lutheran Sunday School held its first session in the new church on East Arch and Laurel Streets.