St. Paul’s Union Church Built: 1841, Razed: 1959
By 1840 a movement began among some of the residents of Coxtown and vicinity, including parts of Richmond, Maidencreek, and Ruscombmanor Townships, to build a conveniently located church. One of the nearest was St. Peter’s, four miles northwest on the crest of a hill overlooking the village of Coxtown in the valley below. Benjamin Hoch sold the group two acres of land, midway between Coxtown and Walnuttown, in 1841, for the sum of forty dollars. Here the erection of a Union Church, a plain stone edifice, for the use of the Reformed and the Lutheran Congregations was begun.
On April 25, 1841, the cornerstone was laid which held a Bible, a Lutheran and a Reformed Catechism, a copy of the church law, and a short abstract of the government of the United States. On the same day the church ordinances were adopted and with the addition of three articles in 1870, remained the same until 1919 when each congregation adopted its own constitution. According to records, Christian A. Scheick was the contractor for the $3,000 structure. The congregation began with an indebtedness of $1400 at 6% interest. After seventeen years the last bond was retired and in the same year a pipe organ was purchased from organ builder Samuel Bohler of Reading for $800; no musical instrument had previously been used.
When the organ was dedicated in the summer of 1859, about the time when the East Penn Railroad was being completed, special trains ran from Reading and Millerstown (now Macungie; the road was not yet completed to Allentown). Such immense crowds came from both directions, that Fleetwood was crowded with visitors and unable to accommodate them! Appeals were made to nearby farmers for food and they graciously complied. It was the greatest day and the largest crowd that Fleetwood had ever known. The Ringgold Band of Reading furnished musical entertainment. As for the church music, Gabriel Kline was the first “Foresinger,” and Solomon Hoch, the first organist and leader of the choir.
In 1880 improvements were made to the church and seven years later enough land was purchased from Jacob Rothermel to construct sheds for horses and carriages. In 1893 Joel Wartzenluft sold the church fathers two acres for a cemetery. Again in 1893 another remodeling project was undertaken and at its completion the church was rededicated on December 13, 1896. By 1917 it was necessary to enlarge the cemetery.
The Reformed congregation was granted a charter by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on February, 1919, and on September 2, 1919, the Lutheran Church was incorporated. Each congregation then adopted its own constitution, elected its own treasurer (the “Union treasury” was discontinued), and agreed to pay one-half of all joint expenses.
Other material improvements included: installation of a pipeless heater, 1929; construction of a new slate roof, 1924; painting of the exterior, 1928, and of the interior, 1929.
In 1941 the Centennial of the Union Church was celebrated starting with the Lutheran Communion and Homecoming on June 8 and ending with the Reformed Communion Service on June 22 in the morning and a “Sons of the Church” Service in the evening. Visiting clergy included: Dr. John Baer Stoudt; Dr. Charles Schaeffer and his brother, Dr. Daniel E. Schaeffer. Services during the intervening weeks included a Community Night and a Night of Music.
The One Hundred and Tenth Anniversary Communion Service was held in the Old Church on June 10, 1951. Sentiment among the members that renovations should be made to the structure prompted the respective councils to send envelopes to members and friends asking for financial help. Later a questionnaire was distributed but response was so slight that no action to save the picturesque old house of worship, which had been declared unsafe, was taken. No services were held there after 1952. the fall of 1959, St. Paul’s Union Church was demolished. On an elevated spot where it stood is a tree-framed marker, dedicated on April 29, 1960, containing the cornerstone of the Old Church and that of the Chapel. Today, when those who love history pass by this quiet section of the town, they are filled with regret because all of us failed to save this quaint old building so important a part of the history of Fleetwood. On Sunday, June 12, 1966, the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Union Church was observed by having an 8:00 A.M. service in the new Lutheran Church and a 10:30 A.M. service in the new United Church of Christ. The joint choirs sang at both services.