The Log Church
Among the early settlers in Knox Township were Jacob Monk, Samuel Hoffman and David Ramsayer. They came from Pennsylvania in the 1820’s. They were joined in the 1830’s by Jacob Zurbrugg, John Yaggi and others. Religious services were held in different homes until the late 1830’s when thought was given to building a log church. Jacob Cronig and Jacob Miller donated land in 1838 for a cemetery and a church. This land was on what is now Hartley Road. This land is now owned by Kenneth & Ruth Brunner and Alfred & Pearl Steiger.
Burials were made in the cemetery, but the church site across the road was not used. Instead a half acre site for a church and cemetery was
bought on Buck Road. This is the site of the present Bethel Church building. It is not known for sure why the church was built here. Some suggest “it was more centrally located”. Others say, “So as to be closer to North Georgetown and less distance for the preacher to travel”. Whatever the reason, the first log church was built in 1840 on the site of the present church.
Jacob Zurbrugg & Giligian Zurbrugg each sold a fourth acre of land on either side of the quarter section line of section fifteen. This formed a half acre square 151 x 151.5’. $8.00 was paid for this site. The deed for the land was signed Dec.4, 1838 and recorded Mar.2, 1839 (Vol 27, p. 469). The west half of this plot was used as the site of the log church, the east half as the cemetery.
The size of the log church is unknown. The entrance door was to the north and a high “wineglass” pulpit was to the south. There was a “gallery” across the north end with steps going up the west side. Rev. Peter Herbruck helped design the log church and the same general plan was used for the brick church built twenty years later.
Many settlers from Switzerland moved to Knox Township until it became the “Switzerland of America.” Jacob Zurbrugg brought with him a copper kettle for making Swiss cheese. By 1844 he had a herd of 20 milk cows and began making a wheel of Swiss cheese a day from May 1st to Dec. 31st. After the cheese had aged for six months Jacob Zurbrugg took it by the wagon to Pittsburg where he sold it. He is believed to be the first person in America to make Swiss cheese and at one time there were twenty-one cheese factories in Knox Township.
Families who worshipped in the log church included: Bandys, Barcheys, Zimmermans, Smiths, Clements, Stockers, Kurches, Biers, Limes, Millers, Bierys, and Garmans. Many walked as much as six miles to church. Calob Bartchey and his sisters walked from Chambersburg to Bethel Church.
The pastor who served Bethel Church the longest was Rev. Gottlieb Ziegler. He was a prosperous farmer who lived near Paris, Ohio and was also a Reformed clergyman. He began as pastor of Bethel Church and the North Georgetown Lutheran Church in 1847 and served Bethel for 22 years. He might have served longer but “unproven charges were brought against him” and he was suspended by the Reformed Classis. Rev. Ziegler continued as pastor of the Lutheran Church in North Georgetown until his death in 1880. Bethel was left without a pastor for three years and some of the Reformed people went over to the Lutheran Church. Rev. Ziegler’s pastorate covered the period from the log church to the first brick church, 1847-1869.