When we look back upon the history of this area, it is evident that the early pioneers passionately embraced their faith and this in turn gave them the will to endure daily hardships. They demonstrated incredible tenacity and subscribed to a realistic vision about their challenges, aspirations, and futures. Those that moved into the Jordan Valley in the early 1700’s discovered the valley provided them with fertile limestone valleys, rolling hills, virgin hardwood forests and excellent farming soil. All these elements supported their claim that God would not leave them comfortless! Lime, clay, sand, gravel and iron ore were found to be abundant and fueled a viable industry and sustained their existence. All this was complimented by abundant wildlife, game birds, fish and fresh water. Our forefathers had discovered a land of promise filled with beauty, but also one that would challenge their survival.
The land nestled between the South and Blue Mountains was initially considered to be free land by the early settlers who were primarily Swiss, Germans and Huguenots. Squatters felt entitled to set up camp in this region and established their crude homesteads claiming illegal rights to the property. In late 1736, this land was deeded to William Penn’s sons by twenty three Indian Chiefs. And sixteen years later it was called the greater Northampton County which now encompasses virtually all the counties that surround us today. What had been vast, “free” land was becoming defined and surveyed. Legal certificates found in the archives indicate that in 1744 the organized congregation of Jordan Lutheran Church had collected enough monies to place a deposit on the land where our church building currently stands. George Steininger and John Lichtenwalner traveled to Philadelphia to purchase 52 acres and 9 perches (1/160 of an acre), the final cost being $107.00. The large tract of land was considered essential to support a massive burial ground next to the church building “in order that the faithful might wait the Consummation while resting near God’s house”.
Prior to this historic milestone, as was typically the case in remote communities, settlers would gather every Lord’s Day in nearby homes, barns or cleared groves to worship together using their family’s German Bibles, song books, prayer books and occasionally Sermon Books. Through a common courage, family, friends and neighbors gathered together, shared a deep religious bond, spread the Word and remained long after the service catching up on each other’s business. They talked about the crops, discussed their children’s issues, shared their daily challenges and gained strength from each other as they confronted their difficult, primitive lives.
Due to the limited number of settlers and supply pastors in the Jordan Valley at that time, plus the lack of significant disposable income, it was impossible to assign an ordained minister to officiate these services. Heads of the households would take turns leading the services and hymn sings. In a relatively short period of time the Jordan Valley increased in population and the local communities were able to hire John Casper Stoever, Jr. to act as their traveling minister beginning in 1729. It was not until 1733, that John was officially ordained, however he conducted baptisms and weddings at various congregations starting from his hire date. It is later recorded that two children from our congregation were officially baptized by the newly ordained Pastor Stroever as early as February 6th, 1734 - this is considered the birth date of Jordan Lutheran Church. To put things in historical perspective, George Washington would have been approaching his 2nd birthday!
As the influx of pioneers settled in the fertile Jordan Valley it became apparent that Pastor Stroever was no longer able to effectively minister the growing Jordan Congregation without additional help. In September of 1739, Reverend Mr. Birkinstock and Lorenz Guth were assigned to minister to the thriving congregation. To Jordan’s benefit, Mr. Guth, a missionary, became an ardent and enthusiastic founder of the Jordan Congregation and Pastor Mr. Birkenstock served Jordan from 1738 until 1750. At this time, services were held in a single room log church that was situated where the Family Center sign exists today. Families having familiar names we readily recognize, Guth, Sieger, Kuntz (Kuhns), Ruch, Snyder, Lichtenwalner and Wenner, immigrated to America from the Rhenish Palatinate region in Germany, settled in this area and chose Jordan Lutheran to become their religious base. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
In September of 1742, another personality emerged who had a profound effect on the future of the Lutheran Church in our region. Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg was sent to America to oversee and strengthen the mission of the fragmented Lutheran congregations including addressing the many false ministers who infiltrated into unsuspecting congregations. Under his direction, the first synodical meeting was held in Philadelphia in August 1948, however it was recorded that Jordan Church did not support this effort to become one body. The skepticism by our forefathers may have been fueled by a lack of confidence that this campaign would have any affect in the far outreaching areas of Northampton County. We know that position changed as Muhlenberg played a magnificent role in overseeing a merge of the eastern Pennsylvania Lutheran congregations.