Zion Lutheran Church (R), Main Street, was built in 1860 to replace an earlier church building erected about 1783, A 12-foot marble shaft in the yard is a memorial to 31 Lutheran ministers born in the Middletown Valley. --- Maryland: A Guide to the Old Line State, 1940; page 334.
The shaft is white, tapered and has inscriptions at the top and bottom. The top inscription is the dedication text, the bottom, a list of names of deceased brethren. The top reads:
The name on the front face are:
H.L. Wiles, D.D.,
Died Sept. 4th 1902.
J.T. Gladhill, A.M.,
Died Jan. 12th 1902.
M.L. Young, PH.D.,
Died Dec. 12th 1904.
J.W. Poffinberger, A.M.,
Died Mar. 30th 1909.
J.L. Smith, D.D.,
Died June 21st 1913.
Josiah Kuhn, M.S.,
Died July 28th 1913.
At the foot of the memorial is a length inscription in cursive writing. The top part is pretty worn and the bottom I could not understand; something about resting from labors and the dead following someone somewhere.
I guess people kept dying because when they ran out of room on this one the erected a smaller one to the rear left of this shaft. This one is half the size, has 6 names, the first death being in 1949, the last, 1977. It is of some kind of white stone with a rectangular prism shaped socle on the bottom.
This huge, old, white church completely dominates the Route 40/National Road landscape in this tiny Civil War town. Naturally, the town clock can be found way at the top of the steeple. Its bell tower and bell radiates chimes, dings & dongs throughout the town and blocks away. The steep, octagonal steeple is topped with a shiny, metal cross. The room which houses the bell is airy and on four sides, plenty of room to walk around. The steeple, bell tower and town clock all rise above the center entrance. The building looks like Greek classical architecture with its massive columns, pediment and entablature.
It took some searching to find the cornerstone as it is well hidden by ill-placed and overgrown shubbery. It is set low to the ground on the right corner of the church. The gray stone is in stark contrast to the bright white church. The cornerstone was set in 1859, the church was completed in 1860 according to historical records. The stone reads Evan. Lutheran Church 1859
The front right of the church was kind of interesting as there are a couple of granite markers serving as memorials for previous Lutheran ministers. They look like grave stones but are not. These white monoliths, planted in the grass, are kind of old as they are mentioned in the AGS as well.
The church was also a field hospital during the Civil War as a few battles raged close to here. An historic, bronze marker on the front of the building near the entrance tells the tale. It reads: In Commemoration of that period in Civil War history from September 14, 1862 through January, 1863 when this building was commandeered and used by the United States Federal Government as an army hospital to care for casualties resulting from the Battle of South Mountain September 14, 1862 and the Battle of Antietam September 17, 1862 and other skirmishes which took place locally during these battles.
Placed in tribute to the hundreds of men who died or were hospitalized within these walls by Evangelical Lutheran Church Zion September 13, 1970
The church provides a comprehensive history on their website as well. The traditional date of Zion’s founding is 1740. When George Washington was about 8 years old, groups of recent German immigrants came to the valley from Pennsylvania. By 1858 church membership had grown significantly; a building committee was appointed and a Baltimore architect was selected. On February 27, 1859 services were held in the old church for the last time. On April 22, 1860 the new church was dedicated with about 2,000 people present. This beautiful structure stands today as the third on the same site. Facing the Old National Pike, the principal route westward for settlement in Ohio and beyond. The congregation of over 600 had committed itself to house of worship of grand proportions, not sparing elegant details. All of this was accomplished not for display but to provide an enduring house of worship and for proclamation of the gospel and administration of the sacrament.
And then came the Civil War a few years later. On Sunday, September 14, 1862, the bloody battle of South Mountain was fought between the forces of the Union and the Confederacy, just a few miles west of Middletown. This was followed a few days later by the terrible conflict at nearby Antietam. The wounded from both battles filled all surrounding villages. So it was in Middletown. Most buildings of sufficient size became hospitals. Zion Church being the largest building in town, and in excellent condition, was designated by the Army as a “general hospital”. This meant that this facility would receive critical patients, especially those requiring surgery. Pews were removed and were replaced by cots. The undercroft, container Sunday School rooms and the balcony were also utilized. In addition, the two-story brick building housing the Female Academy was brought into service. Hundreds of young men were brought up the beautiful columned portico into the church to be care for by Army and local physicians and ladies of the community. Many lost limbs and many died. Some were buried on church grounds.