Shenandoah County Churches

Tour curated by: Shenandoah County Library

As Europeans began to colonize the area that is today Shenandoah County, they brought their Christian faith with them. Though these early settlers often did not have dedicated church buildings, traveling ministers and a personal desire to maintain their faith led them to organize religious services and congregations starting in the 1760s.

Originally only the Anglican (Episcopal) Church was recognized by the government. However, the German heritage of most of the population meant the Lutheran and Reformed traditions were followed, though these activities were outside the law.
After independence, these branches of Christianity began to establish their own churches. Originally these were all Protestant congregations. By the start of the Civil War Lutheran, Reformed, and Presbyterian churches among others were operating throughout the county. However, the religious population remained low and the number of individuals who regularly attended churches regularly was small.
Legends tell that a church would be built every 10 miles, or about half as far as a horse could travel in one day. These congregations often shared ministers, or even sometimes buildings, until their financial situation improved. Some ministers served churches in Strasburg, Woodstock, and Mt. Jackson at the same time. Naturally, services were held on a rotating basis when the minister was in town.

Following the conflict the expansion of the railroad brought an influx of immigrants to the area. Many of these were Irish Catholics who founded the county’s only Catholic Church in 1888. That period also saw the growth of religious fervor in the county as a result of the trauma associated with the Civil War. This, coupled with a booming local economy, led to the construction of a large number of church buildings in the 1880s and 1890s.

Churches continued to expand during the 20th century. Modern conveniences such as electricity and indoor plumbing emerged and most churches chose to adapt these over some more conservative minimalist teachings. In the post-world war two era educational wings were added to many churches as a second wave of prosperity and devotion, after yet another conflict, swept the county.

Independent churches continued to operate through both the 19th and 20th century. Many local residents take pride in their refusal to follow national doctrines, especially if they did not agree with every tenant. Competing churches of the same denomination often emerged close to each other after congregational divisions. Nondenominational congregations have also been popular among many who feel completely disillusioned with denominational canon.

Today, churches in Shenandoah County remain a large part of our community. They continue to host numerous social events, community meetings, and spiritual services. The number of attendees is still high when compared to other locations. However, many congregations face declining memberships as more people leave rural communities and move to towns. This had led many churches to close or consolidate.

Locations for Tour

Mt. Zion Lutheran Church was born in the nearby Kipps School House on August 21, 1853. That day the traveling Lutheran minister Socrates Henkel, began preaching in the area. Six months later the members of the community organized a congregation and…

The early residents of the Fisher’s Hill often gathered to hold religious meetings when traveling ministers, including those of the United Brethren denomination visited. In 1846 the number of Brethren members of the community had grown and they…

St. John’s Bosco is a product of the influx of Irish immigrants who came to Shenandoah County in the mid to late 19th century to work on the local railroads. Two of these individuals, Michael Geary and Patrick Reiley, organized and built the…

In November 1769 the Governor, Council, and Burgesses of the Colony of Virginia approved an act that created the Beckford Parish of the Episcopal, then Anglican Church. As defined, Beckford covered what is now Shenandoah County Virginia. Since the…

When the first meeting was held at the Winchester Presbytery, the name given to the body representing Presbyterian Churches in a certain district, there were two Presbyterian Churches in Shenandoah County. The records of that meeting, held on…

The Smith Creek Baptist Church was formed on August 6, 1756. The area that is now known as New Market was called Crossroads because it was at the intersection of the area’s major north-south and east-west roads. A community had emerged around this…

On March 30, 1786 Methodist members of the community now called Mt. Jackson purchased a one acre plot of land near Red Banks for five shillings. Eventually they built a church called Bethel Ford Methodist Meeting House on this site. Over time, the…

The congregation that became Emmanuel Lutheran Church began in 1790, when Reverend Paul Henkel founded the Davidson Lutheran Church in New Market. In 1820 Samuel S. Schmucker, a Yale Graduate became the church’s new minister. Soon afterwards the…

On March 16, 1857 the Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church in New Market purchased a 1/4th acre lot on the Valley Pike to build a new church building. This new church, finished in 1861, replaced their previous structure that dated to 1832 and…

In January 1896 a group of dissatisfied Lutherans finally made the decision to break away from St. Davids Lutheran Church and start their own congregation. That year they completed this structure and named it Mt. Zion Evangelical Lutheran…

In 1816 the Reverend Paul Henkel, a notable Lutheran minister in the valley, noted Lutheran residents of Fort Valley formed their own independent congregation. Their meeting house stood on land donated by Jacob Golladay near the mountain road. Many…

In 1868 members of Woodstock African American community banded together to construct a church building on this site. Though the date this congregation was formed is lost to us, it most was around this time when African Americans were enjoying the…

In 1793 the Davidsburg Church, a Union Church consisting of Lutheran and Reformed congregations, built a log church on this site. It is currently marked by four stone markers engraved with the letter “D.” The Union Church continued to operate…

As early as 1844 a Lutheran congregation existed in Mt. Jackson Virginia. Though they did not have their own building, they had regular meetings in the town’s Union Church. However the Lutherans outgrew the Union Church and decided to build their…

In 1916 the congregation of St. John's Methodsit Church in Edinburg tore down their church building and replaced it with this structure. An annex was added in 1960. The congregation had been formed in 1856 when the Reverend J. Eakin began…

During the early part of the 19th century traveling ministers of the Church of Christ visited towns in Shenandoah County. As early as 1808 records indicate residents of Strasburg were meeting to hear these individuals. In 1820 enough members of the…

Between 1734 John Caspar Stoever Jr., the first German Lutheran Minister in Virginia, made seven trips through the Shenandoah Valley to baptize individuals and organize churches. He, and his successor George Klug, must have been extremely successful…

Methodist Francis Ausbury, one of the first two Methodist Bishops in the United States, visited this area numerous times between 1790 and 1809. At the time, Methodist ministers and pastors from other denominations spent most of their time on…

The first Lutheran Church in Woodstock predated the arrival of the town’s founder Jacob Mueller. Local German residents had felt the need for a place to practice their Lutheran faith and had therefore constructed a modest wooden structure in the…

The history of the Maurertown Brethren Church begins in 1885 when the Shiloh Brethren Church was founded by E.B. Shaver. He, and others, split from the Valley Pike Church of the Brethren and sought to form a new church based on the “Gospel of Jesus…

In 1965 the Lutheran Congregations of St. Davids and Mt. Zion Churches agreed to end the 75 year old dispute that had separated them. This effort was a result of several decades of improved relations that had led to joint Sunday Schools and Youth…

In 1806 the Bishop Asbury, a noted Methodist circuit rider, preached his first sermon in Strasburg. He and other traveling ministers would visit the town numerous times over the next several decades until the number of Methodist congregants was large…

In 1822 the Rev. William H. Foote, a Presbyterian, began preaching in Shenandoah County. He noted that when he arrived there were three members of that denomination in the county, one in Woodstock and two in Strasburg. That number would grow…

Members of the Christian Church, also called the Disciples of Christ, have worshiped in Woodstock since the mid-19th century. Though few records exist, we do know they held their first meetings in the Courthouse alongside the Episcopalians and…

Members of the Christian Church, also called the Disciples of Christ, have worshiped in Woodstock since the mid-19th century. Though few records exist, we do know they held their first meetings in the Courthouse alongside the Episcopalians and…

In 1815 Augustine Hollar deed land for the Union Forge Church and cemetery near Edinburg Virginia. This congregation, associated with the Methodist Denomination, drew most of its membership from the workers at the nearby iron furnaces. They regularly…

In the late 1700s, Shenandoah County residents who were members of the Lutheran and Reformed denominations banded together to form Frieden’s Union Church west of Toms Brook. This served the needs of Toms Brook’s residents until the mid-1800s…

In 1760, residents of this area who wanted to worship walked, or rode on horseback, to a small building at Rude’s Hill south of Mt. Jackson. This Union Church, called Rude’s Hill Church, accommodated congregations of various denominations. Among…

Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, lovingly called the “beautiful church on the hilltop,” dates to 1829 when Abraham Smutz and his family sold a parcel of land to a group of church trustees. This land contained a house that the deed required to be used as…

The history of Otterbein Chapel can be traced back to the Funkhouser family, and their settlement along Mill Creek in the late 18th century. Jacob R. Funkhouser, a member of the third generation of that family to live in the area, was one of the…

Antioch Church of the Brethren first appears in the historic record in 1868, when a survey taken of land sold from the Haun family to the Rickard family indicates part of the property was set aside to be used by the Tunkard Church of the area which…

Dry Run Christian Church was born around 1841, when a small congregation began meeting at the Union Church at Dry Run in Fort Valley. In 1879 this congregation joined the American Christian Church which followed the tenants that Christ was the head…

In 1830, Fort Valley resident Daniel Munch donated two acres of land to house a school and church. He required that the church be available for all Protestant denominations. The one room church building that was constructed there was made of locally…

In 2008 a second building, Trinity Brethren Church, became part of the Fort Valley Museum. The trustees of that congregation were no longer able to support the building due to a decline in membership and transferred ownership top the museum to ensure…

An old history of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church reports that the Lutheran Church arrived in that area of Shenandoah County around 1806. Their efforts centered on the construction of a school near Saumsville, named Borden’s, which could be used as…

Lutheran Ministers began preaching in St. Luke in 1878 when locals formed a congregation separate from the Woodstock Lutheran Church. Their first minister, P. Miller, had a congregation of 42 who met in the Union Church and the local school. One…

In his will, dated June 16, 1822, Reuben Moore gave one-half acre of land in Mt. Jackson for the use of a meeting house, school house, and burying ground to be used by “all Christian Ministers of any society.” Though Moore would not die until…

On June 15, 1833 seventeen members of the community banded together to form the Zion Christian Church. Originally meetings were held at the Zion Schoolhouse once a month. New members were allowed to join, but only after a unanimous vote. This early…

St. James Lutheran Church can trace its history to 1842, when Lutheran, Reformed, and Methodist worshipers in the area met at a log church at Hudson’s Crossroads. Over the next four decades each of these congregations were able to acquire their own…

The congregation St. John’s United Church of Christ was formed on October 6th, 1849 at the Hudson’s Crossroad community. This church, originally aligned with the German Reformed denomination, met in the area’s schoolhouse along with the older…

On May 27, 1877 this church was dedicated by the local Christian (Disciples of Christ) congregation. Locally it was known as the Campebllite Church in reference to Alexander Campbell who helped found the Disciples of Christ denomination. This…

Grace United Church of Christ dates its history to the foundation to around 1760 when a church was built at Rudes’ Hill. This building housed a Lutheran and Reformed Congregation. These groups moved to the area of Middle Road in 1783 when they…