"Now there was in the Shenandoah Valley a certain congregation named Mill Creek. It was set in the midst of a fertile and prosperous valley. God looked with favor upon this church, blessed and multiplied it. Of a truth, I tell you, the Lord their God, rich in mercy, had poured out His blessings in great abundance upon these His people" - Cleda Zunkel
The story of Mill Creek Church is a fascinating one. The back story begins as far back as the 18th century, influenced by the Revolutionary War and a few dedicated Christians looking for a place to settle and worship. Our church has interesting ties to the Civil War, and many of our current members can trace their family trees back over 9 generations to the original 13 charter members.
(Click on the gallery for expanded view)
The History of the Mill Creek Church of the Brethren
written by Lera Bowman Jarrels, updated by Jane Jarrels Wenger
for the 160th Anniversary Celebration Oct 22,2000
"Eight souls under the leadership of Alexander Mack, Sr., were baptized in the Eder River near Schwartzenau, Germany in 1708. This was the beginning of the Church of the Brethren. After being persecuted in Europe for their beliefs against infant baptism and participation in war, they decided to come to America. This was in 1719 and 1729. The Brethren settled in Pennsylvania at the invitation of William Penn. There, they thrived and increased in numbers.
"Then came the Revolutionary War and again the Brethren experienced persecution because of their pacifist beliefs. Many left Pennsylvania with some coming to Virginia. Those who settled in Northern Virginia, came first to Flat Rock and then to Garber's Church area. It was the Brethren from Garber's Church who began to preach in the Mill Creek area around 1831.
"The Jacob Yount family, Brethren from Pennsylvania, moved into this area in 1795. They settled on what was known as the John Wampler Farm, now owned by the Vern Michael family, and built the large brick house there. Soon afterwards, the Harshbargers and Longs moved into the area, with Harshbargers settling on the farm now owned by the Jane Wilson family and the Longs settling at the big stone house now owned by the Smith family. It was in the homes of the Brethren that worship services and other church activities were held at this time.
Mill Creek Church was organized into a congregation in 1840 and a small meeting house was built that same year. There were 13 charter members of Mill Creek Church of the Brethren :
Isaac Long, Sr and his wife Barbara Ann Miller Long
John J. and Margaret Early Harshbarger
Samuel and Elizabeth Young Flory
Daniel and Margaret Saphley Miller
Joseph and Elizabeth Garber Miller
John Beckone, Sr.
Current Mill Creek members as the original 13 charter members as part of the 160th anniversary celebration in 2000. Click on the image to expand.
"As the numbers of members increased, it became necessary to build a larger meeting house in 1860. Then in 1887, an even larger meetinghouse 50' by 70' in size was built with raised seats at each end. The raised seats were built with the young people in mind, to encourage them to come inside, rather than stand outside. Also, these seats were for those who were not members, who came to observe during Love Feast Services. Our present church building was completed in 1921 and was completely remodeled in 1970. A social hall was built in 1951 and an educational unit was added in 1961. And as the congregation continued to grow, ten (10) more classrooms were added to the educational unit in 1992."
Present day Mill Creek sits on the site of a Civil War house or worship, that served as a hospital during the Battle of Cross Keys on June 8, 1862. Below is the Virginia Civil War Trails historical marker which is on the Mill Creek grounds.
Click anywhere on the image for a full-size readable picture