Friday, November 27, 2009

Dunkard Church Rising

On September 17, 1906, Thomas J. Stewart, Adjutant General of Pennsylvania, addressed those gathered for the dedication ceremonies for the Pennsylvania Reserves monuments at the Antietam Battlefield.

"It is a glorious thing to be here," he told the crowd, "As long as this nation lasts the story of Antietam will be told and when these monuments have crumbled to dust, Antietam's story will live in the greatness of your example and in the glorious deeds done on this field. As long as the wind shall blow across yonder sunken road, they will sing the requiem for the mighty dead of this field; as long as the walls of the Dunkard Church shall stand they will seem to tell the story of the awful carnage of that place. …" (1)
Less than fifteen years later the walls of the Dunkard Church no longer stood.

After the battle, the damaged church was restored and rededicated the following year. Services were resumed in it in 1864. Around 1916 the Dunkards moved to a new church location in Sharpsburg and the battlefield church was abandoned.

Over the next five years, neglect and souvenir hunters--who chipped away at the brick--left the church walls weakened.

A heavy storm on May 23, 1921, caused the walls and roof to collapse. (3)

The furniture and some building materials including bricks were salvaged by Elmer Boyer.(4)

The church site was developed into a lunch room known as “Poffenberger’s Lunch Room.”

Eventually Boyer sold the original bricks and other building material to the National Park Service in 1951. A restoration project was finally completed in 1962 through a cooperative effort between the National Park Service, the Washington County Historical Society, the State of Maryland, and the Church of the Brethren. (3)

While the church was restored, its surroundings remained in private hands. The final photo in this series shows the Dunkard Church in 1971.

1) Albert L. Magilton, "Report of the Antietam Battlefield Memorial Commission of Pennsylvania Ceremonies: Dedication of the Monuments Erected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Mark the Position Of Four Regiments Of The Pennsylvania Reserves Engaged In the Battle. (Harrisburg, Pa.: Harrisburg Publishing Company, State Printer, 1908). Retrieved from:

2) "The Angle" Gettysburg Civil War Roundtable Newsletter, May/June 2009, page 3.

3) Freeman Ankrum, from Sidelights on Brethren History, (Elgin, IL: The Brethren Press, 1962), pp. 99-108. Retrieved from

(4) Elmer G. Boyer ran a grocery in Sharpsburg, Maryland. He resided at 142 Chapline Street with his wife and two children. (US Census, 1930).

Photos from Antietam National Battlefield Archives and Library. Courtesy NPS Ranger Alann Schmidt.


Jim Rosebrock said...

Great photos Jim

Jim Buchanan said...

Thanks, Jim and thanks to NPS Ranger Alann Schmidt for furnishing the photos from the ANB archives.

The first photo is of the 125th Pennsylvania taken on the west side of the church. I don't have a date for it but think it may have been two years prior to the Pa. Reserves commemoration in 1904. I say that because the dedication to all Pa. units other than the reserves occurred then. I will try to verify exact date and post it here.

Dave Maher said...

The 125th PA photo was actually taken on Sept. 17, 1888. I used the image for a post I wrote about Jacob Higgins
You can see the date at the bottom. This photo comes from the 125th's regimental history.

Great Post!