Altoona First Church of the Brethren

Pennsylvania Middle District

Our Mission




Our History

First Years: 1870 - 1924

t was sometime in 1870 or 1871 that Graybill Myers began work for the Church of the Brethren by preaching in the homes of members in Altoona. A little later a hall was rented at Sixth avenue near Twentieth street, and there services were continued for more than two years. As there were more members in the eastern end of the city than in the western,

Methodist Chapel
a Methodist chapel at the corner of Sixth avenue and Fifth street was rented. Ministers from Duncansville and Warriorsmark helped to carry on the work in Altoona. Preaching services were held every two weeks.

In 1873 it was agreed at district meeting, on appeal by Graybill Myers, to purchase the chapel, and the sum of $1,500 was paid for it. It was dedicated as a Church of the Brethren June 21, 1874, Peter S. Myers preaching. Others participating were Daniel S. Holsinger, John W. and George W. Brumbaugh, of Clover Creek, and Henry B. Brumbaugh of Huntingdon. Through help from outside and by cheerful sacrifices on the part of the congregation, the debt was liquidated in 1879.

To the Duncansville congregation was assigned care of the new church. James A. Sell, bishop of the Duncansville church, was bishop of Altoona church also. Graybill Myers, Brice Sell and David Sell were his assistants. In 1877 the first love feast was held. In 1879 the church had its own treasurer, but it was not until July 4, 1882, that it became an individual congregation.

Graybill Myers, John W. Brumbaugh, Samuel Cox and James A. Sell formed the organization, with Mr. Sell as bishop. Daniel Brallier became the first minister, with Samuel Rupert, as assistant.

A new church building costing $4,000 was dedicated in 1884,

First Meetinghouse
with James Quinter officiating. Joseph W. Wilt had become pastor in May, 1884. Under his nine years' ministry the membership increased from 60 to 247.

In November, 1904 the Rev. Walter S. Long began his pastorate. There were 120 at the first lovefeast after his arrival. The church rapidly widened its influence and within a few years was ready for mission work. A congregation was organized in the Western part of the city and in June, 1914 the Twenty-eighth Street Church of the Brethren dedicated a brick church costing $4,100.

The same spirit that resulted in the erection of the twenty-eighth Street church awakened enthusiasm for a new edifice for the First church. Funds came in without solicitation and were cared for by a committee -- A. E. Wilt, Mrs. Harriet Kipple and the pastor. On October 1, 1915, a committee was named to secure plans and estimates and decision to build the new church was made on January 7, 1916. A. E. Wilt, D. B. Maddock, R. B. Replogle, E. G. Eyer, R. P. Good were the building committee.

The cornerstone was laid December 17, 1916, W.J. Swigart and I. Harvey Brumbaugh officiating. The World war delayed work somewhat, but the lecture room was occupied on October 7, 1917.

New Church
On November 18, 1917, the present brick and stone structure was dedicated. Henry C. Early, of Virginia, delivered the address and C.C. Ellis of Huntingdon, handled finances.

With an Auditorium seating 500, and a Sunday school room seating 650, with 17 class rooms, the present church has an opportunity for large growth. During the present pastorate of not quite twenty years, The Rev. Walter S. Long has received into church fellowship 682 by baptism.

The church and the parsonage cost $56,309.65. That it should be entirely paid for within seven years is ample proof of the energy and devotion of the church and its leaders.

Just four elders have presided as pastor during the career of this church. James A. Sell, George W. Brumbaugh, Joseph W. Wilt, and Walter S. Long. Four ministers have been elected -- Samuel G. Rupert, Abram Hollinger, Homer Feather, Byron Sell. These are the deacons -- John H. Law, Joseph Kinsel, Alexander Rath, Abram Hollinger, Martin Greenleaf, Oliver Pherson, Daniel McFarlin, Allen McCartney, David S. Miller, A. E. Wilt, Harvey A. Hess, S. W. Brumbaugh, Daniel M. Sell, H. E. Ressler, George H. Hepner, Cyrus Replogle, J. G. Shaw, C. E. Miller, H. V. Morse, E. O. Shaw, R. B. Replogle, D. H. Glass, E. L. Barr.