St. Matthews Lutheran Church

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 a house of worship and educational facility. This project was successful, and travelling Lutheran minister J.V. Schmucker preached to a congregation at Borden’s until 1813.
At that time, the Lutheran Congregation decided to build a larger school near Mt. Olive to accommodate a growing student and church population. Named the Hottel-Keller School, it featured classroom space and an apartment for the teacher. Schmucker continued to lead worship there and was joined by a German Reformed Congregation.

The first church building for the congregations was constructed in 1824 and named Friedens Church. It housed the Lutheran and German Reformed worshipers. Friedens was occupied until 1877 when it was sold because of its deteriorating condition. The decision of the Lutherans and Reformed congregations from Toms Brook, Saumsville, Mt. Olive, and surrounding territory to maintain this joint venture for over 50 years is a testimony to their cooperative spirit.

Construction on the new Lutheran Church in the area had actually begun in 1873, four years before Friedan’s was sold. It was completed by the members of the church on a high hill commonly called Sand Ridge. Dedication services were held in August 1875 under the direction of Rev. John N. Stirewalt. The congregation belonged to the Evangelical Lutheran Tennessee Synod, which was led by the Henkel family in New Market and was known for its staunch conservatism and confessional character.
As part of this organization, St. Matthews shared a minister with St. Stephens, Mt. Calvary, and St. David’s Lutheran Church. In 1922 this arrangement ended, and St. Matthews joined the Virginia Synod with St. Peter’s in Toms Brook with whom it shared a pastor.

During the midst of the Great Depression, the congregation launched a building program to house new Sunday School Rooms. Construction was done primarily by church members, who also donated most of the supplies. In 1982, this addition was enlarged and a parish hall dedicated.

Six years later the church helped form a new Parish with St. Stephens Lutheran Church when St. Peters called an individual minister. In 2012, St. Peters rejoined the newly formed North Mountain Parish.

Throughout its history, social and community events have been held at St. Matthews. A women’s, men’s, and youth group still meet regularly. These groups, the church at large, and community members regularly held dinners, plays, and educational events for the local schools here. This helps solidify the church as a focal point of the community.