Historic Resurrection Reformed Church
Burkittsville's earliest settlers, many of whom were of German descent, were followers of three primary faiths: Lutheranism, German Baptist or "Dunkard," and German Reformed. The first worship services of the German Reformed tradition are believed to have been held in Burkittsville in the late 18th century. Records indicate that a congregation was active by the 1820s, meeting for worship at the farm of John Willard on the eastern end of Burkittsville (today the site of Distillery Lane Ciderworks). The first recorded minister of the congregation is the Reverend John Casper Bucher who formally organized the church on July 18, 1830. By this time, the congregation had already joined with the Lutheran Church in Burkittsville to erect a house of worship in the growing village.
Work began on the initial structure in 1829 and continued through 1831. On February 19, 1831, while cutting timbers to construct the church's rafters, the Reformed congregations patriarch, John Willard, was killed by a falling limb. Despite this setback, the congregation finished the building. Historical records have not provided us with the appearance of this first building, but we know that it was several feet shorter than the present structure and it was likely very plainly furnished. The two congregations shared this "Union Church" for 30 years. In 1859, the Lutheran congregation sold their part of the building and moved into their own church next door, today's St. Paul's Church.
In 1860, during Burkittsville's first period of great economic prosperity, the Reformed congregation embarked on a major renovation of their church. The front wall was taken down and the bricks used to construct a new front several feet closer to Main Street and including the large portico seen today. The walls were also raised by several feet in height and a new roof constructed over the church. At the rear of the building, a projecting chancel was added. The interior of the church was finely furnished with new pews, carpet, and frescoed walls. The pipe organ may also have been installed at this time.
On September 14, 1862, the Reformed Church along with over a dozen other buildings in Burkittsville was occupied by the United States Army and commandeered to serve as a field hospital for wounded soldiers after the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam three days later. The new pews were removed the church and straw was laid on the floor for the soldiers to lay on. An operating table was placed at the southwest corner of the church, then moved to the chancel area after a few days. Both Union and Confederate soldiers were treated in the hospital on both the main floor and in the galleries. The army continued to occupy the church until January 31, 1863. The congregation, already heavily in debt from the 1860 renovations received a loan from one of its wealthiest members, Henry McDuel, to repair the sanctuary again for worship.
The Reformed Church continued to expand its presence throughout the latter quarter of the 19th century, establishing churches in Knoxville, Petersville, and Brunswick by the 1890s. Under the leadership of Rev. W.C. Sykes, the church was improved in 1894 with a new Sunday School Hall constructed at the back of the building. Two years later in 1896, the Queen Anne styled belfry was added to the exterior and the interior was improved with new chancel furnishings, frescoing of the walls, a new chandelier, and a metal "acoustic" tile ceiling. These renovations would be the last major changes to take place in the building.
In 1941, after having sustained its own minister and charge for nearly a century, Resurrection Church was placed under pastoral care of Christ Reformed Church in Middletown. The congregation declined in number by the mid-20th century and by the 1970s had dwindled to three families. In 1979, the congregation closed the church, giving the building to the Town of Burkittsville to be preserved and used as a community center. In the early 1990s, South Mountain Heritage Society assumed responsibility of the building, conducting a major restoration between 1999 and 2003 to bring the church back to its 1896 appearance.
One of the earliest existing photographs of the church, taken around 1910. The wrought iron fence was removed from the property in the early twentieth century but the boxwood bushes remain in place.
A photograph of the interior in 1979.