About 1760 there began to be preached in Frederick County a doctrine which emphasized the work of the Spirit. It was not approved by the churches of that day. The preachers, who became known as “Unsectarian Preachers” were Jacob Otterbein and his followers. The work prospered for forty years until, in a meeting of the “Unsectarian Preachers” at Peter Kemp’s, near Frederick, on September 25, 1800, the United Brethren Church was begun.
Construction was begun on the present site in 1851. It was built on land donated by John Harp. The Church was dedicated April 25, 1852 by Bishop J.J. Glossbrenner. The building cost $1,744.50. In 1859 a cupola was erected. The members purchased a large gold-toned bell from a Boston foundry which was placed upon the steeple of the United Brethren Church on January 14, 1859. The bell cost $191.00. The inscription on the bell reads: Jones and Co. Founders, Troy, NY 1858.
A severe storm demolished the building on December 17, 1890. A portion of the roof was blown off, the cupola was demolished and the bell wheel wrecked. The Trustees immediately began planning a new building. The marble cornerstone for a new church was laid on July 16, 1891.
The new building was completed at a cost of $3,196.86 and dedicated by Bishop E.B. Kephart on May 22, 1892. At the first service it was stated that this sum was required to liquidate the debt. At the close of the night service the announcement was made that all of this amount had been raised during the day except about $200, which sum had been assumed by the committee in charge. The Valley Register (hereafter referred to VR) described the new church as follows: “The church is of brick. It is “L” shaped and has a square tower rising from the angle. The tower is surmounted by a spire. The audience room of the church and the Sunday School (hereafter referred to as SS) room are connected by means of sliding partitions, and the entrance to the audience room is obtained by means of a door in the tower and one in the front of the church. The church is carpeted, has stationary folding chairs, and contains a very pretty chancel and desk. A handsome chandelier hangs from the center of each room.”
Oyster dinners prepared and served by the members of Mt. Zion on Election Day are a long tradition. The VR reported in 1905 that the Mite Society of the U.B. Church served oysters on Election Day in the room recently vacated by Druggist Lovell. (Its location is unknown.)
The Church was remodeled in 1905. Improvements included the removal of the partition between the main sanctuary and the SS room and the erection of flexible doors 27 feet long and 16 feet high. The entire interior of the church was repainted and the walls refrescoed. The church was thoroughly renovated and new carpets, etc. were added. The congregation also purchased an acre of ground to enlarge the cemetery and to provide hitching grounds. A new fence was also erected.
A church orchestra was formed in 1912 and continued until the 1930’s.
Old Folks Day was started by Cyrus Flook in 1915. This annual event continued until 1942 attracting from 173 to over 700 persons. Old folks led the service, singing hymns without music and using traditions from their youth in the service. For example, many of the old folks were “moved by the Spirit” to give testimonials on what God had done for them, and then gave advice to the young people on how to live a good, long life. After the service, the ladies of the church served lunch.
The Church was remodeled again in 1916. Added were stained glass windows, pews, parsonage, and SS rooms. A balcony was added to the north side of the sanctuary. Carpet in the center aisle and central heating were installed. While remodeling was ongoing, the congregation met in the Lutheran Church. The new parsonage, known as “Castleloma” was attached to the east end of the church. A part of the old SS room was converted into a part of the parsonage. The building had eight rooms and bath, hardwood floors, and was heated with low pressure steam and a compressed air-water system operated by an automatic electric motor. There was a large south porch built of concrete, with large columns. There was a laundry in the cellar, with stationary tubs and hot and cold water and cellar drainage. The exterior of the new parsonage was finished in pebble-dash and La Flora cement wash. The cost was approx. $4,000.00.
In June, 1926, more than 600 descendants of the late George Harp, 1765-1844, made their first Harp annual pilgrimage to Myersville, the home and burial place of the head of the family. Descendants came from MD, PA, Ohio, NY and MN. Dinner was served on the church lawn at noon.
In 1927 Cyrus and Elizabeth Flook purchased the pipe organ from M.P. Moller Co. in Hagerstown at a cost of $3,500. This required the addition of an organ chamber behind the altar. A Dedication Festival was held on April 3, 1927.
Annual Christmas Eve pageants were begun in 1929 and continued into the 1960’s.
In the June 12, 1931 issue of the VR, it was reported that the U.B. congregation “has in its possession two tuning forks used by Francis Scott Key at the old church at Jerusalem”, from which the Myersville U. B. church originated.
The 20th annual Old Folks Day was held on June 9, 1935. It featured 4 services, beginning with the SS session at 9:15 a.m. and closing with a concert by a 40-piece symphony orchestra from the Dallastown, PA U.B. Sunday School at 3 p.m. The hymns used during the day were pitched by the tuning fork owned by Francis Scott Key and which was used by him when he led the singing at religious gatherings held in many Middletown Valley barns more than a century earlier. Some years before, the tuning fork came into the possession of Cyrus F. Flook, originator of the old folks’ programs, and was loaned to the congregation for this service by his daughter, Miss Elizabeth Eby Flook. Over 500 persons were present at the service despite heavy rain.
On July 4, 1943, a beautiful plaque containing an honor roll was dedicated by the pastor, Rev. Sherriff at the morning service. The plaque was presented by Rev. and Mrs. F. Berry Plummer. Names on the honor roll were: James T. Harp, Max K. Flook, Robert E. Gouker, Richard D. Harp, Harold G. Moser, Galen C. Smith, Elvin M. Keller, G.F. Eichelberger, Carroll L. Horine, Glen W. Palmer, Donald W. Palmer, David K. DeGrange, Clarence C. Schroyer. Sadly, this plaque was lost during a renovation in 1990.
In 1945 a room was excavated under the social room for the installation of a central heating plant for the church and parsonage. The interior of the church was redecorated and new chancel furniture installed.
In 1946 the United Brethren joined the Evangelicals to form a new denomination called the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB). At that time we became Mt. Zion Evangelical United Brethren Church.
Myersville Community Daily Vacation Bible School was held June 16-27, 1952 from 9:00 to 11:30 AM. The school was open to all children from age 4 through the 6th grade. Mt. Zion EUB Church hosted the school. Total enrollment was 74. A community VBS continues to this day and rotates between Mt. Zion, St. Paul’s Lutheran, and the Church of the Brethren.
An Easter cantata, The King Eternal, was presented on Easter Sunday evening April 5, 1953 by the choirs of Mt. Zion E.U.B., St. Paul’s Lutheran, Myersville Church of the Brethren, and the Middletown E.U.B. Church. The choir, composed of 30 voices was directed by Joseph R. Harp. Howard Doub presided at the organ and Anna Doub at the piano. This was the first of several community cantatas.
In 1956 the church acquired the home of John Eldridge on the corner of Harp Avenue and Main Street for $12,000, for a parsonage. The parsonage attached to the church was converted to Sunday School rooms.
In 1968 the E.U.B. Church merged with the Methodist Church to become United Methodist. Middletown was dropped from the Myersville circuit, leaving only Mt. Zion and Pleasant Walk. Rev. Monroe Shearer, Jr. continued as Mt. Zion’s pastor through the transition with little change noticeable to the parishioners.
In 1986 the organ was rebuilt by the M.P. Moller Co. at a cost of $65,000. Chimes and several new stops were added.
Mt. Zion had been part of a dual charge with Pleasant Walk since 1968. A 5-year plan in the 1980’s led to increases in membership, finances, and church activities which allowed Mt. Zion to become a station church in 1989. That year the sanctuary was totally remodeled. Pews were removed and refinished and pew cushions were installed. Air conditioning was added. Walls were repaired and repainted. The ceiling was decorated. A new sound system was installed. The altar area and railing were extended. New carpet was installed and new choir chairs were purchased. During the renovation, the Church held Sunday worship in the Myersville Elementary School multi-purpose room. Dedication services were held on Easter Sunday 1990 as we returned to worship in the newly renovated sanctuary.
Approved by one vote at a Church Conference in 1992, Mt. Zion constructed the current Education Building in 1993. The structure contains Sunday School classrooms, a social room for fellowship events, and a kitchen. During the week the Creative Children’s Center, a private day care center which opened in December 1993, occupies the building. The builder was Richard Feeser of Taneytown.
On April 21, 2002 the Memorial Garden was dedicated “In Memory of Jim Miller and Our Loved Ones”. The original garden has been expanded across the front of the Education Building and the front of the main Church.
Mt. Zion celebrated its 150th Anniversary on September 19, 2002. Previous pastors who participated in this celebration included: Stephen Raby, R. Monroe Shearer, Norm Kemmerer, and R. Monroe Wright plus then pastor, Ted Higby. Iwanda Jay, wife of former pastor H. Wilbur Jay also attended. A History Room was also established in time for the 150th Anniversary celebration.
A carillon was given to Mt. Zion in 2005 in memory of George and Helen Rice. Hymns and chimes are heard each day at noon and at 6 PM.
In November 2006, on the night before Election Day, the Education Building suffered extensive water damage when a valve on a urinal on the second floor malfunctioned which flooded the first floor and the basement. The Creative Children’s Center moved into rooms 7 and 8 of the main church building while repairs were made. In March 2007 repairs were complete. The childcare center returned to the building and the Education Building was rededicated.
God has blessed Mt. Zion for more than 150 years. The reason is clear – the people called Mt. Zion have been hearers and doers of the Word. Matthew 7:24 says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” Let us pray that future generations at Mt. Zion remain grounded on Jesus Christ as their foundation and continue to serve God by serving others.