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Hebron Lutheran Church

Located just north of Madison, VA, the Hebron Lutheran Church is the oldest continuously operating Lutheran Church in the U.S. and is one of a handful of wooden Virginia churches that pre-date the Revolutionary War. It was built in 1740 by the Germanna immigrants of 1717 (the second Germanna Colony). They had moved down to the Madison area from the Germanna settlement (located where Virginia Route 3 crosses the Rapidan River) in about 1726 and took out land patents. They had finally won their freedom from their indenture to Gov. Spotswood, and it was in this area that they began building lives for themselves and their children.

The settlers first built a log chapel on the current site of the church, then set about attracting a minister. Initially they were not successful, and made do with Michael Cook as lay reader. In 1733 they were able to attract Johann Caspar Stoever to be their pastor. They then commenced a fund-raising drive to finance the construction of a real church. Rev. Stoever and two of the immigrants, Michael Smith and Michael Holt, went to Europe to raise money and find an assistant pastor. On both counts they were successful, securing the needed funds and hiring George Samuel Klug. Rev. Stoever died on the return trip, however, leaving the task of building and consecrating the church to Rev. Klug.

Picture of church    Picture of church

The church is located on small a rise that affords it a pretty view of the Robinson River and surrounding area. The building had an annex put on around 1800 and it was fitted with a Tannenburg organ from Pennsylvania. The organ, largely unmodified, is still in use today. The church was substantially renovated in 1962. A cemetery dating from 1903 is located in the front of the building.


Further Reading

The information above was taken from John Blankenbaker's article in Beyond Germanna, v.2, n.4, July 1990, and is itself based on Rev. W.P. Huddle's History of the Hebron Lutheran Church, Madison County, VA, from 1717 to 1907, published in 1908. An updated version of this book is available from the Hebron Church, PO Box 100, Madison, VA 22727.

Other Pictures of the Hebron Lutheran Church.

Hebron Church

The Hebron Lutheran Church (Photo 1).

Hebron Church The Hebron Lutheran Church (Photo 2).

Hebron Church

The Hebron Lutheran Church (Photo 3).

(The following section on building techniques for Lutheran churches in Germany was provided by Kathy Ellis.  The details, drawings, and photos were provided by Chris How.  I have included this section so that you can see that the Hebron Lutheran Church was built using the same general buildind techniques used at that time in Germany.  These would have been the building techniques familiar to our Germanna ancestors.)

The building (Hebron Lutheran Church) is generally built in the overall German tradition and it is unlikely that you will find regional differences, excepting some minor nuances, which would lie beyond my level of expertise, and I suspect Ken Hume’s also.  I shall give a brief resume of the progression and Ken may correct me where I go wrong:

It is basically an adaptation of a standard house frame without the additional attics at several levels which are common throughout most of the German States, and which start with 2 possibilities; either lines of “standing” trestles within the roof, or the so called “hanging” seat.  (Stehende or Haengender Stuhl) pictures 1 & 2, but note that in the first picture Schaeffer tries to show both types on one stick drawing).  To make it clearer I have put in some other pictures from a real house in the village of Beutelsbach, just outside of Stuttgart, dendro dated to between 1500 and 1510, taken during the renovations, by my Godson Jens Bode.  One of the things which hits a British observer is the change from one timber type to another which occurs throughout most of Germany, whereas the conservative British remained wedded to oak.  Both my favourite American oracles, Paul Sprague, and Abbott Lowell Cummins, say that this British conservatism with oak prevailed in the USA well into the 1840's also.  Germany, as you may know, has vast fir, spruce and pine forest, which allowed their framing to develop using longer members, but Schaeffer says stronger timbers were reserved for corners and in other locations.  Those of you who are interested might like to note the use of oak saplings within the roof space at Beutelsbach which have been dried out by roasting over a fire to drive off acetic acid which literally eats away nails.  German construction used more nails than the British pegged system.

The fifth picture shows a 1495 barn which I crawled all over for my mid-course work, at Haddenham on the Oxfordshire boundary, (a village with long standing Saxon tradition).  Note the purlins are “clasped” by the upstanding wind bracing and this is the significant departure from the German/Continental tradition.  You can see I have coloured in orange the “reclining post” shown by Schaeffer on picture 2.  The intent to capture the purlin is the same in Germany as in Britain.

Picture 7, I have left with some of the German text by Boehm but we are only interested in part “A” of Fig. 623.  Notice he calls the variation a “laying” (or “reclining”) seat.  You may have people who are much better in German than I who can find more meaning in the text.  Basically Boehn says, (preceding page,) that after about 6 metres the rafters are not capable of freestanding without some separate support.  (He is referring to deflection problems of course).  Hebron Church roof, thanks to yourr excellent drawing Doug, shows the overlaid rafters in continuity, and lapped after the English fashion at the ridge.  I think this is standard German practice and is the same in Alsace also.

Putting all the elements together, and with my colouring in of the elements appropriately, you can all see in picture 8 how traditional the Hebron roof is.

I forgot to mention that the length of the “tilting sprockets”, (as per British terminology), varies in Germany.  Often they are long and termed “aufschiebling” to throw off the rain & snow.  In Denmark they are much shorter & termed “skalk”.  In France they are termed “coyau” for the shorter form & “chevalets” for the longer form, which is found in Alsace & Flanders.  I have coloured these in purple to show the similarities.  [Regards, Chris How]


(1) Schaeffer Suspended Seat


(2) Schaeffer Roof Seats


(3) Beutelsbach Aufschiebling


(4) Beutelsbach 1500


(5) Beutelsbach Attic Level Gable


(6) Haddenham Manor Farm 1495


(7) Boehm Purlin Roof


(8) Hebron Roof Frame


Doug Harnsberger sketched the Hebron roof framing system during his graduate work at UVA in 1979.  The final analysis is that Hebron's roof structure is built in a traditional German style (no surprise there!).  The first drawing below is the original produced by UVA; Nr. 8, above, is Chris How's additions and explanations of this drawing.  The second drawing was also produced by UVA and shows the floor plan of the Hebron Church.  (These two drawings are thumbnails; left-click on them to see, and/or, download the full-size ones.  The Full-size drawings are VERY large, but that's the only way to get all the details.  Don't download the images you see; left-click and then download.)

Hebron Roof Frame


Hebron Floor Plan



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15 August 1996