Nineteenth Century York County Swedenborgians?
The recent York Daily Record article about a new church in York, the Swedenborgians, also known as the New Church or Church of the New Jerusalem, rang a bell.
Click here for the York Daily Record article.
Members beliefs are based on the writings of theologian, philosopher and scientist, Emanuel Swedenborg (1668-1772). The theology seems to have just recently spread to York County. Or has it?
Is this congregation the first Swedenborgian church here? Maybe, maybe not.
A file on the Swedenborgians at the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives, contained a few booklets of Swedenborg’s theology. There is also an early volume of his writings in the rare book room. Most intriguing was a typed extract from York County Will Book N, giving the gist of the 1814 will of Ferdinand Wolfahrt of Manheim Township, York County, Pennsylvania. It reads:
Will of Ferdinand Wolfahrt of Maheim Twp.
Bk. N, page 241. Dated 27 April 1814. Probated 6 Feb. 1816.
“Testator states he was 62 years old in 1814. He makes William Schaper of Baltimore and Jacob Keller of Shrewsbury Twp. trustees of a fund of £100 pounds to establish, in either Codorus Twp. of Shrewsbury Twp., a church of the ‘New Jerusalem’ faith. He also makes provision of his library of 40 volumes of Swedenborg’s works to be placed in the proposed church so that students may have access to them. A catalog of this library is appended to the will.
The executors were Jacob Keller, Samuel Keller and George Keller.”
The extract also contains the following information from Orphan’s Court Docket M, pg. 118, dated 18 Feb. 1817.
“Estate of Ferdinand Wolfart is confirmed in the balance of $587.53 1/2.”
I will check the Will Book and Orphan’s Court Docket on microfilm and see if the entries offer any more clues and also check the indexes to see there is any more information. I also plan to check the estate files at the York County Archives to see if the church ever came to fruition.
Do any of you know of any early Swedenborg followers in York County? Is there one in your family tree?
There seems to be at least a couple different groups of Swedenborgians. The links below will take you to some that I found.
Bryn Athyn, Pa. based New Church.
Swedenborgian Church of North America.
Even an online Swedenborgian community.
Click the links below for more on York County churches.
Novel fund raisers.