Most Trinity members are aware that our sanctuary was dedicated in 1766 by Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg. He was important because he was the principal organizer of Lutheranism in American. His three sons entered the ministry, and became prominent in other fields as well. His youngest son, Gotthilf Henry Ernst Muhlenberg, was Trinity’s pastor from 1780 to 1815, the longest serving pastor in our history. He was also an eminent botanist and the first president of Franklin College, now Franklin and Marshall College. Another son, John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, served as a general under George Washington in the War of Independence, and later was elected to the U. S. Congress. A third son was Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, who in later life became a member of our church.

John Peter Gabriel and Gotthilf Henry Ernst Muhlenberg

John Peter Gabriel (left) and Gotthilf Henry Ernst (right) Muhlenberg

His significant accomplishments are as follows:

Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg was born on January 1, 1750 at Trappe, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of Halle in Germany, where he studied theology, and was ordained by the Pennsylvania Ministerium as a minister of the Lutheran Church on October 25, 1770. He preached in Stouchsburg and Lebanon, Pennsylvania, from 1770 – 1774, and in New York City from 1774 – 1776. When the British entered New York at the onset of the American Revolutionary War, he felt obliged to leave, and returned to Trappe. He moved to New Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, and was pastor there and in Oley and New Goshenhoppen until August 1779.

Frederick then switched careers to become a member of the Continental Congress in 1779 and 1780, and served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1780 to 1783. He was elected its speaker on November 3, 1780. He was a delegate to and president of the Pennsylvania state constitutional convention in 1787, called to ratify the Federal Constitution. He was the first signer of the Bill of Rights (below, shaded section- click to enlarge).

Muhlenberg SignatureHe served as a delegate to the First and to the three succeeding United States Congresses (March 4, 1789–March 4, 1797). Frederick Muhlenberg was also the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, including for the First Congress (1789–1791) and Third Congress (1793–1795). He did not seek re-nomination in 1796.

In 1794, during Muhlenberg’s second tenure as Speaker, the House voted 42-41 against a proposal to translate some of the laws into German. Muhlenberg, who himself abstained from the vote, commented later, “the faster the Germans become Americans, the better it will be.” Despite not having voted against the bill, a legend called the Muhlenberg Legend developed in which he was credited as responsible for prohibiting German as an official language of the United States.

According to another legend, Muhlenberg also suggested that the title of the President of the United States should be “Mr. President” instead of “His High Mightiness” or “His Elected Majesty.”

After his death on June 4, 1801, Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg was buried in the cemetery where our original stone church was located. His body was later reinterred in Woodward Hill Cemetery, as was also the case with his brother, our pastor, Gotthilf H. E. Muhlenberg. After Frederick’s death, the Township of Muhlenberg, Pennsylvania, was named for him. In World War II, the United States liberty ship SS F. A. C. Muhlenberg (below) was named in his honor.


Material for this article was obtained from Wikipedia and from the booklet, Where the Saints Have Trod.

Lloyd E. Bull, Property Committee Chairperson