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Town Clock Church
Photograph by Kathleen McKenney, courtesy of the City of Cumberland

The Town Clock Church as represented in a 1906 map of Cumberland
Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division, G3844.C9A3 1906 .F6

A prominent brick building visible from many parts of Cumberland, Town Clock Church stands today as a vital reminder of Western Maryland's German immigrants. In the early 1700s, English entrepreneur Thomas Dulany first lured German settlers from Pennsylvania and Germany to Maryland with inexpensive 300-acre farms around the town of Frederick. With the American population constantly pushing west, German farmers from Frederick were among the first pioneers to move into extreme western Maryland, helping establish Fort Cumberland in the 1750s. By the 1800s, English settlers made up the majority of Cumberland's population, although numerous Germans still resided in the area.

In the early 1800s, German and English Lutherans of Cumberland all attended St. Paul's Lutheran Church. In the late 1830s, large numbers of Germans began moving to Cumberland to work in the coal fields just west of Cumberland. In 1844, with their numbers growing rapidly, German speakers at St. Paul's held a worship service all in German. In 1847, against the backdrop of "Americanization," English speaking members of St. Paul's informed German speakers that no more services in an "alien" language would be conducted in the building.

Rather than argue the matter, the German speakers left St. Paul's and founded the German Evangelical Church. The 35 members of the new congregation acquired land on a prominent hill overlooking Cumberland's downtown, and laid the church's foundation and cornerstone on June 1, 1848. According to local tradition, the Church acquired its most prominent feature, its clock and chimes, after winning a city sponsored contest challenging local churches to be the first to build a tower to house the clock. In 1895, the German Lutheran Church switched to all-English worship services. In 1931, a Disciples of Christ congregation moved into what had become known as "Town Clock Church." Endeavoring to care for the oldest unmodified church in Cumberland, the members of the First Christian Church have preserved the Town Clock Church and Cumberland's connections to its early German population for more than 60 years.

The Town Clock Church is located at 312 Bedford St. It is open to the public by appointment only. Please call 301-777-3909 well in advance.

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