In his early 20s, during the Revolutionary War,
Albright served as
drummer boy in the 4th Battalion of the Philadelphia Militia,
in 1781. His brother John was a fifer and the two participated
in the battles
of Brandywine and Germantown.
During the late winter and early spring of 1782
he served guarding
Hessian prisoners in Reading, Pa. (Today, this region in Reading
the name “Hessian Camp” from the early Revolutionary
The Hessian Camp region is only two or three
miles southeast of the
current Albright campus. One could easily conjecture that,
Hessian Camp, Jacob traversed the fields and forests which
later is the land on which Albright College is located.
~ A BRIGHT, HANDSOME YOUNG MAN TAKES A WIFE ~
At his maturity, Jacob was described as being taller than medium
height with a high forehead and slender build. He possessed deep-set,
penetrating blue eyes with a somewhat narrow, oblong face. His
hair was groomed in the straight fashion of the day, and it is
said that he
possessed his mother’s sharp wit. Accounts of the period
he had a fair complexion and was neat and tidy in appearance. Jacob
a reputation for being punctual in his appointments and honest
in all his
In 1785, at age 26, Jacob Albright married Catherine Cope. The
married couple settled on a 63-acre, fertile farm in the northeastern
part of Lancaster County, near the present town of Ephrata. Here
not only engaged in farming, but he also became known as the “Honest
Tiler,” as he manufactured tile used as roofing material.
It was his home
for the next 23 years of his life. Today, the house and barn
although they were modified in more recent years.
How many children were born to Catherine and Jacob remains
debated though. Some sources say nine; others say six. It is
however, that only three survived to maturity. Sarah, their
married Noah Ranck and settled in Tioga County. His oldest
died without a family. And David, the younger surviving son,
Mary Raidabaugh. They had 11 children. The current Jacob Albright
lineage stems from David’s marriage.
~ A PERIOD OF TURMOIL ~
The death of several of his children from what was reported to
dysentery in 1790, coupled with several reported “close
life-threatening incidents, had a profound effect upon Jacob
life. He became mentally and emotionally troubled. He suffered
depression, but religion saw him through.
Although united with the Bergstrasse Lutheran Church near the
village of Hinkletown, the Albrights sometimes worshipped in
Reformed Church near their home. It is believed that Catherine
the Reformed faith before marriage. During this period in American
history, there were many similarities in worship services between
In fact, both groups worshipped in the same building on many
occasions. These churches were called “union churches” and
common among the Pennsylvania German settlements.
In spite of
his depressed mental state, Albright continued his
business, paid his bills, and took care of his family and farm.
deep down inside, he was troubled about his “personal salvation.”
Albright lived in a community where evangelical religious
experiences were not frequently expressed. However, there were
Methodists, as well as a few very evangelistic Reformed clergy,
making their impact in this Pennsylvania-German region.
~ THE DIE IS CAST ~
It was in this perplexed state of mind that Jacob frequently
home of Adam Riegel, a lay preacher in the church of the United
Brethren in Christ. Hours were spent in prayers and meditation.
baptized, confirmed and instructed in the Lutheran faith, Albright
described his spirituality as “a walk frivolously in the
path of a carnal life
with little thought about the object of human life.”
So in July 1791, at 33 years of age, Albright received what was
described as a “genuine conversion experience,” and
it changed his life
He searched for a church which shared his recently acquired
viewpoint. This search led him to a Methodist class near his
Isaac Davis was the class leader.
The discipline and practices
of the Methodists were what Albright
desired in his new found faith. Albright enjoyed his associations
the Methodists and, even though he was still learning English
and it was
not always easy for him to understand, he was pleased with
He conducted devotions for classes at the Davis home. (In those
religious meetings were called classes and were held in private
And he sought to attain a high degree of personal Christian
Through these experiences, he gained the courage to express
privately and in public meetings. He developed a very dynamic,
preaching style and was able to present the Gospel message
great power and tenderness. He moved people when he spoke.
Realizing his need for Christian fellowship with those who
convictions, he became more and more involved with the Methodist
Albright’s greatest concern was that his newfound
religious zeal and
his experiences be transmitted to the Germans; the largest segment
the population in this region of Pennsylvania. As “the spirit” called
to carry out this mission, he was eager to bring these truths and
to the “Pennsylvania Dutch.”
~ LICENSED TO EXHORT ~
Albright’s zest for religion grew. With the gifted ability
to teach the
word of God, he became a licensed exhorter, permitted to speak
frequently at the Methodist meetings.
It was 1791. Albright was 33 years old. Experiencing a very deep,
personal call to preach, Albright reviewed the religious practices
out by the then-established churches (Lutheran, Reformed, and
Plain Sects such as the Dunkards and Mennonites). Through this
he saw what he termed “the great decline of true religion” among
fellow Pennsylvania Germans. As he reviewed his divine call,
in spite of
his feeling of personal inadequacies, he felt a strong desire
to take his
message to his German neighbors.
He needed an ecclesiastical connection though. As was true
evangelicals of that period, there was a strong desire on the
part of the
itinerant ministers to unite with the Methodist movement that
spreading across America. The Rev. Martin Boehm, the Rev. Wilhelm
Otterbein and Albright comprised this group.
Bishop Francis Asbury, leader of the American Methodist
movement, did not share Boehm’s, Otterbein’s and
adopt the German language and bring the Evangelical Gospel
these people in their native tongue. Feeling that there was
no future for
the German language in this country, Asbury refused to sanction
work in it. Thus, the Revs. Boehm and Otterbein started work
later became the United Brethren in Christ Church. And Albright
on his own, preaching and evangelizing as opportunities presented
The Discipline and Articles of Faith were always the guide
Albright’s religious policies, even though he no longer
had an official
relationship to the Methodist Church.
Tradition has it that his first preaching was at Flickinger’s
near his home. It is here where the children of Adam Riegel,
preacher in the United Brethren in Christ, were converted by
~ A DYNAMIC PREACHER TAKES TO THE ROAD ~
It was not an easy matter for Albright to leave his business
and become a preacher among his fellow Pennsylvania Germans.
took on the awesome task of becoming a self-educated exhorter
preacher to a people for whom he had a great love. However, his
struggle was great.
According to records, in October 1796 Albright set out from his
to start missionary preaching. He remained close to home at first,
later ventured to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, conducting
in homes, barns and even in open market areas.
At the height and prime of his ministry, Albright possessed a
persuasive, mystical quality that attracted those who were in
A German quote from one of his followers expressed:
“In Seinum Angesichte flammt
Die Weishat die Von oben stammt”
Translated, this means: “The
wisdom coming from above glowed in his face.”
One can only imagine the reception this radical barnstorming
received in the very religious and conservative communities he
visited. In fact, several incidents are documented of the persecutions
this gentle, dynamic preacher.
~ ENCOUNTERS WITH EVIL FORCES ~
On October 8, 1797, there was a dedication of a new church in
Schaefferstown (Lebanon County), Pa., about 10 miles from Albright’s
home, with both Lutheran and Reformed congregations holding joint
Albright, mingling among the crowd, became aware that the church
building would not hold all the people gathered there. So, he
went to a
nearby market house and ascended a pile of lumber outside the
where he began to preach and conduct his own service.
By doing so, Albright antagonized some of the rowdies in he
crowd who pushed him from the pile of lumber and threatened
bodily abuse. A strong man by the name of Maize rescued Albright,
carrying him safely to the friendly home of Peter Mohr. Albright’s
in carrying out what he felt God wanted him to do was truly
Two years later in 1799, documents show Albright returned to
Schaefferstown for the celebration of the Cherry Fair, an event
continues today. At the fair, Albright preached along the roadside,
cruel, rowdy mob did not like what he had to say and abused
Albright fled in a semi-conscious state, taking refuge in the
home of the
Zentmeyers. When he arrived his face was bloody, his clothing
and soiled. He could barely stay on his horse.
And the violence continued. Documents show he had an incident
along what was then known as The Turnpike, being built from
Womelsdorf, Berks County (currently Route 422).
Some construction workers on The Turnpike were not sympathetic
him. One day, as he passed by on horseback, they threw stones
Albright dismounted his horse, fell on his knees in the middle
road under a shower of stones, and called upon God as Stephen
praying that God might have mercy on his persecutors.
His prayer had such an effect on his adversaries that they
ceased throwing stones and Albright was left to go on his way.
~ THE HONEST TILER ~
Throughout the time he was
an itinerant preacher presenting his
message whenever and wherever he could, Albright continued to
out his duties to his family.
Tiles were made. The farm work was done. And his business
relationships were maintained. Although Albright went away for
periods of time, preaching and evangelizing, he always returned
to take care of his responsibilities. And, in fact, his wife
conducted much of the day-to-day operation of the farm and
business. Records show that Albright’s farm was actually
as his estate was valued between $3,000 and $4,000, a considerable
amount of wealth in that period.
His family, however, was never really involved, nor very
in his Evangelical outreach. They remained in the Reformed
Some of his descendants to date have remained
known today as
the United Church of Christ. Albright’s father never accepted
religious zeal for the ministry. His wife, though, was a
member of the
Evangelical Association at the time of her death in 1828. And,
her husband and, subsequently, some of the other grandchildren,
did become part of the Evangelical movement.
~ A CHURCH MOVEMENT IS BORN ~
Albright became widely known as a powerful preacher. Whether
private home to just one family, at a neighborhood gathering,
or a large
group, Albright’s message was heard.
But, with his followers so widely scattered, it was difficult
that any organization of these “Albright people” would
The first attempt was a general meeting of representatives held
latter 1790s, at which five followers were present.
Not long after his ministry started, Albright was openly attacked
the conservative churches on every shore imaginable. One pastor
warned, “Beware of this false prophet who comes in sheep’s
but inwardly is a ravenous wolf.” Because of his activities,
Bergstrasse Church removed Albright’s name from their roles.
Even though it was not Albright’s intent to start a new
in 1800 his work had increased so much that he knew that some
form of supervision was needed for his religious ministries.
So, as the years progressed, classes were organized
in and around the
central Pennsylvania region.
A small group of ministers including
Albright, George Miller, an early convert of Albright’s,
and John Walter,
the most prominent in the movement, took to work with little
They were fed and housed in the homes where the meetings were
In 1803, the ministry grew as the first General Conference
Albright’s followers was held. And, as time passed, additional
added to the ministerial roles with classes growing in number.
was ordained by his associates on November 5, 1803, and selected
Some called him the Bishop, but it was never a title he truly
~ JOHN DREISBACH-THE ALBRIGHT COLLEGE CONNECTION ~
The first official minister’s license of Die Evangelische
Gemeinschaft (Evangelical Assocation) was issued to John Dreisbach
1807. This was significant in the history of Albright College,
Dreisbach, a protégé of Albright, planted the seeds
that started the
educational movement in the organization. Dreisbach traveled
Albright on many of his preaching missions.
As Albright’s Die Evangelische Gemeinschaft became better
Dreisbach became a prominent leader. He is credited with planting
the seed that started the movement for more formal education
ministry and laity of the Evangelical Association. Albright impressed
upon his young protégé his love of order and the
need for proper
conduct. And, as the movement grew, it became more evident that
process of formal education was necessary.
Seeing this need, these early evangelists, including Albright,
with them in their saddle bags a Bible, a Catechism, a prayer
even a hymnal. And Dreisbach, with a clear vision of more formal
education, wrote an article titled “Teachers and Preachers
Should Not Be
Ignorant” in 1845.
In 1847, at a session of the General Conference of the Evangelical
Association held in New Berlin, Pa., Dreisbach introduced a resolution
that a school should be established.
The resolution, put to a vote by the general church membership,
defeated. But with the seed firmly planted, it wasn’t long
church reconsidered. Union Seminary in New Berlin, Pa., was
in 1856. It was rechartered as Pennsylvania Central College
1887, and became known as Albright College in 1898.
~ THE FINAL YEARS ~
Albright carried out his ministry from 1803 to 1808 at a high
activity. He and his followers continued to see acts of harassment
agitation from various opposing groups. But in spite of this, the
continued to grow and more and more followers were received into
fellowship. All of this activity, many times under very adverse
took its toll on the life of this very sincere, dedicated leader.
Finally, in May of 1808 when Albright was traveling with several
companions from a general meeting held in Linglestown, Pa., northeast
of Harrisburg, he became tired and weak from tuberculosis. His
companions knew he could not make it to his home in Lancaster
50 miles to the south. So, after 30 miles, they reached the home
Becker in Kleinfeltersville, in the Millbach area of Lebanon
Here, it was determined that Albright was too weak to travel
Upon his arrival at the Becker home, Albright asked, “Have
bed ready? I have come to die.”
Albright died on May 18, 1808, at the age of 49. Buried in the
family burial plot, his body remains at that location today.
As a tribute to Albright, a chapel was erected in 1850 and rebuilt
1860 at the site of his burial. His wife did not arrive before
his death. The
home in which he died remains, but was moved to a slightly different
location visible from the burial grounds.
It was not until after his death that Jacob’s family chose
to change his
surname from Albrecht, to the more familiar, Albright.
~ THE LEGACY ~
From the very first time Jacob Albright went to Adam Riegel’s
for prayer and meditation in 1790, he was impressed with the
and the Methodist form of worship. Essentially, Albright followed
practiced Methodism in his establishment of classes throughout
Pennsylvania-German classes he visited.
The Evangelical Association, established as a church unit by
Albright’s followers, had as its foundational model the
and articles of faith. It is truly ironic that Francis Asbury,
Methodist leader in Albright’s name, refused to sanction
Pennsylvania German ministry. Today, most all of the religious
which grew out of the Evangelical Association are now amalgamated
the Methodist church.
Even Albright College, which is today a Methodist college,
its basic roots back to that Evangelical Association.
~ BIBLIOGRAPHY ~
- Albright, Raymond - A History of the Evangelical Church,
The Evangelical Press, Harrisburg, Pa., 1956.
- Yeakel, R. - Jacob Albright and His Co-laborers, Publishing
House of the Evangelical Association, Cleveland, Ohio,
- Vey, Raymond - Thumbnail Sketch of Evangelical Bishops,
The Evangelical Publishing House, Harrisburg, Pa., 1939.
- Wilson, Robert - Jacob Albright, The Evangelical Pioneer,
Church Center Press, Myerstown, Pa., 1940.
- Barth, Eugene and Gingrich, Wilbur - A History of Albright
College, Albright College, Reading, Pa., 1955.
- Also, selected material from the archives of the Evangelical
School of Theology, Myerstown, Pa.