Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg

Coordinates: 39°49′54″N 77°14′40″W / 39.83162°N 77.24433°W / 39.83162; -77.24433
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg
The 1832 "Old Dorm" (now known as Schmucker Hall) was used as the "Seminary Hotel" for dignitaries at the 50th battle anniversary in 1913.[1]: 49  A colonial-style portico was added to the southeast side in May 1914 to commemorate the reunion.[2][3]
Former name
Gettysburg Seminary
Active1826 (1826)–2017 (2017)
FounderSamuel Simon Schmucker (General Synod)
AffiliationWashington Theological Consortium[4]
Religious affiliation
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
61 Seminary Ridge
, , ,
39°49′54″N 77°14′40″W / 39.83162°N 77.24433°W / 39.83162; -77.24433
Merged intoUnited Lutheran Seminary (2017)
Website (formerly

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Gettysburg Seminary) was a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was one of seven ELCA seminaries, one of the three seminaries in the Eastern Cluster of Lutheran Seminaries, and a member institution of the Washington Theological Consortium. It was founded in 1826 under prominent but controversial theologian and professor Samuel Simon Schmucker (1799-1873) for the recently organized General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States. The seminary was the oldest continuing Lutheran seminary in the United States until it was merged on July 1, 2017, after 189 years of operation, with the nearby and former rival Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia to form the United Lutheran Seminary. The new institution continues to use both campuses.

The Gettysburg Seminary served the church as a pioneer in theological education creating among Lutheran seminaries the first faculty position in Christian Education in 1926, the first teacher in sociology and psychology in 1942, and the first in stewardship in 1989. Gettysburg continued to add to its trail breaking in the American scene by granting tenure to a female professor, Bertha Paulssen, in 1945, and graduating, in 1965, the first woman to be ordained by an American Lutheran church body, Elizabeth Platz (graduated in 1965 and ordained in 1970). the seminary was also the first Lutheran seminary to admit an African American theological student and seminarian, Daniel Alexander Payne, in 1835, only nine years after its founding.

During the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War, the seminary, on a ridge northwest of the town, became a focal point of action on the first day of battle, July 1, 1863. The seminary gave its name to the now iconic Seminary Ridge, where the line of battle of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was formed for the later actions on the second and third days of the battle. The headquarters of commanding Gen. Robert E. Lee was established in a stone cottage across the northwest Cashtown Road.


At the 1820 formation of the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States, its constitution specified that the synod form plans for a seminary or seminaries. Samuel Simon Schmucker, ordained in 1820, actively lobbied for the establishment of a seminary and began theological training for students at his parsonage in New Market, Virginia. After hearing Schmucker speak in 1824 about his efforts, the Maryland-Virginia Synod recommended to the General Synod in 1825 that a seminary be established.[5]

The board of directors first met on March 2, 1826, in Hagerstown, Maryland, with the first order of business being to select a site for the seminary. They rejected proposals from Carlisle, Pennsylvania (at Dickinson College) and Hagerstown[6] and the "Gettysburg Theological Seminary"[7] was established on August 1, 1826.[8] Schmucker was elected the first professor and the seminary opened with eight[9] students on September 5, 1826,[10] in the Gettysburg Academy building,[11] which had opened 1810.[12] In 1832, the seminary moved to its first building on the ridge west of the borough, the ridge now eing known as Seminary Ridge.[13]

Following Schmucker, the seminary had "faculty chairmen" rather than presidents. The first seminary president, John Alden Singmaster, was designated in 1906.[14]

During the World War II labor shortage, the seminary assisted with the county's 1942 apple harvest[15] before German POWs became available, and a seminary auxiliary was organized in 1953.[16]

Role in the Battle of Gettysburg[edit]

On July 1, 1863 at 4 p.m., the Army of the Potomac was positioned at the seminary.

The Seminary building served as a lookout on July 1, 1863, the first day of battle. From the cupola, Brig. Gen. John Buford, commanding First Division, Cavalry Corps,[17] Army of the Potomac, observed the opening of the battle to the west of Seminary Ridge and witnessed the arrival of the I Corps under Maj. Gen. John Reynolds marching to his relief from the south.[18]

By the late afternoon, the Union lines on McPherson's Ridge, west of the seminary, were forced back to Seminary Ridge by Confederate troops of Heth's and Pender's divisions. Before the troops could dig in on Seminary Ridge, a further attack by Pender's division broke the line. The I Corps streamed across Seminary Hill and through the town of Gettysburg, covered by a delaying action on the grounds by the famed Iron Brigade.[19] The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia occupied the seminary grounds and held them until the Army's retreat on July 4, 1863.

There was no further infantry combat on the seminary grounds, but it continued to play a prominent role in the battle. The seminary building had begun to be used as a field hospital for soldiers of both armies during the first day, and this continued throughout the engagement and after the battle was over.[20] Artillery was posted on the hill and participated in action against Union artillery on Culp's and Cemetery Hills on July 2 and 3.[21][22]

Confederate soldiers ransacked the house of seminary President Schmucker, an outspoken abolitionist. Confederate troops also used the seminary building cupola as a lookout, although there is no hard evidence that General Robert E. Lee, whose headquarters were just across the Cashtown Road to the north of the seminary, ever entered the cupola.[23]

The seminary contains multiple commemorative markers and monuments along its main drive, called Seminary Ridge (formerly, Confederate Ave). The park commission had placed two Confederate 3" rifles,[24] two other Confederate guns, and two Union 12-pounders ("False Napoleon")[11] along the avenue by 1912.[25]

Subsequent campus history[edit]

In 1868, some seminary land was purchased for the Gettysburg Springs Railroad (now Springs Avenue) and the faculty expanded[clarification needed] to a fourth professor (James W. Richard) in 1889.[26] In 1895, during the battlefield commemorative era, the Gettysburg Park Commission telfordized the seminary's north–south avenue[27] (resurfaced in 1927). In 1896, the seminary had two academic buildings, four professor dwellings, a hospital, and approximately 38 acres (15 ha).[6]

The cornerstone of the Church of the Abiding Presence was laid in 1940[28] and construction was completed in 1942.[29] In about 1960, the seminary purchased the nearby Elsie Singmaster Lewars home[26] and in 1961, the Adams County Historical Society moved from the courthouse basement[30] to Old Dorm (added to the NRHP in 1974).[31] In 2011, the society moved into Wolf House, also owned by the seminary.[32] The 2011 "Crossroads Campaign" planned $1.8 million of fundraising for chapel renovations.[33]


In January 2016, the seminary's board announced a merger with the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.[34][35] While originally planned as a closure of both schools with the formation of a new institution, that plan was canceled over accreditation issues[36] and a merger of the two schools was completed 1 July 2017, under the name United Lutheran Seminary.[37]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ Beitler, Lewis Eugene (editor and compiler) (December 31, 1913). Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg: Report of the Pennsylvania Commission (Report). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Wm. Stanley Bay (state printer). Retrieved 2011-08-11 – via Google Books. {{cite report}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  2. ^ "First Memorial of Anniversary". Adams County News. May 16, 1914. p. 1. Retrieved December 6, 2021.]
  3. ^ Michael A. Dreese (2002). The Hospital on Seminary Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg. McFarland & Company. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-7864-1224-2.
  4. ^ "Member Institutions of the Washington Theological Consortium". Washington Theological Consortium. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
  5. ^ Gobbel, Roger with Matthews, Donald and Matthews, Elaine. On the Glorious Hill: A Short History in Word and Picture of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (subsequently 'On the Glorious Hill'). Lancaster: Pridemark Press, 1976, 5-6.(
  6. ^ a b "The Gettysburg Seminary…History and Needs" (Google News Archive). Gettysburg Compiler. August 18, 1896. Retrieved 2011-08-11. Gettysburg and the people of Adams county, including many from Hanover [in York Co.], offered $7,000 in cash, and the trustees of the old [Gettysburg] academy the use of that building.
  7. ^ "Gettysburg Theological Seminary" (Google News Archives). The Adams Sentinel. April 23, 1928. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  8. ^ [Treasurer] (September 6, 1926). "Theological Seminary" (Google News Archive). The Republican Compiler. Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  9. ^ Wentz, Abdel Ross (1965). History of the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary, 1826-1965. Harrisburg, PA: Evangelical Press. p. 130.
  10. ^ "Gettysburg Seminary to Observe its Centenary" (Google News Archive). The Daily Times. Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. September 18, 1926. Retrieved 2011-08-11. the cupola of the seminary building was used as a lookout point by General Buford and General Reynolds
  11. ^ a b Swain, Craig (October 2, 2008). "First Home of Seminary and College" ( webpage, marker 12004). Retrieved 2011-08-11.
  12. ^ Beitel, Calvin Gustavus (1874). A Digest of Titles of Corporations Chartered by the Legislature … (Google books). J. Campbell & son. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  13. ^ Joswick, Dave, ed. (February–March 2008). "Buford's View: July 1, 1863 (advertisement)". The Gettysburg Companion. Times and News Publishing Company. p. 16. {{cite web}}: External link in |work= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)
  14. ^ Wentz, Abdel Ross (1965). History of the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary, 1826-1965. Harrisburg, PA: Evangelical Press. pp. 414–416.
  15. ^ "Faculty, Students Help with Crops". The Windsor Daily Star. Sep 19, 1942. Retrieved 25 November 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  16. ^ "Auxiliary of Seminary will be organized". The Star and Sentinel. Apr 18, 1953. Retrieved 25 November 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  17. ^ "Union - Cavalry Corps (AoP)". 2005-03-18. Archived from the original on 2005-03-18. Retrieved 2021-12-06.
  18. ^ "Lutheran Seminary Cupola".
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Lutheran Seminary Serves as Hospital at Gettysburg | Pennsylvania Civil War Trails".
  21. ^ "Dance's Battalion - First Virginia Artillery Historical Marker".
  22. ^ "Cunningham's Battery - Dance's Battalion Historical Marker".
  23. ^ "Preserving the Legacies of Seminary Ridge". Archived from the original on 2007-07-01.
  24. ^ Historical Marker Database
  25. ^ "1911 Report". Archived from the original on 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
  26. ^ a b The Gettysburg Times. Times and News Publishing Company. 1963 – via Google News Archive. Old Dorm was used as an observation post first by General Reynolds {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ "1895 Commission Report". Archived from the original on 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
  28. ^ "Lay Cornerstone On New Seminary Chapel; Elect Dr. Wentz 7th President". Gettysburg Compiler. Sep 21, 1940. Retrieved 25 November 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2011-08-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  30. ^ "Railroads are subject for Historians". The Star and Sentinel. May 1, 1943. Retrieved 25 November 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  31. ^ "Headquarters: Brief History of Schmucker Hall". Adams County Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-06-01.
  32. ^ "About Us — Adams County Historical Society". Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  33. ^ "Gettysburg Seminary Announces Matching Gift Opportunity". Upper Susquehanna Synod. Archived from the original on 2012-03-30. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
  34. ^ "New theology school - Living Lutheran". Living Lutheran. 2016-02-21. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  35. ^ MacDonald, G. Jeffrey (2016-01-15). "Two Lutheran seminaries to close and reopen as new school". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  36. ^ MacDonald, G. Jeffrey (April 29, 2016). "Two Lutheran seminaries will merge instead of closing, forming a new school". Religion News Service. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  37. ^ Spangler, John (June 29, 2017). "Two historic Pennsylvania seminaries become United Lutheran Seminary July 1". Religion Press Release Service. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
  38. ^ Richard W. Solberg, Lutheran Higher Education in North America (1885), p. 64; Townsend Ward, "Memorial notice of the Rev. William M. Reynolds, D. D." in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1, p. 10

External links[edit]