Good day at Black Rock: Church celebrating anniversary. But where is Black Rock in York County?


Black Rock Church of the Brethren is celebrating a big anniversary – its 275th. For years, the church was known as Little Conewago German Baptist Church and then Upper Codorus German Baptist Church. In 1963, it became known as Black Rock Church. For more on the church, check out this story: Black Rock Church of the Brethren or the church’s website. But this anniversary raises the question: Where is Black Rock? Also of interest: York County minister/historian Elmer Q. Gleim, wrote history of Black Rock church.

If you live in the York area, you might have to strain your brain to locate Black Rock on a map.

It’s west of Pierceville and south of Marburg.  OK, that’s no help because Pierceville is equally obscure, and Marburg is under the waters of Lake Marburg at Codorus State Park.

Let’s just say it’s almost in Maryland, but fortunately the Mason and Dixon ran their line south of this enclave of German Baptists in Manheim Township, southwestern York County. This map locates Manheim Township but check out Codorus State Park on any map. The township is right there and unincorporated Black Rock is near its southern base.

That band of German Brethren, sometimes called Dunkards or Dunkers? Those were the ancestors of today’s Black Rock congregation, led by Michael Danner about 1740, according to George Prowell’s “History of York County Pennsylvania.”

Early Brethren worshipped in homes and barns so sometimes it’s tough to pin down when such a group formed. Actually, some German Baptist groups around York County still worship in homes. The Amish would be one example of that.

Prowell wrote in 1907:

“Black Rock village, largely composed of a settlement of German Baptists, is situated in the extreme southern part of Manheim Township near the Maryland Line. The Bachman Valley Railroad traverses the region. A.R. Wentz and Company carried on the mercantile business here for many years and was succeeded by Peter Lucabaugh & Son.”

So Black Rock was – and still largely is – a Pennsylvania Dutch settlement of farmers. It grew up around the church, so if the congregation is celebrating its anniversary, so is the village.

But here’s question that neither Prowell nor the “Gazetteer of York and Adams Counties” answers:

How did Black Rock get its name? If you know, please comment below.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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5 Responses to Good day at Black Rock: Church celebrating anniversary. But where is Black Rock in York County?

  1. DianneB says:

    The community of Black Rock was originally named for a black rock. When the Baughman Valley RR built a train station at this location it was named Black Rock Station. Excursion trains would carry Brethren passengers to Black Rock Station for 2 day love feast and communions at the Church. Hence, communicants would say they were traveling to Black Rock.

    “In 1863, the Church Council decided that the legal name of the congregation should be changed from ‘Upper Codorus German Baptist’ to ‘Black Rock Church of the Brethren’.” It technically had 3 names over the years: Little Conewago German Baptist Church(1738-1876), Upper Codorus German Baptist Church (1876-1963) and Black Rock Church of the Brethren (1963- ).

    Dunker or Dunkard is a corruption of the German word Taufer, baptize-to dip by baptizing, or dunk. The baptism is trine immersion, forward.

    • Jim McClure says:

      Dianne, thanks for the info on Black Rock. Do you know if the namesake black rock is still there?

      Also, I’m thinking you meant “In 1963, the Church Council…” That would square with the name change of the church in 1963. Do I have that right?

      Jim

  2. DianneB says:

    Note: Amish are also Anabaptist pacifists, but are not German Baptists. Amish are Swiss in origin.

    • Jim McClure says:

      Thanks. I guess the River Brethren would have been a better example. In fact, I believe they still have barn meetings. Some families of that old denomination are still around York County.

      Thanks again,
      Jim

  3. DianneB says:

    Good Morning Jim,

    Yes, you’re correct. I meant 1963. I wish there were an edit button!

    I’m not sure where the black rock is. My guess is that it’s near the spring that was thought to have healing water, not far from the church.

    Many River Brethren are now called Brethren in Christ. They were followers of John and Jacob Engle who crossed the Susquehanna at Marietta and moved to the red lands of Manchester Twp. They petitioned to join the Dunkers (Church of the Brethren) but were rejected as their form of trine immersion baptism was not forward. In those days, you either followed the doctrine and rules exactly or you couldn’t join. River Brethren adopted the plain form of dress and in the 20th century often painted their car bumpers black.

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