St. Mark's Lutheran Church

St. Mark's Pastors

Rev. William F. RickIn 1893, the Rev. William F. Rick, just graduating from Mt. Airy Lutheran Theological Seminary, was called as pastor. Under his leadership and guidance, the church became a thriving and enlivened institution. The need for a new building became a material reality, and the corner-stone for the new St. Mark’s was laid in September, 1895. The church was dedicated October 14, 1896.

1896 church shortly after dedicationMuch could be written about this beloved leader, but space does not permit. During the five years of his pastorate, he saw his congregation grow to more than 700 members, and become one of the most substantial churches in Williamsport. He was one of the most popular clergymen in the city when, at the age of 29, he accepted appointment as Chaplain of the 12th Regiment on March 14, 1898, during the Spanish American War Days.

Rev. William F. RickShortly after his appointment, war clouds darkened and open hostilities broke out on April 21, 1898. The 12th Regiment entrained for Mt. Gretna the night of April 27th, Anticipating the departure of Williamsport’s three companies of volunteers, Chaplain Rick preached a farewell sermon on April 24th. Because of public interest in his address, the service was transferred from the Church to the Opera House, which had the largest seating capacity in the city. The audience was estimated at more than 3,000 persons.

Chaplain Rick - 1898When the regiment entrained on the night of April 27th, it marched up Fourth Street between solid walls of 10,000 cheering residents. At the head of the parade marched Chaplain Rick with his wife by his side. Behind him marched the congregation of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church singing again and again “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

Pastor Rick ministered to the soldiers at Camp Alger until a typhoid epidemic spread through the camp killing 24 men of the 12th Regiment. Capt. Rick was the eleventh Memorial Monument for Pastor Rickvictim, and his death brought about the darkest hour of the Spanish American War period for Williamsport. He was brought home from Camp on August 10th, seriously ill of the fever, and early on Sunday morning, August 21, 1898, he was called to live with his Heavenly Father whom he had served so well on earth. More than 4,000 persons paid tribute while the body lay in state before the pulpit of St. Mark’s and the cortege that followed the Chaplain's body to Wildwood Cemetery was described by THE SUN as the largest in the city’s history up to that time, with every available conveyance in the city joining the procession of mourners. It is doubtful whether it has been exceeded in the last half century.

Chaplain RickOn August 21, 1948—50 years later—St. Mark’s and Camp Rick Post of Spanish American War Veterans remembered Rev. Rick with a graveside memorial service in Wildwood Cemetery. The hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” rang out from the Carillon on that Sunday, as 50 years later a Cavalcade of some 50 automobiles moved from the church to the cemetery.

In the words of a SUN Reporter ‘How great must have been his ability and his influence to have drawn 3,000 to the Opera House when he preached his farewell sermon; to have 4,000 sorrowing persons view his body in death, and hundreds follow his casket to its grave; and to have a whole congregation affectionately remember him after a half century.

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