St. Luke's Church
Brownsville, MD
The Little Country Church With a Big Heart
and Arms Open Wide.
Our History

On August 21, 1837 the Vestry of Saint Mark’s Parish of Frederick and Washington Counties (located in Petersville, Maryland) approved the erection of a new church building in Brownsville (a small community in Pleasant Valley, south of Boonsboro, MD) and directed Hezekiah Boteler, Emory Edwards, and Joshua Harling to solicit and receive contributions for the construction. The new congregation worshiped in a school building until the church was built in 1839, on a lot purchased from Alexander Grim. The building was constructed with the help of many gifts, among which was $500 from Mrs. James L. Hawkins of Montgomery County, MD. At that time, the membership of the congregation had grown to include the following: Casper Weaver, Dr. Horatio Claggett and his wife, Mrs. Samuel Claggett, Mrs. M.M. Claggett, John F. Gray, Mrs. Elizabeth Grim, Mrs. Mary Grim, Mrs. Mary Miller, Mrs. H.P.B. Edwards, and Samuel L. Yourtee.

The Civil War and Reconstruction Periods

During the Rebel invasion of the United States of America in the Civil War, Saint Luke’s Church served as headquarters for General Lafayette McLaws while his troops from the Army of Virginia, Confederate States of America, were bivouacked around Brownsville in September, 1862. The church also served as a hospital for his wounded following the Battle of Antietam .

A singed beam from September 1862 Civil War burning of St. Luke's.

After the battle, Yankee forces burned the building in order to prevent its use again in any other invasion. It stood for nine years as a brick-walled shell without pews, furnishings, roof, or flooring. In 1869, the church building was restored, largely through the efforts of Mrs. Charlotte O. Bean, a Sunday School teacher, who inspired and rallied the congregation to rebuild. The chancel and vestry-room were added during the restoration.

The Saint Luke’s Chapel Guild was organized May 23, 1894, by
Mr. William Diggs Landstreet, licensed lay reader for the parish,

his wife Helen R. Landstreet and Mrs. Walter Brown along with thirty
members. Through the efforts of the Guild, a belfry was built and a bell
purchased from the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore for $127.99.
Other major improvements included new chancel windows, re-plastered
walls, stained oak pews, carpet for the center isle, new lamps both inside
and outside and a new Estey reed organ manufactured in Brattleboro,

                                                                             The planned consecration of the church by The Rt. Rev. William
                                                                             Whittingham, Fourth Bishop of Maryland, scheduled for 1845, was
                                                                             canceled because of “party strife” in the parish. The church was finally
                                                                             consecrated by The Rt. Rev. William Paret, Sixth Bishop of Maryland,
                                                                             on October 18, 1894. The Rev. Henry E. Cotton, Rector of Saint John’s
                                                                             Episcopal Church in Hagerstown delivered the sermon at that occasion.
                                                                             Mr. Edward Gittings presented the instrument of donation of the
                                                                             building to the Bishop.

A Twentieth Century Church

A Rood Beam was given in memory of the Oscar Jennings’ family by Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Jennings on June 21, 1945. In attendance at that service were the Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of Antietam Lodge #197 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Keedysville, Maryland. Freemasons continued to attend Saint Luke’s Church every June for many years, in observance of the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (considered one of the patrons of the order). A front porch, with pillars was added to the church and the wooden belfry was replaced with the brick belfry in the early twentieth century.

The Good Shepherd window in the chancel manufactured by KeckStained Glass of Syracuse,
New York was given in 1940 in memory the Rev. Edward E. Burgess, Rector from 1914 to
1933. Burgess Memorial Parish Hall, built in 1957 also was dedicated to the memory of the
Rev. Edward E. Burgess. Renovated in 1988, the parish hall has been used for Sunday School
classes, parish meetings, social activities, and Girl Scout meetings.

                                         In 1985 the Helfenstein Room was added to the church building under the direction of Mr.

                                         Robert Hammond and the help of members of the congregation. Dedicated to the memory
                                         of The Rt. Rev. Edward Trail Helfenstein, Rector from 1890 to1900, and 8th Bishop of
                                         Maryland from 1926 to 1943, the room serves as the Vicar’s office, meeting room,
                                         and the sacristy for the Altar Guild.

As part of the Washington County Mission Project, Saint Luke’s Church celebrated the ordination of The Rev. John E. Grim (a direct descendant of one of the founders of the parish) and The Rev. Charles R. Holder, along with the installation of lay ministers for the parish on July 5, 1978, by the Rt. Rev. William J. Cox, Suffragan Bishop of Maryland. White Chapel Handbells were donated and dedicated on Christmas Eve 1976 in memory of Gerald D. Morgan. The handbells have been played by the congregation at numerous services and events.

A More Recent Past

In 1998, the church interior walls were re-plastered and painted. The oak flooring
was refinished, and new solid red oak pews manufactured by the Virginia Church
Furniture Co. were installed. A Wicks Organ with two ranks was installed,
replacing the old reed organ. A free-standing altar was dedicated in 2002 by
The Rt. Rev. John L. Rabb, Suffragan Bishop of Maryland, in memory of Gerald L.
Jennings, Senior Warden. An original quilted banner was designed and
created by P. Dianne Schafer of Middletown, Maryland, entitled Saint Luke’s
Winged Ox. It was blessed on October 18, 2006, by The Rt. Rev. John L. Rabb.
On October 14, 2007, the congregation celebrated the 170th anniversary of the
parish with The Rev. Peter C. Fulghum as guest preacher and The Rev. Charles R.
Holder, Vicar, as celebrant. Following a luncheon, a program tracing the history
of the parish, and citations from the Senate of the State of Maryland by Senator
Donald Munson and the United States Senate from Senator Barbara Mikulski
were read, and a memorial Kwanzan Cherry tree was planted. The celebration
ended with a concert by the Rohrersville Band, which was also established in 1837.

A Great Friend to Saint Luke's Church


The Reverend John Ephraim Grim
February 27, 1915 – February 26, 2003

The Reverend John Ephraim Grim played a major influence in keeping Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church as part of the Brownsville community. 

Born on February 27 in 1915 to Samuel and Constance Jennings Grim, he was baptized four month later at Saint Luke’s, beginning his life-long relationship with the parish. 

He made his confirmation in 1928. In the 1940s he became a licensed Lay Reader, serving both his home parish and Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in Petersville, as well as Grace Episcopal Church in Brunswick. During World War II, when the number of ministers was scarce, he served churches from Frederick to Oakland, Maryland.
 John served as caretaker in his youth, assisting his father with the mowing of the churchyard and digging graves. He often prepared meals for various events at the church. In his ministry for the parish, he served as Sunday School Superintendent and teacher, where he  worked extensively with the youth of the Parish. John served as Senior Warden of the Advisory Board and as President of the Guild. His many labors for the Parish included assisting with the structural changes to the interior of the church that refurbished the ceiling and beams. He also helped with other the additions to the church structure. 

As part of the Washington County Mission Project, John studied in a four-year program called Theology Education by Extension from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He was ordained a deacon by The Rt. Rev. William J. Cox, Suffragan Bishop of Maryland on July 7, 1978, in a lovely evening ceremony in his home parish. On May 6th of the following year, at Saint James School Chapel, John was ordained to the Priesthood by The Rt. Rev. David K. Leighton, Bishop of Maryland. He faithfully served his church as Priest-in-Charge until his retirement in 1986. Following his retirement, he supported other Maryland parishes and extensively in The Nelson Cluster of the Episcopal Churches in West Virginia.  

John was the fifth generation farmer on his family farm in Brownsville. He was an avid member of the Mason-Dixon Auto Club. His work in the community was instrumental in coordinating the ceremony observing the 350th Maryland Anniversary at Washington Monument State Park on July 4, 1984. He presented a Wye Oak to Pleasant Valley School, where he often demonstrated spinning on his hand-made spinning wheel.

John was married to Mary Elizabeth Mades Grim and enjoyed traveling with her to many places, and especially to visit his step-daughter Sally and her family in Florida.

John died at his family home in Brownsville on February 26, 2003. 

Saint Luke's Episcopal Church has had a long and distinguished history of service to the people of Brownsville and all of Pleasant Valley. And while we cherish the past, we also look toward a bright future and many years of continued presence in and service to our community.