John Pritiskutch Reproductions

History of Berks County - The Muhlenberg Family

The following is reproduced from the 1876 Atlas of Berks County, Pennsylvania

This family is of ancient date and formerly held vast possessions in Saxony.

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the founder of the Lutheran church in America, was born in Hanover in 1711. Several years after finishing his education, he started for this country, where he arrived in 1742. From this time up to the day of his death, in 1783, he labored untiringly to advance the cause to which he had devoted his life. No danger and no fatigue deterred him from the performance of his duty. Wherever any portions of his widely scattered flock were to be found, "Father Muhlenberg" was in their midst, healing dissensions, aiding the poor, and preaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

John Peter Gabriel, his eldest son, was educated with his two brothers, Frederick and Henry, at the University of Halle. He was ordained to the ministry in England, and for some years had charge of a church in Virginia. In 1775, after preaching a sermon on the duties men owe to their country, he threw back his gown, exhibited his Colonel's uniform, read his commission, called for volunteers, and in almost a day, raised a regiment from among his parishioners. At first a Colonel, he became a Brigadier, and at the end of the war Major General. Throughout the revolution he bore a distinguished part, signalled himself in several battles, and was at the surrender of Yorktown. He subsequently moved to Pennsylvania, and served in different high positions, until his death in 1807.

Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg was born in 1750. Educated for the ministry, he was an ardent supporter of the cause of liberty, and was elected a member of the Continental Congress. He was President of the Pennsylvania Convention, which ratified the Constitution of the United States, was a representative to Congress from 1789 to 1797, and was Speaker of the first and third Congresses. His death occured in 1801.

William Augustus Muhlenberg, grandson of the preceding, was born in 1796. For several years he was an assistant of Bishop White, in Philadelphia. In 1828, he founded St. Paul's College, at Flushing, Long Island; and in 1846, became rector of a church in New York city. Shortly afterwards, he founded St. Luke's Hospital, of which he is still pastor and superintendent. He is the author of the famous hymn beginning: "I would not live always."

Gottlieb Henry Ernst, the third son of Henry Melchoir, was educated in Germany. After returning to this country, he became assistant pastor of his father's church in Philadelphia. On account of his strong Whig sympathies, he was driven by the British, during their occupation, from that city. He subsequently moved to Lancaster where he had charge of a church till his death, in 1815.

Henry Augustus Muhlenberg, son of the preceding, was educated by his father. He became pastor of the German Lutheran Church in Reading in 1802. He retained this position till 1829, when failing health compelled him to resign. From 1829 to 1838, he was a member of Congress from this District. Martin Van Buren tendered him in 1837, the portfolio of the Navy, and the mission to Russia, both of which he declined. Subsequently he was appointed minister to Austria where he remained two years. In 1844 he received the nomination for Governor of Pennsylvania, but died suddenly prior to the election.

Henry Augustus Muhlenberg, the younger, born in Reading in 1823, studied law with the late Hon. J. Pringle Jones. He served with distinction in the State Senate for three years. In 1852, he was chosen representative to Congress, but had barely taken his seat, when he was attacked by typhoid fever, which ended his life on January 9, 1854, at the early age of thirty years.