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Service marks fighting at Dunker Church during Battle of Antietam

September 19, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Becky and Bob Farmer, left, from Mt Airy, Md., sing a hymn during a service Sunday at Dunker Church in Sharpsburg.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

SHARPSBURG -- Before the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War, members of the Dunker Church congregation would have seen the smoke on nearby South Mountain from the battles raging there, organizers of a service at the church said Sunday.

It was not so much of a question about whether the war would come to them, but when it would arrive, organizers said.

Dunker Church ended up standing in the midst of one of the bloodiest battles in the nation's history when the Battle of Antietam broke out. The building was heavily damaged.

Sunday marked the 40th annual worship service at the church to remember what happened there. About 110 people came to hear a sermon by the Rev. Frank Ramirez, pastor of the Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

Members of the church did not take sides in the Civil War and when the Battle of Antietam unfolded, parishioners fled, many going to a Brethren church on Manor Church Road, said Tom Fralen, interim pastor of the Sharpsburg Church of the Brethren and one of the organizers of Sunday's service.

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During the service, a Bible was on display that was in constant use at the church until the Battle of Antietam.

The Bible was picked up by Sgt. Nathan Dykeman of the New York State Volunteers after the battle and carried to Schuyler County, New York.

The Bible remained in the Dykeman family until 1903, and was returned to the church.

Ramirez has written two books with stories about the Dunker Bible, "The Meanest Man in Patrick County" and "Brethren Brush with Greatness." Ramirez said Sunday that he sometimes reads about how some people think it was ironic that a house of peace ended up in the middle of such an intense battle.

"There's nothing ironic about it," Ramirez said. "In a way, it was inevitable. This was the Civil War. We had dying on a scale that nobody would have ever imagined and which we would never stand for today."

The church blew down in a wind storm in 1921, but was rebuilt in 1962 with some parts of the original church, officials said at Sunday's service.

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