Like the other ordained ministers who served this region during the 18th century, The Rev. Nicholas Pomp (1734-1819) was European born and educated. Unlike most of them, though, he was of humble birth, the son of a farmer. Ministers in those days came here as missionaries to the wilderness. Besides Rev. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, few of them left detailed journals, notes, or autobiographies.
Particularly lacking are personal thoughts and interpretations of their ordinary days and experiences. Indeed, many church pastoral records from the 18th century consist of only a list of marriages, baptisms, and funerals, while some lack even that. However, in 1810 an aged Nicholas Pomp, who had served the Falkner Swamp Congregation from 1765-1783, sat down in the Reformed parsonage at Easton, where his son was pastor, and wrote his autobiography.
Of his stay beginning in 1765 at Falkner Swamp, New Hanover, Rev. Pomp wrote: “After spending seven years in this congregation I was married to Elisabeth Dotterer [a widow] with six children and without inheritance, with whom I had a good and contented life. [Elisabeth Antes Dotterer was the daughter of Henry Antes. It was Elizabeth’s grandfather, Philip Frederick Antes, who was instrumental in founding the German Reformed church at Swamp, New Hanover. Now owned by the Goschenhoppen Historians, the Antes Plantation on Colonial Road, Upper Frederick, is the premier Pennsylvania Dutch historic restoration in the area].”
Reverend Pomp writes: “To be sure I was not rich, yet we always had as much as we needed every day. In this marriage a son was born to us, who was our only child. I named him Thomas [born 1773]. …he became a preacher and was a great consolation to me and his mother.”
In addition to the marriages, baptisms and funerals recorded for the congregation, Rev. Pomp maintained a book in which “All Receipts and Expenditures are Recorded.” He notes that “in the year 1766 the receipts at the annual settlement were so small that the schoolmaster could scarcely be paid.” However, for the year 1768 over 148 pounds had been collected. Interestingly, the largest expenditure that year was the payment of 66 pounds “borrowed money” paid to Frederick Antes, his wife’s brother.
This account book is especially valuable to historians since it lists in detail the war years and the particulars of building the church parsonage and barn in 1772,’73, and ’74 on the church farm. The parsonage still stands on Cross Road, New Hanover Township. Within the stone house, many of the original architectural details of the colonial era construction are preserved. Of particular interest are original painted decorations. Preservationists from Winterthur have pronounced them among the best examples of early Germanic, decorative, interior painting in situ.
In the early 1770’s, Pomp’s account book records several payments made to master builder John Cunius for work on the parsonage. Later, in 1790, Cunius built Falkner Swamp’s brick church on the Swamp Pike at Leidy Road. Cunius was a well known architect and builder who is credited with many historic structures in Reading and Allentown.
Unique in its detail, Rev. Pomp’s record of building the parsonage accounts for every shingle, nail and board down to 14 shillings for 5 gallons of rum for the workmen. The record also lists names of, as we would say, subcontractors.
In 1774 Rev. Pomp published a book titled “Kurze Prufungen der Lehre des Ewigen Evangeliums” which refuted a popular book at the time espoused by the Universalists of Oley which held (in brief) that there is no Judgment Day and everyone goes to Heaven. A strict Reformed theologian, Rev. Pomp opposed deviations from standard doctrines and defended church beliefs against these teachings. There is a copy of Pomp’s book, in German, housed at the Historical Society of Montgomery County.
Of his leaving Falkner Swamp, he writes: “I remained eighteen years serving these congregations then took a pastorate in Baltimore in 1783. My departure from Falconer Schwam was a source of great displeasure to me and a sadness among the people, for whom for so long a time I had earnestly enough reminded of their soul’s salvation. No one was satisfied at my departure. Even though they soon could get another and perhaps better preacher…So I left them with a sad heart, yet with the thought that I had done more good among these people than I had formerly supposed.”
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