Memorial: John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg
Sculptor: Caroline Muhlenberg Hufford
Architect: John F. Harbeson
Cost: $100,000 (raised by Memorial Fund)
Dedicated: October 26, 1980
Location: 4900 Connecticut Ave and Ellicott St., NW
Located in a triangle park in front of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 4900 Connecticut Avenue, NW, the memorial to John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg took over 50 years to be completed and dedicated.
John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg (October 1, 1746 – October 1, 1807) was a pastor who served both Lutheran and Episcopal congregations in the 18th century. He became a colonel during the Revolutionary War and served under George Washington in the Continental Army. He was made a Brigadier General in 1777 and Major General at the close of the war. He retired in 1783 as a General. After the United States won its independence, Muhlenberg was elected from Pennsylvania to serve in the United States Congress. He served as a Representative in Congress from 1789-1801 and was elected Senator in 1801. He died in 1807 at the age of 61.
Muhlenberg’s father, Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, D.D., was considered the patriarch of Lutheranism in America.
The Muhlenberg Memorial
In 1926, the former St. Paul’s at 11th and H Streets and Epiphany Lutheran Church at 16th and U Streets merged. The new St. Paul’s congregation purchased land at 4900 Connecticut Avenue at Ellicott Street, NW. The congregation planned a Gothic church and reserved land for the installation of a memorial to John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, the “fighting parson”.
Construction on the Gothic St. Paul Lutheran Church began in November 1930, and the church was dedicated on Sunday, January 12, 1958. But the memorial took many more years to be completed.
On May 2, 1928, President Calvin Coolidge authorized the triangle park in front of St. Paul’s to be reserved for the Muhlenberg memorial. The bill also authorized the creation of a memorial association “to erect, without expense to the United States, a monument to the memory of Peter Muhlenberg, eminent statesman, clergyman and soldier.” The Peter Muhlenberg Memorial Association was founded in 1958 and raised $100,000 to begin building a Muhlenberg memorial. The memorial was completed in 1980 and sculpted by Caroline Muhlenberg Hufford, a descendant.
The Muhlenberg Memorial centers around a bust of John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg on a pedestal so that it looks like he’s at a pulpit or a lectern..
The front of the pedestal is engraved with his name and a dedication. There is a cross on the south side of the pedestal noting the dates of his service as a pastor and a fasces on the north side with the dates of his service as a soldier and statesman.
JOHN PETER GABRIEL MUHLENBERG
1746 – 1807
Around the pedestal is a paved plaza with a wall with coping for seating and plaques that share his accomplishments as a Clergyman, Soldier, and Statesman.
Bio of Muhlenberg
John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg (October 1, 1746 – October 1, 1807) was born in Trappe, Pennsylvania, the son of Heinrich Muhlenberg founder of the German Lutheran Church in America.
He served as a pastor of Lutheran churches in New Jersey before taking a charge in Woodstock, VA in 1772. During this time, he was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1774 and was a delegate to the First Virginia Convention.
In December 1775, a resolution was passed by the Virginia House of Delegates providing for six new regiments to defend the State of Virginia. Muhlenberg was commissioned the colonel of the 8th Virginia Regiment referred to as the “German regimen”.
As legend has it, in January 1776, Muhlenberg delivered a final sermon to his Woodstock congregation.He told the colonists that they were being wronged by the British and explained why he considered it his duty to fight for the colonists and against the English government. He ended his sermon by saying, “There is a time for all things – a time to preach and a time to fight – and how is the time to fight.” He then tore off his clerical robe to reveal a military uniform. He then left the church with 300 newly recruited members for his regiment.
For seven years Muhlenberg served as an officer in the American forces, rising to major general by the end of the Revolutionary War. After the war he was elected to the Legislature of the State of Pennsylvania and became vice president of the Common Council, of which Benjamin Franklin was the president. He served as a Representative in Congress from 1789-95 and from 1799-1801. He was elected to the Senate in 1801.
He and his brother Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg both served as members of the constitutional convention and supported the adoption of the Constitution of the United States.
In 1798, after the adoption of the Constitution, Peter Muhlenberg and his brother, Frederick, were both elected members of the First Congress from Pennsylvania, Frederick Muhlenberg was elected the first Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Caroline Muhlenberg Hufford-Anderson
Caroline Muhlenberg Hufford-Anderson was born in 1923 in Reading, PA. She earned a B.A. in romance languages in 1943 from Wellesley College. Hufford-Anderson was commissioned to create the bronze bust of her ancestor, John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg. The busts are on display in Peter Muhlenberg Memorial Park, Washington, D.C., and at the Historic Courthouse, Woodstock, Virginia.
In 1867 the old House of Representatives area in the Capitol building was left empty when the new House of Representatives wing was completed. Statuary Hall was formed from the lower level of the original House of Representatives. States were invited to send two statues for the newly dedicated Statuary Hall.
Rhode Island sent the first statues, and Pennsylvania was the second contributor and sent a statue of John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg in 1884. The Muhlenberg statue in Statuary Hall was sculpted Blanch Nevin and made in Rome. The statue portrays Muhlenberg in a Continental Army uniform with his cassock over him arm.