Montgomery County is home to people of various religious faiths. Interestingly, when we research our genealogy, researching specific religions can uncover new insights to our ancestor’s lives. A recent accession is a perfect example for how religion can help us research our family history.
We recently acquired this beautiful, pastel photograph of Rev. William Harrison Mentzer (1844-1921) and his wife Alzina Jenkins (1867-1952). On its own, this photograph does not reveal much information about Rev. Mentzer and Alzina. However, knowing Rev. Mentzer served in various Baptist churches in Montgomery County helped us uncover more information about his life.
So what do we know about Montgomery County Baptists? According to Rev. David Spencer, the first known Baptists arrived in the area in the late 17th century. Many of these original Baptists can trace their roots to Wales. As the religion gained attention, many Quaker families converted to the Baptist religion. This was a result of a theological divide within the Quaker church around 1691. However, although Baptism predates the founding of Montgomery County, the majority of Baptist churches in the area were not founded until the 19th century. This surge in construction of Baptist churches coincided with Rev. Mentzer’s ministries.
Thanks to an autobiography printed on April 14 1921 in the Lansdale Reporter, we were able to learn more about Rev. Mentzer. He was born in Chambersburg, PA on January 25, 1844. As a child, he was raised as a Lutheran. However, when he moved to Bells Mills, he began attending the Logans Valley Baptist Church. On January 29, 1865, he officially became a baptized Baptist. Shortly after his baptism, Mentzer join the Union Army and served until the end of the war in April 1865.
After the Civil War, Mentzer decided to attend the University at Lewisburg (present day Bucknell) and later Crozer Theological Seminary to become a Reverend. Over the course of 47 years, Rev. Mentzer served Baptist Churches throughout Montgomery County and Eastern Pennsylvania. Rev. Mentzer served in these Montgomery County towns: Lansdale, North Wales, Royersford, and Ambler.
 Rev. David Spencer, Early Baptists of Philadelphia, Philadelphia: William Syckelmoore, 1877, 18
 Spencer, Early Baptists of Philadelphia, 1691, 27.
 Clifton S. Hunsicker, Montgomery County Pennsylvania: A History Vol. I, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, INC, NY 1923, 123.