Samuel Simon Schmucker was born in Hagerstown, Maryland on February 28, 1799, the son of a Lutheran minister John George Schmucker, an immigrant from Germany, and Catherine Gross. His father transferred to York, Pennsylvania in 1809 and Samuel completed his early schooling there at the York Academy. He went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania, entering at fifteen. After a time teaching at York Academy - he was seventeen - and embarking on a missionary journey to Ohio and Kentucky, he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary, and was himself ordained as a Lutheran pastor in 1820.
The impact of the precocious young pastor was immediate. Schmucker helped to organize the General Synod of the church in 1820, writing its constitution and hymnal. Just six years later he founded the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania as the first institution of its kind in the United States and became its first president and a faculty member for almost four decades. He also served, in the spirit of ecuminicalism for which he was later to become famous, as a member of the board of trustees of the nearby, Presbyterian dominated, Dickinson College in Carlisle from 1828 to 1832. When Dickinson temporarily closed its doors in 1832 he became the leading founder of Pennsylvania College, later known as Gettysburg College, and remained on its board until his death.
Schmucker was a vocal advocate of one view in the Lutheran Church that the denomination must be adapted to the American religious and political climate, especially in relationships with other churches and the matter of evangelicalism and mission. As perhaps the first Lutheran in America to write extensively on theology and doctrine, he was immensely influential. His view on other matters were strong, as well. He vehemently opposed the Mexican War, calling it contrary to the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and Christianity itself. He supported with deeds the education of women and minorities, and founded schools for girls, admitted in 1837 the first black student to his seminary, Daniel Alexander Payne, and most probably sheltered runaway slaves as part of the Underground Railway. During the Battle of Gettysburg that raged around his home in 1863, southern soldiers took some pleasure in ransacking his offices. Schmucker mostly dedicated himself to writing after 1864, although he did serve as president of the Evergreen Cemetery Association and on the committee that began the process of buying land that was eventually to become the National Gettysburg Battlefield Park.
Schmucker married Eleanora Geiger, who died after the birth of their son. He then married Mary Catherine Steenbergen of Frederick County, Virginia in 1825. The couple had eleven children, of whom three died in infancy, before Mary Catherine died in 1848. Samuel Simon Schmucker died in Gettysburg on Saturday, July 26, 1873. He was seventy-four years old.