Pennsylvania USGenWeb Archives


Centennial History

of Methodism

in Clearfield, PA


1810 - 1910

George W. Rheem


Chapter 5


transcribed for the Clearfield County PA USGenWeb by

Ellis Michaels



This page was last updated on 23 Apr 2011

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Page 82



  The West Clearfield Church, lying so near to us, it will be a matter of interest to them to know something of their first Church enterprise, and we copy nearly all of a letter sent by Rev. "Martin L. Ganoe, the preacher in charge of the Circuit.

     July 10, 1909.
  "Dear Bro. Rheem: Since receiving your letter concerning West Clearfield, I have been rummaging for figures and facts, when I was sent to the Circuit in 1872, it consisted of Centre, Mt. Joy, Wolf Run, Shawsville, Goshen, Congress Hill, the Knobs or Gillingham. When I went there my instructions from Presiding Elder J. S. McMurray were to drop Wolf Run and build a Church in West Clearfield, which at this time was a promising village. Our membership at Wolf Run had run down to less than a dozen. At our first intimation of building at West Clearfield, Washington Fulton removed the membership of his family to Clearfield. Bro. Wm. Mapes stuck to me, the only help I had, and I obtained permission of the school directors and preached in the West Clearfield school house and when it became publicly understood that I was aiming at a permanent occupation of the field, I was refused the school house any longer.

  This was just what was needed, and the people at once started a subscription which reached $631, with this and just one member, Bro. Mapes, I proceeded to buy a lot for $400, and on this the Church was built, and in November, 1873, just three weeks after the failure of Jay Cooke &





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Co., which spread financial havoc all over the country, the Church was dedicated. It cost in round numbers $4,000. Dr. I. C. Pershing, then president of Pittsburg Female College, gave me his services for which he charged me $100 taking all the cash of the day's collection. However, he did me princely service, raising $4,316.00. With the debt all provided for, our revival commenced at once, and in six weeks we had nearly one hundred conversions, most of whom joined our Church.

  The subscriptions to the building of the Church were sadly neglected, as I was removed to Gettysburg the next year, and for some years the Church lived under the shadow of the sheriff's hammer. Until the pastorate of C. W. Burnley, who, after a hard and persistent struggle, wrote me that the debt was all wiped out but $50 for which I at once sent my check.

  I forgot to say that soon after I went to the Circuit, Congress Hill was dropped out as there were no members there but Alexander Murray and wife.

  The Church building has been greatly improved in appearance in the, past two years.

  May 25th, 1874, there was a balance of indebtedness on Clearfield Church building, owing to a shrinkage of $1,100 by unpaid subscription and interest all $2,766.89 and in view of the necessity of the debt having to be paid it was resolved to make another appeal to the congregation and to secure the services of Chaplain McCabe again, and D. W. McCurdy, Jno. M. Adams were appointed to arrange for a time and secure the services of Chaplain McCabe, which they did and June 28th to be the time, and the debt, consisting of the following items, was then stated :





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Rev. James H. McCord, 1870     Rev. William H. Dill, 1869






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First National Bank,         $1,200.00
Clearfield County Bank,        600.00
H. F. Bigler & Co.,              231.17
Bigler Young & Co.,               32.32
Sackett & Schryver,                3.50
Gas Fixtures, &c.,               700.00

  Here again Mr. J. Boynton's generosity was shown, he proposed to the Clearfield County Bank, if they would cancel their claim, he would pay the $1,200 due First National Bank, to which they agreed and there was but little trouble to raise the balance and we were soon free from debt without much effort on the part of Chaplain McCabe."

  In 1876 the Pennsylvania Railroad laid their track on Third Street and we were compelled to fill-up around the parsonage and raze and build a new pavement at a cost of $216.79.

  A committee had been appointed by the court to assess damages done to property along the line of the road and they awarded to the trustees $1,500. The railroad company was very much dissatisfied, and thought the award exorbitantly high, and the trustees agreed with them, and the company, through their counsel, Wallace and Krebs, offered to compromise by the payment of $800, which proposition was accepted by the trustees and Aaron C. Tate and Thos. H. Murray were appointed to settle with Wallace and Krebs for that amount. Rev. B. F. Stevens was our pastor 1875-1877 and there was nothing of special interest during his term.

  He was succeeded by Jacob S. McMurray in 1877,





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whose pastorate was a very pleasant one and had good revivals, one especially, which continued for several weeks and during which time meetings were held every day at 1 o'clock, and they were very profitable meetings.

  During his term the Official Board authorized him to personally see some of our members whose lives were very inconsistent and who were never in attendance at any of the church services, and ask them to allow their names to be dropped from the church rolls or else attend to their duties better. A few such were dropped.

  To show the estimate which that kind place in each other, we note the following, without giving names. Two of our members were guilty of gross immorality, such as to have special notice taken of them. They were notified properly that they must either make acknowledgment before the congregatinon, or withdraw from the Church, or stand a trial. They consented to a withdrawal and in defense of the Church, Bro. McMurray was asked to announce their withdrawal publicly from the pulpit, which was done at a Sunday morning service.

  On Monday morning Mr. A. said to one of our official members: "Well, I heard my name was publicly announced as having withdrawn from the Church." "Yes," said the official, "it was." "Well," said Mr. A., "I would not have cared so much if it had not been done in connection with Mr. B." About one hour after this Mr. B. Called on the same official, and said : "Well, I understand my name was publicly announced as withdrawn." "Yes, it was," said the official. "Well," said Mr. B., "I would not have cared so much, but I don't like to have my name associated with Mr. A."

  Rev. Geo. Leidy succeeded Jacob S. McMurray on March 1st, 1880, serving three years. In a letter from





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him, July 10th, 1909, he says: "An old debt of $900, the result of an accumulation of current expenses, faced us. At a meeting of the Trustees it was determined to wipe out the debt, and I was appointed to take the matter in hand and solicit 'contributions.' I said, I will commence right here, and before the meeting closed I had received enough to almost cover the debt. Next day I ran about a little and in a few hours secured the whole amount. I think my work among the children in training them in catechism study was as good a work as I ever did. I meet now in Mount Union, and many other places, grown up persons who speak of the good that had come to them through the lessons received then.

  "Of the men who constituted the Official Board I need not speak. You know them better than I. But never in any church was there a better set of men. What delightful social meetings were the regular official meetings of the Church. Bro. Jas. H. McGarrah, our Presiding Elder, often said that the Clearfield Quarterly Conference was a place of delightful rest to him, and without a break of any kind I left you to become in later years your Presiding Elder, and I was always glad when my work brought me to Clearfield. How the faces and forms of those men and women of God, who were so faithful to the interests of the Church, come up to me now. Many of them have gone up to the Church above, safe with Jesus, and it will not be long till we see them again, to be with them forever in the land of light."

  Bro. Leidy's pastorate was not without its sad occurrences.

  On the 28th day of December, 1880, Dr. D. 0. Crouch, of Curwensville, was buried, and having been a member of the lodge of Odd Fellows, some of the





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members of the lodge at this place attended the funeral, and among them was our brother, Aaron C. Tate. It was an exceedingly cold day and the members of the fraternity walked up the hill to the cemetery, and it was thought the exertion of the walk, although he was apparently a strong man, and the cold were too great for him, and while the services were being conducted at the grave, he was standing at the head of it and suddenly fell to the ground dead. Quickly the news was flashed over the wires to his family and friends and a universal sadness prevailed in our town, for he was a man who had many friends, both here and elsewhere in the county, having served as prothonotary for six years-1869-1875. He was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1872 to 188o, at the time of his death. He served the Sunday School as a very efficient Secretary for several years. He connected himself with the Church here in 1869 by certificate from Bloomington, in the Lumber City Circuit, and was an active worker in the Church and a very liberal contributor to all its financial enterprises.

  Some of the members of our Church were reported to our pastor as being guilty of violating the rules of our Church as laid down in the discipline in the matter of dancing, and he at once took the matter up and visited the persons so accused and could not get their promise to give up the habit. He reported it to the Quarterly Conference, which body placed itself on record at a public official meeting held as the fourth Quarterly Conference, February 12th, 1881, by adopting the following preamble and resolutions, which we copy without comment from the record:

  "WHEREAS, We believe that the practice of dancing at public and private parties, balls and social gatherings, as





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indulged in by some of our members, is a mischievous and pernicious practice, demoralizing to the individual, a great injury to the work and progress of the Church and also a gross violation of the Church discipline, and of the solemn vows voluntarily taken by us all as members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and positively unfitting all who participate in these dances from religiously discharging their duties to the Church and placing themselves before the community in the unenviable name of 'Dancing Christians,' thereby bringing a reproach on the Church. Therefore,

  "Resolved, by the Quarterly Conference Station in Conference Assembled, First. That we reaffirm our belief in, and our perfect accord with, the discipline of our Church, on this subject, which places dancing and attending dancing parties in the same list with horse racing, gambling and circus going.

  "Second. That we will not allow in our homes, under any circumstances, the violation of this law of our Church.

  "Third. We most earnestly urge on all Methodist parents the importance of conforming to the discipline in this matter and the necessity of banishing this evil from their homes, and so exercising the power placed in their hands as to prevent their children from attending balls and social parties where dancing is part of the program.

  "Fourth. That we hereby request our pastor to proceed according to direction of our discipline, in each and every case where the evil exists. And we pledge him our support as individual members of the Church and as an official body we will stand by him in every effort to exterminate this evil from the Church, believing that our





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Rev. Benj. F. Stevens, 1875     Rev. A. Duncan Yocum, 1872






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real interests will be promoted in the withdrawal from the Church of any who will not observe these rules."

  We had in our Church a member who was in the habit of drinking too freely of the intoxicating cup, who always promised after each offense to abstain and do better, but the promises were invariably broken and it became necessary finally to speak positively with him in the matter, and the pastor was assigned to the duty and he in stating to the brother that he would either have to reform permanently, or stand a trial, or withdraw from the church, the brother said: "Well, Mr. Leidy, I tell you what I will agree to do. If you will pay back to me the two dollars quarterage I paid this year I will withdraw from the Church." Now whether Bro. Leidy paid back the amount is not a matter of record, but the brother did withdraw from the Church.

  The pastorate of Rev. Jas. Curns began on the 1st day of April, 1883, and he continued until the spring of 1886. In his first report to the Quarterly conference, May 8th, 1883, he said he had found on Bro. Leidy's visiting list the record that "Isaac Southard had died since Conference." The death of this brother, eighty-seven years, old, whom many of us knew, took from us one of the pioneers of Methodism in Clearfield. He was a quiet man, but one of a very decided religious experience, and every person who knew him held him in the highest esteem. He, being a carpenter, was the builder of the Cherry Street Church, in 1839.

  At this Conference a resolution of thanks was tendered Mr. Jon. A. Boynton for the gift of two burial lots in the new cemetery, to be used as a burial place for our ministers and their families. The body of Adam





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Haughenberry was removed from the old cemetery and the tablet shows the place where it now rests.
At the first Quarterly Conference, held May 1st, 1884, a committee consisting of the pastor, as chairman, D. W. McCurdy, Thos. H. Murray, Jacob D. Snoke and A. B. Shaw, was appointed to estimate the cost of some changes and repairs to the Church.

  At a Trustee meeting held July 18, 1884, the following improvements to the Church were suggested:

     A new roof of slate or tin. Painting Church and spire.
     Repairing and frescoing ceiling in auditorium. Recarpeting audience room.
     Recovering cushions.
     Pews in lecture room to be replaced with chairs.
     Steam heating fixtures.

  Stained glass in auditorium windows, and such other repairs as in the judgment of the Building Committee were necessary. Bros. J. and A. F. Boynton proposed bearing one-half the expense for all changes and repairs, provided the congregation would pay the other half. Believing there would be no difficulty in securing the amount needed for all changes and repairs, the Trustees resolved to proceed at once with the improvements, and Ai. F. Boynton, A. Bishop Shaw and John I. Patterson were appointed as a Building Committee to superintend the work and to report progress to the Trustees.

  August 8th, 1884, the committee reported estimates for the improvements at $4,655, and that the work had been commenced August 4th, and would be pushed rapidly to completion. January 1st, 1885, the Quarterly Con-





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ference extended an invitation to the Annual Conference to hold its session of 1886 in Clearfield.

  The improvements on the Church being completed, Sunday, March 6th, 1885, was fixed on as the day for reopening. The first service was held in the morning at 11 o'clock. Ministers present were: Bishop Cyrus D. Foss, W. H. Dill, A. Duncan Yocum, Jacob S. McMurray, E. S. Wonner, of Clearfield Circuit, and R. S. McKinley, of the Clearfield Presbyterian Church. The sermon was preached by Bishop Cyrus D. Foss, from Romans 8th chapter, 32d verse.

  After the sermon Bro. Curtis, our pastor, stated that the whole expense for all improvements were about $7,200, all of which had been provided for and no collection was necessary.

  In the afternoon a Sunday School missionary meeting was held and addresses were delivered by Bishop Foss and A. Duncan Yocum.

  The evening services were conducted by Dr. J. S. McMurray, and resolutions thanking the members and friends for their liberal contributions to meet the expenses of all improvements, and to the Building Committee, who had so faithfully discharged their duties in the progress of the work, were given. At the second Quarterly Conference, August 8th, 1885, Rev. Geo. Leidy appeared as our Presiding Elder. Bro. Curns reported having received into full membership as a result of the revival in the preceding winter forty-nine persons and one by certificate, and also made note of the death of Wm. Radebaugh, He was a steward and collector in the Church and the Treasurer of the Sunday School, which office he filled up to the time of his death, August 16th, 1885. He died suddenly but peacefully and triumphantly.





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Suitable notice was taken of his death by the Quarterly Conference and a record of it, with an appreciation of his life, was made in the Minutes of the Conference.

  In March, 1886, the Annual Conference appointed Rev. Jas. H. Black to our station, and April 1st he came with his family on the 6 P.M. train, and by the consent of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, it stopped at Walnut street and in an exceedingly heavy downpour of rain his family was ushered into the parsonage, where the ladies had prepared a reception for them, and he and his family were very cordially greeted.

  At a meeting of the male members of the Church, held March 3d, 1887, in accordance with the charter, Daniel W. McCurdy presented as a gift from Ai. F. Boynton and wife, a deed for lot No. 60 in the borough plan, on the west side of South Second street and adjoining the Church, for the purpose of erecting thereon a suitable building for a parsonage for the Clearfield Methodist Episcopal Church, and Mr. Boynton not desiring to have any special notice made of the gift, the members present were not disposed to pass it by entirely unnoticed and adopted the following:

  "Resolved, In the acceptance of the very generous gift of the deed of a lot adjoining the Church, clear of all incumbrances, from Bro. Ai. F. Boynton and his wife, Mrs. Emma Boynton, for the purpose of having erected thereon, at as early a date as possible, a parsonage for the Clearfield Methodist Episcopal Church, we hereby express our thanks for the donation and promise to use our best endeavor to accomplish the end desired in the erection of a parsonage worthy of the Church and location."

  The general expression of all the members present was





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in favor of building a new parsonage and the opinion was that $5,000 ought to build one and that the old one ought to bring $2,500, leaving probably $2,500 to be provided for.

  On motion of H. B. Powell, a committee of four was appointed on plans, namely, J. D. Snoke, A. F. Boynton, D. W. McCurdy and W. B. Townsend, and also a committee to solicit subscriptions, Rev. J. H. Black, A. B. Shaw, J. M. Stewart.and Geo. W. Rheem.

  May 16th, at the adjourned meeting of March 3d, on motion of A. F. Boynton, it was resolved that if the sum of $2,500 could be obtained from any person for the old parsonage, the Trustees should be authorized to sell on payment of $1,000 cash and $1,500 to be secured by bond and mortgage on the property, to be paid in two equal annual payments, with interest, and the proceeds to be applied in the erection of the new parsonage.

  A Building Committee, A. Bishop Shaw, Frank G. Harris, Jas. M. Stewart, Geo. W. Rheem, Daniel W. McCurdy, Ai. F. Boynton and Wilson B. Townsend, was appointed. The Trustees sold the property to Wm. A. Hoover for the sum of $2,500 and payments as instructed, and the Church to have possession of the property at a monthly rental of $12.50 per month until the new parsonage is completed.

  The Building Committee contracted with W. S. Tucker for stone at $1.50 for plain and $2.00 per perch for split stone, and with Clearfield Lumber Company for lumber, and J. M. Marshal for bricks at $7.25 on the ground, and Wesley Miller for doing mason work at $1.25 a perch, committee to furnish sand and lime, and with M. B. Cowdrick for laying bricks at $5.25 per M. Reuben H. Thompson being the best bidder, was given





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Rev. George Leidy, 1880.     Rev. Jacob S. McMurray, D. D., 1877.






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   At the fourth Quarterly Conference, January 23d, 1891, special notice was taken in regard to the death of Bro. Jno. W. Shugart, which occurred December 4th, 1890. He went to his work as usual in the morning and was suddenly stricken with heart failure and before noon died, and the following is a part of the record:

  "We who have known him from the time of his death back for almost forty years, have only to say that he never needed flattering words of praise to exalt him in the Church or community. For forty-seven years his intense love for God, his service here in the Church, his unswerving devotion in the line of duty, his abiding faith in the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in short his exemplary Christian life, all told for themselves and well merit the expression that fell from all lips, that John W. Shugart was a good Christian man."

  Notwithstanding our Church and parsonage were all completed and paid for, there were always some improvements suggesting themselves. In November, 1891, our insurance for $10,000 on the Church property was about to expire and the pavement in front of our Church property had to be made new and the whole expense aggregated $275, and all this was provided for by a collection taken up in the public congregation.

  During the pastorate of Dr. Penepacker a chapter of the Epworth League was organized, February 6th, 1892, and H. B. Powell was elected its first president. The meetings of the League were held on Sunday evenings one hour before preaching services and were largely attended, and they were interesting and profitable.

  Dr. Penepacker in his report to the fourth Quarterly Conference, said: "The four years of my pastorate among you have been in the main years of pleasure to me





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I hope they have been profitable to you. Your course toward me has been uniformly kind and respectful, and I cherish the kindest feeling toward all. If in the wisdom of the authorities of our Church I am ordered back for another year, I will come cheerfully and do all I can for your good and the glory of our Heavenly Father. if I am appointed elsewhere, I shall always cherish for you the kindest remembrance."

  The following resolution in regard to the death of Dr. Jas. M. Stewart was adopted at the fourth Quarterly Conference, February 24th, 1892:

  "Resolved, That we, the members of this Quarterly Conference, hereby express our profound sense of loss sustained in the recent death of Dr. James M. Stewart, a Trustee of this Church and a faithful and efficient member of this body. By this loss we are again reminded of the' uncertainty of life, and of the importance of renewed devotion to the cause of the Master. We hereby direct that this resolution be engrossed on the minutes, and that a copy thereof be furnished by our secretary to the family of our deceased brother."

  In the spring of 1893, Rev. Wm. A. Stephens became our pastor. The Trustees reported to the fourth Quarterly Conference, February 24th, 1893, the following item:

  "By the will of Mrs. Mary Ellen Patterson, all of her property, after payment of her just debts, was left to our Church, and the executor of her estate, Frank G. Harris, closed up her estate and paid to our Treasurer, D. W. McCurdy, all such estate, and the amount was $4,850.41, and was a matter for the consideration of the Trustees, subject to the approval of the Church, by the provision of the charter of incorporation."





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  This money was invested, May 24th, $4,800 in water bonds of the Clearfield Water Company at four per cent. interest; $50.41 paid into the Church treasury.

  The Trustees received notice from Mr. Wm. Porter that he held a note and check for $500 against the estate of Mrs. Patterson, and asked for its payment out of the money left to the Church. The Trustees refused to acknowledge the claim on the ground, first, that it is barred by the statute of limitation, and having been pronounced by Mrs. Patterson as fraudulent many years prior to her death ; and second, because the Trustees hold all personal property, as well as real estate, simply in trust for the Church and congregation which they represent, and are directly responsible to them for any such disposition made of any part of such property without authority of the Church or direct action of their constituents. Third, because the authority of the Trustees as prescribed and set forth in the charter of the Church does not confer on them the power which they are asked by this communication to exercise.

  April 15th, 1893, was baptismal day at the Church, in which Dr. W. A. Stephens officiated. David S. and Sarah E. Smith presented six of their children for baptism. In appearance David was rather small and his wife somewhat larger. The children ranged in sizes according to their ages, each one a few inches less as they decreased in years. After the preliminary services were gone through with, the Doctor said to the parents, as he approached the oldest child, "Name this child." "David George Washington," was the response. The ceremony was gone through with, and passing to the second, Christopher Columbus, the next one was Lucy May, the fourth Perlissa Elamanda, James Bird was the fifth and the sixth Cora Malinda Ellen.




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