History of Lawrence County Pennsylvania, 1770 - 1877, by S.W. and P.A. Durant.
[p. 143] According to a careful computation there are eighty-five religious congregations or church organizations in Lawrence county, of which sixteen are Presbyterian, twenty United Presbyterian, twenty-five Methodist Episcopal, two Primitive Methodist, three Catholic, five Baptist, six Christian, two German Lutheran, two Reformed Presbyterian, one Episcopal, two English Evangelical Lutheran, and one Amech or Mennonite. Of these fifteen are in the city of New Castle and its suburbs, two in Big Beaver, four in Little Beaver, four in North Beaver, three in Hickory, six in Mahoning, three in Neshannock, two in Perry, three in Plain Grove, seven in Pulaski, four in Scott, five in Shenango, eight in Slippery Rock, four in Taylor (none in Union and Washington), five in Wayne and five in Wilmington.
There are two in Wampum and three in New Wilmington boroughs.
The oldest organizations in the county belong to the two prominent branches of the Presbyterian, the Old School and the United Presbyterian, both of which were introduced about the year 1800, or nearly as early as the first settlements. Their earliest church organizations were, (Presbyterian) Hopewell and Neshannock in 1800, Slippery Rock in 1801-2, and New Castle (called Lower Neshannock), and Westfield in 1803.
The earliest United Presbyterian Churches (then known as Associate or "Seceder" and Associate Reformed), were the Deer Creek, about 1800, and the one known as Mahoning Church, about 1799 or 1800, and in New Castle about 1808. The first Methodist Church in the county was the well-known King's Chapel, organized about 1802-4. The first Methodist Society in New Castle was organized about 1810.
The Baptists are a more recent organization.
The Zoar Baptist Church was organized in 1842, and the one in New Castle in 1843.
The Catholics begun to hold services in the dwellings of the few communicants who were scattered over the county, about 1831-32. The first organization in New Castle was about 1850.
The first Christian Church (known as Desciples) was organized in New Castle in 1855. They have the most costly and imposing church edifice in the county.
The German Lutherans organized in New Castle in 1848, and the Reformed Presbyterians in 1871.
The Episcopal Church of New Castle was organized about 1843.
The largest number of communicants belongs to the Catholic Church of New Castle, who number about 1,200. The first Methodist Episcopal Church comes next, with over six hundred, which is the largest society in the Erie Conference. The only Religious Educational Institution in the county is the college at New Wilmington, under the control of the United Presbyterian Church. (See history.)
Previous to the year 1852, the project of starting a college was discussed in the Associate Presbyteries of Shenango and Ohio, and in the communities within their bounds. In the country between the Ohio river and Lake Erie, there was no educational institution higher than an academy, except Allegheny College, at Meadville, Pa., under the care of the Methodist Episcopal Church. How early these discussions concerning a college began, and how often they occupied the attention of the Presbyteries, has not been recorded, but it is known that they were frequent and earnest. They took definite shape January 1, 1852, in a joint resolution of these two Presbyteries, that a college should be established, and it was afterwards decided that it should be in New Wilmington. Of course the resolutions to establish a college could not be adopted and finally disposed of without settling the question as to the locality, and no project of the kind was ever discussed without exciting local interest; and so, before the choice fell on the quite town of New Wilmington, the claims of Wolf Creek, New Bedford, Poland, and a number of other places were urged as suitable points for the establishment of a college.
After the election of a Board of Trustees, New Wilmington, with the other places, pressed its claims for the location of the college, and was chosen because of the superior liberality of its citizens. Ten thousand dollars towards the endowment of the college, the largest sum offered by any one community, was offered by New Wilmington and accepted by the board, on the condition of fixing the location of the institution at that place. No institution has the right to be regarded as the predecessor of Westminster College.
A select school, started in the town in 1844, and conducted by Rev. Alexander Boyd, was well attended, but existed only a single season.
"Westminster College Institute" was the name first given to the college, and is to be found on a marble slab in the west end of the present building. The men who founded and sustained the college, gloried in the Westminster standards as the embodiment of their religious creed.
One of these essential features in the proposed course of study, was to teach all the students a system of truth associated with the name of Westminster. One of these points most frequently urged in the establishment of the college, was that it was needed in order to give the requisite training to candidates for the ministry—a ministry "set for the defense" of the doctrines of this confession. It was for the advantage of Christians, the very largest portion of whom subscribed hartily to the Westminster confession of faith, it was well named "Westminster;" why the name was "Collegiate Institute" is not so certain.
That the college was designed to give not simply a classical education, reaching from the Freshman up through the Senior years, but that it was also intended to reach down to receive students as they come from the public schools of the county, and both prepare them for a regular course and take them through it; and that it was intended to give instruction in other than the ordinary classical studies, we know to be true; but whether or not this is the reason for the name, or whether it was a mere fancy for this rather than for the more common "college," cannot be determined. The name was changed in 1861, and is now "Westminster College."
In March, 1852, three months after the resolutions establishing the college were passed, a charter was received from the Legislature of Pennsylvania. According to the provisions of the charter, the college was to be under a Board of Trustees, consisting of twelve members, six of whom were elected by each of the Presbyteries—Shenango and Ohio—under the Associate Synod, two to be elected each year. The first Board of Trustees consisted of the following members: President, Rev. David Goodwillie; Vice President, Rev. J. D. Wolf; Secretary, A. J. Burgess, Esq.; Treasurer, Rev. D. R. Imbrie; other members, Rev. Messrs. J. P. Ramsey, J. W. Logue, Joseph McClintock, Hon. David Houston, William Dickey, Esq., Isaac P. Cowden, Esq., Hon. Thomas Dungan, Livingstone Carmen, Esq.
In 1858, when, by the union of the Associate and Associate Reformed Churches, the United Presbyterian churches began, the college, with its property, funds and privileges was transferred to the United Presbyterian Synod of the West.
In the following year (1859) a new charter was secured, granting university powers, and increasing the number of trustees to twenty-four, eight of whom were to be elected each year by the Synod. In 1861 an amendment was made to the charter, which, with some modifications that were afterwards repealed, changed the name of the college, as already noticed.
In 1871 the Synod of Pittsburgh was united with the First Synod of the West in the care of the college, and since that time four members of the Board of Trustees are elected by each Synod each year.
Soon after the organization of the Board of Trustees, in 1852, they purchased a tract of land including sixty acres, south of what was then New Wilmington. This was laid out in squares and divided into building lots, and sold, with the exception of a small "campus," 180 by 250 feet—the proceeds of the sale being added to the endowment fund of the college. The "campus" is now filled with shade trees of all sizes and kinds, each planted by a student or a class. The celebration of May 1, each year, consists in the planting of a tree by the Sophomore class.
The exercises of the college were begun in the Associate church at the west side of town; the building, a frame structure, was moved away in 1856, and a substantial and commodious brick edifice erected in its place. In the Fall of 1852 the Trustees had a building ready for the classes—a brick house forty by twenty-eight feet, two stories high, containing two rooms, each of the full size of the building. The Associate Reformed Church, on a lot next to this college building, was used as a chapel, and the public school-house was rented part of the day for classes, that were already too large and too many for the college-building. This building was used two years for college exercises; after that for a time it was used for the printing office of the Westminster Herald. It has since been sold, and is now used as a dwelling house. It stands on the corner north of the northwest corner of the "campus."
The second building erected for the use of the college was also brick, ninety by fifty-eight feet, three stories high. It was finished in 1854; opened for use in September of that year, and was burned down Feb'y 27, 1861.
The third building—that now in use—is of the same material, and was put up in 1861, and formally opened at the beginning of the session in 1862. It is one hundred by sixty-eight feet, three stories high, surmounted by a cupola. On the first floor are six recitation and three other rooms; one occupied by the janitor, two designed for apparatus, one used as a reading-room, and the others occupied by students. On the second floor are the chapel, library, two society-rooms, and Literary Society library room. On the third floor are two society rooms, with their library, and a large room designed for a gymnasium. The value of the building is about fifteen thousand dollars.
Started at ten thousand dollars offered and paid by the people around New Wilmington, the endowment fund reached fifty thousand dollars in 1858. Although many and large additions have been made to it since that date, there are at this time (January, 1877), but about seventy thousand dollars of productive funds. Much that has been received at different times has consisted of promissory notes, which, on various accounts, have not proved equal to their face value. The endowment was raised by the sale of scholarships, which entitled the holder to a complete education for one person or family, or for a perpetual succession of single individuals, according to the price paid or promised. So numerous are the scholarships still unused, that all who attend college are able to secure them and present them as substitutes for tuition. Hence there is no income from tuition fees. Rev. J. D. Wolf and William Dickey, Esq., were efficient agents for the college in the sale of these scholarships.
Rev. D. H. A. McLean, pastor of the Associate church at Greenville, Mercer county, Pa., and Rev. George C. Vincent, pastor of the Associate church of Mercer, and teacher in the State Academy in that town, were elected by the Board to teach in the newly formed college. Mr. (now Dr.) Vincent was first released from his pastoral charge, and Mr. (now Dr.) McLean soon after. On the 26th of April, 1852, Mr. Vincent opened the exercises of the college in the Associate church. At this opening there were present, besides about twenty pupils, the pastor of the church, Rev. D. R. Imbrie, Mr. J. A. McLaughrey, afterwards a member of the Board of Trustees; Hon. William M. Francis, member of the Examining Committee, all earnest friends of the enterprise. Mr. Vincent was soon joined by Mr. McLean and Rev. J. W. Harsha. In September the number of teachers were increased by addition of Mr. (now Rev.) D. H. Goodwillie. In 1854 the faculty was organized by the election of Rev. James Patterson, D. D., President. A. M. Black, D. D., was elected Professor of Hebrew; Rev. George C. Vincent, D. D., Professor of Greek; Miss J. S. Lowrie, Principal of Ladies Department; Rev. D. H. A. McLean, D. D., Professor of Mathematics, and Rev. J. W. Harsha, Professor of Latin.
Three courses of studies were attempted from the beginning: First, an English course, including a knowledge of the branches taught in common schools and of some of the sciences—as much as could be gained in three years. Those who completed this course received a diploma, conferring upon them the degree of B. S. The course has been changed recently so as to require three full years in addition to what is necessary in order to gain a knowledge of the common-school branches. A year of German or Latin, one term of Anglo-Saxon, and a year's study of the English language, among other things, have been added.
Second, a course designed to prepare the student for a regular college course, which is still continued. The students in this departments [sic] recite at the same hours, and for the most part to the same professors as do the students of college.
Third, the regular classical course, not differing materially from that of other colleges. Those that complete this course receive the degree of A. B.
The studies have been changed to some extent at different periods in the history of the college. A Normal course, extending through the Summer, was started, but, after a brief trial, it was abandoned.
The College Library was burned in 1861, and since that time little effort has been made to collect another. There is no fund set apart for the purchase of books. The library now contains about three thousand volumes. A reading-room, supported by the professors and students, is well supplied with papers and magazines, and has a few books of reference. It is open each afternoon and evening.
There are four literary societies in connection with the College: the Philomath and Adelphic, conducted by the gentlemen, and the Alethean and Leagorean by the ladies. They meet every week. Each has a well-furnished hall and library. The origin of the Philomath is contemporary with that of the College. In the second year of its existence the society resolved that it was expedient to have two societies, in order that they might have literary contests, and thus more efficiently accomplish the end of their organization. [p. 145] The names of the members, ranged in alphabetical order, were numbered, and by a unanimous vote of the society it was resolved that those whose names were opposite odd numbers should form the new society, and the others remain in the old. The new society adopted the name Adelphic, and consisted of fourteen members. Each year the representatives of the two societies—a debater, an orator, an essayist and a declaimer—engage in a contest, which never fails to awaken great interest in the community, and which is always creditable to the societies.
Presidents of the Board of Tristees. Rev. David Goodwillie, D. D., - - - - 1853 to 1855. Rev. Joseph McClintock, - - - - - - 1856 to 1857. Rev. Samuel Alexander, - - - - - - 1857 to 1858. Rev. D. H. A. McLean, D. D., - - - - 1858 to 1866. Rev. J. H. Pressly, D. D., - - - - - 1866 to 1875. Rev. D. R. Kerr, D. D., - - - - - - 1875. Presidents of the College. Rev. James Patterson, D. D., October 19, 1853, to October 23, 1856. Rev. R. A. Browne, D. D., June 27, 1867, to October 25, 1870. Rev. E. T. Jeffers, D. D., June 4, 1872, present incumbent. Professors and Tutors. Rev. George C. Vincent, D. D., - - - - 1852 to 1872. Rev. D. H. A. McLean, D. D., - - - - 1852 to 1856. Rev. James W. Harsha, - - - - - - - 1852 to 1856. Rev. D. H. Goodwillie. A. M., - - - - 1852 to 1864. Rev. A. M. Black, D. D., - - - - - - 1854 to 1863. Miss S. J. Lowrie, - - - - - - - - 1854 to 1856. Rev. William Findley, D. D., - - - - 1856 to 1866. J. B. Cummings, Ph. D., - - - - - - 1856 to ----. S. R. Thompson, - - - - - - - - - 1855 to 1857. J. B. McMichael, A. B., - - - - - - 1855 to 1856. Rev. W. A. Mehard, D. D., - - - - - 1858 to ----. Rev. W. H. Jeffers, D. D., - - - - - 1865 to 1869. John Morrow, A. B., - - - - - - - 1865 to 1866. Joseph McKee, - - - - - - - - - 1866 to 1867. Miss Sarah McMichael, A. M., - - - - 1866 to 1869. John D. Irons, A B., - - - - - - - 1869 to 1872. Miss Mary Stevenson, - - - - - - - 1869 to 1873. John D. Shaffer, A. M., - - - - - - 1871 to 1873. James W. Stewart, A. M. - - - - - - 1872 to 1875. Rev. John Edgar, A. M., - - - - - - 1874 to ----. Nathan Winegart, A. B., - - - - - - 1873 to 1874. Mary H. Shaffer, B. S., - - - - - - 1874 to 1875. John K. S. McClurkin, A. M., - - - - 1870 to 1874. John K. S. McClurkin, A. M., - - - - 1875 to ----. R. H. Carothers, A. B., - - - - - - 1875 to ----. Miss Mary E. Rippey, - - - - - - - 1875 to ----. Andrew H. Harshaw, - - - - - - - - 1874 to 1875.
The Board contemplate the erection of additional buildings for the use of the college, those already completed being inadequate to supply the needs of the increasing number of students.
Deut. xxxii.—"Remember the days of old: Consider the years of many generations."
Human progress is entirely dependent upon the memory. By this power the mind retains or recalls knowledge once acquired, and thus garners the materials of thought, comparison and deduction. Memory is at once the recording secretary of the intellect and the treasury of the affections. Without this faculty man would be a perpetual novice—his past a blank—his future imbecility. Without memory, science and art would perish. What memory is to individual man, history is to society. "History," said one, "is the memory of nations." It teaches by example and by experience. It gathers light from the past to shed on the future; and to study its lessons is a dictate both of reason and of revelation. For, while it increases the sum of human knowledge, it kindles a virtuous emulation of deeds benificent and great, whispers gratitude to the God of history and proclaims his glory. It was, doubtless, from considerations of this kind, that Moses recapitulated the history of Israel, and enjoined, as he did in our text, its rehearsal in every generation. "Remember the days of old: Consider the years of many generations."
Although this passage and its context are richly suggestive, I will not detain you with a full discussion of it, and I shall make no farther use of it except to vindicate, by divine authority, the propriety of the recommendation of the General Assembly of last year (1875) that on the first Sabbath of July, 1876, the pastor of each church in our denomination would deliver a discourse containing the history of the congregation, and forward a copy of the same to the archives of the Presbyterian Historical Society. Our text is ample authority for this recommendation, while it enjoins such a study of the history of the past as may at once awaken gratitude, and impress the lessons to be drawn from the book of providence. The holy nation and almost all others have associated important events in their history, not only with monumental erections and sacramental ceremonies, but with memorial days, anniversaries, jubilees and centennaries. For this, in your preacher's judgment, we have divine authority in our text and numerous other scriptures. We are exhorted—perhaps commanded—to remember the days of old.
History, when truthful, is a narrative of the providence of God, and he who fails to recognize "God in history," has no adequate conception of it. The plot of the vast drama of time, of which history constitutes the successive acts and scenes, was planned by the Divine mind. He shapes the destiny of nations. He decrees the rise and fall of empires. He is King of kings. His glorious purposes ever in view, he provides instruments best adapted to their accomplishment. When social tempests rage, he "rides in the whirlwind and directs the storms."
And if it be our duty to know God, in his being, perfections and works, it is our duty to "remember the days of old, and consider the years of many generations."
This brief discussion of our text will suffice to exhibit its meaning, and to introduce the task laid upon me by our General Assembly.
It is a sad proof of the depravity of man that history is tame and uninteresting, unless it records startling and unusual events.
It is, alas! too often a recital of crime and enormity. Wars and violence and revolutions constitute too much of its staple; and it is a mournful fact that the wicked amongst men make history, and make history more rapidly, and of a more exciting and attractive character, than the righteous. The calm and regular flow of events, in times of peace and prosperity, supplies little material for the historian's pen; while the throes of revolution, the clash of arms, the march of conquerors, the horrid atrocities of battle-fields, the capture and the sack of cities, and the desolations wrought by fire and sword are the staple of the historic volume. The annals of peace and the record of virtuous deeds are tame in contrast with the story of horrors which forms the bulk of historic narrative. The campaigns of Great Julius, and his march to empire over fields of blood, make more attractive history than the peaceful reign of Augustus. And, although in the latter those arts and letters which embellish civilized life, and impart a charm to social comfort and enjoyment, were far more flourishing, the history of the Augustine age is tame in contrast with that of periods marked by conquest, by carnage, and by crime. That this is a fact every reader of history can attest; the philosophy of the fact is explained by man's innate depravity, and that fondness for excitement and change which is an element of our fallen condition. And yet this fondness for change and excitement is not always depraved. The story of a people struggling for their liberties and rights is always attractive history; and men are apt to sympathize with those who are oppressed, and who stand and strike for freedom and the right. The story of our Revolutionary struggle is peculiarly attractive, not only to Americans themselves, but even to those whose prejudices and interests were against us. But still the general proposition is true, that troublous times make more, and more attractive, history than times of peace.
If, then, I shall fail to make the story of this church and congregation as interesting and attractive as I might desire, you will be just enough to attribute it to the fact that no wonderful and startling events have marked your past history. It has not been needful for our God to make bare his arm to deliver you from such terrible temporal calamities as those which befel Israel of old, nor even from such disasters as befel other congregations in this Western Pennsylvania in the days of Indian hostilities. No conquering Midianites or Philistines have been permitted to subdue you by military power—to eat out your substance, trample upon your right, or destroy your freedom of worship. But whilst your history is on this account less exciting, does it lay less claim upon our gratitude? Have we less reason to praise Him? Is it not a rich blessing to be exempt from danger, and from persecution and sword? Is not exemption from calamity quite as great a [p. 146] boon as deliverance? Whilst, then, we have no miraculous or extraordinary interpositions of Providence to recite, yet have we a long catalogue of mercies to recount; and, if our hearts were right with God, they would both bow in humility and glow with gratitude for all God's goodness.
This congregation has existed in an organized form for about three-fourths of a century; but the persons who formed its original members had been in this vicinity, many of them, for some years before they were gathered into a worshiping assembly. Long before the Indian title to the lands west of the Allegheny and north of the Ohio was extinguished, after the decisive victory of General Wayne at the battle of the Miami Rapids, the Christian religion was introduced, and for a time maintained within the bounds of Lawrence county, and within a few miles of where we now sit. As you go by rail down our beautiful valley, the brakeman's cry of "Moravia!" at the third station south of our city, reminds the passenger who is posted in the history of our country of one of the most interesting items of its annals. Near to that station once stood a flourishing village of Christian Indians, whose story is the first and one of the most interesting links in the chain of the religious history of our valley.
One hundred and nine years ago there came to the Indian town of Gosch-gosch-kunk, at the mouth of the Tionesta creek, where it debouches into the Allegheny river, in what is now Forest county, Pa., a solitary German, a minister of the Gospel in the Unitas Fratrum Church, usually called Moravians. Accompanied by two converted Indians, he had set out from the Christian Indian town of Freidenshutten, on the north branch of the Susquehanna, which stood near to the present town of Wyalusing. Traversing the unbroken and dense forests of Northern Pennsylvania and Southern New York on foot, with but a single pack-horse to carry their baggage, after many dangers and hardships they arrived at Gosch-gosch-kunk, at the mouth of the Tionesta, on the 16th day of October, 1767. This village was only two years old, having been founded after the close of Pontiac's war.
Soon after, this missionary was joined by his wife, and by John Senseman and his wife, and a band of Christian Indians from the Susquehanna, and they attempted to establish a mission at that point. But they found much opposition from the chiefs and others, and although they were blest in winning a few converts, the roughness of the country, the leanness of the land and the opposition of the natives, proved so discouraging that they soon began to contemplate a change of locality. God prepared the way for this in a most remarkable manner.
The tribes of Indians which roamed along the Allegheny and the Beaver at that day were chiefly of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware nation, a branch of which was at Gosch-gosch-kunk, called Munseys, but there were mingled with them Senecas, Shawanese and some Mohicans. The Senecas claimed the soil on the Allegheny, and their chief, Wangomen, took violent ground against the missionaries, and objected to the Munseys, who had built their town by permission of the former tribe, permitting the missionaries to build houses and a church upon it. Failing to obtain by negotiation the necessary privileges, the necessity for a change of locality became imminent. They accordingly moved across the Allegheny river, and built a mission-town in what is now the heart of the Oil-Creek oil region. The oil was gathered even then, and used by both Indians and missionaries for medicinal purposes.
At that time there were two villages of the Lenni Lenape in this vicinity one near the mouth of the Mahoning, called Kas-kas-kunk. The name of the chief who held sway in this valley at that day was Pak-an-ke. His principal sub-chief, counsellor and warrior was named Glik-kik-an. He was a man of great natural powers. His fame as a warrrio was only eclipsed by his reputation for eloquence. He had fought many battles, both in the wars between the tribes and in the wars of the French against the English, and he possessed a glowing eloquence which carried all before it at the council-fire. He had disputed with Christian Frederick Post at Tuscarawas; he had silenced the Jesuit priests in argument at Venango; and he came up to the mission-town in the oil region to dispute with and overcome Zeisberger and Senseman. Escorted to Lawunack-hannek by Wangomen and a procession of Indians, he entered the mission-house to challenge the missionaries to theological combat. Zeisberger being absent, Glik-kik-an was received by Anthony, a converted Indian, who, as Zeisberger remarked, "was as eager to bring souls to Christ as a hunter's hound is eager to chase the deer."
Placing food before his guests, he at once introduced the subject of religion. "My friends," said he, "I will tell you a great thing. God made the heavens and the earth and all things that in them are. Nothing exists that God did not make." Pausing, he added: "God has created us. But who of us knows his Creator? not one! I tell you the truth—not one! For we have fallen away from God—we are polluted creatures; our minds are darkened by sin."
Here he sat down and was silent a long time. Suddenly, rising again, he exclaimed, "That God who made all things and created us came into the world in the form and fashion of a man. Why did he thus come into the world? Think of this!" He paused, and then answered: "God took upon him flesh and blood in order that, as man, he might reconcile the world unto himself. By his bitter death on the cross he procured for us life and eternal salvation, redeeming us from sin, from death, and from the power of the Devil." In such apothegms he unfolded the whole Gospel. When he ceased, Zeisberger, who had in the meantime entered, briefly corroborated his words and exhorted Glik-kik-an to lay them to heart.
"Glik-kik-an, "says DeSchweinitz, "was an honest man and open to conviction. He had upheld the superstitions of his fathers because he had not been convinced that the Christian faith was true." But now the truth began to dawn upon his mind. In the place of his elaborate speech he merely replied, "I have nothing to say; I believe your words." And when he returned to Gosh-gosh-kunk, instead of boasting of a victory over the teachers, he urged the people to go and hear the Gospel. He had been hired, like Balaam, to curse God's own, but, like Balaam, he was constrained to bless them. Not long after this first visit of the warrior of the Mahoning, Zeisberger was constrained to go to Fort Pitt to obtain provisions. Senseman accompanied him, and they were instrumental in saving the country from the horrors of another war.
They passed by Fort Venango (Franklin) on their return. Soon after this they received a second visit from Glik-kik-an. He came to tell them that he had determined to embrace Christianity, and he brought an invitation from Pack-an-ke to settle on the banks of the Beaver, on a tract of land which should be reserved for the exclusive use of the mission. Zeisberger saw the advantages of the offer, but not feeling authorized to accept it without consent of the Board at Bethlehem, he sent two runners to that town. in Northampton county, for instructions. The Board gave him plenary power, and he accepted the offer of a home in our beautiful valley. It took time, however, for the runner to go and come through that vast stretch of wilderness, and the migration was not effected until the next April.
But before they left the oil-region the Lord cheered them with some fruits of their toil. Early in December, 1769, the first Protestant baptism in the valley of the Allegheny took place at Lawunakhannek. Luke and Paulina were then baptised; and Alemeni at Christmas; and in the beginning of 1770 several other converts were added.
On the 17th day of April, 1770, after a friendly parting with Wangoman and their other opponents, who now began to regret their removal, Zeisberger, Senseman and their families with the Christian Indians, left Lawunakhannek in fifteen canoes. They swept past Gosch-gosch-kunk and bore down the Allegheny, and reached Fort Pitt on the 20th of April.
It was a novel sight presented to the traders and the garrison at that point, to see a colony of Protestant Christian Indians, who from savages had been transformed into mild and consistent followers of Jesus.
Leaving Fort Pitt, they descended the Ohio to the mouth of the Beaver. That now populous locality was then a deep solitude. Not even a wigwam was to be seen where Beaver, Rochester, New Brighton, Bridgewater, Fallston and Beaver Falls now throng with population.
Ascending the Beaver, they carry their canoes and goods around the falls, and arrive at a town on the west bank of that river a little north of where Newport now stands. This Indian town was inhabited by a community of women, all single, and all pledged never to in marry. An uncloistered nunnery! I do not wonder that Indian women, who were doomed to do the drudgery of the family, both in the wigwam and the corn-field, should resolve to lead a life of single-blessedness. It is less excusable in civilized society, in which Christianity has emancipated woman from such hardships.
A little more than a mile above this town of maidens, on the east bank of the Beaver, and below the afflux of the Mahoning, they found a broad plain, or bottom-land, as we would call it, upon which they made an encampment, putting up log-huts.
"The first business," says Dr. Schweinitz, "undertaken was an embassy to Pack-an-ke, whose capital stood near, or, perhaps, upon the site of New Castle, and was called New Kas-kas-kunk. Old Kas-kas-kunk, the former capital, was at the confluence of the Shenango and Mahoning rivers.
Pack-an-ke, a venerable, gray-haired chief, but active as in youth, received the deputation at his own house.
In response to the speeches of Abram (a converted Indian) and Zeisberger, he said they were welcome to his country and should be undisturbed in the worship of their God.
[p. 147] A great feast was in preparation. Indians were flocking in in great numbers. Native etiquette required that the deputies should grace the occasion with their presence; but after Abram's exposition of their views, Pak-an-ke made no attempt to detain them.
Thus one hundred and six years ago, on this soil, and probably about the place where our Second Ward school-house now stands, was exhibited by a pagan savage chief, or king, a measure of hospitality and religious toleration, such as nominally Christian Rome denies, and such as even Protestant Christians are slow to extend to their fellow-men.
A village of cabins was soon built upon the site of the encampment, to which Zeisberger gave the name of Langunton-temunk in the Delaware language; in German, Friedenstadt, and in English, City of Peace. It soon began to attract the Indians. Some Munseys from Gosch-gosch-kunk were the first to come and join this mission; soon after, Glik-kik-kan from Kas-kas-kunk. He was the first convert to Christianity in the valley of the Shenango.
Zeisberger had warned this brave warrior that persecutions would follow his embracing Christianity, but it did not deter him. King Pack-an-ke reproached him. "And have you gone to the Christian teachers from our very councils?" said he. "What do you want of them? Do you hope to get a white-skin? Not so much as one of your feet will turn white. How then can your whole skin be changed? Were you not a brave man? Were you not an honorable counsellor? Did you not sit at my side in this house with a blanket before you, and a pile of wampum belts upon it, and help me to direct the affairs of our nation? And now you despise all this! You think you have found something better! Wait! in good time you will see how miserably you have been deceived!"
To this burst of passion Glik-kik-kan replied, "You are right; I have joined the brethren. Where they go, I will go; where they lodge, I will lodge; nothing shall separate me from them; their people shall be my people, and their God, my God." Attending church a few days after this, a sermon on the heinousness of sin so moved him that he walked through the village to his tent sobbing aloud. "A haughty war-captain," wrote Zeisberger, "weeps publicly in the presence of his former associates. This is marvelous. Thus the Saviour, by his word, breaks the hard hearts and humbles the proud minds of the Indians."
Finding their locality, which was on or near the present site of the hamlet of Moravia, too low and unhealthy, Zeisberger, towards the end of July, laid out a new and larger town, with a church on a hill on the west side of the river opposite the first. This town was located on the ridge to the west of the railroad, and extending north from the Spring run this side (north) of Moravia station. Thus one hundred and six years ago, this month, (July, 1876), was founded the first Christian village and community in this beautiful valley—yes! the first west of the Allegheny mountains. We cannot pursue the details of its history further in this discourse except to say that upon that spot, consecrated by the prayers and tears and the toils of David Zeisberger, John Senseman, George Youngman and their wives, and of Abraham, Glik-kik-kan, and other red men who had given their hearts to Jesus, a Christian town of five hundred souls grew rapidly up. The number of converts increased until, before they migrated to the Tuscarawas, it reached two hundred. The town and church were built of hewn logs, and were occupied by an industrious and orderly community. It continued to prosper until, from various considerations, they were induced to emigrate to the valley of the Muskingum, in what is now the State of Ohio.
The considerations which led to this change grew out of various circumstances; partly from the necessity of the removal of the Christian Indians on the Susquehanna to a place where they would be more exempt from the encroachments of the white settlers, and partly from untoward influences gathering round them in this vicinity.
Traders had early established posts along the Allegheny and Ohio. Whisky was introduced by them, and habits of intemperance grew rapidly among the pagan Indians. It not unfrequently happened that the wild Indians, when drunk, would come to the peaceable Christian town, and whoop and shriek along the streets, insult the women, and sometimes disturb even the meetings for worship, Thus early were the atrocities that inevitably spring from the rum-traffic perpetrated in our loved valley, and down to the present day those atrocities have never ceased.
Early in the Spring of 1772, accompanied by Glik-kik-an and several others of the Indians, Zeisberger proceeded to the Tuscarawas to announce the coming of the Susquehanna Indians, and prepare for their reception. The work still went on at Friedenstadt until the Spring of 1773, when the missionaries and their Christian Indians took a sad farewell of their beautiful home on the banks of the Beaver; leveled their beautiful sanctuary with the ground, to prevent its desecration, and bent their faces towards the banks of the Tuscarawas, where, at the beautiful locality of the "Big Spring," and a few miles from it, they built two towns—Gnattenhutten and Schoenbrun—in which they lived happily and labored faithfully for Christ, until the wars came on which resulted in so many disasters and so much bloodshed, and they were cruelly murdered, Glik-kik-an among them, by a body of frontiersmen from Washington and Green counties, Pa., and from West Virginia, under the command of Col. David Williamson. These men had marched to avenge some atrocious murders which had been committed by wild Indians in those counties, and, failing to discriminate between the harmless Moravian Indians and the real authors of the murders, they cruelly slaughtered nearly one hundred old men, women and children! It was a terrible tragedy, illustrative of the fearful nature of unbridled and undiscriminating vengeance.
Although not directly connected with the history of our congregation, I have deemed it proper to give this brief and imperfect sketch of the interesting congregation of Christian Indians, which one hundred and six years ago was established in our immediate vicinity, and as our own was established near the same site, and once extended its borders almost, or quite, to Friedenstadt (Moravia), it may be considered the first successor of that interesting congregation.
The tawny Delawares and Senecas and Shawanese still lingered along the banks of the Shenango and Neshannock for some years after this church was organized. After the decisive victory of General Wayne in August, 1794, a treaty was formed with the Indians, by which the peace of the border was for a time secured; and, shortly after, white inhabitants began to cross the Ohio and Allegheny, and settle the country lying between those rivers and Lake Erie. Gradually the tide of population flowed north and west, and, by 1798, there was a considerable population scattered through what is now the counties of Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Crawford and Erie.
As in the entire process of settling Pennsylvania, the sturdy and intelligent Scotch-Irish race were the pioneers. They had at an early period settled in Bucks, Chester, Lancaster and Cumberland counties. They were the first to cross the Alleghenies and occupy the counties east of the Allegheny and south of the Ohio; and, when the broad, fertile and forest-clad region north of that river was opened to them, they were prompt, to enter it.
A herculean task lay before them. A massive forest was to fell; fields were to clear and reclaim, and bread was to be wrung from the soil—rich, indeed, but rugged and untamed. But the very hardships of their condition, developed energy and self-reliance. Trained in their former homes in the Bible, and the Shorter Catechism, and most of them in the Psalms of David, they brought with them a piety, if rude, yet sturdy and sincere. They made their cabins and the surrounding forest vocal with their voice of unsophisticated praise and prayer. Loving the preached Gospel, and reverencing the ministers whom they left behind in the older settlements, they had a natural desire to receive visits from them, and, at their request, some of the godly pastors from over the rivers made occasional visits. The venerable Elisha McCurdy and Thomas Marquis were the first ministers of our order who traversed the hills and valleys, gathering the scattered settlers in little assemblies to worship God and hear the precious Gospel. They went as far north as Erie county, and visited many settlements, dispensing the word and ordinances. It is impossible in our day to appreciate the difficulties of such missionary tours. There was not a bridge from the Ohio to the lake, over any stream. The creeks were often swollen so that they were compelled to swim their horses across the angry current; and sometimes even this was impracticable, and the missionary would be prevented by such insurmountable obstacles from fulfilling his appointment.
Among the first ministers of the Gospel who visited this region, some of whom remained permanently, was Thomas Edgar Hughes, who settled at Greensburg, now called Darlington. He was a man of mark, and the first settled pastor north of the Ohio. He was of Welch orgin, his grandfather having come from Wales. He was born in York county, Pa., April 7, 1769. Licensed by the Presbytery of Ohio, now Pittsburgh, in 1798, he was ordained and installed over the churches of New Salem and Mount Pleasant, August 28, 1796.
The Rev. William Wick came soon after Mr. Hughes. A descendant of the Pilgrams of New England, born on Long Island, New York, June 29, 1768, he removed to Washington county, Pa., in 1790; studied at Dr. McMillan's log-cabin college; was licensed in August 28, 1799, and was ordained over the congregations at Neshannock and Hopewell, September 3, 1800. He served afterwards the congregation of Youngstown for half his [p. 148] time. His labors were largely blessed. He died a triumphant death on the 29th of March, 1815.
The Rev. Samuel Tait was another of the early ministers who, as well as those already mentioned, often preached on this ground. Born in Shippensburg, Pa., February 17, 1772, brought in youth to Ligonier valley, Westmoreland county; converted under the influence of a conversation with the Rev. Elisha McCurdy; studied under Dr. McMillan; licensed June 25, 1800; came to Cool Spring, near Mercer, in September of that year. His first sermon, on the text: "And they all with one accord began to make excuse," was the means of many conversions. Ordained over Cool Spring and Upper Salem, November 19, 1800. He lived in Cool Spring, north of where Mercer now stands, in a small log-cabin, which was raised and clapboarded during his absence on a preaching tour; his wife, with her own hands, made mortar and "chunked" and daubed the cabin. I knew them both well in my boyhood, and all revered them. The site of Mercer was an unbroken forest when Mr. Tait settled at Cool Spring. In 1806 he relinquished the charge of Upper Salem, and organized a congregation at Mercer, in the pastorate of which he continued until his death, June 2, 1841.
Rev. William Wood, born in York county, March 27, 1776; brought in early life to Western Pennsylvania, he studied at the Cannonsburg Academy and Dr. McMillan's log seminary. He was licensed on the 29th of October, 1801. He was ordained and installed over the congregations of Plain Grove and Center, November 3, 1802. He labored there with diligence and success until 1816, when he assumed charge of Neshannock and Hopewell, where he labored eleven years. He died at Utica, Ohio, July 31, 1839.
Time would fail me to speak of all the earnest ministers who labored in this region, and whose frequent visits to New Castle, and labors here, form part of our history. I can but name the Rev. Joseph Badger, Joseph Stockton, Robert Lee, James Satterfield, William Wylie; the Boyds, John, James and Abraham; Robert Johnston, who died among you; Timothy Alden, and others; and I must proceed to the more immediate history of our own congregation.
The original name of this church was Lower Neshannock, "in contra-distinction from Upper Neshannock, now served by the Rev. J. M. Mealy. Its earlier records, if any were kept, have been lost, and we cannot ascertain the precise date of its organization; but it must have been before New Castle was laid out and named, or it would have taken the name of the town, as it afterwards did.* It was doubtless formed about the same time with Slippery Rock—1801; for in the records of Presbytery it is reported, in 1802, as able, in connection with Slippery Rock, to support a pastor.
*New castle was originally laid out and named In 1798.
The first pastor was the Rev. Alexander Cook, who probably was preaching to these two congregations previous to the time of his ordination, which was June 22, 1803, by the Presbytery of Erie, whose bishopric at that time extended from the river Ohio to Lake Erie.
Mr. Cook was a Scotchman, born at St. Monance, Fifeshire, near Glasgow, February 4, 1760, and baptized two days thereafter. He first learned the trade of a silversmith; lived at Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1778; came to America in 1783. Lived for a time in Maryland, and was living in Cannonsburg in 1797, working at his trade as a silversmith. In that town, which has done so much for Christ and sound learning, Mr. Cook appears to have been impressed with the duty of becoming a minister; and although nearly forty years of age, he began study, and, whilst making and repairing spoons and watches for a livelihood, he persisted diligently in his studies at the academy, and afterward's at McMillan's log theological seminary, and was licensed April 23, 1802. In August of that year he was commissioned by General Dearborn (Secretary of War) as a missionary to the Indians. He was also commissioned by the Synod of Pittsburgh, and he spent some few months with the Indians near Sandusky, in company with Joseph Patterson; but not meeting with a friendly reception, they returned.
As already stated, he was installed pastor of Slippery Rock and Lower Neshannock, June 22, 1803. In these exercises Rev. John Boyd preached the sermon and Mr. Hughes gave the charges. Mr. Cook continued pastor until June 14, 1809, when the relation was dissolved by Presbytery, and he went as a missionary to South Carolina and Georgia. He subsequently supplied Poland, Ohio, for two years, and was pastor of Bethany, in Allegheny county, from 1814 to 1820; of Ebenezer and Bear Creek, in Presbytery of Allegheny, from 1821 to 1827, and, in October, 1827, settled over two churches in Steubenville Presbytery. In the Winter of 1828 he left home to organize a church among the Highland Scotch, in Columbiana county, Ohio. He arrived at his place of destination on Saturday; conversed to a late hour with the family who entertained him; retired to bed, and was found dead the next morning, November 30, 1828.
The second pastor of this church was the Rev. Robert Sample. He was born in North Carolina, August 31, 1775; licensed to preach in 1810, and ordained over the congregations of New Castle and Slippery Rock, April 10, 1811. He served the church of New Castle twenty-seven years, and that of Slippery Rock twenty-four years. He was a man of respectable talents, great amiability, and was faithful and laborious in his pastoral work.
The pastoral relation of Mr. Sample to Slippery Rock was dissolved in 1835, and his relation to this church in 1838. He subsequently served Pulaski for a about a year, Brookfield, Ohio, for a year or two, and he departed this life April llth, 1874. The only one of his descendants left among us is his grand-daughter, Mrs. Morrow, daughter of Judge McGuffin.
At the time of Mr. Sample's accession to the pastoral office, Crawford White, father of Joseph S., was clerk of the Session. The other ruling elders at that time were Wm. Moorhead, Joseph Pollock, Wm. Raney, James McKee and Samuel Wilson. David White, David Somerville and Thomas Hanna were ordained ruling elders April 16th, 1820. Wm. Cairns, Ebenezer Byers and White McMillen were ordained and installed in 1834. John Emery and S. W. Mitchell June, 7th, 1840. Francis Train, Daniel McConnell (father of Milton and Elder), Joseph Emery, Wm. Emery, Wm. Watson and James W. Johnston, February 9th, 1851. These last were inducted into office during the pastorate of Mr. Bushnell.
During the pastorate of Rev. E. E. Swift, viz: on the 29th of January, 1854, Messrs. Alexander Ross, Newell White, P. T. Hamilton and Hiram Pollock were elected ruling elders, and Mssers. Johnston Watson, John Breckenridge, Samuel Spiese, A. W. Phipps, John S. Pomeroy and Henry C. Falls were elected deacons, and ordained on the following Sabbath. During Mr. Grimes' pastorate, James C. Hanna, A. W. Phipps, John Sword, Wm. McCreary and D. S. Morris were elected elders on February 2d, 1865, and ordained on the 26th of the same month; and on the same day Hiram Watson and Dr. M. P. Barker, who had been previously ordained to the office, and who had been elected on the 2d of February, were installed with the others. This is a full list of the elders of this church down to the present date.
They are all dead except the present bench of elders, and White McMillen, who joined the Free, now the Second Church, Samuel W. Mitchell, who is in the same connection, John Sword, who serves the Church of Mahoning in the same capacity, and James W. Johnston, who now resides in Lawrence, Kansas.
The successor of Mr. Sample was the Rev. Welles Bushnell. Born in Hartford, Conn., in April, 1799, he came in early life to the city of Pittsburgh, where, at the age of seventeen, he united with the First Presbyterian Church under the Rev. Dr. Herron. His college-studies were pursued at Jefferson, and his theological at Princeton, and he was licensed by the Presbytery of, New Brunswick about 1825. He was called to the church of Meadville, and ordained over it June 22d, 1826. He continued pastor of that charge until June 26th, 1833, when his relation was dissolved at his own request, in order that he might go as a missionary to the Wea Indians under the auspices of the "Western Board of Foreign Missions." He went to that then remote post (in Kansas), and entered upon missionary work, but his strength was not equal to the arduous duties, and, after laboring a year and a-half, he returned to New Albany, Indiana, where his parents then resided. After a little rest, he supplied for a time the First Church, Louisville, Ky., and was urged to take a new enterprise there. But his opinions on the subject of slavery forbade his residence in a slave State, and he accepted a call to Greensburg, Indiana, where he labored a year and a-half, when he returned to Pittsburgh, and, after a brief service of the churches of Grand Run and Cambridge, in Crawford county, he was installed over this church of New Castle in April, 1839. Here he continued to labor faithfully and successfully for fifteen years and a-half.
At the close of this time troubles arose, and one of those unhappy church controversies, which seem to be chronic in some congregations; the pastoral tie was severed and he soon after cast in his lot with the Free Church, an organization which grew out of dissatisfation with what the brethren who composed the organization supposed to be the attitude of the General Assembly of 1845, on the subject of Slavery. One of the earliest organized of the congregations of the Free Church was what is now the Second Church of our city, which was largely composed of persons who withdrew from the First Church, including two of the elders. The history of the troubles connected with Mr. Bushnell's removal could be pretty fully gathered from old records of the Session and the congregation; but the recital, though it might be painfully interesting, could do no good, and I refrain from attempting it. I believe that few, if any, doubted the sincerity of Mr. Bushnell's convictions, the purity of his motives, the earnestness and depth of his piety [p. 149] and of his desire to do good. But there were those who differed with him, no doubt, as sincerely, and the result was, he left this field; united with the Free Church, and served its churches of Mount Jackson and New Bedford until the close of his earthly labors, July 16, 1863. He was succeeded by Rev. Elliott E. Swift, who was installed September 27, 1854, and continued in the faithful discharge of pastoral duty until February 9, 1861, when he was called to the co-pastorate of the First Church, Allegheny, as assistant to his venerable father, where he still labors as sole pastor.
Dr. Swift was succeeded in the pastorate by the Rev. Joseph S. Grimes, a native of Ohio, and a graduate, I believe, of Franklin College in that State. He was installed July 9, 1861, and ministerd to this church until released from his charge, September 27, 1865. Mr. Grimes was a man of energy, with an earnest manner and of frank, outspoken address. His ministry was warm and vigorous—a man of no mean ability, and his labors were attended with valuable results. During his pastorate several improvements in the church and its modes of doing business were effected; but he was here in troublous times, during the civil war. The minds of people were excited about the troubles of their country, diversity of views prevailed, and another church difficulty, which I have never sought to understand, and which it would therefore be improper for me to attempt to describe, occurred, resulting in the pastor's resignation and removal. Mr. Grimes, before coming to New Castle, had served a church in Ohio, and had been afterwards pastor of the Church of Columbia, Pa. After leaving this field he labored for a short time at Rockford, Illinois, and has been for some years pastor of our church at Alliance, Ohio. Your present pastor, Rev. David X. Junkin, entered upon his duties early in May, 1866, but was not installed until the 13th of September. As I gave you, a little more than a year ago, a sketch of my ministerial life previous to assuming this pastorate, and also a brief sketch of my labors here, I deem it unnecessary to re-state it now. Some future historian may put it on record, but it would be manifestly a needless and improper task for me now to perform.
A volume might be filled with curious details belonging to the history of this congregation; but, as I said in an early part of this discourse, the materials of history are not generally either pleasant or profitable. Times of peace are meagre in the stuff of which history is made. It takes a war to evolve startling and interesting events, and, alas! this is as true of the history of churches as of nations and other secular communities. When everything is peaceful and orderly, and professing Christians walk consistently in the regular performance of duty, the clerks of Session and of Presbytery have but little to do. The record of a session in such times is simply, "Session met, began with prayer; present the moderator and elders. Such and such persons were received on examination or certificates and, perhaps, some dismissed to join other churches. Then adjourned without prayer." There is little to record, and the Minutes of Session are very tame reading, But let some of the members violate rule, and walk disorderly so that discipline is necessary; or, let some uneasy persons get up a church fight, and then business becomes brisk; people make history that is worth reading—or, at least, more exciting, and the record becomes attractive, but to the really pure and good, painfully so.
The records during the pastorate of Mr. Sample consist simply of columnar lists of baptisms and of persons received to or dismissed from the communion of the church, with lists of those who died. If they had any cases of discipline I find no record of them. Of Mr. Cook's pastorate there are no records at all, except what can be found in the Minutes of Presbytery. But in Mr. Bushnell's administration there are records of many cases of discipline and of trials, some of them very protracted, and furnishing proof that human nature was in that day much the same as now, and, perhaps, more so. Then, as now, temper, tongues and tale-bearing made trouble, and the record in some instances corroborates the doctrine of human depravity and tendency to do wrong. But at the same time those old records furnish evidence of the faithfulness and watchfulness of the pastor and elders, and illustrate the tenderness and forbearance with which they tried to discharge their necessary but unpleasant duties. The world is fond to raise a cry about church fights, and to quote them as evidence that religion is vain, and religious people peculiarly quarrelsome. But in these records there is proof that all the church-troubles arose, not out of religion itself, and the conformity of people to its requirements, but from the want of religion, and from the fact that the world's people come into the church, violate its rules, and, if its faithful officers are constrained by their ordination vows to enforce these rules, the violators resist, make a disturbance, and the church is then reproached with the cry of "church fight!" It is the Devil, and not Christ and his true followers that begets and fosters church troubles.
Whilst upon the pages of this church's history, there are some unpleasant records which were better in some cave of Macphelah than in daylight circulation, there is not one that does not exhibit the fact that the men who have been pastors and elders here, acted for the most part with wisdom and forbearance. One or two exceptions may be found, but not more. In church trials, as in civil and criminal courts, alcohol acts a prominent part, and is proven to be the instigator of other crimes.
The most numerous class of trials by the Sessions of this church, especially under the pastorates of Mr. Bushnell and Mr. Swift, were upon the charge of neglect of public ordinances. Many of this kind are upon record, and in most instances the Sessions were enabled to win the delinquents back to duty, although in several others they were constrained to suspend from the communion of the church.
This disease, like the ague in some localities, seems to be indigenous to New Castle. People will join the church, take upon them the solemn vows of church members, make the most solemn covenant with God and his church that man can make on earth, and then, either because their hearts never were in religion, or upon some frivolous pretext of offense, they will forsake the house of God.
It would be useless to narrate the history of a community if no practical lessons are to be derived from it. And if any lesson is clearly set forth in the history of this congregation, it is this: The sin and folly of joining a society only to violate its rules and defy its constituted authorities.
The architectural history of this congregation is soon told. The people at first worshiped in a "tent," as it was called in the parlance of early times.
A "tent" was an inclosed sort of pulpit or stand, roofed over, with a bench for the ministers to sit on, and a board in front (the front being open) upon which to lay the books. From this structure the minister addressed the congregation, who were seated on logs or puncheons, arranged in front of the stand like the pews of a church. A broad aisle, extending from the stand, back to the rear of the campground, furnished space for the communion table, which was a long, narrow table, extending the whole length of the aisle, and at the communion season covered with cloth of snowy white. Board seats extended on both sides of the table, and, at the proper time, the communicants arose from their respective seats, separated from the rest of the audience, and took their places at the table; the whole congregation singing during this process a solemn psalm or hymn to an appropriate tune —Coleshill, Elgin, Mear, or some plaintive minor was usually employed; and the grand old woods, the only shelter of the worshipers, resounded with the touching and impressive song.
Oh! there was a simple grandeur in that woodland worship that impressed the very soul, and threw the artistic intricacies of modern psalmody into utter shade!
Methinks I see those scenes rising before me now. The stalwart oaks, or elms, or hickories, or all of these, with other trees, the growth of centuries, are the pillars of this sylvan cathedral. Their branches form its arches, their leaves its frescoing and curtaining. The shimmer of the sunbeams, as they dart through the leafy canopy, trembling in the gentle breeze, add inimitable gilding to the waving dome. The sombre shadow of the forest imparts solemnity to this God-built temple; and when the song of praise or the voice of prayer, or the earnest tones of some earnest herald announcing glad tidings, rise through those grand old arches, the acme of simple sublimity in worship is reached.
The tent at which our fathers worshiped at the beginning of this century, was located in the northwest corner of what is now the Second Ward, a short distance from where the residence of Mr. John Phillips now stands, and no doubt the worshipers slaked their thirst at the spring which still bubbles from that hillside. Farther this way, and near to where Mr. Isaac Dickson's tannery formerly was, they built, about 1804, a small church of round logs. This house was in so dense a thicket that paths had to be cut and kept clear, so that the church could be approached. A building of hewn logs was erected at a later date on the "old brewery" lot, and a brick building, still standing, but which is now known as the "old brewery," was erected in 1825, and continued to be the place of worship until 1844-45, when the structure which we now occupy was built. This was remodeled by mullioning the old windows, inserting stained glass, and other changes, about 1871.
I could occupy another hour with other details of our history, more interesting and less profitable than what I have given, but I deem it unnecessary. Some things have occurred that present humanity on its grotesque and ludicrous side, but such would be more fitting subject for the pencil of a Nast or a Kurtz than for a grave pulpit discourse, and I forbear. Let the history of our past be so studied as to shed light upon our future. Let us be warned by the mistakes and encouraged by the example of those that have gone before us. Let us bless God for his goodness to our [p. 150] congregation. Let us resolve to love him more and serve him better in time to come, and as we erect our stone of memorial, and call it Ebenezer, saying "hitherto hath the Lord helped us," let us gird for future work, and resolve that this congregation of the Lord shall pass from ours into the hands of a succeeding generation in better condition than when we joined it; and in order thereto, let us each prayerfully and earnestly resolve to do good, seek peace and ensure it!
This church was organized as the "Free Presbyterian Church of New Castle," on the 15th day of February, 1851. In the Free Church organization, it was connected with the Presbytery of Mahoning and the Synod of Cincinnati. The Free Presbyterian Church owed its origin to the agitation of the slavery question. As the Republican party was a political, so the Free Church was a religious protest against the iniquities of American slavery. As the early records of the church plainly indicate, there was no little dissatisfaction among the Presbyterians of New Castle with the decision of the Assembly of 1845, "that slave-holding is no bar to communion." But when President Filmore signed the Fugitive Slave Bill, in September, 1850, the attitude of Church and State towards the slave-holding power seemed no longer tolerable. Opposition to slavery was greatly intensified. Action was immediately taken looking to the organization of a Free Church in New Castle, which object was accomplished only a few months after the Fugitive Slave Bill became a law.
The following twenty-nine persons united in the organization:
John Emery (elder) and Catharine, his wife; White McMillen and Sarah E., his wife; S. W. Mitchell and Mary J:, his daughter; Joseph S. White and Adeline, his wife; Miss Mary McMillen, Miss Martha Semple, Miss Jane Tidball, Mrs. Mary Mitchell, Mrs. Amanda Morehead, Mrs. Jane T. Pearson, Mrs. Annie Semple, Mrs. Sarah M. White, Mrs. Eliza W. Semple, Mrs. Elizabeth Warnock, Josiah C. White, A. S. Hawthorne, James Stephenson and Margaret J., his wife; Jacob Condict and Ruth, his wife; Thomas Morse, Mrs. Lydia Shaw, Mrs. Rachel Stright. The four first named men were elected ruling elders for three years.
The growth of the church was quite moderate for the two and one-half years following the organization.
Preaching services were held at irregular times and in different places. In February, 1854, Rev. A. B. Bradford accepted a call to this church, and his relations with it continued (with the exception of one year, during which he was United States consul in China,) until the Summer of 1867.
Mr. Bradford was popular, and during his ministration the present commodious church edifice was erected, and the membership increased to near two hundred. The last important act of Mr. Bradford's administration was the withdrawal of the congregation from the Free Church organization, and its union with the New School branch of the Presbyterian Church.
Immediately after his resignation, the congregation extended a call to Rev. W. T. Wylie, of the Covenant church of New Castle, expecting him to bring his congregation with him. As this expectation was realized, a statement of the leading points in the history of that church is due.
The church was organized by Rev. Josiah Hutchman, in the year 1847. He served it as pastor until his death, in 1855.
He was followed by the Rev. A. M. Stewart, who afterwards gained considerable celebrity through his relations with the army, and was popularly known as "Chaplain Stewart."
Rev. John Alford succeeded Mr. Stewart in the Fall of 1861, and in 1865 Mr. W. T. Wylie became pastor. At various points in its history the following persons became elders in that church: John N. Euwer, Daniel Minnick, Henry Williams, James Neil, William Patton, Robert Davis, S. M. Young.
The Reformed (Covenant) Church came into the union with fifty-three members. For some unexplained reason there had been a great falling off from the membership of this church, as it took only one hundred and six into the union.
Mr. Wylie remained pastor of the united congregations until September, 1869. In 1871 Rev. B. M. Kerr accepted a ca11 to this church, and was installed June 14th of that year. Mr. Kerr's pastorate was brief, but during his administration this church passed through another change of Ecclesiastical relation in the union of the "Old" and "New School" bodies. Thus, inside of twenty-five years, the original members of this church had come back where they started from, and that without change in their principles on the subject for which they went out from the "Old Style" church. In the abolition of slavery their principles had been justified before the world.
Mr. Kerr resigned his charge at the end of one year and six months, leaving a membership of about two hundred. In about one year from the date of his resignation, the present pastor, Rev. M. H. Calkins, was installed, in July, 1873.
The congregation now (December, 1846), is in a thriving condition; owns a valuable church property, in good repair, and substantially free from debt.
The present active membership of the church is about two hundred and sixty. Through the Sabbath-school, prayer-meetings, missionary and Dorcas societies, it is strongly developing into fullness of Christian life. The rotary plan in the elderships has been adhered to from the first.
The following are acting elders in the church: Joseph S. White, Wilson Mitchell, S. M. Young, William Peebles, J. M. Martin, John E. Boyles, J. Ed. Connel, W. F. Hocking, M. D.
This church is frequently called "White Hall" church.
In Lawrence county the United Presbyterian Church numbers two thousand and six adult communicants, sixteen congregations and twelve resident ministers. Westminster College, at New Castle, is also under the care of two Synods of this body. Its students number annually between one hundred and fifty and three hundred, of both sexes, in all the departments.
Most of these sixteen congregations, prior to the union of 1858, which created the "United Presbyterian Church of North America," were Associate Reformed; three were Associate; one was Reformed Presbyterian, and two have been organized since that time.
The United Presbyterian Church is Calvinistic in doctrine and Presbyterian in policy. Its history includes, in the first instance, a union so early as 1782 and during the Revolutionary war, of certain Presbyterians in the United States, intensely loyal, who had belonged to two distinct offshoots from the Established Church of Scotland, the one being the Associate or "Seceder," and the other the Reformed Presbyterian or "Covenanter," both of which bodies had resisted governmental intrusions in their native land in their church affairs, and therefore refused to remain in "the establishment." The body formed in the United States in 1782 took both names, and became the "Associate Reformed Church," but failed to embrace the whole of either church. The more general, if not absolute, union was, however, effected by the formation of the United Presbyterian Church in 1858, including almost the entire forces of the Associate and Associate Reformed churches.
The New Castle congregation, which is the subject of this sketch, stands central among its former sister Associate Reformed congregations, but at first, and for years, the hamlet of New Castle was itself only an inconsiderable part, ecclesiatically, of the territory of the Associate Reformed Church of Shenango, of which venerable organization a sketch will be found on another page of this volume.
No Associate Reformed congregation was organized in New Castle till 1849, when the town had become a manufacturing center, included a population of 2,500 persons, and was soon to be erected into a county-seat. The Presbyterian, Associate and Methodist churches had, however, long occupied the place, and, more lately, the Reformed Presbyterian and Baptist. The Associate Reformed people had an occasional sermon from the pastor of Shenango, or from passing ministers, on Sabbath or week-day evenings.
In 1814 or 1815 Rev. James Galloway preached in the house of Dr. Alexander Gillfillan, on Jefferson street, and administered baptism in the family of John Frazier, justice of the peace. Both these citizens were members of Shenango Church. The house used for service that evening was on the site on which the present church was built in 1849, and was taken down to make room for it. Esquire Frazier and his wife were among the first members of the new church in 1849. Dr. Gillfillan was drowned in the Neshannock a short time after this, namely, June 17, 1815.
In 1823-4, during a space of six months, Rev. James Ferguson, pastor at Harmony and Center, took in New Castle as a preaching-station for a small portion of his time, but at the end of this period his pastorate and service ended, and no further regular preaching was had until Rev. J. M. Galloway was settled, in 1837, in Shenango Church as his sole charge. New Castle was once more made a preaching station for a part of the time. By courtesy of the Associate Congregation the stone church was temporarily granted Mr. Galloway and his people; and, so encouraging were the prospects of forming a congregation, that Joseph Kissick and Ezekiel Sankey purchased for its use a lot of three acres, lying between the present residence of R. M. [p. 151] Allen and the Shenango, the consideration for the three acres being three hundred dollars. But Mr. Galloway resigned his charge and removed, August, 1838. The project was abandoned, and the land returned to the former owner.
Rev. Thomas Mehard, pastor of Shenango, Eastbrook and Beulah, located in the borough in 1844, but his time was as yet too fully occupied for him to assume any new labors, and he suddenly died July 16, 1845, before any new work was attempted at this point. Rev. R. A. Browne succeeded him in Shenango and Eastbrook, taking up his residence at New Castle, where he still resides. Under his ministry within a few years three new organizations were formed inside his pastoral charge—the one in New Castle in 1849, one about the same time in New Wilmington, and, two years later, one at the Harbor.
A weekly prayer-meeting was begun in the dwelling of Mr. Browne, in the Winter of 1847-8. It was also held at times in other dwellings, and for a period in a schoolhouse standing near the present Cochran House. It was thus continued till the lecture-room of the new church was ready to receive it. After one of these prayer-meetings—December 20, 1848—a few male members and friends waited with anxious hearts to try a subscription-paper for the erection of a church. There were as yet but twelve members in the town belonging to Mr. Browne's charge. However, the subscription started well. The sum of $832 was subscribed on the spot. A few days before, the same persons had subscribed $600 to buy the lot previously mentioned, lying on the east side of Jefferson street, a hundred and eighty feet north of the public square. Mr. Kissick pushed on the work of subscription, and prepared to build with the opening of Spring. On a raw day the following May, the first stone was laid by the workmen, without ceremonies, at the southwest corner, in the, presence only of the pastor and elder. Mr. Kerr, an architect of Pittsburgh, had made the plan and specifications. The building was a plain brick, fifty by sixty-five feet, with a basement containing a lecture-room and three smaller rooms. The entrance to the auditorium was made through a vestibule on the main floor, by an elevated terrace and stone-wall in front—a style deemed convenient and once much in use. But in 1873, the terrace was removed, and an entrance made direct from the ground-level into the basement, where, through a vestibule and ascending stairway, the auditorium is reached from within, the repairs costing $2,200.
The first cost of the church in 1849-50 was $4,609, but it was worth much more, Mr. Kissick's judicious supervision being of great value, and the work having been well done by the contractors, R. Craven, mason; N. McGowen, carpenter; and H. Wallace, painter.
Of the amount mentioned, needed to be paid before the infant congregation had an unencumbered title to their property, more than one-half was contributed by Mr. Kissick. His object was to have a place of worship convenient for his old age, for himself and others. His wish has been gratified. At seventy-five years of age, he is one of the most punctual of all the worshipers. The other devoted men and women who shared in the service, deserve remembrance by those who come after, but none more than Joseph Kissick and Margaret Kissick his wife, who entered upon her heavenly rest August 4, 1873.
The Presbytery of the Lakes granted an organization for the congregation, and the appointment was carried into effect on Christmas day, 1849. Rev. Robert William Oliver, pastor of Bethel (Mercer county) and Beulah, preached the sermon of the occasion from Isaiah x, 11. Thirty-two members were enrolled. The meeting was held in the lecture room, which was ready for occupancy a few days before, and in which the Sabbath-school had been organized December 23d. Joseph Kissick and James D. Bryson were elected elders. Joseph Kissick had removed to New Castle in the Fall of 1831, and laid the foundation here of a prosperous business. He had been an elder at Shenango, and, before that, at Deer Creek, Allegheny county. Mr. Bryson had previously been an elder at Butler, from which place he had removed a few years before. He is at present a Commissioner of the county, and in the interval, at one period represented the district in the House of Representatives, at Harrisburg. James Gilliland, Thomas Alford and Samuel F. Cooke were also elected elders, April 17th following. Mr. Gilliland declined to serve. He died at a venerable age in 1875. Mr. Cooke soon removed, and afterwards Mr. Alford, both to Illinois. Mr. Alford is also dead. These were the elders who served at the first communion.
January 23, 1850, Rev. R. W. Oliver, by appointment of Presbytery, moderated a call in the lecture room, which was made out by the new congregation for the Rev. R. A. Browne. Mr. Browne's formal pastorate began at the 1st of April, from which time he was released from the charge of Eastbrook entire, one-fourth only of his time being given to Shenango, while New Castle engaged him for one-half, but really received, from the first, three-fourths of the pastoral service. April 3d he was regularly installed in the pastoral charge by Rev. W. T. McAdam (as a committee of Presbytery) who preached the sermon from "Preach the Word," Second Timothy, iv, 2.
In April, 1857, the arrangement with Shenango ceased, and all Mr. Browne's time was given to New Castle.
The first communion was held May 12, 1850, at which time the congregation had grown to the number of forty-nine. The Rev. Isaiah Niblock, of Butler, the last of the fathers who had planted the church in the wilderness, embracing now six counties and three Presbyteries, assisted the pastor and preached the action sermon from Genesis xxviii, 12. From this text, with charming imagery, he preached Christ. It was an interesting discourse—a relic and sweet savor of a generation in the ministry who have long gone to their rest. A large congregation had met in the auditorium. The interest was sweet and solemn, and the day was one long to be remembered.
The Session subsequent to this was enlarged at four different periods—first by the election, January 1, 1853, of Thomas Berry, George Henderson, Joseph Mitchell, Andrew B. Allen and William Alexander. In a few years Mr. Alexander removed to the West. Andrew B. Allen had recently been elected Sheriff, and had been one of the first elders at the new congregation at the Harbor. He died February 19, 1877, at his home in the city. Mr. Berry had been an elder for many years in Butler. He was a prominent educator, and filled two terms (1854-1859) in Lawrence county as a superintendent of common schools. Messrs. Berry and Mitchell are both dead. The ordination and installation of the elders just named, took place January, 15, 1853.
In 1860, Samuel Hamilton and Robert Gailey, who had previously been elders respectively at Darlington and Bethel, Lawrence county, and the latter of whom was at this time Sheriff, were elected and installed elders. Both of these are dead.
May 14, 1866, James Mitchell, William F. Douds, W. N. Aiken, an educator by profession, who is now filling a second term as county superintendent; Joseph Douthett and Captain Thomas McConnell, then sheriff, but during the war an officer of the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves, were elected to the eldership. All served and were installed, and were also ordained, excepting Messrs. Mitchell and McConnell, who had been elders before removing to New Castle—the first in Shenango, the second in West Middlesex. These all survive; but only Messrs. Douds and Aiken are living in the city.
In January, 1872, George Hartmann, John Taggart and Wm. A. Stritmatter, business men of the place, were elected to the eldership, and, with the exception of Mr. Hartmann, who declined the office, were ordained and installed.
Of the foregoing number, those who survive and now reside in the congregation constitute its present Session. But Andrew Paisley also occupies informally a seat, and thus represents the memorable Associate congregation of whose Session he alone survives.
This (the Associate) congregation, then a vacancy, came into the union in 1858. Its scattered members joined such other of the United Presbyterian congregations as were most convenient to them, about fifty of them thus coming indirectly, in 1859, under the pastoral care of Mr. Browne. However, for the time being, and while "the stone church," as it was called, was presumed to be a separate organization, they were not counted among the membership of the Jefferson Street church. They were only returned as such after Mr. Browne's successor had been settled.
Besides the fifty persons just mentioned, the Jefferson Street church, in the twenty-seven and a-half years of its existence, has received, through its pastors and Session, nine hundred members, two-thirds of which number embrace the dead and those who have removed. Somewhat over three hundred yet remain. There is an active Sabbath-school under the superintendency of Mr. Aiken. - The weekly prayer-meeting is continued. The congregation is a corporation under two decrees of court, the first as an Associate Reformed, the second as a United Presbyterian, congregation.
The Board of Trustees are W. N. Aiken, W. F. Douds, John Blevins, James Stritmatter, James A. Gardner and M. McConnell. The last mentioned is also Treasurer.
Besides the above items, there are a Ladies' Missionary Society and a Ladies' Sewing Society.
The congregation has had two pastors and three terms of pastoral service. Of Mr. Browne a biographical notice is given elsewhere in this volume. In the eleventh year of his pastorate he obtained a temporary leave of absence from his congregation, during which he was for twenty-eight months chaplain of the l00th or Roundhead regiment, P. V. From this service, he returned, partly disabled by disease, January, 1864. In the sessions of 1866-67-68, he [p. 152] was a member of the Pennsylvania Senate. Except during his brief visits home, the congregation was, at these periods, served by supplies, engaged by the pastor and Session. In September, 1867, Mr. Browne resigned the charge of the congregation and became President of Westminster College. He was succeeded as pastor by Rev. John W. Bain, who was installed November 16, 1868. Mr. Bain had graduated at Westminster ten years before this, and had been ordained pastor of the United Presbyterian Church of Cannonsburgh, in September, 1861, but at the time of his call to New Castle, and for a year or two previous, had been pastor of the United Presbyterian Church of Sidney, Ohio. He resigned the charge of New Castle, April 15, 1873, and immediately accepted a call from the Third United Presbyterian Church of Allegheny. From this latter charge he was transferred in the Summer of 1874, to that of the United Presbyterian Church in Chicago, where he is at present. Mr. Bain has a mind of great acuteness, and is a forcible speaker, excelling both in the pulpit and on the platform. Shortly after his release from New Castle, the congregation made out a new call for Mr. Browne, who was then engaged in pastoral work in Titusville. The call was accepted, and, on the 1st of November, 1873, about the time the church repairs were completed, of which mention has already been made, Mr. Browne entered anew upon the charge of the New Castle congregation. Since that time there is but little in its history but such as is of common occurrence and needing no special mention.
Methodism was planted, so to speak, in this section of country, as it has been in every rural district on this continent, by pioneer settlers. Its first appearance in the Erie Conference, or upon the territory now within its limits in an organized form, was in Mercer county, in the Leach settlement, in 1798. A class was formed there by two local preachers, Thomas McClelland and Jacob Gurwell, both natives of Ireland, of such persons as had come to that neighborhood and brought letters of membership with them. A settlement had been commenced there two years before by Robert R. Roberts, (the father of Methodism in this part of Pennsylvania), and others. These local preachers labored in word and doctrine, in the rude log-cabins, in groves, and wherever a little group could be collected together. Soon after the formation of the class in the Summer of 1798, a second class was formed, a little south of the first (of which R. R. Roberts was leader). Thomas McClelland was a member of the class first formed, and Jacob Gurwell of the second, which latter was joined by John Leach, Sr. and wife, who arrived in that settlement in 1802. The two local preachers named above, took the entire watch-care of these classes, and supplied them regularly with preaching for several years before the regular itinerant preachers reached them.
In 1800 the Baltimore Conference appointed Rev. P. B. Davis to the Shenango circuit; he did not, however, embrace the classes in the Roberts' neighborhood within his circuit, but left them still under the care of the two local preachers residing in the place. There were eight annual conferences held in the year 1800, but there were no fixed boundary lines between them, and each preacher being at liberty to do so, attached himself to the Conference most convenient to his work.
In 1801, the Baltimore Conference appointed Thornton Fleming to the Pittsburgh district, and Joseph Shaw to Shenango circuit. Asa Shinn was appointed to the Shenango circuit in 1802. He will be remembered as a leader in the secession movement from the M. E. Church, out of which grew the Protestant Methodist Church, in 1828. George Askin was appointed in 1803, Joseph Hall in 1804, and R. R. Roberts in 1805. The latter, by permission of his elder, exchanged circuits with David West, in charge of the Erie circuit, for the reason that the appointments immediately around the old log cabin built by Mr. Roberts in 1796, and into which he had taken his family and goods, were connected with the Erie Conference. Mr. Roberts had made arrangements to erect a grist-mill the next year near his rustic log farm-house, and it was on this account that he was this year sent to the Shenango circuit. In 1806 James Reed was on the Shenango circuit. In 1807 James Watt and Thomas Church were in charge. In 1808 James Charles. In 1809 Jacob Dowell and Eli Towne. In 1810 James Watt was appointed, he being the first preacher who extended his labors thus far south on this circuit, where the.first class was formed by him that year.
The town of New Castle was laid out in April, 1798. At that time, and for some time after, the writer can find no trace of Methodism in its vicinity. This country, as far north as lake Erie, was embraced in the Baltimore Conference. A district of country, bounded on the east by the Allegheny mountains, on the south by the Greenbrier mountains of Virginia, on the west by the limits of the white settlements in what is now the State of Ohio, and on the north by lake Erie, constituted the Monongahela district.
In 1804 William Richards, a member and licensed exhorter of the M. E. Church, moved his family from Centre county, Pa., and settled them on the farm where John Greer now (1877) resides, near "King's Chapel," some three miles north of New Castle, and commenced holding religious meetings in his own house, where, soon after, a class was formed composed of William Richards and wife, Robert Simonton and wife, Arthur Chenowith and wife, Mary Ray, Rachel Fisher, John Burns and wife, Michael Carman and wife, William Underwood and wife, Robert Wallace and wife, Philip Painter and wife, and Rebecca Carroll. This is believed to have been the first Methodist class organized in the neighborhood of New Castle. William Richards was its first leader. At that time there were but two circuits in what is now the Erie Conference—Erie and Shenango—the former with a membership of three hundred and forty-nine, and the latter with two hundred and six—making a total of five hundred and fifty-five. The first class organized within the territory comprising the present Erie Conference was the one already mentioned at the Roberts or Leach settlement, in Mercer county, by Jacob Gurwell and Thomas McClelland, in 1798, of which Robert R. Roberts was the class-leader. The itinerant ministers were first introduced here in 1800.
The Pittsburgh district of the Baltimore Conference then embraced the settled portions of West Virginia and what are now the Pittsburgh and Erie Conferences; and the Erie and Shenango circuits embraced all the country west of the Allegheny river and from the Ohio to lake Erie.
There was but one quarterly meeting held on the Shenango circuit in 1801, at which Robert R. Roberts was licensed as an exhorter, and the next year the Quarterly Conference gave him a license to preach, and he was received on trial by the Baltimore Conference which convened in Baltimore April 1, 1802. From 1800 to 1816 the annual salary of a traveling preacher was eighty dollars and traveling expenses, and the annual allowance of the wife eighty dollars; each child, until seventeen years of age, an annual allowance of sixteen dollars; those from seven to fourteen years, twenty-four dollars; and no support from the Church in any other way. In 1802 the membership on the Shenango circuit was sixty-five. The writer is unable to discover anything of an organized Methodist society in New Castle prior to 1810. In that year Jacob Gruber was appointed presiding elder in the Monongahela district, and James Watt the preacher on the Shenango circuit, who during that year formed the first class in New Castle, the members of which were Michael Carman and wife, John Bevins and wife, James Squier and wife, and Nancy Wallace, with Michael Carman as leader. At that time there was not a Methodist meeting-house in the territory embraced by the Erie Conference, except a small one built of round logs and covered with clap-boards, called "Bruch's Meeting-house," in West Springfield township, Erie county.
The time when the first Methodist meeting-house was built, cannot at this date, (1877,) be ascertained with certainty, but it is believed by the "oldest inhabitant" to have been in 1815 or 1816.
There are many still living who will remember the kind of house in which the society worshiped until the year 1836, when it gave place to a brick structure 55 by 65 feet in size, and one and a-half stories in height, which, in 1854 yielded to the necessities of the increased society to the present house, built upon the same lot, (No. 111 South Jefferson street,) on which was built the little log cabin with three small windows and one door to correspond; with seats made of the slabs sawed from logs by boring holes with a large auger in the round side of the slab, two at each end, sloping from each other at such an angle as to have the feet (which were of round sticks, cut at suitable lengths to make the seats of proper height) as they stood on the floor, at least as far apart as the width of the slab, with a "pulpit" in strict conformity with the seats.
The present church edifice is 55 by 75 feet in dimensions, and two stories in height. The society acquired the title to the lot (111) by deed dated June 27, 1820, from Burton Rust and Jane, his wife, to William Richards, Marinus King, James Squier, Robert Reynolds and Michael Carman, Trustees; and by a quit-claim from Henry Falls, of the same date, on a deed from James Miller, Treasurer of Mercer county, to Henry Falls, dated October 6, 1810, to the trustees named above, and both instruments (from Rust an Falls) were acknowledged before Arthur Hurry, a justice of the peace for Mercer county—the second judicial officer who dwelt in New Castle, John Carlysle Stewart being the first.
[p. 153] New Castle was made a preaching appointment on the Shenango circuit in 1810, by Rev. James Watt, the preacher on the circuit, and who organized the first class, as before mentioned. This class has had a glorious history up to the present time.
In 1811, Abel Robison was appointed to Shenango circuit by the Baltimore Conference, at its session March 20th, 1811. Jacob Gruber was presiding elder.
In 1812 the districts were changed, and this section of country was embraced in the Ohio district (named after the Ohio river), Jacob Young presiding elder, and William Knox appointed to Shenango circuit, in which New Castle was an appointment.
The General Conference, which met in May of that year, transferred the Ohio district to the Ohio Conference with its incumbents.
The Ohio Conference met in Chillicothe in October, 1812, and continued Jacob Young on the Ohio district, and appointed James Watt to the Shenango circuit.
In 1813 Jacob Young was continued and Jacob Gurwell appointed to the circuit. In 1814 Jacob Young was again continued and John Elliott was sent to Shenango circuit.
In 1815 David Young was appointed Presiding Elder and John Summerville appointed on the circuit.
During this year Rev. J. B. Finley was sent to this district, Mr. Young not being able to perform the labor devolving upon him. In 1816 Elder Finley was continued and Robert C. Hatton sent to Shenango circuit.
In 1817 the Shenango circuit was divided between the Erie and Beaver circuits, and the name no more appears in the Minutes of the Conference. The Minutes do not show whether the New Castle appointment was on the Erie or Beaver circuit from 1817 to 1821, in which latter year the New Castle circuit was formed.
D. D. Davidson and Samuel Adams were on the Erie circuit in 1818, Philip Green in 1819, and Ira Eddy and Charles Elliott in 1820.
in 1821 William Swayze was presiding elder in the Ohio district. The same year the New Castle circuit was formed and Samuel Brockanier was appointed preacher thereon.
In 1822 Elder Swayze was continued in the district and Thomas Carr was appointed at New Castle. In 1823 Charles Elliott was presiding elder, and Thomas Carr and Job Wilson were on the circuit. In 1824 Charles Elliott, elder, and Henry Knapp and Joseph S. Barris on the circuit.
In May, 1824, the General Conference which met at Baltimore, formed the Pittsburgh Conference out of portions of Baltimore, Ohio and Genesee Conferences.
In 1825 Mr. Swayze was continued presiding elder on the Erie district, and Samuel Adams and James Babcock sent to New Castle circuit.
In 1826 the same presiding elder and Alfred Brunson on the circuit. In 1827 the same elder and Charles Horn and Jonathan Holt on the circuit. In 1828 Wilder B. Mack, presiding elder, and Samuel Adams and William C. Henderson on the circuit. In 1829 Samuel Elder and Joseph W. Davis and Jacob Jenks on the circuit. In 1830 Ira Eddy presiding, and Richard Armstrong and one to be supplied to New Castle circuit. In 1831 the same elder and John Scott and Richard Armstrong on the circuit.
In 1832 the Meadville district was formed, and Zerah H. Gaston appointed presiding elder and D. C. Richie and Ahab Keller to New Castle circuit. In 1833 Alfred Brunson was elder in the Meadville district, and Thomas Thompson sent to New Castle. (At the Session of 1833 of the Pittsburgh Conference the Allegheny College was placed under the control of the Conference, and opened in September of that year.)
In 1834 the Warren district was formed, and Wilder B. Mack appointed elder, and R. B. Gardner, and one to be supplied, to New Castle. In 1835 the Ravenna district was formed, and William Stevens appointed presiding elder, and William Carroll and Thomas Thompson preachers on the New Castle circuit.
The General Conference, at its session in Cincinnati, in 1836, formed the Erie Conference, which held its first session in Meadville, August 17, 1836. The session was composed of fifty-five members, of which Joseph S. Barris was appointed presiding elder on the Meadville district, and E. B. Hill and Thomas Graham to the New Castle circuit.
In 1837 the same elder, and E. B. Hill and L. Burton were appointed to the New Castle circuit.
In 1838 Hiram Kinsley was appointed elder on the Meadville district, and Rufus Parker and Samuel P. Hempstead on the circuit.
In 1839 same elder and John Luccock and S. W. Ingraham on the circuit. In 1840 Warren district embraced New Castle circuit, with Hiram Kinsley presiding elder, and T. Stubbs and D. W. Vorce on the New Castle circuit. In 1841 same elder and same preachers on circuit. In 1842 same elder and M. H. Bettis and F. Morse on the circuit.
In 1834 John C. Ayers elder on the Warren district, and C. Brown and H. S. Winans on the circuit. In 1844 John Robison was apointed elder on the Franklin district, and John McLean and J. E. Bassett to New Castle.
In 1845 the Erie Annual Conference held its session in New Castle, which was presided over by Bishop L. L. Hamlin, and appointed Horatio N. Stearns presiding elder on Franklin district and B. S. Hill and Hiram Luce on the circuit. In 1846 H. N. Stearns continued on the Franklin district, and B. S. Hill and J. W. Hill on the circuit.
In 1847 William H. Hunter was appointed elder on Franklin district and R. J. Edwards to New Castle. In 1848 B. 0. Plimpton was elder on the Meadville district, and R. J. Edwards preacher at New Castle.
In 1849 William Patterson was elder on same district, and E. B. Lane was located at New Castle. In 1850 same elder and E. B. Lane at New Castle. In 1851 same elder, and Hiram Kinsley at New Castle. In 1852 same elder and same preacher. In 1853 Joseph Leslie pastor of First Methodist church at New Castle.
In 1854-5, H. A. Stearns, pastor at New Castle.
In 1856-7, Thomas Gray, pastor at New Castle.
In 1858-9, William F. Wilson, pastor at New Castle.
In 1860-1, D. C. Osborn, pastor at New Castle.
In 1862-3, J. D. Norton, pastor at New Castle.
In 1864-5, James Greer, pastor at New Castle.
In 1866-7, J. C. Scofield, pastor at New Castle.
In 1868-9, W. W. Wythe, pastor at New Castle.
In 1870, A. S. Dobbs, pastor at New Castle.
In 1871-2-3, J. W. Maltby, pastor at New Castle.
In 1874-5-6, J. S. Youmans, pastor at New Castle.
The present membership numbers over six hundred communicants, being the largest Protestant congregation in Lawrence county.
The society contributes more money for denominational purposes than any other in the Erie Conference, and also pays its pastor the largest salary ($8,000) in the Conference. A flourishing Sunday-school is connected with it, numbering forty-five officers and teachers and four hundred and fifty scholars, with a library of some five hundred volumes. The church is in a highly flourishing condition, and increasing rapidly in numbers. Dr. Youmans is an exceedingly popular gentleman, not only with his Methodist brethren, but with the community generally. The valuation of church property belonging to this society, including the parsonage, is about $27,000, and the society is free from debt.
The fact that R. R. Roberts was not only a pioneer in the settlement of this immediate section of Western Pennsylvania, but stands more intimately connected with the early history of Methodism within the bounds of our present Conference, than any other person, and subsequently arose through all the gradations of position to the highest one in the Methodism of this country, from greater obscurity and more rapidly and with greater acceptability in each, than any who succeeded him; and that he has relatives still living in this neighborhood, would seem to justify a somewhat extended no- [p. 154] tice of him in this local history. He was born in Maryland, August 2, 1778; removed to Ligonier, Westmoreland County, Pa., in 1785; was happily converted to God in 1792, and located a beautiful tract of land, and erected a log-cabin thereon, near the bank of the Little Shenango, about three-fourths of a mile north of the residence afterwards occupied by John Leach, Sr., (father of the numerous Leach connection still in Mercer county), in 1796. He was appointed class-leader of the first Methodist class organized within the bounds of the Erie Conference, in 1798, (and it is said of him that at that time he was so bashful, timid and uneducated, that for a long time he could not be induced to lead his class in the ordinary way). He married in 1799, and was licensed to exhort in 1801, and, by a Quarterly Conference, to preach in 1802. He was received by the Baltimore Conference on trial the same year, and appointed to the Carlisle, circuit, Pa.
He was appointed to the Monongahela circuit in 1803, and preacher in charge on Frederick circuit, Md., in 1804, and to the Shenango circuit in 1805; to Erie circuit in 1806, to Pittsburgh circuit in 1807, to the West Wheeling circuit in 1808, and was a delegate to the General Conference that year, (which was the last Conference where all the presiding elders met, and when delegate Conferences were established every four years).
In 1809 he was stationed in Baltimore, Md.; in 1810 at Fall's Point; in 1811 at Alexandria, Va.; in 1812 at Georgetown, D. C., and was elected to the General Conference, which sat at New York in May, 1812. In 1813 he was transferred to the Philadelphia Conference, and stationed in that city, to which place he was also re-appointed in 1814. In 1815 he was appointed presiding elder on the Philadelphia District, and re-appointed in 1816, and, by the Philadelphia Conference, elected a delegate to the General Conference, which met in Baltimore May 1, 1816, when and where he was elected to the office of bishop.
Thus it will be seen that in eighteen years from the time he, a timid, bashful, uneducated young man, settled in the woods, was appointed the leader of a little band of Christians, he reached the highest position in the church of which he was a member and faithful minister.
Of his labors, both before and after he became bishop, and of the many interesting incidents of his eventful life, the writer would be pleased to give an extended notice, but space forbids enlarging; and but a single incident, to illustrate his good sense and prudence in abstaining from controversy on doctrinal subjects, will be given.
In 1806 he was preacher in charge on the Erie circuit. At Randolph, in Crawford county, there was a Baptist church and a Methodist society, each of considerable strength. A great amount of controversy was kept up between the members of the two congregations, on the subject of "immersion being the only mode of Christian baptism," and on "the final perseverance of the saints." Mr. Roberts was urged to give his sentiments touching these points.
He finally promised to tell what he thought about them at his next appointment in that place. This attracted a large congregation to hear him. Mr. Roberts took his text and proceeded with his discourse, saying nothing on the disputed topics until the congregation began to show signs of disappointment, when he remarked: "You are expecting me to give my opinion, to-day, on two doctrinal points, on which some of you place a great deal more stress than their importance demands. I will give you my opinion of those doctrines by relating a little circumstance which occurred the other day. As I was riding through a piece of woods in the dusk of the evening, I came to a pond of water on one side of the road, and just in the edge of that pond stood a noted advocate of those two doctrines. As I approached he was crying out 're-pro-ba-tion! re-pro-ba-tion!' and suddenly he plunged into the water, and, after immersing himself, he came up crying 'fin-ished sal-va-tion! fin-ished sal-va-tion!' And I thought if any one else had a mind to listen to such nonsense, or to waste time in replying to it, that I would not, and so I rode on and left him, perhaps thinking that he had beaten me in the argument."
There are but few of the older people in this section of country, and especially, those of the Methodist Episcopal Church who have not heard of the eccentric "Dutch Gruber," above named. The following incident will illustrate the fact that his eccentricities were perfectly original. On his first round of quarterly meetings, after Conference, he heard repeated complaints from the people on account of the lengthy sermons preached by their young minister. Gruber concluded to say nothing to him until he had an opportunity to hear for himself, and accordingly put him up to preach on Saturday evening in a barn where the meeting was being held, and taking his seat with him in the rough stand, listened to him more than an hour on the first head of his discourse.
As he launched out under the second head, he remarked that "here a vast field opens to my view." Just then Gruber lifted his head and said: "Goot Got! put up de pars, and don't let him into dat pig field, or we'll not get him out to-night."
The Second Methodist Episcopal Church was organized with about sixteen members, in 1874, by members of the "First Church," under the direction of Rev. J. S. Lytle, at that time presiding elder of New Castle district. At the ensuing session of Erie Conference, held at Erie in September of the same year, Rev. J. A. Ward was appointed its first pastor, and remained such for one year. The year was a prosperous one. A lot of two acres in a beautiful grove on Pearson street, in the very heart of the city, was purchased for the sum of $2,500, and a neat and commodious church, 40 by 66 feet, capable of seating five hundred persons, erected thereon. The present value of the property is estimated by the trustees at $6,000.
Rev. Ward closed his year grandly, leaving his successor, Rev. J. W. Blaisdell, a good church, a membership of sixty-eight and a Sabbath-school in good condition. During the Winter of 1876-77 the church was visited by a remarkable revival of religion, largely increasing its membership, which numbers now (February, 1877) about two hundred. Though the youngest church organization in the city, it is by no means the weakest, and bids fair, with God's blessing, to soon equal the best.
The Sunday-school connected with this church is thoroughly organized, and doing excellent work for the children of its patrons. It has on its roll more than two hundred members, and about three hundred volumes in its library. The expenses incurred in its management during the past year amounted to $212. The present officers of the church are as follows:
Pastor, Rev. J. W. Blaisdell.
Trustees: J. F. Reynolds, George C. Reis, A. B. White, Samuel Foltz, J. Reed Emery.
Class Leaders: A. B. White, A. W. Reynolds, E. Rhinehart, A. W. Thomas, William B. Roberts, M. R. Garvin.
Stewards: J. P. Reynolds, J. J. Ray, M. L. Reynolds, Wm. B. Roberts, Samuel Foltz, A. B. White, H. R. Dunlap.
Local Preacher, William Crill.
Sabbath-school Superintendent, Samuel Foltz.
Organist, Lydia De Normandie.
This church was very humble in its origin. Its founders consisted of a few plain, earnest Christians, who considered it a privilege to worship God according to the doctrines and usages of the Primitive Methodist Church, which, according to the definition of its followers, implies, "Christianity in earnest."
This church was originally organized at the residence of one of its most faithful adherents and workers, William Nightingale (since deceased), where its regular services were held for several succeeding years. These services were conducted chiefly by their local preacher, among the first of whom were Revs. William Boole, H. Blews, and others, who labored ardently for the prosperity of the church. Their efforts were not in vain, for many were added to their number, and the youthful society were greatly blessed, and took courage. The rapid increase of the society demanded better accommodations, and, accordingly, at the suggestion of some of the members, a lot was purchased, and a church erected in 1869.
The first regular pastor was Rev. Thomas Dodd, who remained a few months only. For a time the church was without a pastor, and for about four years was supplied by local preachers.
This state of things being very unsatisfactory, the members made application to the proper authorities, and, in answer to their request, the Rev. Beniah Barrar was sent to take charge of the society. During his stay of two years the church had some severe trials, and yet, withal, it made some advancement.
The third and present pastor of the church, Rev. T. Bateman, is a young man, who came to the charge in the Autumn of 1875. During his pastorate the church has made unprecedented growth in every department. It has a flourishing Sabbath-school, and a Temperance Society, called the "Roll of Honor." The number of members at this time (February, 1897) [p. 155] is about sixty. This small society believes it has accomplished great good through the blessing of God, and many have been led into a higher and better life through its influence. Its future prospects are bright, and indications of continued prosperity are abundant.
The church-building is located in a very fine situation in South New Castle, where most of its members reside.
This society was organized in 1872, by Rev. Joseph Armstrong, of Mount Union, Ohio, with about twelve original members. During that year additions increased the membership to about forty. Rev. Mr. Armstrong preached for the society every second Sabbath for about two years, when he resigned his charge and removed to Washington, D. C., where he is at present located.
Rev. Mr. Foreman succeeded Mr. Armstrong for a short time. After him the Revs. Davis and Ward supplied the pulpit for a few months. Rev. John Fidler was located in the Fall of 1875, and is the present pastor. He preaches for this society every third Sunday. He also officiates at Franklin, Venango county; at Sewickley, Allegheny county, and at Bridgewater, Beaver county.
The church-building, located near Lincoln avenue, was purchased of the Primitive Methodist Society, who are now located in South New Castle. The African Church has never been strong, and the hard times and lack of work have taken many away to other sections of the country. The present membership is some fifteen or sixteen only. A small Sabbath-school is supported.
We find the history of this church in connection with other churches of the Beaver Baptist Association, prepared by A. G. Kirk (now of New Brighton, Pa.), who was appointed by the Association to prepare a history of the church.
The first resident Baptist in this town was Mary Craven, of New Jersey, who, at an advanced age, "came," as she said, "to visit her son and to build a Baptist church in New Castle." In a short time William and Ann Book, members of the Zion Church, Butler county, removed to this place, and these were soon aided by Edward Griswold, Giles O. Griswold, and Maria Griswold, of Connecticut, who had emigrated to Ohio. A prayer-meeting was commenced, and here prayer was offered to God for the out-pouring of the Spirit and for success in their efforts to build up a Baptist church. These six were afterwards joined by John C. Davis and Jane his wife, of Philadelphia. The prayer-meetings were first held in an old log-house in which Richard Craven then resided. This house was on North street, a few doors west of East, and it is worthy of remark that the, meeting-house, located at the corner of North and East streets, is but one-half a square from the place where the first prayer-meeting was held. The first sermons were preached by Rees Davis and John Winter, and these ministers were followed by Wm. B. Barris and George I. Miles. The church was constituted November 27, 1843. Rees Davis and John Winter, invited by those about to organize, were present. They numbered seven at their organization. Their first meetings for the preaching of the Gospel were held in vacated shops and "upper-rooms," and occasionally in other houses of worship. When the Protestant Methodist house was built, the Baptists furnished a small capital, and after this used at times that building. They had a claim on that house until 1848, at which time A. G. Kirk removed to the place and preached in a schoolhouse on North street. During the Summer of 1848 their house of worship was begun, and dedicated the fourth Sabbath of February, 1849.
The first religious interest was in a series of meetings held by George I. Miles. The church being revived and strengthened by the addition of converts, then called Edward Miles as their pastor for one-half his time. He remained as pastor from 1845 until 1847, residing at Freeport, Pa. In 1848 A. G. Kirk was called as the first resident pastor; he remained eleven years. In 1859 Jesse B. Williams became Pastor; he remained three years. D. W. C. Hervey was their next pastor, who remained three years. Since that time Wm. Cowden, Samuel Williams, Wm. Leet and George. G. Craft have been pastors. Intervals between the resignation of one pastor and the settlement of another were filled by A. G. Kirk in 1863 and 1875, and by John Parker in 1868. Their present pastor is Aaron Wilson, called in 1875, who is continuing to work for the prosperity of the church. The present membership is one hundred and thirty-three. A flourishing Sabbath-school is attached to the society.
The Disciples of Christ, or Christians, or, as they choose to be called in their organized capacity, the Church of Christ, or the Christian Church. This organization resulted from an effort to call out of the denominations, or religious sects, all who would accept Jesus, the Christ, as presented in the Gospel, and build on the Divine Truth alone. This movement was inaugurated in 1809, by Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander. They were formerly Seceders, but adopting the sentiment that nothing should be practiced as a Divine ordinance unless there could be found a clearly expressed "Thus saith the Lord" for it, or an established precedent in the Gospel. This led to a great many changes from the usages of the religious parties; among others, to the rejection of infant church membership, and of sprinkling for baptism.
The Campbells were baptised (immersed) in the year 1812, and in the next year they, with the congregations they had formed, united with the Redstone Baptist Association; but urging their sentiment "the all-sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures in matters of discipline as well as of instruction," they were soon opposed by a strong creed party in that association, and with some others, they withdrew and united with the Mahoning Association, in Ohio. After some years, opposition was manifested by some of the Baptists, also of this association, and this resulted in all those who approved of building on the Divine foundation alone, forming a separate organization, called the Church of Christ, or Christian Church.
The Christian Baptist was the first periodical, edited and published by Alexander Campbell. It was published monthly. The first number was issued July 4, 1823, and he continued to publish it until 1830, when it was succeeded by a monthly periodical called the Millennial Harbinger, which continued during his life.
Alexander Campbell had several debates, which have been published; one with Rev. Mr. Walker, a Seceder minister, one with Rev. Mr. McCalla, Presbyterian, one with Bishop Purcell, Roman Catholic, one with Mr. Robert Dale Owen, skeptic, and one with Dr. N. L. Rice, Presbyterian. He also had several written discussions with Universalists and others, which were published in the Millennial Harbinger.
The number of Disciples at present (1877) is estimated at 600,000. They are chiefly in the West and South. There are several small Congregations in this county; one at Enon Valley, one at Edenburg, one at Oak Grove, one at Pulaski, and one in New Castle.
The Christian Church in New Castle was organized in 1855, with twenty-four members. They met first in the Covenanter Church; afterwards they built a house 18x28 feet, on a lot donated for the purpose by Seth Rigby, 1st. This was on North street, where R. Crawford's residence now stands. The little house has been removed to Elm street, and is occupied by a German congregation.
The Disciples occupied White Hall several years, until the Christian Chapel, now occupied by them, was erected. It was formally opened for religious service, February 14, 1868. The first pastor was B. J. Pinkerton, of Kentucky.
During the Summer of 1871 a dissension arose in the Regular Baptist Church of this city as to the authority of the Baptist Manual, resulting in the withdrawal therefrom of nearly one hundred members, most of whom united with the Disciples. Among these was the pastor of the Baptist church, Wm. F. Cowden, who, on the 1st of September, 1871, became pastor of this church, and so continues to the present time.
Since its organization the church has enjoyed a steady and healthy growth, numbering at the present time nearly four hundred members.
The following is a partial statement of some of the positions taken by the Disciples in their advocacy of reformation:
1st. That Christians should take the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, as a standard of faith and practice. With some it is the Bible and the human creed—the Bible and the text-book—the creed the book of government. With them the Bible is both. Not that they understand that all parts of the Bible were written for the same specific purpose. The Old Testament contains prophetic evidence of the coming Messiah. The "Gospels" contain historic evidence that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. In these we have a history of his pious and humane life, of his sacrificial death, &c. John xx, 30, 31. In Acts we learn how sinners were converted and Christ's church established. In the Epistles we learn how Christians should live. In "Revelation" we learn that Christ's cause will prosper until "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms [p. 156] of our lord and of his christ." thus the Disciples go for the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, but they would apply each part to the purpose for which it was written.
2d. That faith in Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, and a willingness to obey him is the test of conversion. In the days of primitive Christianity, no dream was called for, but persons confessed their faith in Christ, and announced their willingness to obey him. This is the only test. Acts viii, 35; Romans x, 9.
3d. That, though the conversion of a sinner is by the Holy Spirit, it is in every case through the "truth"—through the Gospel—never without it. "The Gospel is the power of God to the salvation of every one who believes." Romans i, 15, 16. Hence they object to the sentiment that the Holy Spirit produces faith without evidence, or brings the sinner into a pardoned state without the Gospel. They regard the Spirit as in the Word and ordinances, enlightening, convincing, persuading sinners, and thus enabling them to flee from the wrath to come. See John xx, 30, 31 ; Romans i, 15, 16; John xvii, 17; 1st Corinthians, i, 18, 24.
4th. The assurance of pardon is imparted, through the Gospel, to the sinner who accepts Christ as his Saviour, and not through emotions or dreams, or anything of that kind. Pardon proceeds from the offended Sovereign, but the knowledge, the assurance of it is imparted through the Gospel. The terms of pardon to the sinner in the Gospel are—1st. Faith; Mark xvi, 15, 16. 2d. Repentance; Luke xxiv, 46, 47. 3d. Confession; Acts viii, 37, &c. 4th. Baptism; Mark xvi, 15, 16; Acts ii, 38, also xxii, 16; Titus iii, 5, and 1st Peter iii, 21.
5th. Christ's kingdom was inaugurated on the first Pentecost after his resurrection; Acts ii. Peter's sermon was the opening speech of the Gospel age, the inaugural of Christ's mediatorial reign, the amnesty proclamation of the conquering King. As sinners were saved then, so they are to be saved throughout the Christian dispensation—no after change. Galatians i.
6th. All the Lord's people—all who love the Lord and do his will—should unite and be "one" upon the Word of the Lord as the only basis divinely authorized, divinely sanctioned; the only foundation sufficient for this purpose. If this union should be effected on a human creed or human platform, then Christ's plan would be frustrated, and he and the Apostles would be disgraced; for he prays for those who believe on him, "through their word, that they all may be one," &c.; John xvii, 20, 21.
7th. The constitution of Christ's Church—the foundation rock of his temple, is, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;" Matthew xvii, 16. This constitution has only two articles in it—they both refer to the King: 1st. "Thou art the Christ," the Anointed, the anointed Prophet to teach, the anointed Priest to atone and intercede, the anointed King to rule over our consciences and deliver us from the wicked one, and lead us to ultimate, final and glorious victory. 2d. "Thou art the Son of the living God"—expressive of his true and proper divinity; Matthew iii, also xxvi, 63, 64; Mark xiv, 61, 62; Romans i, 4; Acts viii, 37; 1st Corinthians, iii, 11; Acts ii, &c.
About 1831-32 Catholic priests began to visit New Castle, where they administered to the wants of a few scattering families. One of the first Catholics in the country was probably a Mr. Doran, who was buried near Bedford before 1810. About 1869 his remains were disinterred and buried at the graveyard in Bedford. His coffin was found in a very good state of preservation. It was made of hewed oak fastened together with wooden pins.
Nicholas Brian was also in the county at an early date, settling near Mount Jackson. He was one of the soldiers who came to America with Lafayette during the Revolutionary war, and after the war chose to remain in the country. The date of his settlement in Lawrence county is not known.
James Mooney lived about one mile north of Mount Jackson, and the old man Brian used to attend mass at Mr. Mooney's whenever a priest visited the vicinity. The old gentleman has a daughter still living near Mount Jackson. She married a Mr. Howlitt, whose father was also said to have been one of Lafayette's soldiers.
Lawrence O'Connor, who lived on the Mahoning in Union township, had four sons and six daughters baptized by Father Rafferty, during one of his visits to this region. They are all since dead.
A colored man named William Arms, who lived in Union township, a mile above Mahoningtown, had all his children baptized by Father Gibbs about 1840. Among the sponsors were James Mooney, Walter Flinn and Charles Kelly. The parents of William Arms always attended mass as opportunity afforded at Mrs. O'Brien's. They were formerly slaves of Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, Md., who manumitted them before his death. When the canal was put under contract from Beaver to New Castle, there was naturally a great increase in the Catholic population of Lawrence county and more particularly in and around New Castle.
The following are the names of the priests who visited New Castle and vicinity, with the dates of such visits so far as known: Rev. Father Rafferty in 1834, or perhaps a few years earlier; Father Garland about 1837; Father Gibbs, 1840; Father McCullough, 1843; Father Reed, 1845; Father Garvey 1854; Father O'Farrell, 1856; Father Farren, 1860; Father Welsh, 1862; Father Carnahan, 1863.
The Catholics erected their first church in New Castle about 1848-50. It was a small frame building, and stood about opposite the residence of Hon. David Sankey in West New Castle. It is still standing. This building was occupied until the erection of the fine brick edifice on the corner of North and Beaver streets in the city proper. This structure was begun about 1865, and completed in 1867. The lots were purchased of the Crawfords at a cost of about $4,000. The church-building cost about $15,000. Rev. Father W. F. Hayes took charge of this society in 1871, and has been indefatigable in his efforts to strengthen and enlarge the church's sphere of usefulness in the community where it is located. Father Hayes is a scholar and a gentleman, and a valuable member of society. His world is not only appreciated by his own people, but is known and approved by the entire community.
Mainly through his influence the Catholic population of New Castle and various points in the county has been gathered together into prosperous churches, and thoroughly organized and disciplined. Father Hayes' influence on the side of good order and sobriety is well understood and highly estimated by the people of New Castle generally. The present number of communicants connected with this church is about twelve hundred (1,200). In connection with the church the society supports a flourishing school. An elegant three-story brick school-building was erected in 1875-6, at a cost of some eight thousand dollars ($8,000). It is of very tasteful design, is thoroughly finished and furnished throughout, and compares favorably with, the other school-buildings of the city. It contains four large school-rooms, and has a fine hall fitted up in the third story for recitations, exhibitions, etc. The first Catholic school in New Castle was opened by the Sisters from the "Sisters of Mary" orphan school near New Bedford, in the frame church in West New Castle, about 1871.
The total number of scholars belonging to the present Catholic school is about four hundred.
The first society of this denomination in New Castle was organized by Rev. C. Brown, on the 28th of August, 1848, with twenty-seven members. Mr. Brown was located at Beaver, and preached the first Lutheran in New Castle on the 10th of September of the same year. The first services of the congregation were held in the West school-house. The first church-officers were elected October 8, 1848, and installed November 5 following. The following have been officers of the church: Joseph Stritmatter and Frederick Seifert, elders; Henry Mænz and Henry Reiber, deacons. The first celebration of the Lord's Supper in the German language was on the 5th of November, 1848.
On the 1st of January, 1849, a constitution was adopted, and the same day Rev. C. Brown was elected as pastor for the ensuing year. On the 28th of January, 1849, a Sabbath-school was organized, and superintending officers appointed. The first meeting of the Church Council was held on the 29th of January, 1849. The first meeting of the congregation was held December 23, 1849, to take action upon the resignation of Rev. C. Brown. At the meeting of the Church Council on the 22d of March, 1851, it was resolved to build a church, the dimensions of which should be forty feet in length, thirty feet in width, and eighteen feet in height. The second pastor next following Rev. Mr. Brown was Rev. H. Manz. Following him was Rev. H. C. Kahler, who continued until 1857. At a meeting of the congregation, held on the 15th of February, 1857, Rev. W. Grobel was elected as pastor; and by the same authority, at a meeting held on the 1st of March, it was resolved that divine service should be held every alternate Sabbath, at 10.30 o'clock in the forenoon and at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. At a meeting on the 28th day of February, 1858, it was resolved that the pastor's salary should be $250 for the year, to be paid quarterly, and that every person, on becoming a member, shall pay an initiation fee of $3. Those who are already members, and have paid nothing toward the pastor's salary, shall have their names stricken from the church rolls. At a congre- [p. 157] gational meeting held on the 3d of April, 1859, Rev. F. Zimmerman was elected pastor for the ensuing year.
At a meeting held on the 24th of February, 1861, it was resolved that the pastor should live in New Castle, and that he should receive a salary of $300 per annum. Rev. J. H. C. Schierenbeck succeeded Mr. Zimmerman. On the 5th of May, Messrs. A. Treser, C. Reiber and J. Merkel were constituted a committee to purchase a dwelling for the pastor. In the Spring of 1867, Rev. C. Jaekel succeeded Mr. Schierenbeck as pastor, and filled the office acceptably until May 26, 1875, when he resigned.
At a church meeting held August 4, 1867, it was resolved to permit the pastor to hold divine service at the "Bethlehem" church, in Wurtemburg, every fourth Sunday.
At a meeting of the Church Council, January 10, 1869, it was resolved that the pastor should baptize no child of parents who pay nothing for the support of the church in New Castle, or who do not contribute towards the salary of the pastor.
At a meeting of the congregation, November 6, 1870, it was ordered that the pastor should hold services alternately in New Castle and Corry, Erie county, Pa., the latter as a missionary station; and his salary was fixed at $300 per annum.
On the 24th of September, 1871, this arrangement was modified, and the pastor was relieved from holding services at Corry, and gave his whole time to New Castle.
A new gallery was constructed in the church during 1872, for the use of the choir.
The 16th of October, 1872, was a very interesting occasion in the history of this church. On that day the silver wedding of Mr. Frederick Stapf and his wife Elizabeth, was celebrated. They were born in Kleindienst, and have been members of the congregation ever since its organization.
After the resignation of Rev. Mr. Jaekel, the congregation was without a pastor until October 1, 1875, when Rev. J. Fritz was elected for three years, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. Rev. Mr. Jaekel accepted a call to the German Lutheran church at Altoona.
According to the revised constitution, the Church Council now consists of nine members, with a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer. The pastor is ex-officio president. Under this arrangement, the meetings of the council are to be held on the first Sunday of each month, immediately after services, and meetings of the congregation once in three months.
A choir was organized during the year 1875, with fifteen members, and the Sunday-school was remodeled and improved. The Sunday-school society consists of a president and superintendent, a librarian, secretary, treasurer and teachers. The society holds regular meetings during every month of the year, immediately after divine service.
The Sunday-school has ten teachers and one hundred scholars. During the year 1876, the Sabbath-school library was replenished with new books, a new altar was substituted in place of the old, the organ was repaired, new lamps procured, the church painted and repaired, and its internal arrangements improved.
A stone tablet bearing the name and date of the building of the church, (1851,) was also inserted over the entrance.
At present the congregation have divine services every Sabbath forenoon, and during "Passion Week," every Friday evening. The present membership consists of about seventy families, including about one hundred and twenty communicants, and including the children, about three hundred souls altogether. It is now able to pay the pastor a salary of $500, and furnishes a very comfortable dwelling for his use, with one and a-half acres of good land with fruit trees, &c., &c.
March, 1852, a portion of the church-lot, one hundred feet long by sixty feet in width, was sold, the ground being larger than was needed.
In January, 1877, a Woman's society was organized for the purpose of keeping the church in repair, and to help in sickness and need.
Since the organization of the congregation three hundred and ninety-six children have been baptized, the first occurring October 12th, 1848. Eighty- six children have been confirmed, above the age of fourteen years, by Rev. C. Jaekel and Rev. John Fritz. Those confirmed previously are not on record.
Since the organization, ninety-six persons have died in the congregation from May 25, 1857, to August 25, 1876. One hundred and thirty persons have been married by various pastors since February 9, 1857. Rev. John Fritz is the present pastor (January, 1877).
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of New Castle was organized in February, 1871, with forty-one members. The three original elders were David C. Pattison, Robert Speer and David Pattison. The first deacon was David McClelland. Among the prominent members were Alexander Stewart, Wm. S. Pattison, John Davis, John Mayne, William Boyd, John Elliott, R. D. Pattison, Mrs. E. J. Pattison, Mrs. Nellie Speer, Mrs. M. Kerr, Mrs. Nancy Davis, Mrs. Jane Pattison, Mrs. Maggie Pattison, Mrs. Matilda Davis, Mrs. Jane Stevenson, Mrs. Mary McClelland, Miss Maggie Love, Mrs. Mary R. Speer.
The first pastor, Rev. S. J. Crowe, was called on the 18th of September, 1871, and ordained and installed on the 22d of May, 1872, and has continued to the present time to discharge the responsible duties of his position to the satisfaction and edification of his charge.
The first preacher of this denomination in this region was the Rev. James Blackwood, father of Dr. T. J. Blackwood, now a resident of New Castle.
Mr. Blackwood served some ten or twelve congregations in Beaver and Mercer counties previous to the organization of Lawrence county, in 1849. He died in 1851.
Rev. Thomas Hanney succeeded Rev. Mr. Blackwood, and continued until 1860-1, when he was succeeded by Rev. John Calvin Smith, who officiated for the New Castle society until the organization of the church in 1871. The New Castle and Slippery Rock churches constituted one charge until 1871.
A church was erected by the society in 1861, before the organization. Since 1872 the membership has largely increased. The present organization includes seven elders: David C. Pattison, Robert Speer, David Pattison, William Boyd, Dr. T. J. Blackwood, P. A. Mayne and Robert McKnight.
Deacons: David McClelland, John M. English, Alexander Stewart, J. R. Dodds, William McKnight.
The present membership is one hundred and forty-seven. The society supports three flourishing Sabbath-schools with thirty officers and teachers, and about three hundred scholars. During Rev. Mr. Crowe's pastorate there has been continuous and increasing interest manifested by the members in Christian work.
This is emphatically the "poor man's" church, and literally the "poor have the Gospel preached to them."
In addition to this charge the pastor also preaches, as opportunity offers, in the school-houses in the various parts of the county.
One of the earliest and most prominent Episcopalians in New Castle was Dr. A. Andrews, who settled in 1834. The earliest meetings of professors of the Episcopal faith were probably held at his house. Services were held as early as 1843, 1844 and 1845 by Rev'ds. White, of Butler, and Hilton, of Kittanning, at the Doctor's dwelling. The first regular church organization was effected on Easter Monday, 24th, 1848, when the following gentlemen were elected vestrymen: J. M. Crawford, Jonathan Ayres, Esq., Hon. L. L. McGuffin, G. A. Scroggs, Esq., J. Hamilton, Dr. A. Andrews, George Sloan, J. H. Brown and W. P. Reynolds. These elected the Rev. Richard Smith the first regular rector. Mr. Smith was a most indefatigable worker, and hunted up all the Episcopal families in Lawrence county, and brought many others into the church. His first visit to New Castle was in company with Rev. S. T. Lord on the 25th day of August, 1847, when they held services at the house of Dr. Andrews. Rev. Mr. Smith continued in charge of this church, holding regular services at intervals until April, 1849, when he received a call and removed to Waterford, Pa. The first baptism administered here was by Rev. Mr. Smith, on the twenty-second Sunday after Trinity—a child of J. Crawford. The first public administration of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, was also under his rectorship on the 23d of April, Easter Sunday, 1848.
Dr. A. Andrews afterwards removed to Mahoningtown, where he died. Previous to his death he executed a will by which he left the bulk of his property to the Episcopal Church of New Castle, securing a support for his wife, who died soon after. The property was taken possession of under the provisions of the will, but by some bad management the church never realized very much from it. The bequest included the lot on the northwest corner of "the Diamond" and Jefferson street, upon which he desired to have the church edifice erected. The lot was afterwards sold, and the one occupied by the present church building on North street purchased from D. M. Courtney.
[p. 158] Succeeding Rev. R. Smith were Rev. Joseph P. Taylor, of New Brighton, and under him Rev. John A. Bowman. It was probably under Mr. Taylor's administration that building of the church was commenced about 1852-53. The corner-stone was laid with appropriate ceremonies; Bishop Potter, Rev. Richard Smith and other dignitaries being present. The plans and specifications were elaborately drawn by a Pittsburgh architect, and contemplated an elegant building at a probable cost of $25,000. But the project involving such heavy expense was finally abandoned, and after a long series of halts and stoppages in the construction, the building was completed about 1863.
Following the above-named gentlemen was Rev. William Binet, about 1855, and succeeding him, in order, were Rev. Geo. A. Jenks, Rev. John F. Ohl, Rev. Mr. Ives and Rev. V. H. Smyth, the latter of whom died April 9, 1865.
Then followed Rev. Richardson Graham, for a few months; and after him came Rev. B. B. Killikelly, of Kittanning, who held occasional services. He was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Adderly in the Fall of 1866. Mr. Adderly left in November, 1867. The Rev. Wm. S. Hayward was unanimously called to the rectorship in July, 1868, and took charge the 1st of September the same year. The first Christmas-day service was held by him in that year, and the first rite of churching was also performed by him.
The church was consecrated January 30, 1866, by Right Rev. John Barrett Kerfoot, D. D., Bishop of Pittsburgh, being his first official act.
The Rev. W. S. Hayward resigned this parish, preaching his farewell discourse on Sunday, June 20, 1869. The number of communicants had more than trebled under his ministry, and he had administered about forty baptisms, held two hundred and fifty services, delivered three hundred sermons and lectures, made over twelve hundred parochial calls, and traveled three thousand miles.
The rectors succeeding him have been Rev. E. Roberts and Rev. W. F. Fuller, the present incumbent.
Dr. A. Andrews was the first warden, and Mr. Samuel Holstein the second, the latter of whom served for a number of years.
We have not the data giving the present number of communicants. The church register shows that in January, 1869, there were forty-seven families and seventy-five individuals in the congregation, and sixty-four regular communicants. The Sabbath-school at that date also consisted of six teachers and eighty-eight scholars, with an average attendance of forty.
The church edifice is a neat, substantial structure of red brick, in the English gothic style, surmounted by a fine spire. It is plainly but comfortably finished throughout, and has a fine-toned bell.
The organization of this society is involved in much obscurity. According to the recollections of some of the oldest living citizens, their first meetings were held on the bank of the Neshannock creek, about opposite to where the new city buildings now stand. The ground was covered with a thick growth of wild plum and crab trees, which were cleared away, and religious meetings held under the shade of a few of the large ones left to screen the worshipers from the rays of the sun. These meetings began to be held as early as 1808. The first preacher who visited the people here was Rev. David R. Imbrie, from Darlington, Beaver county, who preached occasionally as supply. Rev. Mr. Duncan also preached here about the same time.
About the year 1808 or 1809, the congregation erected a substantial "tent" near where the head of East street now is, on the slope of the hill, and not very far from a fine spring. The two reverend gentlemen mentioned above also preached at this place.
The Rev. Alexander Murray was the first regular pastor, and came probably about 1809. The lot where they erected their "tent" was given for religious purposes, by John C. Stewart, and was probably occupied during the Summers of several seasons. It was afterwards sold to Henry Falls. A church of logs was erected about the year 1814-15, on a lot then lying at the head of Beaver street, which was purchased of John Carlysle Stewart for the sum of thirty dollars. According to the records of Mercer county, the deed was executed by him and his wife, Agnes Stewart, May 7, 1816. The lot was described as lying "just fifty-seven perches west of the northeast corner of the original town." In size it was "twelve perches and eight tenths" east and west, and "six perches and thirty-two hundredths" north and south. The deed conveyed the lot to Rev. Alexander Murray, pastor, and Samuel Jackson and John Moore, elders of the Associate society, for church and burial purposes.
This deed was witnessed by Matthew A. Calvin, Arthur Hurry and Robert Wallace. It was acknowledged the same day before Arthur Hurry, a justice of the peace, and recorded at Mercer, August 16, 1819.
The primitive structure was used until the year 1831, when the society purchased a triangular lot of ground on Pittsburgh street, partly of John Shearer and partly of David White, and built what has long been known as the "Old Stone Church." This was occupied until the union of the Associate and Associate Reformed Churches took place in 1858, when the consolidated societies took the name of United Presbyterian. After the church and lot on Beaver street was abandoned, the street was extended through the lot passing over the ground where the church-building had stood, and also over many of the graves which had accumulated in the little graveyard. All traces of both church and burial-ground have long since disappeared. A few of the remains were taken up and transferred to other burial-places, but the majority still remain, "and not a stone tells where they lie." The stone church, when erected, was a long way out from the borough of New Castle, "in the woods." To-day, after the lapse of two-score years, it stands dilapitated and deserted by its former occupants, in the midst of a populous portion of the present aristocratic city. Its walls are cracked, and gradually but surely giving way under the attacks of the mighty conqueror, Time. Its timbers are slowly decaying and settling down. Its once pleasant windows are filled with rough boards. Its pulpit, so long the seat of eloquence, and and its ancient benches, are gone forever, and its venerable roof is gray with the moss of years.
The little triangular burial ground adjoining is no more used as a place of sepulture, and the crumbling mounds here and there have a look of loneliness which nothing but a deserted grave-yard can show.
Beneath those rugged elms, that yew tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap;
Each in his narrow cell forever laid,—
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep."
A fraction of the Associate or Seceder Society still keep up its organization and hold the title to the property. The men prominently connected with the building of the stone church, were Rev. Alexander Murray, John Moore, James Jackson and Thomas Carns.
Mr. Murray officiated for this congregation until about the year 1833, a period of over twenty years, when he was succeeded by Rev. Alexander Boyd, who occupied the pulpit for a period of five years, and was followed by Rev. David R. Imbrie, who also remained five years. After him came Rev. Joseph McClintock, who preached for about the same length of time, after which the society was without a regular pastor for a number of years, being in the meantime supplied from the college at New Wilmington—Mr. Black, Mr. Patterson and others officiating.
We have been shown by Mr. Joseph S. White a relic of the early days of New Castle, in the form of a subscription-paper, drawn up about 1810, for the support of a preacher of the Presbyterian denomination. The following is the heading: "We the subscribers do obligate and bind ourselves to pay to any person or persons whom the congregation of New Castle shall appoint for the purpose, the several sums of money and quantities of trade annexed to our names, in order to support a Preacher of the Gospel of the Presbyterian profession, whom the majority of said congregation shall choose, for the one-half of his labors among us in the Gospel, for the term of one year, and yearly as long he shall continue faithfully to discharge the duties of a preacher, and we think proper not to alter or withdraw our subscriptions. The payment to be made half-yearly." The subscriptions are in money, linen, wheat, rye, corn, and buckwheat. The names attached to this document as follows: Wm. Moorhead, Joseph Pollock, Cornelius Hendrickson, Samuel McCleary, Isaac Jones, Samuel Whann, Crawford White, Joseph Thornton, William McPherrin, James McKee, Alexander Chambers, John Thompson, James Gaston, John Willson, Samuel Parshell, James Willson, J. T. Boyd, John C. Stewart, James Gillespie, J. H. Reynolds, William Munell, James Leslie, Robert Irwin (who says, "I will give four bushels of grain, such as suits me, yearly, but will be free when I please"), J. Hamilton, James Canon, Margaret Canon, Eliza Sample, Arthur Long, Francis Ward, Samuel Wilson, Henry Falls, James Moorhead, Robert Stewart, Robert Gaston, Daniel Ault, William Simpson, Benjamin Calkindald, James Johnson, Martha Willson, Samuel Stewart, James Latta, Oliver Ault, Thomas Henderson, Alexander Hawthorne, John Wilkerson, John Young, Alexander McCalmont, David White, James Sample, Joseph Thorn, Okey Hendrickson, John Fulkison, A. R. Pinkerton, John Johnston. The total subscripion amounted to about one hundred and forty-five dollars.
Another subscription-paper, drawn up June 13, 1811, was for the purpose of procuring a horse for Rev. Robert Sample, and is headed as follows: "We the subscribers, having taken into consideration the loss which the Rev. Robert Sample has lately sustained by the death of his horse, and knowing his absolute need of one in order to fulfil his ministeral charges, we, therefore, in order to enable him to pay for another, do promise to pay to Crawford White, in the course of one year from this date, the sums annexed to our names for the above purpose." Signed by Crawford White, William Moorhead, Andrew Jack, Cornelius Hendrickson, David White, William Gaston, Robert Gaston, Isaac C. Jones, Alexander Chambers, A. R. Pinkerton, John Frazier, John Willson, Samuel Parshell, Thomas Hanna, Phillip Painter, James Gaston, William Dickson, Alexander Boyle, Samuel McCleary, William Elder, Samuel McCoslin, Joseph Pollock, William Rainey, James Leslie, Benjamin White, John Shaw. Three bushels of wheat, the balance in money.
From the 1770 - 1877 History of Lawrence County by S. W. and P. A. DURANT.
Explanation and Caution | Abbreviations | Lawrence Co. Maps | 1877 Portraits
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Updated: 22 Aug 2001