Union Church

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Union Church


We say the “Old Church,” yet comparatively speaking, it is not old, but is with one exception the last link uniting us with the early days of our town. What a host of worshippers it would call up that now make a Part of the dust of the old “burial ground.” 

“Each in his narrow cell forever laid, 

The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.”

Nature has dealt rather kindly with the old building, ‘Tis true, the sharp tooth of time has nibbled its corners, and its general appearance plainly shows that the great destroyer is slowly hut surely Completing its ruin, yet its broken halls and darkened turret appeal to us as Worthy veneration. it is like a friend who has walked with us through childhood’s days down to old age, losing symmetry and beauty as the years relentlessly demanded this tribute.

The battle of Waterloo was still fresh in the minds of our people, and Napoleon had been a prisoner on St. Helena a little less than five years when the logs were hewn for the central or main part of the church. A few years before, Mr. Hardman Philips had presented the town with a plot of ground for a graveyard, and upon this same ground the citizens decided to build. I have an old paper before me upon the hark of which is written: ‘‘Subscriptions to Meeting House.” As it may be of interest to some of my readers I will give the heading of this paper verbatim:
“We, the subscribers. wishing to have a house built which will answer the double purpose of a school, and place of worship to be free for religious preachers of the Gospel of all de nominations do promise to pay to William Kinnear, and Samuel Turner, the respective sums hereunto subscribed by us to be applied by them to this purpose.” The first name on the list that follows is John Lorain - $10.00. He was the great grandfather of our present townsman Charles Lorain, and it is doubtful if the aforesaid citizen can produce a finer signature. Then comes the names of Dewees, Test, Philips, Flegal, Hancock, Simler, Ayres, McGirk, and hosts of other familiar names, many of whose descendants are still with us; then down the list we find John Lorain a second time, with additional subscription Mr. Hardman Philips giving $25.00. This being the largest amount by any one person on the paper, the smallest sum $1.00. Some that could not give money gave so many days' work. So the plain log house was built, and was called the Union Church.

From what has been handed down orally and from what I have gathered from the fragments of old papers it was deemed necessary a 1841 to repair the building An old paper relating to the work reads as follows: “The roof is to be new shingled, tin spouts added, inside lathed and plastered, outside to be roughcast, on the west end an addition to be made to contain the pulpit, communion table and a vestry, the body of the church to be pewed, belfry and bell to be added.” For this purpose a second subscription was taken of $300.00.  


Of course, the amount subscribed was insufficient and Mr. Hardman Philips furnished the needed money, directing the work and completing the building, and “Thereby hangs a tale.” As the church was remodeled and planned to suit the peculiar wants and conveniences of a Protestant Episcopal congregation. Mr. Philips wanted to claim it. as the Trinity P. E. Church of Philipsburg. To this the citizens object to claiming that Mr. Philips had added extravagances utterly unnecessary for a Union Church, and they refused to relinquish their claim, which they considered paramount. So a fight began ending in a law suit.

I will give the heading of a third subscription which will better explain the situation: “The Subscribers hereby agree to pay the sum set opposite their names, respectively, for the purpose of defraying the expense ensuing in the defense of the Union Church in a suit instituted by Hardman Philips to recover an alleged debt against said church.” In this contest James McGirk led the citizens, so it might be said it was Hardman Philips vs. James McGirk. After rather a tedious lawsuit the citizens were victorious and from that time it remained a Union Church. The Episcopalians, however, continued to worship in the church, and when a clergyman was not available, Mr. Philips read the service.


Union Church by Henrietta Foster, from The One Hundredth Anniversary of the Union Church, Philipsburg, Penna, Nov 12, 1920.


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