The first Presbyterian Churches in Clarion county were Licking and New Rehoboth; the former is in Monroe township, and the latter in Clarion township. Both churches are said to have been organized in 1802. Rev. John McPherrin preached probably the first sermon that was delivered in all this section, and it is known that he organized New Rehoboth Church in 1802. He probably organized Licking about the same time.
Their first pastor was the Rev. Robert McGarrough, having been sent as a licentiate of Redstone Presbytery in the spring of 1804. He began his labors in these churches in June of the same year, but was not ordained and installed until 1807. Coming to this wilderness, carrying his family and all his worldly goods on a pack-horse, he occupied a rude cabin built of round logs, twelve or fifteen feet square, for some years, in the midst of the forest, where woodland paths served for roads, and where neighbors were sparsely scattered over the hills and valleys of his extended field of labor. He supported himself largely by cultivating a small patch of cleared land during week days, while on the Sabbath he ministered to the spiritual wants of his little band of Christians, until 1822, when his relation as pastor of these churches was dissolved. During this period Mr. McGarrough organized Concord Church in Perry township in 1807, Richland about 1816; Callensburg Church was organized about 1825. He continued his labors at Concord and Callensburg until 1839, shortly before his death. The three first named were the earliest churches of any denomination organized within the limits of this county. Rev. John Core, Rev. James Montgomery, Rev. David McCay, Rev. William McMichael, Rev. John Glenn, and Rev. E. D. Barrett were prominent among the ministers who served the Presbyterian churches in this county prior to 1850.
In 1808 a congregation was organized, and designated as the Associate Congregation of Cherry Run. Hon. Joseph Rankin and Clemens Davidson were chosen ruling elders, and Rev. Mr. Dicky preached as a "supply" until 1830, when Rev. James McCarrell took charge.
In 1832 the place of meeting was changed to Rimersburg, where a log building was erected for a meeting-house. This building remained until 1851, when the present house of worship was built.
Mr. McCarrell remained pastor of the congregation until 1837, when he was released. In July, 1838, Rev. John McAuley was ordained, and installed pastor of the congregation. He continued in this relation until August, 1867. After spending the years of his life in ministerial labors, principally in Clarion county, he died at Sligo, Pa., on the 16th of August, 1883, in the seventy-seventh year of his age.
The Presbytery of Clarion was organized on the 4th of July, 1849, and consisted [p. 422] of four ministers, viz.: Revs. John Hindman, John Tod, John McAuley, and John Telford.
The congregations within the limits of this county are Cherry Run, at Rimersburg, Hermon, near Smithland, and Upper Piney, in the vicinity of Mechanicsville. The last has no congregational organization at present. The old building in which services were held is still standing, and is known as the "Seceder Church."
Rev. Robert Bruce has been pastor of the congregation at Rimbersburg since 1875, and of the congregation of Hermon since 1877. Both these congregations are under the care of Clarion Presbytery, subordinate to the Synod of North America.
He was with the body when it was divided, and when the Indiana Association was formed.
In 1838 the undivided association met in Brookville; in 1839 with Zion Church, now Reidsburgh. Amos Williams, Enoch Hastings, and William King are the first moderators, all men of sterling character. Thomas Wilson, Samuel Miles, and Thomas E. Thomas are among the pioneer ministers, the last named, father of Dr. B. H. Thomas, now of Clarion county, and for more than thirty years an active minister. Some of these early preachers had piety and power, although not favored with a classical education. Men living now speak of Thomas E. Thomas as a wonderful preacher. The grandson of this same man, with collegiate and theological training, is pastor of a church in Cleveland, Ohio.
There are seven Baptist churches in Clarion county, with an aggregate membership of nearly six hundred. The estimated value of church property is $20,000. These churches belong to the Clarion Association, embracing a part of Jefferson, Armstrong, and Butler counties. The association comprises nineteen churches and 1,500 members.
The State Association, made up from these local bodies, meets once a year. The National gathering, made up from the States of the Union, convenes once a year to transact business that directly interests 257,200 regular Baptists in the United States.
Student Koch traveled northward to Armstrong and Venango counties, where he found no organized congregations, but a number of members of the Reformed Church, many of them from his native county. Among them were the Millers, Mohneys, and Smiths along Redbank, near Millville; and the Brinkers, Heplers, Hamms, Hilliards, Kasters, Rimers, Edmonds, and Wiants, near where Curllsville is now; north of the Clarion River he found the Atts, Switzers, and Thomases, from Switzerland; and Delos, Berlins, Captain Henry Neely, the Ashbaughs, Shoups, Vensels, Bests, and others, from Westmoreland county. After a canvass of the field, he and his fellow student, Hacke, returned to the East and continued their studies a short time. Mr. Koch presented himself before the synod, which met in the city of Lancaster September 5, 1819, [p. 424] as a candidate for license and ordination. As there were no regular organized congregations here to extend a call, it is recorded in the minutes of synod that "communications were received from Venango and adjacent counties requesting that a young man named Koch be admitted to the ministry." He was accordingly licensed and ordained to preach the gospel on September 9, 1819. In the fall of the same year he pitched his tent in what is now Clarion county, and began his labor of love and self-denial among the scattered German-speaking inhabitants.
One of the first persons he baptized, if not the first, north of the Clarion River, is still living. Her name is Mrs. Mary Fisher (née Switzer), who was baptized December 5, 1819.
The St. Paul's Reformed congregation, in Beaver township, was organized in 1820. The first baptisms recorded in this church are Samuel, son of John and Margaret Smith; Elizabeth, daughter of John and Rosanna Sigworth; George, son of George and Elizabeth Berlin; and Hiram, son of Henry and Barbara Neely.
About this time the St. John's congregation, now Curllsville, was organized. At both these places there were log school-houses, in which worship was held in winter. During summer services were held in the open air. Mr. Koch's field of labor, in addition to what is now Clarion county, extended over parts of Jefferson, Armstrong, Butler, and Venango counties, a territory cut every here and there with streams, many of them wide and deep, too, over which there were no bridges. The difficulties he had to encounter can easily be inferred. The work he accomplished may be hinted at by giving some of his statistical reports recorded in the minutes of synod. In 1822 he reported 102 baptisms, 187 communicants, and 6 deaths. In 1825 he reported 4 congregations, 102 baptized, 39 confirmed, 210 communicants, 5 deaths, and 2 schools. From these and other known facts it is safe to infer that during his pastorate of over a quarter of a century he baptized at least from 1,800 to 2,500 persons, and confirmed many hundreds, in addition to the other official duties of his ministry. He also supplied, in a large measure, the membership of the Lutheran Church, who were in an early day visited and supplied by a minister of their own church from a distance.
Ecclesiastical Meetings. -- Of the eight original classes of the Reformed Church the first regular meetings held in 1820, Western Pennsylvania was one. In 1836 this classis was given permission to unite with the synod of Ohio and adjacent States. The name of the classis was then changed to that of the First or Eastern District of Ohio Synod. At a meeting of the Ohio Synod in Canton, O., in 1842, in [sic] was ordered that the first district be divided into two classes, known as the Westmoreland and Eric classes; Clarion was made a part of the former. The first meeting of this division, by appointment of synod, was held at St. Johns, near Mount Pleasant, Pa., May 28 to 31, [p. 425] 1843. At a meeting held in Armstrong county in 1845, Rev. Koch was present and earnestly requested that classes should meet in his charge, which was finally agreed to, and St. John's Church was fixed as the place of meeting in 1846; but before the meeting he was taken from the church militant to the church triumphant. In 1850 the synod of Ohio granted the pastors and charges north of the Kiskiminetas River, and belonging to the Westmoreland classis, permission to organize a new division to be called the Clarion Classis.
A Few Crises. -- When St. John's Church was about to be rebuilt a sort of a union was formed by the Reformed and Lutherans. At the laying of the corner-stone of the new church a constitution, formed by the unionists, prohibiting any one to be stated as pastor in this house who is unable to preach in German and English, created some excitement when it was read. Rev. Koch, the faithful servant, who had stood by his flock so long, and endured so many hardships in the service there, had to leave with tears in his eyes. He did not consider himself competent to officiate in the English language. As the congregation was unable to support a minister alone, for a short time the members were as sheep without a shepherd. This led in the beginning of 1848 to the organization of Jerusalem Congregation, Rimersburg, and also a few years later led to the organization of the Salem Congregation in Limestone township. Thus the wrath of man was made to praise God in the establishing of new congregations. During the pastorates of Hoffman, Leberman, and Wolff, the transition from the German to the English language set in with great force in this section. And as is generally the case in every new movement, there were extremists on the side of progress, as also on the side of conservation; and the extremists on either side do not generally sympathize with the other side. Only those who have passed through such a crisis can fully appreciate what is here so briefly referred to. Some of the old German-speaking people honestly believed that the perpetuation of true religion depended on the use of the mother-tongue, while many of the Progressives went to the extreme in insisting that all would be lost to the cause of Christianity if the English alone was not used. In some instances on both sides there were bitter prejudices, false pride, and narrowness of judgment and other things, that for these pages shall be left nameless.
Another matter in the Reformed Church was also bitterly contested. It was whether the catechetical or emotional systems should prevail in the church. Rev. Leberman, who was an earnest advocate of the former system, was especially the subject of much bitter criticism and gross misrepresentation. It is necessary to remind the reader that forty years have very much softened the sharp points between the two systems, and that to form a proper judgment the times in which these things occurred must be considered.
Hoffman, Leberman, and Wolff. -- Rev. Henry Hoffman, who came to be an assistant of Rev. Koch, after the death of the latter became regular pastor [p. 426] of the charge. He served the organized congregations about two years, during which time he organized the Salem congregation in Salem township (1846). In the year 1847 he reported in his charge 450 members, seventy-five baptisms, eighty-eight persons confirmed, and fifteen deaths. Toward the close of the year 1847 Rev. L. D. Leberman came to this county and became pastor of the portion lying south of the Clarion River, and Rev. Hoffman remained pastor of the portion north of the river, then known as the Petersburg charge, serving until 1855. Rev. Leberman organized a number of congregations in the southern part of the county. Among them were Mt. Zion, Squirrel Hill, and Shannondale, and also some in Jefferson and Armstrong counties. The field becoming too large for him to cultivate properly, Rev. George Wolff came in the spring of 1848 and took charge of Licking, Salem (in Limestone township), and others, which he served until 1853. The increase in the population, on account of the many furnaces in the county during these years, added greatly to the labors of the ministers.
Summary. -- Four ministers reside in the county, two charges are vacant, twelve organized congregations, nine have church buildings -- one in process of erection, and two are owned jointly by the Reformed and Lutherans. The estimated value of the church property is $45,000; there are 1,450 confirmed members, and 1,050 baptized unconfirmed members.
The amount given for benevolent and congregational purposes, exclusive of building and repairing churches and parsonages, has, for a few years past, averaged about $5,000 in this county.
The rectory was completed and occupied two years later. The architecture of the church is Gothic; it is very beautifully finished, and is complete in all its appointments. The rectory is a Queen Anne cottage, and is equally beautiful it its way.
The parish is within the jurisdiction of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of [p. 427] Pittsburgh, which embraces twenty-four counties in Pennsylvania, being all that portion of the State lying west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Within this territory are fifty-nine parishes and thirty-four missions, one bishop and sixty-two other clergy, 7,298 communicants and 7,200 children in the Sunday-schools. The legislative body of the diocese is the convention which meets annually, and is composed of all the clergy and three lay deputies from each parish.
The value of church property in this parish is, in round numbers, $40,000; number of communicants, 47 ; children in Sunday-school, 80; total number of people attending services, about 250. The parish has had three rectors, as follows: Rev. Thomas A. Stevenson, 1880-83; Rev. Samuel Edson, 1883-85; Rev. Edmund A. Angell, now (1886) in charge.
This association has camp-meeting grounds at West Millville and Lickingville, where the members from adjacent localities assemble annually, and spend one week in public worship.
From the statistics of 1886, reported to the annual conference, we gather
the following as the strength of Methodism in the county at the present
time. These figures may be relied on, having been taken from the
records immediately preceding conference:
|Number of traveling preachers||18|
|Number of local preachers||12|
|Number of church members||2,500|
|Number of church buildings||39|
|Number of parsonages||12|
|Number of Sunday-schools||40|
|Number of officers and teachers||452|
|Number of Sunday-school scholars||3,109|
|Value of church buildings||$ 63,700|
|Value of parsonages||11,000|
|Total value of church property||$ 74,700|
Of the ministers having pastoral supervision in Clarion county, four, including the presiding elder, do not reside in the county.
The church has been blessed with many laymen whose influence and wealth have helped largely in developing the resources of the county and in building up its interests. During the Civil War no company went out to the front without her representatives. Her members have taken an active part in the educational interests of the people. Although not accomplishing all she projected, yet in educational interests she laid the foundation of enduring monuments, from which the people of the county will reap lasting benefit.
St. Nicholas Church comes second in order in date of organization. The precise date of the erection of this church is not known, but 1833 or '34 is the time generally assigned. The building was a little log house, as were the other church structures at this early date of our county's history. The Aarons -- Joseph, Thomas, Daniel, George and Conrad, Peter Ruffner, Henry Cyphert, Philip and Charles Crate, were the pioneer Catholics in this section.
A small congregation was formed at Clarion about 1841, and a church building was erected in 1854, which was dedicated in 1856.
Congregations now exist at East Brady, Edenburg, North Pine Grove, New Bethlehem, St. Petersburg, Sligo, and Vogelbacher, in addition to those at Fryburg, Clarion and St. Nicholas.
These churches are in the diocese of Erie, comprising the counties of Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Venango, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield, Cameron, Elk, McKean, Potter, and Warren. Present bishop, Rt. Rev. Thomas Mullen.
He was succeeded in a portion of his field by Rev. David Henry Keyl, about 1827, coming from the State of North Carolina. He traveled through the counties of Armstrong, Clarion, and Crawford, preaching at various stations. He made one of his stopping places and preaching points at the house of John Adam Scheffer, in Salem township, making his missionary tours every four or six weeks. The place of holding religious services in this locality, for greater convenience, was changed to the house of William Herrington. This house, a log building with the chimney on the outside, the place in which was organized the first congregation in Salem township, is still standing near the town of Salem, a relic of pioneer house-building, and a memorial of primitive piety and devotion to the truth of the Gospel. A few years after the organization of the congregation here, steps were taken toward the erection of a house of worship. A fine location was secured for this purpose, and deeded to the church by James Guthrie. The building was completed and dedicated in 1838. The Reformed Congregation united with the Lutherans in the erection of the church, and occupied it conjointly with the latter for twenty-five years. Rev. Keyl continued to preach for the Lutherans until 1840, when, after a temporary absence, he returned to Clarion county, and made his home with a former friend near Fryburg, where in a few years he departed this life. His remains rest in the grave-yard at the site of the old log Lutheran Church, on the State road west of Fryburg.
After this more laborers entered the field, new congregations were organized, and each one, or at least each charge, had an individual history of its own.
At a meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Synod, in December, 1840, Rev. George F. Ehrenfelt was sent to visit Clarion county. He formed a charge composed of the following congregations: St. Paul's, St. Peters, Salem, and State roads. This is the first pastoral charge in Clarion county, and at present embraces six separate charges. Mr. Ehrenfelt was the first regularly located [p. 431] pastor in the county. At present there are nineteen congregations, eight charges, and 1,551 members in the Lutheran Church of Clarion county.
This order has taught the farmers to reduce expenses, both individual and corporate, to buy less and produce more, to sell less in bushels and more on hoof, to discountenance the credit and mortgage systems, to avoid litigation, and politically, to let the office seek the man, and not the man the office.
Masonic Lodges. -- Clarion Lodge, instituted in 1853; Canby Lodge, St. Petersburg; Edenburg Lodge, New Bethlehem Lodge. The district deputies were R. L. Brown, Robert Thorn, C. L. Lamberton, W. W. Barr, M. M. Meredith, and William B. Meredith.
I. O. O. F. -- Clarion Lodge, instituted in 1847; Sligo Lodge first organized at Curllsville as Hobah Lodge; Iron County Lodge, at Rimersburg; Ming Lodge, at Strattanville; West Freedom Lodge, New Bethlehem Lodge, East Brady Lodge, Fox Lodge, at Foxburg; Yokohama Lodge, at Lickingville; Callensburgh Lodge, Blair's Corners Lodge, Allegheny Valley Lodge, at West Monterey; Elk City Lodge, Knox Lodge, at Edenburg; and West Millville Lodge; there is one encampment -- Clarion, No. 9; Oil Dorado Lodge, at Perryville, and Shippenville Lodge are defunct. The district deputy grand masters were Enoch Alberson, John L. Sample, R. Ruloffson (fifteen years), Charles Kaufman, J. E. Wood (seven years).
Grand Army of the Republic. -- There are thirteen posts in the county, viz.: "Colonel George Covode," No. 112, Edenburg; "Captain J. B. Loomis," No. 205, Clarion , "Captain Thompson Core," No. 239, Porter township; "Foxburg," No. 249, Foxburg; "Colonel William Lemon," No. 260, New Bethlehem; "E. D. Sharp," No. 267, Rimersburg; "Thomas M. Sedwick," No. 294, East Brady; "Adjutant John E. Myers," No. 386, Sligo; "Major Henry Wetter," No. 391, Strattanville; "Lookout," No. 425, St. Petersburg; "Amos Kiser," No. 475, Shippenville; Captain Charles E. Patton," No. 532, Greenville; " John C. Pollock," No. 278, West Freedom. The last named post takes the number of "Lucas" Post, Snow Shoe, Centre county, which is defunct. There are about four hundred members of the G. A. R. in Clarion county.
1) By Rev. Robert Bruce.
2) By J. L. S.
3) By Rev. J. F. Wiant.
4) By Rev. E. A. Angell.
5) By Rev. J. A. Smith.
6) By Rev. B. F. Delo.
7) By James Elgin.