Previous to the year 1847, there were no Presbyterian churches in Cambria County except Johnstown. There were a few of the Presbyterian faith in Ebensburg, but these had united with the Welsh Independent church so that the history of the first church of Ebensburg really begins with this early Welsh church, now known as the Congregational church, a beautiful old red brick edifice at present facing the William Penn Highway in the East Ward of Ebensburg.
This Highway formerly known as the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Turnpike, and was one of the main thoroughfares connecting Philadelphia and Pittsburgh explaining, possibly, how it happened that Benjamin Rush, a Doctor of Philadelphia, and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, came into this territory and took out a patent for the land upon which Ebensburg now stands. This patent he later transferred to Rev. Rees Lloyd, the first pastor of the Welsh Independent church.
The Congregational church, as it is now called, was originally what we would term a Union church. It was composed of twenty-six members, thirteen of whom were Welsh Congregationalists, and thirteen Welsh Calvinistic Methodists.
Not being able to agree upon a name and creed, these early Welsh immigrants hit upon a happy solution of the problem confronting them and called their church the "Welsh Independent Church."
To these "Ebenezer" or Ebensburg later came many of the descendents of the Scotch Covenanters, attracted perhaps by the delightful climate, which was much like that of their own Scotia, but possibly more by the similarity of its hills and valleys to the mountain fastness of their own beloved land. Here they pitched their tent and raised their "Ebenezer" as their Welsh brothers before them had done and worshipped in the little Independent kirk. (church)
They liked the church and its worship, but the spirit of Presbyterianism, as strong in the mountains of America as in the highlands of Scotland, was not satisfied. Accordingly a little group got together and elected Harrison Kinkead, one of their number, to go to Congruity where the Presbytery of Blairsville was in session for the purpose of explaining their desire for a separate church. So on the seventh day of April, 1840, Mr. Kinkead or Judge Kinkead, as he was called, he having been an Associate Judge of Cambria County, made the trip to Congruity, and laid before the Presbytery the desire of his people for a church, the wants of the community, and the prospects of the field. Judge Kinkead was a remarkable character as some still living can testify, and his constituency could not have chosen an abler advocate.
So convincing were his arguments, that the Presbytery responded by appointing supplies. During the following years the services were held in the Court House and in different churches of the town. Sometimes in the old Congregational church on Sample Street, sometimes in the little Baptist church near Center, but more frequently in the Court House, "the psalms our fathers sung" and the voices of the Presbyterian ministry were heard.
In October, 1847, Mr. Andrew McElwaine then licentiate of the Blairsville Presbytery, commenced preaching on alternate Sabbaths between Ebensburg and the Summit. On February 1, 1884, at a prore nata meeting of Presbytery, he was ordained as an Evangelist with a view of continuing his labors and for the purpose of organizing churches.
On February 23, 1848, a meeting of the Ebensburg congregation was held for the purpose of considering the erection of a house of worship. It was decided to go ahead with the project, and subscriptions were taken for that purpose.
In October, 1849, the Ebensburg congregation sent a petition to Presbytery asking to be taken under its care and to be organized as a church of Christ. The request was granted, and Rev. S.M.McClung, Rev. A. McElwaine, and Rev. Samuel Swan, and elders H. Cratzer and B. Vahn were appointed a committee to organize the church. This committee met on the 28th of March, 1850, and organized what is now known as the Presbyterian church of Ebensburg. The membership consisted of sixteen persons, received on certificate from the Welsh Independent church above referred to.
The new house of worship was opened for divine services on the 24th of May, 1850.
An interesting event in the church's history occurred during the pastorate of the Rev. B. F. Heany, when on March 1, 1914, there was taken into the church the greater part of the membership of the Calvinistic Methodist church of Ebensburh. Like their Presbyterian brothers, the Calvinistic Methodists in the Welsh Independent church also withdrew therefrom some time prior to the year 1841, and from that time to December 9, 1913, they maintained and supported a church.
Another matter of note occurred during the term of Mr. Heany. This was the founding of the church at Revloc, a mining community two miles west of Ebensburg. This church is at present affiliated with the local church.
The first church building was erected near the Congregational church in the East ward of Ebensburg, facing the highway above mentioned. The second church was erected in the years 1881 and 1882 during a vacancy existing between the pastorates of Rev. E.W. Brown and Rev. Robert McCaslin. It was of red brick and was located on Center street facing the Cambria county jail. This building was razed in 1914, and a third, the present church building was erected on its site.
The regularly installed Pastors who succeeded MacIlvaine, and their terms of service are as follows:
The Reverend R. Slemmons Morton, 1853-1855
The Reverend David Harrison, 1855-1864
The Reverend T. M. Wilson, 1865-1867
The Reverend B. M. Kerr, 1868-1871
The Reverend J. William Edie, 1873-1874
The Reverend John N. MacGonigle, 1875-1877
The Reverend Edward W. Brown, 1878-1880
The Reverend Robert McCaslin, 1882-1888
The Reverend Edwin Bowman, 1889-1896
The Reverend Merle Anderson, D.D., 1896-1900
The Reverend Samuel C. Craig, D.D., 1900-1909
The Reverend Thomas R. Taggart, 1910-1913
The Reverend Brainerd F. Heany, 1913-1925
The Reverend Howard J. Baumgartel, D.D., 1926-1939
The Reverend Ellis Wynn Roberts, 1940-1952
The Reverend William John Brown, installed as Pastor on June 25, 1953.
These men worked and reared a Church that is a credit to them, one that has tried to keep its beacon burning brightly through the years, for Christ.
These men and one woman have gone forth from the membership of this Church into active service of the larger Church.
The first of these was the Rev. Richard Evans, who went into the wilds of what was then the Territory of Washington. Another of these men was the Reverend Algie E. Lehman, who served as a missionary of the Evangelical Church for twelve years, in the Province of Hunan, China. For the past year, he and his wife have been living at the Penny Farms in Florida. The third is the Reverend Bruce Whitefield Evans, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, New Jersey. Prior to accepting this charge, he served as a Chaplain in the U.S. Navy during World War II, on the Islands of Tinian and Guam in the Sough Pacific War Zone. The forth and last of these is Miss Judith Richards Chute, who is now serving as a nurse at the Presbyterian Mission to the Navajo Indians in the Sage memorial Hospital at Gandado, Arizona
As Reported in the Mountaineer Herald, Monday, August 16, 1954