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From History of Clarion Co., Pennsylvania, edited by A. J. Davis, 1887.


There are twenty-two churches of this denomination in Clarion county, with a membership of 1,667.  These churches are attached to the Clarion Presbytery, embracing the counties of Clarion, Elk, and Jefferson, and the parts of Forest and Venango counties lying east of the Allegheny River.  The presbytery is included in the Synod of Pennsylvania, which is composed of all the presbyteries of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and the presbyteries of Mexico and Zacatecas, old Mexico, and all are under the jurisdiction of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, consisting of twenty-six synods and about 661,800 members.

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 bis 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.

The Associate Presbyterian

by Rev. Robert Bruce

About the year 1802 some members of the Associate Church settled in what is now Clarion county, and were supplied by Rev. John Dicky.  The county being thinly settled, divine services were held at the houses of members, some living near Cherry Run, and others on Licking.  In a few years a log school-house was built on Cherry Run, and the members used it as a place of meeting.

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 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 Rimersburg 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.

Baptist Church

by J. L. S.

Rev. William Shadrach is the oldest living Baptist minister of Western Pennsylvania.  Almost sixty years ago he was associated with Deacon Abraham Shallenberger, father of J. Lloyd, of Clarion borough, at Mount Pleasant, Pa.  Afterwards Dr. Shadrach was intimately associated with the ministers and members of the Clarion Association.

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.

The Reformed Church

by Rev. J. F. Wiant

Among the early settlers of what is now Clarion county were emigrants, not only from Germany and Switzerland, but also from Lehigh, Berks, Bucks, Montgomery, Lancaster, and other eastern counties.  A large portion of these were confirmed members of the Reformed Church. Rev. John William Weber the pioneer Reformed minister in Western Pennsylvania, who, in 1783, came to Westmoreland county, and later was the first regular minister of any kind in Pittsburgh, in the early years of this century occasionally visited the scattered members of the Reformed Church in Armstrong, Butler, Venango, and other counties, conducted services, baptized the children, and held communions.  As he was then already nearly eighty years of age, the labor and exposure of these missionary journeys were too great for him.  As early as 1813 requests were sent from Western Pennsylvania to the synod of the Reformed Church for a young minister or ministers to be sent out to assist the aged pastor.  In response to the request, in 1815 Henry Hublistor and William Weinel, licentiates of the synod, were sent to Westmoreland and adjacent counties, the latter visiting the territory now in Clarion county.  This led to the demand for more ministers in this section.  In response to this call two of Rev. Dr. Becker's students, N. P. Hacke and Henry Koch, offered themselves; and in the spring of 1819 set out on horse-back from Northampton county for their long and tedious journey over the mountains.  On entering Greensbury, Westmoreland county, they were surprised and disheartened to hear only the English language spoken on the streets.  Mother Drum, a venerable matron of Greensbury, however, allayed their fears by assuring them that the surrounding country element was quite German enough to make their labors in that language acceptable, and no doubt useful.  Student Hacke, then not twenty years old, preached in a number of organized congregations in that county, and was chosen for their pastor, which holy office he filled for a period of fifty-eight years.

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, 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 ard 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, 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 Erie classes; Clarion was made a part of the former.  The first meeting of the division, by appointment of Synod, was held at St. Johns, near Mount Pleasant, Pa., May 28 to 31, 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 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.

Protestant Episcopal Church

by Rev. E. A. Angell

"The Memorial Church of Our Father," Foxburg. -- This beautiful little church was erected by the surviving members of the Fox family, "To the Glory of God and In Memory of Samuel Mickle Fox, deceased December 23, 1869; William Logan Fox, deceased April 29, 1880; Sarah Lindley Fox, deceased June 20, 1882."  The names of the founders are Mrs. Samuel M. Fox, Mrs. William L. Fox, Miss Hannah Fox, and Mr. Joseph M. Fox.  The corner-stone was laid July 4, 1881, and the church opened for divine service November 26, 1882, by Right Rev. Cortlandt Whitehead, D. D., bishop of the diocese of Pittsburgh, assisted by the Rev. Henry Purdon, D. D., of Titusville, Rev. Harry L. Yewens, of Franklin, and the Rev. Thomas A. Stevenson, rector of the parish.

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 in its way.

The parish is within the jurisdiction of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of 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.

Evangelical Association

by Rev. B. F. Delo

This church extended her borders into Clarion county about the year 1849, and now comprises a membership of nearly five hundred communicants, who worship in three separate parishes, and eleven church edifices.  These are situated in the southwestern, central, northern, and northeastern sections of the county.

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.

Methodist Episcopal Church

by Rev. B. F. Delo

The early history of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Clarion county is obscure.  From the most reliable information to be obtained, it appears that the first preaching place and organization of a society of Methodists was at Mr. Young's, on the turnpike, two miles east of Clarion.  This was thirty years before the town of Clarion was thought of.  About the same time a preaching point was established at the house of Mr. Henry Myers, in what is called the Loop, near the present site of Martin's mill on the Clarion River.  The Baltimore Conference at that time embraced this territory.  We first find recognition in the conference appointments as Mahoning Circuit, in 1812.  The other places of preaching at this early date are given as Leiser's, John Lawson's, Stoner's, and Harold's.

With the organization of the Pittsburgh conference in 1825, we have the beginning of a tolerably full history.  At this time the territory was a part of the Erie District, William Swazie, presiding elder.  In 1826 it was transferred to the Pittsburgh District, Thornton Fleming, presiding elder.  In 1827 it was transferred to the Erie District, William Swazie, presiding elder.  It so remained with Wilder B. Mack, presiding elder, from 1828 to 1831.

In 1832 the Meadville District was formed, embracing as part of its territory what is now Clarion county, Zerah H. Coston, presiding elder.  In 1833 it was embraced in Allegheny District, Zerah H. Coston, presiding elder.  He was succeeded in the presiding eldership by Joshua Monroe, in 1835.  In 1836 the Erie Annual Conference was organized; in districting the conference this territory became part of Meadville District, J. S. Barris, presiding elder; re-appointed in 1837.

In order to brevity we give the year, and name of district and presiding elder: 1838-9, Brookville Mission District, William Carroll, P. E.; 1840-2, Meadville District, John Bain, P. E.; 1843-4, Franklin District, John Robinson, P. E.; 1845-6, Franklin District, H. N. Stearns, P. E.; 1847, Franklin District, W. H. Hunter, P. E.; 1848-9, Franklin District, E. J. L. Baker, P. E.; 1850-1, Franklin District, W. F. Wilson, P. E.; 1852-4, Franklin District, Moses Hill, P. E.; 1855-7, Franklin District was divided and Clarion District formed, Josiah Flower, P. E.; 1858-9, Clarion District, J. E. Chapin, P. E.; 1860-3, Clarion District, R. A. Caruthers, P. E.; 1864-7, Clarion District, R. H. Hurlburt, P. E.; 1868-71, Clarion District, O. L. Mead, P. E.; 1872, Clarion District, J. R. Lyon, P. E.; 1873-5, Brookville District, J. R. Lyon, P. E.; 1876, Brookville District, B. F. Delo, P. E.; 1877-9, Clarion District, B. F. Delo, P. E.; 1880-3, Clarion District, P. P. Pinney, P. E.; 1884-6, Clarion District, D. Latshaw, who is the present presiding elder.  He is a native of Clarion county, a son of John Latshaw, late of Perry township.  Rev. L. taught considerably in the public schools of the county, and was at one time acting superintendent of the public schools of the county.

Another of this list, B. F. Delo, was born in Beaver township, and reared to manhood from his twelfth year in the county seat.  He learned the "art preservative" with Colonel W. T. Alexander, of Clarion.  He is a son of ex-sheriff Daniel Delo.  On this list, H. N. Stearns, J. R. Lyon, W. F. Wilson, and B. F. Delo occupied the pastorate of the church of Clarion.

From the first organization of Methodism within this territory it has enjoyed a continued growth and prosperity.  Many of its early accessions were the result of camp-meeting conversions, and not a few from interest excited by the doctrinal controversies of forty and fifty years ago.  A camp-meeting was held about 1826 at a spring now within the corporation limits of Clarion, near South Fifth Avenue.

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.

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