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Outline of the History of the Bethel Baptist Church
By
Lewis H. Ripley, Jr.

Lew Ripley
Lew Ripley & George Warholic on Steps of Bethel Church July 30, 2000

The Bethel Church was founded in 1833. Rev. William Williams and his four sons, Thomas, William, Benjamin, and Daniel, built the log church, about 16' by 24' with a 9' ceiling, about 200 feet east of the present Church and north of it, and paneled it in pine. The town of Beula had been declining since Ebensburg became the County seat in 1804. The last pastor at Beula resigned in 1834. Rev. Williams came from Wales in 1801 and preached at Beula, in Welsh, until at least 1829, and probably until 1833. His farm was about 2 miles from Beula toward Bethel. He was 5' 7", 170 pounds, with sandy hair, and a heavy mustache. He buried his wife, Joned, Welsh for Jane, in 1837. Hers is the first grave. He died in 1848 and is buried next to her.

In 1850, the land for the Church and Cemetery was officially transferred from Enoch and Elizabeth Reese to the Bethel Church. Bethel was part of Cambria Township before Blacklick Township was formed. The deed was recorded in 1856. The Welsh were known for not being in a hurry to to make and record their deeds. Bethel was then reorganized in 1851 as a Welsh and English Church. Other nationalities, such as Irish, had moved into the area. The land transfer and reorganization were accomplished at the same time as the Township was formed. The present Church building was started in 1859. The great Civil War intervened. Many, at least eleven, of the men of Bethel left to serve their country. When they returned, the Church was completed, and dedicated in 1867. It stands today as the oldest Church in Blacklick Township, and the oldest Protestant Church in Cambria County. The Church remains essentially unchanged since it was started 141 years ago.

Five years later in 1872, the log church was torn down. Some of the wood was used in Winfred and Martha Wagner's home just east across the road from Bethel.

Many members of Bethel were prominent land owners and business leaders in the commuity. They were active in farming, stock raising and coal mining, John Ferguson, who was listed first on Bethel's role of members, and who was the person who signed the Petition for the Charter, was elected County Commisssioner in 1865. Thomas M. Reese was the firest postmaster at Pindleton, which was established in 1879. Johanna Reese was the second postmaster.

Bethel received its Charter from the Courts of Cambria County in 1875. Our name on our Charter is Bethel Regular Baptist Church of Bethel, Cambria County, Pennsylvania.

In 1877, a major change was made. Until then, the women sat in the western half of the church and the men in the eastern half. In that year families chose their pews and sat together from then on.

Bethel was probably a member of the Center Association until joining the Indiana Baptist Association, which was formed in 1877. Our records with this Association date from 1879, and are almost complete from 1885. We have Bethel's Sunday School records starting in 1887. We have official records of all burials from 1906 to date. A record of the deaths of members was included in the Indiana Baptist Association records. Therefore we can say that our Cemetery records are virtually complete since 1879.

By 1897, the population of the area around Bethel was moving to nearby towns. In that year about one third of the congregation of Bethel formed the Baptist Church in Vintondale.

In 1905, one third of the remaining congregation joined in forming the reorganized and newly built Ebensburg Baptist Church.

Then in 1913, about half of the congregation that remained formed the Baptist Church in Nanty Glo. From then on, the people who lived in the area were served by supply pastors for a period of time following Rev. F. I. Sigmond, the last regular Pastor, who served from 1907 to 1911 and in 1915-1916. By 1917, there were about 12 members in the congregation. About 3 to 6 couples, with no minister, kept the Church active until perhaps as late as 1924. For these years prior to 1931, no regular services were held at Bethel.

In 1931, the people who had attended Bethel, and their descendants, organized, and began holding annual Reunions. They prepared a souvenir program for their third Reunion, the 100th anniversary of the founding of Bethel. This was prepared from the original Church records and photographs furnished by members.

The Bethel Church had been built with its entrance facing the Huntingdon and Indiana Turnpike. In 1929, Route 422 was moved to its present location. In 1933, Winfred P. Wagner and Martha P. Wagner donated the land between the Church's original one acre and the present Route 422. This gift enlarged the Bethel Cemetery by 50%, and allowed access to Route 422. Our name on both the 1850 Deed and the 1933 Deed is Bethel Congregation Of the Particular Baptist Church.

The members of Bethel have been holding Reunions every year since 1931, except during the Second World War. Until recent years, a traditional picnic preceded the annual business meeting and Worship Service.

The members of the American Legion and V.F.W. in Nanty Glo faithfully place flags on our many veterans graves for every Memorial Day. We can be proud of the large number of veterans who are buried in our Cemetery. Of these, 21 are Civil War veterans.

Bethel continues to serve the community both as an historic landmark, and as an active Cemetery.

July 30, 2000
(Revised August 13, 2000)


Historical Facts About Old Bethel Baptist Church

The old Bethel Baptist church, four miles west of Ebensburg, was established as an outpost of the Beulah Baptist church in 1833 and the first burial in
the cemetery was made in 1834 . The deed for the property was recorded in 1850 and the church was reorganized in 1851.An old log house of worship was
long in use, but in 1860 the present building was erected. The old log building is well remembered by Richard Thomas of Ebensburg, who attended the
reunion held at Bethel on August 12, 1931. Later a group of men gathered and fixed up the cemetery. The new church was chartered as the Bethel regular
Baptist church in 1874.

Among the oldest present at the reunion in August were: Mrs. Jefferson Rowland, Johnstown; Mrs. Evelyn (Reese) Williams and Richard L. Thomas,
Ebensburg. Another who was unable to attend was Mrs. Mary (Davis) Stiles, widow of Luther Stiles, at present residing at the Baptist Home in
Pittsburgh.

Civil War veterans buried in the Bethel cemetery are: George W. Berkey, George Campbell, Thomas Mahan, Simon H. Hilty, John J. Jones, Philip H.
Jones, Rev. Elias Rowland, William Larimer, Thomas W. Reese, Luther Stiles, Peter Wagner, Isaac N. Wissinger, Thomas E. Davis, Isaac Mahan. (The
Mountaineer-Herald, Ebensburg, PA, September 17, 1931)

There is an Annual Bethel Church Reunion held the second Sunday of August with a "Bring-a-Dish Picnic" at 12:30. Bring your
favorite picnic food and a lawn chair. Business meeting and worship service follows.

Anyone who would like to be added to Bethel Church the mailing list or would like to change mailing list information,
please notify one of the following:

Lewis H. Ripley, Jr., President
104 S. Center St., Suite 207
Ebensburg, PA 19031
Phone: 814-472-7850
Email: lhripley@pennswoods.net

Paul R. Carney, Vice President
4450 Ben Franklin Hwy.
Strongstown, PA 15957
Email: Ruthcarney@comcast.net

Wanda Barrett, Sec.- Treas.
1095 Industrial Ave.
Bedford, PA 15522
Email: wanda713@yahoo.com


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