The first African Methodist Episcopal church of Bellefonte was organized in 1836 by Samuel Johnson of Chambersburg, Pa. It was known as Zion's Wesleyan A.M.E. church. This organization continued until 1848.
In 1844 Rev. Willis Nazery organized a congregation in the place which was known as the A.M.E. church, and for four years there were two separate organizations. These differed only in form of government. The former believed in electing superintendents every four years, while the latter preferred ordaining bishops for life, or as long as their conduct comported with the Word of God, and as this mode of government seemed to meet the approbation of a majority of the people it was sustained by them. The church, at this time, numbered but seven members. The first place of worship was a dwelling, where they continued to meet for three years. They then removed to a school house, where services were held until 1859, when the present church was built.
Under the pastorate of the Rev. William Grimes the number increased to thirty. The new church was dedicated by Bishop D.A. Payne, D.D., B. Tanner, now editor of the Christian Recorder, Philadelphia, and Rev. James Lynch, who settled in Mississippi after the war and became secretary of State. The church at present numbers fifty-four members. The Sabbath-school about sixty. The church property is valued at twenty-five hundred dollars. The present pastor is Rev. Charles E. Herbert. The writer of this is the only one now living of the seven original members of the church.-- John Welch
There are at this time six Baptist churches in Centre County, viz: Milesburg, Bald Eagle, Unionville, Philipsburg, Eagleville and Bellefonte.
The first meetings in the county were conducted by Elder Calvin Phillco, a missionary from Vernon, Oneida County, N. Y., who preached in Bellefonte on the 14th of July, 1821.
Services were also held at Milesburg, when Joseph and Susan Miles of Bellefonte, and Hannah Green and Abigail Miles of Milesburg, applied for baptism. An organization was effected in August, 1822, consisting of fourteen members. And Charles J. Hopkins of Philadelphia, was chosen first pastor. Since that time the church has been served by the following pastors: George I. Miles, J. P. Thompson, F.B. Brown, Eli Tuttle, Charles Tucker, Father Haydock, David Williams, D.W. Hunter, Frederick Bower, George W. Bowman, D.B. Thomas, F.M. Perry, A. B. Runyan, and W.A. Biggart, who serves the church at this time. About six hundred persons have been baptized into the fellowship of this church. Eight ministers of the Gospel have been raised up by this church. Their names are: George I. Miles, Samuel Miles, Edward Miles, J. Green Miles, J.B. Hutton, F.E. Clapp, E.C. Baird, and William S. Holt. The membership of the Milesburg church, at this time, is about one hundred and sixty. They occupy a neat and substantial two-story brick building, costing, when built, about ten thousand dollars.
At Martha Furnace is located the Bald Eagle Baptist church, an independent organization, effected in 1835, by about thirty members of the Milesburg church, who resided in that neighborhood. The church has been served by the following pastors, viz: Calvin Phillco, George I. Miles, Josiah Jones, J.R. Morris, E. W. Daniels, John W. Evans, D.V. Krevlin, Geo. W. Bowman, B.B.Henshey, J.L. Holmes, and W. A. Ridge. The church numbers at this time one hundred and ten. From the date of organization, in 1835, up to 1864, the church was known as the Patton township church. At this period the name was changed to Bald Eagle, and a number of their members were dismissed, and were separately organized as the Unionville church. Rev. D.V. Krevlin became their first pastor in 1864. Since then they have been served by Revs. A.B. Runyan, and W.A. Biggart.
Philipsburg Baptist church was organized May 14, 1868, by Rev. B.B. Henshey, a missionary of the Pennsylvania General Association. Pastoral services have been rendered by the following ministers: J.L. Holmes, J.M. Perry, Robert Dunlap, D.T. Davis and W.H. Eldredge, the last named serving the church at this time.
The Liberty Baptist church, at Eagleville, has been of rapid and permanent growth. Organized February 23, 1871. First pastor, A.B. Runyan. The site of the old Lutheran church was purchased and a neat church building erected thereon. There have been one hundred and seventy-three additions to this church during its brief existence. At this time W.A. Ridge renders efficient services at Eagleville, Unionville, Julian, Martha Furnace and Port Matilda.
Prior to the date of the organization of the Baptist church in Bellefonte, May 13, 1876, the several adherents of that faith residing in the place held their membership in the Milesburg church. It was believed, however, that an independent organization should be had in Bellefonte. Accordingly, services looking toward that end were held in the court house April 18, 1875, by Rev. W.A. Biggart. By mutual consent a conference was held in the place on the 13th of May 1876 -- moderator, Rev. W.A. Ridge -- at which time Christian experience was related by the several persons whose names appear below as constituents of the church: F. Potts Green, Harvey Adams, Mercella C. Adams, Mary R. Adams, Nettie Kirk, Elizabeth North, Eliza Wells, Amelia Wells, Mrs. Kealsh, Father Keachler, W.A. Biggart and Margaret S. Biggart. Rev. W.A. Biggart was elected pastor and still continues his labors with the church. A council of recognition convened with the church August 16 of the same year, which organized by electing moderator, Rev. Thomas Swinden of Logan's valley; committee to examine doctrines of the church and report in hearing of the convention, Rev. H.F. King, A.M. Lloyd, H.L. Bunker of Hollidaysburg, Rev. W.A. Ridge of Eagleville, W.A. Biggart, F. Potts Green of Bellefonte. Committee after having carefully examined the articles of faith held by the church and finding them scriptural and in harmony with the great body of the Baptist church, reported, recommending their recognition and reception into the body, when hand of fellowship was extended the pastor by H L. Bunker and recognition sermon preached by Rev. H.F. King. The old M.E. Church was rented as a temporary place of meeting. During the one and a half years of their existence the church has grown from twelve to seventy members.--Rev. W. A. Biggart
A society of people who have been in the United States nearly one century, and are usually called Dunkards. They emigrated from Switzerland, and located on the Susquehanna River, in Lancaster County.
They have spread over quite a number of states. A small number is found in Centre County, where they hold meetings in a dozen different places throughout the year. These meetings are conducted by Conrad Long, and his son, T.A. Long, who live at Howard, and are held in private dwellings, school houses, and sometimes barns are fitted up for the occasion. Their faith is similar to that of the Friends. They believe in non-resistance, take no part in politics, fill no offices, and are "plain in their dress and address."
The St. John's Catholic church of Bellefonte, having at present one of the largest congregations in the county, was built in 1828 by Rev. Father O'Reily, who afterwards moved to Wilmington, Delaware. From 1824 to 1828 the congregation was attended by Rev. Father Haydon, then of Bedford, to which place it was attached as a Mission. Services were held in a house, later the residence of William Welsh, on High street. From the building of the church, in 1828, dates the existence of the Bellefonte Catholic Parish, in connection with which were Lock Haven, Jersey Shore, Howard, and Potter township, then Hecla and Washington Furnace, Philipsburg and Snow Shoe.
To 1868 Bellefonte Parish belonged to the Philadelphia Diocese, which was then divided into Philadelphia, Wilmington, Scranton, and Harrisburg Diocese, the latter holding, at present, the jurisdiction over this Parish. The secular priests officiated until 1857, when the Benedictines were given control, which lasted seven years. In 1864 the secular priests were again appointed, Rev. Thomas McGovern, now of Danville, Pa., being the first pastor. He remained six years, --during his pastorate, in 1867, he built the St. Mary's church of Snow Shoe. The congregation there numbers two hundred.
Since the establishment of the Bellefonte Parish, forty-nine years ago, there have been thirty-five priests, among whom were Rev. Lewis Fink, now Bishop of Leavenworth, Kansas, and Rev. Father Bernard, prior of the Benedictine Order at Newark, New Jersey. The present pastor, Rev. A. J. O'Brian, came here July 19, 1876. He was educated at St. Charles College, Philadelphia, and ordained priest November, 1874, remaining at Columbia, Pa., until he was sent to this place. At present the congregation consists principally of Irish, with a few Germans; however, the former have always largely predominated.
The church at Philipsburg was built by Rev. Father Boetzkus, who officiated as pastor for two years. At present there is no pastor stationed there--the congregation being attached to Osceola. Previous to the erection of the church, services were held in private houses. For the above facts the compiler is indebted to Mr. H. W. Brockerhoff.
A congregation or religious society known as "Disciples of Christ," or Christians, "(the title first given to the disciples of Christ about the year 41), was organized at Howard in the summer of 1832 by Elder Nathan J. Mitchell. Neither their religious principles nor the people themselves were at that time known in Centre County. Having no human creed or symbol of faith and claiming the Bible alone as the rule of faith and practice, it was incumbent upon him to make known orally the object and principles of the society. The organization consisted of five persons: Henry B. Yarnel, Job Rendel, Harriet Way, the Elder and his wife. The organization has continued to the present time. It has never exceeded eighty or ninety members, owing somewhat to death and to a constant emmigration west.
In October of 1859 the congregation at Howard erected a church in what is now the borough. Hitherto they had worshipped in dwellings and school houses. The principal contributor to this church was John P. Packer, (a brother of the Elder's wife, also of Gov. William F. Packer). He became a member of the church in 1841. The house of worship is not large, but quite comfortably arranged. It is a frame structure and cost two thousand dollars.
In 1832 Elder Mitchell extended his labors down the Bald Eagle valley to Mill Hall, which was then in Centre county, and preached in different localities between Howard and Mill Hall. The same year he organized a church in what was called the Beach Creek neighborhood. It was composed of about ninety members. Here a house of worship was erected by the joint efforts of the Mennonites and Disciples. In a short time the former surrendered their entire membership to the Disciples, who became sole owners of the building. This house was occuplied by the Disciples until 1869, when a lot on the opposite side of the public road was purchased and a large and commodious brick edifice erected. It has a capacious basement and a beautiful audience room above.
This congregation once numbered among its members ex-Sheriff J. J. Lingle, now of Philipsburg, this county; Hon. James Chatham and Orin T. Noble, Esq, both now of Lock Haven. Austin Leonard, an elder of the first organization resides in Beech Creek, three-fourths of a mile from the church. He has stood for forty-five years a pillar in the church and a citizen of irreproachable reputation. The Disciples organized a congregation in Curtin township many years ago. Their house, of a more recent date, is a pleasant and convenient building. The have a good Sunday-school and meet for worship every Lord's day.--Elder Nathan J. Mitchell
As early as the year 1804 the pioneer ministers of the Evangelical Assocation extended their field of operations to Brush and Penn's valleys, creating a new circuit and establishing points for preaching. This new circuit, which included parts of Centre and Northumberland Counties, was at first called Shamokin, and afterwards Northumberland circuit. Revs. John Walter and A. Liesser traveled this circuit for nearly a year, when Rev. J. Albright, the founder of the society, and Alexander Jimeson, took charge of it. At that period changes of ministers were made at short intervals--some remaining on a circuit less than a year. At about this time (1804) Mr. Albright came to Brush valley, Centre County, and was received by Christopher Spangler, who gave him permission to preach in his house, and was the first convert to the new sect in Brush valley, if not the first in the county. Mr. Spangler afterwards became the post and pillar of the society in his neighborhood, and was for many years a local preacher. He died in 1855 at the age of nearly eighty-nine years, deeply lamented by his numerous friends. Prior to erection of the Evangelical church at Rebersburg, in 1834, Mr. Spangler's home was the regular place for preaching, and several camp-meetings were also held on his land.
A class was formed in Brush valley in 1806, of which he was leader. Among the first members were J.G. Conser and Jacob Reber. At a later period--about1833--the following families were added: Gramlys, Meyers, Becks, and Feidlers. At Millheim a class was organized in the same year--1806. Abraham Ream, Baul Bachman, David Mark, and George Swartz, were among the first members; and at the eastern end of Penn's valley, Adam Hennig, John Wise, and Jacob Mark, were, about the same time, the leading members in that section. At a later period the following families joined the society: the Harters, Dinges', Deiningers, Kreamers, Gepharts, Hostermans and Motzes. In 1811 a class was formed near Potter's Mills, of which John Dauberman, B. Wagner, Daniel Shreffler, C. Dillman, and Abraham Ream, were the first members. Southwest of Millheim, in the neighborhood of Mussers' church, the following members joined the association about the year 1830: Adam and Philip Zerby, Jacob Neese, John Feidler, John Falkner, and Sebastian Musser--the last named subsequently entered the ministry. A camp-meeting was held in this region in 1833, at which occurred sixty conversions. There were thirty-four tents.
The churches at Rebersburg and Mussers' were built in 1834, and were the first in the county. The former was dedicated in 1834, the latter in 1835. Before the erection of meeting-houses religious services were held in private dwellings, school houses, &c.
There was a camp-meeting held at the eastern end of Penn's valley on the land of J. A. Hennig, in 1817, which is said to have been the first of the association in the county. Yet the history of the Evangelical Association makes mention of one held on the land of George Swartz, near Millheim, in 1814.
The fourth general conference of the Evangelical Association was held at the house of John A. Hennig, eastern end of Penn's valley, November 1, 1830.
An annual conference was held at Rebersburg March 28, 1836. The seventh general conference was convened at Mussers' church March 25, 1839. Rev. John Seybert was elected the first bishop of the society. There were present thirty-one ministers. An annual conference was held at Millheim March 13, 1855, and again at the same place March, 1862.
Centre circuit was formed in 1813 and was the first in the county. Prior to this date the appointments in Centre County belonged to Northumberland circuit. In 1819 Centre circuit numbered three hundred and four members. It included at one time Penn's, Brush, Stone, Sugar, Nittany and Nippenose valleys and the "German settlement" beyond Jersey Shore. At present it embraces only that part of Penn's valley lying east of Spring Mills. The number of churches is now six; members, three hundred and fifty; Sunday-schools, seven, with five hundred and seventy-five members; preachers the present year, Revs. C. F. Deininger and J. H. Peters; supernumerary preachers, Revs. Sebastian Musser and E. Stambach.
Centre Hall circuit belonged to Centre circuit until about the year 1858, when it was erected into a separate district under the name of Boalsburg circuit. It received its present name in 1872 or 1873. There are four churches and about one hundred and sixty members, one Sunday-school having fifty members. Rev. Horace Stover is the present minister.
Nittany Valley circuit was formed in the spring of 1871. Part of it lies in Clinton County. The part in Centre, contains three churches, besides five "school house appointments," and numbers two hundred and seventy-eight members, and one Sunday-school of seventy members. Revs. W. E. Detweiler and J. J. Lohr are the present ministers; Isaac Frain, local preacher.
Milesburg circuit was formed in 1876. It was formerly a part of the Boalsburg circuit. It contains five classes, numbering two hundred and twenty-five members, and two churches, besides four other appointments. There are three Sunday-schools within its limits having an aggregate of two hundred and thirty members. Present minister, Rev. J. M. King.
Brush Valley circuit was organized in the spring of 1877. There are within its limits four churches and three Sabbath-schools. Number of church members, about one hundred and sixty. Members belonging to the schools, about two hundred. Rev. John Reamer is the present preacher; Revs. Andrew J. Gramly and J. Vonada, local preachers.
From the origin of the association up to the present time the different circuits and charges have been supplied with ministers on the itinerant system, and changes are made at the end of one or two years, hence the number of preachers that have traveled in Centre county for a space of seventy-five years would be too large to enumerate. But a list of several of the first ones that labored in Centre is here presented: Jacob Albright, John Walter, George Miller, J. Erb, Leonard Zimmerman, F. Shauer, John Driesbach, Jacob Kleinfelter, John Stambach and A. Longsdorf.--Prof. Henry Meyer.
The first Lutheran church within the limits of what is now Centre County, was built in 1794, previous to which time missionaries of this denomination visited Penn's valley, preaching to the settlers and Indians alike. The first regular congregation was organized in 1773, and was called the Salem Evangelical Lutheran congregation of Aaronsburg. Arrangements were immediately made for erecting a house of worship, and the corner-stone was laid on the 1st day of May 1794, on which occasion the Rev. Christian Espich of Sunbury, officiated.
Among the memorials deposited in the corner-stone was a copy of the Denkschrift, published in 1794. The officers were---elders, Jacob Stover and Geo. Wolf, Sr.,; deacons, Nicholas Snyder and Adam Stover; building committee, Wm. Laurimere, Jno. Shuck, Jacob Stover and George Troutner. Rev. Espich continued as pastor until the year 1800, when Rev. L.A.W. Ilgen of Germany, was called to the pastoral charge. Rev. Illgen continued to serve the congregations connected with this charge, viz: Aaronsburg, Rebersburg, Loop and Penn's creek, until his death, on the 10th of August, 1823. In addition to his regular labors he frequently visited the western portions of Penn's and Nittany valleys. His successors were Rev. J.T. Abele, 1823 to 1838; Rev. Daniel Gottwald, 1838 to 1843; Rev. Charles Reese, 1843 to 1853; Rev. J.M. Alliman, 1853 to 1858; Rev. J. Walker, 1858 to 1862; Rev. D. Sell, 1862 to 1867; Rev. A.C. Falker, 1867 to 1869; Rev. P. Sahm, 1869 to 1873; Rev. John Tomlinson, 1873 to 1877.
The Penn's Creek congregation, belonging to this charge, was organized in 1801, the first after Centre County was formed. The present church edifice at Aaronsburg was built in 1852; Revs. J.M. Alliman and J.G. Auspach officating at the laying of the corner-stone. Congregations have been organized at other points in the eastern part of Brush valley, viz: Madisonburg, St. Paul's and Brumgarts, together with the name together the one at Rebersburg, previously organized, constitute a charge within themselves.
The Centre Hall Lutheran congregation was organized in 1854, Rev. Frederick Ruthrauf being the first pastor. His successors were Revs. J.T. Williams, P.P. Lane, William Poor, G.M. Settlemeyer, J.K. Miller, and W.E. Fisher. The other congregations composing the Centre Hall charge are those of Loop, Union and George's valley. The first Lutheran church at Boalsburg was built in 1825, the German Reformed congregation uniting with the Lutherans in erecting the building. They continued to worship together until the year 1860, when the Lutherans purchased the interests of the Reformed congregation. The pastor, at the time of the erection of the church, was Rev. J.T. Abele. In 1868 the stone church, built in 1825, was torn down and a brick one erected on its site. The charge is composed of the Boalsburg, Shiloh and Pleasant Gap congregations.
The first Lutheran church at Pine Grove was built in 1832. The ministers present at the dedication were Revs. Moser, Abele and Martin. Rev. Moser continued pastor of this, together with other congregations in the valley, till his death, in 1864. At present the Pine Grove and Pine Hall congregations compose one charge, with Rev. H.F. Long as pastor. The Pine Hall church was built in 1875. Congregations have existed for many years at Gatesburg and Centre Line, the Rev. Smith at present being the pastor. The Shiloh Lutheran church located about six miles from Bellefonte, along the Bellefonte and Boalsburg turnpike, was built in 1868. Previous to that time the public school building was used as a place of worship. The Pleasant Gap church was built in 1869. It formerly belonged to the Bellefonte charge, but has lately been connected with the Boalsburg charge.
The Nittany Valley charge was originally composed of the Bellefonte, Zion, Snydertown and Jacksonsville congregations, with several congregations now within the boundaries of Clinton county. The first pastor was Rev. L. C. Eggers, who was succeeded by Revs. Jacob Albert, Henry Ziegler, L. K. Secrist, J. C. Burkhalter, W. L. Heisler and J. A. Bright. In Bellefonte the Lutherans and Reforms were joint owners of a church property for many years. In 1869 the Lutherans sold their interest in the church to the latter, and purchased a property in the central portion of the town, on High Street, which has been neatly fitted up. Rev. W. H. Diven is the pastor at present. As far as we are able to learn there are now about twenty Lutheran congregations in Centre county, with eight ministers to supply them with preaching. The church properties are all in good condition, most of them being almost entirely new.--Clement Dale, Esq.
The first introduction into Centre County of the peculiar views believed in by this sect, was by Rev. J.R. Gates, in 1842. His labors were mostly confined to Nittany valley. He, however, did not attempt the organization of a church. In 1845-6, Rev. J.D. Boyer visited the county and permanently located. The first church organized is now known as the Marsh Creek church, some three miles from Milesburg, and subsequently a house of worship was erected on land belonging to Joseph Eckley. Mr. Boyer extended his labors to most of the neighborhoods in the county, as well as into adjoining counties, and organized churches, which, up to 1858, acted entirely independent of each other, under the general name of "Second Adventists." In that year a State conference was called for the purpose of forming an organization which should bind these churches together. At this meeting the name "Messiah's Church" was adopted, to distinguish this body from those holding the general name of "Adventists."
The congregations in Centre County, at present, are as follows: Central City, Marsh Creek, Dix's Run, Zion, Snow Shoe, Pine Glen, and Moshannon, all of which have church edifices except those of Central City and Moshannon. These congregations have been served by the following ministers: Revs. M. L. Jackson, T. Hollen, H. P. Cutter, J. Zeigler, and J. A. Aldred.
As far back as the year 1800 the old Methodist preachers passed through what is now called Centre County, and, wherever an opening presented, proclaimed the Gospel. On horseback and frequently on foot, (for they were men of great endurance), they traveled long distances through summer' heat and winter's cold with a Bible, hymn book and a few choice volumes of Wesley's and Fletcher's works, and patiently and faithfully instructed the people in the doctrines of Methodism, which they believed to be in accordance with the inspired Scriptures and best suited to men's consciences.
The first preachers who traveled Centre and adjoining counties were John Thomas, who, in advanced life, became an associate judge, in Lycoming county, and was highly esteemed by all who knew him; Joseph Rhoads, Henry Minshall, Marmaduke Pearce, James Stevens, and others who, despite their toils and privations, attained to old age, and were permitted by Divine Providence to witness the success which followed their efforts. The first charges or circuit included in Centre county were Bald Eagle, Aughwick and Huntingdon. These have been divided and sub-divided until Centre County itself now has nine circuits and stations, with thirty-one regular appointments, two thousand one hundred and fifty-eight church members, twenty-six Sunday-schools, two thousand and sixty-six Sunday-school children, three hundred and seventeen officers and teachers, and about fifteen thousand volumes in the libraries.
There are nine regular traveling preachers appointed annually to take charge of the work. There are also six local preachers, a large number of exhorters, stewards and church class leaders. For many years after the commencement of Methodism in Centre County there were no houses of public worship belonging to that denomination, but frequently, on stumps, on the corners of the streets, in dwelling houses, in school houses, and when permitted, in summer time, in barns, the minister proclaimed the Gospel. The first Methodist church in Centre County was, probably, the one located in Penn's valley, named the Pennington Church, after the proprietors of the land. It was built of logs.
In the bounds of Centre county itself there are, at present, twenty-six houses of worship belonging entirely to the Methodist Episcopal denomination, valued at $89,000. Many of them are beautiful and imposing edifices; instance the one in Bellefonte, also the one in Philipsburg, and in other places. There are four parsonages, valued at $3,500, and other church property belonging to the society, of considerable value.--Rev. Elisha Butler
The earliest effort that is now known to have been made in this county towards the establishment of the Protestant Episcopal church, was made in the town of Philipsburg, in 1820. Mr. Hardman Philips, an English gentleman, scholarly and polished, of superior business ability, and a large proprietor, deeded a lot of ground for the use of the people of Philipsburg and vicinity, to be used as a burying place for all denominations.
On the lot stood a new log building, of rather large size, well chinked and daubed, and used as a school and meeting house. It was built by the people of the settlement, all contributing material and work. A town meeting was called, and trustees were appointed to take charge of the place. Regular church services were not held there, however, for many years; but Sunday worship was rendered in full at the "Big House." or Philips' mansion, by Mrs. Sophie Philips herself, at first. The Methodists chiefly used the log house at this time, though it was not absolutely given up to them. The Rev. Dr. Bull, of Chester County, and the Rev. Mr. Smith of Meadeville, were the first to officiate there.
The first organization was effected under the name of "Trinity Church," on the 15th day of May, 1834. At that time it appears that Dr. John Plumb and Mr. Hardman Philips were elected wardens, and William Bagshaw, James McGirk, John Matley, Richard Taylor, Joseph Glew, John Plumb, Jr., and Joseph Dale, Jr., vestrymen. In 1868 the Presbyterians got possession of the old building, and the corporate name was changed to St. Paul's church, when a new charter was obtained and a new building erected on a lot deeded by Mrs. R. C. Hale.
In the year 1826 Mrs. Harriet Wilson and a sister, who afterwards became Mrs. James Gregg, residents of the town of York, where they had received the rite of confirmation, or laying-on-of-hands, from Bishop White, moved to Bellefonte, in the hope that change of air and scenery might benefit their somewhat impaired health. One Rev. D. Hall, whose acquaintance they had made in York, gave them letters commending them to the pastoral care of the nearest Episcopal minister, the Rev. Mr. Piggott, then at Lewistown. They found in Bellefonte Major James Armor, who had been baptized in youth at Carlisle, this state, but of late had been separated from his church associations; and also a Mr. Magee, who for forty years had been deprived of the services of the Episcopal church. Soon after the arrival of the Misses Wilson in Bellefonte, the Rev. Mr. Piggott made a visit to these stray sheep, and held public services in the town. Many of the people who were present at those services were so much pleased that they invited him to repeat it. The church was new to all the Bellefonte people except the persons already mentioned, and to Colonel James Burnside (afterwards Judge) and Dr. Irvin, who had attended its services occasionally in Philadelphia.
Mr. Piggott finally agreed to hold services in the town every third Sunday, but the interest soon so increased that the little band desired to meet weekly, and made an effort to have lay-reading. Accordingly, a Mr. Keehler, who, thought a member of the Moravian church, became very much attached to the Episcopal church, consented to act in the capacity of lay-reader, and Mr. Armor offered for use the upper story of his cabinet warehouse, which stood where Mrs. Petrikin's house now stands. Here the little congregation assembled, and Major Armor acted as clerk, making all the necessary responses after the manner at that time so common in the church of England. Services were afterwards held for a time in the school room over the Masonic Lodge.
Soon Bellefonte attained to the dignity of a mission station, and was regularly served by the several rectors of the church at Lewistown who succeeded Mr. Piggott, until August 26, 1836, when a meeting of the congregation was held and a parish organization effected by the election of a vestry composed of the following named gentlemen, to wit: James Armor, James T. Hale, James P. Gregg, George Buchanan, Benjamin Burnett, William Irvin, James Burnside, Charles B. Callahan and Constans Curtin. There seems to have been no church building, however, until the Rev. George W. Natt, of holy memory, entered upon the rectorship of the parish in August, 1838. It was then that the question of the establishment of the church here was permanently settled. With a zeal and earnestness to which many men are utter strangers, Mr. Natt set about the work of building. Judge Hale donated the lot, and the house in which the Lutheran congregation now worships was erected. In 1843 a rectory was built, which was disposed of at the time of the building, in 1869, of the new and beautiful and commodious Gothic stone church edifice on the corner of Allegheny and Lamb streets.
During the present year, 1877, Mr. William F. Reynolds, one of the oldest members of the parish, has erected on the church lot, at his own cost, and presented to the congregation, a very handsome and convenient house, to be used as a rectory.
The congregation has the reputation of being both influential and wealthy, and of those who have passed out of earthly sight the memory of such men as the Hon. Judges Hale, Burnside and Shaler, and Major James Armor, is still fondly cherished. The society is, at this writing, in a flourishing condition and has a prosperous future before it.--Rev. John Hewitt.
The sketch of this church is, unavoidably incomplete. Judge Linn had been selected to prepare it, but professional duties has prevented him from doing so up to the time of going to press. This is very much regretted by the publishers, as the Presbyterian church has been one of the most prominent ones in the county since the days of General Potter. The leading families among the first settlers were of that faith, and early organized themselves into congregations.
One of the first churches built, if not the first, was at Centre Hall, about a mile from Potter's Mills. It was called Sinking Creek church; General Potter being the leading spirit in its construction and the organization of a congregation in its neighborhood. Among the first preachers were Rev. Mr. Wiley and Rev. Mr. Martin, who also preached at Spring Mills. Rev. William Stewart was pastor of Sinking Creek and Spring Creek churches in 1818, and for some years after. Of the families connected with the Presbyterian church in the county in early times, were the Potters, McKims, Loves, Irvins, Duncans, Fosters, Jameses, Woodses, Kelleys, Barners, Hutchinsons, Curtins, Rankins, Hustons, Lowreys, Humeses, Wilsons, Harrises, Dunlaps, Williamses, Mileses, Halls, Petrikins, Steeles, and many other people of prominence. A church was organized in Bellefonte soon after the town was laid out.
The first regularly installed pastor was Rev. Henry R. Wilson, who took charge of the united congregations of Bellefonte and Lick Run in 1803. In 1809 he was succeeded by Rev. James Linn, who continued his pastoral care of the Bellefonte congregation till his death, which occurred on the 23d of February, 1868, having faithfully served his people more than half a century. In 1860 Rev. J. H. Barnard became assistant pastor, remaining till 1866, when he was followed by Rev. Alfred Yeomans, who continued as Dr. Linn's assistant three years. In November, 1869, Rev. W.T. Wylie took charge of the congregation, remaining as its pastor till May, 1876, when he was succeeded by the present minister, Rev. Wm. Laurie. This congregation has a fine house of worship, costing about $40,000.
There are now, in all, twelve or fourteen congregations in the county, with a membership of not less than twelve hundred. The following was furnished by Rev. W. O. Wright: The foundation for the Moshannon Presbyterian church was laid in September, 1851, on land donated by James Gilliland and Henry Vandyke. The principal contributors were Henry Vandyke, James Gilliland, Sarah Miles., James Marshal, John Holt and William and John Baird. The whole cost of the building was about fourteen hundred dollars, two hundred of which was contributed by the "Church Erection Fund." This was the first church erected in this part of Centre county. The church was organized September 25, 1852, in what is known as "the Askey school house," by the Rev. James Linn. The first communion service was held in the church July 23, 1854, and on this date the church was dedicated, the Revs. James Linn, D.D., and Robert Hamill, D. D., officiating. The Rev. B.E. Collins was the first pastor, who began his labors April 29, 1855, and was installed pastor September 4, 1855. His pastorate ended April 4, 1958. The Rev. John P. Clark supplied the church from April, 1860, to October, 1860. On February 8, 1861, he was called by the church, and began his labors in May, 1861, and closed them March, 1864. The Rev. R.M. Campbell supplied the church for sometime, beginning in 1868. During Mr. Campbell's time W.M. Horner and John Holt were elected ruling elders. The Rev. William Prideaux served this church till April, 1868.
In March 1869, the churches of Moshannon and Snow Shoe made a call for the Rev. W.O. Wright for one-half of his time. Though Mr. Wright had preached for this people previously, he entered formally on his work July 17, 1869, and on May 10, 1870, was installed pastor of the churches of Moshannon and Snow Shoe.
The Snow Shoe church was incorporated on August 24th, 1868. The entire cost of the building and furnishiing, was $3,399.83--of this amount $1,780.30 was contributed by the members of the Bellefonte & Snow Shoe Railroad Company, and Bellefonte friends. A friend of R. H. Downing, president of company, contributed $700, and the balance $549.43, by John S. Sommerville and son. In July, 1869, this church was consolidated with the Moshannon church, which thus constituted one ecclesiastical organization. At this time there were only two members at Snow Shoe, viz: John S. Sommerville and Mrs. Sarah Sommerville, his wife; but, on the above date sixteen persons were added to the church. At this time the Rev. W.O. Wright was pastor elect of the church of Moshannon and Snow Shoe, and, on the 10th of May, 1870, he was installed pastor, the Rev. W.T. Wylie of Bellefonte, and the Rev. Robert Hamill, D.D., officiating. Eighty-eight persons have united with the Snow Shoe branch. The elders, at this date, are John S. Sommerville, J. Harbison Holt, William Askey and T.D. Weaver.
The Milesburg church was erected by the Bellefonte Presbyterian church. In 1868 this church was organized by a committee of the Presbytery of Huntingdon. The sacrament of the Lord's supper was first observed Sept. 20, 1868, and eight new members united with the church, during which time the Rev. W.O. Wright was stated supply of the church, and installed pastor May 10, 1870. June 21, J.H. Linn, Daniel P. Shope and William B. Thomas were elected ruling elders. Since March 5, 1868, to the present time, November, 1877, seventy-three persons have united with this church, which with the original eighteen, make ninety-one. This church has had but one pastor since its organization.--W.O. Wright.
The Quakers were among the first settlers of that part of Centre County known as Bald Eagle valley and Half Moon township. From Muncy, from Adams, and from Chester County, came the Fishers, the Wilsons, the Spencers, the Moores, and the Givens, with others, men of hgih moral character, the effects of whose honest industry were seen in the rapid opening and improvement of the country around, and whose descendants in many cases still occupy the land held by their fathers. At least two meeting houses were built by them, one of which is still in use, while others have since been built in that part of the county. About 1828 the memorable division took place which divided the society of Friends into two distinct parties, called, respectively, Hicksite, and Orthodox.
Prior to the year 1830 there was no Friend's meeting house in Bellefonte. About that time George Valentine and his brothers, with their partner, William A. Thomas, determined to build one on their own ground, and at their own expense, for the accommodation of any Friend, who might desire to hold a meeting. They were all by birth members of the society, and after the building was finished, they invited William Fisher, and some others from Half Moon, to come and open the house for regular use. It was done, and from that time meetings have been held in it on the Firstday and Fourthday of every week. In 1837 a committee from Baltimore yearly meeting visited Bellefonte, and, after consultation and exchange of opinion with the Friends of Bellefonte, the latter united with the body of Orthodox Friends. They were formally created into a monthly meeting and made part of Dunning's Creek Quarterly Meeting in Bedford county, which is now held alternately in Bellefonte and at Dunning's Creek, and reports annually to the Orthodox yearly meeting of Friends in Baltimore.
The rise of the Friend's meeting in Bellefonte seems worthy of some notice. It was established by four or five men, who, making no special profession of religion, yet yielded to a simple apprehension of duty, and built a house for the worship of God. All of them became faithful, humble followers of the Lord Jesus, and to one of them was committed the ministry of the Gospel of Christ.
"Friends' meeting" is still regularly held in Bellefonte, and is largely composed of the descendants of those who established it.--Mrs. Julia Valentine.
Among the early settlers of the county were a number of members of the Reformed church. Of these may be named Revs. Jonathan Rahauser, (1789-1793), George Geistweit, (1794-1804), Jacob Dieffenbach, (1808-1810). Rev. Yost H. Fries, having visited the Aaronsburg and Rebersburg congregations twice in 1811, became their regular pastor in 1812. The latter he served until about 1827 and the former until about 1833. Rev. Henry Rassman was the first Reformed minister who resided in Centre county. In April, 1812, at the advanced age of 59 years, he was licensed to preach and at once became pastor of all the Reformed churches in the county, excepting the two congregations served by Rev. Fries. At first there were only three congregations and forty-five communicants in his charge. By his industry and zeal, however, the churches were multiplied. In 1827 he was compelled, by the infirmities of age, to lay down his shepherd's crook, and on December 23 1832, died at the age of 79 years, 8 months and 3 days.
Rev. B. S. Schneck, D.D., who, since 1825, had been stationed at Snydertown, became Mr. Rassman's successor in January, 1828, and also that of Mr. Fries in the Rebersburg congregation. He was now the pastor of all the Reformed congregations, save Aaronsburg, in Penn's, Brush, Sugar, and Nittany valleys. These were seven in number. Bringing youthful vigor and ardor to the work, and being possessed of more than ordinary preaching powers, he labored in this vast field with encouraging success until June, 1832, when he was succeeded by Rev. P. S. Fisher. The latter was plain, practical and popular as a preacher, and highly esteemed as a man. To his faithful and efficient labors the Reformed church in this county is very largely indebted. In the course of about a year he added to this already large and laborious field the Aaronsburg congregation. Such was his success that he not only organized but also laid the foundation for other congregations. When he closed his pastorate here in October, 1857, the field which he alone originally occupied was so extended and strengthened that there were five pastoral charges, with twenty-one congregations and one thousand three hundred and forty-five communicant members in it.
There are now eighteen congregations with about one thousand three hundred and fifty communicants in the county. Below we give the names by which congregations are most commonly known. With these are given, in parenthesis, the time when and the names of the clergymen by whom they were organized, as correctly as the writer was able to ascertain: Rebersburg, (1790*, J. Rahauser+); Penn's Creek, (1801, G. Geistweit+); Jacksonville, (1812, H. Rassman); Loop, (1812, H. Rassman); Boalsburg, (1822*, H. Rassman); Madisonburg, (1832*, P.S. Fisher); Union, (1835*, P.S. Fisher); Bellefonte, (Dec. 1836, E. Kieffer) Pine Grove, (Jan. 1837, E.Kieffer); Zion, (1844, W.R. Yearick); Pine Hall, (1850*, P.S. Fisher); Marsh Creek, (1852, W.R. Yearick); St. Paul's, (Oct. 1852, M.A. Smith); Centre Hall, (Dec. 11th, 1853, P.S. Fisher); Nazereth, (1857, D.G. Kline); Grace Chapel, (1869*, W.G. Engle); Snydertown, (1825, B.S. Schneck, D.D.).
The Boalsburg charge is now composed of the Boalsburg, Loop, Centre Hall, Pine Hall and Pine Grove congregations. It was served by Rev. B.S. Schneck, D.D., (died April 19, 1874), 1828-1832; Rev. P.S. Fisher, (died May 22, 1873), 1832-1857; and by Rev. W.H. Groh, the present pastor, since Dec. 20, 1857.
The Bellefonte charge is now composed of the Bellefonte and Zion congregations. It was served by Rev. E. Kieffer (died May 11, 1871), 1836-1840; and Rev. J.L. Reber, (died Aug 1, 1856), 1843-1844; Rev. W.R. Yearick, 1844-1852; Rev. G.T. Foy, (deposed 1853), 1852-1853; Rev. J.S. Shade, 1854-1856; Rev. D.G. Klein, 1857-1863; Rev. E.S. Sheip (died July 26, 1866), 1864-1866; Rev. D.W. Kelley, (died Feb. 3, 1877), 1867-1868; Rev. D.M. Wolf, 1870-1873; Rev. H. King, the present pastor, since 1873.
The Rebersburg charge has been modified since its existence in 1843. It now consists of six congregations of which only three, namely, Rebersburg, Madisonburg, and Grace Chapel, are in this county. It was served by Rev. J. L. Reber, 1843-1844; Rev. W. R. Yearick, 1844-1847; Rev. J. D. Zehring, 1847-1851; Rev. D. S. Tobias, (died Oct. 29, 1864), 1851-1864; Rev. C. F. Hoffmeier, (died Apr. 19, 1877), 1865-1868; Rev. W. G. Engle, 1868-1872; and by Rev. W. M. Landis, the present pastor, since 1872.
The Nittany charge was constructed in different ways since its organization in 1847. It now consists of five congregations. The following three only are in this county, viz: Jacksonsville, Snydertown, and Marsh Creek, and since 1847 has been served by Revs. W. R. Yearick, P. A. Schwartz, I. S. Weisz, J. K. Millet, H. D. Darbaker, and G. P. Hartzell, the present pastor.
The Aaronsburg charge was organized in 1852, and is composed of four congregations, viz: Aaronsburg, Penn's Creek, Union, and St. Paul's, and since 1852 has been served by Revs. M.A. Smith, L.C. Edmunds, S. Kuhn, C.H. Reiter, and J.G. Shoemaker.
Each of these eighteen congregations has a house of worship, but seven are so-called "Union" churches, owned conjointly by Reformed and Lutherans. Some are comparatively new. Each pastoral charge possesses a good parsonage. It is estimated that all this church property is worth about $50,000.
In her early history in this county, she made exclusive of the German language in her religious services, but the English language was gradually introduced, and now more than one-half her worship is conducted in this language.--Rev. W.H. Groh * means about + means probably
At an early day a log church was built by these people upon or near the site of their present building in Bellefonte. Among the early and earnest workers of the denomination in Centre county, were the Roops, Waites, James Barthurst, for many year a local preacher, Martin Houser, Alexander Edmiston, Solomon Barlet, and Abraham Switzer.
Centre County is included in the Eastern district of Allegheny Conference, and is divided into three circuits, each of which is in charge of a regularly ordained minister, besides whom there are ten local preachers in the district. Rev. W. H. Mattern is pastor of the Bellefonte circuit; Rev. J. F. Tallhelm of Port Matilda circuit; and Rev. J. M. Smith of Millheim circuit. There are in all fifteen church buildings in the district, and an aggregate memberhip of not less than six hundred, with fifteen Sabbath-schools, having seven hundred members.