As early as 1802, at Presque Isle, or Erietown, as it was variously
called, a Presbyterian congregation not then organized into a church
sought ministerial services from the Presbytery of Erie, which had been
organized the year before. In 1803, in connection with Upper and Lower
Greenfield, it extended a call to Rev. Robert Patterson, although for some
reason the call seems not to have been prosecuted, or at least his
services not secured for the congregation at Erietown. Rev. Johnston
Eaton, who had been licensed to preach August 22, 1805, came in 1806 into
Erie County, and preached his first sermon "in a small log tavern at
the mouth of Walnut Creek, kept by Capt. Swan." The fragment of an
old journal recites something of his early experience: "Preached
three months to the congregations of Erietown, Springfield and Mill Creek,
beginning July, 1806, at $90 per quarter." After this we have no
account of regularly sustained services at Erietown for several years.
In 1815, an engagement was made with Rev. J. Eaton to give one-third of
his time to the congregation at Erie. The remainder of his time was
divided between Fairview and North East.
In September, 1815, the church was regularly organized, services were then
held and for awhile subsequently in the old court house. This was the
general rendezvous for public services of all kinds. Judah Colt, who was a
prominent member of the church, and one of its Elders, had erected on
Sassafras street, where is now the residence of William Bell, Esq., a
frame building, which was used in part for school purposes. This became
the first regular place of worship for the new church, and was familiarly
known for many years as "the yellow meeting-house."
Among the most prominent of the early members of the church and
congregation were Judah Colt, Giles Sanford, Robert McClelland, Thomas
Laird, John Evans, John Grubb, William Arbuckle, George Selden, Robert and
George Davison, Samuel Hays, George A. Eliot, Thomas H. Sill, Joseph M.
Sterrett. Other leading citizens, such as P. S. V. Hamot, had sittings in
the church, and contributed to the support of worship.
In 1818, Rev. J. Eaton gave one-half of his time to the church at Erie,
the other half being devoted to the church of Fairview. This arrangement
continued for five years.
April 13, 1825, Rev. David McKinney, a graduate of Jefferson College, and
a licentiate of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, was ordained and installed
pastor of the First Church of Erie. Rev. Timothy Alden preached the sermon
and Rev. Samuel Tait delivered the charges. This relation continued until
April 22, 1829, when at his own request it was dissolved. In 1824, a brick
edifice, large and commodious for the existing wants of the society, was
built upon the site of the present edifice.
Judah Colt, whose interest in the church was unflagging, gave the society
the use of a room in a block owned by himself on French street for evening
prayer meetings. After his death, a building known as the session room,
was built adjoining the church, and used for social worship.
Rev. George A. Lyon, of Dickinson College and Princeton Theological
Seminary, was ordained by the Presbytery of Erie, and installed pastor of
the First Church on the 9th of September, 1829. Rev. Giles Doolittle, of
North East, preached the sermon, and Rev. Wells Bushnell and Rev. Thomas
Anderson delivered the charges.
Large accessions were made to the church during 1831-32, years which were
marked by great religious interest throughout the country. In 1857, more
than a hundred were received at one time as the fruits of a revival, and
in 1865 ninety were added in the same manner.
At the great division in the Presbyterian Church in 1838, the First Church
attached itself to the New School Assembly.
On June 14, 1859, the corner-stone of the present elaborate and beautiful
church edifice was laid. The building committee consisted of D. S. Clark,
Josiah Follansbee, P. G. Finn and Samuel A. Davenport. The building was
not wholly finished until February 26, 1862. The basement lecture room was
completed and occupied for religious services March 25, 1860. The Sabbath
congregations continued to worship there until the upper audience room was
dedicated February 26, 1862. The first Elders of the church were Judah
Colt and George Selden. In 1832, there were elected John Dunlap, Alexander
McClelland, Samuel Love and William Arbuckle. In 1857, William Himrod, J.
D. Clark, Robert Davidson, David S. Clark. In 1865, David Shirk, Samuel
Selden, Joseph A. French. In 1871, James Lytle, Pressly Arbuckle, J. F.
Downing. January 2, 1875, E. Woodruff, D. B. Callender and R. S. Moffett.
July 18, 1883, James M. Gordon and Edward P. Selden, the latter two being
chosen to fill the vacancy made by the death of Samuel Selden and David B.
Callender. March 24, 1871, Rev. Dr. Lyon, who had completed nearly
forty-three years of ministry to the same congregation, and whose labors
had been marked by signal ability and success, died, greatly beloved and
Rev. A. H. Carrier, who had been called to the associate pastorate just
previous to this event, began his services April 30, 1871, commemorative
of his esteemed predecessor. He was installed pastor December 7 of the
same year. In the fall of 1879, Mr. Carrier resigned, and in the following
May, a call was extended to Rev. William S. Fulton, who was installed in
the fall of 1880, and is the present pastor of the church. The church
membership is now 383. At the semi-Centennial Celebration of the church
held in 1875, the pastor, Rev. A. H. Carrier, thus spoke:
"This church -- we say it in no self-glorying spirit -- has been by
force of its position, at the foundation of the present religious life of
this city. The Associate Reformed, now the United Presbyterian, shares
with it this pre-eminence. This church however, has been fruitful in
colonies. In the organization of the Episcopal Church, you meet with many
of the same names which you had before met with upon the subscription roll
and church records of this congregation. In the organization of the
Baptist church the same fact is in some measure true. * * *
"The church in East Mill Creek or Belle Valley was a child of this.
"Upon the rolls of Park Church, organized in 1854, recorded there as
its founders, are the cherished and honored names of many who had been for
years in the front rank of supporters and workers here, or who had been
baptized at its font, been taught in its Sabbath school and had grown up
under its influences.
"The Central Church organized February, 1871, was a transplantation
at once of officers from its session, an associate pastor from its pulpit,
workers from its Sabbath school, and members from its community." * *
Park Presbyterian Church
Several attempts had been made previous to the spring of 1855 to establish
an Old-School Presbyterian Church in Erie, but had proved unsuccessful.
Park Church may date its commencement in April of this year. The first
service was held in a room in the fourth story of Cadwell's Block, on
State street, April 29, 1855, conducted by Rev. William Wilson and Rev. S.
J. M. Eaton. About thirty persons were present. The next meeting place was
in Gensheimer's Hall, where, on the 28th of June, 1855, the church was
organized by a committee, appointed by the Presbytery of Erie, consisting
of Rev. James W. Dickey and Rev. S. J. McEaton, with Elders William
Campbell, of Washington and James L. Reed, of Mill Creek. The names
enrolled at that time as members of the church were William Arbuckle, S.
S. Spencer, D. B. McCreary, Dyer W. Fitch and Mrs. Julia A. Fitch, his
wife, Mrs. Mary Shattuck, Miss Sarah Ward, Mrs. Mary W. Fleury and Miss
On the third Sabbath of July, 1855, a Sabbath school was organized with
twenty-five or thirty scholars. Rev. William Wilson and others supplied
the church till May, 1856, when, by permission of the Presbytery, Rev.
William M. Blackburn, then of the Presbytery of Lake, was invited to
become "stated supply" of the church for one year. Mr. Blackburn
accepted the invitation, and began his labors May 25, 1856. At that time
the church numbered twenty-four members. During the following year, under
Mr. Blackburn's efficient care, the church and Sabbath school grew
rapidly; a large Bible class was organized; the congregation increased;
the benevolent operations of the church were carried on with regularity
and energy. May 27, 1857, Mr. Blackburn was installed pastor of the
church. At that time there were thirty-five communicants. During the
summer and autumn of 1857, the present house of worship was erected. It
was dedicated December 22, with thanksgiving and gladness; sermon by Rev.
Frederick T. Brown, then of Cleveland, Ohio. In 1858, forty-six persons
were added to the church upon a profession of their faith -- the largest,
with one exception, which Park Church has yet enjoyed. After seven years
of faithful and fruitful labor. Mr. Blackburn accepted a call, on account
of his health, to the pastoral care of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of
Trenton, N. J., to the great regret of his loving flock in Erie.
On the 22d of February, 1864, Rev. George F. Cain, then of Stroudsburg,
Penn., was unanimously chosen to be pastor of Park Church. The call was
accepted, and Mr. Cain was installed shortly afterward. At that time there
were 127 communicants. There had been many added to the church, but there
had also been frequent removals, and some had "fallen asleep" in
In April, of same year, the parsonage on the corner of Sassafras and
Seventh streets, was purchased, the congregation joining with great zeal
and unanimity in thus providing a beautiful and comfortable home for their
During year ending April, 1866, was marked by a gracious effusion of the
Holy Spirit. Ninety-two communicants were added to the church, of whom
sixty-eight professed for the first time their faith in Christ.
In April, 1870, the pastoral relation between Mr. Cain and the church was
dissolved, in order that Mr. Cain might accept a call to the Alexander
Church in Philadelphia. The resolutions in which this congregation
assented to Mr. Cain's request for a dissolution of his pastorate,
expressed deep and heartfelt regret. When Mr. Cain left the church, it was
composed of 242 communicants.
December 7, 1870, Rev. James Otis Denniston, of Matawan, N. J., was called
to the pastoral charge, which office he fulfilled with earnestness and
fidelity till April, 1872.
September 9, 1872, Rev. Thomas Fullerton was elected pastor, and entered
upon his work in October. There were in December of that year 196 members
in Park Church.
The Ruling Elders of the church have been S. S. Spencer, elected June 28,
1855; David Agnew, elected June 28, 1856; D. W. Fitch, elected June 4,
1859; Thomas Taber, elected June 4, 1859; Edward J. Cowell, elected
December 9, 1865; Andrew H. Cahey, elected December 9, 1865; William
Himrod, elected January 4, 1868; N. J. Clark, elected January 4, 1868;
Charles C. Converse, Riley Burdett, William Spencer and William T. Birch,
all ordained October 31, 1875.
In 1877, the beautiful chapel and Sabbath school rooms fronting on Seventh
street and connected with the main church edifice by a corridor, was
erected at a cost of $6,500.
The interior of the main building was tastefully frescoed in 1882, and a
fine organ put in, the entire cost being $9,000. The present membership is
265. A Sabbath school has been maintained continually from the beginning.
Present enrollment, 200.
The Central Presbyterian Church
This church was formally organized by a committee appointed by the
Presbytery of Erie, consisting of Rev. William Grassie and Rev. S. G.
Hopkins, February 23, 1871; the services were held in Walther's Hall. The
original membership consisted of fifty-four persons. At the time of the
organization, David Shirk and Joseph A. French were chosen Elders. Shortly
afterward, the church extended a unanimous call to Rev. Charles C.
Kimball, which he accepted, and May 11, 1871, was installed by a committee
from the Presbytery. Rev. George W. Cleveland, presiding, Rev. A. Sinclair
preaching the sermon. Rev. John E. Wright charging the pastor, and Rev. J.
T. Oxtoby the church. After the installation, the Sabbath services of the
church were held for two years in Temperance Hall (Dreisigaker's Block,
east side of State, between Seventh and Eighth streets), and there
continued to be held for about two years. During the first year of the
church's existence, the valuable and desirable lot on the northeast corner
of Tenth and Sassafras streets was purchased, and on the 2d of August,
1872, ground was broken for the erection of the stone church edifice which
now graces that site, and serves the congregation as a place for worship.
This edifice was completed and opened for worship Sabbath morning, June 8,
1873, with impressive ceremonies. Brief addresses were made to the Sabbath
school by the pastor, Rev. C. C. Kimball, the Superintendent and others,
and at 11 o'clock a sermon was delivered by the pastor. On the following
evening, the church was dedicated to the service of God. The ceremonies
commenced with an anthem, followed by prayer and the reading of the 24th
Psalm by Rev. Dr. Stever. The pastor then gave a brief sketch of the
history and cost of the building, after which brief remarks were made by
Rev. Mr. Stone, Rev. Dr. Wheeler, Rev. M. Grassie, Rev. Capt. Kitwood,
Rev. Dr. John H. Vincent and Rev. Dr. Fullerton. The building, as then
completed and now stands, was designed for Sabbath school purposes, the
membership intending to build thereto the main church structure. The
edifice is constructed of Ogdensburg blue limestone trimmed with Amherst,
Ohio, sandstone, and is, in size, 67x45 feet; below is the audience room
seated with chairs, and four parlors and other rooms above tastefully
finished and furnished throughout. It is of Gothic style of architecture
and cost, in the neighborhood of $25,000, it and the lot upon which it
stands costing about $33,000. Within the first eleven months, the number
of communicants was doubled, and in December, 1872, the number of
communicants was 157. The Sabbath school had a similar rapid growth; it
was organized in Walther's Hall February 11, 1871, with a total attendance
of thirty-five scholars. On May 14 of the same year, they removed to
Temperance Hall, which quarters they occupied until the completion of
their chapel June 8, 1873. In less than one year, it reached an average
attendance of 227, and contributed for its own purposes and benevolence
the handsome sum of $1,069.47.
Early in the year 1874, W. R. Davenport, G. W. F. Sherwin and George Reed
were elected Elders, and Joseph A. French was re-appointed to active
service in the eldership (David Shirk died while serving as Elder,
November 21, 1873). In January, 1877, Elders Joseph A. French and George
Reed were re-elected to active service for the term of six years, and
Charles Metcalf, George E. Barger, C. C. Shirk and William Smith were
added to the eldership, and at the expiration of that time all were
re-elected and are now serving the church as Elders.
October 12, 1878, Rev. Mr. Kimball was dismissed from the pastorate at his
own request, to accept a call to a church in Kansas City, Mo. He preached
for the congregation at Erie until the first Sabbath in November of that
year. His successor to the pastorate of this church was Rev. Solon Cobb,
of New Bedford, Mass., who was installed by the Presbytery of Erie on the
evening of December 26, 1878, and now occupies that relation with the
The twelve years of the church's existence have all been years of growth
and fruitfulness. Unity, harmony and cordial fellowship, have marked all
of their meetings and activities. For twelve years, constant increase of
membership at each and every communion season has been as unvarying as the
seed time and harvest of the natural world. During the past year of the
church's history, forty-four persons have entered into fellowship with the
church, thirty-five on confession of faith and nine by letter; fourteen
have been dismissed to form a connection with other churches, and five
have passed on to the heavenly land. Since the organization of the church
to the original membership of fifty-four, 446 have been added on
confession of faith, and 191 by letter -- in all 637 -- an average of
about fifty-three a year. The roll has included 691 names. Of these,
thirty-four have died, 124 have been dismissed, twenty-eight retired, and
twelve dropped, leaving the present membership in April, 1883, 493. The
church has received and paid out for building, current expenses, general
benevolence, etc., during the twelve years, about $95,000.
The Sabbath school has been under the care of the same Superintendent, Mr.
C. C. Shirk, ever since its organization. Commencing with a membership of
forty-five, it has increased until there are now enrolled 565 names; and
295 of the scholars have joined the church, an average of about
twenty-four a year.
Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church
Early in July, 1870, a Sabbath school was opened in the house of Mr. C. W.
Brown on Eighteenth, between Chestnut and Walnut streets, through the
efforts of three lay members of the First Presbyterian and Park
Presbyterian Churches. The first Sabbath but one scholar accepted the
invitation previously extended, and was present. Two Sabbaths later, the
attendance increased to seventy-five, and as a result a school was
organized in a room fitted up for the occasion near the present house of
worship. From this time to the 1st of December following, the school was
nominally under the care of the Y. M. C. A., when it was taken under the
charge of Park Presbyterian Church. At the end of the first year, the
school numbered over 200 members. In order to put in some practical and
useful form their quota of the $5,000,000 memorial fund, which the
Presbyterian Church in the United States had resolved to raise as a
thank-offering to God for the cordial re-union of its dissevered branches,
the people of Park Church resolved to build a house for this new Sunday
school. This was accomplished. The church as it now stands, on the corner
of Seventeenth and Chestnut streets, was completed in July, 1871, and
dedicated on the 2d of August following -- members of the Presbytery of
Erie, then in session in this city, bearing a part in the services of the
occasion. Rev. J. R. Wilson began to preach in the church in the spring of
1872, a man of great fidelity, sincerity and earnestness. A church was
organized in January 1873, and Mr. Wilson was installed over it as pastor,
in the next September. He was very successful in his ministry -- the
church increasing within the first three years from nine to fifty-six
members, and the Sabbath school to 225. Mr. Wilson remained with the
church till the summer of 1879, when he resigned his place to accept the
chair of Greek Professor in Parson College, Iowa. He was succeeded in the
pastorate of the church by the Rev. A. C. Wilson, who was installed as
pastor December 30, of that year, and remained until July, 1880, when he
resigned on account of ill-health. From February, 1881, until June, 1883,
the pulpit was filled by the Rev. J. K. Kerr, as stated supply. Since
July, 1883, the Rev. W. J. Hazlett has sustained the same relation with
this charge. The present membership is seventy-six.
United Presbyterian Congregation
Previous to 1811, about thirty families, members and adherents of the
Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, had settled in Erie and the
immediate neighborhood. They were chiefly Scotch-Irish and the descendants
of Scotch-Irish, and had removed here from the counties in Pennsylvania
bordering on the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers. In 1811, the Monongahela
Presbytery of the Associate Reformed Church embraced in its bounds the
entire territory now included in three Synods, viz., Pittsburgh, Ohio and
First Synod of the West. At a meeting of the Presbytery held at
Steubenville, Ohio, June 19, 1811, "Rev. George Buchanan (pastor of a
congregation at Steubenville) was appointed to preach two Sabbaths in the
borough of Erie before the next meeting of Presbytery." Mr. Buchanan
filled his appointment probably in July or August, 1811, and at the next
meeting of Presbytery, held September 4, 1811, at Puckety Church, a
petition "for a supply of sermons" was received from persons
residing in and near Erie and Waterford. He arrived here and preached in
these places in the fall of 1811. He was accompanied to Erie by the Rev.
Samuel Weir, a licentiate of the same Presbytery. His labors were so
acceptable here that proper steps were taken to secure his services as
pastor. At the next meeting of the Presbytery, held at "St. Clair
Church, a petition for the moderation of a call in the borough of Erie and
at Waterford was presented. Mr. Galloway was appointed to preach in Erie
on the third Sabbath of January, 1812, and preside on the following Monday
on that business." Mr. Galloway fill this appointment and a unanimous
call was made out for Mr. Robert Reid, which was carried up by Mr.
Robinson as unanimous, and presented at the next meeting of Presbytery,
held in Robinson Run Church March 11, 1812. It was declared regular,
presented to the candidate, by him March 11, 1812. It was declared
regular, presented to the candidate, by him accepted, and "the
Presbytery proceeded to assign him trials for ordination. Jeremiah, xxxi,
19, was assigned as the subject of a sermon and Romans, iii, 24 31
inclusive, as the subject of a lecture, which he was directed to deliver
at the next meeting of Presbytery." Mr. Reid having delivered his
trials for ordination at the meeting at St. Clair Church June 24, 1812,
they were approved, and Messrs. McConnel, Kerr and Galloway, ministers,
with Messrs. John Findley, Robert Porter and James McWilliams, Elders,
were appointed a committee of Presbytery to ordain and install Mr. Reid
over these congregations at Erie, on the second Tuesday of September next,
Mr. McConnell to preach the ordination sermon. Mr. Kerr to deliver the
charge to the minister, and Mr. Galloway to the people. Mr. Archibald
McSparren was directed to serve the edict. "This committee failed to
meet at the time appointed; Mr. Galloway was prevented from meeting with
them at all, and the members of the committee selected Mr. Dick to
accompany them to Erie. Mr. Dick consented. The committee met October 21,
1812, and the preparatory steps having been taken, Mr. Reid was set apart
to the office of the holy ministry and installed as pastor of the united
congregations of Erie and Waterford." The number of members in
connection with the congregation when it was first organized cannot be
given with certainty; it is believed to be about seventy. Mrs. Polly R.
Barr is the only one now living of the members at the time of the first
organization. Mr. Reid continued to preach three-fourths of his time in
Erie and one-fourth in Waterford, until June 30, 1841, when he resigned
the pastoral charge of Waterford, and all his time was given to Erie.
April 12, 1813, Archibald McSparren, Thomas Hughes and David Robinson were
ordained, and Alexander Robinson installed Ruling Elders, and James Dumars
was ordained a Deacon of the congregation, the Rev. Mr. Galloway, of
Mercer, and Mr. Junkin, a Ruling Elder, assisting. The first communion was
held October 29, 1813, and forty-nine members communed.
At first the congregation met for worship wherever it could find
accommodations, sometimes in the old court house, sometimes in a log house
on the north side of Fifth street, between French and Holland, and oftener
in a log school house on the corner of Seventh and Holland streets, upon
the ground now occupied by School No. 2. The first church building was
erected in 1816, on Eighth street, a little west of the present building.
It was a frame structure 33x45 feet and was removed in 1837 to State
street, between Eleventh and Twelfth streets. The present church building
is a substantial brick, 50x80 feet. The audience room was completed and
ready for occupancy in 1837.
An incident which occurred at the distribution of pews in the new church,
in 1837, is worthy of record. Rufus S. Reed, whose wife was a member of
the church and himself a liberal contributor to its funds and an attendant
pretty regularly upon its services, came in after considerable progress
had been made in the selection of pews. He inquired if there was a pew for
him, and he was informed that they supposed that one of the two square
pews on each side of the pulpit would be his choice, and that one had been
assigned to the pastor and the other reserved for him. He inquired the
price, which, when named, was satisfactory, and he took the pew. The
building committee then said: "Mr. Reed, we owe you about $300 more
than your pew amounts to, and we would like to turn the old house over to
you for as much of the debt as you can afford to allow for it." He
replied: "I will take the house and give you a receipt in full."
He sold it, to be removed, for $100, and gave the money he received for it
to the Rev. Robert Reid, the pastor, as a present. The basement of the new
building, containing lecture room, session room, infant class room, etc.,
was finished in 1862.
The pastors of the church have been as follows: Rev. Robert Reid,
installed October 21, 1812 -- died May 15, 1844; Rev. Joseph H. Pressly,
installed August 20, 1845 -- died November 3, 1874; Rev. J. C. Wilson, the
present incumbent, installed May 1, 1876.
September 12, 1814, 74 members communed, and June 9, 19822, 107 members
communed, the greatest number stated up to that time of any one year. The
greatest number of new members given in any one year, up to 1876, was
thirty-seven, which occurred in 1874. In 1866 and in 1872, thirty-one new
names were added to the membership. These years of unusual accessions to
the church resulted, in 1866, from general interest in religious matters
awakened by the efforts of some revival preachers who visited Erie that
year; in 1872 and 1874, they resulted from earnest work by the pastor and
members in prayer-meeting held every evening for two weeks before the
communion, in July, 1872, and in January, 1874. The membership is at
present 220. Shortly after Mr. Reid's installation in Erie, a Union
Sabbath school was opened. It was held sometimes in the old court house,
and sometimes in a house on French street, near the corner of Fifth
street. Mr. Reid was the Superintendent at first, but some of those
interested in the school, from other churches, insisted upon introducing
into the school, hymns and other things which Mr. Reid could not approve,
and he withdrew and subsequently organized a school in his own church,
which was discontinued after a few years, and there was no successful
attempt to revive it until after the installation of Rev. Joseph H.
Pressly. The school opened on the first Sabbath of January, 1846, and the
teachers were John Hughes, James E. McNair, James L. Gray, Miss Mary
Warren, Miss Mary A. Lamberton and Miss Elizabeth Reid. Fifty-one scholars
were present. During the month, George W. Barr, Edward A. Mehaffey, James
C. Reid, George Hughes, Miss Margaret McSparren, Miss Maria Kennedy, Miss
Margaret A. Pollock, Miss Celia Miles, Miss Mary Jane Mehaffey and Miss
Eliza McSparren were added to the list of teachers. Dr. Pressly acted as
Superintendent until 1872. In May, 1874, a mission school on Eighteenth
street was established, of which T. J. McKalip was appointed
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
The first services of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Erie were held in
the old court house, A. D. 1826, by Rev. J. H. Hopkins, afterward Bishop
of Vermont and at that time rector of Trinity Church, Pittsburgh. The
records show that seven persons were baptized by him before the year 1827,
but the dates are not given. The organization of the parish was effected
at a meeting held at the house of P. S. V. Hamot March 17, 1827. The
charter recommended by the convention of the diocese was adopted, the name
of St. Paul's Church was chosen, the Rev. Charles Smith was appointed
rector, and Messrs. Thomas Forster, P. S. V. Hamot, George Miles, George
A. Eliot, Tabar Beebe, Charles M. Reed, Thomas Forster, Jr., D. C.
Barrett, William Kelley, Gilbert Knopp and John A. Tracy were elected
vestrymen for the ensuing year. Col. Thomas Forster was chosen Church
Warden, and Tabor Beebe, Rector's Warden. P. S. V. Hamot was appointed
Secretary of the Vestry.
At a meeting held at the house of Col. Forster, July 22, George A. Eliot,
Thomas Forster and John A. Tracy were appointed a committee to make
arrangements for public worship. William Kelley was chosen to "attend
to the subscription paper," and it was resolved that the hours of
divine worship be 11 A. M. and 2 P. M., service to be expected every other
Sunday. George A. Eliot was appointed Treasurer, and the following
resolution was passed:
Resolved, That the church committee be Mr. Dobbins, to make
arrangements for the accommodation of the reverend gentlemen when they
come to officiate, and to make the arrangement for paying for it, and if
that cannot be made, each head of families of the congregation to receive
The male members of the original vestry and congregation who were
Episcopalians, were Col. Forster and Capt. George Miles, Mrs. Hamot, and
perhaps two or three other ladies were members of the church. Several of
the men were previously Presbyterians. Others came in from family
relationships and associations, or the respectability of the families, and
some, probably, with the idea that the church was a dignified and
respectable body, with a fine ritual and an educated ministry.
At the aforesaid meeting, the Rev. C. Smith's resignation was tendered,
and was accepted at a subsequent meeting, December 8, 1827. Rev. Benjamin
Hutchins ministered to the congregation for a few months, for we find that
on the 18th of December, 1827, a resolution of thanks was passed for the
"faithful discharge of his duties while among us." It appears
from the records of a meeting, December 24, 1827, that Mr. Hutchins had
been acting as assistant for Mr. Smith at Erie and Waterford, and that he
desired an independent charge of St. Paul's, but without success. At the
meeting, April 21, 1828, Charles M. Reed was chosen delegate to the
Diocesan Convention at Philadelphia, and subsequently J. B. Wallace, Esq.,
was chosen as another delegate. About 1828, an effort was made, on the
recommendation of the Rev. Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Wallace (lay delegate), to
secure Rev. John W. James for this church and St. Peter's, Waterford, and
it was determined to raise $300 for his support, and requiring Waterford
to raise $100. This effort failed. An application was made to the society
for the promotion of christianity in Pennsylvania for help, which was
granted. Messrs. Reed and Wallace must have found or heard of the Rev.
Bennett Glover, at Philadelphia, for we find that a correspondence was
opened with Rev. Bennett Glover, of Philadelphia, July 17, 1828, with a
view to his coming as pastor, and the wardens were instructed "to
ascertain from Mr. McConkey his terms for boarding, and, if Mr. Glover
will still remain here some time, to make the lowest and best boarding
terms, and the Messrs. Kelly and Knopp make a bargain with some person to
keep the house clean and ring the bell for our church." The old court
house was still used for the services. A letter of the vestry, July 30, to
the Rev. Mr. James indicates that he was disposed to come, but that the
arrangement with the Rev. Mr. Glover was now deemed more satisfactory, as
he was to derive part of his support from the missionary society.
A new election of wardens and vestrymen was held at the rooms of the Rev.
Mr. Glover November 22, 1830, resulted as follows: Thomas Forster, George
Nicholson, Tabor Beebe, John A. Tracy, William Kelly, George A. Eliot,
Thomas Forster, Jr., Elijah Babbitt, George Miles and Alexander McKee,
Vestrymen; Thomas Forster and George Nicholson, Wardens; George A. Eliot,
Treasurer; P. S. V. Hamot, Secretary. Thomas Forster, Tabor Beebe, P. S.
V. Hamot and Elijah Babbitt were appointed a committee to procure a plan
for a church, and at the next meeting (December 1, 1830), it was
"Resolved, That we accept of the purchase made by John B.
Wallace, Esq., of James Moore, for Lot No. 1729, at $250, the said Moore
subscribing $25, and that the Treasurer be directed to pay $50 and receive
the deed and give the bond and mortgage," etc.
"Resolved, That the Rev. B. Glover may take the title to 100
acres of land given to the church by John B. Wallace, Esq., for the price
The deed for the church was made to George A. Eliot, Charles M. Reed and
John A. Tracy in trust. January 13, 1831, it was
"Resolved, That the vestry be a building committee, 'etc.,
etc.,' and that five constitute a quorum, and that the said vestry, or a
majority of them, engage one person, whose business shall be to receive
and measure boards to receive brick, lime, and all other materials for
building, and to keep an accurate account of the same and superintend the
It was resolved subsequently to advertise for proposals for the whole work
in the Erie Gazette and Erie Observer for two weeks.
The plans adopted were prepared by Maj. T. W. Maurice. A joint note was
executed to James Moore for the sum of $175, the balance due on the church
lot; the proceeds of the land given by Mr. Wallace and sold to Mr. Glover
to be appropriated in payment of said note, and the remainder to be raised
by the sale of "slips."
Among those making proposals were C. G. Howell, for the whole building,
$3,759; Mehaffey & Hoskinson, $3,399. B. Thomlinson, John Teel and
John Dunlap also made bids for parts of the work. The contract for the
building was finally made with Mehaffey & Hoskinson (tender $3,399),
they being required "to use brick from Dunn or Sawtel's yard,"
and also to "take an account of subscriptions in brick, stone,
masonry and lime." The church was duly completed and the slips sold
"free of tax," and the debts were gradually paid off. An organ
was bought and paid for, and a bell weighing four or five hundred pounds.
No aid was received from abroad except from Mr. Wallace, and a
subscription of $150 from the Rev. Mr. Hopkins.
The church was dedicated by Bishop Onderdonck in 1834. A burial ground
west of Myrtle street, between Seventh and Eighth streets, had been
previously purchased for $400 of William Arbuckle, and paid for by
subscription. A small lecture room was built in the rear of the church
(Smith Jackson and P. R. Rockwell being the building committee) in 1836,
for use chiefly of the Sunday school. A Sunday school had been organized
in the court house before the church was built by Mrs. William A. Brown,
Mrs. Hamot and others.
The Rev. B. Glover continued to serve the parish on a small salary, with
the aid of the society for the advancement of christianity, till his death
in 1838, when Rev. P. Teller Babbitt became rector, serving until 1840. He
was succeeded by Rev. Henry Tullidge, who continued in the office until
1846. The next rector was William Flint, under whose ministry the church
building was enlarged at a cost of $2,245.16 in 1847. The pulpit placed in
the church at this time was a curiosity. It was very high, and the
preacher entered it from a flight of stairs opening from the vestry room
in the rear, and when in it his head was in an arch in the wall, in shape
like a brick oven, the altar and reading desk on the top if it remained
till the Rev. Mr. Abercrombie had a new desk and altar made. The present
rector induced the vestry to abolish the "three decker"
arrangement on his first taking charge of the parish. A lecturer then took
the place of the pulpit, and the altar was put in its proper place.
Rev. Charles Arey succeeded Dr. Flint in January, 1853, and severed the
parish two years, when the vestry not agreeing upon a successor, Bishop
Potter sent them the Rev. John A Bowman as missionary, who remained as a
temporary supply for a year or more. The Rev. D. C. Page, D. D., was
rector of the parish for a short time after Mr. Bowman's removal. The Rev.
James Abercrombie became rector in the summer of 1857, and was succeeded
by the Rev. John F. Spaulding April 1, 1862.
The present beautiful and imposing stone church edifice, located on the
south side of West Sixth, between Peach and Sassafras streets, was
completed in 1866, and dedicated in 1869 clear of debt. The cost of the
building was something over $60,000. It is of Gothic style of
architecture, and adds grace and beauty to the city.
While the Sunday services were held in Farrar Hall, and week-day services
impossible, except in private houses, in the winter of 1865, a system of
cottage lectures and mothers' meetings was projected and vigorously
carried on, especially in South Erie, and St. John's Parish was organized
in the fall or winter following. The missionary work of the parish in the
city was very successful from that time. St. John's and the Church of the
Cross and Crown soon became self-supporting. Trinity Mission was building,
in 1872-73, a handsome church, and Grace Mission was planning slowly and
surely for the future.
The Rev. J. F. Spaulding was elected Missionary Bishop of Colorado and
Wyoming in October, 1873, and was consecrated in St. Paul's Church
December 31 of that year. The succeeding rector of the church was the Rev.
W. H. Mills, who remained in that position until March, 1880, when he
resigned to accept a call to St. Paul's Church, Yonkers, N. Y. The Rev.
Mr. Mills was succeeded by Rev. T. P. Franklin in April, 1880, who died
two years later, and the next rector of this church is the present
incumbent, Rev. G. A. Carstensen, who assumed the rectorship July 1, 1882.
The number of communicants in the city in 1861-62 was nominally 140. There
are not (1883) about 500. At St. Paul's there are now about 365
communicants. Reverting to the missions, Trinity and Grace, it is only
necessary to add that they are still under the care and control of St.
Paul's Church, and that the work continues to be prosecuted in both
fields. A Sunday school is maintained at each, and at Trinity Chapel a
Sunday afternoon service as well as one on Friday evenings are also
regularly maintained. The Sabbath school at Trinity Chapel is under the
superintendency of David Burger, and that at Grace Mission is in charge of
G. P. Colt. The number of scholars in attendance is about 100 and 75
respectively. An industrial school and the mothers' meetings have always
proved a prominent feature of the work at Trinity meetings.
August 11, 1881, St. Paul's church narrowly escaped being destroyed by
fire, the south end being damaged to the extend of $10,000. I has since
been restored and greatly improved. A very find organ was presented to the
church by Hon. William L. Scott, of this city.
St. John's Episcopal Church
In the winter of 1866, Rev. J. F. Spaulding, rector of St. Paul's church,
Erie, held services once in two weeks on week day evenings at the houses
of some of his parishioners and of friends of the church in the
neighborhood of, and a little south of the depot. These services were
churchly, but informal in character. He called them "cottage
lectures." A gratifying result was to suggest the thought of efforts
looking toward anew parish. And when in the providence of God another
minister of this church (the Rev. J. N. Black) came to reside in Erie, his
interest was sought and obtained in the new church movement, and services
were resumed under his ministry in the following October.
The use of the German Baptist Church, on Seventeenth street, was secured
for Thursday evening, as no suitable place for Sunday services could be
These services were continued during the winter, and so much interest was
awakened that in March following a meeting was held, and a regular parish
organization was formed, with William Nicholson, Samuel B. Barnum, R. A.
Fancher, David T. Jones, William Bush and A. W. Van Tassell, as Vestrymen.
The vestry then organized and elected the Rev. J. H. Black, Rector; George
Burton and D. T. Jones, Wardens; S. H. Metcalf, Secretary; and W. G.
On the 1st of April, 1867, Urban's Hall on Peach street was secured, and
regular church services and a Sunday school commenced, which were both
continued with increasing interest and attendance during the year. On the
1st of April, 1868, the parish lost the valued services of their rector,
he having removed from the city. Sunday services were, however, continued
by the reading of morning service and a sermon by the wardens. Evening
service was conducted by the Rev. Mr. Spaulding, of St. Paul's.
In May following, the Rev. Calvin C. Parker was elected rector, who
accepted the call and entered upon his duties the first Sunday in July.
The parish was duly incorporated in June by a charter granted by the
court, and was admitted into union with the convention of the diocese June
In July, plans and specifications were prepared for a church edifice,
which was erected on a lot on Sixteenth street between Peach and Sassafras
streets. The corner stone was laid on Tuesday afternoon, July 28, 1868, at
6 o'clock, by J. B. Kerfoot, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, with the
usual religious ceremonies peculiar to the Episcopal Church.
The building was consecrated to the service of Almighty God June 20, 1871,
by Bishop Kerfoot, and Bishop Cox of Western New York, the latter
preaching the sermon.
Rev. Mr. Parker remained as rector of the church until September, 1872,
and in the following November was succeeded by Rev. S. D. McConnell, whose
rectorship terminated in April, 1874. The next rector of St. John's was
Rev. S. H. Hilliard, whose term of service began in September, 1874, and
terminated in June, 1876. The following August he was succeeded by his
brother, the Rev. F. W. Hilliard, who served the congregation until
August, 1878. Rev. J. M. Benedict became the next rector, entering upon
his duties in February, 1879, and severing his connection with the charge
in November, 1881. Mr. Benedict was succeeded in April, 1882, by Rev. L.
C. Rogers, whose rectorship extended until July, 1882. The present rector
of the church is Rev. William M. Cook. Number of communicants is fifty.
The whole number of communicants since the organization of the church has
The Sabbath school is under the superintendence of D. T. Jones, and is
composed of some fifty scholars.
The Church of the Cross and Crown
The origin of this church is mainly due to the wise foresight and
unwearied energy of the Rev. J. F. Spaulding, former rector of St. Paul's
Episcopal church of this city, who did so much to carry religious
privileges to the outlying portions of it. Under his direction, in May,
1868, a small Sunday school of six teachers and eight scholars organized
at the public school house on East Tenth street, near Beech lane, and
placed under the superintendence of Mr. Boyd Vincent. The neighborhood was
thoroughly canvassed for scholars by visiting from house to house and a
men's Bible class was started.
In October following, lay services on alternate Sundays, with the reading
of a sermon, were begun, and attended by a dozen or fifteen persons. These
services and the Sunday school were soon found to be mutually productive
of benefit. At Christmas, there was an average attendance in the school of
sixty scholars and eleven teachers. Soon after a Woman's Bible class was
added, and mainly from the members of this and the men's Bible class the
attendance at the weekly church services was increased to thirty or forty
persons. About this time the whole work was given fresh character by
assuming the unusual but beautiful name of "The Cross and Crown
Mission." By May 24, the first anniversary of the school's
organization, the average attendance of scholars was eighty. In June, the
lay services were superseded by an afternoon clerical service by the Rev.
Mr. Spaulding. This of course was a great improvement, again giving
greater reality and promise of permanence to the work. The confidence of
success which this new feature inspired, and the value of thus at once
associating mission schools in people's minds with church authority, and
that as integral parts of church life and work, was shown very soon. From
the beginning the expenses of the mission had been partly met by the
contributions of the members themselves, though they were mainly defrayed
by donations from St. Paul's Sunday School and from a few interested
friends, as also by subscriptions in the mother parish. But in October of
that year (1869), only eighteen months after the mission was started, the
number of adult members in the congregations and Bible class was such that
they spontaneously proposed and proceeded to make the work actually
self-supporting, although still formally connected with St. Paul's parish.
In November, the original superintendent being called away from the city,
Mr. William T. Smith was unanimously elected to fill the place. The
average attendance of the school reported at Christmas was ninety, and in
April following four persons from the men's Bible class were confirmed at
St. Paul's Church, thus realizing the first fruits of the work of love in
this mission. In January, $217 had been raised by subscription for the
purchase of a cabinet organ and a small library, and soon after steps were
taken for the erection of a chapel. Out of five lots generously offered
for the purpose, that of Mr. William M. Watts, of Carlisle, and situated
on the corner of Twelfth and Ash streets, was accepted. The corner-stone
was laid in July, and in February, 1871, the whole edifice, ready for use
and free from debt, was consecrated to the worship and service of Almighty
The building as it stood in 1872 cost $4,000, of which $800 were
contributed by the member of the mission, and the balance by members of
St. Paul's parish. It is 60x20 feet, interior measure; has a chancel 16x14
feet, and a class room on either side, sixteen feet square. In April
following, thirteen persons more, mainly from the classes of the Sunday
school, were confirmed, the latter thus realizing its true character as a
training school for the church. In July of that year, the Rev. Boyd
Vincent, as assistant minister of St. Paul's Church, was placed in charge
of the work here. In July, 1872, "The Church of the Cross and
Crown," was admitted into union with the convention of the diocese as
an entirely independent and self-supporting parish, Mr. Vincent becoming
at the same time its full rector. Mr. Vincent's rectorship of the charge
was dissolved in the spring of 1874. His successor was the Rev. Bernard
Schulte, who remained with the church until June, 1876, when he was
succeeded by Rev. S. A. McNulty, whose stay with the church was less than
one year, he having left June 1, 1877. In July of that year, the Rev. John
Graham became rector of the church and served for a period of two years.
The pulpit was then vacant for some months, and in January, 1880, the next
rector of the church, Rev. W. H. Rogers, entered upon his duties. The term
of his rectorship lasted until August, 1881, from which time until April,
1882, the church was without a rector. At the date last named, the Rev. D.
W. Rogers became the rector of the Church of the Cross and Crown and
remained in such relation with it until July 1, 1882. On Sabbath, July 29,
1883, a call was extended to the Rev. E. M. McGuffey, of Urbanna, Ohio, to
succeed Rev. Mr. Rogers. The number of communicants of the church is now
about 150. The Sabbath school is superintended by Mr. James Bassett and
numbers about 300 scholars. Under the rectorship of Rev. Mr. Schulte, the
infant room was enlarged, and in July, 1883, a bell was added. The
Parochial Society and Young Peoples' Guild, working societies, were
organized under the rectorship of Rev. Mr. Rogers.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church
Meetings of the Methodist Episcopal denomination were held in Erie by
circuit preachers at long intervals, commencing in 1801. Worship took
place in the winter of 1810 and 1811 in a tavern on the west side of
French street, between Sixth and Seventh. A congregation seems to have
been partially established soon after the beginning of the century, but no
regular permanent organization was effected until the year 1826. Rev.
Samuel Gregg, in his "History of Methodism Within the Bounds of Erie
Conference," thus alludes to the church at Erie in 1826: "Erie,
Penn., was a flourishing village in which, though Methodist preaching had
frequently been enjoyed by the people, no permanent organization had been
made until this year. Mr. James McConkey and wife, members of the
Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, moved to Erie to reside; and Mr.
David Burton and wife attended the meeting at Harbor Creek, and were there
converted, and invited Mr. Knapp to establish an appointment in Erie and
the same winter a class was formed composed of the above named persons and
a few others. Mr. McConkey was appointed leader, and soon after secured to
the church the lot on Seventh street, on which their first church was
subsequently built; the cost was $300."
The Mr. Knapp referred to was Rev. Henry Knapp, who at this time was in
charge of North East Circuit. He died in Wesleyville, this county, May 20,
1827, and his final resting place may be found in the rear of the
Methodist Episcopal Church in that village.
Thus was the embryo of the First Methodist Church of Erie. The ministers
who traveled the circuit, of which the First Church constituted an
appointment from 1826 until 1830, were Revs. Nathaniel Reeder and E.
Stevenson, in 1826; Revs. Job Wilson and J. W. Davis, in 1827; Revs. J. W.
Davis and J. Jones, in 1828; Revs. S. Ayers and W. C. Richey, in 1829. In
1830, the appointment was on Erie Circuit, which was formed that year. The
preacher in charge was Rev. J. S. Barris, with Rev. A. C. Young as his
colleague. Mr. Barris' salary this year was $167. December 26, 1830, at
the close of a meeting in the court house, where the Methodists then
worshiped, a subscription paper was circulated to raise money to pay the
preacher. On the paper occur the names of George Moore, Capt. Wright,
Albert Kelso, J. Lantz, Pressly Arbuckle, William Himrod and Thomas
Moorhead, Jr. For the support of the preachers on Erie Circuit in 1833,
First Church were, in the year 1831, Rev. J. P. Kent and A. Plimpton;
1832, Revs. J. Chandler and E. P. Steadman; 1833, Revs. J. Chandler and S.
In 1834, Erie charge was made a station, and the appointment given to Rev.
E. P. Steadman, which he did not fill, and the church was supplied. During
the following year, at which time the First Methodist Episcopal church of
this city may, perhaps, more properly speaking, date its establishment,
the church officers were as follows: Trustees, James McConkey, E. N.
Hulburt, John Richards, Daniel Burton; Stewards, James McConkey, E. N.
Hulburt, Daniel B. Lorge, James Thompson; Class Leaders, James McConkey,
David Burton and James Thompson.
Efforts were made in the years 1836 and 1837 to erect a house of worship,
which failed, but the third effort proved a success, and in 1838-39 a
frame church building was built on Seventh street, and at the close of the
conference year, 1839, the first official meeting was held in "Wesley
Chapel." In 1844, the annual conference was held in this house, and
the church had so increased that it was found necessary to enlarge the
building, which was done at an expense of $1,300. In 1851, a parsonage was
built, and, in the year following, a committee was appointed to select a
place in the city for a second church. The committee reported a place, and
organized a Sabbath school in South Erie, out of which grew Simpson
Methodist Episcopal Church.
The second and present house of worship of the First Church is located on
the southeast corner of Seventh and Sassafras streets, and is among the
imposing church edifices of the city. It is constructed of brick, and was
erected in 1859-60, at a cost of $14,000. The architect was H. M. Wilcox,
and the building committee, William Sanborn, James S. Sterrett, J. Hanson,
John Burton, J. B. Johnson, William C. Keeler and A. A. Craig. The
building was completed and dedicated November 14, 1860; sermon by Bishop
Simpson. The present membership of the church is 450. The pastors of the
church since 1835 have been as follows: A. G. Sturges, 1835; R. A.
Aylworth, 1866; J. W. Lowe, 1837; J. W. Lowe, 1838; B. K. Maltby, 1839; J.
J. Steadman, 1840; A. Hall, 1841; A. M. Brown, 1842; D. Smith, 1843; C.
Kingsley, 1844; C. Kingsley, 1845; Lester James, 1846; T. Stubbs, 1847; T.
Stubbs, 1848; E. Jones, 1849; S. Gregg, 1850; S. Gregg, 1851; J. W. Lowe,
1852; H. Kinsley, 1853; J. E. Chapin, 1854; J. E. Chapin, 1855; W. F.
Wilson, 1856; W. F. Wilson, 1857; D. C. Wright, 1858; G. W. Clarke, 1859;
J. D. Norton, 1859; J. Peate, 1860; J. Peate, 1861; D. C. Osborne, 1862;
D. C. Osborne, 1863; D. C. Osborne, 1864; E. A. Johnson, 1865; E. A.
Johnson, 1866; E. A. Johnson, 1867; A. S. Dobbs, 1868; A. S. Dobbs, 1869;
E. J. L. Baker, 1869; W. W. Wythe, 1870; W. W. Wythe, 1871; A. Wheeler,
1872; A. Wheeler, 1873; W. W. Ramsay, 1874; W. W. Ramsay, 1875; W. W.
Ramsay, 1876; J. D. Adams, 1877; J. D. Adams, 1878; D. H. Muller, 1879; D.
H. Muller, 1880; D. H. Muller, 1881; A. N. Craft, 1882; A. N. Craft, 1883.
The Sabbath school was organized in the conference year 1829-30 with E. N.
Hulburt as Superintendent. The first corps of teachers was: Miss Mary
Converse, Miss Mary Coover, Thomas Richards, Peter Barton, Thomas Stevens,
Miss Amanda Bowers, Rebecca Watkinson, Francis Dighton and John Dillon.
The place of holding it was in a small one story frame building, on East
Fourth between French and Holland streets. The school is now superintended
by H. A. Strong and the enrollment is 350.
Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church
In the early part of the winter of 1858, a meeting of eight weeks was held
by the pastor of the Seventh street methodist Episcopal Church, W. F.
Wilson. It was wonderfully blessed of the Lord, many souls being converted
and reclaimed. Nearly a hundred were added to the church and quite a
number of them were in what is now South Erie. The brethren of the last
named locality, feeling that the class and prayer meetings could be held
with profit there, in that part of the city, as many of the young converts
were in that section, besought the pastor to organize a class, which he
did, and appointed Heman Janes the leader. He remarked at the time,
"I do it with a measure of sadness, for this is the germ of a new and
distinct society." As if by special providence, Brother Heman Janes
had secured a lot and erected a building for a select school on Sassafras
street, near at hand, where the class could meet for prayer meetings or
social worship. These gatherings were well attended and were seasons of
great spiritual refreshings. The number of members thus associated with
twenty-five. Soon after this, a Sunday school was organized, which
commenced with sixty-three in number, and never has been less to this day.
Capt. Thomas Wilkins, of precious memory, was its first Superintendent.
The schoolhouse continued to be the main rallying place till the new
church was built, when it was moved on to the church lot, and became part
of the present parsonage. Before this, and during the pendency of a
question of building on Seventh street -- when fear was predominating over
hope -- about the 1st of May the brethren and friends of the church began
to consider the propriety of building a chapel in this part of the city.
Brother Wilson being applied to, organized a Board of Trustees composed of
Thomas Wilkins, Heman Janes, Emanuel Goodrich, Alvin Thayer, A. K. Miller,
E. J. Ames and Adam Acheson. Though these steps were taken and
subscriptions were made, yet the subscribers proposed to turn their
contributions into the funds for building down town if that enterprise was
renewed and moved forward, but it was not renewed. In the meantime the lot
where the present church and parsonage now stands was purchased by Capt.
Thomas Wilkins and Heman Janes on their personal responsibility, for the
sum of $500, and they held it in reserve to await the demands of the
church. The church at Seventh street having given up building at that time
pastor announced that he was in favor of building on the lot purchased by
Wilkins and Janes. A subscription was circulated and sums were pledged,
some of the largest, as follows: Thomas Wilkins, $300; E. Goodrich, $200;
Dr. Dickinson, $100; A. Acheson, $100; A. Yale, $100; Jacob Hanson, $100;
H. Janes, $500; in all about $1,600. This was the condition of things when
the Annual Conference came in 1858. W. F. Wilson having filled the two
years' pastorate, was succeeded by Rev. D. C. Wright. Soon after Bishop
Simpson, whose health was impaired, visited Erie, spent some days in its
healthful atmosphere, and learning the facts of church extension history
and conditions in the city, bade these brethren and friends in South Erie,
God speed. Having secured a subscription to justify, on August 3, they let
the contract, and the work began in earnest. At times, however, the
circumstances were very unpropitious, and discouragements severe. Brother
Wright stood aloof and had never a word of cheer, and some of the good
brethren in the city looked upon the new church as the tomb of Methodism,
but it has proved to be the temple of God.
To bring the enterprise to a successful termination required sturdy
financial lifting on the part of a few. Nobly, generously, and bravely did
they bend their backs to the sacrifice and toil. Earnestly was prayer
offered for the success of the enterprise, and under the guidance and
blessing of Divine Providence was it gradually achieved.
When all was ready, that prince in Israel, Bishop Simpson, was called to
minister on the joyful occasion of opening for the worship of Almighty God
this place of rest. This crowning event took place June 19, 1859.
The regular pastors of the church from its organization to the present
time, with their term of service, is given in the following list:
1860-61, W. P. Bignell; 1861-62, R. M. Warren; 1862-63, R. Wm Warren;
1863-64, A. C. Tibbitts; 1864-65, J. H. Tagg; 1865-66, J. H. Tagg;
1866-67, J. H. Tagg; 1867-68, D. Prossor; 1868-69, F. H. Beck; 1869-70, A.
N. Craft; 1870-71, A. N. Craft; 1871-72, R. N. Stubbs; 1872-73, R. N.
Stubbs; 1873-74, E. H. Yingling; 1874-75, E. H. Yingling; 1875-76, P. P.
Pinney; 1876-77, P. P. Pinney; 1877-78, E. A. Squier; 1878-79, J. A.
Kummer; 1879-80, J. A. Kummer; 1880-81, J. A. Kummer; 1881-82, J. C.
Scofield; 1882-83, J. C. Scofield.
Simpson Church has accomplished great good in South Erie, and is destined
to future years of usefulness. The present membership is 230, with a
prosperous Sabbath school numbering 268 scholars, superintended by Rev.
Henry Sims. The church edifice is a substantial one, constructed of wood,
though of an ancient pattern.
Tenth Street Methodist Episcopal Church
Some active measures looking toward the organization of a Third Methodist
Episcopal Church in Erie were taken during the year 1866. A subscription
of $3,000 was raised and two lots donated, provided the church was built
within five years. It was not, however, until August 30, 1871, that the
movement passed into the actual state. Rev. R. F. Keeler was appointed by
the Erie Conference of that year pastor of the Erie City Mission, with an
assisting appropriation of $350. The Young Men's Christian Association in
the September following, gave him permission to preach in their rooms on
Eleventh street, east of Parade, and soon after resigned their Sunday
school into his hands. On the 8th of October of the same year a class was
formed of nine persons, consisting of Seymour Torrey, Leader; John S.
Grove, Sarah A. Grove, M. F. Hope, R. Hare, A. Speckman, Mary Thompson,
Charles N. and Rose W. Wheeler. September 25, 1871, a Building Committee,
consisting of Revs. W. W. Wythe, R. N. Stubbs, R. F. Keeler, and Messrs.
T. H. Thurbur, R. F. Gaggin, J. S. Grove, W. H. Deming and H. Davis was
formed. They selected a lot on East Tenth street, between Ash and Wallace,
having a frontage of 103 feet, with a good house on the east half,
suitable for a parsonage.
At the first Quarterly Meeting, November 9, 1871, D. M. Stever, Presiding
Elder, R. Hare, M. F. Hope, J. S. Grove and S. Torrey were appointed
Stewards, and forty-five members were reported at the following
The corner stone of the new church was laid May 15, 1873, dedicated
January 15, 1874, and the last indebtedness canceled in 1882, having now
about eighty members enrolled. The following pastors have served the
church in the order named: R. F. Keeler, R. A. Caruthers, D. M. Stever, W.
W. Wythe, R. M. Gwynn, W. G. Williams, W. Martin, W. M. Martin, P. A. Reno
and J. H. Herron.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church of Erie, was re-organized in the
spring of 1877, by Rev. J. M. Morrison, of Oil City, Penn., with a
membership of about fifteen persons, the proceedings taking place in the
Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal church on Third street, between Chestnut and
Walnut streets. Their place of worship for a time immediately following
organization was on French street near the park, where they worshiped but
a short time and then came into possession of their present church
building which then stood on Sixth street, just east of Holland, and was
owned by the Young Men's Christian Association, from whom it was a partial
gift to the colored society. The building was repaired, painted, etc., and
dedicated May 19, 1878, by Bishop Wayman. On this occasion the Trustees of
the society, Messrs. R. A. Johnson, John Lightfoot, John Powers, James
Davis and James Williams presented the church building to the Rev. Bishop,
who began the services by reading from the ritual.
The pastors of the church have been as follows: Rev. Benjamin Wheeler,
Rev. W. A. J. Phillips, Rev. W. P. Ross, Rev. J. A. Russell and Rev. John
The Sabbath school was organized while the church was holding services on
French street. It numbers from sixty to seventy-five scholars. The present
church membership is forty-two.
In 1881, the society purchased a lot on Seventh between Holland and German
streets for $500, and moved thereto the church building.
The First Baptist Church
Among the early settlers of Erie were found some having sympathy with
Baptist views of faith, doctrine and practice. No organization was
attempted by them until the spring of 1831. In the month of March in that
year, the first revival interest of any particular prominence in the city
took place in the First Presbyterian Church. Among the converts were some
who were children of Baptist parents, and others having sympathy with
them. The Lord seemed by these things to bid them organize a church
wherein they could work in harmony with their own conceptions of Bible
truth. Accordingly this was done, and the First Baptist church of Erie,
Penn., was organized and recognized by a council called for the purpose on
the 10th of April, 1831, having the following fifteen constituent members:
By letter, Rev. E. Tucker, D. D., pastor; Mr. and Mrs. Orin N. Sage, E. D.
Gunnison, Mrs. Soule, Mrs. Phillips, Mrs. Fross, Miss Williams; by
Baptism, Otis G. Carter, Rowe B. Rood, Charles T. Sage, Miss Julia Berry,
Miss Penelope Mann, Miss Lillie A. Soule, Miss Sophia E. Gunnison and Miss
Zilphia B. Cilley. The meetings of this religious body were held in the
Erie Academy building, and sometimes in the court house, until their first
church edifice was erected in the year 1833, on the northwest corner of
Fifth and Peach streets. It was a substantial brick structure, having
The following is a complete list of the pastors of the church, with date
of settlement and resignation:
Rev. E. Tucker, D. D., settled April 10, 1831; resigned, 1832. Rev.
William H. Newman, settled March 24, 1832; resigned November 2, 1833. Rev.
Charles Morton, November 2, 1833; July 2, 1836. Rev. Reid S. Witherall,1
December 3, 1836. Rev. James A. Keys,1
April 1, 1837. Rev. A. W. Baker, January 3, 1837; December 17, 1837. Rev.
LaFayette Baker, June 1, 1838; died April 2, 1839. Rev. Ira Corwin,
January 1, 1840; January 1, 1843. Rev. _____ Haskell,1
January 1, 1843. Rev. Joel Johnson, April 1, 1843; August 31, 1844. Rev.
Zebina Smith, October 1, 1844; April 1, 1846. Rev. J. K. Barry, May 1,
1846; May 1, 1848. Rev. H. Silliman, August 1, 1848; February 1, 1851.
Rev. Charles Sherman, March 23, 1851; September 26, 1832. Rev. Gilbert L.
Stevens, January 1, 1853; April 1, 1855. Rev. J. W. Hammond, September 18,
1856; August 8, 1858. Rev. William Haw, December 18, 1858; May 26, 1861.
Rev. _____ Glanville, October 20, 1861; October 20, 1862. Rev. J. L. Hays,
January 13, 1863; February 15, 1864. Rev. William F. Bainbridge, June 1,
1865; September 1, 1868. Rev. A. W. Tousey, December 1, 1868; December 1,
1869. Rev. C. H. Harvey, December 1, 1869; November 1, 1871. Rev. E. A.
Stone, August 1, 1872. A. J. Bonsal, June 22, 1875; 1878. William Gilkes,
June 18, 1879; present pastor.
The following have been ordained by the church at Erie:
LaFayette Baker, June __, 1838; David J. Lloyd, September 12, 1838;
William F. Bainbridge, December 15, 1865.
The following brethren have been licensed by the church:
O. N. Sage, July 7, 1833; D. J. Lloyd, April 16, 1835; LaFayette Baker,
June 3, 1837; Thomas Mozley, January 3, 1846; George W. Gunnison, March 3,
1848; George Whitman.
Under the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Newman, in 1832-33, steps were taken to
build the church, which was used for thirty years, and in 1865 it was
rebuilt, or rather it was repaired and improved, the rear of the house was
extended, the tower built, the galleries removed, etc., and other wise
improved at a cost of about $10,000 or $11,000. The re-dedication services
took place on the 14th of December, 1865, Rev. Dr. Strong, of Cleveland,
Ohio, preaching in the morning, and the Rev. Dr. Robinson, of Rochester,
N. Y., in the evening.
A noticeable fact in the history of the church is, that three of its
pastors were ordained to their work in this building, and many licensed to
preach, and of these is the Rev. George Whitman, now a successful pastor
in Buffalo. At different seasons, the church has enjoyed considered
revival and blessing. Among its pastors especial mention may be made of
Zebina Smith, who served the church very faithfully for two years, and is
still a living member.
Under the pastorate of Mr. Bainbridge, the church was visited by a
gracious revival, when some 200 members were identified with it.
On June 22, 1875, Mr. Bonsal was installed, and did faithful and effective
service, and became endeared to the church and people, but from little
unavoidable difficulties he left, when after a brief period the present
pastor became associated with this people, under whose pastorate the
church has advanced nicely, and during the past year quite a revival has
taken place, and resulted in some fifty accessions to the church, which is
now in a prosperous condition. The membership is now 269.
A Sabbath school has long been maintained by this church.
First German Baptist Church
The commencement of the First German Baptist Church in Erie was in the
month of February, in the year 1860. Rev. A. Van Puttkammer preaching here
two weeks, and baptizing sixteen members, who then belonged to the English
Baptist Church, until October, 1861. At that time, there being twenty-two
members with the pastor, a German Baptist Church was officially organized.
The first services were held on Peach street, above the depot, in a small
hall, then called Judson Hall, and also the Sunday school, numbering from
thirty to thirty-five scholars. In July, 1863, Rev. Anthony Haensler was
unanimously chosen pastor of the church, and accepted the call. In the
spring of 1864, the present church was erected, and was dedicated on the
first Sunday in July of the same year. Rev. Mr. Shulte, of the Second
Baptist Church of Buffalo, preached a German dedicatory sermon in the
morning, and Elder Hages, of the English Baptist Church of Erie, preached
in the afternoon. In the spring of 1866, the congregation built the
present parsonage back of the church, furnishing a neat and comfortable
home for their pastor. In May, 1865, Rev. Anthony Haensler accepted a call
from Attica, N. Y. In June, 1865, Rev. John Eisenmenger, of the
Theological Seminary at Rochester, N. Y., was chosen pastor, accepted the
call, and was ordained in the fall of the same year. During his stay,
there were about thirty-five persons added to the church upon profession
of faith. In August, 1868, Rev. Mr. Eisenmenger accepted a call to Canada.
In the same month, the church accepted Rev. Adolf Ginins, also from the
Theological Seminary at Rochester, N. Y., who was ordained a few months
after. During his stay here, fifteen persons were added to the church. In
October, 1871, he accepted a call to Scranton, Penn. He was succeeded by
Rev. Henry Kose, in December, 1871. Membership of the church in January,
1873, sixty. Rev. Mr. Kose remained four years, and was succeeded by Rev.
C. Martin, who served the church as pastor until 1879, and was then
succeeded by Rev. G. Koopman, who remained until in April, 1883, since
which period the church has been without a pastor.
The church building is a very modest, plain wooden structure, located on
the south side of Seventeenth street, between Peach and Sassafras. It has
recently been repaired and painted. Since the organization of the church,
a Sabbath school has been maintained, which now has an average attendance
of seventy-five scholars, under the superintendency of Mr. Zurn, Sr.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Church
Concerning the early preachers and followers of this church in Erie,
little can be obtained that is tangible. The records of the society reveal
the fact that as early as September 24, 1815, communion services were held
in the then village of Erie by Rev. Charles W. Colson, of Meadville, Penn.
In October following, these services were repeated, and twelve persons
partook of communion. It would seem that no other services, if held, were
placed on record, for only such periods are referred to, yet they continue
to be recorded from year to year, and the presumption is that preaching of
this denomination must have been held in Erie or vicinity, at intervals
from the first mentioned date until the formal organization of the church,
which occurred in January, 1835, with 100 members.
The next recorded minister is Rev. Michael Kuchler, and the first recorded
communion services held by him are under date of November 14, 1839, and
the last, September 15, 1844. Mr. Kuchler was succeeded by Rev. Philip
Flysel, who came from Einbeck, Hanover, Germany, and administered
communion rites to this people for the first time March 21, 1845, and the
last services August 13, 1848, when the communicants numbered 157.
This congregation, until the year 1836, held their meetings in the
neighborhood schoolhouses, and in other suitable buildings. In this year,
they built uponthe lot where the present church edifice stands, a frame or
wooden structure, which was occupied as a house of worship until their
present building was completed.
The building erected in 1861 cost $10,000; it is a large, plain, but
substantial brick building, with a tall spire, and has a seating capacity
of nearly 1,000 persons, and is supplied with a pipe organ, which cost
$3,500. The dedicatory services took place September 14, 1862, there being
present on the occasion the Rev. Bochert, from New York State; Rev. Runck,
of Buffalo; and Rev. Sempel, of Cleveland, Ohio, the first preaching the
dedicatory sermon. The list of pastors of the church since 1848, with the
period of each one's service, as given from the time of their first
official act, with that of the last as recorded, is given below: Rev. C.
G. Stuebgen, August 19, 1848, to July 17, 1853; Rev. F. W. Weiskotten,
August 21, 1853, to August 6, 1854; Rev. C. A. Brockman, January 7, 1855,
to June 29, 1859; Rev. Jacob Blass, July 10, 1859, to November, 1863; Rev.
W. Schaefer, November 29, 1863, to November 25, 1865; Rev. G. Beck,
November, 1865, to January 20, 1867 (died); Rev. C. F. Boahner, May 26,
1867, to March, 1872; Rev. A. L. Benze, April 7, 1872, to present.
In 1853, there were from 200 to 225 communicants. There are now connected
with the church about 600 grown persons.
In 1868, the present neat parsonage was built, costing in the neighborhood
of $2,000. The congregation is in possession of five acres of ground where
their buildings now are located, and, pecuniarily speaking, is rich. They
are to build a large and commodious, as well as beautiful, church edifice
within the present year. During the eleven years' pastorate of Mr. Benze,
he has baptized about 1,300 people, buried over 500, and married 360
At the Sabbath school of the church, there are now in attendance, scholars
and teachers, 360.
St. Paul's German Evangelical Church
The original membership of this church was composed of from twenty to
twenty-four persons, some of whom had, prior to its organization, been
connected with St. John's German Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Church
of South Erie. St. Paul's organization may be said to date from the year
1850, as, during that year, preaching of this denomination was held in the
Court House, and subsequently in the Sabbath school room of the old First
Presbyterian Church, those officiating being Revs. Sulton and Burger, of
Buffalo. The records fail to clearly show at what particular date the
organization was effected, yet the first regular pastor began his ministry
with this people December 1, 1850. The society was incorporated, and
perhaps formally organized, in May, 1851. The church building was erected
during the year 1850-51, at a cost of about $4,000, upon ground purchased
of Gen. Charles M. Reed, for $800. The building seems to have been
designated the "brick church," and was dedicated, in 1851, by
Rev. Z. Haas, of Rochester, N. Y. The first church officers were: Elders
Henry Hechtman, Sr., and Fred Sneider; Board of Trustees, Z. Cobb, Fred
Curtze, J. J. Feussler and Jack Rinderknecht.
In 1879, the old church building was partially torn down and enlarged by
the addition of the entire front, composed in part of two towers on either
side, one of which culminates in a tall and graceful spire; the entire
front is ornamented with stone trimmings, and the structure in general is
an imposing one. This remodeling and rebuilding was done at an expense of
nearly $7,000. It was re-dedicated on the 13th of June, 1880, with a
sermon by Rev. J. Bank, of Buffalo, N. Y. Other clergymen present were the
pastor of the church and Rev. E. Young. In 1882, a neat and tasty brick
parsonage, adjoining the church, was built, which cost $3,600. The bell in
the church tower was a gift from August Jarecki and wife.
The names of the pastors of the church from its organization to the
present time, with the date of each man's term of service, are given in
the following list: Rev. I. Hartman, December 1, 1850, to April 15, 1852;
Rev. C. Gaoehling, December 5, 1852, to February 22, 1856; Rev. W.
Hasskarl, April 14, 1856, to April 14, 1857; Rev. Z. Faber, June 10, 1857,
to February 21, 1858 (died); Rev. F. R. Ludwig, March 21, 1858, to June 1,
1859; Rev. J. W. Semler, March 15, 1859, to June, 1869 (died); Rev. J.
Keller, September 1, 1869, to November, 1871; Rev. E. Young, December 1,
1871, to May 6, 1876; Rev. Val Kern, May 30, 1876, until the present.
The church membership comprises about 250 families.
A Sabbath school is carried on in connection with the church, and numbers
some 380 scholars and 37 teachers. The present Superintendent is August
Salem Church of the Evangelical Association
In the year 1833, the Rev. J. Seibert, who subsequently became a Bishop in
the church, came to Erie County as a missionary of the Evangelical
Association to preach the Gospel to the Germans of this locality, and
visited the vicinity of Erie, and his labors were abundantly blessed in
the winning of many souls to Christ. In after years, Revs. E. Stoevers, D.
Brickley, and J. Noecker, ministers of the association, labored here with
more or less success. A number of Germans residing in Erie and vicinity
were moved by these visits, and the families of J. Steele, S. Zinn, P.
Fendenheim and A. Scheurer united with the Evangelical Association.
In 1836, the Rev. J. Boos, as preacher in charge of Erie Circuit, visited
this little flock, which, under his administration, was increased by the
addition of Conrad Doll and wife. The following year Rev. H. Bucks was
appointed to the Erie Circuit charge, under whose superintendence the
several families were organized into a class, with Philip Fendenheim as
their leader. In 1838, Rev. H. Bucks was succeeded by Rev. J. H. Jambert
(the then existing rules of the church changed the ministers in one, or,
at greatest, two years). Further accessions to the class this year were
the families of M. Doll, J. Goeppert, F. Stoll and others. The following
year, Rev. P. Wagner was appointed to the circuit, who was succeeded in
1850 by Revs. P. Goetz and C. Augenstein, the circuit then embracing the
counties of Erie, Crawford and Mercer. The former remained two years, and
the latter but one, when Rev. J. Schaefer became the colleague of Mr.
Goetz. In 1842, these gentlemen were succeeded by Revs. A. Niebel and C.
Lindner, and they in 1843 by Rev. Samuel Heiss.
Up to this date, the services were held alternately in the dwellings of C.
Doll, P. Fendenheim, and latterly almost exclusively in that of Mr. Doll.
During the year 1843, the congregation erected a small frame church on
Fourteenth street, between Peach and Sassafras. Six years later, a
parsonage was built adjoining the hose of worship. Subsequently a lot was
purchased on the corner of Peach and Twelfth streets, and in 1854 the
church building and parsonage was removed to it. This building gradually
became too small for the increasing congregation, and it became necessary
to provide a more commodious place for worship, and hence the little frame
structure gave way in the year 1868 to the present neat and substantial
brick edifice which stands on the same lot, and was erected at a cost of
$7,000. This, in the year 1881-82, was improved and commendably adorned.
In 1844, Rev. Mr. Heiss was recalled by the conference from this field of
labor, and there was appointed in his stead the Rev. P. Hahn. Following
Mr. Hahn to Erie Circuit came, one year later, Rev. P. Wist, who labored
with this people two years. His successor was Rev. J. Bockert, who
likewise served two years and was succeeded by Rev. J. Nicolai.
Up to the year 1849, the society at Erie was connected with Erie Circuit,
saving a short period, but in the year following (1850), by action of the
conference, the city was separated therefrom and taken up as a mission,
and was served one year by Rev. Mr. Nicolai. The charge at Erie remained a
mission for a number of years, but was again attached to the adjoining
circuit, with which it remained until 1861. Under the ministry of Mr.
Nicolai and that of his successor, Rev. C. G. Koch, who was sent to Erie
in 1851 as missionary, there was a goodly number of accessions to the
church. Mr. Koch was a laborer here until 1854, at which time he was
succeeded by Rev. I. G. Pfeiffer. The next missionary in this filed was
Rev. A. Niebel, who came two years later and remained the same number of
years. Then came Revs. G. W. Fischer and P. Schnilly, who served one year
each in the order given. In regular order, and for the time stated below,
Erie was served by Rev. J. Riehm, two years; Rev. W. Schmitt, one year;
Rev. J. Bernhart, two years; Rev. A. Staehly, two years; Rev. C. F.
Harting, one year.
In 1861, Erie charge was again made a mission, and so remained until 1867,
when it became strong enough to support its minister, and was then made a
self-supporting station. This occurred under the pastorate of Rev. M.
Zirkel. Since the expiration of the pastorate of Mr. Zirkel, in 1869, the
church has been served by the following persons: Rev. H. W. Hampe, two
years; Rev. J. Dick, three years (it having at this time become a law that
the term of service at each place could be three years); Rev. D. J.
Honecker, two years; Rev. Thomas Luhr, two years; Rev. J. Lany, two years;
Rev. G. F. Spreng, three years. In 1883, the charge came under the
pastorate of the present efficient incumbent, Rev. G. Berstecher.
Almost every year of the church's existence, accessions have been made to
it which, whoever, were at times considerably checked by removals, deaths
and other causes.
The present membership is 150, with a Sabbath school which averages 135.
The female members of this church maintain two societies, one for the
support of orphans, and the other for general benevolent purposes. The
society evinces a commendable degree of liberality in the support of the
missionary cause and other church enterprises.
A new brick parsonage is to be erected this year.
The English Evangelical Lutheran Church
This church was organized on the 15th of August, 1861, by the Rev. J. H.
W. Stuckenberg, now a D. D., in Germany. The church officers first chosen
were Samuel M. Brown and Henry Gingrich, Elders; John T. Brown and Henry
The original membership numbered forty-one. Their first place of worship
was in a schoolhouse in South Erie, on Peach street, near Twenty-sixth.
Here the congregation continued to worship until the completion of the
present frame church building, located on the southwest corner of peach
and Eleventh streets, which was dedicated to the service of God on the day
before Good Friday, 1864. The ground upon which the building stands was
deeded to the council of the church, namely: J. H. W. Stuckenberg, Samuel
M. Brown, Henry Gingrich, John T. Brown, and H. C. F. Werther, by John S.
Richards, Adelaide P. Richards, Ann Richards and John H. and Ann P.
Vincent, on the 18th of June, 1862, for the consideration of $1,200.
The pastors of the church have been as follows: 1861-65, Rev. J. H. W.
Stuckenberg, who, however, served a portion of that period as Chaplain of
the One Hundred and Forty-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, during
which time the pulpit was supplied; 1866-71, Rev. J. L. Smith; 1872-74,
Rev. J. R. Groff; 1874-80, Rev. H. H. Bruning; 1881 until the present,
Rev. Isaac O. Baker. Mr. Baker preached for the congregation during the
summer of 1880, but did not assume the pastorate until June 12, 1881,
since which time there have been seventy-two accessions to the church, and
the latter is in a prosperous condition. The membership is now 200.
In connection with the church a flourishing Sabbath school is conducted,
The German Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church
In the fall of 1881, Erie was visited by the ministers of a conference of
the Eastern District of the Missouri Synod, at the request of several
resident Lutherans of this city, for the purpose of establishing a
mission. They continued their visits here for a period, preaching on each
occasion of their coming, until in December of that year, a congregation
composed of five members was formed, and a call sent to the Rev. H. Sieck,
of South Bend, Ind. This call was made for the pastorate of the little
flock here, and also embraced the missionary field of Northwestern
Pennsylvania and Western New York. This call was accepted and Mr. Sieck
was installed April 23, 1882, and at once commenced his labors in this
field. On his coming a house was rented on the corner of Sixth and Myrtle
streets, and fitted up both for residence and house of worship. This was
used as such until the fall of the same year, when a lot on Seventh
street, between Myrtle and Sassafras streets was purchased and the modest
little frame building now standing there was erected at a cost of about
$1,000. It was dedicated December 3, 1882, with a sermon in the German
language in the morning, by Rev. John Sieck, then of Eaton Valley, N. Y.
(now of Buffalo), and in the afternoon the pastor preached a sermon in the
English language. The consecration ceremonies were performed in the
morning (Sabbath), by the Rev. E. Leemhuis, of North East. The
congregation comprises forty families, of which there are twenty voting
members. The Sabbath school was organized in May, 1882, by the pastor with
four scholars. It now comprises 100 scholars and 7 teachers. The pastor is
Anschai Chesed Reform Congregations
About the year 1858, some eight or ten persons of the Jewish faith of the
city formed themselves into a Hebrew congregation, of what might be styled
the Orthodox order, and met for religious services in what was known as
the old Lyons property, on the corner of Fifth and French streets,
occupying a room up-stairs. Their first Rabbi was Mr. Weil, who remained
with the congregation about one year, and was succeeded by Rabbi M.
Wurzel, whose term of service in all, (he having twice ministered to the
congregation,) extended over a period of about fourteen years. The
succeeding Rabbis in the order named have been Revs. Fuld, Dr. Flengel,
Levi and Stemple.
Some twelve or fourteen years ago the congregation assumed the present
title; and their several places of worship have been (other than the one
above named), on French street, on Holland, between Eighth and Ninth
streets, in Metcalf block on State street, and in Bocker's block on French
street, thence to the neat and attractive synagogue of the congregation
located on the north side of Eighth street, between Myrtle and Sassafras.
It is a brick structure trimmed with stone and is an ornament to the city.
It was erected in 1882, at a cost of $13,000, including the ground upon
which it stands. The foundation stone was laid by Mr. B. Baker, the first
President of the congregation and one of its oldest members.
Isaac Baker is the present President of the congregation, S. Loeb, Vice
President, and Isaac N. Straus, Secretary. The membership is thirty-five.
The United Brethren Church
This church was organized April 2, 1878, at the house of John Reed, with a
membership of twenty-two persons, by the Rev. John Hill, who was then
preaching in the city, in the house of worship now owned by this
denomination, then in possession of one of the Presbyterian societies of
the city. In August, 1879, the property was purchased by the newly
organized church of the United Brethren in Christ.
Since the organization, the church has had the following pastors in the
order given: Revs. John Hill, W. W. Pringle, and John A Thomas, the
present incumbent; the present membership is twenty.
A Sabbath school has been in progress since the church was organized,
which had for its first Superintendent W. P. Kinglsey; the school is now
superintended by the pastor of the church, and numbers forty scholars.
Their house of worship is a small frame building, located on the corner of
Tenth and Cherry streets.
The First Universalist Church
The first meetings of this society in Erie were held at the old court
house in the year 1842, conducted by the Rev. John Gifford; the regular
organization was effected about two years later, and the present church
structure, situated on the north side of Ninth street, between Peach and
Sassafras streets, was erected in 1844, upon ground given to the society
by Judge John Galbraith, father of Judge William A. Galbraith, of this
Among the early members of the church were Henry Caldwell, William Beatty,
John Dodge, Clark and Wenlock McSparren, Porter Warren and Judge John
Galbraith. Mr. Gifford, as pastor of this church, was followed by the Rev.
A. G. Laurie, of Edinburgh, Scotland, who entered upon his duties in
November, 1846, and filled the pulpit until April, 1849. In the absence of
records, we are prevented giving the exact period of each minister's
pastorate who has served the congregation. Following the Rev. Mr. Laurie
came Rev. John Campbell, who was succeeded by the Rev. G. B. Maxham. He
was succeeded by Rev. J. F. Forrester, whose pastorate extended over a
period of about one decade. In the year 1865, the Rev. Mr. Laurie again
became pastor of this charge, and remained with it ten years (1875). In
1876, Rev. A. A. Thayer became pastor, and remained for about five years;
his successor was the Rev. H. A. Westall, of Cambridge, Mass., whose
pastorate began in April, 1882, and is yet continued.
The present membership consists of some eighty-five families. The church
officers are: F. P. Bailey, Henry Young and A. B. McGuire, Board of
Trustees; John Dumars, John Gunnison, Deacons. A Sabbath school, numbering
about one hundred teachers and scholars, is conducted under the
superintendence of Miss Rosana Hayt.
St. Patrick's (Catholic) Pro-Cathedral
Years before the building of St. Patrick's Church on Fourth street,
services of the Catholic Church were performed by the missionaries, who
occasionally visited Erie in order to give the few Catholic families then
residing here an opportunity to practice their religion. As far back as
1837, the Rev. Father McCabe officiated here as pastor, the house on
German street now occupied as a dwelling by Mr. Sullivan being then owned
and used as a church by the English speaking Catholics. As there are no
authentic records to show the progress of this church, a space of time, at
least of some years, will have to be passed over until 1844, at which time
we find Rev. Father R. Brown undertaking a work which at that time,
considering the circumstances and poverty of his then small congregation,
was looked upon as no small task, viz., the building of St. Patrick's
Cathedral. Many of our old citizens will remember the difficulties against
which Father Brown had to contend. His congregation being unable to
support him, we occasionally find him ministering to the wants of the
Catholics scattered throughout the counties of Crawford, Venango and
Warren. None of the Catholics who then labored to help the cause of the
rising church expected to see within the sanctuary rails an Episcopal
throne, or to receive from the altar at which a priest only occasionally
officiated the Episcopal benediction. Father Brown remained in charge five
years -- long enough to see the building of which he laid the foundation
inclosed. Father Reynolds succeeded Father Brown, and completed the
building, plastering it and putting in pews sufficient to accommodate the
congregation Father Reynolds remained about one year, and was succeeded by
Rev. Joseph F. Deane, who remained in charge of the congregation until
Erie became and Episcopal See.
In 1853, the thirteen counties now belonging to the Diocese of Erie were
taken from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and Rt. Rev. M. O'Connor, then
Bishop of Pittsburgh, was transferred to the newly erected See of Erie,
and became its first Bishop. He governed the Diocese of Erie about one
year, and was again transferred to Pittsburgh, when the late Rt. Rev. J.
M. Young was appointed to succeed him, and in May, 1854, took charge of
the diocese. Rev. Father Deane was pastor of the church until Bishop
Young's coming to Erie. Immediately after the new Bishop took charge of
the diocese, Rev. William Pollard was appointed pastor, and after his time
we find on the list of the cathedral Rev. Thomas Malone, Rev. Charles
McCallion, Rev. William Lambert, Rev. John Berbequi (now pastor of
Leconti's Mills, Clearfield Co., Penn.), Rev. J. O'Connor and Rev. Father
In 1858, Rev. Thomas Tracy (now pastor of St. Michael's church,
Greenville, Mercer County, Penn.), was appointed pastor, and succeeded
Rev. Father Kenny. Father Tracy continued in charge of the congregation
some five or six years, when he was appointed to take charge of the
Clearfield congregation, and the Very Rev. John D. Coady, Vicar General of
the Diocese, was called to Erie and placed in charge of the congregation.
Father Coady remained in charge of the congregation about four years,
until the oil regions of Venango County arose into importance, and calling
there hundreds of all classes and denominations, who, in their eagerness
to hoard up riches, would undoubtedly have forgotten the chief end for
which all should labor, did not Father Coady, so well and favorably known
to all our citizens, both by word and example, teach his flock in the oil
region that money, like every other material substance, would pass away
with time. The beautiful church now crowning the summit of Cottage Hill,
Oil City, stands as a witness, bearing silent testimony to the
self-sacrificing spirit and zeal of Father Coady.
Father Carroll succeeded Father Coady as pastor of St. Patrick's, and many
of his people have reason to thank him for his great and successful
efforts in the cause of temperance. He was founder of the Father Matthew
Temperance Society; he taught that in order to be successful in life a man
should be temperate in all things. The Father Matthew Temperance Society
is still in existence, and successful beyond expectations, thus proving
the oft-repeated assertion of Rev. Father Carroll, that moral suasion is
more powerful in the cause of temperance than all the restrictions that
can possibly be made by law.
It was during Father Carroll's time (1866) that the Catholics suffered a
severe loss in the death of Bishop Young. Very Rev. John D. Coady, V. G.,
was then appointed administrator, and for nearly two years governed the
diocese in a very successful and satisfactory manner.
An event of unusual importance, and worthy of commemoration in the history
of Catholicity in Erie was the death of Rt. Rev. J. M. Young, Bishop of
the Erie Diocese, which occurred at the Episcopal residence in this city,
September 18, 1866, of heart disease. His demise and subsequent funeral
obsequies brought a great concourse of people to Erie, among whom were
many well-known Catholic prelates. The last rites over the distinguished
dead took place at St. Patrick's Church, on the Friday morning succeeding
his decease. Rev. Father Weinhardt was master of ceremonies, with Father
Coady assistant, while the sermon was delivered by Bishop Domenec, of
Pittsburgh. The church was beautifully draped with the insignia of
mourning, and a feeling of deep sorrow pervaded throughout the large
assemblage. The funeral cortege contained nearly 10,000 people, who sadly
followed the remains of their beloved Bishop to the grave. Bishop Young
was born at Sanford, Me., in August, 1808, ordained a priest in 1837, and
consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Erie in 1854.
On the 2d of August, 1868, the present bishop, Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen, was
consecrated and took charge of the diocese, and the rapidity with which
churches have been built and paid for is a sufficient proof of the growth
of the Catholic faith. Five churches are now in the city, and some ten or
fifteen years ago the whole Catholic population might have been collected
in any one of them. Institutions of learning and charity, too, have spring
up of late, and during the past decade the magnificent building known as
St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum and St. Vincent's Hospital have been erected.
The congregation of St. Patrick's Pro-Cathedral now numbers some 3,000
The old building on Fourth street has become too small, and there is now
in process of erection and near completion St. Peter's Cathedral, which
when finished will be one of the grandest -- if not the grandest -- and
most imposing church edifices in the whole lake country. It is located on
the northwest corner of Tenth and Sassafras streets, fronting on the
latter, and is constructed of Medina, N. Y., red sandstone, trimmed and
ornamented with white sandstone, in part from Amherst, Ohio, and in part
from Mercer County, Penn. In size, the cathedral is 220 feet in length,
and its greatest width (across the transept, which is 66 feet in length)
is 130 feet; while the nave of the building is 98x83 feet; the cancel is
40x38 1/2 feet, and that much of the nave and transept for pews is 144x83
feet; the side walls to the clear story are 42 feet in height, and the
clear story walls 18 feet, while the height from floor to ceiling is 66
feet. The building is of Gothic style of the thirteenth century, and was
designed by C. C. Keeley, of Brooklyn, N. Y. The plan is cruciform, the
front being formed by three massive towers, of which the main one is 34
feet square at the base, and in height is 129 feet, and the side towers
are each 20 feet square at the base, and in height 89 feet. These are all
surmounted by spires, the one on the main tower being 122 feet, while that
on either of the side towers is 37 feet (measurement of towers from
pavement). The transept forms the arms of the cross and the chancel the
top. On the Tenth street side of the building is the alter of St. Mary,
and on the other side correspondingly is that of St. Joseph. In either
side of the transept is an immense Gothic window 39x24 feet. There are
many windows in the side walls and towers, and within the towers is the
vestibule into which from the exterior open the three main entrances to
the building. There being but two other entrances, one to the transept
from the south side, and the other to the vestry from the north side of
the building. The interior of the cathedral will be finished in that
elegance and grace corresponding to its exterior grandeur and beauty.
The corner stone of the building was laid on St. Peter's day (August 1,
1875) -- the work having then been in progress for two seasons -- amid the
largest demonstration of a religious character the city of Erie ever
witnessed. Mass was first celebrated at St. Patrick's Pro-Cathedral, after
which the procession, composed of numerous societies of this city,
Meadville, Corry, Union City and other places, and a large concourse of
people, then proceeded to the site of the building where the corner stone
was laid, the ceremonies being conducted by Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen. An
address was delivered in English by Bishop Mullen, and one in German by
Rev. Father George Meyer, of Meadville.
The cathedral, when completed, will cost over a quarter of a million of
dollars. The Protestants, alike with the Catholics of Erie, will look upon
it with pride and administration, and it will stand a living monument to
the zeal and devotion of him who now sits at the head of the diocese of
Erie, through whose untiring efforts the structure has been reared.
Father Thomas A. Casey became pastor of St. Patrick's congregation in
1869, and has since remained in that relation with the church. From 1869
to 1875, he was assisted by Rev. Father McCabe; from 1875 to 1877, by Rev.
Father E. J. Murphy; from 1879 to 1880, by Rev. Father J. J. Calligan, and
from 1880 to the present by Rev. William Dwyer, who is still with the
congregation. Father Casey is Vicar General of the Erie Diocese, and
together with the other priests of Erie county has ever faithfully
seconded the bishop in the grand work of building up the church in this
portion of God's vineyard. Connected with St. Patrick's is a Sunday
school, with an average attendance of 200 children, who meet in the parish
schoolhouse every Sunday at 2 o'clock P. M., and there receive careful
instruction in the faith and precepts of the church.
St. Mary's Catholic Church
The first German Catholic family to settle in Erie was that of Mr.
Wolfgang Erhart in 1830. Others of this nationality and faith soon
followed, and perhaps the first time that these families conceived the
idea of uniting in the form of a congregation was in 1833, when mass was
said by Father Mosquelette, in a log house which stood on the northeast
corner of State and Tenth streets, belonging to Mr. Erhart. The following
year the same missionary father, accompanied by Rt. Rev. Francis Patrick
Kenrick, Bishop of Philadelphia (to which diocese Erie then belonged),
again visited this people. Services this year were held in a frame house
which was also the property of Mr. Erhart, located on the northeast corner
of French and Fourth streets. The Bishop confirmed a number to whom this
sacrament had not yet been administered. Neither the Irish nor the German
Catholics were able yet to support a stationary pastor. Both flocks,
however, steadily increased and became strong enough to form separate
In 1837, the Germans bought a lot on East Ninth street, and built a frame
church 36x40 feet on the same site where now the imposing St. Mary's
At the next visit of the Bishop of Philadelphia an agreement was made
between him and the Trustees of the German congregation. Papers, etc.,
were handed over to the Bishop, who in return sent the first pastor for
the German Catholics of Erie, Rev. Ivo Levitz, of the order of St.
Francis. On his voyage to America, Father Levitz had, during a severe and
threatening storm, promised that the first church he would have the
happiness of blessing in America should be dedicated to the "Blessed
Mary conceived without sin," and as his first field for missionary
labor was Erie, and a church there already built but not yet blessed,
Father Levitz on the 2d day of August, 1840, blessed and with the cheerful
consent of the members of the young congregation dedicated the church,
naming it St. Mary's Church. He also blessed the adjoining cemetery.
Father Ivo Levitz was succeeded in 1841 by Rev. A. Steinbacher, who after
a short term was followed by Rev. R. Kleineidam. Rev. P. Frederick
Broenner, of the Carmelite Order, was the fourth pastor, succeeded in 1847
by Rev. John Evan Mosetizh. The latter in 1848 was succeeded by Rev.
Nicolas Haeres, who in the same year handed over the pastorate to Rev. N.
Steinbacher, S. J., who built an addition to the church and bought grounds
for a cemetery on West Twenty-fourth street.
His successor and the pastor whose name will ever remain in grateful
remembrance in the congregation, was Rev. F. J. Hartmann, now of St.
Joseph's congregation of this city. The frame church, though enlarged, was
insufficient for the growing congregation. It was however difficult to
decide what action to take, as the members of the congregation were very
poor. On the other hand, the clear-sighted pastor perceived that to build
on a small scale would only be providing for a few years. In consequence,
he undertook and successfully accomplished a task which at the beginning
seemed too burdensome for the then small congregation; it was the building
of the grand St. Mary's church as it now stands on Ninth street, which is
built of brick, in the cruciform Roman style; it has two massive towers,
each 150 feet high; in size, the building is 146x78 feet. It was put under
roof in 1854, and dedicated in 1855, and was then the finest church
edifice in Erie. In 1873, some $7,000 was expended in improving both the
interior and exterior of St. Mary's church, the former being nicely
frescoed in blue and gold, the columns marbled and their caps heavily
gilded, elegant gas fixtures introduced, and a new alter, handsome in
design, placed therein. One of the exterior attractions was the addition
of an expensive piece of statuary over the main entrance. Father Hartmann,
with the consent of the Bishop, transferred the charge in 1858 to the
Benedictine Fathers of St. Vincent Abbey, Westmoreland Co., Penn., who
have since retained it. So numerous have been the fathers of this order
who have since administered to the spiritual wants of the congregation,
that it is thought impracticable to here name them. Those in charge at the
present writing are Father Amandus Kramer, O. S. B.; Revs. Boniface and
Emerine, assistants. The congregation numbers some 3,000 souls. The
Catholic citizens of Erie who are of German nationality, or German
descent, to-day proudly look upon three German Catholic edifices in the
city with the fourth about to be built.
St. Joseph's (Catholic) Church
The congregation at St. Joseph's may properly date its commencement to a
period extending back about thirty years, when several Catholic families
residing in South Erie met for religious worship in a little frame
schoolhouse on Eighteenth street, between Peach and Sassafras, where they
were visited by priests sent by the Bishop. The present church building,
located on Twenty-fourth, between Peach and Sassafras streets, a neat
frame, was erected in 1866 or 1867, and the congregation fully established
the former year, with Rev. Father Joseph Stumpe in charge. His successor
was the Rev. Father John B. Kuhn, who officiated for about one year, then
relieved by the Bishop. The next pastor of the charge was the Rev. Father
E. J. Reiter, S. J., whose pastorate terminated with his death, May 5,
1873. Rev. Father Mink, who was an assistant under Father Reiter, assumed
the pastorate at his death, and in July of the same year the present
pastor, the Rev. Father J. A. Oberhofer, was placed in charge of the
church, and has since worthily guided the flock. He has been assisted at
different periods by Fathers Deckinbrook, Frank, Hasse, and since 1879 by
the venerable Father F. J. Hartmann, whose active service and arduous
labors since the year 1852 in this vicinity has not been without
gratifying results. He built St. Mary's Church on Ninth street.
The priests of St. Joseph's have a neat and pretty parsonage home
adjoining the church. The congregation is at present composed of 500
families, and has so increased as to make a more commodious house of
worship necessary, which they have already commenced, the corner-stone
having been laid with appropriate ceremonies July 2, 1882. It adjoins the
present building, fronting on Sassafras street, and is to be constructed
of brick, in size 133x60 feet, and will cost in the neighborhood of
$40,000. The architect is C. C. Keeley, of Brooklyn, N. Y. The style will
A new congregation will soon be formed from St. Joseph's, to be known as
St. John's (Catholic) Church
St. John's congregation was formed late in the year 1869. The first
baptism recorded bears date of January 1, 1870. The first pastor of the
church was Rev. Bernard Mauser, O. S. B. The church building is a neat
frame, located on Twenty-sixth street, between Wallace and Ash, and was
built in 1869-70, and dedicated to the worship of God on the 28th of
August, 1870, by Rt. Rev. Bishop Mullen. A nice parsonage adjoins the
church; also a brick schoolhouse belonging to the congregation, all built
at the same time; the former, however, was enlarged in 1877. The
congregation is composed of about 100 families.
Father Mauser was succeeded March 19, 1873, by Rev. E. A. Reiter, S. J.,
whose pastorate terminated May 4, 1873. From March 19 to May 4, 1873, this
charge and St. Joseph's were together. St. John's became independent after
this and has since so remained. The present pastor, Rev. Father M. J.
Decker, assumed the pastorate May 4, 1873, and has ever since sustained
such relation to the church. On his coming, the congregation numbered some
seventy families and were greatly in debt, which has since been canceled
and a neat sum in the church's favor accumulated. A new schoolhouse will
soon be built.
St. Andrew's Catholic Church
The English-speaking Catholic people residing in the western part of the
city, were formed into a parish under the name given above, by Rev. Father
J. A. McCabe, in the summer of 1871. A neat and beautiful frame church
edifice, 40x75 feet, was erected at this time under the management of the
pastor, which was dedicated July 30, 1871, by Rt. Rev. Tobias Mullen,
assisted by Rev. Father Phelan, of Pittsburgh, Rev. M. Broidy, of
Forestville, N. Y., and Rev. J. A. McCabe.
In 1874, the pastor's neat residence adjoining the church was erected. It
is beautifully situated on the brow of a hill overlooking a grand tract of
country. The location is on Raspberry near Sixth street.
The church edifice within is as attractive as on the exterior. It is
supplied with a nice altar, and has suspended from the walls the usual
Scriptural paintings or stations of the cross, always found in Catholic
Churches. The church has a seating capacity of 350 people. There has been
no change in the pastorate. The congregation numbers 100 families, and
like all the Catholic churches of Erie, is in a flourishing condition.