Erie County (PA) Genealogy

History of the Presbytery of Erie up to 1868

Contributed by Susan Smith


Frequent contributor Susan Smith was able to get the book whose cover is shown below on interlibrary loan. In addition to the early ministers travels and assignments, it contains some narrations of incidents in Erie along with the names of inhabitants and short histories of the first Presbyterian churches. Susan has scanned portions of the book that pertain to present day Erie county. Her contribution is included below unedited. Any questions or comments concerning this article should be sent directly to Susan Smith.


Cover of History of Erie Presby

 

The following excerpts were taken from the History of the Erie Presbytery. The first part describes the religious conditions preceding and at the time of the establishment of the County of Erie. Following that are passages in yearly sequence that mention people, congregations and communities of present day Erie County. The final excerpts are brief descriptions of the congregations established in the early days of Erie County.

History of the Presbytery of Erie: embracing in its ancient boundaries the whole of northwestern Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio: with biographical sketches of all its ministers and historical sketches of its churches, by S J M Eaton, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church, Franklin, Pa; Publisher: New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1868.

 

The Presbytery of Erie was formed in 1801, following the tide of settlers advancing into the recently opened territory of northwestern Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio. The previous twenty-five years had seen war and Indian incursions on the frontier. Now that it had passed people in the older settlements went west looking for cheaper lands, new opportunities and adventure.

Religion was experiencing a revival. "From 1781 to 1787, a most extensive work of grace was experienced in the churches of Cross Creek, Upper Buffalo, Chartiers, Pigeon Creek, Bethel, Lebanon, Ten Mile, Cross Roads, and Millcreek, during which more than a thousand persons were brought into the kingdom of Christ."

"From 1795 to 1799, another series of gracious visitations were enjoyed by the churches generally throughout Western Pennsylvania, extending to the new settlements north of Pittsburgh."

These gracious visitations continued into the beginning of the new century, filling the minds of many with the conviction that the very dawn of the Millenium had come. Even in the midst of the labors and watching peculiar to the founding of new settlements, and sometimes without the labors of the stated ministry, this spirit of revival was present, stimulating the hearts of the settlers with hope and courage, and inviting others who were looking for some new place of settlement to cast in their lot with them. Says a venerable father[1] lately fallen asleep: "My mother was pious, and hearing of the revival of religion in Western Pennsylvania, felt a great anxiety that her family might enjoy the benefits of such a season. Accordingly we removed to Beaver County in 1806." Others were influenced, no doubt, in the same way, and thus the spiritual attractions of the new territory added to its temporal prosperity.

Elisha McCurdy is linked particularly with the great Revival in 1802 which was first manifested in McCurdy's congregation at old Three Springs Church.  The revival spread far and wide, influencing the religious outlook of the whole country.  In the wake of this Revival came the Sunday School, the Missionary Movement, the Prayer Meeting, the Temperance Movement and the Crusade against slavery.

Elisha was known as the "Father of Presbyterianism on the Lake Shore" (Lake Erie). He founded Presbyterian churches throughout western Pennsylvania

In 1799 Elisha McCurdy and Joseph Stockton, previously known to some of these people, made their first preaching tour through these settlements and were in fact the first Presbyterian Ministers to travel these hills and valleys. They were sent on missionary tours by the Presbyteries of Ohio and Redstone. When Erie County was erected as a separate County on March 12, 1800, there were again several other missionary tours.

In 1801 Rev. Elisha McCurdy, being sent now, by the Presbytery of Pittsburgh was sent to preach and organize new churches. During one of these tours, two congregations were organized, Upper Greenfield, which became the Middlebrook Congregation and Lower Greenfield, which became the North East Congregation.

The territory that was occupied by the old Presbytery of Erie was widely extended. It embraced all the churches and settlements north and northwest of the Ohio and Alleghany rivers. It extended from Beaver, Pa., on the Ohio River on the south, to Lake Erie on the north, and from the Alleghany River on the east to Canfield, Ohio, on the west, embracing the whole of what is now the Synod of Alleghany with portions of the Synods of Wheeling, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. The field was almost wholly uncultivated by ministerial labor. The population was mainly Presbyterian. They had brought with them a few books from the East. The Bible, the Westminster Confession, the Hymn Book, and some works on practical religion — these were their spiritual pabulum during the intervals of their labor and toil. They often met together on the Sabbath and held what they called "Society Meetings." The exercises consisted of singing, prayer, and reading a sermon from Burder or some other standard work. But the parents felt that, much as they delighted in those social meetings, they needed the minister of Christ. Their children had many of them been baptized in their infancy but were now growing up, and they felt the deepest interest in their spiritual welfare. Says the same father already quoted: "They saw the importance of having the standard of the gospel planted at the commencement of their new settlement. In all their meetings for prayer they earnestly sought the Lord that he would send them a godly man, to break to them the bread of life, and be the instrument of laying the foundation of a rising church in the wilderness. Their prayers were heard, and thus God in a short time selected out of these and other families materials for the organization of a church."

The labors of these men were most arduous. When the Presbytery was organized, there were but seven ministers to enter upon the work. The field embraced what now constitutes ten or twelve counties in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. There were a few churches organized, perhaps eight or ten. But they did not confine themselves to these. The whole field must be brought under cultivation. New churches must be organized. Those already organized must be visited, supplied, and strengthened. Difficulties must be removed, discipline administered, and the ordinances dispensed. Oftentimes, long missionary tours were undertaken, sometimes singly, sometimes two and two, for the purpose of exploring the country, and preaching the gospel to the destitute. Sometimes this preaching continued day after day, for weeks. The services would be held in private houses at first, and after the progress of settlement had advanced, in school houses – just where a few neighbors could be gathered together.

The Beginnings

Church buildings were built in the same manner as the dwellings. Oftentimes they worshipped in the open air, with what was called a tent for the accommodation of the minister. Generally such a building was completed in a single day, with all its appointments. Frequently there was not a single nail or scrap of metal in the whole building. Weights kept the clapboards in place, and pins made of wood furnished the arrangements for the doors and windows.

In Upper Greenfield, afterwards called Middlebrook, in Erie County, such a church was erected. The people had formed a little settlement; had built cabins for themselves, and were beginning to feel comfortable in a worldly point of view; but they remembered the churches in Eastern Pennsylvania from which they had come, and resolved to build a house for the Lord. The neighborhood assembled one morning in the opening summer, with axes and oxen. Trees were cut down for logs and clapboards, the logs drawn to the proper place, notched and laid in position, the roof and floor laid, and the house completed by sundown.

These churches were usually furnished with seats made of round logs. Sometimes they lay upon the ground, at other times they were raised up to the proper height by rude legs. Upon these logs the people sat and listened to the word, sometimes relieving their weariness by rising and standing upon their feet for a time, or walking about. They were not punctilious about their dress that it was clean. Very frequently, in summer, the men went to church without coats. When Mr. Porter returned to Westmorland County, after visiting Mr. McPherrin's congregation near Butler Pa, "He stated that Mr. McPherrin had settled amongst a very poor people; that very few of the men wore coats; and that these coats were of the coarsest kind."

In the early days the services of the Sabbath were usually all in the day-time. They consisted of two sermons, with a recess of about half an hour between. During this half hour the congregation would eat the biscuits they had brought in their pockets, walked to the spring for a drink of water, or wandered into the burial ground, that was then usually connected with the church, to think of the loved ones whose dust was slumbering there. At the expiration of the half hour, the congregation would assemble as though by a similar impulse, seat themselves reverently, and engage in the worship of God.

In those days the singing of the praise of God was always on the congregational plan. After the hymn had been announced, one, two, or three persons, called clerks, took their position in front of the pulpit, and "lined out," as it was termed, the hymn. The name of the tune proposed to be sung was then announced, when the clerk led the way, and the whole congregation joined in the singing. This lining out consisted in reciting one and sometimes two lines of the hymn at a time, before singing them. The origin of the custom arose, perhaps, in part from the scarcity of books, and in part from the inability of many of the people to read; but it was continued long after both of these difficulties had been removed. In fact, it became actually a matter of conscience with many of the old fathers, who insisted that the lining out was as much a part of worship as the singing and praying. The change from lining out to the regular singing of the hymn was attended with many difficulties and disturbances as years rolled by.

In those days the Sabbath services were long and tedious. The whole day was usually devoted to the service. Soon after ten o'clock in the morning the people begin to assemble, and it was nearly night when they returned home. Long psalms or hymns were sung; long prayers were offered up; and very long sermons were preached. If the day was warm the minister laid off his coat and cravat, and proceeded deliberately from firstly to twelfthly. The ancient mode of sermonizing was perhaps formal, yet it was so arranged that the hearers could readily retain it in their memories. The text was announced; then followed a general, easy introduction to the whole subject. The matter was usually divided into three general heads, and these subdivided into three or four branches, and the whole wound up with the application. The sermon often occupied an hour and a half, making some three hours of preaching, besides the other parts of the service. Yet the people did not complain of weariness. If sleepy or weary of sitting, they could stand up. or walk about, until rested.

Sacramental occasions were great days in the history of the fathers. They usually embraced the services of four days. The first day was usually Thursday, and set apart as a "Fast Day." It was observed precisely as the Sabbath. No work was done, and everything was quiet throughout whole neighborhoods, as the Sabbath itself. In some cases it was observed as a literal fast day by abstaining from food, but when this was not done, there was abstinence from labor. The second day of the service was Saturday, and after the preaching the session of the church met for the purpose of receiving applications for membership in the church. “Tokens" were also distributed to the members of the church, admitting them to the communion the following day. These "tokens" were simple bits of lead, with the initial letters of the name of the congregation upon them; as "F. C.," denoting "Fairview Congregation." These bits of lead were distributed by the pastor and elders on Saturday and Sabbath mornings to all who wished to unite in communion, or who were in good standing in the church. After the communicants had seated themselves at the table, the elders collected these tokens, when the services proceeded. This practice of distributing tokens was evidently brought from Scotland and Ireland. Its object, no doubt, was to exclude unworthy communicants, especially at times when a large number present were strangers. But it is extremely doubtful whether it was ever of any practical advantage. After their use began to be discontinued, a good old elder who had never even dreamed that a communion could be held without them, was dreadfully horrified by a facetious minister advising him to put his tokens in his gun and shoot them at the crows.

The communion Sabbath, as it was observed by our fathers, has been thus aptly described by the author of "Old Redstone"1: — "The action sermons, as they were called, on communion Sabbaths, were generally preached by the pastors, or resident ministers; this was considered peculiarly proper. And we must remember that perhaps fully one half of the audience were not his ordinary hearers. Then followed what was called fencing the tables. This was often tedious, occupying an hour or more. Not unfrequently there was a regular review of all the sins forbidden in each of the Ten Commandments. And it was remarked by the profane, that the preacher never stopped until he had solemnly debarred from the ordinances every one of his people, and himself besides. Our old ministers, however, seldom indulged in such lengthened details as the Seceders were said to be in the practice of doing, forbidding and debarring various classes of offenders, that were not to be found among them, such as stage-players and visitants of theatres; and yet it must be confessed that our venerable fathers took this occasion to pour out a great deal 'de omnibus rebus, et quibusdam aliis’"

Concerning this same matter of fencing tables, there was no doubt call for admonition and warning, yet withal it savored of harshness and severity. It must have been oftentimes gall and wormwood to the trembling, fearful Christian, needing, instead of such words, encouragement and assurance. One who remembers those old scenes, makes the remark that on such occasions there were usually two ministers, one of whom debarred every person from coming by the strictness of his charge; when the other would censure, and upbraid, and reproach every one for not coming, when the invitation was so free. It must be confessed that in those days the spirit of John the Baptist seemed to characterize the preaching, more than that of John the beloved disciple.

The ordinance was in those days always connected with the literal use of tables. Sometimes there was accommodation for all to partake at the same time; if not, there were two or more tables just as circumstances might require. In this way the services became often very tedious and even exhausting. There were usually two or more ministers in attendance, who divided the labors between or amongst them. Still the exercises on such occasions were exhausting.

Oftentimes these services were held in the woods. Indeed this was usually the case in the summer season, for no house of worship, then in use, would have contained the people. This woods service was in connection with what was called a tent, for the accommodation of the ministers. The tent was simply a stand, such as is used at political and Fourth of July meetings at the present time. The seats were simple logs raised to the proper height, with intervening aisles for the accommodation of the people.

The fourth day of the service was Monday following the Sabbath, when the services were concluded. To these old-fashioned communion services, the people came from far and near. It was nothing unusual to come a distance of ten or twelve miles. It was also usual for strangers to spend the evenings of Saturday and Sabbath in the congregation, and many a house in near proximity to the place of worship was literally packed with guests; and these guests expected to enact the part of host to their entertainers on some similar occasion. In this way sociability was cultivated, as well as practical godliness.

Great attention was paid to the Shorter Catechism. All parents were expected to have it taught to their children, and to retain it likewise in their own memories. No one was supposed to be too old to be called on to repeat his "Questions." Indeed it was customary to have the catechism taught in the common schools. Nor was it common to find any objections raised to the practice in the schools. It was the custom to have the questions asked in families every Sabbath evening, in the assembled household. In addition to this, the minister examined the entire congregation once in each year. Usually during one year, whilst making pastoral visitations, the catechism was reviewed in each family, separately; during the next year public examinations were held in certain districts of the congregation, when all had an opportunity of showing their promptness and diligence in this matter.

It was under these circumstances, and in these times, that the Presbytery of Erie, the mother Presbytery of the Synod of Alleghany, set up its gates and entered upon its great work. From feeble beginnings, it gradually extended its influence until it became the mother of Presbyteries, and sent its missionaries to the aborigines of our own country, to the far distant nations of heathenism, as well as to every State and Territory of the Great West.

Excerpts of passages specific to Erie County

1799-1802

In addition to the preaching of Mr. Hughes in the southern portion of the territory, perhaps the first in the extreme north was during the celebrated tour of Elisha McCurdy and Joseph Stockton. This was in 1799. They preached at Sandy (perhaps the present Georgetown), Meadville, Waterford, Erie, North East, and other places.[2] In 1802 another missionary tour through the same region was undertaken by McCurdy, Satterfield, and McPherrin, with McCurdy's "praying elder," Philip Jackson, organizing churches and strengthening the brethren.

At this time the churches of Upper and Lower Greenfield were organized in Erie County, Pa. There were many people scattered through this region who had come from the counties east of the Alleghany Mountains, and some from Washington and Westmoreland, west of the mountains. They remembered the God of their fathers, and welcomed the pioneer ministers most gladly. There was a large Presbyterian element in all their early settlements, and for very many years the great religious clement of the country was of this type of faith.

The organization of a church there was a most important era in the history of the people, and the dispensing of the ordinances made them feel that the trials and privations of the new settlements were passing away.

And when the people of what is now Venango Township, Erie County, Pa., met together to build a house of worship, it was a matter of more interest to them than they had felt in the erection of their own houses. It was with the thought that God would be with them, and be their God.

We have a minute account of the building of this house, and the circumstances attending it, in an old journal written by William Dickson, Esq., formerly of Erie County, Pa., but now of Camden, Illinois. An extract follows:

"Some time in August, 1801, a notice was sent to Mr. James Hunter, an old man, who the spring previous had emigrated to what is now Venango Township, Erie County. He had been an elder in Dr. Bryson's church, in Northumberland County, and was to notify the people that the Rev. James Satterfield, a missionary, would preach at a place designated by them, on the following Sabbath. The notice was given, I believe, to every individual in the township; and the place fixed upon for the meeting was at a 'chopping' made by Robert Donaldson, on the bank of French Creek, near the centre of the town. Four or five of us, all young men, went on the ground on Saturday, to prepare a place for worship. We selected a spot under a large beech-tree; we split a large log, turning the split sides up, and raising them a little from the ground made a platform. We then squared a block for a seat, placing it on the platform near the tree, which made a good stiff backing; we then drove two stakes into the ground in front, pinning and nailing a clapboard across the top, to lay the Bible and Psalm Book on. I am thus particular in describing the first pulpit from which I ever heard the gospel in Erie County.

" Sabbath morning came, and every man and woman within our township was gathered, I believe, around the beech-tree. About the hour appointed, the minister came; he had lost his way the evening previous, having nothing but marked trees for a guide, and had lain out all night. In the morning he found a cabin where two young men lived; they gave him a good breakfast of indian bread and potatoes, and having his inner man strengthened, he appeared to come unto the work in the Spirit, and preached two sermons, and administered the ordinance of baptism. He stated it was possible the Synod of Pittsburgh would send us some more preaching that Fall. After preaching, and before the people dispersed, Mr. Hunter called several of us young men around him, and said, ‘Boys’ (for by that name he always called us), ‘I want you all to meet me at a certain land corner (naming it) on next Thursday morning early, and bring your axes and dinners with you.’ That was enough; we all knew what was wanting, and at the time appointed we were there almost to a man. The old man then stated the reasons for calling us together. He said the Lord had been mindful of us in that wilderness, and had sent us the gospel by the month of one of his servants, and we had no house to meet in, but heard it, as you know, under the beech-tree, in the open air. Now, if we wish to prosper, while we build houses for ourselves, we must build one for God; and he had selected that spot, as it was the centre of the township.

"As the large hemlock-tree which marked the corner stood in a swamp, — a place by no means suitable for our purpose, — a young man, whose name was Warren, said that if we would agree to go a half or three quarters of a mile north, he would show us a good place on his land, where there was a fine spring of water, and he would give us a deed of two acres, if we chose that spot.

"As it would shorten Father Hunter's distance in coming to meeting, which was no small consideration with us, we at once shouldered our axes and followed our leader to the spot; and that day, before sundown, we had cleared the ground, and built a habitation for the Most High to dwell in[3]. In the evening, before we parted, Father Hunter called us around a large stump, and explained the propriety of supporting the gospel. He said that those men who came to preach to us, suffered so much in travelling through the wilderness that they ought to be well paid, and it would be best for us to have a fund on hand for that purpose. He also said that he had made a calculation of the amount required to begin with, and it would be best to appoint a treasurer, and each one pay twenty - five cents. We all stepped up to the stump and laid down our money, mostly fifty cents; when we had all paid, the good old man laid down a dollar; and on seeing him do so, one of the party said: ‘Father Hunter, you shall not go ahead of me,’ and took up the fifty cents he had paid and laid down a dollar. Thus commenced a fund which never failed during my residence in that congregation of over twelve years, and I never knew a minister to preach in that place (who was a Presbyterian) but was paid promptly. A few days after we had built our house of worship, notice came that the Rev. James Satterfield and Rev. Elisha McCurdy were expected to preach, and organize a church in our new meeting-house. They came, and each brought his wife with him. They came on horseback, picking their way through woods, in many places only bylines marked on the trees; encountering swamps, and every other obstacle imaginable, all without complaining. Here I will relate a little circumstance about Mrs. McCurdy. In passing through, they lodged for a night with one of my neighbors, whose cabin was very small and had but one bed (that used by the man and his wife), and a bunk in the corner for three or four children. Mrs. McCurdy saw that her hostess was preparing the bed for the strangers, and said, ‘I perceive that you are giving yourself unnecessary trouble for us. Is not that the bed which you and your husband occupy?’ ‘Yes,’ was the reply. She said, ‘Then sleep in it; all we ask is room in your house, and I will provide a bed for me and Mr. McCurdy; the floor will do for us’ The woman insisted that they should take the bed. ‘Where will you sleep?’ was the next question. ‘0, somewhere here’ she replied. ‘You shall not leave your bed for me’ said Mrs. McCurdy; ‘my Master had not where to lay his head, and we have saddle-bags and blankets, and a house to shelter us.’ By this time I found there was no room for me, so I went out to a stack where there was some straw, and made a nest under the side of it, where I slept comfortably.

"From thence they went to Lower Greenfield, now North East, and organized a church, and returned to our log meeting-house, and organized a church, and called it Middlebrook. Mr. McCurdy preached the sermon from these words, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.’”

1803

On the 22d of June, 1803, Alexander Cook was ordained and installed as pastor of the congregations of , Slippery Rock and New Castle, formerly called Lower Neshannock. The former church was in what is now Beaver County, and the latter Lawrence County, Pa. On the same day Robert Johnston, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Ohio, was received under the care of Presbytery. On the 31st of August following, Robert Patterson was ordained and installed as pastor of the congregations of Upper and Lower Greenfield. These churches are now known, the former as Middlebrook and the latter North East. They are in Erie County, Pa., and at present in the New School connection.

Mr. Patterson was the first settled minister in Erie County. He took frequent missionary tours, in the region along the shore of Lake Erie. A brief journal, kept during one of these tours, will convey some idea of the character of the work: —

Saturday, Nov. 5, 1803. Set off from the place of my residence, at the mouth of the Twelve Mile Creek, below Presque Isle. Rode thirty miles to the house of Thomas Miles, on Elk Creek.

“Nov. 6, Sabbath. Rode nine miles to Lexington on the Great Conneaut. Met this morning, at different places on the road, one man carrying a hoe, shovel, and basket, going into his potato field; another carrying a log chain; and a third a cutting knife. Besides these met several others on their return from a Saturday night's lodging in a tavern, after having attended at the office of a justice, whose custom it is to transact law business on Saturdays, and so late that those who are obliged to appear before him are under the necessity, some with and a few against their will, of staying all night in a place where drunkenness, profanity, and obscenity too frequently introduce the Sabbath.

“Preached at the house of —— ——, from John iii. 19, 20, to eighteen hearers, some not very attentive, and no appearance of solemnity. Rode in the evening three miles to the house of C. Woods and Dr. Hastings, near the Great Conneaut.

“Nov. 7, Monday. Preached from Joshua xxiv. 15, to eleven persons, attentive and serious. Rode in the evening three or four miles to John Saton's, near Great Conneaut.

“Nov. 8, Tuesday. Rode eight or nine miles to Samuel Holliday's on the lake, near the mouth of Crooked Creek. Preached from Matt. iii. 9, to seven persons.

“Nov. 9, Wednesday. Rode eleven miles to Widow McCreary's, near Walnut Creek. Preached from Acts iii. 19, to twenty persons. Received $1.37. Rode in the evening two miles to Mr. McCoy's.

“Nov. 10, Thursday. Rode twenty miles home.

“Nov. 12, Saturday. Set out for Waterford, alias Le Boeuf, on French Creek, distant twenty-two miles, the road solitary, swampy, and in some places covered with deep snow. .... Towards evening, when within five or six miles of my destination and near Le Boeuf Creek, was led astray by the devious track of two travellers, who had wandered themselves, and were the cause of my wandering. .... Two or three hours after night, came to a watercourse, seen by snowlight, which was too broad and miry to cross. Prepared to pass the night as well as I could. All in a perspiration, my feet wet with walking and wading, for the place did not admit of riding, hungry and fatigued, I lay down on the slushy snow, somewhat afraid of wild beasts, but more of perishing with the chilling cold, though it did not freeze. About midnight the cold in my feet became excessive. Rose and walked for about an hour on a path which I made in the snow for the purpose. My feet were somewhat relieved from the cold, lay down again and passed the night sometimes awake but mostly asleep.

“Nov. 13, Sabbath. In the morning, after having spent eleven or twelve hours in this dreary place, and after having suffered severer hardships than I ever before endured in travelling, and feeling some sense of my obligation to God for His preserving mercy, took my track backward, and between nine and ten o'clock reached the house of John Bundle. Preached from Acts ii. 88, to ten persons.

“Nov. 14, Monday. Rode eighteen miles home.

“Nov. 16, Wednesday. Rode ten miles to the house of John Culver. Preached to six persons — home in the evening.

“Nov. 19, Saturday. Rode seventeen miles to Adam Reed's, on French Creek.

'”Nov. 20, Sabbath. Rode nine miles to Matthew Gray's, and preached from Eph. vi. 4, to eighteen persons.

“Nov. 21, Monday. Rode nine miles to Adam Reed's. Lectured to twenty persons on the parable of the sower, Matt. xiii. Received one dollar. In the evening rode seven miles to Thomas McGahan's.

“Nov. 22, Tuesday. Rode ten miles to Wilson Smith's, in Waterford, alias Le Boeuf.

“Nov. 23, Wednesday. Preached in the town at the house of Esquire Vincent, to eleven persons, from Acts xvii. 18. Rode in the evening eight miles to John Philips'.

“Nov. 24, Thursday. Set out about sunrise, having appointed to preach at the house of P. Clooke, distant eleven or twelve miles. The road, however, was so extremely bad with mud, frost, and snow, and the day wet, that at twelve o'clock I found that I could not reach the place until two or three hours after the time appointed; and not being well since the night I lay in the snow, rode home from John Philips', seventeen or eighteen miles.

“Nov. 26, Saturday. Rode twenty miles to the house of James McMahan, living in a new settlement in the State of New York, situated about Chautauque Creek, that empties into Lake Erie.

“Nov. 27, Sabbath. Preached on 1 Cor. iv. at Widow McHenry's, to fifteen grown persons and a greater number of children. Received one dollar.

“Nov. 28. Monday. Rode twenty miles from James McMahan's house.

This journal gives a mere sample of the every-day labors of these early missionaries. As a general thing the study and preparation were confined to the saddle and the brief tarrying at the log-cabins by the wayside, whilst the preaching was often of daily occurrence — in the forest, in the dwelling-house, or wherever a few people could be assembled.

1807

In April, 1807, … Robert Patterson was released from the charge of Upper and Lower Greenfield in Erie County, Pa.

1808

On the 80th of June, 1808, Johnston Eaton was ordained, and installed as pastor of the congregations of Fairview and Springfield, in Erie County, Pa. Mr. Johnston preached on the occasion, and Joseph Stockton (4) delivered the charges. This ordination took place in a bam belonging to William Sturgeon. The relation continued with the congregation of Fairview until the death of the pastor in 1847.

The little church of Middlebrook was still keeping up its fund for the support of the gospel, and William Dickson, afterwards an elder at North East, was sent to Presbytery to ask for supplies. The Presbytery sent to them one of their licentiates, Edward Johnston, who preached to them on the Sabbath ; and on Sabbath night the stream between him and the man who kept the money arose to such a height that there was no possibility of crossing it. So Mr. Johnston went home without his money. To the next meeting of Presbytery Mr. Dickson went with the money, but found that in the mean time Mr. Johnston had been called home to his rest and his reward. The money was placed in the hands of Presbytery, to be disposed of as was fitting and best.

The Presbytery of Erie had now been in existence eight years. The general result had been most encouraging. Its roll had increased from five to nineteen members, with one licentiate and six candidates. Of these, seventeen were pastors. The churches had increased in number and in strength. At the last meeting of Synod, previous to the division, there were reported the following congregations able to support a pastor: "Warren and Newton, Amity and West Unity, Gravel Run and Conneaut, Oil Creek and Sugar Creek, Hartford, Smithfield, and Kinsman." There were also reported, as unable to support a pastor; "Upper Salem, New Salem, Erietown, Waterford, Brokenstraw, Conewango, Vienna, Bristol, Beavertown, Bear Creek, Upper and Lower Greenfield, Mesopotamia, Middlefield, Hilands, Middlebrook, Miles' Settlement, Franklin, Cleveland, East Unity, Sewickly, Boardman, Indiana, Center, Austinburgh, and Morgan."

What number of these were regularly organized churches, and what were merely preaching points, it is impossible to determine. The early records rarely if ever give any account of the date and circumstances of the organization of particular churches. They seem to have been enrolled just as they sought supplies, and became known as places desiring the public ordinances of religion.

Much missionary labor had been performed by the Presbytery through its members, and some enterprises had been undertaken by the Synod and General Assembly within its bounds.

The first years in the history of the Presbytery were marked and rendered eternally memorable by the wonderful revivals of religion that were enjoyed. The great awakening of 1801 and 1802 commenced in the Presbytery of Ohio, but soon extended into what became the territory of the Presbytery of Erie. The first notice of it is found in the history of the charge of Mr. Hughes at Mount Pleasant, Beaver County, Pa. Mr. Munson, who was a member of that charge, tells us[4] many of the particulars of it. It was preceded by a spirit of prayerfulness and anxiety for God's blessing. The people met together for prayer. The female members of the congregation met for prayer. Individuals wrestled with agony and weeping. They laid hold on the strength of Jehovah. They watched and waited for the blessing. They brought the tithes into the store house, and God poured them out a blessing. People came together as with one heart and one mind, to seek the Lord. No business was so pressing, no cares so urgent, as to interfere with these solemn assemblies. Oftentimes they could not be persuaded to retire after the benediction had been pronounced, but lingered around the door of the church, or the tent, as though by some unusual fascination. In some cases, under such circumstances, the services were renewed, and continued all night. Great numbers were brought to the knowledge of Christ; the hearts of God's people were refreshed, and the churches greatly enlarged.

An extract from the "Western Missionary Magazine," describing the work as witnessed in the Congregation of Cross Roads, will convey an idea of the manifestation of God's Spirit during these times. It was during the exercises of a communion season. Nine ministers were present. Great feeling had been manifested during the services. The communicants had retired from the tables: "A great many were affected, and some had to be assisted to move out. Ministers still preached successively in the hours throughout the day. Prayers and exhortations were continued all night in the meeting-house, except at short intervals, when a speaker's voice could not be heard for the cries and groans of the distressed. On Monday three ministers preached at different places, one in the house, and two out in the encampments. This was a very solemn day, particularly in the house. After public worship, when the people were preparing to remove, the scene was very affecting; the house was thronged full, and when some of those without were about to go away, they found that part of their families were in the house, and some of them lying in distress unable to remove. This prevented a general removal; and although a number went away, the greater part remained. About the time of the departure of those who went away, the work became more powerful than it had been at any time before, and numbers who had prepared to go were constrained to stay. It was a memorable time of the display of Divine power and grace through the whole night. Many of the young people were remarkably exercised, and frequently addressed others about the condition they were in, the glories of the Saviour, the excellency and suitableness of the plan of salvation; and warned and invited, and pressed sinners to come to Christ; all this in a manner quite astonishing for their years. Numbers of old, experienced Christians, also, were particularly exercised, were much refreshed and comforted, and affectingly recommended the Lord Jesus and his religion to those around them. About sunrise, after a time of solemn, sweet exercise, the congregation was dismissed, and soon after dispersed."

Another account describes the work in a different congregation: "The administration of the Word and ordinances was accompanied with an extraordinary effusion of divine influences on the hearts of the hearers. Some hundreds were, during the season, convinced of their sin and misery; and many of them sunk down and cried bitterly and incessantly for several hours. Some fell suddenly; some lost their strength gradually; some lay quiet and silent; some were violently agitated; and many sat silently weeping, who were not exercised with any bodily affections."

The work extended throughout all the region round. All classes, all ages, all conditions in life were affected. The hoary-headed sinner, who had looked unappalled on scenes of human and elemental strife, and had been unmoved by any appeals to reason or to conscience before, was bowed and subdued. Eyes that seldom wept, poured out their tears like rain, and hearts that were like the adamant were melted beneath the Spirit's power. Lips that had curled with scorn at the name of Jesus, uttered cries for mercy or lisped the praises of redeeming love. Many who came from mere curiosity, or to show, as they expressed it, that strong men could not be influenced by such things, were crushed in the dust and made to cry for mercy. Little children were the subjects of this work. In one instance, some children spent the whole night in prayer, a young man, without their knowledge, being stationed near to guard them against danger.

From the accounts as given above, it is evident that the work of divine grace was accompanied by remarkable and unusual circumstances. The body was affected as well as the mind. These affections were different in different individuals. Sometimes the body was affected with feebleness and languor, so that the person seemed to faint away. Sometimes there were apparent convulsions, or as the people then termed it, "jerks," or spasmodical contortions of the muscles. In some, the body became quite powerless and without motion for a length of time; the breathing became very weak, animation was almost suspended, and the pulse almost still. But no pain was experienced, nor did any injurious consequences follow to the most delicate constitutions. Yet all this time there was an entire consciousness of all that was passing. The mind was not in a comatose state, although the body seemed often slumbering. "It is no unusual thing," says Dr. McMillan, "to see persons so entirely deprived of bodily strength that they will fall from their seats, or off their feet, and be as unable to help themselves as a new-born child." "There was," says Dr. Anderson, "in some cases gradually, and in others instantly, a total loss of bodily strength, so that they fell to the ground, like Saul of Tarsus — and with oppression of the heart and lungs, with suspension of breath, with sobs and loud cries."

This wondrous affection of the bodily powers was not confined to the place of religious worship: it came upon men in the wood, in the fields, in the workshop, at home, and in bed. It was altogether involuntary, and in spite of every effort of the will to prevent it. The strong and the weak, both in body and mind, were equally its subjects. Sometimes it came upon those who were professing Christians and who had given undoubted evidences of piety. On the other hand, many who were its subjects, received no spiritual benefit, but went on careless as ever.

These affections seem generally, though not always to have followed some mental exercises, or anxiety and concern about the soul's salvation. In some instances, however, they followed where there was a determination to avoid any outward exhibition of feeling and interest in the great concern. Yet as the hearers lay apparently unconscious of all that was passing around them, their minds were active. They could hear and reason, and feel even more intensely than under ordinary circumstances.

Rev. Robert Johnston, whilst pastor of the congregation of Scrubgrass, in Venango County, Pa., relates many of the circumstances connected with this work in his own congregation. On a certain occasion, after the benediction had been pronounced at the close of the Sabbath evening service, a remarkable state of feeling presented itself. The circumstances are related in his manuscript autobiography: "While a solemn awe was visible in every face, five or six appeared to be awakened to a sense of their undone condition, among whom were two of the most unlikely persons in the house. One of them was the largest man in the assembly, and full of self-importance; the other a file-leader in the devil's camp, who attempted to escape by flight, got entangled in the bushes, and was forced to come back for a light to find his path, and who, the moment he set his foot inside the door, fell prostrate on the floor, under a sense of self-condemnation." As a result of this revival one half of the adult persons in the congregation were brought into the church.

In a letter to Rev. Dr. Elliott of the Western Theological Seminary, Mr. Johnston relates more minutely the circumstances connected with this "Bodily Exercise," as it was then called:[5] "The effects of this work on the body were truly wonderful, and so various that no physical cause could be assigned for their production. I have seen men and women sitting in solemn attitude, pondering the solemn truths that were presented, and in a moment fall from their seats, or off their feet, if they happened to be standing, as helpless as though they had been shot, and lie from ten or fifteen or .twenty minutes, and sometimes as long as half an hour, as motionless as a person in a sound sleep. At other times, the whole frame would be thrown into a state of agitation so violent as seemingly to endanger the safety of the subject; and yet in a moment this agitation would cease, and the persons arise in the possession of all their bodily powers, and take their seats composed and solemn, without the least sensation of pain or uneasiness. Another fact that I ascertained beyond doubt, was, that those who lay for a considerable length of time, apparently insensible, and sometimes without one discernible symptom of life, except the natural warmth and color of the skin, could hear, understand, and reflect on what they heard as well as, or better than, when in possession of all their natural powers. Nor was there that kind of uniformity in the occurrence of their different effects on the body as to allow them to be ascribed to corresponding exercises of the mind. Some have been agitated in body, under pleasing exercises of mind, and others have lain motionless under the anguish of a wounded spirit. Some were  under deep and pungent conviction for weeks before they felt any effect on the body; whilst some passed through the whole course of awakening and conviction, and became hopefully pious, who never felt any symptoms of bodily agitation. Of the former class, was a very intelligent young man, now a minister of the gospel, who told me that he had more pungent distress of mind before than after he became affected in body. From these, and many more similar facts that occurred under my own observation, I became satisfied that no natural cause could be assigned, sufficient to account for the extraordinary effects on the bodies of a large majority of the subjects of the revival."

"The physical effects of the excitement on the body, was by no means a desirable appendage, in the view of the sensible part of the community, but they we're evidently irresistible, and persons were as liable to be affected in the very act of resisting, as in any other circumstances; and many who came to mock and oppose remained to pray, and returned, inquiring what they must do to be saved."

This state of feeling and action was not encouraged by the ministers. It was something they could not understand, and they took circumstances as they found them. Mr. Johnston states that at the beginning of the revival in his congregation, he cautioned his people against any outcries, or bursts of feeling. This seemed to have had a good effect, for although the work was very powerful, yet this bodily exercise was no interruption to the exercises. "I have preached," says he, "to a crowded assembly, when more than one half of the people were lying helpless before me during the greater portion of divine service, without the least noise or disturbance of any kind, to divert or interrupt the attention of any individual from the word spoken."

The character of the preaching at these times was plain and practical. The terrors of the law were often set forth with peculiar pungency. Says Mr. Munson, in speaking of Mr. Hughes' preaching at Mount Pleasant during one of these revivals: "He took the ground that Boston and Rutherford and Edwards had done, to cut them off stroke by stroke from the Old Covenant. He thought the case of these anxious sinners required the exhibition of the requirements and threatenings of the law. This method was calculated to increase the distress which was already insupportable." Afterwards his thoughts took a different channel. "These distressed souls were directed to the Cross; Christ was held forth in his ability, willingness, and sufficiency; as suited in all his offices to relieve the distressed souls before Him of their heavy burdens. The new course had the desired effect; a favorable change was soon apparent, so that that was the beginning of days to a goodly number."

The character of the preaching was largely doctrinal. Man's total depravity and corruption was largely dwelt upon. The awful penalty of the law was set forth, at times, with dreadful severity and terror; the utter helplessness of the sinner without the assistance of divine grace was insisted upon; and then the blessings of the Atonement of Christ were spread before the convicted sinner as his only hope and peace.

During the first years of the history of the Presbytery this grand and wonderful work of God spread over its bounds, and extended with greater or less power to almost every pastoral charge. It was a baptism of the early days of the Presbytery that was a prophecy of great and glorious things for days to come. And whilst there were peculiarities connected with it that have not been seen in modern times, yet there can be no doubt that it was a genuine work of God. Its results show this. Its subjects dwelt in the church as sincere Christians. They died in peace and now stand before the Throne.

1809

At the following meeting of Synod they reported the following vacant congregations, as "able to support a pastor: West Unity and Amity, Gravel Run and Waterford. Vacant congregations, not able to support a pastor: Erie, Upper and Lower Greenfield, Oil Creek, Brokenstraw, Conewango, Middlebrook, Franklin, and Unity."

At this time the accommodations for religious worship began to improve. The "tent," as the little covered platform on which the ministers stood was called, was used only on sacramental occasions, or in times of great religious interest. Comfortable log-houses with glazed windows had been erected in almost all the congregations. In some of the congregations, sacramental services were held in barns, and with great comfort and satisfaction. There was at this time an occasional frame barn throughout the settlements. Before harvest these could be comfortably occupied. The barn was carefully swept out. Seats of rough wood were arranged in the threshing-floor and in the haymows, and sometimes in the stables, with a long tier out in front of the open doors. A platform in the further end of the threshing-floor served for a pulpit. But it is doubtful whether this worship in barns and mills was any improvement on that of the forest. In summer, with pleasant weather, and a delightful site, under the great trees, and the sweet breath of God all around in its purity, the worship was most delightful and inspiriting.

"The groves were God's first temples. Ere man learned

To hew the shaft and lay the architrave,

And spread the roof above them, — ere he framed

The lofty vault, to gather and roll back

The sound of anthems, — in the darkling wood,

Amidst the cool and silence, he knelt down

And offered to the Mightiest, solemn thanks And supplication."

There was a freedom too about those forest sanctuaries that was most inviting to the earlier settlers. It suited their ideas of propriety to come together on common ground, where every one was alike at home, and where the accommodations were unlimited, save by the extent of the forest. Many scenes of melting interest were witnessed at such times and under such circumstances.

A single picture of this forest worship will convey some idea of the early worship of the fathers. It is in the month of June. It has been announced far and near that a stranger from the old settlements is to preach on the following Sabbath in the woods near the Big Spring. A great congregation has assembled; and it is a motley assemblage. Every variety of costume and habit and expression of countenance is there. One is habited in a suit brought from his early home, but since unused, save on special occasions like the present. The texture is still good, but the changing fashions have left it far in the background. Another, perhaps, has a single garment of this kind, whilst the remainder of his costume is manufactured in the wilderness. Still another has a costume that is nondescript in its character. His hunting-shirt is of deerskin, whilst his lower extremities are cased in garments of the same material, shrunk by the weather, until they completely adapt themselves to the form they were designed to protect.

The wives and daughters of the settlers are in as good trim in their outward adornment as circumstances would permit; where a bonnet was wanting a cotton handkerchief supplies the deficiency; where shoes were wanting, they manifest their sense of propriety by coming without these appendages of modern refinement.

It is an imposing place, too. The tall trees have stood there for centuries, witnesses of the power and wisdom of the God of creation ; and now in the midst of their deep solitude, the love of the God of Redemption is to be set forth.

The preacher appears and takes his stand under the shadow of a venerable elm. He is a mere youth, and bears a cast of care. He is thin and sallow, almost cadaverous, yet with an eye full of the fire of thought. As he proceeds with his subject, his form becomes erect, and his ideas flow forth in a torrent of burning eloquence. He sways that untutored multitude as the passing breeze sways the unreaped grain. Many a brown cheek is moist with tears ; many a heart hard as the adamant, is melted beneath the burning power of truth.

When he commenced, the congregation were seated upon fallen logs, leaning against the trees, or carelessly lounging upon the ground. But as he proceeds and warms with the subject, and the truth begins to fall upon their consciences, they gradually draw nearer until all are standing around the speaker. Every eye is riveted upon him; they hang upon his lips. Upon those upturned countenances are plainly visible the deep emotions that are struggling within. "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?"

In some of the churches at that day, in the summer time, it was not unusual for some thoughtful man to carry a brand of fire from his home, and apply it to a dry stump in the neighborhood of the church. To this fire the men would resort for the purpose of a quiet smoke. Occasionally, even during the sermon, a staid deacon would quietly withdraw, light his pipe, smoke to his satisfaction, and return, perhaps even before the minister had taken up a new head of discourse.

1812 - 1813

About this time (1812) an improvement was introduced in the Church of Fairview, a portion of Mr. Eaton’s charge. The little log church, which overlooked Lake Erie, was exposed to the bleak winds that sometimes raged with great fury; and the idea was suggested that as the people had fire' in their cabins at home, a little would improve the temperature of the meeting-house. But there was neither fire-place nor chimney. So a large iron kettle, that had been used in boiling sugar, was set in the middle of the floor, half filled with charcoal, and the mass ignited. This moderated the cold somewhat; yet the ladies would sometimes approach the kettle so near as to inhale the carbonic acid gas that arose from the coal, faint away, and be carried out into the open air to revive. Subsequently a large ten-plate stove, that had been brought from Eastern Pennsylvania by some enterprising settler, was obtained, and added greatly to the comfort and satisfaction of the worshippers.

In the spring of 1812, Rev. John McPherrin was invited to preach in Erie County, and remained some six months, preaching in North East and Middlebrook. The journal of William Dickson, already quoted, mentions an incident of interest.

“In the spring of 1812, Rev. John McPherrin accepted a call from North East and Middlebrook congregations, and came and preached six months. As war was declared that year, and we were on the frontier, he declined staying with us, and returned to his former charge in Butler County. While he was with us, we had an election for elders, and he was not pleased with the choice, as politics had something to do with it. Two men were elected who were never known to pray in their families, and the time was appointed for their ordination; but they had first to pass an examination that was like a refiner's fire, and he declared from the pulpit that they were not qualified for members of any church, and he would never ordain such men; if we must have elders, we must elect praying men. One of these men repented, and became an elder; the other like Judas, went to his own place.”

 (June 1812) At the same meeting of Synod, Johnston Eaton, with his pastoral charge, Fairview and Springfield, on the shore of Lake Erie, was detached from the Presbytery of Hartford, and annexed to the Presbytery of Erie. This was an extensive charge. It extended from the Ohio State line to that of New York. Sometimes he supplied at Erie, and sometimes at Lower Greenfield or North East. He had begun the work in 1805. In 1807 he moved with all his worldly effects from Fayette County, Pa., on horseback. There was no road for wagons, and all the fixtures for housekeeping and domestic comfort must be "packed," as it was then termed, or lashed on the backs of horses, and these horses led single file, one being tied behind another. A portion of the furniture was manufactured by the minister himself; a small table was constructed out of a walnut log, by laboriously hewing down split puncheons, until they were of the proper thickness. For the children's comfort the minister made shoes with his own hand, and his wife braided hats from the bark of the leatherwood that grew plentifully in the forest. They manufactured coffee from rye; and good Mr. Blair furnished all the sugar that was wanted, made from the trees that grew on his broad acres. Sometimes the bread was made from "sick wheat,"[6] and caused a terrible agitation of the stomach, but venison and bear-meat and fish were plenty, and the little family lived in comparative comfort. During the absence of the minister on his preaching tours, the log-cabin parsonage was lonely and often visited by Indians, but a neighbor was usually at hand for company and protection. Twice during these years, Mr. Eaton was a Commissioner to the General Assembly at Philadelphia, and on both occasions performed the journey to and from on horseback. The road led by way of Pittsburgh, and required about two weeks to complete the journey each way.

In the year 1813, during the war with Great Britain, Johnston Eaton was appointed chaplain by the government. His people were generally in the army, as was the case throughout the Presbytery, and his feelings and sense of duty induced him to desire to go with them. Joseph Badger and Benjamin Boyd, former members of the Presbytery, were also in this service under the government.

During a portion of this war, the congregations along the Lake Shore were in great fear and often terror. After Hull's surrender, it was reported that a British fleet was coming down the Lake, and a body of British and Indians by land at the same time. On one occasion the land forces were reported as coming, when heroic John Sturgeon commenced casting bullets, declaring he would "Make them stand off or he would send the lead at them." The British and Indians did not come. On another occasion the fleet was reported landing, when an old gentleman, with commendable zeal, but doubtful judgment, set off on foot at full speed for the shore, taking off his old hat and filling it with stones as he ran, with the avowed intention of sinking the fleet. The fleet proved to be a single boat with a few fishermen in it, from the neighborhood.

1814 - 1819

..6th of April, 1814… Mr. Eaton was released from the pastoral charge at Springfield …At this meeting Mr. Eaton was permitted to supply the churches of Erie and North East.

June 26, 1816, the congregation of Erie requested one third of the ministerial labors of Mr. Eaton. The request was granted.

8th day of September, 1819 At this meeting, a complaint was brought against the session of the church of North East, for inviting members of the Methodist Church "To be active with them at the Monthly Concert of Prayer." The Presbytery "Resolved, That we deem it wrong that members of the Methodist Church, a church that holds doctrines contrary to our confession of faith, be invited to be active members in our prayer meetings." This activity consisted in leading in prayer. Against this action Thomas Robinson complained to Synod. A reference to the action of this latter body shows that whilst the Synod approved of the zeal of Presbytery for the purity of the church, they yet feared that in this particular case the zeal was not altogether according to knowledge, and intimated kindly that the record was not judicious or charitable.

1822

In February, 1822, Presbytery, after considering the destitution of the vacant churches under its care, sent a pastoral letter to each vacant church, proposing a plan for their relief, and stimulating them to exertion on their own part. After reminding them of their delinquencies in the manner of remunerating their supplies, they say: “The plan we have adopted for the purpose of remedying this defect, is as follows: Every vacant congregation shall become responsible by its proper officers, or otherwise, for as large a sum as can be raised with certainty within the bounds. The sum thus raised, with the aid expected to be obtained from missionary societies, will probably be sufficient for the support of a missionary the whole year. As an inducement for exertion, we hold out the assurance that every congregation shall receive its quota of missionary labor in proportion to the moneys raised within its bounds. Let it be also understood that the service of the missionary in each place will, with the expected aid from abroad, be nearly double the amount subscribed."

This appeal was responded to at the next meeting of Presbytery by eleven churches, reporting in the aggregate two hundred and eighty-two dollars and fifty cents.

In the mean time trouble was brewing in Springfield, in Erie County, Pa: A Presbyterian church had been organized there by Mr. Eaton in the year 1806. Of this church he had been the pastor for many years. About the year 1821, a Congregational church was formed. The consequence was, that the efforts of the people were divided. Bickerings and heart-burnings were engendered, and the matter was brought to the notice of Synod. The Congregational wing of the church had applied to the Presbytery of Grand River to be taken under its care. This Presbytery was advised by Synod not to take the church under its care, and a committee appointed to visit Springfield to endeavor to reconcile difficulties, and recommending the two congregations of Springfield to observe the 15th of the following November as a day of fasting and prayer.

The committee, consisting of Thomas Edgar Hughes, an old member of the Presbytery of Erie, E. T. Woodruff and Randolph Stone, visited Springfield, held a “free conversation” with the people of the two congregations, and heard statements from both parties. The Presbyterian brethren were then requested to withdraw, when the committee proposed to the Congregational brethren a union with the Presbyterians, on condition of being present at the examination of candidates for membership in the church, and asking such questions as conscience might dictate, and also of attending all cases of trial and discipline. This was agreed to. The Congregational brethren then withdrew, and the Presbyterian brethren were called in. The terms of union on the part of the former were laid before them and agreed to, and the Congregationalists were called in, when the following resolution was mutually adopted : —

Resolved, That the present ruling elders in the Presbyterian Church, namely, Charles Manly, Isaac Miller, James Blair, Robert Porter, and Allen Law, and the present acting deacon in the Congregational church, namely, William Branch, be, and are hereby constituted, the standing committee of the United Church of Springfield, according to the principles of union recommended by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and the General Association of Connecticut”[7]

Against this action of the committee, the Presbytery complained. The elders of the church at Springfield wrote to Presbytery for advice in the matter. After discussing the action of the committee, Presbytery resolved that said committee had “assumed a stretch of power not authorized by the constitution or usages of the Presbyterian Church, in setting aside the eldership of the Presbyterian Church of Springfield, as the said Synodical committee virtually did, by appointing a committee that was to supersede the elders of that church; and therefore that the act of said Synodical committee, and thus setting aside the eldership of that church, is null and void.”

They further resolved that the elders of said church were the constitutional officers.

At the next meeting of Synod the matter was compromised and settled by Synod declaring that the action of the committee did not affect the standing or position of the session, but simply added Deacon Branch to their number.

1825 - 1828

On the 13th of April, 1825, David McKinney was ordained and installed as pastor of the 1st Presbyterian congregation of Erie. In these services Mr. Alden preached, and Mr. Tait delivered the charges. This was the first pastoral settlement in the church at Erie. Mr. Patterson had first labored statedly for a time, and a call was made out for his pastoral labors in connection with North East and Middlebrook, but he was never installed. Afterwards Mr. Eaton labored for some five years from one third to one half of his time, but it was simply as a stated supply. They worshipped at this time in the “Yellow Meeting-house.” Mr. Colt was the principal ruling elder and prime patron of the church. He had been converted under the ministrations of Mr. McCurdy of Cross Roads, and had connected with the church at Upper Greenfield, on Middle-Brook, and was always a consistent, earnest Christian and efficient ruling elder. Now a pastor was called, and the church began to gather strength, and has since exerted a most important influence in the community. The session of the church had been in correspondence with Dr. Archibald Alexander in relation to a student of Princeton. The doctor states in a letter dated June 3, 1823: “We are not able to meet the demands for missionaries; not more than a tenth of the calls can be answered.” Dr. Alexander had first recommended to Mr. Colt, Joseph H. Jones[8] speaking of him as a graduate of Harvard University, of respectable talents and acquirements, and very amiable in his manner and disposition.” The salary spoken of was “thirty-three dollars per month.” Mr. Jones visited Erie, travelling on horseback, and spent some weeks, making a most favorable impression. He afterwards declined the call to Erie. Dr. Alexander then wrote under date of January 16, 1824: —

“I have concluded to advise that David McKinney, now in the seminary, should pay you a visit in the Fall. He is a young man, not of showy, but of solid talents. As a student, he is indefatigable, and possesses a sound judgment, with an excellent character for piety.”

Under these circumstances, Mr. McKinney entered upon the work, and was rewarded with a good degree of success. If the thirty-three dollars per month was not sufficient, it was eked out by teaching and other arrangements.

On the 14th of April, 1825, Giles Doolittle was ordained and installed as pastor of the united congregations of North East and Ripley, the former in Erie County, Pa., the latter in Chautauque County, N. Y. In these services, Mr. Eaton preached, and Mr. Tait delivered the charges. North East had been formerly known as Lower Greenfield, and had constituted a part of the pastoral charge of Mr. Patterson, and from which he had been released in 1807. Ripley had not heretofore engaged the labors of a pastor. Mr. Doolittle was a most excellent pastor. Accustomed from childhood to exertion and effort, he labored most assiduously for the building up of his congregations. He was successful. His people enjoyed several revivals during his pastorate. In some things he differed from his brethren, yet he always had the glory of God in view, and labored earnestly for the good of Souls. Although he found many difficulties in his way, he yet, by precept and example sought to lead the erring, the opposing, and the indifferent in the way of life.

On the 14th of September (1826), Absalom McCready was ordained and installed as pastor of the united congregations of Middlebrook and Beaverdam, in Erie County. Mr. McKinney preached the sermon, Mr. Tait delivered the charge to the pastor, and Mr. Doolittle the charge to the people.

Middlebrook was formerly known as Upper Greenfield, and had constituted a part of Mr. Patterson's charge as early as 1803. It was in fact one of the oldest churches in the bounds of the Presbytery.

During these last years (1825-1828) some interesting revivals of religion had occurred. In Mr. Doolittle's charge the Spirit of God had been poured out with power. Some interesting cases are reported of the manner in which these manifestations were at first noticed. In North East, an elder (William Dickson) was awakened in the middle of the night by a messenger from the country. On Inquiry as to his desire, he cried out, —   

"O, do come out and see —— ——, he is in a most dreadful way.”

“But what is the matter ?”

“He is suffering everything. Come out quickly and do something for him.”

“Go for the doctor if he is sick; I am not the one to send for on such an occasion.”

“But it is not the doctor he wants. He complains of his sins, and is afraid he will be lost forever; and we thought you could come and pray for him, and maybe do him some good. We did not know what else to do.”

The elder went out and prayed, and counseled with the young man. This was the beginning of a good work. Soon after, during the progress of some meetings, a strong, honest man from the country, known as Billy Wilson, was at the church on the Sabbath. God's Spirit was stirring the hearts of the people, and many, who had hardly a religious conviction before, were moved and melted by his power. Wilson felt troubled and anxious without fully comprehending his feelings. They were new to him. During the recess between sermons he stepped over to the hotel, and was standing before the fire, doubtful as to the cause of his strange feelings. At length, stepping up to the bar, he said, addressing the proprietor: “'Lem, I feel most dreadful bad to-day; I guess I’ll take a little whiskey; the day is raw, and it may help me.” The bar had been partially closed, out of respect to the Sabbath, but a small pigeon-hole was left open for the accommodation of an occasional visitor. The proprietor set down the bottle, but still holding the glass in his hand, seemed for a moment in a brown study. At length he said: “Billy, where is it that you feel bad?”

“O, Lem; I feel monstrous bad about my heart; I never felt so before.”

The bottle and glass were immediately returned to the shelf, with the curt advice: “Billy, it is not whiskey you want; it's the minister. Go to him at once, for you're under conviction.”

The result was that Wilson became a Christian, and the Lord remembered Lemuel Brown for his good deed done to one who was under conviction, for many years had not rolled by, before he too was brought into the church.

On the 22d of April, 1820, Mr. McKinney was released from the pastoral charge of the church of Erie. At the same meeting the Commissioners to the General Assembly were directed" to purchase sixty copies of the 'Confession of Faith' of our Church, for our congregations, for the payment of which, Presbytery will be responsible."

On the 24th of June of the same year, Mr. Condit was installed as pastor of the congregation of Cool Spring, for one third of his time. This relation continued until his death in 1836.

On the same day, George A. Lyon, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Carlisle, was received under the care of Presbytery, and accepted calls from the congregation of Erie. This action was followed by the ordination and installation of Mr. Lyon at the next meeting of Presbytery, September 9, 1829, as pastor of the congregation of the 1st Presbyterian Church, Erie, Pa. In these services Mr. Doolittle preached the sermon, Mr. Tait presided, Mr. Bushnell delivered the charge to the pastor, and Mr. Anderson the charge to the people. Mr. Lyon entered upon his work with every encouragement. He was in the strength of youth, the congregation was enlarging its boundaries, and the people were unanimous in sustaining him. The old "Yellow Meetinghouse" had been abandoned, and a large, comfortable brick house was now occupied as the place of worship.

1830 - 1837

On the 13th of January, 1830, Mr. Chase was released from the pastoral charge of the congregation of Centerville, in Crawford County.

On the 14th of April, of the same year, George W. Hampson, a member of the church of North East, was licensed to preach the gospel. On the same day Mr. Chase was released from the pastoral charge of the congregation of Oil Creek, and Mr. Doolittle from that of Ripley. Mr. Doolittle then accepted a call from North East, for the whole of his time.

There was a recommendation at this time that throws light upon the practice of the church at this period of its history: "Presbytery, taking into consideration the destitute state of the vacant congregations under their care, recommend to its members and such vacancies, to adopt the practice of holding two, three, or four days meetings during the week, and administering the Lord's Supper; and that two or three ministers go together on such occasions." These days were usually observed in the following order: On Thursday, a fast day was observed. It was not usually observed as a day of literal fasting, but simply as a day of abstinence from worldly labor. On Saturday, divine service was held as preparatory to the Communion. On Sabbath the communion service was attended to; and this was followed by service on Monday. It was also usual to hold evening service at school-houses in different parts of the congregation, in the evenings during these days. Sometimes two, and sometimes three, ministers were present during these meetings. The services, particularly of the Sabbath, were protracted, and the addresses at the communion table were long and varied.

Whilst these meetings were being held, the people of the congregation, and others, expected to give all their attention to the matter. Business was so arranged that the families could attend without distraction. This extended in a greater or less degree to neighboring congregations. In these days the service was usually known as “The Sacrament." Such a meeting was known far and near, and people thronged thither from distances of ten or twelve miles or more. Families living near the place of meeting always expected to accommodate strangers at their houses. Sometimes their houses were crowded for two or three days in succession. Where the ordinary accommodations were not sufficient, cots and blankets were laid upon the floors. Everything was free and welcome as the provisions of the gospel they came to receive. And for such occasions, families made provision for weeks beforehand; and looked upon it as a matter of course.

At this time houses of worship were generally provided, yet on sacramental occasions they often resorted to the grove. There was more room. The air was fresh and pure. The heart was more cheerful. Sometimes storms would come up, and summer showers pour down, but it did not seem to disturb the people. They would sit unmoved in the driving rain, and the ministers would preach in the storm as though they knew not of its presence. Nor were the services abridged by these unfavorable circumstances. The ministers came to preach and administer the ordinances; and the people came to hear; and so they fulfilled their intentions, without regard to the clouds or the rain.

To these meetings as of old, people came on foot where there were not conveniences for riding. Sometimes the oxen were attached to the farm-wagon, and this sufficed, for the entire family. But young women often walked from two to five miles “to meeting" as the service was called. Sometimes they walked barefooted, and carried their shoes to within a short distance of the meeting-house, and then put them on; sometimes they wore coarse shoes, and exchanged near the place of worship, leaving their coarse shoes in some place of concealment.

These "four days' meetings," in some parts of the Presbytery, about the year 1831, became remarkable for a new feature. This was the presence of ministers who were called revival men, or Evangelists, as they sometimes styled themselves. They went from place to place, devoting themselves entirely to this kind of work. In many of these meetings the pastor of the church acted quite a subordinate part, leaving all to the evangelist, who preached on day after day exhorting, entreating, and persuading men to turn to the Lord.

About this time, too, a new feature in Presbyterianism was introduced, called the “Anxious Seat." It was simply a certain seat or seats set apart, to which persons anxious about the concerns of the soul were invited to come, as an expression of their feelings, and for the purpose of being conversed with and made the subject of special prayer. Sometimes such persons were simply invited to come; at others they were urged and entreated to take this as the most important step of their lives. Like almost every other good work, this was sometimes carried to an extreme. Sometimes too great stress was laid upon the simple matter of going to the anxious seat. Sometimes, possibly, persons were persuaded to go there who had no heart conviction, and were disappointed or deceived. But many of the ministers of that day considered that they were drawing the gospel net, and that all were to be gathered in, where at the last the good would be gathered into vessels and the bad cast away. Others opposed these measures. They could not think them necessary, but rejected them as innovations, and having a dangerous tendency. And the records of the churches show that the revivals of that day were not confined, by any means, to those congregations where the new measures were adopted. As a general thing the older ministers hesitated about countenancing them. Such men as Father Tait, although their hearts were always warm, and the spirit of revival always glowing in their preaching, felt that “the old paths” were safest and best. In the good old days of 1802, powerful revivals were enjoyed without them. Souls flocked to Christ under the simple preaching of the Word, and the irresistible influences of the Spirit of God ; and they thought these the best means that could be used.

On the other hand the younger ministers, at least many of them, adopted the new measures, conscientiously believing them best adapted to accomplish the great object. Something was needed to attract attention and fix the mind. Something was wanted to induce inquirers to commit themselves to the great work, and thus take the first step toward the service of God. Something was needed by way of example, to induce others to go in the same direction. Thus they reasoned, and thus they pursued the course that to them seemed right. Great good was done, no doubt, and many brought into the Church.

But in many cases disastrous results followed. Some of these revival men were not men after God's own heart. Whilst some of them were earnest, conscientious men, others were moved only by excitement, if not by a more unworthy motive still. And at times the hurt of the daughter of God's people was healed but slightly. The building was daubed with tempered mortar. Desolation was found in the track of what the pious, earnest people of God thought was the chariot of salvation.

Nor is this strange or unusual. Satan strives to counterfeit every good work. In the midst of the wondrous works that Moses did in the presence of Pharaoh, we read: "These things did the magicians with their enchantments." When the Apostles wrought miracles, and such wondrous scenes were witnessed of divine power and efficacy, Simon Magus offered them money that he might take part in the glorious work. And an hundred years ago, when wondrous revival scenes were witnessed in Eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey, disorders crept in that marred and blighted the beautiful work of God. And during the powerful outpouring of the Spirit that occurred during the founding of the Presbytery of Erie, the wheat and the tares were seen springing up together. So it is, and so it will be in all the imperfect scenes of time. The good and the evil dwell together. The rose and the violet are found side by side with the deadly nightshade. The poison ivy is found clasping to the death the flowering magnolia.

The summer of 1831 was a harvest season in the Presbytery. God's presence was most sensibly felt, and his power most signally displayed. Thus it is recorded, in the narrative of the state of religion sent up to Synod: "Many of our congregations, through the reviving power of the Holy Ghost, wear an aspect which has hitherto been new to them. The Lord has poured down upon them the influences of his Spirit, quickening his own people, and convincing and converting the ungodly. The churches at Meadville, Erie, North East, Forks of French Creek, Fairview, Springfield, Salem, and Warren, have been specially favored. These vines have produced fruit, some thirty, some sixty, some an hundred fold. Other churches have been quickened, and many sinners brought to inquire what they must do to be saved."

And while the Presbytery unite in blessing and adoring God, that through the special influences of the Holy Ghost near six hundred souls have been added to the churches within the last year, they would acknowledge their unfaithfulness, and implore the continuance of his kind regard and Blessings.

That year Meadville reported fifty-five, Erie seventy-five; North East, sixty-nine; Fairview, twenty-seven; Mr. Condit's charge, thirty; Springfield, eighty-two; Salem, Greenville, and Big Bend, forty-three; Franklin and Big Sugar Creek, twenty-three; Middlebrook, Beaver Dam, and Union, twenty-seven. Warren and Brokenstraw, thirty-three. This was the largest report that was made by any Presbytery to the Synod that year. And it is doubtful whether, either before or since, there has been as great a number gathered into the churches, in one year, during the entire history of the Presbytery. So that the year 1831 may be considered the great harvest year in the history of the Presbytery.

At the meeting in September, 1831, the question of baptism was brought to the notice of Presbytery. It was reported that one of the members had recently baptized fourteen or fifteen persons by immersion. After mature deliberation, Presbytery declared their "unanimous opinion that this practice is not in accordance with our standards, and is altogether inexpedient." From the above date, Mr. Anderson gave half his pastoral labors to the congregation of Big Sugar Creek, and the remaining half to Franklin.

On the 26th of May, 1832, the church of Harbor Creek, in Erie County, was organized. It was a colony from the church of North East.

On the 11th of April, 1832, Mr. Alden was dismissed to connect himself with the Presbytery of Cincinnati. He had been a member of the Presbytery sixteen years, and although at no time a pastor, yet he had done a noble work for the cause of education and Sabbath-schools. He had also performed a large amount of missionary work, and retired to another field with the respect and love of all his brethren.

On the 27th clay of June, 1832, George W. Hampson was ordained and installed as pastor of the united conditions of Oil Creek and Concord. In these services Mr. Doolittle preached the sermon, Mr. Eaton delivered the charge to the pastor, and Mr. Anderson the charge to the people.

The year 1832, being the year in which the Asiatic cholera made its appearance in the United States, Presbytery sent down to the congregations the following recommendation : "In view of the threatening aspect of Divine Providence toward our guilty land, particularly that scourge of nations, the Asiatic cholera, which has already reached our country, Wednesday, the 11th of July, is recommended to be spent as a day of humiliation and prayer."

At the meeting of Presbytery June 28, 1832, notice was called to a sermon, published by Mr. Doolittle, upon the words "To every man according to his several ability." It was resolved to review this sermon at the next meeting of Presbytery. Accordingly, at the next meeting, the matter was brought up, and the following order fixed for the discussion: “Each member, in the order of the roll, shall have opportunity of stating what erroneous doctrines, if any, are contained in the discourse. If errors are alleged, they shall be definitely stated, and the part of the discourse in which they are contained pointed out.” After discussing the discourse at length, a committee consisting of Messrs. Eaton, Chamberlain, and Elder John Lytle, was appointed to bring in a minute on the subject. The committee subsequently reported that they could not agree, and were discharged. A motion was then made to postpone the matter indefinitely, which was carried by a majority of one.

"Coming events cast their shadows before." Here was the beginning of differences of opinion that ere long-were to involve the Presbytery in trouble, and result in changes disastrous to the peace of Zion.

At the same meeting, Mr. Doolittle, at his own request, was released from the pastoral charge of the congregation of North East. This was on the 13th of September, 1832. On the 10th of April following, he was dismissed to the Presbytery of Portage, he had found a home at Hudson, Ohio, and thither he removed to enter upon a new field of labor. Both his friends and himself were afterward of opinion that he made a mistake in removing from North East. His labors had been abundantly blessed there ; he had many devoted friends there; yet the path of duty to him seemed to lead elsewhere; he was a man of decision, and for him to decide was to act.

On the 12th day of September, 1832, Robert Glenn, was ordained and installed as pastor of the congregations of Mill Creek and Amity. In these services Mr. McCready preached the sermon, Mr. Tait delivered the charge to the pastor, and Mr. Hassinger the charge to the people. Mr. Glenn labored in these churches one third of his time in each; the remaining third was given to Sandy Lake, although he was never installed there. The church of Sandy Lake was not really organized until October 3, 1835. Mr. Glenn preached for some time at the house of Theodore Bailey, and in the school-house in the vicinity. The house of worship was not erected until 1846.

On the 11th of April, 1833, Morgan D. Morgans was licensed to preach the gospel. He had been a preacher in Wales in some independent branch of the Church, and had given satisfaction as to his experimental acquaintance with religion, but had not received a liberal education. Against this action Synod entered its protest. Mr. Morgans did not prove an acceptable preacher, and being about to remove from the bounds, Presbytery recalled his license after he had preached one year. He subsequently engaged in teaching.

On the 10th of April, 1833, Benjamin J. Wallace[9], a licentiate of the Presbytery of Carlisle, was received under the care of Presbytery.

On the 25th of June, 1833, Mr. Bushnell was released from the pastoral charge of the congregation of Meadville. The Western Foreign Missionary Society had been organized, having its centre of operations at Pittsburgh; and missionaries were called for to go to India, to Africa, and to our Western Indians. Mr. Bushnell's ardent missionary spirit impelled him to devote himself to the work, and after much thought and prayer he resolved to offer himself as a missionary to the Indians. He was designated as a laborer amongst the Weas, in Missouri, but did not sunder his connection with the Presbytery. The result showed that he had overestimated his strength and endurance. After struggling for a year and a half, he resigned and returned to the bounds of the Presbytery of Indianapolis, to which he was dismissed on the 3d of February, 1830, having been a member of the Presbytery ten years.

On the 26th of June, 1833, James G. Wilson, was licensed to preach the gospel. During this year Mr. Hassinger was installed as pastor of the congregations of Harmonsburg, Evansburg, and North Bank, in Crawford County.

On the 11th of September, 1833, William A. Adair, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Hartford (Beaver), was received under the care of Presbytery, and accepted calls from the congregations of North East and Harbor Creek. On the 6th day of the following November, he was ordained and installed as pastor of this charge. In these services Mr. Eaton preached the sermon, Mr. Anderson delivered the charge to the pastor, and Mr. Chamberlain to the people. At this meeting, John McNair, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, was taken under the care of Presbytery and ordained with Mr. Adair, as an evangelist, with the view of laboring as a missionary in Warren County.

On this occasion, Presbytery cordially endorsed the Western Foreign Missionary Society, and resolved to support one missionary in the foreign field. It was further resolved, that Mr. Bushnell be the missionary to be supported by Presbytery. After Mr. Bushnell returned from the field, Presbytery still resolved to continue their support of a missionary. At this meeting, Wattsburg was reported and enrolled as an organized church.

On the 25th of June, 1834, Mr. Alexander was released from the pastoral charge of Salem, Greenville, and Big Bend. On the 9th day of the following month B. J. Wallace, licentiate, was dismissed, to place himself under the care of the Presbytery of Muhlenburg; and Mr. Adair released from the pastoral charge of the congregation of Harbor Creek.

On the 25th of June in this year, a paper, called the "Act and Testimony," drawn up by a number of the members of the last General Assembly, was brought to the notice of Presbytery, a portion of it read, and committed to a committee consisting of Messrs. Tait, Hampson, and Alexander Brown, elder, to report upon at the next meeting of Presbytery.

At the meeting on the 9th of October following, the committee presented the following report: —

"The circumstances of your committee being so different as to location, and the various sources of information from those who framed the 'Act and Testimony,' they consider it inexpedient for them to express an opinion on the document, taken as a whole, but they freely acknowledge that a document, framed and signed by men of such known integrity and worth, and whose attachment to the standards and doctrines of our church is highly to be regarded, they would therefore recommend the following resolutions, namely : —

" 1. That this Presbytery do solemnly protest against the conduct of any claiming the right to interpret the doctrines of our standards differently from the sense in which our church has always held them, or preaching or publishing Arminian or Pelagian errors, while they profess to adopt and approve our doctrine and order, and retain a standing in our church.

" 2. That Presbytery solemnly protest against the following errors, namely, our relation to Adam, etc., etc.

" 3. That we will not knowingly countenance such ministers, elders, editors, or teachers, who hold or propagate such errors as are referred to.

" 4. That we protest against the erection of Presbyteries or Synods on the elective affinity plan, as a departure from our form of government, and the usages of our church, and also as opening a wide door for the spread of errors.

" 5. That all the sessions under the care of this Presbytery take order, and express their opinion, on the said Act and Testimony."

This report was adopted by the following vote: Samuel Tait, Johnston Eaton, Ira Condit, Peter Hassinger, James Alexander, G. W. Hampson, Robert Glenn, ministers; and elders Alexander Brown, Robert Clark, John Melon, W. Beatty, S. Wade, Washington Tait, and Robert Mann: yeas, 14. In the negative, Thomas Anderson and Pierce Chamberlain, ministers; and elders John McCord, John Reynolds, George Reznor, and Lansing Wetmore, 6. Mr. Eaton and Elder Alexander Brown were appointed to attend the Convention called by the signers of the Act and Testimony at Pittsburgh, to take into consideration the state of the church. Here was another indication of the struggle that was coming upon the church. The low mutterings of the coming storm were becoming portentous, and all things were assuming the appearance of danger.

On the 28th of January, 1835, Mr. Alexander was dismissed to connect himself with the Presbytery of Ohio. On the following day, Mr. McCready was released from the pastoral charge of the congregations of Beaver Dam and Union, in Erie County, and advised to accept a call from that of Warren, Pa. On the 15th of April following, Mr. Adair accepted a call, for the whole of his time, from the congregation of North East. On the same day Rev. Nathaniel West, a foreign minister formerly connected with an independent church in Edinburgh, Scotland, presented a certificate of dismission from the Second Presbytery of Philadelphia, showing that he had been taken on trial as a foreign minister. Mr. West was accordingly received on further trials as a foreign minister.

The narrative of the state of religion, that is recorded during the year 1834-35, does not indicate that there was much of the spirit of revival in the Presbytery. Good attendance is reported, as being paid to catechetical instruction and Sunday-school effort ; but no general revivals of religion.

At a former meeting the Presbytery had resolved to support Mr. Bushnell as their missionary in the foreign field, and now as Mr. Bushnell had retired from the work on account of feeble health, it was resolved still to continue the aid of Presbytery to the Western Foreign Missionary Society.

At the October meeting of Presbytery, it was "Resolved, That the members of this Presbytery give their efficient aid in circulating and procuring signatures to petitions to the next session of Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia."

On the 19th of April, 1836, Mr. Hassinger was released from the pastoral charge of the congregations of Evansburg, Harmonsburg, and North Bank. At the same time, the organization of the churches of Conneautville and Sandy Lake was reported. At this meeting the approval by Synod of the action of Presbytery in receiving Mr. West as a member of Presbytery, was reported, and Mr. West's name was placed upon the roll. Mr. McNair was, on the 20th of April, dismissed to connect himself with the Presbytery of Vincennes. On the 11th of May, 1836, Mr. West was installed as pastor of the congregation of Meadville. On the following day Rev. Simeon Peek was received on certificate from the Presbytery of Buffalo. At the same time Presbytery approved the reorganization of the church of Warren, Pa.

On the 15th of September, of the same year, Mr. Hassinger was dismissed to the Presbytery of Washington. At this meeting Mr. Chamberlain was installed as pastor of the congregations of Waterford and Union. On the 12th day of October, 1830, James G. Wilson, was ordained and installed as pastor of the congregations of Greenville and Salem. In these services, Mr. Anderson preached the sermon, Mr. Tait delivered the charge, to the pastor, and Mr. West the charge to the people. At the same time the name of the church at Elk Creek, in Erie County, was changed to Girard.

The report of a convention of elders at Meadville having been laid before Presbytery, was approved, and the object commended. The convention seems to have been composed of elders from Crawford County, and its object to have been to devise means to promote the spiritual interests of the people of that county.

On the 3d day of February, 1836, Mr. Bushnell was dismissed to the Presbytery of Indianapolis. On the 11th day of January, 1837, Robinson S. Lockwood, a licentiate recently received from the Presbytery of St. Lawrence, was ordained and installed as pastor of the congregation of Girard. In these services Mr. West preached the sermon, Mr. Eaton delivered the charge to the pastor, and Mr. Lyon the charge to the people.

The matter of slavery was again noticed, by the adoption of the following resolutions : —

" 1. That it is the duty of the ministers of this Presbytery to preach against the sin of slave-holding.

“ 2. That it be earnestly recommended to each of the churches under our care, to address a memorial to the next General Assembly, imploring that body to use all its influence for the expulsion of slavery from our church”

The organization of the churches of McKean and Cherrytree, was reported April 11, 1837. On the following day Reuben Lewis, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Blairsville, was received under the care of Presbytery; and on the same day Mr. McCready was installed as pastor of the congregation of Warren; Mr. Sampson was also released from the pastoral charge of the congregation of Concord in Venango County, and was permitted to labor for two thirds of his time at Oil Creek.

At this meeting it was resolved, that for members of the church to sign petitions for the licensing of taverns, is wrong, and subjects them to the censure of the church.

On the 12th day of September, 1837, Mr. Anderson was released from the pastoral care of the congregation of Franklin, Pa., and on the 1st of November following Reuben Lewis, a licentiate, who had been received the previous year from the Presbytery of Blairsville, was ordained, and installed as pastor of the congregation of Harbor Creek. In these services, Mr. Lyon preached the sermon, Mr. Adair delivered the charge to the pastor, and Mr. Hampson the charge to the people.

On the 11th of April, 1838, Rev. Wells Bushnell, who had formerly been a member of Presbytery, was received from the Presbytery of Indianapolis, and the following day, Rev. William Fuller and Rev. Charles Danforth were received from the Presbytery of Grand River. On the next day Mr. Adair was released from the pastoral charge of the congregation of North East. On the same day John Van Liew Reynolds was licensed to preach the gospel. On the 26th day of June following, Mr. West was released from the pastoral charge of the congregation of Meadville.

This chapter closes with dark forebodings of trouble. Clouds had been gathering that foretokened a storm of greater magnitude than any that had yet swept over the church. Differences had sprung up that could not be reconciled. In many cases these differences were really serious and important; in some perhaps wholly imaginary. But the brethren were divided either in sentiment or in heart, or in both, and the consequences were most lamentable. The hearts of good men on either side were ready to fail them for fear; for schism if not open revolution seemed unavoidable; and the church, that had for so many years been expanding and prospering and overshadowing the land with its blessed influences, bid fair to be shorn of its splendor, and weakened in its influence.

1838-1867

The storm had come and gone. The noise and strife were over. But the consequences remained. …

With sad thoughts at the division of the Presbytery, and separation from cherished brethren, they prepared to gather up the fragments of what remained, and go forward with the labor and the toil as best they might. New churches must be organized as new fields were explored. Divisions must be expected in churches already established. The evil consequences of these divisions must be met, and the injury to Zion must, as far as possible, be repaired.

And so they went on, the two divisions; two Presbyteries, bearing the same name, occupying substantially the same territory, and to all intents and purposes one in design and one in faith and polity, yet separate in organization and in feeling; and yet withal striving to do their own appropriate work, not walking together, nor talking together, yet dealing only in charity, and feeling, if not expressing, confidence in each other's piety and zeal in the Master's cause. It was Paul and Barnabas, contending so sharply that they had "departed asunder one from the other," yet both striving to do the Lord's work.

The vote recorded in the preceding chapter shows the relative numbers of the two Presbyteries. The minority, that now constituted the Presbytery called by way of distinction "Old School," consisted of Samuel Tait, Johnston Eaton, Wells Bushnell, Absalom McCready, Robert Glenn, James G. Wilson, Simeon Peck, and Reuben Lewis.

Of the congregations, some remained entire with one division and some with another, whilst some were divided. In many cases these divisions were most disastrous to the congregations, weakening and disheartening them and rendering them unable to support the gospel Of those remaining entire, with the Old School branch, were Fairview, Fairfield, Georgetown, Cool Spring, Franklin, Big Sugar Creek, Mill Creek, Harmonsburg, Evansburg, Salem, Greenville, Sugar Grove, Concord, Deerfield, Warren, Amity, Irvine, and Big Bend. Of those remaining entire with the other branch, were Erie, North East, Springfield, Girard, Middlebrook, Beaver Dam, Union, McKean, Centerville, Oil Creek, Pine Grove, Cherrytree, Randolph. Of those divided were, Meadville, Mercer, Harbor Creek, Washington, Gravel Run.

In the division of Presbytery, there was no property held by the Presbytery directly that was calculated to bring the constitutionality of either body before the civil courts; so that happily; for the present, the authority of Caesar was not invoked, and each branch pursued its own course in comparative peace and quietness. There was not much sociability between the members of the different Presbyteries, who had once been on the kindest terms of fellowship, yet there was nothing like warfare. They agreed to differ, and whilst in their hearts they respected and loved each other, there was no demonstration of this feeling — it was buried up amongst the sacred things of the past.

ERIE COUNTY CHURCHES

UPPER GREENFIELD, afterwards MIDDLEBROOK.

This was one of the earliest churches organized in Erie County, Pa., and had the first church edifice erected in the county.[10] It was organized in the year 1801, by Elisha Macurdy and Joseph Stockton. The first pastor was Rev. Robert Patterson. He was ordained and installed pastor, in connection with Lower Greenfield, or North East, by the Presbytery of Erie, on the 1st September, 1800. The pastoral relation was dissolved April 22, 1807. The next year it appears on the minutes as Middlebrook.

For the next twenty years, this congregation appears to have been dependent on supplies sent by the presbytery. The next pastor was Rev. Absalom McCready, who was ordained and installed on the 14th of September, 1826, serving this church in connection with Union and Beaverdam. He was released from the charge of Middlebrook, September 11, 1833.

In the mean time, the village of Wattsburg had sprung up in the neighborhood, and in the year 1833 a church was organized there from the membership of Middlebrook, and from that time it began to decline. From 1840 to 1848, Rev. Pierce Chamberlain frequently preached there; but it continued to decline, until April 30, 1859, when a committee of Presbytery of the other branch dissolved the church and attached its members to Wattsburg. It was the second church organized in Erie County, and the first to erect a church edifice. An account of this edifice is given in another place. It was standing a few years ago, but in the last stages of dilapidation. The church organization and the old building decayed together, and soon the very place where the people worshipped God for sixty years, will have been forgotten. Thus the rushing hosts of the present trample over the sacred memorials of the past.

LOWER GREENF1ELD, now NORTH EAST.

This congregation is on the Lake Shore, in Erie County, Pa. It was organized by Elisha Macurdy and Joseph Stockton, in 1801. The church was organized in the woods, and this continued to be the place of worship for some time. The first pastor was Robert Patterson, ordained and installed by the Presbytery of Erie, September 1, 1803, for one third of his time; released from his pastoral charge, April 22, 1807. There was a long period succeeding this without a pastor. Rev. John McPherrin supplied them for six months in 1812. Then Rev. Johnston Eaton supplied them one fourth of his time in 1815-16. In 1818, Rev. Phineas Camp supplied for a time; then Judah Ely, a licentiate, for a time.

The next pastor was Rev. Giles Doolittle. He was ordained and installed by the Presbytery of Erie, April 14, 1825; released from his charge September 14, 1832. The next pastor was Rev. W. A. Adair. He was ordained November 7, 1833; released from his charge in 1837. The next pastor was Rev. Nathaniel West. His pastorate extended from June, 1838, to July 17, 1841. Rev. Miles Doolittle served from 1842 to 1844. Then Rev. Samuel Montgomery in 1844; then Rev. Mr. Paine in 1848; then Rev. Mr. Cochran in 1850; then Rev. D. D. Gregory in 1852; then Rev. A. H. Carrier in 1859. Mr. Carrier was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. T. B. Hudson. At the division of the church in 1838, this church adhered to " the other branch."

FAIRVIEW, now WESTMINSTER.

This church was gathered and organized by Rev. Johnston Eaton, who was its first pastor. It is somewhat uncertain as to the precise date of its organization, perhaps 1806. The first elders were Andrew Caughey, George Reed, and William Arbuckle. At its organization, it consisted of but twenty-five members; all, with two exceptions, have now passed away. Mr. Eaton was ordained and installed pastor of this church by the Presbytery of Erie, in connection with Springfield, on the 30th of June, 1808. He continued its pastor until the time of his death, June 17, 1847, a period of nearly forty years.

The second pastor was Rev. William Willson, who was ordained and installed June 11, 1851, in connection with Sturgeonville and Girard. He was released from his charge, May 2, 1855. The next pastor was Rev. John R. Hamilton, ordained and installed June 15, 1859; released, June 15, 1804. The next pastor was Rev. L. M. Belden, ordained and installed December 14, 1864; released, April 25, 1866.

In the year 1847, this church  sent off a colony form the church of Sturgeonville, that reduced its numbers considerably. Soon after, the church edifice was removed to a more central locality. Its name was afterwards changed to Westminster, inasmuch as it was now removed from Fairview Township, where it had been originally located.

The first church edifice was of hewn logs, on a beautiful site, overlooking Lake Erie. This was afterwards enlarged by cutting out two or three logs, and building an open shed against the side. The next edifice was of frame, on a new site. This was afterwards removed to the position it now occupies.

About the time of the organization of the church of Sturgeonville, the church of Fairview (New School), was organized, mainly from the elements of the old Fairview church. This church is now under the pastoral care of Rev. A. Dunn. The influence of this old Fairview church, and its first pastor, in moulding and forming the character of the community along the Lake Shore, cannot be fully appreciated. It has been the mother of churches.

SPRINGFIELD.

This church is in Erie County, Pa., on the shore of Lake Erie, and is at the present time in connection with "the other branch." It was organized as a preaching point, in the year 1804, by Rev. Robert Patterson, and regularly organized as a church in 1806, by Rev. Johnston Eaton. The first elders were Isaac Miller, James Blair, and James Bruce. There were at this time thirty members. The first pastor was Rev. Johnston Eaton, ordained and installed by the Presbytery of Erie, June 30, 1808; pastoral relation dissolved November 8, 1814. In 1817, Rev. Phineas Camp, conducted a series of meetings, that were accompanied by the bodily exercise. In 1818, Rev. Michael Law preached for a time. The house of worship being but about twenty or twenty-five feet square, and unable to contain the people, Mr. Law preached in the grove, having for a pulpit a single slab knocked in between two trees endwise. At this time Cornelius Aten, Robert Porter, and Allen Law were elected elders.

From this time until 1827, the church was dependent on supplies. In this latter year a call was made out for the pastoral labors of Rev. Pierce Chamberlain. This call was accepted, and he was installed as pastor by the Presbytery of Erie, on the 16th of January, 1828. This relation was dissolved on the 1st of October of the same year, on account of the ill health of the pastor.

In the year 1837, Rev. Charles Danforth, preached as a stated supply. From 1841 to 1843, Rev. Richard Craighead labored in this field. From 1844 to 1850, Rev. John M. Williams; in 1854, Rev. James F. Reed; in 1860, Rev. O. W. Norton; afterwards Rev. J. D. Barstow; and at the present time, Rev. E. B. Chamberlain.

FIRST CHURCH, ERIE PA

Although not the first of the churches planted on the shore of Lake Erie, yet this church has always, since its organization, held a prominent place. It is first spoken of in the old minutes as Presque Isle, and afterwards Erietown. It is mentioned as seeking supplies in 1802, though it was not regularly organized until September, 1815. In 1803 it united with Middlebrook and North East, then called Upper and Lower Greenfield, in extending a call to Rev. Robert Patterson, although the call was not prosecuted. The church was supplied by Rev. Johnston Eaton, from 1814 to 1823; the first four years of this period, one third of the time was given to Erie, and the remaining five years one half. The first pastor was Rev. David McKinney. He was ordained and installed by the Presbytery of Erie, April 13, 1825; released April 21, 1829. The present pastor is Rev. George A. Lyon, D. D. He was ordained and installed September 9, 1829. Next to that of Mr. Eaton, Dr. Lyon's pastorate has been the longest in the history of the Presbytery of Erie.

The first regular place of worship was a frame building called "the Yellow Meetinghouse." In 1824 a comfortable brick house was erected, and in June, 1859, the corner-stone of the present elaborate and beautiful church was laid.[11] One of the most prominent members of the session was Judah Colt. He came to Erie in 1795. He made a profession of religion in the days of Elisha Macurdy, and was ever afterwards a generous, consistent, and useful man. At the great division, this church adhered to the other branch. It has sent out two colonies: Belle Valley, of which Rev. Joseph Vance is pastor, and the Park Church, noticed elsewhere.

WATERFORD.

This church is in Erie County, and at present in connection with the other branch. It was probably organized about the year 1809 or 1810. The first pastor was Rev. John Matthews. He was ordained and installed in connection with Gravel Run, October 17, 1810; released from Waterford April 2, 1817. From this date until 1828, the church was dependent on supplies. Rev. Phineas Camp, and Mr. Judah Ely, preached for a time. Rev. Peter Hassinger was stated supply from 1828 to 1833. Rev. B. J. Wallace supplied in 1833, and the next year Rev. J. Watson Johnston. On the 15th of September, 1836, Rev. Pierce Chamberlain was installed as pastor, in connection with Union. He was released from the charge of Waterford in 1844. Rev. G. W. Cleveland supplied until 1849. The church was subsequently supplied by Rev. C. F. Diver, and perhaps others. The present pastor is Rev. T. T. Bradford. The congregation had no regular place of worship until 1835, when the present house was erected. The church is now in a prosperous condition.

GRAVEL RUN

This church is in Crawford County, and was probably organized in 1809 or 1810. The first pastor was Rev. John Matthews, installed in connection with Waterford, October 17, 1810. He was released from the charge of Gravel Run, November 8, 1814. The next pastor was Rev. Peter Hassinger. He was ordained and installed, October 1, 1828 ; released from his charge in 1832.

Rev. Alexander Cunningham was ordained and installed as pastor, October 5, 1843; released from his charge in 1851. The present pastor is Rev. James W. Dickey, installed April 19, 1854..

At the division in 1838, this church was divided, a portion adhering to each branch. The New School branch is called also Gravel Run; Rev. G. W. Hampson is the pastor.

WASHINGTON.

This church is in Edinboro, Erie County. For the last quarter of a century its history has been identified with that of Gravel Run, having been united in the same pastoral charge. Mr. Cunningham was installed pastor, October 5, 1853; released from his charge in 1851. Mr. Dickey, the present pastor, was installed April 19, 1854. This church was also divided in 1838. The New School branch is called Edinboro; Rev. William Grassie is the pastor.

UNION (Erie County, Pa.)

This church was organized in April, 1811, with eight members, and one elder, Matthew Gray. It was long dependent on supplies. In 1820, Rev. Amos Chase supplied it for one fourth of his time. Previous to this or about 1814, Rev. John Matthews supplied it. The first pastor was Rev. Absalom McCready, who was ordained and installed by the Presbytery of Erie, September 14, 1826. He was released from his charge in 1835. In May, 1836, Rev. Pierce Chamberlain began to supply, and continued until November, 1840. In 1841, Rev. Thomas Anderson, was installed pastor; released from his charge in 1843. The church has been successively supplied by Rev. G. W. Cleveland, Rev. C. F. Diver, Rev. T. T. Bradford, Rev. G. H. Hammer, and Rev. William Grassie. On the 8th of February, 1862, Rev. J. F. Reed, D. D., was installed as pastor; released April 10, 1866. Rev. F. V. Warren is the present stated supply. It is in connection with the other branch.

HARBOR CREEK.

This church is in Erie County, Pa., and was a colony from the church of North East. It was organized on the 26th of May, 1832, with fifty-eight members. The first elders were Myron Bacchus, Samuel Kingsbury, and J. M. Moorhead. It was supplied for one year by Rev. Giles Doolittle, pastor of North East. The first pastor was Rev. William A. Adair, ordained and installed November 7, 1833, in connection with North East. The pastoral relation was dissolved October 9, 1834. After this Rev. Simeon Peck supplied for one year. The next pastor was Rev. Reuben Lewis, ordained and installed November 1, 1837; released, June 28, 1838. At this time the great division took place, when this church was divided. The old school branch was supplied by Mr. J. H. Townley, and on the 11th day of August, 1847, Rev. J. K. Cornyn was installed as pastor. He was released April 4, 1850. On the 4th day of June, 1866, the two divisions of the church were merged in one, under the care of the other branch.

In the  mean  time, of the other branch, Rev. N. West was pastor from 1838 to 1842. The church was next supplied by Rev. Miles Doolittle, and Rev. M. T. Smith, until 1848. The present pastor is Rev. G. W. Cleveland. He was installed September, 1852. The church edifice was erected in 1836.

GIRARD.

This church was a colony from Springfield. It is in Erie County, Pa., and was organized May 16, 1835. The first elders were Robert Porter and Philip Bristol. At the first, Rev. Edson Hart, who was preaching at Springfield, supplied them. The first pastor was Rev. R. S. Lockwood, ordained and installed January 11, 1837; released in 1841. Afterwards Rev. William Fuller, and Rev. Mr. Root, supplied. The next pastor was Rev. Joseph Vance, installed in 1846; released in 1854. From this date to 1863, Rev. Alexander Porter was stated supply. In September, 1864, Rev. H. O. Howland was installed as pastor; released, 1866. Rev. Ira M. Condit is at present stated supply. It is in connection with the other branch.

STURGEONVILLE.

This church was a colony from the old church of Fairview, Erie County, Pa. It was organized in 1845. It was first supplied by Mr. Kean, a licentiate of the Presbytery of Blairsville. The first pastor was Rev. J. K. Cornyn, ordained and installed August 11, 1847; released, June 19, 1850. The next pastor was Rev. William Wilson, ordained and installed June 11, 1851; released, May 2, 1855. The next pastor was Rev. J. R. Hamilton, ordained and installed June 15, 1859 ; released, June 15, 1864. The present pastor is Rev. L. M. Belden, who was ordained and installed December 14, 1864.

PARK CHURCH, ERIE, PA.

This church was organized, June 28, 1855. The first pastor was Rev. William M. Blackburn, installed May 25, 1857; released, December 22, 1863. The present pastor, Rev. George F. Cain, was installed May 11, 1864.

OTHER CHURCHES MENTIONED

Franklin, Alleghany County PA

Concord, Venango County PA

Tidioute (formerly Deerfield), Warren County PA

Chatauque, Westfield, NY

New Salem, no place given

Hopewell, Lawrence County PA

Beaver, near Allegheny City

Cool Spring, Mercer County PA

Salem, Mercer County PA

Meadville, Crawford County, PA

Amity, Venango and Mercer Counties, PA

Neshannock, Mercer and Lawrence Counties PA

Fairfield, Mercer county PA

Upper Sandy, now Georgetown, Mercer County PA

Lower Sandy, now Mill Creek, Venango County PA

Slate Lick, Armstrong County PA

Union, Armstrong County, PA

Pymatuning, Beula, and Trumbull, near the Ohio/PA boundary line

Bull Creek, near Tarentum, PA

Middlesex,

Mount Nebo,

Plain, associated with Mount Nobo

Concord, Butler County PA

Sandy Lake, Mercer County PA

Harmonsburg, Crawford County, PA

Conneautville, Crawford County PA

Cherry Tree, Venango County PA

Greenville, Mercer County PA

Sugar Grove, Warren County, PA

Irvine, Warren County PA

Mount Pleasant, Venango County PA

Greenfield, Crawford County PA

Venango, Crawford County PA



[1] Rev. John Munson.

[2] Dr. Elliot’s Life of McCurdy, p. 29

[3] This house is still standing. A drawing of it may be seen in Miss Sanford’s History of Erie County.

[4] Letter to Dr. Plumer, Pres. Mag. vii 463.

[5] Life of McCurdy, p. 82

[6] A peculiar disease that affected the wheat in that day.

[7] Minutes of the Synod, 1823.

[8] Now Dr. Jones of Philadelphia.

[9] Son of William and Eleanor (McClay) Wallace; born in Erie, Pa., June 10, 1810. Cadet at West Point. Studied theology at Princeton; licensed by Presbytery of Donegal. Ordained by Presbytery of Muhlenburg; Professor of Languages in Newark College, Delaware. Editor Presbyterian Quarterly Review; also of American Presbyterian. Died of neuralgia, July 25, 1862, in the fifty-third year of his age. – Wilson’s Presbyterian Almanac.

 

[10] Miss Sanford’s History, 171

[11] Miss Sandford’s History.


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