FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OLDEST CONGREGATION IN NEW CASTLE,
Carl L. Hanna
“Remember the days of old and consider the years of
many generations.’ ‘—Deut. XXXII.7.*
settlers in the vicinity of what is now New Castle, mostly of Scotch-Irish
descent, began meeting for the worship of God near a spring about where
stands the homestead of the late John T. (“Elder
John”) Phillips. This is up the hill north of Grant St., between
Locust St. and the intersection of Elm and Grant Sts., and is the first
house west of the Foltz house. For the
preacher there was a “tent” which was an outdoor pulpit roofed over
and partly enclosed on three sides. The people sat on logs and stumps in
the open air.
organized as the Lower Neshannock Presbyterian Congregation in the
Presbytery of Erie.
Cook our first minister. He was a Scotchman, a silversmith and
watchmaker by trade, who had emigrated to this country and after he was 39
years of age studied at the academy at Canonsburg, Pa., (which became
Jefferson College) and at McMillan’s log
theological seminary. We shared his ministry with the Slippery Rock
Presbyterian Church near what is now Ellwood City.
first house of worship was built of round logs in a dense thicket near a
tannery. This Dickson tannery was a little
east of the present intersection of W. Falls and Shenango Sts. This was
the first church building in New Castle. At that time there were only two
houses (log cabins) in downtown New Castle.
Sample, born in N. Carolina, our second minister. Early in his
ministry the church had but 52 members. He also served as minister of the
same Slippery Rock Church till 1834. Probably early in this pastorate, a
hewn log church (second building) was built in a beautiful grove between
what is now Lawrence St. and South St. and not far from the Shenango
river. Lawrence St. was then known as County Line St. because the line
between Mercer Co. and Beaver Co. was nearby.
first brick church (third building) was built on the same lot and faced
what is now Norris way. The bricks were from the kilns of Crawford
White, father of Joseph S. White. This
building was about 50 x 60 feet and had wide double doors. After our
Congregation sold it, it served many other purposes and was finally torn
down about 1929.
Erie and Beaver Canal was constructed crossing from the Shenango river to
the Neshannock creek along South St. within a half block of the church.
Railroads came to New Castle in the 1860’s and the canal went out of
business as a common carrier of passengers and freight about 1871.
Bushnell, our third minister.
granted to the New Castle Presbyterian Congregation by the Court of Common
Pleas of Mercer County.
second brick church (fourth building) was built on the site of our present
church at the southwest corner of Jefferson and Falls Sts. Thomas Falls,
from whom quite a few of our members are descended, had given the land,
provided Falls St. be opened. We speak of this now as the “old”
Taylor, then President of the United States, attended a reception in our
church on the occasion of the organization of Lawrence County out of parts
of Mercer and Beaver Counties.
persons, two of them elders, left our church and with nine others
organized the Free Presbyterian Church, now the Central Presbyterian
Church, of New Castle. This was an early movement of protest against
slavery and such group withdrawals from Old School Presbyterian churches
were numerous in the North.
E. Swift, our fourth minister.
S. Grimes, our fifth minister. Civil war. Morgan’s raid scare.
Years later Mr. Grimes became minister of the Mahoningtown Presbyterian
eight persons from this First Church and seven others organized the
Mahoningtown Presbyterian Church.
Our Mrs. J. Norman Martin**
was a daughter of J. R. Andrews, the second
minister of the Mahoningtown church.
X. Junkin, our sixth minister. A series of public debates between “Elder
John” T. Phillips of the Disciples of Christ and Dr. Junkin on
the proper mode of baptism.
H. Dunlap, our seventh minister.
1893, June 18—Last
meeting in the “old” church which had been our place of public worship
for forty eight years.
worship in the Court House.
1893, Sept. 5—Cornerstone
of the present building laid near the Falls St. entrance to the chapel.
Look for “1893”.
1894, May 6—We
return from the Court House and dedicate and worship in the completed
D. Moffat, President of Washington and Jefferson College,
supplied the pulpit all year.
1896, April 12—THE
COMPLETED CHURCH DEDICATED with morning, afternoon and evening services.
This then is our FIFTH house of worship, our third brick church and our
second church on this site. The architect had planned that the main tower
should be about ten feet higher than it is, but the panic of 1893 and
years following was still on and funds were getting low, so they completed
the tower at its present height.
S. Jordan, our eighth minister.
old pipe organ, hand-pumped in the “old” church, was replaced by a
Roosevelt organ purchased from an estate in New York state for $5,000.00
less the seller’s tithe of $500.00 considered as paid to our church.
K. Denlinger, our ninth minister.
F. Hershey, our tenth minister.
Little, our eleventh minister, now residing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
A. Patterson, our twelfth minister. He is the only minister whose
death occurred while pastor of this church.
pipe-organ was thoroughly rebuilt by the Moller firm. A basement was
excavated under the sanctuary to make more room for the growing Church
School. (Imagine our school now without that basement!)
E. McClure, our thirteenth minister, now serving the Memorial
Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, Mo.
J. McIlvaine, our fourteenth minister and now so serving.
*This text was used by our sixth minister, Dr.
D. X. Junkin for his memorable “historical sermon” delivered
July 1876, the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of
Independence. Durant’s “History of Lawrence County”, page 145,
prints it in full. See N. C. Public Library.
**Mrs. Martin wrote a history of First
church, New Castle, in 1910 for “Old Home Week” and rewrote it
bringing it down to date in 1939. Our young people’s C. E. society
published it in pamphlet form and this is one of the principal sources of
this “Outline”. Her pamplet may be seen in the public library.