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Fiftieth Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church

First Presbyterian Church 

New Castle

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Carl L. Hanna

“Remember the days of old and consider the years of many generations.’ ‘—Deut. XXXII.7.* 

1798—First 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. 

1801—Church organized as the Lower Neshannock Presbyterian Congregation in the Presbytery of Erie. 

1803-1809Alexander 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. 

1804 (about)—Our 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. 

1811-1838Robert 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. 

1825—Our 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. 

1833—The 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. 

1839-1854Wells Bushnell, our third minister. 

1843—Charter granted to the New Castle Presbyterian Congregation by the Court of Common Pleas of Mercer County. 

1845—Our 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” church. 

1849—Zachary 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. 

1851—Eighteen 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. 

1854-1861Elliott E. Swift, our fourth minister. 

1861-1865Joseph S. Grimes, our fifth minister. Civil war. Morgan’s raid scare. Years later Mr. Grimes became minister of the Mahoningtown Presbyterian Church. 

1866—Twenty 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. 

1866-1879David 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.

1880-1895Cyrus 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. 

1893-1894—We 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 chapel. 

1896James 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. 

1897-1905Harvey S. Jordan, our eighth minister. 

1903—The 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. 

1906-1907Henry K. Denlinger, our ninth minister. 

1908-1912Scott F. Hershey, our tenth minister. 

1913-1919Robert Little, our eleventh minister, now residing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

1920-1923James A. Patterson, our twelfth minister. He is the only minister whose death occurred while pastor of this church.

1923—The 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!) 

1924-1934Walter E. McClure, our thirteenth minister, now serving the Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, Mo. 

1935John 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. 



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