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 Wilmington Township

 Neshannock Presbyterian Church


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The oldest church organization in the township is the "Neshannock Presbyterian Congregation," which was organized about 1800. The first pastor was Rev. William Wick, who was ordained September 3d, 1800, in connection with Hopewell, the latter congregation being at the present village of New Bedford, in Pulaski Township. Mr. Wick was released from his charge June 30th, 1801, and the second pastor was Rev. James Satterfield, an original member of the Erie Presbytery, and the second preacher who settled with in the limits of Mercer County. He was ordained and installed by the Presbytery of Ohio, March 3d, 1802, and installed as pastor of Neshannock Congregation in connection with Moorfield, in the present limits of Mercer County. The first elders of Neshannock Church were William Jackson, Thomas Scott and Robert Stevenson. Mr. Satterfield was pastor until the early part of the year 1812. In July of that year Rev. William Matthews took charge of the church and served it till some time during the year 1815. He was succeeded by Rev. William Wood, who commenced his labors March 11th, 1816. Mr. Wood preached at Hopewell, in connection with Neshannock, until July 1st, 1828, when he gave all his time to the latter. He was released January 1st, 1837, after a pastorate of twenty-one years. The next pastor was Rev. Absalom McCready, who was installed October 14th, 1839, and released in 1857. The next pastor was Rev. Robert Dickson, who was installed in 1858, and released from his charge in 1867. He was succeeded by Rev. John M. Mealy.

A number of other churches have been organized from parts of the Neshannock Congregation, among them the ones at Pulaski, Rich Hill and Unity, the latter in Crawford County. The congregation is a large one, and the church has been well supported, the organization being in prosperous condition.

The first church edifice at Neshannock was built of round logs, and was thirty feet square. The next building was of hewed logs, and was thirty by seventy feet in dimensions. This was considered a very pretentious structure for that time. A frame structure was built in 1839, being the third house the congregation had at this place. The cemetery near the old frame building contains the graves of many of the pioneers.

Rev. John M. Mealy, D. D., served the church till 1898, a pastorate of 31 years, crowned with success. Rev. Hubert Rex Johnson followed, closing in 1901 a brief but effective ministry among this people, in which his tact and winsome personality steadied the congregation through the tension and crisis growing out of the controversy over the site of the new church building. Many from the west side favored the old grounds from beauty of location and sacredness of association, others preferred to erect the temple of worship in the neigh boring town of New Wilmington. Advocates of either site were tremendously in earnest, and not always discreet, and feeling ran high. But tactful leadership with out and grace within were sufficient to hold them together when it was decided to build in the town; and a large and beautiful brick structure erected by the mutual toil and sacrifice of all, now stands with ad joining manse and surrounding lawn the pride of a united people.

The present pastor, Rev. Sherman A. Kirkbride, stated clerk of the Presbytery of Shenango, came in 1901 and divine blessing still attends the preached Word. The membership has grown to more than 400.

Dr. Mealy's pastorate was fruitful of missionaries, ministers and mission teachers. His eloquence and personal magnet ism gave him power over young people to inspire high ideals, and largely through his influence Neshannock church has furnished far more than its normal share of missionaries, including Rev. Dr. Eugene P. Dunlap and his wife in Siam, Mrs. McCauley in Japan, Dr. Jessie Wilson Lawrence in Persia and Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Porter in Brazil. Almost 40 young ministers have gone out from this congregation to preach the gospel and more are coming on. All indebtedness on the church building-which cost about $15,000-was cancelled last year, and contributions to benevolence are constantly increasing.

Source: Twentieth Century History of New Castle and Lawrence County, 1908, pages 368-369


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