Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 182 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 182 of 193)
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recently in the possession of the family of Elder
James Torrance. It contained a subscription for the

I purpose of securing a portion of the services of Dr.

I Dunlap, who was for twenty years previous to 1803
pastor of Laurel Hill Church. Neither the date of

I that paper, the portion of service it secured, nor the
time the arrangement continued is now known, but
it must have been near the close of his pastorate at

I Laurel Hill, for Mr. J. Huston Torrance (son of
James), born iu the year 1795, distinctly remembers

, hearing Dr. Dunlap at the " tent" under that large

' hickory-tree on the spot where tradition says the
church was organized.

Without doubt Dr. Power in the year 1774 preached
the first sermon ever heard here, and there is no evi-
dence that any but he preached here during the eight
years that intervened before the first meeting of the
Presbytery of Redstone, when Tyrone was recognized

I as an established "congregation." Nor can there be
any doubt that to his abundant labors more than of
all others is Tyrone indebted for whatever pastoral


care it enjoyed during tlie twenty-eiglit or thirty
years it had no pastor. In the grateful acknowledg-
ments of these years of unchronicled privations and
hardships and perils, next to Dr. Power, comes Dr.
Dunlap. Before reviewing the unbroken pastorate
of fifty-seven years which followed it is proper to
mention the successive houses in which this congre-
gation has worshiped.

Tyrone congregation has erected four churches on
the parcel of ground now occupied by the church and
graveyard. The lot, containing two acres, is part of
a tract for which John Stewart took out a patent,
dated Oct. 3, 1787, under the significant title of
" Pleasant Garden." This interesting and suggestive
document is now in the possession of Mr. E. H. Reid,
to whom that portion of the original tract which sur-
rounds the church ground now belongs. The title
by which the congregation held this lot having been
lost through the vicissitudes incident to frontier life,
in 1800, Abraham Kent and Tabitha, his wife, then
possessed of the original tract, executed a new deed,
securing to " Matthew Gaut, William Chain, and
William Smith, trustees, and to their successors in
office forever, said lot for the use of Tyrone Church." '
■ The first house built by Tyrone congregation^ was
a fair specimen of the primitive " meeting-houses" in
Western Pennsylvania, and corresponded with the
cabins of the pioneers. " It was simply a cabin of a
larger size." Dr. Eaton's description of " an early
church"' is probably almost literally true of the first
meeting-house at Tyrone. " Trees were felled of the
proper size, cut to the desired length, notched at the
corners, and laid up, log upon log, to the desired
height. For the gable ends the ends of the logs were
chopped off to give the proper inclination to the roof,
and logs placed across to receive the clapboards.
These clapboards were split out of straight oak,
placed in order on these logs, and kept in place by
weight-poles. The doors and windows were then cut
out, the floor was laid with puncheons split from
straight logs, the door made from the same, with pins
and wooden hinges, and the windows filled with oiled
linen or paper. In some cases neither nail nor bit of
sawed lumber were employed. Instances are recorded
where churches were built in a single day, and with-
out the outlay of a single dollar."

This house had no floor but the earth. " The seats
were logs split and elevated on wooden logs." The
pulpit was arranged with two upright puncheons, and
a third across to hold the books. Another puncheon,

1 Kecorded Oct. 11, 1800, in Book C, page 339, in recorder's office,
Fayette County.

2 It is stated in the " History of Centre Cburcli fOIiinl, With an Tntrn-
duction, Giving the Rise of Other Churches, by Robert A., 1^>J^"
tliat the Tyrone Presbyterian Church Mas organized in 1TT4 i ,v i!i.> Kfv.
James Power ; that its first meeting-house was built in 177s, :uia uas
used by the congregation for about seventy years. It is evidcmt that
the last part of Mr. Sherrard's statement is incorrect, and that he in-
cludes in his period of seventy years the time that the first two houses

3 Centenary Memorial, p. 225.

supported by two stout pins in the wall, served for the
minister's seat. Thirteen years ago the remains of
this first house, which stood on the highest spot be-
tween the present church building and the burial-
ground, were little more than a heap of rul)bish,
which gradually disappeared.

The second house of worship was built between
1800 and 1806, probably about the time when Rev.
James Guthrie became pastor. It stood just between
the present house and the lower corner of the lot,
with a gable towards the spring. It was of hewn logs,
with a clapboard roof, and about thirty feet square
at first. The pulpit was in the lower side of the
house. Two aisles, terminating in a door at either
end, save where the pulpit stood, crossed each other
at right angles near the middle of the house. The
seats (there were no pews) in the half of the house
ill which the pulpit was located were placed parallel
with the one aisle, so that those sitting to the right
and left of the pulpit faced each other and the min-
ister ; while in the other half of the house the seats
ran parallel with the cross aisle. At length the
house was enlarged by a " lean-to" addition at the
side opposite to the pulpit, and the roof, which was
extended with diminished pitch, shed-like, to cover it,
came down almost to the lintel of the door that
opened under its eaves, giving to the structure a pe-
culiar and very unchurchlike appearance.

After serving for more than half a century this
house was superseded by one built of brick upon the
same site. The first sermon in this, the third house
of worship, was preached by Rev. Ross Stevenson on
Friday, June 4, 1852. After a while the foundation
gave way, and the wall scracked, so that it became
necessary to repair or rebuild. A meeting of the
congregation was called. Rev. John McMillan, D.D.,
preached from Neh. ii. 17 : "Then said I unto them.
Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth
waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire :
come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that
we be no more a reproach." Thus exhorted they re-
solved to build. A subscription was begun at once,
and after four months the contract for building the
fourth church edifice was awarded to Mr. J. L. White
for .$3500 and the old house, valued at §500. Then
the first brick house, after only nineteen years' ser-
vice, was demolished.

During the next eighteen months the homeless
congregation worshiped in school-houses, occasionally
accepting the kindly proffered hospitality of their
Methodist Episcopal neighbors, and holding com-
munion services in their churches until they occu-
pied their present sanctuary, which is a model of
rural simplicity and taste, and which fully maintains
the ratio of excellence by which each of the former
ones surpassed its predecessor. On Sabbath, May 4,
1873, under these grand old oaks, in whose shade the
fathers, generation aftergeneration, for a hundred years
had worshiped Jehovah, this beautiful house was



solemnly dedicated to the worship of the true and
living God.

Turning to the pastors and stated supplies who have
served this church, we find for the first thirty years
no pastor, and but two who for any time administered
statedly the ordinances, namely, Drs. Power and
Dunlap. A history of Tyrone Church would be in-
complete without at least a brief sketch of Rev.
.James Power, D.D. He was born in Chester County,
Pa., educated at Princeton, and licensed by the Pres-
bytery of New Castle in the year 1772. The follow-
ing year he received a call from the united congrega-
lions of Highbridge, Cambridge, and Oxford, in
Botetourt County, Va. Perhaps the fact that many
of Mrs. Power's acquaintances and friends (among
them her father, Philip Tanner, one of Rev. James
Finley's elders) had recently emigrated west of the
mountains determined Mr. Power to decline that call
and visit the new settlements. Accordingly, in the
summer of 1774, he crossed the Allegheny Mountains,
and spent three months in itinerant labors " in what
are now Westmoreland, Allegheny, Washington, and
Fayette Counties, Pa." Late in the fall of 1776 he
again crossed the mountains, this time bringing his
family with him. consisting of his wife and four
daughters. " They were mounted on horses, his wife
on one, he on another, his oldest daughter behind
him, his youngest, almost a babe, seated on a pillow
in front of him, the other two comfortably and cozily
seated in a sort of hamper-baskets, one on each side
of a led horse.'" An explanation of his fixing his
first residence on Dunlap's Creek is found in the fact
that there Mrs. Power would be among friends and
near her father during the frequent and long absences
of her husband.

After three years of a " sort of missionary pastorate"
throughout the settlements, Dr. Power removed his
family to Mount Pleasant, in 1779, and became pastor
of Mount Pleasant and Sewickly Churches, and for a
wliile Unity and Tyrone shared in his regular labors.
Although never regularly installed, he fulfilled with
marked fidelity the office of pastor in Sewickly until
1777, and in ^Mount Pleasant thirty years longer, when
age and infirmity cniii|.clliii liiiii to cease. "Thirteen
years more he linL:i'i-.d. pnituiiihUy revered by his
descendants and tlu- |kii].Ic ul his cliarge, until Aug.
•">, 1S30, when, in the eighty-fifth year of his age, his
released spirit joined the redeemed company of his
fellow-laborers, and his body was laid quietly down
ill a hallowed grave to await the resurrection of the

The Rev. James Dunlap, D.D., was born in Chester
County, Pa., in 1774. He was graduated at Prince-
ton, studied theology with Rev. James Finley, was
licensed by the Presbytery of Donegal, 1770 to 1781.
He was ordained "sine titulo" by the Presbytery of
New Castle, and came West with his theological pre-

ceptor the same year. In October, 1782, he received
the first call which passed through the hands of Red-
stone Presbytery. This call, which was from the
churches of " Delap's Creek" and Laurel Hill, he ac-
cepted, but was never installed, this formality being of
more recent date. Dr. Dunlap remained pastor of both
churches for seven years, and of Laurel Hill for four-
teen yeai-s more, and near the close of this period was
stated supply at Tyrone for some part of his time.
From 180.3 till 1811 he was president of Jefi'erson
College, and died in Abingdon, Pa., Nov. 11, 1818, in
the seventy-fifth year of his age.

He was no doubt the finest scholar in the Presby-
tery. It is an interesting fact that the two men who
nursed this little church in the wilderness were the
first of the pioneer ministers whose talents and schol-
arship were recognized by academic honors. In 1807
Mr. Dunlap received from Jeflferson College its first
honorary degree of " Divinitatis Doctor," and the
next year Mr. Power's name was placed second on
the list now grown so long.

The Rev. James Guthrie, the first pastor of Tyrone
congregation, was born in Westmoreland County, Pa.
He was a child of the covenant, and his Scotch-Irish
parents carefully instructed him in the duties and
doctrines of religion. Their faithfulness was rewarded
by the early conversion of their son, whose mind was
soou turned to the gospel ministry. With this in
view he entered Dickinson College. Upon his grad-
uation he commenced the study of theology with one
of the pastors of the Presbytery. In October, 1801,
he appears in Presbytery, and the following minute
was made in the record : " Mr. James Guthrie offered
himself to be taken on trial as a candidate for the
gospel ministry. Presbytery having received testi-
monials of his good moral character, of his being in
full communion of the church, and having taken a
regular course of literature, proceeded to converse
with him on his experimental acquaintance with re-
ligion and the motives which induced him to desire
the ofiice, and, having received satisfaction, agreed to
take him on further trial, and assigned him an exer-
cise on the following theme : ' Quomodo miraculai pro-
bant Scripturas Sacras esse Divinas,' and an homily
on 1 John iv. 9: 'In this was manifested the love of
God towards us, because that God sent his only begot-
ten Son into the world that we might live through
him.' Both to be delivered at the next meeting of

These duties were satisfactorily performed, as were
all others that were assigned, until, " having passed
through all the parts of trial required by the book,
Mr. Guthrie was, on the 19th of March, 1803, at Lau-
rel Hill, licensed iu regular form as a probationer for
the gospel ministry," and opportunity was given him
to make full proof of his ministry in the following
list of appointments : " The first Sabbath in May, at
Pitt township [Beulah] ; the second, Salem; third, at
Wheatfie'id ; fourth, (juciualKining ; fifth, Somerset.



First Sabbath in June, Turkey Foot [Confluence].
First Sabbath in July, Uniontown ; second, Morgan-
town, Va. ; third, Middletown, Va. ; fourth, Clarks-
burg, Va. First Sabbath in August, Tygart's Val-
ley, Va. ; second, Morgantown ; third, Monongahela
Glades, Va.; fourth, Sandy Creek, Pa.; fifth, Turkey
Foot. First Sabbath in September, Turkey Foot;
second, Quemahoning ; third, Wheatfield ; fourth, [
Salem ; and first Sabbath in October, Pitt township." j

This formidable list of appointments kept the
young licentiate the greater part of the summer in
the saddle. For weeks together zigzaging in and out
among the mountains, climbing perilous steeps, ford-
ing unbridged rivers, often threading his way through
dense forests along lonely bridle-paths, we have dis- j
played some of those elements of character which
marked and made successful the long pastorate of
Mr. Guthrie. At the " fall meeting" of Presbytery
he was appointed to supply as missionary for the
space of two months in the southern departments of
Presbytery, — in January, 1804, at discretion ; at Laurel
Hill the second Sabbath in February, and at Tyrone
the third. This was Mr. Guthrie's first Sabbath at '
Tyrone. These appointments, like the former ones,
were all fulfilled, and Presbytery recorded their ap-
probation of his fidelity and ability, and judged "his j
mission very successful."

In April, 1804, a call from the congregations of '
Laurel Hill and Tyrone was presented to Mr. Guthrie. I
He requested " permission to hold the call under con- j
sideration, and leave to itinerate without the bounds [
of Presbytery for three months." In October, 1804, j
Mr. Guthrie signified his acceptance of the call, and |
arrangements were made for his installation the next I
April. As no more appointments were made for him
than for the pastors in the Presbytery, it is probable j
that Mr. Guthrie at once entered upon his labors here. |
According to the above arrangement. Presbytery met
at Laurel Hill, April 17, 1805; proceeded to ordain
Mr. Guthrie, "and did, by prayer and the imposition
of hands, solemnly set him apart to the holy oiBce of
the gospel ministry, and install him in the united con-
gregations of Laurel Hill and Tyrone," and for the
first time in its history this church had a pastor. On
this interesting occasion the Eev. George Hill, father,
or perhaps grandfather, of Rev. George Hill, D.D.,
preached "the ordination sermon," and the Rev. Jo-
seph Henderson presided. There is no record of any
charge to pastor or people, and the installation was ;
not repeated here.

This relation continued almost forty-six years, until
the death of Mr. Guthrie, Aug. 24, 1850, in the i
seventy-fourth year of his age. The oldest members
of this congregation remember and venerate Mr. j
Guthrie as a father. He baptized them in their in-
fancy, catechised them in their youth, received them j
into the church in maturer years, married them, bap- I
tized their children, and buried their parents. He is '
remembered as a small man of ruddy complexion and

nervous temperament; kind, genial, benevolent; a
devoted pastor and a warm friend. The Rev. Joel
Stoneroad, his colleague and successor, says, " The
general traits of the Scotch-Irish marked the char-
acter of Mr. Guthrie." He was four times married.
His first wife was the daughter of Joseph Torrance,
Esq., a member of Laurel Hill Session. His second
wife was Miss Gallaher, of Dunlap's Creek. His
third wife was a Widow Hunter, daughter of William
Smith, an elder at Tyrone. His fourth wife was Mrs.
Beeson, of Uniontown, who, after the death of Mr.
Guthrie, married Mr. Johnston Van Kirk, of Dunlap's
Creek. All Mr. Guthrie's wives had the reputation
of being truly excellent women, being well suited to
their place and station.

" Mr. Guthrie's mental character, though not extra-
ordinary, was quite respectable. His talents partook
chiefly of the practical rather than the speculative,
which made him all the more useful as a preacher
and pastor. As to his ministerial character, it was
perfectly stainless through his long pastorate of forty-
six years. The integrity of his religious character
was never questioned, even by his enemies. He was
truly a whole-souled man, generous to a fault. Fre-
quently when his people had fallen into arrears he
would canceL his claim rather than report them in
Presbytery as delinquents, and this when his salary
from both congregations never exceeded four hundred

The Rev. Joel Stoneroad, the second pastor of Ty-
rone, was born in Mifliin County, Pa., in the year
1806 ; graduated at Jefferson College in 1827, and at
Princeton Theological Seminary in 1830. He labored
one year as a domestic missionary at Morgantown,
Va., and vicinity ; was pastor of Uniontown Presby-
terian Church from 1832 to 1842, then pastor of Cross-
Roads Church, Presbytery of Washington, for eight
years. In the spring of 1850 he removed to Laurel
Hill, and on the 5th of June was installed collegiate
pastor with Rev. James Guthrie in the united congre-
gations of Laurel Hill and Tyrone. Under the able
and energetic labors of the junior pastor, who brought
to the field the rich experience of nineteen years in
the work of the ministry, the congregation prospered.
Two elders were added to the session the first year.
Just two years, lacking a day, from the installation
of the second pastor the congregation entered their
first brick house of worship, and the regular additions
to its membership witnessed a healthy spiritual life.
In April, 1861, Laurel Hill asked and obtained the
whole of Mr. Stoneroad's time, and Tyrone became
vacant for the first time in fifty-seven years.

Father Stoneroad still lives at Laurel Hill, where,
abundant in labors, he has proclaimed the gospel of
salvation for twenty-six years, though not now so
much a " Boanerges" as a " Barnabas." The oldest
of her living pastors, Tyrone affectionately greets him
to-day, and thanks God for his presence.

A vacancy occurs from April, 1S61, to 1864, during


the greater part of which time the pulpit was irregu-
larly supplied. The principal exception was in the
summer of 1862, when the talented, consecrated, but
now lamented George Paul, then a licentiate, under
appointment as a foreign missionary, labored here
for some months, and his name is still " as ointment
poured forth." In April, 1864, a call for part of the
pastoral services of Rev. William Logan Boyd, then
pastor of Sewickly Church, promising two hundred
dollars a year for one-third of his time, was presented
in Presbytery. The call was accepted, and on the
first Monday in June following the first iustallation
services ever witnessed in Tyrone were performed. The
Rev. Joel Stoneroad preached the sermon, the Eev.
W. F. Hamilton, D.D., presided, proposed the consti-
tutional questions, and charged the pastor, and Rev.
N. H. G. Fife delivered the charge to the people.

This pastorate lasted just three years, and was
marked by a healthy growth in the church, although
the distance at which Mr. Boyd resided in Sewickly
greatly increased his labors, and at the same time di-
minished their apparent results, and perhaps largely
influenced him to seek a release. Then occurred an-
other vacancy, extending from 1867 to 1871. For the
first eighteen months the pulpit was supplied occa-
sionally by different ministers. In Navember, 1868,
Eev. Morehead Edgar was elected " stated supply till
the ensuing spring," at which time he was again
elected stated supply for two-thirds of bis time. Early
in the summer, however, he ceased to serve.

Another season of occasional supplies followed until
December, 1870, when the Rev. Thomas S. Parke
preached as a candidate. He continued to supply
most of the time until April 2, 1871, when he was
elected pastor. This call, which was presented in
Presbytery at its spring meeting, was accepted, and on
the 27th of July following he was installed at Tyrone
jiastor of the united churches of Tyrone and Harmony.
The Rev. Joel Stoneroad again preached the sermon.
On this occasion he also presided and proposed the
" constitutional questions." Rev. Henry Fulton
charged the pastor, and A. Bronson, D.D., the people.

Mr. Parke married, built a house in Dawson, and
fixed his residence there. Then, ./or the first time in
ninety-four //(w/-.-,-, Tyrcjrie congregation had their
pastor and his laiiiily liviiii; among them.

DurioL' this pastorate Iwn additiunal elders were or-
dained and iiistalleil. the present beautiful house of
worship was Imilt and diMlieated, and forty-one mem-
bers were received and thirty-one dismissed to form the
church at Dawson. This relation continued with
Harmony for two years, a<nd with Tyrone about four,
terminating May 28, 1875.

The old church, weakened by the organization at
Dawson, now entered into an alliance with Sewickly,
each agreeing to pay half the salary of a minister.
On the 17th of the ensuing October the Rev. J. H.
Stevenson, by invitation of the session, preached his
first sermon here, and afterwards regularly served the

church, dividing the time equally between Tyrone
and Sewickly. In October of the following year
Tyrone and Scottdale were formed into a pastoral
charge and placed under him, and he has remained
in charge as pastor to the present time (1881).

Of the elders of the old Tyrone Church, the first
bench consisted of Barnett Cunningham, born June
29, 1736, and his half-brother, James Torrance, born
Feb. 15, 1744.' They emigrated from Peach Bottom
Valley, on the Susquehanna, the former in the spring
of 1770, the latter within two years of that date. They
secured for seventeen years, by what was known as a
" tomahawk right," and then for eight years more by
a surveyor's warrant, and afterwards, in 1795, by
patent, lands, part of which have been in possession
of their families ever since. The price paid by Mr.
Cunningham for three hundred and sixteen acres,
with " an allowance of one-sixteenth for roads," was
twelve pounds six shillings, — nearly seventeen cents
per acre. " They left the old settlements for the new,"
says one who wrote of it twenty years ago, " in full
membership in the Presbyterian Church, but had no
opportunity of hearing the gospel preached or its or-
dinances dispensed until Dr. Power visited them in

Tlie same author, the late Robert A. Sherrard, of
Steubeuville, Ohio, fixed this as the date of their
ordination, but unless Dr. Power, while yet a licen-
tiate, exercised all the functions of an ordained min-
ister, this could not be. It is probable that on his
first visit here after his ordination, say in the fall o'f
1776, he ordained these noble men to their holy office.
I Of their eflbrts to gather a congregation, and secure
I the services of a minister, though it might be but for
I a single sermon, and that on a week-day or evening,
in some cabin, or oftener in the woods, of the re-
ligious meetings they themselves held, of their trials
I and discouragements, their self-denial and sacrifices
to secure a house of worship, their " faith and pa-
tience," the only record is on high. For more than
thirty years these noble brothers, to whom perhaps
this church owes its existence, carried the responsi-

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 182 of 193)