Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 74 of 193)
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Valparuisii in thr lull of 1856, arriving in San Fran-
cisco after a delightful voyage of forty-two days. In
December I crossed Washington Territory by a trail
through dense forests until I arrived at Cowlitz
Landing, at the head of navigation on the Cowlitz
River. In the spring of 1857 I was engaged by the
secretaries of the board to explore for the cause of
home missions. I preached in Sacramento awhile,
organized a Presbyterian Church in Napa City, and
made my way north through California to Red Bluff's
and Shasta, thence by mule-back over high ranges
of mountains, almost buried sometimes in the deep,
melting snows, and brought up at Yreka, in Shasta
Valley, and explored and preached all over Scott's
and Shasta Valleys.

" I organized a Presbyterian Church in Jackson-
ville, returned in the fall over the mountain ranges,
through deep snows, to San Francisco, revisited Sac-
ramento and Napa City, and near the latter place
married one of the best and handsomest women the



328



HISTORY OF FAYETTE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA.



Lord ever made. In the fall of 1858 I returned to
Roger's River "Valley, where I have been laboring
ever since. I scarcely ever see the face of a Presby-
terian niiiiistei-. TJiis valley is surrounded with liiLih,
grand inountairis, an<l possesses the tinr^i rlimaii. in
the wijilil. 1 am sixty-five years of aire, and can lidi-
all day alnmst as well as ever. Uuiontown was tecli-
nically my first and last pastoral charge."



In



;a;!, A,.:
d as ,K



27th, the Rev. James H. Callen was
)r, on a salary of $500. He was an
Trislinnin, witli a pleasant manner in conversation.
]lis disciiursrs were brief, finished in a bright style,
and were always read with a fair delivery. As a pas-
tor he was ordinary. He was a man of medium
height, with a L^mid appearance in the pulpit. He
gave fair satislaetiun during his pastorate, and re-
signed April lu, l.sr)5, because he received a call to a
church in the East, which region seemed to be more
congenial to himself and family. A note received
from Mr. Callen, now (1876) an evangelist in Brook-
lyn, having received the title of D.D. since leaving
here, says, " I cannot recall any facts now which
would be worthy of note."

The Rev. William Furguson Hamilton was installed
pastor May 13, 1856, having served the church, under
call, from October, 1855, to that time. His pastorate
was the second iu length of any in the history of this
church.

Mr. Hamilton was born in Washington County,
graduated at Washington College in 1844, at the age
of twenty, studied theology at the Western Theologi-
cal Seminary, was licensed by the Presbytery of Ohio
in 1849, and ordained and installed, in 1850, pastor of
Centre Cluirch, near Canonsburg, wdiere he labored a
little over two years.

Mr. Hamilton was a man of far more than average
talents and ability. He was a fine writer, with a
keen, pointed style. He usually wrote and read his
discourses. He had a hesitancy in his delivery some-
what unpleasant to the ear, and which slightly dimin-
ished the effect of his sermons. He was regarded as
a better preacher than pastor. Mr. Hamilton re-
signed his work here May 31, 1866, after a pastorate
often years. In 1868 he took charge of the churches
of Salem and Livermore. in the Blairsville Presby-
tery, and labored there with acceptance for seven
years. He then resigned, resided in Blairsville a
short time, and thence removed to Washington, act-
ing as stated supply to the Mount Pleasant Church,
and also as Professor of Intellectual Philosophy and
Ethics in the college.

From the time of Mr. Agnew until that of Mr.
Hamilton the minister's salary was $500 per annum.
Mr. Hamilton was called upon a salary of $600, which
was subsequently raised to $800, owing to the in-
creased price of living during the war.

The Rev. Walter W. Ralston was installed pastor



of this church April 28, 1867, on a salary of $1200,
iu quarterly payments in advance. The congrega-
tion also paid his house-rent during his residence
here. He was a native of Ohio, a graduate of Jeffer-
son College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and
was called here from his first charge at Churcliville,
Md. He was a good preacher, with an excellent,
melodious voice, and fine appearance and manner in
the pulpit. He usually read his discourses. He was
a fair pastor. He resigned his charge here Oct. 1,

1873, on account of a call to the church of Xenia,
Ohio, which gave him a larger support than he was
receiving here, and which he believed would furnish
him a little relief in ministerial labor. He left Xenia
in 1875, for a short time acted as financial agent for
Washington and Jefferson College, and in 1876 ac-
cepted a call to the church of Bridgewater.

The Rev. Samuel S. Gilson was born Oct. 28, 1843,
in Westmoreland County, graduated at Washington
and Jefferson College in 1866, at the Allegheny Theo-
1 logical Seminary in 1869, and took a fourth year's
I course at Union Theological Seminary, New York.
He preached two summers at Garrison's, on the Hud-
son. He was called to Bowling Green, Ky., April 1,
1871, and after laboring there precisely three years,
was called to Uuiontown and installed pastor May 1,

1874. Rev. J. P. Fulton presided and preached the
sermon. Rev. J. M. Barnett delivered the charge to
the pastor, and, by special invitation. Dr. George
Hill, of Blairsville, the charge to the people. Mr.
Gilson resigned his work here in June, 1879. The
Rev. A. S. Milholland, the next and present pastor,
was installed June 15, 1880.

There have been few elders in this church, but, with
[ two or three exceptions, they were able and excellent
men, devoted to the solemn duties of their office.
That they were efficient and useful, especially in giv-
! ing advice and administering discipline, is the testi-
mony of former pastors and of the records of the
I church. In discipline their patience and wisdom
I were wonderful.

I At the first meeting of the session of which there is
; any record the only business attended to was a case
I of discipline, the charge being improper conduct and
the use of profane lauLruaiie towards a citizen of this
town. There is im rrruid ..l' any other meeting of the
session during the year Isiii'i. In 1829 a serious case
of discipline came up, when a member of the church
was tried for inhumanity to a negro. This case was
promptly and prayerfully prosecuted, and the long
and full record assures us of the wisdom and piety of
the first session of this church.

From this time on, for a quarter of a century, a case
or more of discipline was under consideration at al-
most every meeting of the session. Some of these
were exceedingly difficult to manage, and two or
three are as complicated and mysterious as ever come



UNIONTOWN BOROUGH



329



before the civil courts. The charges are for all kinds
of offenses: for profanity, drunkenness, improper
conduct, unbecoming language, slander, imposing a
wrong ticket on a voter, neglecting the ordinances of
religion, and for other sins. In those early days the
elders frequently brought about reconciliations and
adjusted differences which in modern times are more
apt to find their way into the civil courts. A remark-
able thing is that in almost every instance the accused j
was found either wholly or partially guilty. Very
many members of this church became subject at some
time or other to discipline.

It is quite certain that at least some of the offenses
committed in the earlier history of this church by the
professed followers of Christ are not committed now.
Still, in those days there were many godly men and
women who walked spiritually minded, in an orderly
way, and brought no reproach upon the cause of
Christ.

The session of this church has always been prompt,
when occasion required, to express its judgment on
doctrinal and moral subjects. In 1834 the following
resolution, appropriate to an agitation then in pro-
gress, was adopted :

"Unanimously Eeso/fed, That this session believes
that genuine revivals of religion are not the results
of human devices, but of the plain, practical, and
zealous preaching of gospel truth, of which truth we
believe our standards contain an admirable summary, j

" Resolved, That common honesty, to say nothing of i
Christian sincerity, requires that those who do not l)e-
lieve the Confession of Faith in the plain, obvious,
and common-sense construction of its doctrines '
should at once candidly declare their opinions and
withdraw from the communion of the Presbyterian
Church."

The session, by its declarations and discipline, has
uniformly lifted up its voice against intemperance and
its causes. In 1833 this resolution was adopted,
"That this session is fully persuaded that the use of [
ardent spirits as a drink is a great evil and crying {
sin, and we are convinced that every pursuit which j
tends directly to perpetuate the evil or throw obstacles ,
in the way of its suppression is immoral, and we be- •
lieve it to be the duty of the Chunli at larye to avoid
all participation in the guilt of its continuance." !
Forty-three years afterwards, in 1876, the session ex-
pressed the meaning of this resolution in more ex-
plicit terms, and " Affirm their conviction of the cen-
surable complicity in the guilt of the traffic in intox-
icating liquors on the part of those who knowingly
rent their property for such purpose or indorse licenses
that legalize it, and we affectionately admonish the
members of this church to commit no offense of this
kind." In 1868 the session unanimously adopted a
long and able paper on the subject of worldly amuse-
ments, admonishing the people against dancing, card-
playing, and theatre-going.



Up to 1830 only those were admitted to the com-
munion-table who had tokens, but in that year the
custom was unanimously abolished. In the same year
it was resolved, " That those persons who move within
our bounds from other churches and fail to obtain
their letters of dismission within six months should
be refused the privileges of the church." The pastor
was frequently requested by the session to preach
upon particular subjects, especially Sabbath obser-
vance and family worship. During the pastorate
of Mr. Agnew the congregation was districted for
quarterly visits, "The whole care of the country
members to be left to the pastor." It is not stated
whether he chose this portion of the field because it
was most pleasant, or because it needed especial over-
sight. Until 1837 the session is said to meet in the
"meeting-house," about which time there is a gradual
transition to the use of the word "church." The
meetings of the session, however, have been usually
held in private houses, and almost always at the home
of Mr. Espy during his residence in town.

In the old session-book of this church the first rec-
ord, made in 1S25, is signed by Joseph Kibler, Thomas
Lewis, and S. Y. Campbell. These men were the first
elders of this church. Before this date, when the
communion was administered here, assistance was
rendered by elders from adjoining churches, — for in-
stance, Benjamin Laughead, of the Tent, and Judge
Finley, of Laurel Hill.

Joseph Kibler is spoken of as a godly and active
man. He was diligent in tract distribution and Sab-
bath-school work, and was the first agent of the first
Bible Society of this county. He was exceedingly
regular in his duties as an elder, and according to the
record was only absent from two or three meetings of
the session until his departure to Ohio, Oct. 8, 1832,
where, in the church at Hillsboro', he was a ruling
elder until the time of his death.

Thomas Lewis was regular in his attendance upon
the services of religion in public and private, and also
upon the meetings of the session, and was the stated
clerk from the beginning of the records until March
27, 1832. In 1839 he removed within the bounds ot
the Tent Church, still retaining his membership here
until 18-11, until he was dismissed to the Tent congre-
gation, within whose bounds he died, Dec. 21, 1849,
aged sixty-one years. S. Y. Campbell appears to have
acted as elder about two years, until 1827.

In 1829, September 28th, John Kennedy Duncan
and Dr. Hugh Campbell were ordained to the sacred
office. Mr. Duncan was born and raised in Carlisle,
admitted to this church upon certificate, and at once
elected elder, and served faithfully for one year, and
was dismissed in 1830 to the Tent Church. Thence
he removed to Springhill, thence to Iowa City, thence
to Dubuque, where he died in 1869.

October the 9th, 1825, is a date long to be remem-
bered by this congregation. It was then that the two



330



HISTORr OF FAYETTE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA.



young men, Dr. Hugh Campbell and Nathaniel Ewing,
Esq., came for the first time to the Lord's table. To-
gether they followed Christ with reverence and godly
fear for almost half a century. These men were prop-
erly regarded as the pillars of the church in their day,
and it is hardly possible now to unduly exalt their in-
fluence as Christian citizens. They were also exceed-
ingly useful in the higher courts of the church, to
which they were so frequently delegates. Indeed, it
came to be said in the Presbytery, in regard to the
commissioners to the General Assembly, " It was Dr.
Campbell one year and Judge Ewing the next."

Dr. Campbell was stated clerk of the session from
1851 to 1864. He was a member of a large family of
Scotch descent, and all Presbyterians. His father was
a member of this church, and died at the advanced
age of ninety-five. Dr. Campbell was born in Union-
town, May 1, 1795. In September, 182.3, he married
Miss Susan Baird, of Washington, who died in 1824.
He married the second time in 1828, Miss Rachel
Lyon, of Carlisle.

Dr. Campbell was ordained an elder in this church
Sept. 28, 1829. In 1865 he was appointed warden of
the Western Penitentiary. The following tribute was
prepared by his lifelong friend, Nathaniel Ewing,
and otfered and adopted in the session : " For more
than thirty-five years Dr. Campbell has exercised con-
tinuously the office of ruling elder in this church
with uniform acceptance and eminent ability and
faithfulness. During this long period his exemplary
walk, the abundance of his benefactions, exertions,
and prayers, and his diligent and scrupulous discharge
of official duty contributed largely to the maintenance,
growth, and establishment of the church. By the
eminence of his gifts, also, he was enabled to perform
effective service for the general interests of the Mas-
ter's cause by sitting on frequent occasions as a mem-
ber in each of the superior judicatories."

Dr. Campbell was a commissioner to several General
Assemblies. He was cliosen principal delegate from
the Bedstone Presbytery in the years 1833, 1834, 1835,
1836, and again in 1847, 1854, 1858, and was an alter-
nate nine times, and probably attended occasionally
under this appointment. He was a member of the
famous General Asseuiljy which met in Pittsburgh
in 1838, at the tiiuc ni the disruption. A man of far
more than ordinary ability, he made his influence felt
in that body. During a ilisiussion ],,■ ain-r and made
a remark or two which attiactcd atiriiii(,ii. Some
Doctor of Divinity combed him a lilth'. and wanted
to know who is "This youuir David.'" The doc-
tor arose and said, "I am a very hiuulile IClder from
a very humble church and a very humble Presbytery,
but I thank God I have the same rights on this floor
as the most learned Doctor of Divinity or the greatest
lawyer here." He then jiroceeded to scnie Iiis unfor-
tunate antagonist in a speech of wondei lul l;ri uims.-,,
which electrified the Assembly. By tlic apixdiitiiinit
of the General Assembly, he represented the I'resiiy-



terian Church of this country in the Scotch Assembly
at Edinburgh in 1869, passing that year traveling in
Great Britain and Ireland.

He was an excellent and impressive speaker, de-
bater, and orator. In the judgment of one well quali-
fied to give testimony on this point, " He was one of
the smoothest and most pleasant speakers, in his best
days, I have ever heard. The words fell from his lips
like oil." His addresses on the subject of temperance
were very eloquent. Dr. Campbell was a man of great
will power, and it was not safe to come in his way
where right and morality were involved.

In 1868 he again took up his residence in Union-
town, although he never again resumed his duties as
elder here. He died in this place Feb. 27, 1876, con-
tinuing to the close of his life to take a deep interest
in the prosperity of the church and in the public wor-
ship of God. He was rarely absent from the sanctu-
ary or the prayer-meeting, and was a man of remark-
able felicity in prayer. He was a close student of the
Bible all his life, and a few days before his death he
incidentally told his pastor that he had recently com-
jdeted reading the Bible through for the sixth time.
His faith was strong to the end, and he died triumph-
ant in Christ. Among his last words were, " I feel it
is by the Grace of God I am what I am." Almost
the last words he wrote are worthy of record, not only
because of their intrinsic excellence, but because they
j manifest the character of the man. " I have always
disapproved of the display and extravagance of mod-
' ern funerals as being useless for the dead, and in many
1 instances excessively burdensome to the living, and
tempting such as cannot afford it to follow the example
of those who can. It looks to me like aping those
who occupy high places in the world. As a matter
of wordly policy, it may be well for kings and others,
but it is very unbecoming for the humble Christian.
Possibly my example may have a good influence on
others. Let it be tried."

On Christmas-day, 1831, Mr. Hugh Espey was
elected elder in this church, and received by the ses-
sion as one of its members. He was stated clerk from
March, 1832, until 1851. Mr. Espey was born Sep-
tember, 1792, within the bounds of Tyrone Church,
where lie madr a jirofession of religion at an early
age. About 1812 he removed to Eising Sun, Ind.,
and at the organization of the church there in 1816
was ordained a ruling elder. On account of poor
health he returned to Pennsylvania in 1822, and died
at his home here on Christmas-day, 1852. He was a
most excellent man, and is remembered with great
affection by many persons still living. For twenty
years he served the Master here faithfully as a Chris-
tian and an oflice-bearer in the church of God, and
as stated clerk of the session.

In 1833, February 3d, Nathaniel Ewing, Esq., was
ordained to the oflice of elder in this church bv the



UNIONTOWN BOROUGH.



331



l>asl(ir, Rev. Joel Stoneroad. Feb. 8, 1833, he first
actnl as a member of the session, and continued to
CXI rcise the functions of the sacred office until re-
in. .vud by death, Feb. 8, 1874, in the eightieth year
hI Ills age, and precisely the forty-first of his service
:i~ I liler. Judge Ewing, in 1822, married Jane Ken-
111 'l\ , the second daughter of the late Judge Keu-
lu .ly, a most estimable lady, who died in 1825. She
ua-. the mother of Jolin Kennedy Ewing, one of the
piTseut elders of this church. In 1830 he married
Ann Lyon, daughter of the late Rev. David Denny,
ol ( 'liambersburg.

When a young man Mr. Ewing cordially em-
lii:;c (d the doctrines and order of the Presbyterian
< liiiicli. He was baptized in June, and communed
ill I irtober, 1825. In a few years he was elected and
.'ilaiiicd elder, and the period of his service in this
'illirr was longer than that of any other man who
ha- licen an elder here. He received an unusual com-
IiliiiK/nt in the meetings of the session at his house
win n, by reason of sickness, he was confined to his
liniiH', and the remainder of the session felt the great
iiiiportance of his counsel.

lie was frequently a member of the General Assem-
bly, being elected principal delegate from the Pres-
bytery of Redstone in 1836, 1837, 1839, and 1850, and
alternate six times. In the higher courts of the
church, his legal attainments enabled him to expound
ecclesiastical law satisfactorily, and he acquired great
influence over the Assembly. Perhaps the most im-
portant service of this kind ever rendered was a re-
port which he made on the decision of Judge Rodgers,
of the Nisi Prius Court at Philadelphia, against the
Presbyterian Church. This report is recorded in full
in the large minute-book of the Presbytery, covering
six pages.

Judge Ewing acquired large wealth, and gave lib-
erally to the Lord, without letting his right hand
know what the left did. As an illustration of his
quiet way of contributing to the Lord's cause, in
1866 he gave $1000 to the Board of Education, and
his contribution was not known even by the members
of his own family until some years afterwards. He
gave his benefactions while he lived, and was per-
sonally attentive to the wants of the poor of this com-
munity who were brought to his notice. To the very
close of his life there was no apparent weakening of his
powerful intellect. Up to within ten day- <.f lii- ili'aih
his opinion on a principle of civil or ocrlr-ia-i iial law
might have been relied upon. In the last hmir •>( his
life he seemed to realize that God was the strength of
his heart and his eternal portion. On a Sabbath
morning he quietly breathed his last on earth and
began his eternal Sabbath in heaven.

William Redick and Charles Brown were ordained
elders Feb. 3, 1833, by the Rev. Joel Stoneroad. Mr.
Redick served as elder until 1856, when he removed
to the State of Illinois. He was born in Venango
County in 1799. He was a good man, and served



here with acceptance to the people. Mr. Brown
ceased to act as elder by his own desire and the will
of the congregation and session. He left here in
1848.

In 1845, on the 13th of January, David Veech was
elected elder here. He was of Scotch-Irish descent,
, born in this county June 6, 1781. He removed to
j Greene County in 1812, and was ordained elder in
j the New Providence Church. In 1832 he settled
' within the bounds of the Dunlap's Creek Church, and
served as elder there. In 1839 he came to Union-
town. He served faithfully and acceptably here from
1845 until 1861, when, because of old age, he was no
longer able to attend the meetings of the session. He
I held the office, however, until his death on the 14th
of February, 1866. Part of a long resolution adopted
by the session at that time states, " We hereby testify
our sense of his Christian character and fidelity as a
ruling elder in the Church of God." Mr. Veech was
a good man, and the memory of his influence and
works is still fragrant. He was the father of James
j Veech, Esq., who was long a resident of this com-
j munity.

I On the 15th of April, 1866, Simon B. Mercer was
' installed, and Benjamin Campbell installed and or-
1 dained, elders in this church. Mr. Mercer was for-
merly an elder in the church of Bridgewater. He
served here about one year, and then removed to
Saltsburg. Mr. Campbell acted as stated clerk from
June, 1866, until June, 1873. Mr. Campbell was the
son of Dr. Hugh Campbell, and still resides in Union-
town.

That this church has informally existed for a cen-
tury is highly probable for reasons already assigned.
The following is the first notice made of this church
in the records of the Presbytery : " At the meeting
at Georges Creek, Oct. 11, 1799, application was made
for supplies by the vacant congregation of LTnion-
town, and the Rev. James Powers was appointed for
one Sabbath and Rev. Samuel Porter for another."

In the old session book of this church the first
record is made in 1825, and states, over the signatures
of the first three elders : " In making out the report
of the L^niontown congregation, we have given it
according to the most correct information we could
collect, as the congregation was never organized until
the 24th of February last." One item of the report
referred to is, " Total in communion before the or-
ganization of the congregation, unknown." Dr. Fair-
child preached here frequently about 1825, and held
the first election of elders and organized the church.
The growth of the church from the earliest time
of which we have any statistics has varied, and yet
in the main been steadily onward. In 1825 the mem-
bership was fifty-three persons, of whom only one is
, now (1876) living, — Mrs. Sarah Dawson, of Browns-
I ville. Of these members, forty-two were women.
' There were about one-fourth as many men as women:



Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 74 of 193)