The Apollo Presbyterian Church was at first named "Warren," the former name of the place in which the church is located. In 1848, the town took its present name, Apollo, and the church has since borne the same title. In the year 1816, this settlement was so small, it may be said to have been "in the woods." Then the owners of the land, Messrs. Speer and Johnson laid out fifty lots, and on condition of their being sold, promised to give two acres for a church and burial ground. The lots were sold, the promised property was accepted and entered upon but no deed was given. Some years afterward, when the first or stone church had been built, the Owens farm adjoining was sold to Mr. John Andrew, and he included the church and grave yard in his survey. Mr. Andrew proposed, however, that if the Presbyterian Church would give him $25, he would deed the property. This amount was immediately paid, and the deed was executed to David Watson, Samuel Gordon and George T. Crawford, trustees of the Presbyterian Church, and their successors in office, to have and hold for church and burial ground. Elder Jacob McCartney mounted his horse on the next morning and had the deed recorded at Kittanning on that day.
Previous to the erection of any church, worship was held in the open air, across the ravine, at the present south end of Apollo, the people being seated on logs, while the minister was covered by a tent. These services held every two weeks or less frequently, were mostly conducted by ministers of the Presbytery, among whom were Revs Coe, Stockton, Bartley, Dunlap and Lee. As early as 1814, the congregation was regarded as part of the organization of Poke Run Church, when two elders, James Guthrie and James Jackson were chosen by that church with special reference to their services being given to that portion of the congregation lying within Armstrong county, and near Beaver Run. The pastor of Poke Run Church preached occasionally at or near this place. The first communion of the Apollo congregation was held in a barn on the farm south of Apollo, now known as the Solomon Hilty farm, but then owned by Samuel McKee. The formal organization of the church by the Presbytery of Redstone must have taken place between sixty and seventy years ago. The records of Redstone Presbytery show that Mr. Laird was appointed to supply a Sabbath at Warren, April 16, 1817.
Before any pastorate begun the Rev. Robert Lee was the stated supply for six months, having been appointed by the Presbytery of Redstone, and two additional elders, James Watson and James Miller were chosen.
In 1824, Rev. Joseph Harper accepted a call for one-half of his time, and he was duly installed pastor of Warren and Saltsburg. In 1826, soon after his coming, a house of worship, built of stone, was erected on the property above mentioned, and about one hundred yards south west of the present structure. It was at first somewhat rough in its exterior; was the only church building in Apollo for some time; stood for forty years, and was the mother-roof also of the Seceder or United Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran congregations of Apollo. The Seceders having assisted in the erection of the church, were granted regular occupancy, and contributed their quota toward keeping the church in order. The Presbyterian congregation at this time numbered about a hundred, nearly all being of the farming community. The pastor, Mr. Harper, resided in Saltsburg, and preached in Apollo on alternate Sabbaths. He was an educated man, married, and of family, of middle age and stature, and of robust health. He preached with much energy, and on one occasion, with a shout, fell in the pulpit, being over-wrought in exhortation.
At this time two communions were held during the year. Fast day was observed on Thursday, and services were continued from then until Monday, tokens being distributed on Saturday. Watts' version of the psalms was lined by one clerk and the music was led by another, both standing in front facing the people. The clerks at that time were John Jackson, John Crawford and John Paul. The services in the winter consisted of a single morning discourse, but in the summer they began at 10:30 o'clock A. M., and continued until 12 o'clock, when there was an intermission of half an hour, followed by another discourse in a service of about three-quarters of an hour. Sabbath school and prayer meeting,-they were not, but at some place of assemblage previously announced, catechising was occasionally conducted. The duties of sexton were then performed in turn by the members. Mr. Harper resigned after a pastorate of four or five years.
Following Mr. Harper, the Rev. Dunlap, "a Scotchman," supplied the pulpit for about six months. His superior power in the pulpit, it is said, very much deceived his unpretending appearance on the street or in the home.
He was followed by the Rev. Watson Hughes, who, in April, 1830, was ordained and installed over Warren and Saltsburg for half time each. He also resided in Saltsburg. He was a man of medium size and fine appearance. While pastor he was married to Miss Caldwell, of New Jersey. Soon after he came the Sabbath School was started, he teaching the Bible class. He was a very good man, of even temper, an excellent preacher, faithful pastor and good singer. Temperance meetings were conducted under his auspices, assisted as speakers by Elder James Guthrie and trustees Samuel Gordon and George T. Crawford. The latter would write his speech during the meeting, and rise and read it, being unable to speak ex tempore. After about seven years of a pastorate here, Mr. Hughes' throat becoming affected, his preaching appointments in Apollo were frequently broken, so that finally he resigned and was released in 1887 to give his whole time to Saltsburg.
During this pastorate elder James Miller withdrew from the church, and James Watson, because of age and infirmity, ceased to act as elder. Four elders were elected and ordained-William McGeary, Samuel Crosby, John Dible and James Chambers.
For about a year after Mr. Hughes left the preaching was by supplies, among whom were the Rev. Drs. Kirkpatrick and McFarren.
Now seems to have come a period of languishing, for a member of the church, who afterwards was made an elder, repaired unappointed to the Presbytery and reported that the church officials declared, in their opinion, the church was unable to sustain a pastor, and he inquired of the Presbytery whether it would allow the church to die out. The answer was, "No," and on October 2, 1838, the Rev. Dr. Alexander Donaldson, then just from the Seminary, was appointed by Blairsville Presbytery to supply the church one-third of his time for six months. At the close of his time the Apollo church was on the point of making out a call for his services as pastor, but was anticipated by Elder's Ridge church, much to the disappointment of Apollo.
It may be stated here that as Pine Run, Boiling Spring and Leechburg churches were respectively organized about this time they made telling draughts upon the strength of Apollo from among those members who lived nearer the newer organizations.
The next pastor, the Rev. Levi M. Graves, who was installed in 1840, divided his time equally between Apollo and the new church at Boiling Spring. He was tall and slender, and of rather a trail structure. He understood music well and taught among others Wm. James, who became a singing teacher and clerk at Boiling Spring church. He was very sociable, and had a marked fondness for horses. Apollo not providing him a help-meet, he married a lady of high accomplishments and of reputed good financial prospects, Miss Smith, of Crooked Creek. A new church being soon built at that point he resigned Apollo in 1843 and removed to Crooked Creek to labor as pastor. With many interruptions, because of failing health, he continued to preach until his death, January 1, 1881.
In 1846, the Rev. Cyrus B. Bristol was installed over the same charge, and his pastorate of about twelve years is the longest in the history of this congregation. He was an aged man, resided at Spring Church, and preached in Apollo on alternate Sabbaths. He introduced the church prayer meetings, which were conducted by the elders. At the same time women's prayer meetings were carried on in their homes, assisted in the singing by a clerk.
Among the women most active were Mrs. Dr. McCullough, Mrs. J. J. James, Mrs. Amburst and Mrs. Alexander. The missionary cause also received special attention, and on one occasion the congregation raised thirty dollars, which was given to Mr. Bristol, to have his wife constituted a life member of this Missionary Society. Elder Wm. Miller was surprised one day at receiving through the post-office a certificate constituting him a life member.
The stone church, which to this time had presented a rough exterior, was plastered on the outside and penciled, and the pews were renewed throughout. When Mr. Bristol resigned, 1856, he went to the West, and is still living, at an advanced age.
During this pastorate, and in the year 1844, J. Y. McCartney, Thomas Cochran and Matthew Barr were ordained elders, and William Miller and William McKee, in 1847. Of these Mr. Barr was dismissed in 1850, Mr. Cochran in 1854, Mr. McKee in 1856, and Mr. McCartney died November 30, 1880.
In the year 1857, the Rev. Robert McMillan, "grandson of the pioneer of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsylvania," began his services here, and first as a supply for six months, for he had not yet finished his theological course at the Seminary. The pastoral charge was now to include for one-half time Pine Run church instead of Boiling Spring, and, his studies completed, he was ordained, and then installed over this charge in the month of August. He is the first pastor who made his home in Apollo. The congregation was now divided into districts, each being assigned to the labors of two elders, and for about two years they were quite active in visiting by two-and-two the homes of the members. Occasional prayer meetings were also held by the membership in their respective neighborhoods. The Sabbath School, which for several years had but one male member in regular attendance, was now reorganized, and Messrs. John Chambers, W. C. Bovard, and others, were chosen for officers. The pastor and elder William Miller acted as superintendent alternately. At the beginning of this pastorate clerks were dropped, and the choir which had been introduced in Mr. Bristol's time now led the music exclusively. About this time quite an accession was made of families on the Westmoreland side from the Poke Run church, among whom were the Pauls, Blairs, Callens, Marshalls, Moores, Barbours, Chambers and Brattons, numbering twenty-five in all, in full membership. While here Mr. McMillan married Miss Lizzie White, of Lancaster county, and the presence among;' the people for the first time of a pastor's wife as one of them, and she of sterling character, contributed new strength to the congregation.
After four years of labor Mr. McMillan began to fail in health, and his ministrations for two years or more were not rendered by himself more than half his time. "He wished at once to resign his charge, that it might pass into the hands of another capable of performing its duties, but the people would not consent." His salary was continued in full, and the time not occupied by his ministrations was provided for by the congregation and the Presbytery. He was highly revered as a man, and as a preacher many thought him to be unsurpassed. On his way to Pine Run church he once spoke to certain "whittlers" on the bridge of their violation of the Sabbath, and it is said the bridge was ever after well cleared when he passed.
In the Presbyterian Historical Almanac for 1865, there is a warm tribute of affection for him from the pen of his friend and neighboring pastor, the Rev. Alexander Donaldson, D. D. In it there is a quotation from the words of Rev. John Stockton, D. D., Mr. McMillan's pastor, viz: "He had talents of a high order, cultivated by thorough education. His manners were most modest and retiring, and in his whole conduct, candor and integrity stood forth with unusual prominence." Not recuperating strength through the rest given, he resigned and was released June 29, 1864, and died August 1st of the same year.
When Mr. McMillan was installed Dr. Donaldson was expected to preach, but did not arrive, his son being sick, when the Rev. John Stark, of Cherry Run, was called upon to give the discourse. He asked ten minutes to prepare, and after a walk in the grave yard, preached a sermon which has left its impress to this day, from the words, "Brethren pray for us that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, even as it is with you."
On the 23d of September, 1858, James Paul, David Watt, David Kepple and William C. Bovard were ordained to the eldership. Mr. Paul was dismissed in 1868, and Mr. Watt died in September, 1875. Mr. Bovard was dismissed November 23, 1881.
Succeeding Mr. McMillan came another well beloved pastor, the Rev. John Orr. Being in the Seminary he likewise supplied the pulpit for six months before ordination and installation, at Pine Run church in 1865. At the close of his pastorate, also for a year or more he could only occasionally fill his pulpit on account of ill health, his ability to study being impaired by "neuralgia in the region of the eyes whenever he would apply his mind or even read for a short time." The same generosity of the church, however, was extended to Mr. Orr that had been bestowed on Mr. McMillan, but like him, not improving, he was finally compelled to resign his charge on April 3, 1872, and besides cease the functions of a pastor. Mr. Orr is still living, doing good, and in business with his brother in Pittsburgh. He married Miss Lottie Weber, of Wisconsin, two or three years after he entered on his duties as pastor. His manner among his people was quiet, but he was kind and sociable, and his services as preacher and pastor were very acceptable to the congregation. The excellent savor of his name and work still lingers in many of the hearts of the members of this congregation, who often delight to revive the memory of his presence and work. Shortly after Mr. Orr came the present brick edifice was erected upon a foundation of the stones of the wall of the old church. They are still doing their Master's work, as are the living stones of the temple of God that worshipped within those walls, for being dead they yet speak.
This new church building was not finished on the second floor at the first, and for several years all worship was conducted on the first floor.
The inauguration of an elders' prayer meeting was a feature of the early part of Mr. Orr's pastorate. It met every Sabbath at 3 P. M., "for special prayer for the interests of the church, and guidance in the discharge of their duties as members of session." It was maintained during the whole time of his pastorate, and the greater part of his successor's. The young members of the church were invited to take part, which many did, giving additional interest to the meetings, as well as adding vary materially to their usefulness in the church.
In 1869, James Watson and Labanah Townsen, elders from other churches were made elders of Apollo church. Mr. Watson was dismissed to Pine Run in 1881.
The Rev. Hezekiah Magill, who followed Mr. Orr, was culled from the church at Concord, same Presbytery, and was installed October 18th, 1872, over Apollo for all his time, preaching morning, and evening. At the installation Dr. Donaldson surprised everyone present by bringing out and placing on the pulpit the beautiful' communion, set now in use, and presented by Mrs. Joseph Shoemaker. Mr. Magill brought a wife and one child with him, the former giving a marked impetus to the missionary work, as she was recognized as a leader in such work in the Presbytery. The now prosperous Women's Foreign Missionary Society of this church was organized in 1874, with 102 members, Mrs. Dr. Wm. McBryar, President; and in 1877, under the care of this society the mission bands were constituted with Mrs. Magill, President, which ever since have been of great assistance. In- the first five years almost a thousand dollars was raised by the Women's Society, and nearly all was given to the support of Mrs. Van Dyke, missionary in Spain.
A notable Presbyterian mission convention was held in this church just previous to this organization, being the first held in the Presbytery, and it has not been exceeded in interest to this day. Among those present were Dr, George P. Hays, lately Moderator of the General Assembly, Dr. Johnson, of India, and Miss Loring,
As a preacher Mr. Magill was very interesting, as he was, as a worker, very successful. The congregation grew rapidly under his labors and those of his helpers, and his salary was advanced several times until it reached $1,500, the largest amount ever paid by the Apollo congregation. In 1878 the membership was 255, being nearly the same in number as when the present pastorate began. The upper room was now finished, and the church was regularly dedicated. An organ was for the first time introduced' into the church, Miss Alice Bovard being the organist, and the music was thereafter conducted, as in the present, and we hope, as well.
During the early part of Mr. Magill's pastorate a young ladies' prayer meeting was commenced, having their meeting every Sabbath afternoon at 3 o'clock in the gallery of the church, and at the same hour the young men's prayer meeting was in session in the basement of the church. This is said to have been a time of tenderness of spirit, and the mingling and commingling of voices in song and prayer from those young Christians was very impressive.
'During the last two years of Mr. Magill's pastorate one-fourth of his time was given to the Boiling Spring church. On August 17, 1879, he resigned this field, and accepted calls to Union and Midway, which, after serving until October 8th, 1884, he left to occupy a field in the West, in which portion of the country he still successfully labors. Up to this time Labanah Townsen, William H. Watt, S. M. Jackson, Thomas A. Cochran and R. R. Young had been superintendents of the Sabbath School. On the 22d of June, 1880, John Glass, Samuel M. Jackson and A. H. McKown were installed as ruling elders.
On July 29, 1880, the year following Mr. Magill's resignation the Rev. Samuel E. Elliott was installed pastor, supplying Boiling Spring one-fourth of his time. Mr. Elliott was a faithful -student and zealous preacher, many of his sermons, it is said, appealing to the conscience with stirring effect. A number became very warmly attached to him, and Still hold him in high esteem, admiring him for his conscientious adherence to his convictions, for having the courage to express them, and for his faithfulness to the interest, committed to him. The increase and decrease of members were about equal during his ministry. While pastor he married Miss Kate E, Clark, of Washington county. After a work of a little more than four years he resigned this charge October 7, 1884, and is now pastor at Mt. Pleasant, Pa,
It may be stated that while the Apollo church gave no companions to her own pastors, three of her daughters are now wives of living pastors, active in other churches, and this proved efficiency of those women should certainly make this a most attractive spot for unmarried students of theological intent.
The new elders ordained m 1880, viz: John Glass, S. M. Jackson and A. H. McKown, with William Miller, David Keppk and Labanah Townsen constitute the session at this writing. The latter, while ordained at Boiling Spring in 1855, was chosen at Apollo in 1869, and has been a faithful presbyter, an efficient clerk of the session for fifteen years, and Treasurer of the church contributions in all departments for eighteen years. Elder William Miller has performed the duties of sexton for the long period of nearly forty years, and continuously, save for two years by Mr. Joseph Hilty, and still keeps us all warm. The members of the Board of Trustees are William McBryar, M. D., President; F. T. Wray, Secretary; William Keppel, Treasurer; William Van Tassel, Simon Grim and Philip McMullen.
The congregation has been favored with an exceptionally capable and faithful corps of volunteer laborers in all its departments of special lines of work. The choir now led by Major Thomas A. Cochran never fails to be represented, or to conduct the hymn to the end, and in every way possible has rendered most efficient service, while the organist, Miss Ada McBryar, has been faithfully at her post on every occasion with scarce an exception both in the public worship and Sabbath School, for over seven years. That most important department of the church, the Sabbath School, was never more flourishing, and is now carried on by a band of officers and teachers to be taught by whom is a privilege. Major Cochran has been superintendent for several years, and now reports 300 members. The Woman's Foreign Missionary Society before mentioned, with Mrs. James McQuilkin, President, aided by the mission bands, has collected over $2,200 in the last thirteen years, and during eight years of that time $1,200 of that sum were contributed toward the salary of Miss Wherry, now missionary in India, supported in part by the Apollo church.
In the midst of these flourishing activities the existing pastorate began. As this sketch is prepared by the present pastor, he will simply give a recital of the facts of record, and personal tracings, as stated in ease of the previous pastors, leaving out encomium and the opinions of the living. He was called from eastern Pennsylvania after twelve years of pastoral labor in that locality, and installed January 13, 1885, three-fourths of his time over Apollo, and one-fourth over Boiling Spring church. He made his residence in Apollo, with his family, his wife being a daughter of J. B. Van Doren, elder of the First Church of Princeton, N. J., where Mr. Fullerton pursued the complete collegiate and theological course. There were two hundred and fifty members on his assumption of the pastorate of Apollo. There have been one hundred and twenty-five members added in those three years, all of whom are still striving to fulfill their Christian duties, although a number have in the same time died or removed. An increase has been made in the financial record of each year, and at the close of the current ecclesiastical year the benevolent contributions therefore will be two-fold that of any previous year, but being partly special subscriptions, that advance may not be maintained regularly. A Young Ladies' Home Missionary Society was organized the first year, with Miss Katie Me Mullen, President, now presided over by Miss Annie Townsen. In a little over two years of existence it raised $275, providing for numerous calls from Utah and other western points.
The young people have also organized a Young People's Christian Endeavor Society, with Philip Me Mullen for President. This is one of the most popular and growing societies in the United States, and our home organization is, after a few months' existence, improving both in numbers and interest, and trying to solve the problem whether the young Christians are capable of maintaining a religious meeting of their own. Apollo being a growing manufacturing centre, imitating the city churches, the congregation has, under like obligation with them, stepped outside of itself and with the co-operation of others begun the erection of a Sabbath School chapel on the confines of the borough.
On the whole we have reason as pastor and people to be exceedingly thankful to God for our unbroken peace and prosperity, which his presence and his power, according to his promise in answer to our prayers and labors, have so evidently vouchsafed unto us, fulfilling his own words, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you," and, "Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
Nor can we bring this record to an end without the honest testimony due to the faithful work of those sterling ministers, elders, and people who have gone before, into whose labors we have entered, and especially the fathers in the ministry in the agricultural districts, as attested by the lives and services of a loyal people whom they have contributed to the churches, and by the frequent happy farewells for the upper sanctuary of heaven of those who departed from us to enter into their rest and be with Jesus. May this sacred hill of Zion be the birth home of many more into the everlasting kingdom as it has been the upper chamber where so many have already in melting love leaned the tired head upon the Saviour's bosom that now are with him in glory beholding him as he is.
SOURCE: A History of the Presbytery of Kittanning of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America: with its churches and schools; David Harvey Sloan, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.; Barrows & Osbourne, 1888.
Return to Kiskiminetas Township Home Page
Return to the Armstrong County Genealogy Project
(c) Armstrong County Genealogy Project