Jefferson County Presbyterian Church
Early Days

Source History of Jefferson County 1888 pages 237-238

The founder of Presbyterianism in America was the Rev. Francis Makemi, an Irishman, who organized at Snow Hill, in Maryland, in 1684, what was probably the first church purely Presbyterian, in the new western world.

The founder of the same denomination in Pennsylvania was the Rev. Jedediah Andrew, a native of new England, who organized, under exceedingly discouraging circumstances, the first church of this name in Philadelphia, in 1698.

The distinction of laying the foundation of the same church in Jefferson county belongs to the Rev. Robert McGarrough. He was born on the Yough River, near Cookstown, January 9, 1771; prepared for the ministry under the tuition of Revs. James Dunlap, pastor of Laurel Hill Church in the Presbytery of Redstone, David Smith in the "Forks of Yough," and the greatly influential and successful Dr. John McMillan, and was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Redstone in the church of Rehoboth, in Fayette county, Pa., October 19, 1803.

The following April he visited upon invitation the churches of New Rehoboth and Licking, in what is now Clarion county. These churches were under the care of Redstone Presbytery, and had, it is believed from traditions among old settlers in the neighborhood, been organized nominally by the Rev. John McPherrin in 1802. He is said to have preached the first sermon ever delivered in all that region.

These churches made out calls for Mr. McGarrough, and in June of the same year he removed his family, consisting of a wife and three children, to the bounds of his first parish.

The journey required seven or eight days and was made upon two packhorses, the family and all the fixtures and furnishings for housekeeping being thus conveyed. The venerable John McGarrough, the oldest son, who is now serving as a ruling elder in the church of Concord, in Clarion county, says that his mother and two of the children rode one of the horses, and he rode the other, called "Old Dick," mounted on the top of the kitchen furniture and all the household belongings, which had been sewed up in bed-ticks, and swung across the old beast's back. The inference is that the preacher himself walked and led the horse, They were delayed a day each at Mahoning Creek and Redbank on account of high waters, and had to construct canoes before they could cross. Within a few miles of their destination they were met by a delegation of the parishioners, who escorted them the remainder of the journey. They went to housekeeping in a log cabin not more than sixteen feet square, the door made of chestnut bark, the bed constructed of poles and clapboards, an old trunk serving for a table, and blocks of wood for chairs.

And this was the man, and this was the manner of his coming and living, who performed the pioneer work of his denomination in this whole territory, and was for nineteen years the only Presbyterian minister laboring within the bounds now embraced in the Presbytery of Clarion.

He was an exceedingly slow preacher, but intensely in earnest, and wholly consecrated to the winning of souls to Christ, and the building up of the Lord's kingdom. Concerning him it has been written, and all who knew of him and of his work say, truthfully,

"Sincere, soul-loving and God-fearing man,
He sought not wealth of earth, nor man's applause,
But just to do his part in God's great plan,
And work where God had sent him for His cause."

He worked for God; he walked with God; he waited upon God, and God has given him his reward.

Soon after Mr. McGarrough's settlement at New Rehoboth and Licking he began to preach at several out stations. One of these points was at the house of Peter Jones at Port Barnett, where a communion service was held in 1809, and occasional services afterward for several years. This communion is believed to have been the first ever held in the bounds of Jefferson county.

Another station some years later, where occasional services were held, was at the house of Mr. Samuel Jones in Rose township, four or five miles southwest from Brookville.

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