United Presbyterian Congregation of Jefferson 

Source History of Jefferson County 1888 pages 253-259

About the year 1820 a number of families of like faith settled in Jefferson county. These had most of them been settled in Huntingdon county, in this State, for a few years (some more, some less), but were originally from the same neighborhood in the north of Ireland. Drawn together by a common faith, as they had all be educated in the secession church, and stimulated by the laudable enterprise of securing homes for themselves and for their families, they struck for this country, then an almost unbroken wilderness covered mostly with pine forest.

The place selected for their settlement is north of the Redbank and southwest of what is now Brookville, the county seat. At that time justice for them was administered in Indiana, some forty-five miles south. This arrangement for the administration of justice continued for some ten years after their location here.

From the circumstances adverted to, of these people being emigrants from Ireland, the neighborhood was long known as the Irish Settlement.

The names of the founders were originally: John Kelso and Isabella, his wife; John Kennedy and Ann, his wife; James Shields and Elizabeth, his wife; William Morrison and Nancy, his wife; Samuel McGill and Margaret, his wife; James McGiffin and Sarah, his wife; Matthew Dickey and Elizabeth, his wife; James Ferguson and Margaret Bratton, his wife; Robert Andrews and Jane Lucas, his wife; Alexander Smith and Anne Knapp, his wife; Christopher Barr and Sarah Lucas, his wife; also, by subsequent marriage, Elizabeth McGiffin, widow of Joseph Thompson; Clement McGarey and Mary, his wife; Hugh Millen and Esther, his wife; Joseph Millen and Polly Brown, his wife. These last three settled south of Redbank, and constituted the nucleus of what became Beaver Run congregation.

Then there was Moses Knapp and Susanna, his wife; none of that name are now members of the United Presbyterian Church here.

There was also a William Ferguson and family south of Redbank; none of that family are now in the county or members of this church.

Organization. - As nearly as I can ascertain, the first dispensation of the Lord's supper in this congregation, was in the autumn of 1828. The ministers officiating were Revs. Joseph Scroggs and Thomas Ferrier. James Fulton, and elder from Piney congregation, which seems to have been organized some time previous, was present at this communion. He and James McGiffin were the officiating elders on that occasion. About that time John Kelso was elected and ordained to the eldership. These two, Kelso and McGiffin, were the only elders, as would appear, until after their first pastoral settlement.

Matthew Dickey and his family moved into these bound in 1832, and the first recorded minutes of Jefferson Session which has come into my hands is dated August 31, 1833, and is said to be in the handwriting of Mr. Dickey. The session as then constituted consisted of Rev. James McCarrell, moderator; James McGiffin, John Kelso, Matthew Dickey, and John Shields.

The next minute of session is dated July 14, 1838. At this meeting the name of Solomon Chambers appears as a member of the court. It is probable he was elected at the same time with the others mentioned in the pastorate of Brother McCarrell.

The next recorded minute is dated July 3, 1842, and is in a different handwriting without any name subscribed. Changes had taken place which are not noticed in these records. Rev. McCarrell had left (when or for what cause does not appear), and Rev. John McAuley appears, who at that time three applicants for admission, viz.: John Thompson, Joseph Millen, and John Millen. These three men are elders in the church; one in Brookville, the others in Beaver Run. At the same time eight children were baptized - William T. Love, Mary A. Ferguson, Elizabeth Campbell, Martha Chambers, Margaret Lucas, Chambers Millen Joseph K. Gibson, and Hugh McGill.

The next date in the minute book, May 16, 1843, states that Rev. John Hindman, upon the occasion of the moderation of a call, moderated the session and baptized two children, John Kelso Moore, and Rebecca McGriffin. Rev. John McAuley disappears as unceremoniously as did his predecessor, and we are left to infer that the call moderated at this time by brother Hindman was for Mr. John Tod, as the next minute, dated October 15, 1843, represents the same Rev. Tod administering and admonition as the organ of a constituted court.

October 10, 1844, the name of William Morrison first appears as an elder. Nothing is known of either election or ordination, yet these certainly did take place.

On the 19th of the same month it would seem that a full board of elders met for the first time. Rev. John Tod, moderator; elders, john Kelso, Solomon Chambers, William Morrison, George Trimble, and Joseph McGiffin. For several years the minutes seem to be correctly kept; I think in the handwriting of Brother Tod. From 1848 to 1835 (?55), they are correctly kept and subscribed by Joseph McGiffin, clerk.

At this meeting it was agreed to elect four additional elders. The election was held on the 8th of January, 1856, and James Shields, John Fitzsimons, John Thompson and William Kennedy were elected. The former two accepted, the latter two declined serving.

On the 12th of June, 1869, thirteen years later an election was held and William Kennedy and John McGiffin were elected.

Numerous changes meanwhile had taken place which are written in this book. Rev. John Tod disappears, but where, why or whither, is not known, also Mr. Truesdale, who was pastor for several years, is gone too.

During the pastorate of Mr. Tod a Sabbath-school and a Bible-class were instituted. This by some of the old men who had not kept pace with the progress of the age, was considered an innovation, and as such opposed. Nevertheless it continued to flourish.

On the 28th of may, 1875, C.R. Corbet and J.T. Kelso, were elected elders, and Richard Fitzsimons, William Kelso, and Alexander Kennedy were elected elders.

We regard the church as now organized up to the scriptural standard. A full board of officers having charge both of the spiritual and temporal interests of the church.

Pastors and Pastoral Changes

No one with whom I have conversed in this vicinity is able to inform me who first ministered in preaching the gospel to these people of Jefferson. When I met our aged father, Rev. David Blair, in 1872, he informed me that he, first of all his ministerial brethren, visited and preached to this people. Then as a result he supplied them to some extent, as he and they were long in the same Presbytery, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I am disposed to admit his claim. One circumstance, however, renders it doubtful. When the first of these people came here Rev. John Dickey was ministering as the settled pastor of Piney, Cherry Run, and Rich Hill; this last is where he spent most of his ministerial service, and ended his life. But Piney is so near, and the relations were so intimate, it seems improbable that they should enjoy a regular dispensation of gospel ordinances, and Jefferson not even have any supply.

The names of Thomas McClintock, Daniel McLean, Joseph Scroggs, David Blair, Thomas Ferrier, and some others have been mentioned to me as having preached here at an early day. Some before the congregation organized, and some afterward.

The first communion was held in 1828, as has been before mentioned, and it would seem that measures were taken soon afterward to call a pastor.

It is not possible from any data within my reach to determine the date of the settlement of the first pastor. There is no doubt but that the man was Rev. James McCarrell, and that his settlement was about 1830.

In the minute book of this session there are only two recorded minutes under his pastorate. The first, August 311, 1833, and the second, May 24, 1834.

I remember having seen Mr. McCarrell once when a probationer, about the year 1829. This was shortly before his settlement here.

Of Mr. McCarrell's capabilities as a minister of the Word, or of his success as a pastor, I can form no judgment. His place of residence was Strattanville, so far out of the bounds of Jefferson congregation that few of these people had opportunity of becoming acquainted with him. He was a man of blameless life, exemplary in his deportment, and attentive, as much as his domestic cares would permit, to all pastoral duties.

The next date in the minute book of session, reveals the presence of Rev. John Hindman, and John McAuley. It seems to be the occasion of Mr. McAuley's first communion after his settlement. Mrs. McAuley, whose maiden name was Reed, and raised in the vicinity of South Hanover, in southern Indian-raised in the Presbyterian Church, presented a certificate, and it is recorded that on this certificate and her "acceding to the principles of our church," she was received. It would seem that the pastorate of Brother McAuley in Jefferson lasted about four years. He must have left in 1842, as the next settlement was the following year.

Rev. John Tod was installed pastor of Jefferson, Beaver Run, and Piney, on the 15th of August, 1843. His time was divided. One-half to Jefferson, one-third to Beaver Run, and one-sixth to Piney. This congregation was organized in the Associate Church, under the care of the Presbytery of Allegheny. During Mr. Todd's pastorate it was the only pastoral charge in Jefferson county. Brother Tod's services commenced auspiciously at the first communion held under his care. There was an accession of nine persons received on profession of their faith, and eleven children were baptized. This pastorate as it was the longest, was the most prosperous that this congregation has ever had. The last minute recorded is dated October 22, 1858, which gives Mr. Tod's pastorate fifteen years. It may have been more or it may have been less.

It is not long since this brother visited among us and assisted at a communion. He is also appointed three months during the present year in this presbytery. The principal work of his life is here, and his heart is still toward this congregation and the people of Beaver Run.

I will not attempt to speak of his talents, nor his industry. You know more about him than I do. This much, you will allow me to say. He has the testimony of every man's conscience that he did labor to promote the welfare an prosperity of this congregation, as also the spiritual edification of the people of his charge.

Mr. Tod married a Miss Thompson, from the vicinity of Cannonsburg, Washington county. His family consists of three daughters, two of whom are respectably connected in marriage. The third still remains with her parents.

Under the ministry of this brother two of his congregations grew and flourish still. The other, Piney, declined until it has ceased to be regarded as a congregation. There are reasons for this. The congregation is quite a distance from the other congregations and from the residence of the pastor. They seldom saw him except in the pulpit, and that, once in six weeks, without any other exercises to bring the people together, was rather a formality.

He preached sound doctrine and he kept his appointments punctually. But it is a mistake to think that preaching alone will build up a congregation. There must be life and motion as well as form. There was no Sabbath-school; there was no prayer-meeting. The good men of the congregation kept all they knew to themselves. They did not speak often one to another, and the lambs of the flock were neglected. They were not interested at home. There were no meetings in their own church, in which the children were specially interested and attracted. When this is the case they will find fun or frolic, or good elsewhere.

This doleful dirge is sung by the winds sweeping over that empty church, and that neglected church-yard. A want of interest, a lack of effort, the absence of the zeal which characterizes the advocates of a good cause, brought the results we see. If the life of that church is not effective, its death should teach a lesson never to be forgotten. The failure of this congregation, and the causes of its failure, should not be lost.

The next pastorate was that of Rev. J.C. Truesdale. About the year 1859 this brother took charge of Jefferson. His pastorate was short, covering a period of about four years, but is was interesting. Anti-slavery controversy grew warm. Civil war was inaugurated. They took sides as they were loyal or disloyal, and this brother uttered no uncertain sounds, he was highly esteemed, and he was cordially hated. Some time during the year 1863 he resigned his pastoral charge and entered the army as a chaplain. In this he served to the close of the war.

Mr. Truesdale was subsequently settled in a United Presbyterian congregation, in Paxton Ill., for several years. He is now in another church connection, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Sharon, Pa., serving with acceptance.

The next pastor was Rev. A.B. Struthers. His name first appears as moderator of sessions April 29, 1869, and disappears after October 7, 1871. His pastorate did not exceed three years. It seemed to have been peaceful and prosperous. There was a revival of Sabbath-school work. There was also some advance ground taken on the subject of temperance. Mr. Struthers left suddenly. Of this I have heard many regrets. By his prudence and piety, and natural goodness of heart, he endeared himself to his people. He also by his exemplary life secured respect to the cause represented. This brother I understand, is also, in another branch of the church.

During these years the minutes in the hands of John McGiffin, esq., are neatly and correctly kept except in the case of baptisms, the number is simply given without name of parents or children.

Our pastorate commences with the second Sabbath of July, 1872. This day, the first Sabbath of July, 1876, rounds up our four years of service. Of this pastorate I will say nothing. My settlement in this place was plainly providential, while the parties knew nothing of each other. Our Heavenly Father to whom our prayers were presented in common knew all the parties, their qualifications and their necessities, and by his providential direction brought us together.

This congregation was for many years under the care of the Presbytery of Allegheny Association. Subsequently about the year 1850 a new presbytery was organized in the north part of the old presbytery, called the Presbytery of Clarion. This was the connection of Jefferson congregation at the time of the union in 1858. After the union there was a reconstruction of Presbyteries, and what was then formed under the name and style of Conemaugh Presbytery, had the care of all the United Presbyterian Churches in this and adjoining counties.

At the uniting of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh in Indian, in 1872, a petition was presented and acted upon, that the north party of the territory of said Presbytery, be constituted a Presbytery by itself by the name of the Presbytery of Brookville. This congregation has not furnished anything to then ministerial force of the church. As at present constituted Rev. G.C. Vincent, DD., pastor; James Shields, John Fitzsimons, William Kennedy, John McGiffin, R.C. Corbet, J.T. Kelso, elders; Alexander Kennedy, Richard Fitzsimons, William Kelso, deacons.

Dr. Vincent's history of the United Presbyterian Church brings the record down to the year 1876. He resigned the pastorate in 1877, and after being for several years president of Franklin College at Athens, Ohio, is now (1887) pastor of the United Presbyterian Church, of Latrobe, Pa. Two of his sons are also ministers of the United Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Vincent was succeeded by Rev. G.A.B. Robinson, who is the present pastor of Brookville and Jefferson churches. The present membership of these two congregations is, Brookville one hundred and thirty-six, Jefferson one hundred and fifty-three. Rev. J.H. May is pastor of the churches at Beaver Run and Beechwoods, the two other United Presbyterian congregations in the county. Since the close of Dr. Vincent's pastorate many of those whom he mentions have exchanged the church militant for the church above. Among these are: Benjamin McCreight, Mrs. McCreight, Thomas Mabon, Mrs. Jane Mabon, Matthew and Mrs. Elizabeth Dickey, Mrs. R.H. Graham, John Thompson. Rev. John Todd, one of the old pastors, has also passed away. In the spring of 1885 the Brookville congregation purchased the old Methodist Episcopal church on Jefferson street for $2,000, getting possession in September of that year. They then went to work and remodeled the entire building. The repairs cost $3,500, making the entire cost of the edifice when completed $5,500. A new belfry and spire was one of the improvements, and the old windows were replaced by beautiful stained glass windows. Of these the large, brilliant, circular window above the pulpit was the gift of Mrs. T.K. Litch, and bears her name. Memorial windows were also put in by the children and friends of the following deceased members of the congregation: James and Elizabeth Cochran, William and Margaret B. Reid, Benjamin and Eliza McCreight, Thomas and Jane Mabon, Matthew and Elizabeth Dickey, Robert H. and Matilda C. Graham, John J.Y. Thompson and Paul Darling. The memorial to Paul Darling was given by the congregation, in recognition of his bequest of one thousand dollars to the church.

The remodeled and beautiful structure, now one of the prettiest and most comfortable places of worship in the county, was dedicated by Rev. Dr. Read, of Pittsburgh, in December, 1885.

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