History of Danville, Grove Presbyterian Church

Created: Wednesday, 10 December 2008 Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel Print Email

Grove Presbyterian Church

The Grove Presbyterian, or, as it was originally called, Mahoning Presbyterian Church, is the oldest religious organization in Danville. While this place was still known as "Mahoning Settlement," Rev. John Bryson was the first Presbyterian minister. He preached at first in Gen. Montgomery's dwelling house, and when the congregation became too large services were held in the barn. The first, or the old log, church was built 1778 or 1779. The logs for the church were nicely prepared. They were scored by George Maus and Isaac Boudman. They were hewn by Thomas Hughes. This church stood until 1826, when a plain brick church was built. This modest structure was the sacred temple in which the generation worshipped that is now passing away. Though services had been held with some degree of regularity as early as 1777 the congregation was not organized until 1785. Unfortunately there exists at the present time no complete record of the church in those early days. Our sketch must, therefore, of necessity, be very brief in relation to a subject so full of interest to many who are now living here and elsewhere.

Among those who contributed to the preaching of the Gospel in Mahoning Settlement," previous to the organization of the church, were William Montgomery, Peter Blue, Gilbert Vorhes, David Goodman, John Emmitt, John Wilson, John Irwin, Peter Mellick, Robert Henry. Benjamin Fowler, John Ogden, Lemuel Wheeler, David Carr, John Clark, John Black, Daniel Kelly, Garret Van Camp, William Gray, Joseph Barry, Martin Todd, John Evart, Peter Rambo, Andrew Cochran, Charles McClahan, James Grimes, William Lemon, William Montgomery, Jr., Robert Giles, Joseph Rosenberry, and David Subingall.

At a later period, namely, in 1793, the salary to be paid to the pastor by Mahoning church was fixed at seventy-five pounds per annum, said pastor to divide his services between Mahoning and Deny congregations. The salary was guaranteed by Joseph Biggers, Hugh Caldwell, Thomas Gaskins, James Stephenson, William Donaldson, John Emmett, Sr., Robert Donaldson, John Donaldson, Joseph Williams, John Woodside, George Caldwell, John Jones, William Colt, John Montgomery, Daniel Barton, Christian Campbell, Robert Williams, Alex. McMunigal, William Montgomery, Jr., John Moore, Daniel Montgomery, Robert Montgomery, John Carr, James Loughead, Robert Campbell, Thomas Best, James Consart, Gilbert Vorhees, James Curry, Peter Blue, Andrew Cochran, M. Gulick, Richard Robinson, Jacob Gearhart, Jr., Frederick Blue, John Emmett, Jr., John Young, Elias Harrison, Isaac Woodruff, Stephen Hunt, Albert Ammerman, and Philip Young. This congregation, as stated, was organized in 1785. Gen. William Montgomery was chosen an elder at the same time, and continued an active and faithful officer until his death, which occurred in 1816.

The brick church built in 1826 was a neat and plain structure, presenting quite a picturesque appearance, embowered as it was in a grove of forest trees. The new church is a massive and handsome structure of artistic stone-work in the Gothic order of architecture, and was dedicated in 1875. It occupies the site of the old brick church on the Knoll, surrounded by the remaining forest trees and a grove of beautiful young maples that were planted to take the place of the ancient oaks that are rapidly passing away. The building of this magnificent temple was superintended by Mr. Joseph Diehl, a master mechanic and builder, whose handiwork is seen on many a public and private building in this region. As previously stated Rev. Bryson was the first pastor of Mahoning, now the Grove Presbyterian church, and with the aid of the old pioneers he laid the foundations deep and strong for a lasting church, a religious home to bless the passing generations for centuries to come. Rev. Patterson was a worthy successor. His ministration was long and abundantly blessed. Greatly beloved by his people, his name is still a household word among their descendants. Rev. Dunlap succeeded him in the pastorate of Mahoning church, and he was followed by Rev. Halliday.

Then came Rev. Doctor Yeomans, who, as a scholar, a preacher, and pastor, will be long and gratefully remembered. He died in this place, universally lamented, as every christian knew that a good man and a strong leader had been called away. During his pastorate, about 1849 or 1850, the question of a new church edifice was agitated. There was some division of sentiment in reference to its location. A portion favored the erection of the new church on the south side of the canal, and others adhered to the old site in the grove, now rendered doubly dear as the place where their fathers and mothers had worshipped. The former succeeded. A new church was built on Mahoning street, and Rev. Doctor Yeomans continued his ministry in the new church. The adherents to the Grove were without a regular pastor, as the organization, with the pastor, had gone with the new church. In 1855, however, Presbytery organized a new congregation in the old church, and called it "Mahoning Presbyterian Church, North." But this title was considered too cumbrous, and through the efforts of Rev. C. J. Collins and others it was changed to the more convenient and more euphonious name of "The Grove Presbyterian Congregation." Rev. C. J. Collins was the first pastor. He remained some ten years and resigned to assume the duties of an educator in an institution of learning. Rev. Collins was somewhat austere, an excellent scholar, and an eloquent preacher, but not remarkable for his knowledge of human nature, and, consequently, less a pastor than a preacher. He had a deep bass voice-sanguine in temperament and full of patriotism, he preached some flaming war sermons, as well as many eloquent discourses on the christian warfare. He was succeeded by Rev. Doctor J. Gordon Carnachan, a graduate of Scotland's most celebrated university, and a profound scholar. For close logical reasoning and theological attainments, he has few equals in this country, and his impassioned perorations touched the finest chords of the human heart. Dr. Carnachan is not only an eloquent preacher but a man of commanding ability, unexcelled in this country as a Greek and Hebrew scholar, on whom the greatest university of Europe conferred its highest honor. He left this place to take charge of a congregation in Meadville, where he still remains. He was followed in the pastorate of the Grove church, by Rev. Reuben H. Van Pelt. Rev. Van Pelt was a good man, and an earnest preacher. If more limited in his mental power than his predecessor, he was more successful in his pastoral relations. Rev. W. A. McAtee was next called to the charge of the Grove church. And whilst he engaged the affection and confidence of his people, as a faithful shepherd and a man of more than ordinary ability, there is some difficulty in correctly analysing his mind. A shade of sadness at times seemed to fall on his most brilliant efforts, and a far-away expression succeeded the moments of rapture. But none doubted his goodness, none questioned his ability, nor did his people withhold their love and respect. After his resignation Rev. John B. Grier became the pastor of the Grove congregation. He is the youngest son of M. C. Grier, who was long an elder in that church, and lately deceased. The Grier family has given the church a number of eminent preachers, and Rev. John B. .Grier bids fair to maintain the high degree of ability and usefulness to which they attained. His learning, his aptness to teach, and his vivid imagination, inspired by the spirit of religion, cannot fail to result in the accomplishment of his mission. With a critical, and yet a comprehensive mind, cultured with care; a generous nature open to all; and, though young in years, yet strong in the spirit and power of the Gospel; who will say he is not destined to eminence in his high profession? Among the families connected with the old church, and whose descendants still worship in the Grove, mention is made of the Montgomerys, Maus, Currys, Yorks, Diehls, Griers, McMahans, Magills, Walizes, Cathcarts, Boudmans, Moores, Gearharts, and Russels.

The Grove church contains the largest organ in Danville, costing some three thousand dollars.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 17-20; Danville, Montour County Pennsylvania; D.H.B. Brower, Harrisburg; 1881