LYCO Home     Cemeteries     Census     Family Trees     Lyco History     Links     Obits     Surnames    

History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania
edited by John F. Meginness; 1892

CHAPTER XXIII.

WILLIAMSPORT (CONTINUED).

RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS PRESBYTERIAN - METHODIST EPISCOPAL REFORMED - LUTHERAN - PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL - EVANGELICAL - ROMAN CATHOLIC BAPTIST OTHER DENOMINATIONS - CITY MISSION - FIRST SUNDAY SCHOOL - YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION.


THE Newberry Presbyterian church is one of the oldest in the West Branch valley, but the exact date of its origin can not be stated. Rev. David Brainard was probably at Lycoming creek as early as 1746, for we have his statement that on the 25th of July of that year he met and preached to the Indians at the point where the Sheshequin path crossed the trail leading up the river, about two miles east of Williamsport. And in the summer of 1775, Rev. Philip Fithian, another Presbyterian missionary, traveled up the river preaching at various places.

That there was a society of Presbyterians here as early as 1786, there is little doubt, for in that year it was transferred from the boundary of Donegal to the control of the presbytery of Carlisle. The minutes of the latter body show that Rev. Isaac Grier was sent as a missionary to the West Branch in 1792 by the presbytery of Carlisle. On the 22d of June of that year he arrived at the house of Judge Hepburn, and on the 24th he preached there. Two days afterwards he proceeded to Pine creek, and on the 28th he preached there. On the 19th of June, 1793, a call was put in his hands by the presbytery of Carlisle, from the united congregations of Lycoming, Pine Creek, and Great Island, which he took under consideration; and on the 2d of October he accepted, and was ordained to the full office of the Gospel ministry in April, 1794, at Carlisle. At the same time he was installed over these charges; a commissioner, authorized to act for the churches, was present. He officiated at these three charges until 1806, when he was relieved. A vacancy of eight years followed. In 1814 John H. Grier came to the valley, and in the summer of 1815 was Installed over the Pine Creek and Great Island churches, but occasionally officiated at Newberry.

Among the early members of the Newberry (Lycoming) congregation were Judge Hepburn, William and Andrew Culbertson, James Cummings, and John McMeen. The first church was a log building, but the date of its erection is unknown. It was a quaint structure; stood on the bank of the run; had galleries in each end, which were reached by flights of rough stairs outside. The pulpit was of the English type, or wine glass order, with a sounding board in front. The door opened on the south side in front of the pulpit. This old building was destroyed by fire in 1816.

Rev. Samuel Henderson succeeded Mr. Grier in 1815; in 1817 charges were preferred, against him, but after a four days' trial he was acquitted. Presbytery, however, felt warranted in suspending him. The church was afterward served by Revs. John Bryson, Thomas Hood, and John B. Patterson.

A stone church followed the old log building in 1817. It was a large edifice for the time, being 66x60 feet. The pulpit was elevated, with stairs on each side, and the pews were of the high, straight backed order, and very uncomfortable.

After the suspension of Henderson the pulpit was vacant until 1820, when N. R. Snowden was installed as pastor at a salary of $550. He remained until 1823, when he was succeeded by Joseph Painter, who served until 1831. A long line of ministers has followed Mr. Painter.

In the spring of 1850 money was raised to improve the church, but upon consultation it was deemed best to remove the stone walls, and erect a brick building. In June, 1850, the old church was dismantled and a new edifice soon rose on its ruins. Lindsay Mahaffey, the nearest resident member of the building committee, made prompt payments, in many instances anticipating the payment of subscriptions, to, facilitate the work, and the year 1851 saw the building nearly completed. This church, costing $6,500 with its spire, was regarded as a fine edifice, and it served the congregation until 1891, when it was removed and a larger and much more elegant building erected on the old site at a cost of $14,000. Memberships, 300; Sabbath school scholars, 250; superintendent, A. W. King; assistant, William J. Dale. Pastor, J. W. Boal. The entire church property is valued at $25,000.

The First Presbyterian church of Williamsport, corner of Third and Mulberry streets, was organized, February 23, 1833. Previous to this time there was no church of this denomination in Williamsport, the members being compelled to attend service at Newberry, except when they could secure a minister to preach to them in the court house. By the assistance of Rev. D. M. Barber the church was started with an enrollment of thirty-eight members, most of whom were from the Lycoming church. The following elders were chosen: Alexander Sloan, Andrew D. Hepburn, John Torbert, and John B. Hall. The services of ordination were held in an old church on Third street, where the Reformed church now stands, owned by the German Lutherans and the Reformed, which the Presbyterians had helped to complete on the condition that they should have the privilege of meeting there when the owners did not need the use of it. From 1833 to 1837 the Revs. D. M. Barber, P. B. Marr, and G. G. Shedden supplied the pulpit, and in the fall of 1837 Rev. J. P. Hudson was called to be its pastor, who served three years.

In 1841 the congregation erected a building on Market street. It was destroyed by fire in April, 1849; rebuilt and again burned in 1859. After this second disaster it was immediately rebuilt and occupied in the ensuing October by the synod of Philadelphia. The pastors of this church to the present time have been the Revs. J. P. Hudson, E. B. Bradbury, Alexander Heberton, William Simonton, George F. Cain, S. E. Webster, and Julius A. Herold. The latter was installed in 1890.

Owing to the increase of membership, it was found necessary to build a larger church. A lot, therefore, was purchased, and in May, 1884, the congregation completed and dedicated a magnificent stone edifice, with a tall spire on the corner of Third and Mulberry streets, at a cost of $65,000. The old building was sold and is now used for commercial purposes. The membership is 429; children in two Sabbath schools, 350; volumes in library, 1,000. John G. Reading is the superintendent.

The Second Presbyterian church was organized, December 12, 1840. The organization took place in the same old stone church where the first church was formed. The membership comprised fifteen persons, most of them emigrants from western New York, who were in sympathy with the New School branch, and who had no church in Williamsport. They first worshiped in the court house. The first elders were John B, Hall, Nathaniel D. Eaton, and Benjamin C. Moore. On the 15th of February, 1841, Rev. James W. Phillips was called as pastor. He accepted and was installed in 1841. The congregation worshiped in the court house nearly three years, but began to build a church of their own as early as 1841, a lot for that purpose having been secured on the corner of Fourth and Market streets. The building was dedicated in October, 1843, by Rev. William Stirling, but a debt hung over it. Mr. Stirling succeeded Mr. Phillips as pastor, September 27, 1846, and the debt was soon wiped out. In 1864 it was resolved to repair the building, but the flood of 1865 so damaged the foundation that it was found necessary to tear down the building and the present stone edifice was erected. While the work of building was going on the congregation again worshiped in the court house. The new building was dedicated, January 23, 1867. The whole cost of the structure, with the furniture and organ, was $66,500, but it was all wiped out by February, 1876. Mr. Stirling resigned in 1871, and Rev. Horatio W. Brown succeeded him. The latter served seventeen years, when, owing to ill health, he resigned, much to the regret of his congregation. Rev. David Winters came next, in 1884, but after three years' service he resigned and was succeeded by Rev. James Carter. The membership is 425; Sabbath school scholars, 305; John B. Otto, superintendent. The library comprises 1,000 volumes.

The Third Presbyterian church was formed as a mission church, under the auspices of the Second church, and was organized May 3, 1869, with an enrollment of sixteen members. The Second church dismissed twelve of its members to form it and contributed largely to the erection of its edifice. Hiram Mudge and P. W. Bentley were the first elders. A church building was erected in 1869 on the corner of Third and Maynard streets and dedicated July 4th of that year. The lot and building cost $14,580. The Rev. A. D. Hawn became the first pastor, December 29, 1869. In the summer of 1870 a lot adjoining the church was purchased and a parsonage built at a cost of $4,600. For pastors the church has had, in addition to Hawn, Revs. John Burrows and Adolos Allen. The latter resigned early in 1892, and was succeeded the latter part of May by Rev. Elliot C. Armstrong, who was unanimously called. The church property and lots are now valued at $30,000; number of members, 160; Sabbath school scholars, 120; superintendent, P. W. Bentley.

The First Presbyterian Finley Sunday school was founded in 1861. It is located on Anthony street. The Sabbath school numbers 300 scholars; H. R. Laird, superintendent.

Bethany Presbyterian, at the corner of High and Green streets, was built at a cost of $2,500. Membership, 50; Sunday school scholars, 125; pastor, L. C. Rutter; superintendent of Sabbath school, John A. Stadden.

METHODIST EPISCOPAL.

Next to the Lycoming Presbyterian church in age, if not coeval with, it, comes the Pine Street Methodist Episcopal church. Methodism was introduced here in 1791. In the pioneer cabin of Amariah Sutton, which stood near the present barn of Hon. R. J. C. Walker, West Fourth street, the first society in the county was formed in the autumn of 1791. May 6th of this year the circuit of Northumberland was formed and Richard Parriott and Lewis Browning appointed preachers in charge. During a portion of this year there was no preaching place between Northumberland and Sutton's, at Lycoming creek. The members of the first class were as follows: James Bailey, leader, Rhoda Bailey, Amariah Sutton, Martha Sutton, John Sutton, Dorothy Sutton, Harman Updegraff, Eve Updegraff, Hannah Sutton, Rebecca Smith, Ebenezer Still, Lois Still, and Letitia Williams. At this time Arad Sutton, a son of Amariah, seems to have had charge of affairs. Long before this, (1776,) as has been shown, Amariah Sutton conveyed an acre and a quarter of ground for, a cemetery, church, and school house, a short distance east of his cabin, which shows that the nucleus of what afterwards became the Methodist society existed at a much earlier date than is generally supposed. At an early period, the date of which has not been discovered, a frame church was built on the cemetery lot on Fourth street, in accordance with the provisions of Sutton's deed conveying the land, where the infant congregation worshiped for Some years. It is related that Lorenzo Dow once appeared at the Sutton house and preached, after which he mounted his horse and disappeared.

From an old record of this church, which belonged to the late Judge John Smith, and is now in possession of his daughter, Mrs. Susan T. Knapp, it is learned that on March 22, 1823, the trustees "met and examined the subscriptions for building a meeting house in the borough of Williamsport, and they agreed that a house thirty-five feet in length and breadth be built of frame," and Jeremiah Tallman was requested to "make inquiry of a carpenter relative to the price." The meeting adjourned to meet on the 5th of April next. The next entry is dated February 21, 1824, and reads: "In consequence of various disappointments the above regulations were not gone into. And now, the trustees having met, resolved to build a meeting house 30x40 feet, frame, and Brother Tallman was appointed to make contracts and superintend the work."

The subsequent meeting did not take place until October 27, 1825, when "a majority of the trustees agreed to appoint two more trustees. Daniel Strebeigh and John Smith were appointed." The meeting adjourned to meet November 3d at the office of J. Tallman. From the minutes it appears that Jeremiah Tallman, Alexander Smith, George Roberts, William Wilson, Henry Lenhart, Daniel Strebeigh, and John Smith composed the board of trustees. The next meeting recorded is under date of July 30, 1827, when, John Smith having declined to serve, Joseph S. Williams was appointed in his place. Nothing more appears to have been done, until October 20, 1828, when a meeting was held and Charles Low and John Laverty were appointed additional "trustees of the Methodist Episcopal church in Williamsport. "The board now consisted of Jeremiah Tallman, H. Lenhart, Daniel Strebeigh, Joseph S. Williams, William Wilson, and the two names just added.

The building project still languished. The next meeting was held, August 29,. 1832, when Laverty and Lenhart resigned. Little more was done. In the mean time a small brick church seems to have been built, for at a meeting held. January 6, 1836, Rev. James Sanks was elected president and Jasper Bennett secretary, when John Smith and James Elliott were elected new trustees to fill up the board; and it was unanimously voted "that a parsonage house be built on the back part of the lot on which the Methodist meeting house stands in the borough of Williamsport; provided that the old Lycoming meeting house shall be, given to aid in such building, and that a sufficient subscription to defray the balance of the expense be obtained." At this meeting William Wilson, Daniel Strebeigh, and James Elliott were appointed a committee to "wait on the trustees of the old Lycoming meeting house for the purpose of obtaining their consent that their building should go to aid in the erection of a parsonage house in Williamsport." At a subsequent meeting the committee reported that they had obtained the unanimous consent of the trustees that "the old church should go to aid in building the parsonage in Williamsport." The parsonage was built largely out of the material of the old, church, which was torn down and removed to Pine street. It was frame, 20x80 feet in size, and serve as a residence for many of the early ministers.

In. course of years the quaint little one-story brick church became too small and the question of building a larger one was started. It appears from the minutes that Apollos Woodward offered a lot, in 1842, on which to build a new church, but the trustees declined his proposition. Some time in January, 1843, the lot on which the original church was erected was conveyed by Pompey and Elizabeth Friday to John Smith, Daniel Strebeigh, George Slate, and Joseph S. Williams, trustees, in consideration: of $550, and the following year the old brick church was taken down and the present one erected. Since that time it has been enlarged and greatly improved, and a brick parsonage adjoining it on the north, added. In 1843 a charter incorporating the church was obtained by George Slate and John Smith, who were appointed a committee for that purpose.

Since the first church was built in 1825 many changes have taken place in Pine street, although it did not become a station until 1852. In 1825 John Thomas and Thomas McGhee appear to have been the preachers, each one giving a portion of his time to, the congregation. Since 1791 there have been many ministers in charge of the Lycoming and Pine Street congregations. The church is free of debt and has a membership of nearly 600. Superintendent of Sabbath school, John R. Hazelet; number of scholars, 600. The library is large. Pastor, Rev. Samuel Creighton. Previous to 1828 this denomination had been identified with the Union Sunday school, but in this year was organized in the old brick church the first Methodist Sunday school, with E. E. Allen as superintendent and Maj. Charles Low, secretary.

After the Lycoming and Pine Street congregations, the next church in age is the Newberry Methodist. It was erected in 1854, and enlarged and improved in 1868. The church seats about 700, and the membership is about 265; Sabbath school scholars, 300; superintendent, J. E. Williams. The library contains nearly 1,000 volumes. Rev. E. A. Deavor, pastor.

Up to 1860 the only Methodist Episcopal church within the limits of the borough of Williamsport was Pine Street. During this year a movement was started in Pine to establish another church. In October, 1860, a number of the members of Pine favorable to the new project, together with the professors and students of Dickinson Seminary, met in the seminary chapel for public worship. This constituted the first congregational service of what was then and for some time afterwards known as the Second Methodist Episcopal church of Williamsport. In the spring of 1861 the new charge was supplied with a pastor, and. in April of this year a lot was purchased on Mulberry street, and the work of building a new church was, commenced. It was incorporated under the title of the Mulberry Street Methodist, Episcopal church. The cornerstone was laid, August 6,1862, and January 8, 1863, the basement was dedicated. Rev. Richard Hinkle, the first pastor, was succeeded by Rev. Thomas D. Gotwalt. Before the church was completed an attempt was made to burn it, but the fire was discovered and extinguished before much damage was done. The church and tower were completed and the dedication took place, February 18, 1864, Bishop Simpson officiating. The cost of the building, lot, and furniture was about $16,500, including a fine bell which was placed in the tower in the early part of 1866 and bore the inscription, "Thomas Bowman." He was the first president of Dickinson Seminary, and is now a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church. Sunday morning, August 23, 1868, the church was burned. Steps were taken to rebuild at once on the old site, and November 21, 1869, the basement was dedicated. The new building was finished in August, 1871, and a fine bell weighing 1,300 pounds had been hoisted into the belfry to be placed, in position, but, it never was rung. Sunday, night, August 20, 1871, the church was again destroyed by the great conflagration which devastated that portion of the city. Undismayed by their misfortunes, the congregation again determined to rebuild, and on the 23d of May, 1871, the corner stone was laid for the third time, and the church was completed and dedicated, December 1, 1872, Bishop Bowman, assisted by Rev. Dr. McCauley, officiating. The cost of the structure was $33,060. No further disaster overtook the church until June 2, 1876, when a violent wind storm bore down upon it from the north and demolished the beautiful spire. The fine bell tumbled through into 'the basement. After this mishap the spire was not rebuilt. At the present time the membership is 600; Sunday school scholars, 375; volumes in the library, 900. Rev. B. C. Conner, pastor. Value of property, $40,000.

The East Third Street church was built in 1868 at a cost of $4,000; rebuilt in 1885 at a cost of $9,000. The membership is about 275; Sabbath school scholars, 825; volumes in the library, 500. The church property is valued at $12,000. Rev. Evans, pastor.

Grace Methodist Episcopal church, corner of Campbell and Grace streets, was built in 1880. It will seat about 600. The charge was organized in March, 1867. Membership at the present time, 430; Sunday school scholars, 370; volumes ill library, 550. The church property, which is finely situated, is valued at $35,000. Pastor, J., Ellis Bell.

The High Street Methodist Episcopal church was erected in 1886. Membership, 96; Sunday school scholars, 180; superintendent, J. T. Davis; library, 60 volumes. Pastor, Rev. George W. Faus. The church property is valued at $5,000.

In 1890 a church was built on the ground donated for a graveyard, church, and school house in March, 1776, by Amariah Sutton, and called the Fourth Street Methodist Episcopal church. The ground on which this building stands was consecrated by the blood of the slain in the massacre of June 10, 1778. Although Sutton's deed (see Deed Book E, page 385) specifically states for what purpose be gave the ground, there had been no church there for nearly forty years; and since its erection many graves have been obliterated, and others will soon disappear, although its donor, whose ashes also rest there, emphatically stated it should remain a burial ,ground "forever." The membership is 160; number of Sunday school scholars, 180. Value of the property, $11,000.

Market Street Methodist Episcopal chapel, near the old fair ground, was erected in 1891. The Sunday school scholars number 100. Revs. Samuel Creighton and John Dougherty have charge of the chapel. Valuation of property, about $2,500.

REFORMED.

Before the year 1827 there was no Reformed church in Williamsport and the court house was generally occupied for services. The first house of worship was "old Stone Church" and was built in 1827 on West Third street, near the jail. It was built conjointly by the Lutheran and Reformations denominations. This old building was often occupied by the other denominations. The windows were very small and the altar and pulpit constructed after the fashion of the rude architecture of that day. The edifice was strongly built and in 1866 when the walls were torn down for the erection of the present structure they were found to be very solid. Rev. Gutelius assisted in the dedication of 1827. About the year 1860 the German Lutheran denomination sold their interest in the church to the Reformed for $800. In 1867 Rev. Evans became pastor, under whose administration the church greatly, prospered. It is known as Immanuel's Reformed church and has a membership of 250. The Sunday school numbers 175, and there are 300 volumes in the library. Rev. Adam Boley is pastor.

St. John's Reformed church was organized April 30, 1882, and forty-one members enrolled their names. Two elders, two deacons, and three trustees were elected. The Rev. J. S. Wagner was elected the first pastor, November 5, 1882; a lot was purchased for a church site at the corner of Ross and Packer streets for $1,200, in 1883. Rev. Wagner retired in 1884, and was succeeded by Rev. D. H. Leader.

He retired in 1889. Rev. Lewis Robb, the present pastor, succeeded him in April of the game year. A handsome church, Gothic style, was erected and dedicated, June 7, 1885. The lot, building, and furniture cost $10,818. Membership, 215; Sunday school scholars, 200.

LUTHERAN.

St. Mark's English Lutheran church on Market street was built in 1854 at a cost of $8,000. It will seat 250; number of members, 525; Sunday school scholars, 350; superintendent, Henry J. Glasser; library, 350 volumes; pastor, Rev. George G. Kunkle.

The German Lutheran Emmanuel church. on East Third street, has a membership of 150; number of Sunday school scholars, 200. The church will seat 450. Rev. Paul Scheliha, pastor. Valuation of church property, $6,000; parsonage $3,500.

St. Paul's Lutheran church was organized, April 9, 1871, and on September 10, 1871, Rev. Joel Swartz, D. D., of Carlisle, was elected pastor. Services were held for some time in the Academy of Music. In -1873 a lot was purchased on William street and a chapel erected. A fine brick church was afterwards built. Under the pastorate of Rev. S. P. Hughes, who resigned in 1891, the church prospered greatly. He was succeeded by Rev. John M. Anspach, D. D. The membership is 400, and the Sunday school numbers 350; superintendent, E. R. Brooks. The ground and buildings are valued at $35,000.

St. Matthew's chapel is an offspring of St. Paul's. The building is brick. No pastor. The Sunday school numbers 100 scholars.

The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Tucker street, was erected in 1891. The membership is about sixty; Sunday school scholars, 175; superintendent, L. M. Heilhecker; pastor, Rev. J. M. Stock.

St. Luke's chapel, (Lutheran,) located on Brandon avenue, is a brick structure. Sunday school scholars, 75; superintendent, A. H, Heilman. No pastor. The property is valued at $2,500.

St. John's Lutheran church, at the corner of Rose street and Erie avenue, was built in 1882. The membership is about 175; Sunday school scholars, 275. Rev. Isaiah Irvine, pastor.

PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL.

In 1840 there were only three resident communicants of the Protestant Episcopal church in Williamsport. Missionary services were commenced here that year in April, and services hold once a month by E. N. Lightner, rector of St. James church, Muncy. Christ church, corner of Fourth and Mulberry streets, was organized, February 8, 1841, and in July of that year the first communion of the Lord's Supper was administered to nine persons, all of whom are dead but one Mrs. Juliet (Lewis) Campbell. About sixteen months from this time a church was completed, and consecrated by Bishop Onderdonk, June 12, 1842. The. church grew in strength and usefulness, and in 1869 it was found necessary to put up a new building. It was a handsome stone, structure, but it has since had a large addition for Sunday school purposes, and has been greatly improved and beautified by the erection of a stone tower. The following have served as rectors: Revs. E. N. Lightner, John B. Clemson, Thomas Yarnall, William J. Clark, J. H. Black, E. P. Wright, W. H. Cooper, H. C. Moore, Albra Wadleigh, William Paret, John H. Hopkins, and William H. Graff. The present communicants number 420; Sunday school scholars, 225. The property is valued at $70,000.

Wadleigh Memorial chapel, on Almond street, is an adjunct of Christ church, and has a Sunday school membership of 250.

Trinity Episcopal church, corner West Fourth street and Trinity place, was built under the auspices of Peter Herdic in 1811. The church organization was formed December 28, 1865, and Rev. Henry Spackman was elected the first rector. He accepted the call, January 1, 1866, and proved himself a very efficient worker. Rt. Rev. Bishop Stevens, Rev. Arthur Brooks, and several other distinguished divines assisted at the corner stone laying, July 15, 1871. The architecture is of the Gothic pattern. On Christmas, 1875, Hon. John W. Maynard presented the corporation of Trinity with a chime of nine bells weighing 14, 000 pounds and costing $5,000. The dedication took place, February 22, 1876, when a deed from Peter Herdic presenting the lot and building to the church was read with this provision, "that it is to remain a permanent site for the Protestant Episcopal church, and the pews in the same are to remain forever free. "The organ and tower clock were also, the donation of Mr. Herdic. The cost of this magnificent edifice was $80,000. Number of members, 240; Sabbath school scholars, 170. Rev. George C. Foley, rector.

EVANGELICAL.

The Evangelical church, on Market street, near the railroad, was built in 1845. It is a plain brick structure and will seat 200. The membership is nearly 100; Sabbath school scholars, 30. The property is valued at $6,000. Rev. Jacob Young, pastor.

Bennett Street Evangelical church was erected in 1870, and seats about 500, number of members, 325; Sunday school scholars, 200; volumes in library, 200. Rev. J. Hellenbauch, pastor. Value of property, $2,000.

The Evangelical church on Race street below Apple, Newberry, was erected in 1871 at a cost of $3,000. It seats about 300 and has a membership of about 100;. Sabbath school scholars, 134; volumes in library, 125.

St. Paul's mission of the Evangelical Association, on Erie avenue, has a membership of nearly 100 ; Sunday school scholars, 220. The church was organized in January, 1889. Rev. J. W. Thompson, pastor.

ROMAN CATHOLIC.

St. Bonifacius church was organized in 1853 with about thirty families, who were principally Germans. On the 23d of January, 1854, a lot 52x208 feet, located on Washington street, was purchased, and in the summer of 1854 a frame church, 24x48 feet in size, was erected thereon. This was the only place of Catholic worship in Williamsport up to 1865. The first pastor was Rev. George Gostenschnigg, of St. Joseph's church, Milton, who, up to 1857, visited Williamsport twice a month to celebrate Mass and preach the Gospel to the little flock. The first resident pastor was Rev. John B. Bach, who took charge of the congregation in January, 1857, and served until September, 1861. He preached alternately in German, English, and French. He made an addition to the church of 22x22 feet, and: opened a small parochial school. In 1859 he laid out a cemetery on Wyoming street, containing about two acres. Rev. Philip Woerner became pastor in September, 1861, and remained until March, 1862, when he was succeeded by Rev. James A. Moschal. in the autumn of 1865 the church of the Annunciation was organized, from the English speaking portion of St. Bonifacius church, since which time the latter organization has been a purely German Catholic body. Rev. John Lenfert, of St. Mary's church, Bastress township, succeeded Father Moschal in October, 1865, and visited the congregation once a month up to 1869. Duringhis administration a lot 52X208 feet east of the church was purchased.

Rev. John Koeper became pastor of St. Bonifacius congregation, August 16, 1869, and has remained its pastor up to the present. In November, 1872, the old church was removed to the rear of the lot, to make room for the present substantial edifice. The corner stone was laid, June 22, 1873, and the building was dedicated to the service of God, September 19, 1875. It is a brick structure of Gothic architecture, and is 65x145 feet in dimensions. The auditorium is 46x99 feet, and has a seating capacity of 800. The windows are of richly stained glass, and the interior, like the exterior, is of pure Gothic design. In March, 1870, the parochial school was reorganized, with Charles Cremer as teacher. In June, 1874, four Sisters of Christian Charity, banished from Germany by the new Prussian church laws, took charge of the parochial school, and their number has since been increased to six. The school now enrolls 280 pupils, and is hold in the old frame church and additions. A lot, 78x104 feet, was purchased in 1874, and in 1880 a three-story brick building was erected, in which the sisters reside. In July, 1881, an addition of four acres was purchased and laid out in lots, adjoining the old cemetery, for the use of St. Bonifacius congregation. This church now embraces 350 families, and its constant growth so increased the labors of Father Koeper, that an assistant priest, Rev. Charles J. Goeckel, was appointed in November, 1890.

The Church of the Annunciation was organized in the autumn of 1865 by Rev. P. F. Sullivan, with about sixty English speaking families previously connected with St. Bonifacius church. Services were hold in Doebler's hall, on Third street, during Father Sullivan pastorate, which closed in October, 1866. In the meantime he had purchased a site on the corner of Walnut and Edwin streets, and laid the foundation for a building. The location was afterwards disapproved of by the bishop and the foundation torn up. In October, 1866, Rev. M. P. Stack became pastor, and obtained permission from the authorities to hold services in the court house. In 1887-68 he commenced the erection of a brick church on Edwin street, which was completed and dedicated in. the latter year as the "Church of the Annunciation." This building is still used as a chapel. Father Stack served until November, 1871, when he was removed by the bishop because of the widespread dissatisfaction in the congregation with his management of its affairs. He subsequently laid claim to the ownership of the church property, and sued Bishop O'Hara for its recovery. This was one of the most celebrated cases in the history of Lycoming county, and excited the deepest interest in both Catholic and. non-Catholic circles throughout the State. After a long and bitter legal contest the case was finally decided against Father Stack's claim, and in favor of Bishop O'Hara as head of the diocese.

In December, 1871, Rev. Eugene A. Garvey took charge of the parish, and though he found it in a chaotic condition, he went. vigorously to work, and under his wise and judicious management the congregation has been wonderfully prosperous. Father Garvey is a native of Carbondale, Pennsylvania, and was pastor at. Hawley and Athens prior to coming to Williamsport. He soon paid off the debt on the church property left by his predecessor, and commenced a series of improvements which have continued through the passing years in keeping with the growth and prosperity of the church. He first built the parochial residence on Walnut street; next the two-story brick school house on Edwin street, containing six rooms, over which he placed as teachers the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and which now enrolls 380 pupils, and following this he erected the convent on Edwin street, wherein eleven sisters reside, and to which advanced pupils of the parochial schools are admitted for graduation. He also purchased thirteen acres of land adjoining Wildwood cemetery on the south, and laid it out in lots for a cemetery. It was consecrated by Bishop O'Hara under the name of Mt. Carmel. But the crowning glory of his administration is the grand church on the corner of Fourth and Walnut streets, the site of which had been given to the congregation by Peter Herdic. The constant growth of the church made a larger building a positive necessity, and early in 1886 preliminary steps towards the project began. The foundation was commenced the following spring, and on Sunday, July 11, 1886, the corner stone of the new church was laid by Bishop O'Hara with imposing ceremonies, and in the presence of an immense audience. The work was pushed as rapidly, as circumstances would justify, and on Sunday, May 5, 1889, the building was dedicated to the service of God. Pontifical Mass was celebrated, with Rt. Rev. William O'Hara, bishop of Scranton, as celebrant. Within the sanctuary were also Most Rev. P. J. Ryan, archbishop of Philadelphia, Rt. Rev. Thomas McGovern, bishop of Harrisburg, and a large number of priests. The Archbishop preached an eloquent dedicatory sermon, from the text "I am the good Shepherd," and also paid a glowing tribute to the pastor and congregation for the grand monument to religion which they had built under so many difficulties.

The church is an imposing, massive, and substantial stone structure of Romanesque architecture, and has a seating capacity of about 1,200. It has richly stained glass windows, several of which are beautifully frescoed with life-size figures, principally donated by the pastor and members of the congregation, the total cost of which was $3,600. Handsome. altars decorate the sanctuary, the main one being planked on each side and in the rear by massive Corinthian columns supporting the canopy of the sanctuary. A magnificent pipe organ, and beautiful stations of the cross are a part of the furnishings, while the seats and wainscoating are of polished oak. It is safe to say that when the interior is frescoed Annunciation church will surpass any other place of worship in Williamsport, and will be second to no Catholic church in the West Branch valley. The total cost of the building, etc., up to the day of dedication was about $67,000, and about $60,000 of this amount has been paid. Many minor improvements have since been made, among which, worthy of special mention, is a fine bell donated by John Lynch, and placed in the tower in the fall of 1891, and first tolled on Sunday, October 12th of that year. The spiritual and temporal growth of the congregation during the past twenty years has been steady and substantial, and Annunciation parish now embraces about 3,000 souls. A flourishing Sunday school, and several societies are among the spiritual tributaries of the church. Father Garvey has had three assistants during his pastorate, viz Revs. Anthony Shields, P., J. Colligan, and J. J. B. Feeley, the last of whom has served since December, 1890. The grand work accomplished by Father Garvey since coming to Williamsport, is a lasting monument to his faithful stewardship in this portion of God's vineyard.

BAPTIST.

The First Baptist church, Fourth and Elmira streets, was organized December 17, 1854, by the following persons, who met in the court house for that purpose: Rev. J. Green Miles, Foster Taylor, J. N. Black, A. R. Sprout, Washington Newberry, Mrs. Isabella H. Miles, Mrs. Elizabeth Colton, Mrs. Amanda Herdic, Mrs. Caroline McMinn, Mrs. Virginia Hall, Mrs. Mary Sprout, Mrs. Ellen Donnelly, Mrs. Susanna Newberry, Mrs. Susan Brewer, Mrs. Angeline Titus, and Miss Annie Trainer.

Rev. Miles was chosen pastor and Foster Taylor deacon. August 1, 1858, Mr. Miles resigned and the church was without a regular pastor until 1859. Rev. Joshua Kelley came soon after and labored for the congregation until his death, April 10, 1862. In 1857 Peter Herdic offered to donate a lot for the church, providing a good building was erected thereon. His proposition was accepted and in August of that year E. Culver broke ground for its foundation. Herdic fulfilled his promise. By referring to Deed Book O O, (Volume 38,) page 158, it will be seen that on October 30, 1857, he conveyed the lot in consideration of $10 to "the trustees of the First Baptist Church of Williamsport." But owing to the financial crisis the work of building progressed slowly. On the 3d of July, 1860, a violent wind storm partly unroofed the building and did other damage, which retarded its completion. Work, however, was continued until the building was finished and dedicated, September 14, 1860. The first Sunday school was organized in April, 1855, with Eber Culver as superintendent. After meeting in various places until July l, 1859, the school finally settled in the lecture room of the present church. Membership, 530; Sunday school membership teachers, 44; scholars, 275; superintendent, E. A. Cornell. Rev. E. A. Woods, D. D., pastor. Value of church property, $100,000.

The First German Baptist church, located on the corner of Washington and Packer streets, was founded as early as 1867. It is an offspring of the three original German Baptist churches of Blooming Grove, Anthony, and Fairfield townships. (See review of Hepburn township.) The work of building the church was commenced January 1, 1867, and it was completed in July of that year, and was formally dedicated, June 9, 1872. The building is brick and the value of the property is $6,000. The present membership is ninety-two; Sunday school scholars, seventy;. Isaac Kurtz, superintendent. Rev. John Senn, D. D., pastor.

The Memorial Baptist church of Newberry had its origin in a preliminary meeting hold July 2, 1869, for the purpose of taking measures for the establishment of a, church in that place. The result of this meeting was the withdrawal of nineteen members from the parent church, and the dedication on the 30th of July of a church building, which was purchased from Dodge & Company, who had erected it for an academy. Rev. Thomas O. Lincoln was chosen pastor and remained in charge until July 26, 1871. The Sunday school was organized, September 19, 1869, with sixteen scholars. A terrible disaster, resulting in the death of thirteen persons, occurred at this church on the evening of December 25, 1872, when the school was celebrating the festivities of the Christmas season. The floor gave way and all were precipitated below in one confused mass of benches timbers, and plaster. The scene that ensued was heartrending, and to increase the terrors of the survivors, fire broke out in the ruins. By desperate efforts it was subdued, and the work of rescue proceeded. The calamity caused much excitement, and elicited the warmest sympathies of the people in behalf of the injured-of whom there were nearly fifty-and the relatives of the killed. The church was rebuilt, made strong and safe, and dedicated June 29, 1873. The seating capacity is 300; members, 105; Sunday school scholars, 215, with 18 teachers. The property is valued at $4,000. Rev. C. D. Bond, pastor.

Shiloh Baptist church, on Walnut street, was built in 1881. Number of members, 103; Sunday school, 75. Rev. G. L. P. Taliaferro, pastor.

The Erie Avenue Baptist church of Williamsport was organized in May, 1887, with forty-two members. There are now more than six times that number. The present church is frame, but a fine brick edifice will soon be completed. The Sunday school numbers 400; superintendent, W. H. Kunkle; library, 450 volumes. Rev. S. G. Reading, pastor.

Ebenezer Baptist church, Park avenue, organized in 1891, has a membership of 200: Sunday school, 75; library, 100 volumes. Rev. W. Simpson, pastor.

OTHER DENOMINATIONS.

The Methodist Protestant church, on Sherman, corner of Sheridan street, was erected in November, 1888. There are over 70 communicants.

The First Church of Christ (Disciples) was erected in 1887 at the corner of Third and Walnut streets at a cost of $6,000. Pastor, Rev W. D. Lane; number of members, 175; Sunday school scholars, 150; superintendent, H. A. Crocker. .The library comprises 150 volumes.

The Seventh Day Adventist church, corner of Hepburn and Fifth streets, was built in 1888. Pastor, Rev. E. J. Hibbard; number of members, 60; Sunday school scholars, 70; superintendent, W. F. Schwartz; valuation of library, $2,500; church property, $12,000; tract society stock of books, $8,000.

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church, Hepburn street and Erie avenue, was organized in 1862. Number of members, 135; Sunday school scholars, 125; library, 225 volumes; superintendent, John Caution; Rev, Richard Tanner, pastor. Valuation of church property, $15,000.

African Methodist Episcopal Zion (Salem) church, West Jefferson street, was erected in 1866 at a cost of $2,100. Number of members, 75; Sunday school, 80; Joseph Anderson, superintendent. Rev. Thomas H. Scott, pastor.

Beth Hashalom (House of Peace) synagogue, at the foot of Mulberry street, was erected in 1871-72, (Jewish year, 5631.) It is a neat brick edifice. The membership is about 30; Sunday school, 42. Rev. G. A. Levy, rabbi.

CITY MISSION.

The City Mission of Williamsport and Girls' Industrial Home, located on East Third street, was opened December 12, 1885, and chartered in January, 1888. It is in charge of T. P. S. Wilson, city missionary, and the Sunday school under his superintendency numbers 300 members. The institution is undenominational and was organized to reach the masses. Girls are taught to sew and perform all duties pertaining to housekeeping. Mrs. Anna Burchard is matron of this department.

FIRST SUNDAY SCHOOL.

It was during the summer of 1819 that a few young ladies undertook to organize a Sunday school in the octagonal brick school building, then known as "The Williamsport Academy," and still standing near the residence of John B. Hall, on West Third street. Their names were Miss Henrietta Graham, afterwards Mrs. Van Horn, Mrs. William Wilson, and Miss Sarah Hepburn, afterwards Mrs. James Armstrong, and they succeeded in establishing the first Sunday school in Williamsport. They were assisted by several other young ladies who served as teachers. It was named the "Union School." The attendance comprised not only boys and girls in the town, but they came from the surrounding country. The school was conducted by two female superintendents, who were elected to serve six months; each class had two or more teachers who taught alternately one month at a time. They had no library, consequently each pupil provided his or her own book. The superintendent carried to and from the school the tickets and class rolls, which were distributed monthly. Each teacher kept a written account of her experience and reported monthly at the teachers' meeting. After an experience of about six years the school became too large for the ladies to manage and some gentlemen were induced to open a separate school for boys. The new school was systematically organized and with fair prospects, but apathy at last showed itself on the part of the male teachers, and the boys being often left without teachers became inattentive, so that the female teachers were obliged to take charge of them again. The spirit of indifference increased to such an extent that it was decided to abandon the effort to establish a union school, as harmonious interest could not be maintained among the denominations. Jealousy is said to have been the principal cause of the failure. But it was not long until a reorganization was effected by Dr. W. R. Power, Gen. Robert Fleming, and Maj. Charles Low. They were assisted by a corps of lady teachers, and the work was continued until the Presbyterians started a school. The Methodists followed next. These schools met with more hearty support than the original enterprise, because they were sectarian and therefore devoid of clashing interests in connection with the first union school there was a class of colored scholars organized in a separate school by Miss Lucy Putnam, Miss Mary Hepburn, and Miss Martha L. Grier. Thus were the Sunday school's of Williamsport founded; and from this small beginning sprung all the denominational and thrifty schools which we now find among the churches of the city; all viewing with each other in efficiency of organization and the accomplishment of the greatest good.

Y. M. C. A. OF WILLIAMSPORT.

The Young Men's Christian Association was organized in March, 1867, and has steadily grown in strength and usefulness. Among those prominently identified with the foundation of the enterprise were John A. Woodward, Abraham Updegraff, A. D. Lundy, William R. Sloan, Thomas Bennett, C. K. Geddes, W. H. Colesberry, and D. S. Andrus. A hall was obtained and a preliminary meeting called, at which it was resolved that for the purpose of advancing the interests of evangelical religion in Williamsport a constitution and by-laws for the organization and government of such an association be adopted. The first president chosen was W. H. Armstrong, with W. H. Colesberry recording secretary, and W. H. Sloan treasurer. A hall was fitted up for the association, committees appointed, and contributions solicited. A reading room was opened and the nucleus of a library laid, which now numbers several thousand volumes. The books of the Williamsport Library Association were acquired early, and additions are constantly being made to the collection. During the month of November, 1875, a charter of incorporation was obtained from the court. Ever since the organization of the association a free reading room has been kept open to the public, which has proved of great advantage to a large number of people. Lectures are occasionally delivered in the halls, prayer meetings are held, and other religious exercises observed. In the earlier years of its existence the association had a severe struggle to maintain itself, but it has successfully surmounted all obstacles. Its success was largely accomplished through the untiring efforts of John I. Berry, H. H. Otto, John E. Dayton, and a number of others, who have given freely of their time and money to bring about this condition. The association now owns and occupies an elegant building which is valued at $40,000. Officers for 1892: John E. Dayton, president; John R. Millspaugh, vice-president; Charles E. Shopbell, treasurer; A. P. Mershon, general secretary; Walter H. Andrus, assistant secretary.


Next Chapter

Lycoming County, PA Genealogy home page
PAGenWeb
© 2001 Lycoming County Genealogy Project

Please note this book was written more than 110 years ago and was reproduced exectly as published.