Some Church History
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As I recall some of the peculiar customs of nearly a century ago, I think I should give you a little sketch of the early church history.
In 1750, the Reverend John Cuthberson of Scotland came over as a missionary and settled in York County. He established preaching stations in Lancaster, Dauphin, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties and in the Big Cove (Bedford County) in 1751, traveling from station to station on horseback. He organized a Covenanter Congregation in this valley. It is almost certain that his first preaching station here was what is known as the Big Spring Graveyard, a burying ground on the farm now owned by Daniel Kanaff. It ceased to be used as a burial place about 1872. It is still in existence but will soon be forgotten. Many of the original families of this valley are buried there. All of the Hunter and Patterson ancestors were originally buried there and the names on many of the tombstones are still legible. The names of some other families buried there are Taggart, Rankin, Peoples, Nelson, Johnston, Kendall, Alexander, Sloan, McKinley, Margaret Scott Hunter and many others which I do not recall.
In 1753, the Reverend James M. Matthews and another gentleman whose name I have forgotten, two missionaries from the Seceders in Scotland, came here and organized a Seceder Church. Now, both this and the Covenanters' Church were small congregations, so they united and formed what was known as the Associated Reformed Church. They were so hair-splitting at this time that a few of the Seceders had refused to go into the union. These grew and multiplied and finally absorbed the Associated Reformed Congregation. This was a matter of sixty years in the accomplishment. The Reverend Finley McNaughton was pastor of the Seceder Church here and in Mercersburg and in 1827 this congregation built the Stone Church a mile north of Webster Mills. In 1858, the Seceder and the Associated Reformed churches united and formed the United Presbyterian Church and the history of the church in this valley is identical with the history of the entire United Presbyterian Church of this country.
In my boyhood, services were held every two weeks in the Stone Church. Two sermons would be preached, the first one at eleven o'clock with an intermission of half an hour to eat lunch, which we brought along with us. The boys and girls would go to the spring at the foot of the hill to have their lunch and discuss the sermon. After this, we would return to the church and the second service would begin. The sermons were one hour long; anything less was judged unorthodox. The second prayer was never shorter than twenty-five minutes.
Only Psalms were sung. Rause's old Scotch version was used. Harvey Nelson led the singing. There was no organ, of course, it being an "instrument of the devil", but Harvey was permitted (for the sake of pitch) to use a tuning fork. He used one tuned up to "A".
Harvey was absent for two weeks one time and it fell to my lot to lead the singing (my own children will appreciate this). Feeling that a tuning fork was necessary and knowing very little about it, I bought one tuned to "C". When Harvey led the singing very few were able to scale the heights with him. When I led, nobody, not even myself, could descend to the depths. On one occasion, when Dr. Ferguson gave out a long meter Psalm, Miss Esther Sloan leading, started in with a short meter tune. Of course, the notes running out too soon, we came to grief until Dr. Ferguson and Miss Esther conferred together, when very shortly the Lord was praised to the satisfaction of everyone.
On each side of the church and in the middle, very large-sized ten plate stoves stood. The stove pipes rose far up, then ran along under the ceiling to the back of the church and into the chimneys. In the summertime, the stove pipes were taken down and stored away, but the poor old stoves, looking like roosters without tails, stood in their places. One Sunday, Mr. Charles Taggart, a very absent-minded man who had a nervous twitching of the face, came into church during the second prayer. He strolled up the aisle as far as the stove. There he stopped, turned his back to the stove and parted the tails of his frock coat. It just ruined the prayer!
Introduction … by David Hunter Patterson
Chapter 1 … The Valley of the Big Cove
Chapter 2 … The Tall Oaks & Towering Pines of Gallant Little Fulton
Chapter 3 … The Pattersons and the Hunters
Chapter 4 … Concerning Some of my Forbears
Chapter 5 … Childhood Memories
Chapter 6 … Some Church History
Chapter 7 … Boyhood Days
Chapter 8 … I Go Away to School
Chapter 9 … Incidents of the Civil War
Chapter 10 … Springfield - Graduation
Chapter 11 … Your Mother
Chapter 12 … A Quaker Family of Western Pennsylvania
Chapter 13 … From 1870 to 1880
Chapter 14 … Home Again at Webster Mills
Chapter 15 … The Centennial - I Buy a Farm and get into Politics
Chapter 16 … Last Years in the Old Home
Epilogue … by Elizabeth Patterson Neeson
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