Ohio History Journal

174 Ohio Arch

174      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

of Ohio had ever received. He pointed out that the convention

allowed two weeks discussion on the proposition of a bond issue

for good roads, and "permitted without limitation a discussion

for nearly three weeks of the liquor question." 18 In spite of this

appeal for fairness the convention gave less than two days to the

question which most delegates considered the most important

one before them.19 Lastly, most of the delegates were of the

opinion that the great majority of women were opposed to re-

ceiving the franchise.

An analysis of the debates would prolong this paper beyond

the twenty minute limit, and add little to its effectiveness.20 As

in 1873, several delegates favored a referendum by the women

alone. Its impracticability and doubts as to its legality caused

its defeat. The committee on the Elective Franchise reported a

proposal which passed the convention by a vote of 76 to 34. This

amendment was defeated at the polls by nearly 100,000 votes,

and the women of Ohio were left to exercise the limited fran-

chise granted at an earlier period.





Pittsburgh is distinguished today as a city of wealth and

manufactures. It is equally true, though not so well known, that

she is conspicuously a city of churches, and of church going

people. Today she has several denominational colleges, and three

Theological Seminaries, the latter representing the different

branches of the Presbyterians. And almost from the beginning

of her history, Presbyterianism has been prominent.

The Roman Catholics, however, preceded the Presbyterians,

since their chaplain, Friar Denys Baron, a Recollect Priest, ac-

companied the French to Fort Duquesne, conducted services there

in the newly erected chapel in 1754, and ministered to them dur-

ing their occupation. From the French evacuation of the fort in


18bid., p. 619 (Prof. Knight).

19 The debates cover pp. 600-639.

20 See especially speeches of Marshall, Bowdle, Marriot and John-

son (Williams Co).

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association. 175


1758, until 1808, the Roman Catholics in Pittsburgh were few

in number, and had no resident priest. They were visited occa-

sionally by missionaries on their way westward, services being

held in private houses.

No sooner were the English established at Fort Pitt, in

1758, than Presbyterian ministrations began. Rev. Chas. Beatty

preached a Thanksgiving sermon on the Sunday following the

French evacuation. The Presbyterian Synod of New York and

Philadelphia sent missionaries repeatedly to the fort and western

settlements for brief labors there. Some of these missionaries

also visited the Indians on the Muskingum, and took back a stir-

ring report to the next Synod, to the effect that the fields were

white and the laborers few. For over twenty years, however,

progress was painfully slow, and nothing of permanence or

stability was secured prior to the establishment of a resident

minister. Rev. James Power was the first ordained minister, who

settled with his family in western Pennsylvania.  He came in

1776 and for several years worked in the vicinity of Pittsburgh.

In the same year, the Rev. John McMillan founded the Log Col-

lege near Canonsburgh, Pennsylvania, the forerunner of Jeffer-

son College, one of the two parent stems of Washington and

Jefferson College.

The Redstone1 Presbytery was created by the Synod of New

York and Philadelphia at its meeting in Philadelphia, May, 1781.

This was the first Presbytery formed west of the Allegheny

Mountains,2 and held its first meeting at Pigeon Creek, in Sep-

tember, 1781. In the record of this Presbytery no mention is

made of Pittsburgh until its fifth meeting, held at Buffalo, Wash-

ington County, Pennsylvania, 1784, when it received from Pitts-

burgh an application for supplies. Accordingly the next day,

the Presbytery appointed the Rev. Joseph Smith, a graduate of

Princeton, to preach at Pittsburgh the fourth Sabbath of August.

This was the first appointment by the Presbytery of a supply to


1 Redstone Creek joined the Monongahela River at Redstone Old

Fort, fifty-five miles above Pittsburgh, but the term, Redstone, was ap-

plied to the whole region west of the mountains.

2 In 1793 the Presbytery of Ohio was formed part from the old

Redstone Presbytery, and thus the latter was divided.

176 Ohio Arch

176       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

Some idea of conditions in Pittsburgh at that time may be

gained from Arthur Lee, who visited it in 1784, and who said:

"Pittsburgh is inhabited almost entirely by Scots and Irish, who

live in paltry log houses. * * * There are in the town four

attorneys, two doctors, and not a priest of any persuasion, nor

church, nor chapel, so that they are likely to be damned without

benefit of clergy." In the same year, a clerical member of the

Mason and Dixon's Line Commission brought one hundred sixty

Bibles to Pittsburgh for distribution.

Meanwhile Rev. Samuel Barr had visited Pittsburgh, and

had preached a few times. In the fall of 1785 he began regular

pastoral work in what is now called the First Presbyterian Con-

gregation of Pittsburgh, which was then formed. In September,

1787, a bill was passed by the legislature at Philadelphia, to in-

corporate a Presbyterian congregation in Pittsburgh.  In the

same month, through the efforts of the Rev. Samuel Barr, the

Penn heirs had deeded to this church two and one-half lots of

ground for five shillings. This deed was executed on parchment

to eleven trustees and is still possessed by the First Presbyterian

Church of the city. On this ground the church erected their first

house of worship, - a structure of "moderate dimensions and

squared timber."  This was the first church building in Pitts-

burgh. Samuel Barr's pastorate closed in 1789, and for several

years thereafter, the church had no regular minister, being at-

tended mostly by successive supplies. There were hard and lean

years for the Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. It had little

life in itself and was out of harmonious relation with the Red-

stone Presbytery.

From 1794 to 1800, the history of the First Church is almost

a blank. A call for supplies was made in 1795 and again in 1799.

No meetings of the Presbytery were held in Pittsburgh dur-

ing this period. A fast day was appointed by the Presbytery in

January, 1796, for "prevailing infidelity, vice, immorality, and

spiritual sloth."  The first Tuesday afternoon of each quarter

was set apart in October, 1797, as a "time of prayer for a revival

of religion." Perhaps the greatest enemy with which the pioneer

church had to deal in those days was intemperance. A ray of

hope in this dark period of its history, came with the sermon

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association. 177


of Dr. Francis Herron in the old log church in 1799, which, in

his own words, was much to the "annoyance of the swallows"

which inhabited the neglected building.

As early as 1782, the Rev. Johann Wilhelm Weber first came

to Pittsburgh. The town then contained about sixty houses and

huts, and about one hundred families. As an outgrowth of

Weber's labors, a German Lutheran congregation was organized

by 1783. This was the first religious body to form an organiza-

tion in Pittsburgh. A little later, a church was erected by them

on ground secured from the Penns. The Rev. Mr. Weber served

as their pastor for twelve years, and the church continued to

develop during the ensuing years, and became a permanent factor

in the life of the place.

In 1787, when the Penns donated lands to the Presbyterians

and Lutherans, they also deeded the same amount, two and one-

half lots, to the trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church, who

were just then organizing in Pittsburgh. This land was used

from the beginning as a burial place, but not for thirty-seven

years as the site for a church. One of the trustees of this church

was Col. John Gibson, who was commandant for a time at Fort

Pitt, and later secretary to Gov. Harrison in Indiana Territory.

In 1797, Rev. John Taylor was called to act as pastor. The first

services were held in the court house, and other places, public

and private. In 1805 a charter was secured for the incorporation

of Trinity Church, and a new plot of ground was bought, on

which was erected the First Trinity Church. This was known

as the "Old Round Church," being octagonal in form, and was

the mother of all Episcopal Churches in Western Pennsylvania.

For twenty years it was not prosperous, and was supplied by

various rectors for short periods. In 1824, John Henry Hop-

kins became rector and greatly strengthened the church, and a

new building was erected the following year.

Early Methodism had a difficult field to cultivate in Pitts-

burgh and vicinity. The soil was preoccupied. The Presbyterians

came early, settled thickly, held on tenaciously, and gained much

afterward from immigration, while Methodism gained little from

this latter source. At the Methodist Conference, held at Union-

town, Pennsylvania, July, 1788, the Pittsburgh Circuit was

Vol. XXV-12

178 Ohio Arch

178      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.

formed, partly from the Redstone Circuit which lay south of

Pittsburgh, and Chas. Conway was appointed preacher for the

new circuit. This was the first appearance of the name of Pitts-

burgh in the annals of Methodism. The Presbyterians, Lu-

therans, and Episcopalians were already organizing in Pittsburgh,

when Conway arrived in 1788. Three years earlier, Rev. Wilson

Lee, preaching on the Redstone Circuit, had visited Pittsburgh,

and preached there the first Methodist sermon. But there was

no organization and Conway came "not to serve a church, but

to make one, not called by a church, but to call a church," and

his field of labor extended to the vicinity as well as to the town.

In 1789, Bishop Asbury made his first visit to Pittsburgh. He

wrote in his journal that the people were very attentive, but

that "alas they are far from God, and too near the savages in

situation and manners." At the close of the second year, 1790,

the minutes showed ninety-seven members in the Pittsburgh Cir-

cuit, though few of these were in Pittsburgh. In the next few

years, additional preachers were appointed to assist Conway,

yet between Satan on the one hand and the Calvinists on the

other, there was little chance for Methodism in Pittsburgh in

these early years.

The first important accession came with arrival of John

Wrenshall, merchant, in 1796. He was also a minister of much

experience and ability, and to him perhaps as much as to any

other one man, belongs the honor of establishing Methodism in

Pittsburgh. Regular services were held for a time in the old log

building, which had been deserted by the Presbyterians, and

later in the old barracks of Fort Pitt. But no permanent home

was secured for their services, until in 1810 a lot was purchased

and a plain brick church erected. The membership increased

so rapidly from this time that by 1817, the membership of the

Pittsburgh church alone, numbered two hundred eighty, and a

site was purchased for the erection of a new building. Thus

arose the Smithfield Street Church, the mother Methodist Epis-

copal Church of Pittsburgh.

The church now known as the United Presbyterian in Pitts-

burgh, formed in 1858, was an outgrowth of the Associate, or

Associate Presbyterian Church. At Philadelphia in 1800 was

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association. 179

organized the Associate Synod of North America, consisting of

four Presbyteries, including that of Chartiers. The Associate

Presbytery of Chartiers met and organized at Canonsburgh,

Pennsylvania, in June, 1800.

Several congregations were under its care. At a meeting

of this Presbytery at Buffalo, Pennsylvania, in 1801, a petition

was presented from Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek for preaching.

In response to this, elders were elected at Pittsburgh, and they

called as their first minister, in November of that year, the Rev.

Ebenezer Henderson.   Thus the First United Presbyterian

Church of Pittsburgh was organized under the name of the

Associate Congregation of Pittsburgh. Henderson became dis-

couraged and was released in 1804. During his pastorate, the

congregation had no church building, and worshiped in the

court house. In 1808 Robert Bruce, recently from Scotland, be-

came pastor, and the congregation worshiped in the German

Church. Finally in April, 1810, a lot for a church building was

purchased, but the building was not ready for occupancy until

1813. This first church was a rude building of brick, with un-

plastered walls, unpainted pews, and no vestibule. But these

pioneer days passed by, and the congregation grew in numbers

and strength until it is today one of the strongest in Pittsburgh.

The Baptists were organized in Pittsburgh, rather later than

the other denominations. The first congregation, in 1812, con-

sisted of six families, with Rev. Edward Jones as pastor. The

services were held in various places. The congregation was

not chartered until 1822. It belonged to the Redstone Baptist

Association, whose minutes are published beginning with 1804.

In that year this Association included twenty-five churches, with

a total membership of over one thousand. It met annually, and

its records indicate the progress of the Baptists in Western

Pennsylvania. In 1808, the number of churches was thirty-five

with a membership of over fifteen thousand. Then for a series

of years the number decreased, and in 1810, there were only

about twelve thousand. In 1823 this Association convened at

Pittsburgh. Only twenty-one churches were represented with

memberships ranging from nine to one hundred twelve each.

In the minutes of this Association for 1805, there are two

180 Ohio Arch

180      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


interesting queries. One was: "Is it consistent with gospel

order, or our Lord's rule of equity, to hold any of our fellow

creatures in perpetual slavery?" Answered unanimously, "No."

The other was: "Do we hold fellowship with any church which

holds fellowship with any members, who hold slaves in perpetual

servitude?" This query was referred to the next annual Asso-

ciation for an answer. At that time it was resolved that this

query "be struck out, leaving the case of slavery wholly to the

prudence of the Legislature, praying that the Lord would put

it into their hearts to liberate them."

Though the Roman Catholics were the first in this section,

not until 1808, did they have a resident priest. In that year

Rev. Wm. O'Brien came from Baltimore to Pittsburgh. He

promoted the erection of St. Patrick's Church, which was begun

in the same year. This was a brick building and its dedication

in August, 1811, was the occasion of the first visit of a Roman

Catholic Bishop to this place. During the building of this church,

Father O'Brien said mass in a stable fitted up for a chapel. After

twelve years of service among the missions of that region, in

which he ministered to perhaps not more than three hundred

souls, Father O'Brien preached his farewell sermon in the spring

of 1820. He was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Maguire, under whose

ministrations, a magnificent new church, St. Paul's, was erected.

As the history of the Presbyterians has been sketched here

only to 1800, a few further facts concerning them should be

presented. Their history has been divided into three periods.

First, the initial struggle for existence, 1784-1800, which has

been outlined above. During the sixteen years of this period,

the pastoral relation existed but about one-fourth the time,


The second period, 1800-1811, was a struggle for establish-

ment. In 1802 the Synod of Pittsburgh was formed by Act of

the General Assembly, and held its first meeting in October of

that year. This was the first great representative meeting of

the men who made Western Pennsylvania Presbyterianism.

Their missionary zeal was shown in their first resolution, that

"the Synod of Pittsburgh shall be styled the Western Missionary

Society." The effects of the formation of the Synod and of this

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association. 181


first meeting were soon felt. The union between the city and

the surrounding country, thus far delayed, was now begun and

proved effective.

In 1801 a dissension arose within the church at Pittsburgh,

and persisted until 1804, when upon petition, a part of the con-

gregation was authorized to organize the Second Presbyterian

Church of Pittsburgh. Supplies were granted the new branch

until October, 1805, when a regular minister accepted its call.

This division increased financial difficulties, already great, on

account of the erection of a building. Despairing of raising the

debt by subscription, a lottery was resorted to in 1806, but was

not successful, and the debt continued. During all this early

period the religious life was at a low ebb, and progress was slow.

The First Presbyterian Church numbered but forty-five mem-

bers in 1808, fifty-eight in 1809, and sixty-five in 1810. Around

Pittsburgh, however, there had been considerable growth. Cross

Creek Church numbered two hundred fifty-five, Cross Roads and

Three Springs two hundred thirty-seven, and many others about

two hundred each.

The early churches of Western Pennsylvania were rural

and they developed later in the towns. The country people were

the Christians, the townspeople, the "pagans," says Smith, in

respect to their early destitution of churches. Pittsburgh, Wash-

ington (Pennsylvania) and Wheeling were all suppliants at the

door of the Redstone Presbytery, begging for supplies. And

just as rural life develops sturdy manhood, so it develops sturdy

churches, so that by 1833, Dr. Alexander could write: "The

Pittsburgh Synod is the purest and soundest limb of the Presby-

terian body. When we fall to pieces in this quarter and in the

far West, that Synod will be like a marble column, which remains

undisturbed in the ruins of a mighty temple."

In 1811 the Presbyterian Church entered upon the third and

successful period of its history, which has continued to the

present time. In that year the Rev. Francis Herron became the

pastor of the First Church, and so continued for thirty-nine years.

In 1817 the church was enlarged and regular weekly prayer meet-

ings were established. From 1817 to 1824, the Pittsburgh Bible

Society, formed in 1814 in this church, delivered 2,382 Bibles,

182 Ohio Arch

182       Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


and 1,180 testaments. In 1817 the Western Missionary Society

of Pittsburgh, that is, the Presbyterian Synod of Pittsburgh,

assembled and appointed missionaries to all the Indian districts

of the west.

In 1818 the Pittsburgh Union Society, or Sunday School

Association, for promoting Sunday School work, organized and

founded the Adephi Free School, a combined Sunday and public

school for the benefit of poor children. At the time of the first

annual report of the Sunday School Association, February, 1819,

it comprised ten Sunday Schools in Pittsburgh. During its first

year the Association gathered about five hundred fifty children

into the Sunday Schools, maintained a free colored school, and

embraced every church in Pittsburgh and vicinity.

In May, 1820, the United Foreign Missionary Society, com-

posed of several denominations of the city, requested from the

Western Missionary Society of Pittsburgh, aid for missions to

the Osage Indians. This appeal was responded to by raising

over $1,200 in cash, and a large supply of provisions and build-

ing materials. The first faculty of the Western University of

Pennsylvania, now the University of Pittsburgh, was composed

of six of the most eminent clergymen in the community.

These facts illustrate the activity of the churches of Pitts-

burgh during the early years of the nineteenth century, and ex-

plain in part their growth in power, influence and Christian



Files of the Pittsburgh Gazette, (1786-).

Centenary Volume of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh.

(1884.) Edited by Sylvester Scoville.

Minutes of the Redstone Presbytery. (1781-1831.)

Minutes of the Redstone Baptist Association. (1786-1836).

History of the First United Presbyterian Church of Pittsburg. (1801-

1901). W. J. Reid.

Centenary Memorial Volume of the Smithfield Street Methodist Epis-

copal Church Celebration. (1888).

"Pittsburgh as seen by Early Travelers." (1783-1818). Compilation of

Extracts made by Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh.

Volume on the Centennial of the Incorporation of Pittsburgh. (1894).

Article by Dr. Wm. J. Holland.

Old Redstone, by Dr. Joseph Smith. (1854.)

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association

Annual Meeting Ohio Valley Historical Association. 183


Records of the Synod of Pittsburgh. (1802-1832).

Centenary Memorial Volume of Presbyterianism in Western Pennsyl-

vania. (Papers by Darlington and Veech.)

History of Pittsburgh, by N. B. Craig. (1851).

History of Pittsburgh, by Sarah H. Killikelly. (1906).

History of Pittsburgh, by Erasmus Wilson. (1898).






The dominant note in the settlement of the majority of the

colonies was, as we know, religious freedom.   The spirit of

modern history which has as its slogan, "All men are free,"

found in those days expression in terms of religion, with the

result that the most of men's acts were determined by a religious


While the settlement of the Muskingum Valley, which in-

cludes practically all of southeastern and eastern Ohio, was

not prompted by the same reasons which urged the fathers to

come across the Atlantic and establish colonies in the name of

religious freedom, yet the fact that these men were their fathers,

leads us confidently to expect that the founding of the church

was contemporaneous with the founding of a settlement.

"Like father, like son."  So, noble sons of noble sires had

learned the experiences of the elders and had received a thor-

ough training in the traditions, growing out of the acts which

had made history. We have only to recall, therefore, that this

section of Ohio was settled in a great measure by Puritans from

Massachusetts, Scotch-Irish from  Pennsylvania and New Jer-

sey, and Quakers and Germans, also from our eastern neighbor,

to at once conclude that the statement made in the previous

paragraph is a correct one.

While, figuratively speaking, the Lilies of France once

floated over this section of Ohio, and we might with some degree

of assurance look for the presence of the Jesuit missionary in

these parts, yet we have no record of any of these black cowled

messengers of the Cross ever being in this region. Yet, we are

quite certain that their influence was felt upon the Indians who