Church Histories - J. C. Rhea's 1893 History of the Rural Valley Presbyterian Church
(OUTSIDE FRONT COVER)
History of Rural Valley Presbyterian Church
By J. C. Rhea
March 22, 1897
Herald Presses, Apollo, PA
(INSIDE FRONT COVER)
[Picture of the church, circa 1893]
Rural Valley Presbyterian Church
Benjamin D. Price, Architect
Archibald F. (Rarie) Raraigh & Brother, Contractors
Building dedicated May 7, 1893
This History is reprinted by
Frances B. Calarie
In memory of her sister,
Anna Jean Rearich.
History of Rural Valley Presbyterian Church
Written by J. C. Rhea
History of Rural Valley Presbyterian Church,
of Rural Village, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, Presbytery of Kittanning
From May 1833 to May 7th, 1893
The rural works of God are fitted out to man
To furnish all the temporal wants which in nature he demands,
But a void there still remains which nature cannot fill,
God's spirit does this work perform to mould us to His will.
But with the spirits' power man must himself employ,
To choose, select, love and accept, that he may this enjoy.
Christ came to seek and save - a means he did desire,
For man to use and not abuse and never to destroy.
It was His church He built with foundations deep and strong,
With His own word to be employed the sinner's soul to save.
The Rural Valley Church
The Rural Valley Church we'll take now as our plea,
'Twas organized long years ago, in eighteen thirty-three.
We will with this suggest some thoughts in passing by,
please bear with us in doing so, as we them before you lay.
We'll then of the writer speak, the pastors too, we'll name,
The sessions they will have their place, the trustees have the same.
The Sabbath School we'll not pass by, nor Mission work neglect,
Prayer meeting too, a place will fill with Endeavor on its track.
Then Temperance work will come in line with praise service close at hand,
While the buildings, they not mentioned yet, and important place will find.
We'll not conclude without a word from the dedication o'er,
For there with good-will and with prayer much means was placed in store,
Enough to pay all debts on hand and three hundred dollars more.
This history was prepared to read on Dedication Day,
With the congregation present to hear it then and there,
And this is why it is addressed as though they present were,
But time is not permitting, it had to be deferred,
It begins in eighteen thirty-three, it ends in ninety-two,
With the account of one church added, to make it plain to you.
This date runs up to ninety-three, May seventh was the time
Of the dedication service of the fourth church on the line.
This preface we have placed just here that you may understand
Just how to read this little book and it to comprehend,
And hoping you may it receive, its errors overlook,
That God's grace may rest on every one that on its pages look.
[I now submit to you.-AUTHOR]
Of the Writer.
In coming before you to-day I feel somewhat embarrassed, first, because I am not used to facing an audience in numbers like the one before me; second, because there may be others here more capable of performing the part I have undertaken to do, and third, because I may possibly refer to some things with which I have been closely connected, which it would perhaps be better for another to relate. My embarrassment almost vanishes, however, when I think of the time I have spent among you. Till within the last few months, my home has been with you for over half a century. My connection with you as a church member has extended over a generation of time. I attended the first service in the old frame church, and in all the forty-two years of its occupancy was a regular attendant. One reason for this was the duty imposed or conferred upon me by the congregation and session as one of the leaders of the singing and praise service. This began in 1852 and continued until I handed in my resignation to the session last spring, covering a period of forty years. This duty being incumbent upon me, was not all smooth sailing, yet the calm and the sunshine often intervened, and in the background that stronghold, the session of the church, was ever ready to advise, caution and support. Being often tempted and tried, I trust the mistakes I have made in my work and mission among you have been of the head and not of the heart, and that the praise service of Rural Valley Church and congregation, while they occupy this comfortable and commodious building, may be performed with the sprit and with the understanding also to the further advancement of the praise and glory of Him who liveth forever and ever.
Operation and Ministers.
On November 27th, 1833, the trustees of the Presbyterian church of Kittanning, and some of the more prominent citizens of Rural Valley, invited the Rev. Joseph Painter, of Newburg, Pa., to preach part of the time in Kittanning and part of the time in the neighborhood of Rural Village, in view of securing an organization. The invitation being accepted and complied with, resulted in the appointment by Blairsville Presbytery of a committee consisting of Rev. Painter and Rev. E. D. Barret for that purpose and on August 1, 1835, Rural Valley church was organized, three miles west of Rural Village, near where Robert McFarland now resides, on the site of ground known as the Elgin graveyard, consisting of two acres which was given by John Findley off the Findley tract numbered 3833 and donated for church and school purposes. The names of the members received at the organization were: Ebenezer Smith, Maria Smith, Richard E. Caruthers, Eleanor Caruthers, Lysle Carr, Ann Carr, Samuel McCorkle, Eliza McCorkle, William McIntosh, Margaret McIntosh, John Alcorn, Mrs. Alcorn, Alexander Foster, Martha Foster, John Stoops, Catharine Stoops, Arabana Hanagan, William McCain, Isabella McCain, James White, Robert McIntosh, William Powers, Mary Powers, Elizabeth Reed, James Elgin, and Martha Elgin. On August 22, 1835, the first sacrament of the Lords Supper was administered. The first church edifice was a log one twenty-four by twenty-four feet, pulpit a ten bushel box, seats oak slabs supported by wooden legs, pastor's salary for one-fourth time, eighty dollars payable in flour, meat, oats and other farm products at market prices in Kittanning. Services were held in this building for a short time when the question of a change of location was agitated and at a meeting of the congregation in May, 1836, it was decided by a large majority to move the site to Rural Village. The question of a change of location being thus settled, John Patterson gave two of his lots, numbers one and two, on the north side of main street in the old plot of Rural Village, for the erection of a new edifice, graveyard, and other church purposes. The people preferring to have their new building on higher ground and a little out of town, Alexander Foster gave an acre off the John Craig tract, which he had purchased from the Robertsons, called Leeds. Their deeds are respectively dated Oct. 28th 1836, consideration expressed in each two dollars conveyed to John Stoops, Wm. McKain, and Robert McIntosh, trustees of the First Presbyterian Church of Rural Village and their successors in office. On this plot of ground, where the school house now stands, a church was built in the latter part of 1837. Being of bricks and somewhat defective, it was abandoned in 1849, and in 1850 a building on the site of ground obtained of John Patterson, where your present church now stands, was erected and occupied until last spring. This building was fifty-one by sixty-one feet. Its roof was self supporting having no posts under its center. Rev. Mr. Kerr had the old, high pulpit taken down and a modern platform erected, the only material change since the church was built. As we do not intend going back to refer only to a few things further than the time of the occupancy of the frame church. It might be well, however, to name the several pastors that have preached as settled ministers to this congregation since its first organization. Rev. Joseph Painter from its organization till 1840. The membership during his pastorate increased to eighty. Rev. James D. Mason, from 1843 to 1846. Mr. Mason organized and taught the first academy in this place in 1846. Among his first pupils were Dr. James Alcorn, raised near Goheenville. John K. Calhoun, afterwards a successful attorney of this county, and Rev. Alexander Marshal, of Iowa. Rev. Mason was remarkable for his tenderness, sympathy, good council to those in trouble and seeking an interest in Christ. Eighty-two were added to the church during his ministry. Rev. Cochran Forbes was pastor from January, 1849 till 1854. Mr. Forbes having been a missionary in the Sandwich Islands was very much interested in the training of both the old and the young in the doctrines of the church and in the shorter catechism. Well do I remember of meeting with others of my own age to repeat the catechism and to hear it explained by him. He was the first to invite members of other denominations to the communion. He said: "You can't be a missionary without losing your sectarianism." In 1851 a revival and an accession to the church of thirty six which greatly encouraged him in his labors. The fruits of which I trust are felt among you even at the present time. The whole number added to the church while he was with you was one hundred and twenty nine. Rev. William F. Morgan commenced to preach here the third Sabbath of March 1855 was installed January 1856 preached his last sermon in March 1875 and died the April following. Rev. Morgan's pastorate was twenty years. Many of you remember the pleasant countenance and the hearty shake of the hand by which he introduced himself to all whether of his own congregation or another. Friendly to all was his motto. He was very much interested in the cause of education, also in the temperance work and especially in the singing of the congregation. He was very cautious, weighing his words and actions well, attending to his own business and not meddling with that of any other individual. He never missed an appointment to preach and there was no trouble during his pastorate in getting the church for any service, either moral or religious calculated to assist the congregation in the worship of God, or in the praising of his name. While he was with us two hundred eighty members were added to the church and one hundred and twenty two couples were married by him. Rev. J. Horner Kerr was installed June 1876, he being the first and only pastor to give us all the time. He was dismissed in June 1885. One of the first sermons preached by him was from Acts tenth chapter and twenty ninth verse, "Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for, I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me." He condensed his ministerial work, seldom preaching in any other point in the congregation but the church, and preaching only one sermon each day. Rev. Kerr was a great defender of the established doctrines of the church. He did a great work in the Sunday School in the way of organization, drafting a constitution, organizing teachers' meetings, selecting teachers and forming classes which are still the motive power of the school and has saved later pastors a great deal of labor. The congregation being much embarrassed at the time Rev. Kerr left thought best to relieve themselves of this burden before calling another pastor. Having accomplished this the spirit of God seemed to awaken a deep interest in some of the congregation which was manifested by a fuller attendance and greater interest taken in the Sabbath school and prayer meeting. Quite a number expressed themselves as having a desire to join the church and that they would do so the first opportunity. This was the situation of the congregation in the latter part of 1886. As the apostles of old, they were just waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit. Rev. N. B. Kelly came as a supply early in 1887; was installed in December of the same year; preached his last sermon in August 4, 1889. In the spring of 1887 his labors were greatly blessed by a verified descent of the Holy Spirit, resulting in one of the greatest revivals ever witnessed in the bounds of the Rural Valley church. The pentecostal showers were so extensive that over one hundred professed their faith in Christ for the first time. Many more were moved to think of the way of life and the whole congregation was stirred up to do more active service and to enter into closer communion with the Master. Rev. Kelly was a great friend of the young people. He organized the Christian endeavor Society, the first organized in the bounds of the Kittanning Presbytery. He showed great zeal in the defense of the temperance cause and took a very active part in the temperance amendment campaign. Rev. F. X. Miron has been with you since July 1890. I will refrain from saying anything regarding his work among you only in reference to this church, this temple of the Lord he has aided you in planning for, for constructing and in completing. One of the first incentives used by him was a sermon preached on April 26, 1891 from Haggai second chapter and fourth verse and another on May 10, 1891 from Nehemiah second chapter and part of the twentieth verse: "Then answered them and said unto them, the God of Heaven he will prosper us therefore we, his servants, will arise and build." He being a leading power instant both in season and out of season, prudent in not wanting on the building committee and yet doing all in his power to aid them, holding up their hands, encouraging them as Nehemiah of old when repairing the walls of Jerusalem, and now when this work is done don't be so anxious for new things that you will in the near future be appointing not a building committee, but a committee to secure a new pastor. The laborer is worthy of his hire and the pastor of his reward.
Of the Session.
On the twentieth day of August, 1835, about three weeks after the organization of Rural Valley church, Mr. William McIntosh, Richard E. Caruthers, and Ebenezer Smith were ordained and installed the first ruling elders. Mr. Ebenezer Smith being formerly an elder in Cross Creek, Washington County, returned to that place in 1848. Richard E. Caruthers being estranged on account of the removal of the church from its original site, ceased to act in 1838. Mr. William McIntosh died July 18, 1877 having served forty-two years. Samuel Fleming and George Stewart were ordained in December 1839. Mr. Fleming died October 13, 1886, having served forty-seven years. George Stewart died December 19, 1854, serving about fifteen years. Hamlet Totten was ordained in Kittanning in 1834, installed in Rural Village in 1838. He died in February 1891, having served as ruling elder fifty seven years. Adam McConnell, J. E. Caruthers and Isaac Rhea were ordained by C. Forbes April 1, 1851. In 1850 on entering the then new church the tables in front of the pulpit used by communicants in turn till all had communed, were dispensed with. Isaac Rhea, shortly after elected an elder, refused to serve without the tables. They were again used until a short time after, when Mr. Rhea himself moved that they be dispensed with. The tokens of the church were manufactured by Richard E. Caruthers, they were of lead the size of an old copper cent piece with the letters R. V. stamped on them. These tokens wee given to the church members at the Saturday service and taken up by the elders one at each side of the table on Sabbath when the communicants were seated at the table. In 1850 elder Totten purposely failed to take up those tokens. The congregation was surprised and many of the members wanted to return them after service. They were told to keep them as souvenirs of a past custom. Adam McConnell served as elder for thirty-one years. He died in 1882. James E. Caruthers served as a resident elder for four years. He then while pursuing a regular course of study for the ministry still retained the office till 1860. In 1858 he was sent as a commissioner to the General Assembly which met in New Orleans. Being naturally very energetic, doing with all his might whatever his hands found to do was never more forcibly developed than after entering the ministry. After about fifteen years of incessant labor as an ambassador for Christ, preaching a part of the time in his home presbytery and part in a western field he was called to rest from his labors. He died in Ohio in 1875. Isaac Rhea served as an elder for twenty-seven years. He died January 12, 1878. James McFarland, Joseph T. Hosack, and John T. Sloan were ordained by Rev. Morgan in January 1860. James McFarland served twenty-five years. Joseph T. Hosack was dismissed in 1869 to West Lebanon and I believe is still living. John T. Sloan died in 1890. A. A. Marshall was ordained in 1870 and was dismissed to Atwood in 1874. Thomas McColgin, David Simpson and A. J. MacIntosh were ordained in November, 1876 also Robert McFarland. James McKelvy and C. C. Cowan in 1888. The six last named constitute the members of Session at the present time. Of the nineteen Elders there are only eight now living. Their consecutive period of service up to the present time is three hundred and sixty years. Of the Session of Rural Valley church it has been said that in but few other congregations has the Sessions been so faithful, so forbearing, so consistent in their walk and conversation and so ready to do their part in the Sabbath school and prayer meeting. We cannot refrain especially from referring to those good old fathers, although differing in disposition and in their private opinions in relation to other duties, they were a unit in the responsibility of fulfilling the vows they had taken upon them in the official capacity of their office, of the last two taken from your midst, Mr. John T. Sloan and Mr. Hamlet Totten. Mr. Sloan, before speaking on any church matter, appeared to be weighing his words and his mind and to be waiting for the Holy Spirit to give him utterance. His words, though mildly spoken, were a power in deciding the subject discussed. Hamlet Totten, being a Peter in expression, was also a Peter in confession. The church was his stronghold in later years. Exhorting the young and asking the aid and guidance of the Holy Spirit, were his themes. One of the last hymns he aided in singing in the church was:
"O Thou in whose presence my soul takes delight,
He whom in affliction I call,
My comfort by day and my song in the night,
My hope, my salvation, my all."
After reading this hymn he asked for the tune applying to those words learned in his childhood to be sung. His request was granted.
Of the Trustees.
The Rural Valley church of Rural Village, was incorporated by the proper court March 23, 1842. Messrs. John Cowan, Robert A. Robinson, James Reed, Guion Wallace, William Atkin, John Stoops and Isaac Rhea were the trustees named in the charter, who were to serve until the third Wednesday in November, the time designated for the annual election of the corporate officers. The charter requires that said annual meeting be announced from the pulpit at least two weeks before said election; that none but male members professing to hold the doctrines of the Presbyterian church, as approved by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church of the United States of American, which met in Philadelphia on the 21st of May, 1840, shall be eligible to the office of trustee, full communion not being required; election to be held by the Session and the candidate voted for by ballot. No provision is made for proxy voting at any congregational meeting. The owner or owners of each pew shall be entitled to one vote, or as is the custom at the present time, each supporter shall be entitled to one vote, whether in full communion with the church or not. Do we not all know the responsibility of the office, also the annoyance, the trickery, and the deception the trustees are alleged to be guilty of? Well do I remember a supporter of the Rural Valley Church asking me when an assessment of forty per cent had been made on each subscriber, "What do you trustees do with the money?" insinuating that we applied it to our own pockets. I replied that "We applied the money not to our own individual use." But as he with the other members of the congregation directed, he wasn't in the habit of attending congregational meetings, hence his reason for asking such a question. When I explained, he understood. He said, "Is that the way you have to do?" 1835 from 1892 leaves 57; multiply this by 7 gives 399, the consecutive term of the office of trustee in this congregation. Why not had it 3 times 57 instead of 7 times? If you had 3 trustees instead of 7, and elect one each year after the first two years, you would retain two old, which would connect the terms of office, and would certainly render better results and not be so burdensome to so many at one time. If the congregation at their annual meeting would attend in mass at least two-thirds of the whole membership, the whole congregation would be better informed and the office of trustee would cease to be a burden, rather a pleasure, for there are but few that would not willingly serve if their hands were upheld by the presence, the prayers and the means of the whole congregation.
Of the Sabbath School.
The Sabbath School was organized in 1834. It first met in the house occupied by the Misses Jane and Hetty Reed. At a later date it met in the house now occupied by Dr. J. M. Pettigrew, which was then new and unfinished. When winter came the school was moved to John Stoops' kitchen where the children could be kept more comfortable. The school was taught in winter time as one class. Elder Smith, Richard E. Caruthers and A. L. Robinson were the first superintendents. Mr. Robinson led the singing. In May, 1838, the school was moved to the brick church on the hill. I have not learned whether its sessions continued the whole year at the time of that occupancy or not. Each individual class had the privilege at that time of selecting their own teacher. Messrs. Smith, Robinson, R. E. Caruthers and Mr. Totten were the principal superintendents. After moving to the frame church in 1850 the Sabbath School continued in session the whole year, the school being under the direct care of the session generally then, and ever since, with but one or two exceptions, one of their number has been superintendent. Messrs. McConnell, Totten, McFarland, J. T. Sloan, James McKelvey, Rev. Kerr and Jackson McCullough have been the principal ones. The superintendents being elected by the school and approved by the session. Mr. John McElroy, a well educated merchant, now deceased, was the principal teacher in the bible class. He was an apt teacher. He studied his lessons principally from the bible without the aid of outside helps. In Rev. Forbes' pastorate the Sabbath School was very prosperous, he being a great worker in the school. His custom was to question the school at the close of each session, also to explain different points by a simple illustration that each child could understand, hence the success attending his work in the school. During Rev. Morgan's pastorate, the Sabbath School had its waves of success and its times of lukewarmness. The lessons were principally in Matthew and in the shorter catechism. A number of the school repeated the whole of the catechism without missing more than three words, and when doing so was presented with a bible by a Mr. Brewster, who took this plan to instill in the minds of the young the truths contained therein. "The Sabbath School Bell," "Grace and Glory" and the church hymn book were the books used in the singing service of the Sabbath School up to this time. The church being vacant for some time, the Sabbath School was in a very discouraging condition. Not one lady teacher in the school. I heard one of the session remark, "There is something wrong with the Sabbath School and prayer meeting. Whose fault is it?" It may be my own fault, he said. He did not seem to be at fault more than others, but this remark showed his interest in the work. After Rev. Kerr came he asked the ladies to give a helping hand and take part as teachers in the school. One volunteered, then another, and still others, and from that time the Sabbath School has been in a very prosperous condition. Rev. Kerr drafted a constitution, organized teachers' meetings, arranged for two socials a year, and on this solid foundation the motive power of the Sabbath School is still propelled, and from observation in a few neighboring schools, I find that the Rural Valley Sabbath School, considering the scattered membership, is one of the best attended in Kittanning Presbytery. Its bible class of sixty, all adults, the majority of which are parents, is a great power in your midst at the present time. Parents, you will, I trust, receive the reward of "Well done good and faithful servants" for the example you have shown your children and those around you in attending the Sabbath School. Persevere in this good work. Never when your health and circumstances admit, say to your children, "Go to Sabbath School," but say, "Come." "Let your light so shine that others seeing your good works may glorify your Father which is in heaven." The Westminster Sabbath School Hymnal has been the singing book used in the Sabbath School since Rev. Kerr settled with you, also the Evangelical Alliance Selections the lessons used.
Of the Prayer Meeting.
Not being a regular attender on account of distance, I cannot speak of the weekly prayer meetings as I otherwise might do. The weekly prayer meeting, the channel by which the gate of heaven is entered by the consistent church member, has been observed regularly every since the organization of the church, except a few of the first years, and always since the occupancy of the frame church in 1850, except a few weeks in harvest time. There has always been a few faithful ones that were very regular in their attendance, often but few men, but invariably a good attendance of women and children. While a few were regular there were many of us who might have been often there that were not. The prayer meeting has been conducted on almost the same plan ever since it was organized, a member of session leading by reading a portion of scripture, generally a whole chapter, pronouncing the hymns to be sung, reading them all over, leading in prayer and calling on others to pray, occasionally making remarks on the passage read. This sameness of form has been continued until recently, when voluntary remarks have been sometimes called for. Often those leading the singing have been worried with the number and length of the hymns sung. A change in the plan of conducting both the weekly and Sabbath day prayer meeting might be of an advantage. A greater proportionate number here are willing to take part in the public services of the prayer meeting than in many of our neighboring churches. This should be of great encouragement to this vine we trust of God's right hand planting.
"Blessed hour of prayer, when our hearts lonely bend
And we gather to Jesus, our Savior and friend.
If we come to him in faith his protection to share,
What a balm for the weary, oh how sweet to be there."
Of Christian Endeavor.
The Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor was organized in Rural Valley in 1887, six years ago. It was the first C. E. Society organized in Armstrong County. It has been a leading element in a great work. Its membership at one time was sixty. Its meetings have been regular until the last year, no suitable place to meet being the reason. It has sent delegates regularly to the county and district conventions. It has done special work in procuring funds to aid in furnishing the new church, and now when a suitable place is opened for you to meet, may you be enabled to re-consecrate yourselves more fully to this branch of christian work. This work in its advance and progress is being now used to overthrow the man of sin in his attempts to lead the young christian away from the right path, from the solemn vows he has taken upon him. The young christian praying in public, speaking in public, repeating bible texts in public, prepares him to have courage to come out boldly against oppression and in the language of the poet, "not be ashamed to own his Lord nor to defend His cause." How many of us of older years are ashamed to do our part in the more public exercises of God's worship. If we had been trained as the young people have the opportunity to be now we might have used more of our time to greater advantage in God's service. Press on, young people. Pray, push and persevere in this great work that God has given you to do and His promises will be verified to you.
The Work of Missions.
Ever since the organization of the Rural Valley church, the Mission work has been one of its main lines of church work, but in its earlier years this subject was not thought to be of so much importance as it has been more recently. In October, 1874, Miss Loring, a returned missionary from Syria, brought this subject home to the women of this congregation by the delivery of an address both on the home and on foreign work. As a result in the following November an organization was effected consisting of twenty five members. Since that time this society has met regularly once each month, and has paid to its treasurer six hundred dollars. While this work has been engaged in by a few and the organization successfully carried on by their meeting regularly, giving of their means, and sending up their many petitions to Him who said, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Still there are many from lack of interest in this great work, forget that the field is the world, the whole world, and narrow down their minds only to the wants of those they can reach without any extra effort, while the earnest suppliant in the mission work in Rural Valley Church has been often cast down and discouraged. They have even now great reason to rejoice, many of the avenues that were closed fifty years ago are now opened, the stone of opposition is now rolled away and some of your own young men have entered into the work. Anderson Forbes, a son of one of your pastors, many years ago went as a missionary to the Sandwich Islands. J. C. R. Ewing born in the bounds of this congregation and a baptised member of your church with Rev. James McCombs, raised among you, have gone to "India's Coral Strand" also Samuel Flemming who is now synodical missionary of the state of Kansas, was one of your number. Don't be discouraged, press on in this good work.
Hear the Master say, go and work today,
For the laborers still are few.
Still his earnest cry pass unheeded by,
When there is work for all to do.
He has need of thee and his urgent plea,
Is the harvest now is white.
Let us quickly haste, lest the sheaves lie waste,
For too soon will come the night.
Go and work today, oh do not delay,
For the night is coming on,
And the least you can do shall be blest to you
If for Jesus it is done.
Though the seeds that fall may be few and small
They shall not be sown in vain,
In the garnered sheaves which the Lord receives,
Will be found the ripened grain.
[At this point, page 12 has a picture of J. R. C. Ewing, with the caption: "James Rhea Caruthers Ewing - The first American to be knighted by the King of England for outstanding work in India as a Missionary. Born June 23, 1854 - Died August 20, 1925.]
Of the Temperance Work.
The Rural Valley people have always been temperance people in name, but not always in practice. As early as April 10, 1851, under the ministry of Rev. Cochran Forbes, the following resolution was unanimously adopted: "That the session of this church consider the using of intoxicating liquors as a beverage or the signing of a petition for a tavern license as highly inconsistent with christian character and a censurable offense against the church of Christ." Being located as you are on one of the principal thorofares to the county seat, where the deadly poison of both soul and body has been and is still being dealt out without stint, sometimes from regularly licensed houses and very often otherwise. The same privilege and practice often in times gone by being exercised and indulged in, in your own town and vicinity. I hope it is not the case at the present time, however. What a pity if it is, only leading to sorrow and woe, this being the case together with some who have been great defenders of the liquor traffic among you has made it necessary for the battle in the temperance cause to be very strong. The organization of the Band of Hope, for the children, The Good Templars and the signing of remonstrances against license, the Washingtonian movement, the Murphy movement, Temperance lectures, the organization of the W. C. T. U. And the vote on the amendment have all been forces brought to bear against the traffic of intoxicating drinks in this locality. While the congregation has always been working in behalf of the temperance cause, it has often been discouraged by the downfall of a few of the church members and a number of the baptized children of the congregation. Some may say that your labors have all been in vain; that those organizations have had no good effect. Don't you remember the crusade of the women of the W. C. T. U in your village? They were watched, they were feared, yea they were honored, by some of the very ones whose homes they visited, - why should they not be honored - they were working, not for any selfish motive, but for the honor of the Master in the saving of souls, not only from a drunkard's grave but from a drunkard's eternity. "Touch not, Taste not, Handle not." What would have been the result if the Aarons and Hurrs of Rural Valley had not held up the hands of the temperance cause among you? Your church might have been mouldered to dust and your congregation gone to oblivion. Take courage from the past and press on in this good work and let the motto of each member of Rural Valley church be "Temperance in principal, and temperance in practice" and if you stand firm on this platform with the aid of your sister congregation beside you and the support of the Holy Spirit you will be able by your precept and example to place Rural Valley in the front rank of temperance workers in this part of Armstrong Co. "Dare to do right. Dare to be true" and you will gain the victory and the reward of "Well done, good and faithful servants."
Of the Singing and Praise Service.
Being asked by one of your pastors a few years ago, to prepare a history of the congregational singing and praise service of Rural Valley church since its first organization, I have deferred doing so until the present time. The singing was led while occupying the log and brick churches principally by A. L. Robinson, Richard E. Caruthers, William McIntosh, Hamlet Totten and Isaac Rhea. J. E. Caruthers, J. H. Ewing, and Joseph Rhea were appointed Leaders shortly after occupying the frame church, Joseph Rhea moving away, J. T. Hosack and James McFarland were appointed with the others named. In the spring of 1852 in the absence of all the leaders J. C. Rhea was asked to start the tune, which he did being then in his fifteenth year. Previous to this the custom was for the clerks as they were called, to stand up in front of the pulpit, one starting the tune and another giving out the line, each verse of the hymn, two lines at a time, hymn books becoming more numerous this custom was supplemented by the leaders either sitting in one of the pews beside the pulpit of in their own individual seats giving each other the sign to start the tune by a look or nod of the head. One year later J. E. Caruthers left to study for the ministry and Mr. McFarland and J. T. Hosack wishing to be released the starting of the tunes depended on J. H. Ewing and J. C. Rhea. I might say leading for after we started the tune the congregation invariably led the leaders lowering the pitch and dragging the time. Shortly after this J. M. Ewing agreed to assist, he was very timorous and careful lest he would make a mistake in the time, in the selection or in the pitch of the tune. His correctness in time and fine ear for music was a noted characteristic of him. The whole congregation miss his practice among them which was generally given without any recompense being asked for or received. In 1859, J. H. Ewing ceased to take an active part. The music books used before this date were all patent or buckwheat notes except one, the Carmina Sacra used by a Mr. Orr in conducting a class in 1847. In the spring of 1859 Mr. John James held a singing convention in the church using the Cythra music book, the best one to my mind ever used in the congregation. His class consisted of forty-five young men and a proportionate number of young ladies and children. Great enthusiasm was stirred up in the congregation in regard to the church music. A number of singers were seated in the center of the middle block of pews one Sabbath morning by the leader of the convention. The leaders of the congregation not agreeing with the arrangement, thinking it premature, did not assist, but finding it met with the approval of the congregation, a choir was formed. About that time a legally called meeting of the congregation appointed J. C. Rhea and J. M. Ewing leaders of the choir. J. C. Stewart and David McElroy were appointed at a later date to assist but they only acted for a short time. The selection of the congregation was approved by the session. A list was then made out by the leaders of the best singers, six for soprano, four for alto and eight for bass, the leaders to carry on the tenor. This list was presented to the session for their approval which was granted unanimously by them and with it full privilege to the leaders to take into the choir at any time, any one qualified to assist them. While the choir has always been under the control of the session, they have never interfered with any arrangement the leaders have made, for this reason the leaders have always felt under great obligations to them, acting with caution not only in the selection of the members of the choir but also in reference to the character and qualifications of any one wishing to teach music in the bounds of the congregation, for this caution the leaders have often been severely censured. The responsibility of the choir leader should always cause him to consider carefully these two points, who his assistants are and who their instructors are. The professors employed by the leaders have been Professors James, Sherritt, Brown, Kiskadden and Robinson, all men of good talent and unimpeachable character. J. M. Ewing left the neighborhood about fourteen years ago. J. C. Rhea continued to be leader till he handed in his resignation to the session last spring. The ups and downs of the choir have been many. Thirteen years after it was formed an organ was brought into the church and placed in the gallery or raised seats occupied by the choir at the back part of the church. A part of a seat was cut out to make room for it, this was done without consulting either the trustees, session or choir leaders. No one objected to the using of an organ in the church, but the wrong management in the way it was brought in and the position it was placed and replaced caused a commotion that was not at all pleasant causing the choir seats to be occupied for a considerable length of time, only by the two leaders, Mrs. Rev. Morgan, the organist, and one other lady. This state of affairs continued for some time when the leaders took in about fifteen new members, forming a new choir. This action of the leaders was opposed by the old choir, but was sanctioned by the session and a majority of the congregation. While this was a sad state of affairs to pass through, yet the money was raised by some means to pay for the organ and the singing of the congregation was greatly improved. Since that time there has been no serious trouble in the choir for which you should all be very thankful. The music books used in the church music have been "The Cythra," "The Temple Choir," "The Coronation," "The Triumph," "The Anthem Choir" and the church Hymn book. When using the church hymn book the tunes set to the hymns have been generally sung, the music might be often improved by making other selections and occasionally introducing new tunes. The principal organists have been Mrs. Mary E. Morgan, Miss Lizzie Huber, Miss Anna Richards, Miss Emma McGranahan and Miss Anna M. Rhea. There has been seventy-seven members in the choir since its organization and their names are as follows: J. C. Rhea, J. M. Ewing, J. C. Stewart, David McElroy, George Atkin, Mary J. Ewing, Sallie A. B. Totten, Mollie Totten, Martha McElroy, William F. Ewing, J. H. Patric, Robert McElroy, J. L. Ewing, Lizzie Huber, Cardilla McCurdy, Lucy Kline, Rebecca Kline, Zachariah Kline, Mary E. Patric, Mary Kirkpatrick, Martha Kirkpatrick, Joseph Morehead, Miller Morehead, C. J. Stewart, Nancy Jane Stewart, Effie McKinny, Lucinda C. Myers, David Kline, Martha Craig, Susan Craig, John McKinny, Mrs. Mary E. Morgan, Elizabeth Foster, Margary Foster, Ella Caruthers, Mary J. Caruthers, Ed Smith, Joseph Huber, Charles Huber, Henry Trollinger, Isaac Trollinger, H. B. Schall, Thomas Christy, Lizzie Christy, Baxter Bowers, Jennie E. Bowers, Malinda McFarland, James McKelvy, Margaret McKelvy, Margaretta McKelvy, John McKelvy, Anna Richards, Emma McGranahan, Dow Kirkpatrick, David Kirkpatrick, John Patric, Reece Patric, Jackson Foster, Adaline Neel, Samuel Foster, Rebecca Trollinger, Anna M. Rhea, William M. Rhea, Rose Gallagher, Lyda McFarland, James Sloan, Ada Sloan, William Sloan, J. R. Ambrose, William T. Patterson, Mary Trollinger, Elda Patterson, Dora Schrecongost, Newton Simpson, Frasia Marshal, and Lena Gourley. Some of these have families around them, some have moved to other states and neighborhoods, and some very near and dear to us have gone to their long home. We trust to sing praises not as they did here but with the spirit and understanding also to him who liveth forever and ever. Some have fallen on the battle field, others have been buried in distant graveyards and some in yonder cemetery on the hill, and we who remain will soon follow. Who will be the next? Let us each that remain bring this question home to ourselves and be ready for the watchman when he comes. I cannot close without saying that more depends on the choir than the congregation is willing to admit. They are generally very sensitive. They have to spend a great deal of time preparing themselves. They need to be encouraged in many ways. One is if they want some one to hold a singing convention help to get the money raised, don't close every avenue where a convention might be held. Encourage a convention, one every year. It will help the singing in your families, it will develop the talent God has given you to praise his holy name. It will arouse you who are older to more activity in church work, and above all pray for them; they need your prayers. Don't watch for mistakes and speak of and advertise every one they make, but be sure and encourage them, and you and they and the whole congregation and community will receive your reward and the satisfaction of realizing that you have done what you could. Of the original members of the choir of 1859 only one remains with you in the choir at the present time. May her singing days not only last through time but also throughout eternity.
Of the Work of Church Building.
The first building before referred to was of hewed logs, cracks chunked with blocks of wood and daubed with mortar, ceiling low, pulpit a ten bushel box, seats made of slabs with wooden legs. From the best information received it was built by the congregation and citizens donating their time and labor in furnishing timber and preparing it and in gathering together in mass to raise the building. The pioneers at that time could use the axe and adze with sufficient exactness to construct a building as above described with but a small amount of money. Some could make the shingles, others give logs for boards, one log being given for the sawing of one, the only money being needed for nails and glass for the windows. Before the organization was removed to the village it became necessary to enlarge this building. This was done by extending one side or wall about fifteen feet and covering it with a shade roof. The brick church on the hill was located on a lot procured of Alex Foster, and commenced shortly after the organization was removed to the village. The contract was given to Mr. Abraham Beer, of this township, but now deceased. In architecture this church building was in advance of the average church buildings of that day. Its ceiling was arched, its windows were arched, and its pulpit as in Ezra's time was very high above all the people. A son of the contractor informs me that the greatest query in his mind was how his father would get the glass cut to fit the arched sash. Mr. John Stoops as one of the original members of the congregation was employed by Mr. Beer to do the brick work. Rev. Painter in speaking of the alacrity and celerity with which the material was obtained and the work completed says it was wonderful. It might be well here to refer to an incident which occurred in that church which might be of use to us all. Shortly after the church was completed, the pews being sold, the owners of the seats them times did not differ much from the occupants of some of our pews at the present time. The lame, the halt, the blind and the poor were not always welcomed guests. In the case referred to a member of the congregation invited a neighbor's children to come to preaching in the new church. Two of them somewhere in their `teens came early one Sabbath morning seating themselves in one of the front pews. Shortly after, the owner of the seat coming in, said to them, "This is my seat, you must get another." They did so. Then another coming into the seat they were occupying said to them, "You must find another." The two young folks got up, went out and went home and never went back to the church again, and I believe never to preaching in Rural Village. Better to usher the children in than to bar them out in that way. The building committee for the frame church built in 1850 was Joseph Alcorn, Hamlet Totten and William McIntosh. The contract was given to Mr. Alexander Patric who is still with you. This building was also an improvement on the plan of the surrounding churches of that day. It was fifty one by sixty one feet. Its roof was self supporting. The committee deserve credit for the plan they adopted and Mr. Patric for the substantial structure erected. He laid the foundation deep and made the pillars strong. Mr. James Aikins also helped in the work. The contract was taken for fifteen hundred dollars. Of this amount fifty dollars was donated by the contractors to the committee. The congregation not being able to raise the whole amount when the work was completed, the contractor was advised to take a mechanic's lien on the building which he did. This effected first the committee, then the trustees and then the whole congregation. The trustees were William Sloan, J. H. Ewing, J. E. Caruthers, Dr. William Atkin and David Simpson. These were trying times but providence opened an unexpected channel of resources by which they were greatly assisted by the timely help of a Miss Wooly, of New York, a friend of the pastor Rev. Forbes. The balance was raised by the selling of the pews. The pastor's salary has been raised until recently by an assessment on the pews, now it is raised by subscription, making the sitting in the church free to all. The present building was first spoken of in Rev. Kelley's pastorate. Prior to that time however, Mr. John Cowan left a bequest of two hundred dollars to the trustees of Rural Valley church. The principal to be used for the building of a new church when needed and the interest to be used for congregational purposes. The Young People of the Christian Endeavor Society, commenced in Rev. Kelley's time to raise a fund for the furnishing of a new church. Seventy five dollars was raised then and that amount has been increased at different times since. At a joint meeting of the session and trustees May 9th 1891, all the members being present, they decided by a unanimous vote that the time had come to arrange for the building of a new church. They also decided that the building should be large enough to seat at least five hundred, that in cost without furnishing it should not exceed four thousand dollars. That the money should be raised by subscription, that it should be paid in three equal payments, the first the 1st of January, 1892, the second the 1st of May and the third when the building is completed. Building to be commenced May 1st, 1892. A congregational meeting being called the congregation met May 23rd, 1891, and unanimously approved the action of the session and trustees. Congregation also appointed the trustees a committee to take up subscriptions, instructing them to commence August 1st, 1891. At an adjourned meeting, June 21st, 1891, the congregation elected Robert McFarland, Joseph Templeton, Andrew S. Marshal, A. J. McIntosh and H. B. Schall a building committee. A. J. McIntosh and Robert McFarland resigning James Hilty and Dr. J. M. Pettigrew were appointed in their stead. At a congregational meeting March 1st, 1892, committee reported that they could not build a church of a five hundred seating capacity for four thousand dollars. At a congregational meeting, April 5th, 1892, congregation instructed committee to let contract but not to exceed forty three hundred dollars. Committee having adopted plan No. 14, received from D. B. Price, architect, at a meeting April 16th, 1892, received bids which resulted in their giving the contract of the building proper without the expense of hauling and furnishing to the Rarie Brothers for forty three hundred and fifty dollars and sixty cents. The architecture of this building is also in advance of many others. The lamp posts of the frame church supplemented by a grand chandelier, the old fashioned pulpit by a modern platform. The Sabbath School or lecture room added, the improved plan of heating the church, the raised floor and circular seats, the more comfortable and appropriate place for the choir are all improvements worth noting down. The committee certainly deserve great credit for the plan adopted and the contractor for the work performed. Mr. George Stoops and Mr. John Gearhold were employed to do the mason work. Mr. Stoops, soon after taking sick before the work was completed, was called away to his long home. M. Gearhold finished the work, doing it very satisfactorily. He also did the lettering on the corner stone and has since died. The whole debt and cost of the church is as follows: Paid to Rarie Bros., four thousand thirty-nine dollars and sixty four cents; pews and pulpit, five hundred eighty-three dollars; frescoing, one hundred and twenty-five dollars; plan and specification, thirty dollars; paid money for hauling, ten dollars; boarding stone mason, twelve dollars and forty-three cents; hauling donated, five hundred dollars; furnishing, five hundred dollars; insurance, seventy dollars; interest, forty dollars; whole amount, six thousand dollars and seven cents, as reported by the treasurer of the building committee, Dr. J. M. Pettigrew, on the day the church was dedicated, May 7th, 1893. The accomplishing of this great work in so short a time is certainly great encouragement to you to continue to work for the Master, and while this building stands as a memorial for the great work you have just completed for time. May it also stand as an incentive to each one of us to prepare for and build that greater building, the building for eternity.
"We are building in sorrow or joy a temple the world cannot see,
Which time cannot mar or destroy. We build for eternity.
Every thought we have ever had, its own little place has filled,
Every deed we have done, good or bad, is a stone in the Temple we build.
Every word that so lightly falls, giving some heart joy or pain,
Will shine in our Temple walls, or ever its beauty stain.
Are you building for God alone, are you building in faith and love
A temple the Father will own in the city of light and love."
Early on Sabbath morning, May 7, 1893, a large congregation of at least six hundred met in the new Presbyterian church at Rural Village to hear the dedicatory services. A number of ministers programmed for, not being present the services were conducted by Rev. H. L. Mayers, of Kittanning, Rev. G. W. Mechling, D. D., of Glade Run, Rev. E. P. Sloan, of French Creek, West Virginia; Rev. S. S. Gilson, of the Presbyterian Banner, and Rev. F. X. Miron, the pastor, assisted by the Rev. J. B. Wampler, of the Progressive Bretheren Church, and Rev. D. J. Frum, of the M. E. Church. Rev. Mayers preached the opening sermon from Matthew 7:29, on the authority of Christ. His discourse was attentively listened to and much appreciated. At the close of his sermon Dr. J. M. Pettigrew, treasurer of the building committee, reported a balance of eleven hundred and four dollars and ninety nine cents still unpaid on the building of the church. Rev. Mayers then asked the congregation in a very pleasant manner to pay off this indebtedness. They responded promptly. First by five fifty dollar subscriptions, then by twenty-fives, fifteens, tens and fives. The fives seemingly being almost exhausted Mr. A. E. Seits' subscription of one hundred and twelve dollars was called out. This was the crowning subscription of the main indebtedness which was all raised in the fifty five minutes programmed for it. The spirit of giving having manifested itself so profusely, Rev. Mayers suggested that as there was some repairing yet to be done that the time for taking up subscriptions would not yet close and also that the children of the Sabbath School be allowed the privilege at the afternoon service of giving one brick in the way of one dollar subscriptions to the building of the church. After the singing of the dedicatory anthem by the choir Dr. Mechling closed this part of the service with the dedicatory prayer. After a recess when all present were very much refreshed by the generous hospitality of the good people of the congregation, Dr. Mechling preached a sermon referring in his discourse to some very interesting reminiscences of some of the former pastors, members of session and Seminary students of Rural Valley congregation. At the close of his remarks thirty-five Sabbath School children responded with one dollar subscriptions, one name being recorded of a child seven weeks old. Other subscriptions still coming in, some from neighboring congregations, thankfully received, increased the whole amount received to fifteen hundred fifty-five dollars and ten cents. With a willingness still manifested to give more, this amount added to the twelve hundred dollars received the previous Sabbath in the M. E. Church is very encouraging to the whole congregation. The Rural Valley Church can now fully appreciate the quotation from Nehemiah so fully verified which was presented to them so forcibly by their pastor in one of his first sermons in reference to the great work before them. "That the God of Heaven He will prosper us therefore we His servants will arise and build." The choir was assisted by Miss Anna M. Rhea, of Slate Lick, and others. The music was very good, well performed, and all the selections, especially the dedicatory anthem very appropriate. After an evening recess Rev. Gilson preached a very able sermon to a large congregation. This was the closing service of a great work done, and a day long to be remembered from which we were loath to part but much pleased and gratified that we were permitted to attend.
My history closed whether too long or too short,
I have named over some very dear to my heart.
Whether writer, or pastor or session all three,
With temperance and Sabbath School all do agree.
Trustees, mission work, with prayer meeting blend,
While endeavor and praise service closely attend.
If in building each do in harmony agree,
Dedicatory service will set them all free.
With a place to convene God's name to adore,
Endless praises to Jesus to sing evermore.
The Rural Valley congregation being made up principally of tillers of the soil, being an agricultural people, they have not many of them entered the professional rank, yet the common schools of this vicinity can boast of the quality and of the bountiful supply of teachers furnished by it. Some being professional, some normal and seminary graduates and some very proficient in music, but few, comparatively few, have entered the ministry. Richard A. Caruthers, M. E., for many years presiding elder in the Clarion district and in the state of Kansas. Alexander M. Elgin, M. E., being licensed to preach in his twentieth year, shortly after enlisted in his country's service, and while battling against its foes was stricken down with typhoid fever. Away from home friends, except his own father, he was called to that better country to receive the crown of life.
Servant of God, well done,
Thy glorious warfare's past,
The battle's fought, the victory's won,
And thou art crowned at last.
J. E. Caruthers, before referred to, and B. S. Sloan, now of Indiana, Pa., Anderson Forbes, Missionary to the Sandwich Islands, Wm. F. Ewing, being delicate when preparing for the ministry, however accepted a call to the Central Church, Mount Pleasant, Blairsville Presbytery, and after serving that people very acceptably for about ten years, he resigned on account of ill health. Shortly after his resignation, thinking that his health might be restored, he moved to Minnesota, but God in His providence ordered otherwise. After but a few months stay, far distant from friends and acquaintances, except his own family, he was called to that eternal home, where there is no more sorrow, neither any more pain. J. C. R. Ewing and James McCombs have gone to "India's Coral Strand," Samuel Flemming, Synodical Missionary of the state of Kansas, and E. T. Sloan, of French Creek, West Virginia, all Presbyterians but the first two named. James E. McIntosh was preparing for the ministry, but the Master summoned him up higher early in his preparatory course. Miss Anna Maria Rhea, being much interested in the cause of missions, after graduating at Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pa., was arranging to do home mission work among the Indians in a western field but God also said to her, "Thus far shalt thou go." Her health failing she spent the few last remaining months of her life teaching the children of the rolling mill district, near Kittanning. Not being sufficiently recompensed in a financial way, she still felt that God had called her to this work, being loath even on account of extreme weakness to give it up. She was, however, taken to her home near Greendale, and in the early winter of 1865 she died rejoicing in God her Saviour. "Oh, I see the angels coming," was one of her last expressions. "In the Christian's home in Glory," "A home in Heaven" and "Beulah Land" were some of the praises she wished sung, being so precious to her in her dying moments. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." Only five have entered the legal profession: J. Alvin Ewing, now of Leadville, Colorado, W. J. Christy, of Kittanning, also J. H. Patric, of Clarion, Pa., J. B. Patric, of Harrisburg, and Reece Patric, now in the west, all sons of the venerable Alexander Patric who is still with you. Another son of Mr. Patric, Elmer, of Sharpsburg, Pa., studied pharmacy. Alexander T. Ormond at one time a member of this congregation, is now a professor of mental science and logic at Princeton, New Jersey. A brother of Professor Ormond, Otto A., is now studying electric engineering. Dr. Wm. Atkin for many years a leading citizen among you, served your church at one time as a trustee. Doctors George Atkin and T. F. Stockdill are the only physicians that have been in full membership. Dr. J. M. Pettigrew has been a supporter and a willing worker for over thirty years, being treasurer of the church funds for a long time, at the present time a member of the building committee and treasurer of the building fund. The members received while Rev. Kerr was with you was 103. At the great revival of 1887 one hundred and ten were added to the church. The congregation has generally given very liberally to all the boards of the church. Rev. Wm. F. Morgan was sent as a delegate to the general assembly twice. Rev. J. Horner Kerr once, also elders Hamlet Totten, Isaac Rhea and J. E. Caruthers have been representatives. In 1874, about forty members left the Rural Valley Church and connected themselves with the Atwood congregation, it being a new organization and much more convenient. In the pastoral relation you have been connected first with Kittanning, Rev. Joseph Painter, pastor; second with Glade Run, Revs. Mason and Forbes pastors; third with Elderton, Rev. Wm. F. Morgan, pastor; fourth with Atwood, Rev. N. B. Kelly, pastor; and fifth at the present time with Concord, Rev. F. X. Miron, pastor. Rev. J. Horner Kerr being the only pastor called to this church for full time.
There closing words close not the work
Which Rural Valley church has one.
It will go on till time shall end,
Its influence ever to extend.
Let's hope and pray that at time's close,
All in the Saviour may repose.
J. C. RHEA.
Formerly of Greendale, Armstrong County,
But now of Slate Lick, Pa.
(INSIDE BACK COVER)
[Six pictures of the church and its neighborhood, captioned Photos Circa 1908]