First Baptist

October 3rd, 2007


The Watsontown Baptist Church is the oldest organization of that denomination in the northern part of Northumberland County and had its origins back to a traveling Baptist missionary by the name of Elder Thomas Smiley. As early as 1825 Elder Smiley would preach along the Susquehanna River including Watsontown where many residents were interested in his message. Among these people were Robert, Lucy, and Joseph Everitt, H. Delaney and his wife, and Amos S. Anderson.

William S. Hall of White Deer Valley with the assistance of W.B. Bingham orchestrated a series of religious meetings at the Swamp Schoolhouse at Bald Eagle and Sinking Springs Road (now Fifth and Liberty Streets) in May of 1840. Mr. Hall continued services at Watsontown, Scott’s school house and Abram Sterner’s grove for sometime, and at frequent intervals administered baptism. At one such occasion at Delaware Run school house, he found the door had been closed to him by certain Pedo-Baptists of the neighborhood. Not wishing to create a disturbance and forbidding anyone to resort to violent methods to enter the door, he preached from the saddle of his horse taking for his text, “and the door was shut.” There was a large audience around him and he preached with his accustomed earnest and affectionate manner. This incident led to the subsequent building of the Union Baptist house of worship within sight of the spot where Brother Hall preached from the saddle. As a result of these efforts the following members at White Deer Valley and Clinton were organized as a regular Baptist Church on August 12, 1841. The sermon at the service that Sunday was delivered by Elder D.C. Waite; prayer by Elder J. Green Miles; the right hand of fellowship was offered by Isaac Jones and the charge to the newly organized church was given by W.S. Hall who became the first pastor. The first members of the congregation were:

Amos AndersonSamuel DaughertyRobert EverittBenjamin Oyster
Elizabeth AndersonElizabeth EverittMargaret GuffyCatherine Oyster
Lansing BurrowsJoseph Everitt, Jr.Catherine HayesEsther Oyster
Mary BurrowsJoseph Everitt, Sr.Mary Ann MackeyJohn Oyster
William W. BurrowsLucy Ann EverittMary McCoyJohn Snyder
Thomas Crawford

The Church was accepted into the Northumberland Baptist Association at a special meeting in the Madison Baptist Church, Moreland County, August 13, 1841. The first deacons of the church were Robert Everitt and A.S. Anderson. Others who have served as deacons up to 1867 included D. Dougherty, B. Oyster, Peter Dentler, and Joseph Everitt. The clerks of the church up to 1867 included John Snyder, J. Everitt, Levi S. Hayes, and R. Nicholas. The membership grew to 60 in 1843 and they continued meeting at Sinking Springs Swamp schoolhouse and at Delaware Run until the congregation decided to build a house of worship. Land was deeded to the congregation on July 7, 1845 by Abraham Sterner. The first place of worship was a small frame building situated near the center of Delaware Township in a wooded grove along Delaware Run. It was built in 1847 and it was here the congregation met until they moved to their present location in Watsontown in 1870. The pastor would use Delaware Run for baptisms. The deacons governed the church and were responsible for admonishing members and would dismiss members for not going to church, for any discretions, or for not contributing at least $1 to the preacher’s annual salary. On February 23, 1858 Samuel Daugherty and Joseph Everitt agreed to sell a parcel of the land to Levi S. Hayes for $5 for him to build a home on and in accordance with the agreement Hayes would maintain the church by making fires and lighting the church when the congregation would meet for public worship. It was also stipulated that if Hayes left the property it would return to the ownership of the congregation. A cemetery was located near the church and the following names on the tombstones were recorded by WPA in 1937: Amos S. Anderson (December 24, 1800 – November 11, 1871) and Elizabeth Anderson (February 16, 1805 – April 4, 1883); G.W. Anderson, son of Amos and Elizabeth (October 11, 1835 – June 14, 1866); Emeline Anderson, daughter of Amos and Elizabeth (1846 – November 28, 1864); David A. Bastian, son of George and Mary (1 year, 7 months); Robert M. Biggart (November 16, 1834 – July 12, 1861); William W. Burrows (1821-1899); Joseph Everitt (October 19, 1782 – December 2, 1853); William W. Everitt (March 15, 1808 – August 19, 1879); Margaret A. Gray, daughter of H. and L. (April 20, 1845 – May 11, 1864); Nancy J. Giggart (March 8, 1861 – January 6, 1864); Martha B. Giggart (October 10, 1862 – July 6, 1864); Hannah Hayes, daughter of Levi and E.L. (December 4, 1842 – April 12, 1845); Emma H. Hayes, daughter of Levi and E.L. (August 19, 1845 – January 16, 1846); Elizabeth Hayes, daughter of Levi and E.L. (April 30, 1847 – August 18, 1847); Christian Hilland and Mary A. Hilland (died June 26, 1853); Daniel Hoffman and Sarah M. Hoffman (February 15, 1818 – July 30, 1855); David McKean (July 2, 1799 – February 3, 1860); James Miller (1806 – September 2, 1853); Susanna S. Reeder (July 8, 1849 – May 25, 1901); Peter Shady (February 23, 1824 – June 27, 1901) and Mary A. Shady; William W. Shady, son of Peter and Mary; Harvey W. Shady, son of Peter and Mary (December 10, 1856 – October 16, 1887). According to papers there were six veterans of the Civil War interred at the cemetery. They were William W. Burrows (1821 – 1899) who was a private in Co. H, 53 Regt., PA Inf.; Joseph Falls (d. October 20, 1893, aged 52 yrs, 9 mos, and 25 days) who was in the 7th Cav., Co. D; Jacob D. Smith who was in the 7th Cav., Co. D and there is no marker at his gravesite; George Anderson (d. June 14, 1866, aged 30 yrs, 8 mos, and 3 days) who was in Co. A; Peter Shady (d. June 27, 1901, aged 77 yrs, 4 mos, and 4 days) who was in Co. D, 7th Cav. PA Vol.; and Robert M. Biggart (December 16, 1834 – December 12, 1864) died a soldier in Co. D, 7th PA Cav in Browns General U.S. Hospital in Louisville, KY of typhoid fever. Supposedly there is also one Revolutionary War soldier buried here as well by the name of James Miller.

On November 17, 1866 the congregation changed its name from Union Baptist Church, Delaware Run to Watsontown Baptist Church by unanimous consent but they continued to meet in the old edifice north of town. From 1866 to 1868 J.S. Hudson was the principal preacher supplying the pulpit for the congregation. In June of 1868 Elder A.C. Wheat was elected pastor and served from November 7, 1868 to April 1, 1872. On July 2, 1869 a building committee consisting of Joseph Everitt, chairperson; George Burns, Theodore Carey and James W. Johnson was appointed to collect funds and build a new meeting house. The lot was purchased from George Burns for $687. A contract was drawn up on July 14, 1870 with Conrad Springer and Lewis Koch to build a wooden structure on the corner of Fifth and Main Streets for the cost of $3,500. The members would bring their own oil lamps to the meetings and met in the basement of the church until the building was completed. Ladders were used to get to the second story and to the basement. The new building was dedicated on February 26, 1871 with Elder T.O. Lincoln preaching at the morning service and Elder G.J. Brensinger of Sunbury preaching in the evening. It was said the preaching was so effectual that the offering amounted to $775.50 leaving only a small debt to pay on the building.

Elder A.H. Emmons became pastor on September 1, 1872 and continuing for three years. On January 15, 1876 Elder P.T. Warren of Maryland assumed the pastorate. The Watsontown Baptist Church was incorporated on November 13, 1876 when their petition for the charter was approved by the Honorable William M. Rockefeller, Esq. The following were signers on behalf of the congregation: Samuel Daugherty, Joseph Everitt, Owen Hart, Theodore Carey, and Thomas G. Armstrong. Although the membership became larger, funds became more scarce and the church had quite a struggle for the next ten years. The building was even put up for sale, but the community assisted financially by using the church for school classes. In 1884, the church united with Turbotville, with the Reverend R.C. Catteral as the regular pastor.

In 1896, the Reverend D.M. Lennox became the pastor and the congregation decided to build a brick church. Part of the frame building was torn down and the present building started. The cornerstone reads: 1870 – Rebuilt 1897. The lot at Delaware Run was sold for $40. A big revival was held in 1899 and funds were raised to furnish the new building. The insides of the building took 30 years to finish and included a baptistry that was so large that people had to stand on boxes to be baptized. This was added in 1901 and was located just under the present pulpit. The church united with White Deer in 1917 and in 1924 when the Reverend Golightly came to serve as pastor it was decided to complete the work inside the building. The sum of $3,524 was raised to complete the church not including the pews that were donated which are still in use in the church. A new baptistry was built in the front of the church and the old one was covered with a platform for a pulpit. The dedication service for the completed building took place on Sunday, August 22, 1925 with Dr. George B. Sawson, professor of philosophy at Bucknell University as the principal speaker. Dr. Sawson’s address was entitled, “The Nature of the Church.” The choir master, Mr. Bert Strickland, arranged special music for the entire day, including anthems by an enlarged choir, with special selections by male voices and a number of duets and solos.

Six stained glass windows adorn the Baptist sanctuary, each purchased by a fraternal organization of Watsontown. The Honey Bee was presented by the Traveling Men; the Seeing Eye and 3 Link Chain was presented by Lodge No. 619 I.O.O.F.; the Masonic Emblem was presented by Lodge No. 401 F. & A.M.; the GAR emblem was presented by No. 225 G.A.R. Bryson Post; the Knights of the Golden Eagle emblem was presented by No. 217 Freeland Castle K.G.E.; and the Sons of Veterans emblem was presented by Hunter Camp No. 225 Sons of Veterans.

A number of pastors served in the years after the Reverend Golightly left, some of which were students from Bucknell University. Many improvements were made to the church and finally in 1958, the first parsonage was acquired on Elm Street from the Renn sisters. A large oil painting of the Good Shepherd was added back of the baptistry in 1962 and was painted by Marlin K. Troutman.

In May 1971 two groups came together, the Senior Girl Scout Troop No. 1242 of Watsontown and the men of the Wesleyan Church, to clear the under brush, trim the trees and to upright markers on the nearly forgotten Baptist Cemetery. Again on March 24, 1990, a group of about twenty-five members of the Watsontown Baptist Church gathered to clean the cemetery.

Pastors serving First Baptist Church include:

Elder William S. Hall1841-1843S.H. Fetterolf1916
Elder John Edminston1843-1848W.H. Savage1917
Elder Wm. T. Bunker1849-1853William D. Golightly1924-1925
Elder Joshua Kelly1857-1858Delaine E. Story1925-1928
Elder J. Green Miles1860-1864Maurice R. Entwistle1929-1931
Brother A.C. Wheat1868-1872Henry A. Young1932-1936
Brother A.H. Emmons1872-75; 1889-90A.R. Moore1936-1937
P.T. Warren1876Charles Eby1938-1943
J.M. Lyons1877James A. Lewis1943-1948
Brother David Williams1879James Middleton1948-1949
Brother E.C. Houck1882C. Douglas Caffey1951-1962
Brother Bowser1886-1887Fred B. Ames1963-1971
R.C. Catterall1891-1895D. Gene Patterson1972-1979
E.A. Stewart1895Mark E. Ballard1980-1983
D.M. Lennox1896-1899Catherine S. Ballard1980-1983
W.W. Davis1900-1901J. Steven Reynolds1985-1994
J.E. Calvin1908-1912James R. Ritter1995-

[History of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, published by Everts and Stewart, Philadelphia, 1876; page 132; The Milton Standard, August 11, 1967, pg 34, 35, 36; The Record and Star, August 21, 1925, pg 1]

Last Modified: 12.27.22

4 Responses

  1. Sue Fairchild Says:

    We recently replaced our stained glass and have removed the fraternal organization panes and replaced them with Christian symbols. We have them available for anyone who is interested in them. We have also kept some of them and Rick Wolfe provided frames for them and they are hanging in our Sunday School room as reminders of our heritage!

    Comment by James Robison: I was sorry to hear that the congregation decided to remove the windows, but am relieved that you have kept them for posterity. Would love to have photographs taken of them as a historical record of the town’s past. I can remember walking along Main Street as a youngster and seeing the “eye of God” following me as I past the church.

  2. Sue Fairchild Says:

    Just to clarify – we still have our stained glass windows – we REFURBISHED them to include Christian Symbols and not the fraternal organizations. If I had your email I could send you some photos.

  3. Marlene Pegg Says:

    Your article indicates that my GGGrandfather Owen Hart was one of the signers of the church’s 1876 incorporation. Owen and his family were in Watsontown at least as early as 1870, when they appear in the census. His wife Mary died in 1872 and is buried in the Watsonville cemetery. Owen later lived with his daughter Lizzie (Hart) Pegg in Riverside until his death in 1896. Obituary materials says his body was taken to Watsonville for burial. Do your church records include any other information about Owen and Mary, their son James and daughter Elizabeth (Lizzie), and about the funerals of Mary and Owen? I would be happy to pay for copies of any of their records.

    Marlene Pegg
    [email protected]

    Comment by James Robison: Not aware of any documents, but would be glad to share them with you freely if I should happen to come across them.

  4. Marlene Pegg Says:

    Thanks, Mr. Robinson. If you find any mention of them, I’ll be glad to get the information. Marlene Pegg

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