First Presbyterian

October 3rd, 2007

According to a petition presented at the meeting of the Presbytery of Northumberland held at Lewisburg on April 17, 1873, a group was praying for the organization of a Presbyterian Church at Watsontown, PA. The Presbytery appointed the Reverend J.C. Watson, the Reverend B.L. James and Elder Robert Laird as a committee to organize the church if the way was clear. On June 1, 1873, after a sermon by the Reverend J.C. Watson, the First Presbyterian Church of Watsontown was organized with the following members joining:

Mary BrysonElizabeth CampbellMartha HunterSamuel W. Riddell
Martha BrysonEllen CampbellMartha HunterAlmira Russell
Martha BrysonMary CampbellJane N. LowryEdmund H. Russell
Rebecca BrysonMargaret GuffyMary E. LowryJames L. Schooley
Samuel C. BrysonFrances HammondAnnie R. McKeanMary Ann Seiler
Sarah BrysonEllen HughesLucinda J. McKeanEmma J. Shay
William B. BrysonEmily HughesMargaret McKeanPhilip Shay
William Bryson, Jr.Elizabeth HunterRebecca McKeeCharles Sterner
Stephen J. BreasleyDr. Joseph H. HunterSarah McKeePhebe Sterner
Mary Breasley

William B. Bryson was elected and installed along with Dr. Joseph H. Hunter and Samuel W. Riddell who were elected, ordained and installed as Ruling Elders. Samuel Caldwell, Philip Shay and James L. Schooley were elected Trustees. The organization was called the First Presbyterian Church of Watsontown, PA.

In 1874, the present church was built at a cost of $13,000 and dedicated on January 5, 1875. The chapel was finished first and the services were held in it for some time. A pipe organ was installed sometime between 1881 and 1883.

On July 15, 1917, after ten months of work, the congregation dedicated the newly renovated church. The main auditorium was completely remodeled, refurnished and decorated. The floor was raised at the front entrance and sloped to the pulpit allowing an unobstructed view from each pew. The ceiling and walls were frescoed in oil by Fred Shantz, one of the finest artists of Williamsport. Nine new Tiffany stained glass windows, including the beautiful large window in front were added to those already in place. A new brick addition was added to the chapel in the rear providing an infant department. The kitchen was added with the most modern conveniences of that day. The spire was improved with a new slate covering and topped with a handsome new weather vane finial and the entire exterior of the building was given a fresh coat of paint.

Three handsome windows were placed in the Presbyterian Church the last week of July, 1925. One was in memory of Andrew J. Guffy; “The Good Shepherd” was in memory of the first pastor, the Reverend George Elliott presented by the Ladies’ Aid Society; and “Christ Knocking at the Door” was presented by Miss Reba Vincent’s Sabbath school class.

Between 1937 and 1950 the chimes were purchased.

In 1965 the interior of the church was once again redecorated. The walls and ceilings were repainted and improved lighting installed. The floor of Fellowship Hall was refinished and new electric heaters placed in two of the classrooms. The heating system in the basement of the church building was revamped in 1966 and an additional classroom created by installing a folding door. Also in 1966, the congregation adopted a new structural organization creating a Unicameral Board by merging the trustees with the Session.

Pastors serving First Presbyterian include:

George Elliot1873-1880August H. Wessells1959-1963
David Kennedy1881-1883Jay C. Lesher1964-1968
George L. VanAlen1885-1894Charles T. Newberry, III1969-1973
J. McClure Knox1895-1897H. Timothy Halverson1974-1981
Wm. K. Foster1898-1906William D. Chancellor1982-1985
Henry C. Sperbeck1906-1913Dr. John W. Graham1987-1989
L. Norman Leith1914-1929Paul E. Bench1990-1995
A. Franklin Faucette1929-1936Elizabeth Affsprung1995-2006
Harry W. McConnell1937-1950
Thomas S. Wood1951-1959

[First Presbyterian Church, Watsontown, Minutes of Session, dated July 5, 1873, pg. 1-2; The Record and Star, July 13, 1917, pg. 1; The Record and Star, July 31, 1925, pg 8; The Milton Standard, August 11, 1967, pg 43]

Last Modified: 12.27.22

One Response

  1. Laura Smith Says:

    Rev. Paul A. Smith began serving the First Presbyterian church as a full time pastor in Feb. 2008

    Comment by James Robison: Laura ~ thank you for the update.

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