Warrior Run Presbyterian

October 3rd, 2007


Warrior Run Presbyterian Church became a state historical site when it was deeded from the Northumberland Presbytery to the Pennsylvania Historical Commission in 1948. Prior to that time, it was the oldest denominational organization in the West Branch Valley – some believing that the congregation banded together as early as 1763. The earliest account of the historic church and its congregation is to be found in the journal of Philip V. Fithian, a licentiate who visited the area in 1775 under appointment of Donegal Presbytery. Fithian was a graduate of Princeton University and had studied with James Madison, Aaron Burr, “Light Horse Harry” Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) and was a tutor to Councellor Carter’s children. At that time, the church was a log building, as yet uncovered, located a short distance south of Watsontown. Arriving on July 12, 1775, Fithian preached on July 16 from a wagon, while the people sat on the ground. He recorded in his visit to the Watsontown area in his diary. “A large assembly gathered and I preached from a wagon, the only one which was present. The people sat on a rising ground before me. It looks off to see people sitting among bushes. All were attentive and I spoke the loudest and with more ease this day than I had ever done before.” Fithian referred to a meeting house “on the bank of the river, 10 miles from Northumberland. It is not yet covered.” It was constructed of logs and as a single length would not have given the desired size, another log was added by building up a small square midway each side. These alcoves were used as closets. The shingles and nails were there for the roof but never put on as it was burned by the Indians, probably at the time of the “Big Runaway.” There was also a burying ground nearby and according to a Mr. Hayes in 1936, most of the tombstones left there within his memory bore the name of Wilson. No graves were removed when the tannery was built in 1866 nor when the location was converted into the present Watsontown Memorial Park. The Watsontown Record and Star printed a copy of what was believed to be the first chart of pews for Warrior Run Church, which it obtained “from a quaint and curious chart of the first church building.” It was a plan of the building erected in 1779, not of the present church edifice. Pew rent was listed in pounds, shillings, and pence. Charles Irwin and Company rented pew no. 1 for two pounds, two shillings and six pence, the highest amount paid. Others on the chart that was “in all probability made at the time of the completion of the church” were: James Harrison, Samuel Barr, William Calhoun, John McCormick, William McCormick, Joseph Hutchinson Sr., Martha Corry, James Wilson, John Buchannon, John Fergeson, John W. McCurdy, John Wilson, Joseph Hutchinson, John Baird, Barnabas Ferron, Alxer Stuart, Thos. Wallace, Robert McKee, John McKinnie, Bruce Innis, John Irvin, James Story, James Durham, Cornelius Waldron, Thos. Gillmore, Thos. Wilson, Robert Miller, James Hammond, John Brow, Esq., Geo. Hammond, John Woods, Robert Craig, Jane Brown, James Falls, Andrew Foster, James Allison, John Watson, Wm. Shaw, Robert Shaw, Samuel Bline, Bethuel Vincent, John Burroughs, Wm. Haslet, Esq., Thos. DeArmond, Robert DeArmond, Andrew Russell, Patrick Russell, Robert Robertson, Fleming Wilson, John Bryson, minister; John Wilson, Joseph Hutchinson, David Shannon, David Hunter, Joseph Hammond, Wm. Boyd, John Thomas, Wm. Kirk, Robert Montgomery, John Montgomery, James McAffee, James Welch Sr., John Quigley, Hugh Wilson, John Haus, John Smith, Samuel All, Wm. Ruckman, Jacob Bruner, Alex’r Guffy, Samuel Daugherty and Alex’r Foresman. The above embraced all the pews in the body of the building. There were 41 pews, many of which had several person sharing them. There were 24 pews in the large gallery, which ran around three sides of the building. Their renters were: John Allison, Wm. Scott, Patrick Dickson, John McKinney, Alex. Dunbar, David McGuire, Jos. McGuire, Thomas Barr, Anthony Moore, Geo. McCoy, Robt. Smith, Dan. Vincent, Thos. Murray, Widow Gaston, James Watson, Andrew Russell Jr., Benj. Bennet, Jas. Welch Jr., John Kathcart, Fred’k Taylor, Wm. Taylor, Alex. Lock, Sam’l Jones, Rich’d Vanderoef, Thos. Connely, Jacob Mixwell, John Pipenger, John Gibbons, John Gerron, Michael Nowlan, Barnabus Murray, Mongo Reed, John Jacoby, Thos. Blane, John Fulkerson, John Barr, Hugh Hambleton, David Hogge, Geo. McKee, Tom Ruckman, John Tweed, John Long, John Burroughs, John Allie, James McCane, Rich’d Allison. The newspaper writer pointed out that “every pew in the building had one or more occupants, and from the many names or heads of families, there must have been a vast congregation when all were present upon communion services and other important occasions.” There are no records as to what happened to this building constructed in 1779 nor where exactly it was located, but land was given to the congregation three miles up the Warrior Run for the building of a new log structure in 1789 and so the congregation moved. This next building was erected in 1789 and stood in front of the present edifice. The grounds for these buildings had been conveyed to the congregation in three transactions, the earliest being on March 6, 1789 from Joseph Hutchinson and his wife, Margaret; a strip to the north in 1811 from Thomas DeArmond for $20; and another tract in 1864. The pulpit of the second building was very high, and over the minister’s head was a sounding board which aptly has been compared to a huge umbrella. At the foot of the pulpit was the clerk’s box. When a hymn was announced, the clerk stood and in solemn, sometimes monotonous strain, read couplet after couplet, thus leading the congregational singing. At first no fire was permitted in this building, which, like its predecessor, was of log construction. Heat was first provided by a low fire of charcoal, burned upon a bed of earth. Later, large ten-plate stoves were introduced. Ultimately, heating appliances of then modern design were installed. The following is a list of members in 1789 when the congregation moved its location:

1789 Membership
Samuel AllJames FallsWilliam KirkWm. Ruckman
John AllieBarnabas FarranAlex. LockWilliam Scott
James AllisonJohn FergusonJohn LongDavid Shannon
John AllisonAlander ForesmanJacob MaxwellRobert Shaw
Richard AllisonAndrew FosterJames McAfeeWilliam Shaw
John BairdJohn FulkersonJohn McCormickJohn Smith
John BarrWidow GastonWm. McCormickRobert Smith
Samuel BarrJohn GibbonsGeorge McCoyJames Stroy
Thomas BarrThomas GilmoreJohn W. McCurdyAlex. Stuart
Benjamin BennetAlex. GuffyDavid McGuireFrederick Taylor
Samuel BlaineHugh HambletonJames McKeanWilliam Taylor
Thomas BlaineJames HammondGeorge McKeeJohn Tweed
William BoydJoseph HammondRobert McKeeRichard Vanderholf
Jane BrownJames HarrisonJohn McKinneyBethuel Vincent
Jacob BrunerWilliam HasletRobert MillerDaniel Vincent
John BrysonJohn HausRobert MontgomeryCornelius Waldron
John BuchananJohn HerronAnthony MooreThomas Wallace
John BurroughsDavid HoggeBarnabas MurrayJames Watson
William CalhounDavid HunterThomas MurrayJohn Watson
John CathcartJoseph HutchisonMichael NolanJames Welch, Jr.
Thomas ConnelyJoseph Hutchison, Jr.John PipengerJames Welch, Sr.
Martha CorreyJoseph Hutchison, Sr.John QuigleyFleming Wilson
Robert CraigBruce InnisMungo ReedHughWilson
James DaughertyCharles IrwinRobt. RobertsonJames Wilson
Robert DeArmondJohn IrwinAndrew RussellJohn Wilson
Thomas DeArmondJohn JacobyAndrew Russell, Jr.John Wilson
Patrick DicksonSamuel JonesPatrick RussellThomas Wilson
Alex. DunbarThomas KirkThos. RuchmanJohn Woods
James Durham

The present church building was constructed in 1835. Fifty years later a slate roof was applied. During its earlier history, there being no other churches in the surrounding area, the congregation gathered from a great distance. Until 1808, part of the congregation came from White Deer Valley, across the Susquehanna, while others gathered from beyond the Muncy Hills and Derry to the north and from Chillisquaque and Milton to the south. Most of the worshippers came on foot, many carrying their shoes in their hands, and as late as 1832 it is reported that there were not more than five carriages. The Reverend John Bryson was pastor from 1789 until 1841. In the cemetery there are many early settlers buried. It is reported that at least twenty Revolutionary soldiers and officers also are interred here along with a number of Civil War veterans. The last burial was in 1944. In April 1925 the stone wall that encloses the cemetery at Warrior Run Church was undermined during the excavations for the new state road and had to be rebuilt. The wall, about a foot thick and five feet high was built in 1850 by Geo. Wycoff and Wm. Savidge of Turbotville for $828. It was a substantial one and had it not been badly damaged by the excavation for the new road, would have stood for many more years. About 120 feet had to be rebuilt being set back about nine feet from the old location. In moving the wall not a grave was disturbed. Members of the church appealed to the county commissioners to have the wall restored and they agreed to it and paid the cost, $360. The new wall was built by Elmer Winters and son of Springtown and is a fine piece of work. As other churches were built in the surrounding towns and area, membership and attendance at Warrior Run gradually declined until services were held only every two weeks during the summer months, and then discontinued about 1950. An extensive restoration program to both the church building and adjoining cemetery had been undertaken by the Warrior Run Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution in April 1947. They were anxious to preserve the beautiful old church as an historic site. Approximately $5,500 was raised in helping restore the building and the Pennsylvania Historical Society was contacted to see if they would be interested in assuming the sites future maintenance which they were. On November 10, 1947, former Governor James Duff appointed the following to the Warrior Run Restoration Committee: Mrs. Raymond Sterner, chairperson; Mrs. Frank Kirk and Miss Edith M. Wagner, co-treasurers; Miss Sarah McFarland and Miss Esther Nicely, co-secretaries; Mrs. Edward Burrows, Mrs. Fred Kester, Heber Gearhart, Dr. Donald G. Lerch and William Nye. This committee was greatly assisted by Raymond B. Sterner and Adam T. Bower. The Commonwealth continued the restoration and repairs and is maintained as a Pennsylvania Shrine to this day. By fall of 1947, most of the restoration had been completed, the edifice painted, roads regraveled, the crumbling wall of the cemetery restored, head and foot markers straightened, and the grounds leveled and reseeded. On October 12, 1947, the Reverend Harry W. McConnell, of the Watsontown Presbyterian Church, arranged and conducted a Homecoming Communion Service which was attended by 350 persons. Many of these worshippers were former members of the congregation or descendants of early members. On September 28, 1948, meeting at Hepburnville, PA the Presbytery of Northumberland adopted the following resolution: “That the congregation of Warrior Run Presbyterian Church be permitted to deed this church property to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with the understanding that the Commonwealth will maintain the property through the Pennsylvania Historical Commission as an historical site and will permit it to be used by the Warrior Run Church for religious services.”

Warrior Run Pastors
John Bryson1789-1841A.C. Campbell1885-1905
Samuel S. Shedden1841-1852George Sheese1906-1911
Henry M. Parsons1852-1854L. Norman Leith1914-1926
Edward D. Yoemans1854-1858H.G. Moody1925-1928
Lorenzo Westcott1859-1864Moore Sanborn1926-1933
S.B. Herron1865-1872W.D. Hevner1933-1937
George Elliott1873-1880Harry W. McConnell1937-1950
G.A. Marr1883-1885

[The Record and Star, April 10, 1925, pg 1; The Milton Standard, August 11, 1967, pg 47, 48, 49; Warrior Run Church Sampler, 12, 14, 19]

Last Modified: 12.27.22

5 Responses

  1. R. Livermore Says:

    Question: Where may I find a picture of the first chart of pews refered to in the above article? I am researching the Wilsons in that area.

  2. Nancy Murdock Says:

    As a gr gr gr granddaughter of Alex and Sara Locke (or Slott) I was most interested in reading about this cemetery. We intend to visit Warrior Run this summer. I live in Florida now, but lived in WI, where my great grandfather Alexander Locke settled and my grandfather William Locke was born.

  3. Tina Barrett Strouble Says:

    I found this church history fascinating as I discovered 3 children of William Cooner & Elizabeth Reader Cooner buried with their grandparents’ Henry Cooner & Elizabeth Clark Cooner in the Warrior Run Church Cemetery. It is so satisfying to know they they are not forgotten. Thank you.

  4. Jo in Melbourne Aus Says:

    Dan Calwell of ferry fame, his first wife Elizabeth Woods, and four of their children are buried in the Warrior Run Cemetery, as are Dan’s parents and sister.

  5. Steve Guffy Says:

    My gggggrandparents Alexander And Margaret Guffy And also my ggg grandparents John and Agnes Guffy And many members are buried there

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