PIONEER CITIZENS OF HARRISON.
Reminiscencesof the First Presbyterian Church of Clarksburg.
Special Correspondent of the Telegram.
Now thatthe old brick building in which that church has so long worshiped has been torndown to be replaced by a new house, it may be of interest to recall some of theearly incidents of that church in which many of the oldest and best families ofClarksburg and vicinity took a conspicuous part. These facts are taken from the original papers, and the writer isunder obligation to Hon. John J. Davis and W. H. Freeman, cashier of the WestVirginia Bank, for access to the documents.
Thefirst entry signed by P. Chapin, clerk, reads.
WHEREAS,The Rev. Asa Brooks, of the congregation of French Creek, and of the Presbyterianchurch within the bounds of the Redstone Presbytery, duly authorized to preachthe gospel, administer the ordinances, and establish churches within saidbounds together with David Phillips, Roswell Knowlton and Pascal Young rulingElders of the French Creek church on the 10th day of October, 1829,at the Methodist meeting house in Clarksburg did proceed to establish aPresbyterian church in the said town of Clarksburg. The session having been opened with prayer, the following personsappeared as candidates for admission to the fellowship of the church, who afterhaving been examined as to their faith and experimental knowledge of the truthof the gospel were received by unanimous vote, viz:
JohnWilson, Jr., and Margaret, his wife, John Hursey, Nancy G. Chapin, wife ofPhineas Chapin, William Shields and John Lindsay.
Thefollowing persons were received by letter from other churches, viz: PhineasChapin, Elisha Hall, Eleanor Wynn, Eliza Davis, wife of John Davis, NancyHarry, Nancy Lefever, John Garrett, and wife, John Reed and wife, CatherineArmstrong and Jane Stein. The membersthen proceeded to the election of ruling Elders, whereupon the followingpersons were unanimously elected: John Wilson, Jr., Phineas Chapin and JohnHursey. Eliza Davis mentioned above was the mother of Hon John J. Davis. She joined the church in Philadelphia at theage of twelve years, and brought her letter to this church from the Morgantownchurch. John Garrett, many of whosedescendants still live in this county, brought his letter from a church inIreland, the following being a copy of the original:
“ThatJohn Garret is a single person of good character, a regular member of thiscongregation and in full communion.” Certified at Dramara, this 12th day of May 1816, by order ofsession.
Clerk and Mod.
Thefirst adult baptisms were Mrs. Margaret Wilson, wife of John Wilson, Jr., andJohn Hursey, on the second Sabbath of October 1829. On the same day the first infant baptism occurred being BenjaminBray Wilson, and John James Wilson, children of John and Margaret Wilson. Within the next few years we find among thenames of the members, Albert G. Flanigan and Elizabeth, his wife, Catherine P.Harper[,] wife of James Harper, Joshua Bosworth and wife and Joshua Bosworth,Jr., Thomas A. Hornor, Martha Hornor, James A. Duncan, Rachel Haymond, EllenStewart, Wm. Cater, Jacob M. Elb, Benjamin F. Barr, I. P. Chapin, AndrewMearns, James Campbell, Leroy Gaston, Prudence Duncan, wife of E. S. Duncan,Catherine Williams, Mariah Elizabeth Moore, Jane Furguson, D. A. Coplin, MarthaWerniger, A. Werniger, Rachel Moore, Preston Moore Adams, Arthur Sparhawk,Eliza Owens, Patsey Wilson, Harriet B. Jackson, wife of W. L. Jackson, JohnDavis, and George Sommerville who were elected and ordained Elders. (John Davis was the father of Hon. J. J.Davis.) Deborah Smith, wife of Abel T.Smith, John A. Stein, Matilda Stein, James P. Bartlett, John A. Steinspring,Catherine Dever, Sarah A. Camden, wife of G. D. Camden, William A. Harrison andAnna Harrison. James Carlisle and NancyCarlisle, Emeline Robinson, Warren, Julia C., F. W., and Emma Morgan, HarrietCriss. Dr. A. M. Austin, Thomas P.Reynolds and wife, of Limestone, John Johnson and wife, William W. and HettyYoung, Dr. A. F. Barnes and Adaline Barnes, John C. McCaulsion, Hannah Minor.
Some ofthe members did not always walk orderly, for we find some cited to appear for“conduct unbecoming a Christian,” for “not being at church for a wholeyear.” One member “made a satisfactoryacknowledgement for having been intoxicated.” It used to be the custom for persons desiring to go West to build a boatand when the river was at a proper stage to float it down the river, and wefind that on the last Sabbath of March, 1841, Jno. Wilson, Jr., one of thechurch elders loaded his boat and the session cited him to appear, “beingaccused by common fame of employing divers hands, and teams and did himselfengage in labor with said hands and teams in moving goods, chattels, furniture,grain, boxes, and various other things from the farm, lately owned by him, to aboat preparatory to floating down the West Fork river, in direct opposition tothe solemn injunction contained in the 4th Commandment.” On June 7th, of the same year, heappeared before the session, and plead [sic] not guilty and this is therecord. “Having heard the statement ofthe said Wilson, is of opinion that the said Wilson from his own statement didengage in labor on the Sabbath day at the time specified and did consequentlyviolate the 4th Commandment. It, however, appears to the session that the said Wilson did not underthe circumstances consider laboring on that occasion a violation of theSabbath. That he felt perfectlyconscientious in what he had done, it being considered by him a necessity andduty. It is, therefore, ordered thatunder all circumstances of the case (there being no intention on thepart of the said Wilson to violate the Sabbath) the offense be passedover.” A verdict of guilty and notguilty; both in one breath.
Theerection of a church was begun about 1834. The old subscription paper is a curiosity. Very little money was subscribed and there are many such entriesas “$12.00 in shingles;” “$5.00 in lathing and shingles;” so much for “boardand lodging.” Waldo P. Goff “$20.00 ingoods,” Daniel Wilson “10 sheep,” [“]another $5 in blacksmithing,” [“]another$1.00 or 3 bushels of corn.”
In 1834Robert Wilson, of Greene county, Pennsylvania, agrees to make for the church inClarksburg, Va., “80,000 merchantable brick at 75 cents a thousand, $50 to bepaid in money and the rest in store goods.”
Rev. AsaBrooks was the first pastor; among the others were Ezekiel Quillen, WatsonRussell, R. A. Blackford. The churchwas frequently supplied by Revs. A. G. Fairchild, Joel Stoneroad, Bristol and others.
Thepastor’s salary was made up in part from pew rents. Pews near the pulpit rented at $12.00 a year, those further backat $10.00, $9.00 and $7.00 and those in the rear at $4.00.
Someattention was given to music for in 1842 the following instruments were used:Harmonium, violin, bass viol, and flute.
Thefirst pastor Rev. Asa Brooks died December 23, 1834, of a bilious fever. He was a man of great power, and had intenselove for the church. “A few momentsbefore his death he requested that the church here be not without a pastor fora month.” The esteem in which he washeld is evidenced by a public meeting of the town of which the following is arecord.
“At ameeting held on Tuesday the 23d day of December, 1834, in Clarksburg, to takeinto consideration the measure most proper to be adopted in paying the lasthonors to the remains of the Rev. Asa Brooks, doctor [sic] Davidson was calledto the chair and G. D. Camden, Esq., appointed secretary. It was
Resolved, Thatthe citizens of Clarksburg generally be invited to the funeral on Wednesday(this day) at 2 o’clock P. M. and that it be recommended to them to wear crapeon the left arm for one month as a __?__ of their respect for the deceased.
Resolved, Thatthe citizens be requested to suspend business and close their doors on this daybetween the hours of 1 and 4 o’clock P. M.
G. D. CAMDEN, Sec’y
December 24, 1834.
Manysacred memories cling around the old church. The men and women who founded it were of the highest type ofcharacter. Some of their children andgrandchildren are among the best citizens of the county, others are scatteredto all parts of the country, and are honored where they live. Memory brings back the time when theirfathers gathered them into the prayer meeting, the Sabbath school, the church,and they craned their necks to look up at the minister in the old fashionedpulpit, standing half way between the congregation in the pews, and the one in thegallery. Here they listened to words ofwisdom from such men as Brooks, Quillen Russell, Fairchild, Stoneroad andothers. May the men of this generation,who are erecting a new church building, gather into it persons of such sterlingcharacter that the glory of the latter house may be equal to that of theformer.
J. N. DAVID
[Transcribed by NanciHeadley Kotowski from 8/4/1893 Clarksburg (WV) Telegram]