Reminiscences of the First Presbyterian Church of Clarksburg

Transcribed & donated by Nanci Headley Kotowski
from 8/4/1893 Clarksburg (WV) Telegram


Special Correspondent of the Telegram.
Now that the old brick building in which that church has so long worshipped has been torn down to be replaced by a new house, it may be of interest to recall some of the early incidents of that church in which many of the oldest and best families of Clarksburg and vicinity took a conspicuous part.  These facts are taken from the original papers, and the writer is under obligation to Hon. John J. Davis and W. H. Freeman, cashier of the West Virginia Bank, for access to the documents.
The first entry signed by P. Chapin, clerk, reads.
WHEREAS, The Rev. Asa Brooks, of the congregation of French Creek, and of the Presbyterian church within the bounds of the Redstone Presbytery, duly authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances, and establish churches within said bounds together with David Phillips, Roswell Knowlton and Pascal Young ruling Elders of the French Creek church on the 10th day of October, 1829, at the Methodist meeting house in Clarksburg did proceed to establish a Presbyterian church in the said town of Clarksburg.  The session having been opened with prayer, the following persons appeared as candidates for admission to the fellowship of the church, who after having been examined as to their faith and experimental knowledge of the truth of the gospel were received by unanimous vote, viz:
John Wilson, Jr., and Margaret, his wife, John Hursey, Nancy G. Chapin, wife of Phineas Chapin, William Shields and John Lindsay.
The following persons were received by letter from other churches, viz: Phineas Chapin, Elisha Hall, Eleanor Wynn, Eliza Davis, wife of John Davis, Nancy Harry, Nancy Lefever, John Garrett, and wife, John Reed and wife, Catherine Armstrong and Jane Stein.  The members then proceeded to the election of ruling Elders, whereupon the following persons were unanimously elected: John Wilson, Jr., Phineas Chapin and John Hursey. Eliza Davis mentioned above was the mother of Hon John J. Davis.  She joined the church in Philadelphia at the age of twelve years, and brought her letter to this church from the Morgantown church.  John Garrett, many of whose descendants still live in this county, brought his letter from a church in Ireland, the following being a copy of the original:
“That John Garret is a single person of good character, a regular member of this congregation and in full communion.”  Certified at Dramara, this 12th day of May 1816, by order of session.
      James Birch,
      Clerk and Mod.
The first adult baptisms were Mrs. Margaret Wilson, wife of John Wilson, Jr., and John Hursey, on the second Sabbath of October 1829.  On the same day the first infant baptism occurred being Benjamin Bray Wilson, and John James Wilson, children of John and Margaret Wilson.  Within the next few years we find among the names 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, Ellen Stewart, Wm. Cater, Jacob M. Elb, Benjamin F. Barr, I. P. Chapin, Andrew Mearns, James Campbell, Leroy Gaston, Prudence Duncan, wife of E. S. Duncan, Catherine Williams, Mariah Elizabeth Moore, Jane Furguson, D. A. Coplin, Martha Werniger, A. Werniger, Rachel Moore, Preston Moore Adams, Arthur Sparhawk, Eliza Owens, Patsey Wilson, Harriet B. Jackson, wife of W. L. Jackson, John Davis, 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 and Anna Harrison.  James Carlisle and Nancy Carlisle, Emeline Robinson, Warren, Julia C., F. W., and Emma Morgan, Harriet Criss.  Dr. A. M. Austin, Thomas P. Reynolds and wife, of Limestone, John Johnson and wife, William W. and Hetty Young, Dr. A. F. Barnes and Adaline Barnes, John C. McCaulsion, Hannah Minor.
Some of the 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 whole year.”  One member “made a satisfactory acknowledgement for having been intoxicated.”  It used to be the custom for persons desiring to go West to build a boat and when the river was at a proper stage to float it down the river, and we find that on the last Sabbath of March, 1841, Jno. Wilson, Jr., one of the church elders loaded his boat and the session cited him to appear, “being accused by common fame of employing divers hands, and teams and did himself engage 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 a boat preparatory to floating down the West Fork river, in direct opposition to the solemn injunction contained in the 4th Commandment.”  On June 7th, of the same year, he appeared before the session, and plead [sic] not guilty and this is the record.  “Having heard the statement of the said Wilson, is of opinion that the said Wilson from his own statement did engage in labor on the Sabbath day at the time specified and did consequently violate the 4th Commandment.  It, however, appears to the session that the said Wilson did not under the circumstances consider laboring on that occasion a violation of the Sabbath.  That he felt perfectly conscientious in what he had done, it being considered by him a necessity and duty.  It is, therefore, ordered that under all circumstances of the case (there being no intention on the part of the said Wilson to violate the Sabbath) the offense be passed over.”  A verdict of guilty and not guilty; both in one breath.
The erection of a church was begun about 1834.  The old subscription paper is a curiosity.  Very little money was subscribed and there are many such entries as “$12.00 in shingles;” “$5.00 in lathing and shingles;” so much for “board and lodging.”  Waldo P. Goff “$20.00 in goods,” Daniel Wilson “10 sheep,” [“] another $5 in blacksmithing,” [“]another $1.00 or 3 bushels of corn.”
In 1834 Robert Wilson, of Greene county, Pennsylvania, agrees to make for the church in Clarksburg, Va., “80,000 merchantable brick at 75 cents a thousand, $50 to be paid in money and the rest in store goods.”
Rev. Asa Brooks was the first pastor; among the others were Ezekiel Quillen, Watson Russell, R. A. Blackford.  The church was frequently supplied by Revs. A. G. Fairchild, Joel  Stoneroad, Bristol and others.
The pastor’s salary was made up in part from pew rents.  Pews near the pulpit rented at $12.00 a year, those further back at $10.00, $9.00 and $7.00 and those in the rear at $4.00.
Some attention was given to music for in 1842 the following instruments were used: Harmonium, violin, bass viol, and flute.
The first pastor Rev. Asa Brooks died December 23, 1834, of a bilious fever.  He was a man of great power, and had intense love for the church.  “A few moments before his death he requested that the church here be not without a pastor for a month.”  The esteem in which he was held is evidenced by a public meeting of the town of which the following is a record.
“At a meeting held on Tuesday the 23d day of December, 1834, in Clarksburg, to take into consideration the measure most proper to be adopted in paying the last honors to the remains of the Rev. Asa Brooks, doctor [sic] Davidson was called to the chair and G. D. Camden, Esq., appointed secretary.  It was Resolved, That the 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 crape on the left arm for one month as a __?__ of their respect for the deceased.
Resolved, That the citizens be requested to suspend business and close their doors on this day between the hours of 1 and 4 o’clock P. M.
           D. DAVIDSON, Pres.
           G. D. CAMDEN, Sec’y
           December 24, 1834.
Many sacred memories cling around the old church.  The men and women who founded it were of the highest type of character.  Some of their children and grandchildren are among the best citizens of the county, others are scattered to all parts of the country, and are honored where they live.  Memory brings back the time when their fathers 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 fashioned pulpit, standing half way between the congregation in the pews, and the one in the gallery.  Here they listened to words of wisdom from such men as Brooks, Quillen Russell, Fairchild, Stoneroad and others.  May the men of this generation, who are erecting a new church building, gather into it persons of such sterling character that the glory of the latter house may be equal to that of the former.
                       J. N. DAVID

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