Our roots go back 220 years
In 1768 William Penn purchased the area west of the Laurel Hill and south of the purchase line between Cherry Tree and Kittanning. No permanent religious establishment was undertaken in western Pennsylvania until after 1768. The first Baptist churches were established in this area while America was merely a group of scattered colonies ruled by George III of England. The main stream of Baptist life in western Pennsylvania flowed down the Monongahela Valley from Virginia. A distinguished pioneer named John Corbly, through much sacrifice and heroism, was instrumental in establishing and planting Baptist churches in western Pennsylvania. John Corbly was known as the ablest preacher of his day and he continued to establish churches in our area for thirty years.
The beginning of our religious society as we know it came to Elizabeth in 1791. It was first served by a pastor of Peters Creek Church, his name was Elder David Phillips and later the pastor of Salem Baptist Church took over the duties of pastor. For 220 years the power of God and His righteousness has been and continues to uphold our church and our members. We who are the congregation of this church feel a deep sense of spiritual obligation to those pioneer members who so bravely set up our Baptist standards 200 years ago. We honor those brave and courageous pioneers who now have gone to their eternal home and who kept our Baptist faith alive.
On February 20th, 1796 land was purchased as follows, "a certain lott of land in Elizabeth Town.. numbered Three in the plan of said town for the consideration of thirty-five pounds to me in hand paid by Harry Demmons, Caleb Brown and David Sutton ... trustees, appointed by and acting in behalf of a branch of the Baptist Church on Peters Creek and residing contiguous to Elizabeth Town." The first church was a log building located north of Walnut Street extending from Water Street to First Avenue. No records can be found of how long the building was used as a church although it stood until 1835.
Pencil sketch of original log church circa 1796
Beginning at a post, a corner of said Wycoffs land adjoining land of John Craighead's heirs ... three quarters of an acre one perch and one third of a perch. “Was deeded to the trustees of the "Regular Baptist Church," on the 29th of July 1839, in the presence of Rev. James Estep and J. F. Richards by Isaac Wycoff and Gertrude Wycoff, for the consideration of one dollar. Thus a frame building was erected for the Elizabeth congregation. Location was as follows: this was in the mouth of the ravine of which the old road up to Elizabeth Cemetery leads from the head of Church Street, which thus derived its name. This continued to be its home until 1863. It was then given up and the land reverted to the Wycoff farm, from which it had been lent for the church location.
The Regular Church of Jesus Christ organized in 1842 was a branch of the Regular Baptist Church of The Forks of The Yough located about 7 miles east of Elizabeth and was known as The Salem Baptist Church. On Sabbath morning Rev. Dr. James Estep named William Coyan, John King, Isaac Pangburn and Richard Storer to serve as Deacons of the Church. The first business meeting held on October 2, 1842 was to appoint those who would be representing 'the church when applying for admission into the Pittsburgh Association at its Third Session held in McKeesport on Oct. 7, 1842.
Pencil sketch of the Regular Church of
Jesus Christ organized in 1842
During the Civil War there were times the church was without a pastor and the members dwindled, resulting in having the same pastor serve the McKeesport churches and the Elizabeth Church. It was about the same time or just previous that the Baptist people bought a small building that the defunct Cumberland Presbyterian Church people had used. This building erected in 1851 was on the west side of Second Street. "It was a small building with a frame belfry on the top but it is not known that it was ever as fortunate as the present one in having a bell. The belfry had a bell for a short time which one of the young men wished to present to the church but, as it was never accepted by the congregation, it was shortly removed and returned to the factory."
From 1867 to 1878 the church membership doubled and so by 1882 a split came to the congregation with twenty eight members of the Elizabeth Church organizing a new church at Industry, Pa. Come 1887 the Church was ready to celebrate the glory of the Lord with its forty-fifth anniversary.
The Rev. J. K. Cramer started pastoring the Elizabeth congregation in 1867 serving faithfully for 12 years. From 1879 to 1889 the church was served by several short and uneventful pastorates. The church needing a good strong Christian leadership then extended a second call to Rev . Cramer and as the membership grew so did the need for a larger house of worship. The old church was torn down in 1891 to make way for the new, "a stately church of brick, pleasing to the eye, and of moderate proportion", built by the Elizabeth Planing Mill Co. at the cost of $5,690.00. Pastor Cramer appointed deacons James McClure, Stephen Applegate, S.S. Roberts. Leonidas Hayden, J. L. Moore, J. M. Householder, E. H. Pangburn and Mrs. J. V. Wycoff to serve on the committee for building the new church. It was dedicated for worship July 24, 1892. The dedication sermon was preached by Rev. Leroy Stephens, at which service $1,500.00 was raised for the new Church, leaving a debt of only $2,175 at the time of dedication. The new Church thrived and expanded steadily during the long successful pastorate of Rev. Cramer. The Women's Missionary Society and the B.Y.P.U. were organized during his pastorate in 1893. A member of the congregation, years later wrote of the new church, "Rev. Cramer whose name is, or should be in the front window was pastor of the church at the time it was build and was on the job from the time it was started until it was finished. Only one of the faithful workers who labored on the job is present with us today as far as we can remember. The writer well remembers watching those hands that were then young, strong, and steady carve and prepare much of the woodwork for the building. How many of us know and appreciate his presence today? (Perhaps it is not a question I should ask as the Lord has led me into another field although you may not believe it.) There is yet another brother yet living who worked with him, but he is not living in our community today. Who was he? Dear old Uncle James A. McClure, as we used to call him, who was one of the leading financial pushers in the work of building the new church. Well does the writer remember dear old Brother Zira Hayden, Deacon Stewart Wall, and W. J. Cassidy,
Thank you C.C. Gallatin for leaving to us these precious memories and thank you for taking the time to put them to paper.
Individual communion service was adopted by the church January 25th.
The Beulah Baptist Church of West Elizabeth was given assistance as a mission.
The right hand of fellowship was extended on Nov. 1, 1914 to the Rev. D. M. Lenox and his family from Reading, Pa. This had proven to be a momentous occasion in the life of this Church. His wife's name was Nancy and one of their four children was a daughter who became Mrs. Ruth Lenox Barlow. Eventually a grandson, Daniel Lenox Barlow dedicated his life to the ministry.
T he Annual Fellowship supper was held for the First time in the new church basement. Space for the expansion of the Church program became necessary, so the foundation was further excavated to provide rooms for Sunday School classes and for social occasions.
During the pastorate of Rev. Eugene Newhauer, a faithful member of the church, Miss Anna Wall, donated a plot of ground on the corner of Ekin Avenue and Third Street, Walker Heights, to the Church for the purpose of building a parsonage. Mrs. Alice McCorkle then started the Parsonage Fund by donating $25.00. The parsonage was then built by the Elizabeth Planing Mill Co. at a cost of $9,306, including garage and some house furnishings.
The depression brought financial suffering to the church community. They were able to meet their financial obligations through receiving a bequest to the amount of $1 500 from the will of one member, Stewart Wall, which came to us at the death of his sister, Miss Anna Wall in 1935 and we continue to receive monies from the Anna Wall estate to the present time.
Junior Church was organized by Mrs. Ruth Barlow, daughter of D. M. Lenox.
On September 17th, in the year of our Lord 1842, one hundred years ago today, a small group of devoted Christians met to organize a Church in this community of Elizabeth. Thus "The Regular Baptist Church of Jesus Christ." was the beginning of an organized church and no longer a religious society. Rev. Dickinson's splendid leadership upheld the Christian standard of our beloved Church during the heart breaking days when the whole world was at war. The congregation was blessed on having such a genuine shepherd to lead and inspire.
On June 4th and 5th of this year, our Church happily entertained the Pittsburgh Baptist Association in its one hundred third Session, receiving some three hundred delegates and visitors from the seventy-four Churches in the Pittsburgh District. During this time the Church was presented with a bell by the Lenox family to honor the memory of their father, our former pastor, Rev . D. M. Lenox . The bell rang for the time during the presentation ceremony and was officially received by then pastor, Rev. M. G. Dickinson. New carpet was purchased by the Philathea Class for a cost of about $650, the interior had been newly-redecorated at a cost of $638, and the basement had been beautifully painted by Mrs. Martha Kline's Sunday School Class. At this time the church was served faithfully by pianists Miss Sadie Bean, Mrs. Katie Thompson Stone, Mrs. Nellie Winterburn Weigel, Mrs. Ester Barlow Stockdill and Mrs. Helen Towzey. Miss Jessie W. Pangburn was a faithful Choir Leader for many years. The Senior Choir members whose talents glorified the Lord were James McClure, W. J. Cassidy, E. H. Pangburn, E. E. Pangburn. E. Wineburn, Miss Ann Thompson, Mrs. Stella Moore Ord, Mrs. Bess Heckathorn and Mrs. Margaret Householder Fink.
Soldier members were Charles Anderson, Edward Householder, Harry Hofmeister, Charles Hofmeister, Jr., Merle Neal, Robert Custer, Clyde Abbott, James L. Campbell, Edward Campea, Charles Fine, Howard Mclay, Clarence Coughenour, Robert Ullrich and William A. Schaefer.
The 40's brought the uncertainty of war and the uneasiness war brings. People all over the world turned to the Lord in prayer. On July 22, 1944, Louis Alfred Booth accepted the Jesus Christ as his Savior and was baptized on Saipan Island. Jack Woodward McCorkle stationed at Sampson Naval Training Station in New York was baptized by Chaplain John Craven. Letters for both young men were transferred to the Baptist Church in Elizabeth, their home town.
Churches continue to need repairs. The house of God is no different than our own homes when it comes to needs. Tithe Sunday, July 25, 1948, was proposed to help with finances to cover cost of---
1. Painting & redecorating the church.
2. Installing new wiring & lighting.
3. Replace art glass windows.
4. Provide adequate drainage system in basement.
Church Clerk Phoebe Stockdill wrote on Dec. 12, "The board of Trustees of Elizabeth Baptist Church has instructed me to write you concerning lights purchased from your company, Voight Co. 1649 N. Broad St. , Philadelphia, Pa. per order LF3998F. Eight of 10 lanterns and two wall lights have been installed in Sanctuary and the illuminating effect produced was highly gratifying."
Those ten beautiful lanterns are now hanging in our present Sanctuary at our church at the Lock No. 3 location. How wonderful to see them each Sunday and know they have endured.
Feb. 19, Sunday the Elizabeth Baptist Church re-dedicated their House of Worship. At the evening service, "our new Baldwin electronic organ" will be dedicated in the memory of the late John McElravy. An invitation was extended to his wife and son to attend. The Organ Fund was started by Mr. McElravy when money was designated by his estate. The rest of the $3,200 cost was funded by donations and contributions.
Changes were taking place and not all of them were good. Transportation was made easier in the Mon Valley with the opening of the new bridge crossing the Monongahela River, unfortunately the bridge was built almost on top of the church making for added disruption during services.
The same year, a letter of acceptance and willingness to go forward in the work of the "Kingdom of God" was received from Rev. John E. Fosnight and his wife Ruth, along with sons John and Ray. Rev. Fostnight came to us from Canonsburg in April and pastored to our needs until 1959 when he was called home to be with the Lord.
"The Mother Church of All Baptists in Western Pennsylvania", the Salem Baptist Church invited us to join in the re-dedication of their church on June 23, 1953.
Our 50 year and more members have always been a blessing and inspiration to our church family. One faithful and loved member was Mrs. Bess W. Heckathorn. When the call went out to her to attend the "Golden Member Sunday" on May 22, 1955, our beloved Bess was not able to travel so far. You see Mrs. Heckathorn was baptized on April 10, 1887.
The church on Second Street had served the congregation faithfully and by the end of the 50's it was apparent that changes were forth coming . Decisions had to be made about the life of the church building----Should the present building be restored or was it more prudent to start over at a new location because of the changes made in the town itself?
TOGETHER.... WE BUILD
On May 7, 1961 the church entered it's building program with four work committees, those being... SURVEY, FINANCE, PUBLICITY, AND BUILDING PLANNING. Study results were given to the church by Rev . Dr. L. H. Janssen of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Booklets containing the study finds were made available to all.
On June 17, 1962 a majority vote, 93% in the affirmative, gave the Building Council the authority to purchase 4 acres of property in Elizabeth Manor at the top of Oliver Ave. On Sept. 9, the congregation was offered an alternate plot of ground for the church relocation in preference to the controversial Elizabeth Manor lot. The present, Lock No. 3 property of 5 acres plus 2 large brick houses was accepted and purchased for the sum of $25,400.
FACILITIES TO BE HOUSED IN NEW CHURCH ARE AS FOLLOWS:
1. SANCTUARY - 200 Persons
2. ADEQUATE STORAGE
3. PASTOR'S STUDY and OFFICE SUITE
4. MODERN KITCHEN
5. CHURCH SCHOOL - Class Rooms
Attractive and Functional Teaching Facilities 6. COMFORT - Lounge and Meeting Rooms Clean Rest-rooms
Floyd E. Alexander - General Chairman
Viola Hofimeister - Secretary
William Custer - Bldg . and Plans Chairman
John Irons - Survey Chairman
Herbert F. Casler - Publicity Chairman
Joseph Webb - General Chairman
George Cain - Advance Gifts Chairman
Leonard Lyons - General Gifts Chairman
The Rev. Horace M. Taylor - Campaign Committee Director
Rev. Norman Bardsley, Pastor, wrote in his annual report, "For our nation, the past year was marked with continuous conflict and crises. Rising costs, lower employment and lots of promises were steady diet. We saw man's race to conquer space beginning in earnest and a down payment was placed in his eventual trip to the moon. National Negro Society held a monopoly on news paper headlines across the Nation and around the world. --- And the terrifying specter. "War" cast its ominous shadow across the hemisphere while two world powers "Sparred Off" over Cuba." This is not much different from today".
GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY FOR PRESENT CHURCH
Rev . Norman Bardsley Mr. Floyd Alexander Mr. Charles Van Fossen Mr. William Custer
September 19, 1965 the Cornerstone Laying ceremony took place with the following articles being placed in the cornerstone.
1.Roll of the Membership as of Sept. 19,1965 2.Roll of the Teachers and Officers of the Elizabeth Baptist Church for the year 1964-19653 Copy of 1895 New Baptist Church Manual 4.Copy of the Holy Bible 5.Selected pictures of: Church at Second Street, Elizabeth. The Ground Breaking Ceremony . Progress in building of the new church Copies of the Cornerstone Laying. Ceremony and Dedication Service . Signatures of everyone at the Ceremony.
Sept. 26, 1965---The Rev. Norman Bardsley, Minister and People: In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we do declare this house to be dedicated and consecrated to the worship and service of Almighty God; To Whom be glory and majesty, dominion and power, forever and ever. Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us; unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
ARCHITECTS... J. C. Fulton and Son, Uniontown, Pennsylvania GENERAL CONTRACTOR. . Joseph Mollnar, Glassport, Pennsylvania LENDING INSTITUTION... Western Pennsylvania National Bank, McKeesport, Pennsylvania
TOTAL COST OF BLDG. & FURNISHINGS $250,000
PRESENT - CHURCH DEDICATED 1964