The Presbyterian Church, Sewickley, celebrates 175 years
By Joanne Barron
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
If the Rev. Daniel Eagle Nevin would have listened to his mother, the history of The Presbyterian Church, Sewickley, could have been different.
Nevin was the first minister of the church, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.
When he was first hired in 1838, he served the Sewickley congregation and the Fairmount Church along Big Sewickley Creek, which now is located in Franklin Park. He traveled back and forth by horseback, making $500 a year.
“There's a story handed down how he asked his mother's advice about which church he should choose,” said member Susan Nevin Cockrell, his great-granddaughter.
“She told him to stay with Fairmount because Sewickley wouldn't amount to much. Obviously, he didn't take her advice, and she was wrong.”
Cockrell, 63, will be recognized, along with 31 others, as a 50-year member during the Founder's Day celebration on Sunday at the church, located at Beaver and Grant streets.
One of her fondest memories, she said, revolves around the big Easter breakfasts prepared by Christine Bradley. Bradley worked as kitchen manager during World War II, when the church operated a war cafeteria, serving as many as 100 people a night except for Sundays. After the war, she continued to cook meals for the church.
Bradley was only one of the many historic figures in the church.
Once a month, beginning on Founders Day, members of the church will dress as the historical church figures and “drop in and tell a little bit about themselves and their work in the area in the early 1800s,” said member Nancy Merrill, who did the research, prepared and wrote the presentations to be held at the three services at 8, 9 and 11 a.m.
On Sunday, James Morrisey, James Darby and Robert Gordon will dress in kilts and portray the first elders of the church, who were area farmers.
Mary Beth Pastorius, a member of the history committee, also will present a program at 9:45 a.m. focusing on history and theology of the church's stained-glass windows using new digital photos. The presentation also will be conducted several other times this year.
A booklet, “Memorials in Stained Glass,” put together by the church's history committee chaired by George Craig, also will be given to the close to 1,000 members of the congregation.
Merrill said although the church is celebrating 175 years, its history actually began in 1802 when the original Presbyterian group of Scot-Irish descent came to the area to settle and gathered in homes and barns and in the summer under a grove of oak trees along a stream called Hoey's Run in what was then known as Sewickley Bottoms.
Over the years, the membership met in a small log church built near the YMCA on Addy Beer's farm; in the Edgeworth Female Seminary, a boarding school for young ladies; in a brick church built across the street from the present church; and at the present site built in 1861 after membership grew to 235 when the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad laid track through Sewickley Bottoms, making it more accessible.
Member Rich Weber said the church, which offers space to about 15 to 20 organizations, has been interwoven into the community since its beginning.
During construction, before the pews were installed, the Sewickley Rifles practiced drilling there prior to leaving to fight with the 28th Regiment in the Civil War.
And, John Way Jr. ran a Sunday school class for men at the church that later evolved into the Sewickley Valley YMCA.
In recent years, the church established an after-school program for children on church property. Children did their homework, had a hot meal and participated in activities. The program, now run at the YMCA and called OASIS, still depends on volunteers from the church. The church also helps pay the salary of Floyd Faulkner, the community youth worker. The church also houses FriendShip Preschool.
The Rev. Kevin Long said the church virtually has run out of room because of all of its programs and the organizations that met there. Weber said members are excited about the future “fellowship house” they hope to establish in the pink house, a residence purchased next door to the church.
“It's nice to be a part of such an active, busy church,” Merrill said.
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or email@example.com.
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