Our beginnings in Pa. came with the founding of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1694, in 1700 the Presbytery of Philadelphia was formed and by 1716 there were enough churches to form the Philadelphia Synod.
In our own area as early as 1740s the Moravians sent missionaries, Count Nicholas Von Zinzendorf and David Zeisberger to take the gospel message to the Indians. Zeisberger traveled up the Sheshequin Indian trail opposite the church across Lycoming Creek on his way to NY. David Brainerd also visited the Great Island near Lock Haven.
In 1774, Rev. Philip Vicars Fithian, a Presbyterian missionary, visited the Presbyterian families along the Susquehanna River keeping a journal of his travels.
The General Assembly was formed in 1788 and in 1792 Rev. Isaac Grier came as a missionary and was called in 1793 as pastor of Lycoming Presbyterian Church in Newberry. By 1811 the Northumberland Presbytery was formed.
In 1789 the Hayes family purchased land along Lycoming Creek and built a log house, which exists today along Rt. 973. They were Presbyterian and other Presbyterians, the Thompson, Heylmun, Mahaffey, Jameson, and other families soon joined them. To worship these families had to travel by foot or wagon to Newberry. In 1845, the people could pay a minister to come here for ¼ of his time, meaning he came here once a month while serving other churches and services were held in an old frame schoolhouse nearby.
Responding to a petition to organize in April 1847, Northumberland Presbytery proceeded with the formation in October 1847. There were 19 members with Robert Hayes and Charles Heylmun as elders. The name assigned was The Centre Church of Lycoming, our location being in the Center of Lycoming County. Rev. David Hull was called for ½ of his time.
The first church was built by the congregation in 1848 at a cost of $666.66 on land donated by James Thompson who lived in the house above of the church parking area. That church may have been located where the Hallelujah Hall addition now stands..
The church records from 1847 to 1865 are lost while the records and session minutes from 1865 to the present are in the possession of the church. The church records beginning in 1865 lists 30 persons as communicants previous to 1865. Robert Hayes and his wife, Mary, are the first named, he being the son of John Hayes, the builder of the Rt. 973 log house. Robert lived on the west side of Lycoming Creek in the early Federal style brick home northwest of the church. He and his family along with other church families would cross the creek at a ford to reach the east side, not by SUV but by horse and wagon or walking. Many of the John Hayes family, including son Isaiah, were members of the church.
Charles and Edward Heylmun built the Cresent Iron Works in 1839 at the town of Cresent located at present Powys along the creek north of here. Both families attended here. Some of the other families of early Lycoming Centre were the Thompsons who lived near the church and donated the church land. Martin W. Meyer who had a store in Perryville. He married Rachel, daughter of Isaiah Hayes, who has a memorial window in our sanctuary. Kim Matthews is a descendant of Isaiah Hayes and Martin Meyer. Mahaffeys lived in the house owned by Abram Snyder, next to Ruth Snyders home; Bob Waltz and Linda Metzger descend from the Mahaffey family. Jamesons lived on Beautys Run Road and many of the Ball family who operated the mill and factory at Balls Mills were members. There are many other families recorded.
The session records do not have much information except for listing new communicants to the church. The record of March 18,1870 shows Miss Mary C. Wood was received here from Three Rivers, Michigan. Later she married Thomas Weaver and in 1891 their children, Clarence C. and Alice Emma became members. Clarence Weaver was the father of Oran Weaver.
In the 1860s the country was in the midst of a revival and our own area was a part of this work of God. McMinns History of Newberry speaks about the winter of 1865-1866 and the great revival in Williamsport and all the churches for miles around felt the blessed presence of the Holy Spirit; some fifteen members were added to the Lycoming Church (Newberry) and over thirty to the church at Lycoming Centre. This enabled the members to call Rev. H. G. Finney for his full time as pastor.
God worked powerfully here again in the 1870s as the session minutes record during March of 1870 thirty-eight people joined Lycoming Centre, among them Abraham Aderhold, an ancestor of Carol Pryor.
After Rev. H.G. Finney the church called Rev. Philander Camp. Rev. Camp served for thirteen years retiring in 1889 with the membership in the middle of building a new church. He felt a more youthful pastor could handle the project better and retired to his farm in Bradford County where he died six months later.
At a congregational meeting in 1887 the membership decided to build a more modern church. The building, 60×38 feet, with a 60-foot tower, would be built of stone hauled from Bobst Mountain on sleds during the winter months. The cornerstone was laid in the fall of 1888. George Taylor, a local stonemason, built the walls and all but ten feet of the tower when he became ill and died in 1894. The finished church was dedicated Sunday, December 15, 1895 with a special excursion train bringing some 100 people from Williamsport.
Many of stained glass windows are memorials. Mathew Jameson, his wife, Mary and son Andrew J. were from Ireland. Andrew was an elder. They lived on Beautys Run road. Isaiah Hayes and his wife Mary lived in Perryville. Isaiah had many business ventures and including the building of the first bridge across Lycoming Creek at Perryville in 1847. Priscilla Weis Howell was the wife of the local doctor William M. Howell. J. Warren Heylmun may have been related to Charles Heylmun. Rev. Philander Camp and George Taylor were mentioned earlier.
In 1894 the records show 36 people from the Bottle Run area of Old Lycoming Twp. became members. Then, in 1899, 42 persons were dismissed to organize a new church at Bottle Run. By the turn of the new century Lycoming Centre was now at half its membership size and in 1903 the session minutes stated, About fifty people partook of the Lords Supper. God would faithful to the people of Lycoming Centre as they entered into the new era.
The church was then, as we are now, at the beginning of a new century – the 20th since the birth, death and resurrection of the One they and we worship as Lord and Savior. The pastor was a man named W G Smith and the Clerk of Session was W K Schollenberger.
The first entry in the minutes is a meeting on March 8, 1903. The business transacted included the call for a congregational meeting on April 7, 1903 for the purpose of electing elders and reviewing the expenses for the previous year. Those expenses amounted to $1,355.94 of which $1,275.19 went for congregational expenses the rest for missions of various sorts.
Over this period of one hundred years the Session and Trustee minutes reveal a church membership that waxed and waned. A church with a series of pastors, most of whom served more than one congregation at a time. (we were linked with Trout Run for much of the century.) A church blessed by Almighty God that grew disciples of Christ and also grew buildings and grounds as the history will show. In 1904 the church had 47 communicant members with 79 in Sabbath School and an average attendance in school of 43. In 1903 the holdings of the church included the present sanctuary and a large house near the Bair’s ball field that was the parsonage or in presbyspeak, the manse. The meetings of the elders and trustees were often conducted after the worship service which may or may not have been in the morning and sometimes at the manse or at the home of one of the members.
By and large, the business conducted by the elders had to do with receiving new members, discharging those leaving the church, calling congregational meetings, going to meetings of the Presbytery and calling new pastors. The business conducted by the Trustees on the other hand seemed to be the maintenance of the church manse and working closely with the Session on the other matters of the church including finances. The pastor in 1904 was paid $400 per year, had free use of the manse and a month off in August. Rev Preston received a vote of confidence in April 1907 when the congregation voted 37 to 0 to retain him as pastor.
A moderator from Covenant Central Church was appointed and he had charge of both the Hepburnville and Trout Run Churches. By 1919 the church membership was at 90 and the Sunday School attendance at 160. These folk appear to be a church somewhat divided because on May 18, 1919 they rejected calling a new pastor by a vote of 17 in favor and 20 against. Later on June 1, 1919 they rejected another pastor on a vote of 6 in favor and 23 against. The next congregational meeting was on August 24, 1919. Page 91 in the records contains a most bizarre entry. It indicates that the congregation voted on a motion that would have called a new pastor and authorized a bathroom in the manse. The motion failed even after the part about a bathroom was deleted. No mention was made of this pastor again so the presumption is that he did not take or perhaps was not offered the job.
Thankfully, a few months later in November 1919 the congregation called Rev Alexander Gilmore by a vote of 34 to 2 which was then made unanimous. From time to time the minutes reveal curious entries like the one for the minutes of July 9, 1920, which read in part “clerk and pastor to see about the conduct of the proprietor of the hotel at Cogan Station.”
In April 1929 the congregation elected members to the Board of Trustees. There is a note that since Clayton Beach received the most votes he would get the janitor’s job. We do not know if that was a good deal or not or what Mr. Beach might have thought about it. The Session did not meet in 1931 nor in most of 1932 In 1933 the Trustees had to borrow money from a bank to pay the salary of the stated supply pastor.
Church records also describe the activities of the Ladies Aide Society from 1915-1930. They met more or less on a monthly basis at the homes of the various members. Dues were collected and it seems that on many occasions, a dinner or lunch was served and a collection taken up after the meal. Many of the meetings were devoted to all day quilting sessions and the quilts later sold to support the work of the ladies in the church. The notes indicate that enough money was raised to pay for a janitor, to pay for coal to heat the church and to pay toward the pension of the pastor. It seems the church was much aided financially by the work of the Ladies Aide. A statement has been made (not completely in jest) that the “ladies really ran the church in those days.”
In 1929 a group of men and women from the church joined together to form the Hepburnville Presbyterian Athletic Club. The membership consisted of any person who resides within two miles of the Hepburnville Post Office. It purpose was “to provide and foster clean and healthy amusement for the young people of the church and community and encourage high moral and religious activity in the church and community. The club purchased an old Methodist Church building that is still standing and in use today as a meeting place for the local Lions Club. For many years it was the social center of the church and community.
The 1930’s and 1940’s were not particularly good years for Lycoming Centre Church. For the most part the pulpit was filled with stated supply preachers and interns from Princeton University. The membership dropped into the low 50s and times were pretty tough. There is a notation of a problem with bats in the parsonage in 1938 and many notations indicating hard financial times. There is virtually no mention of any activity related to World War II I suppose because it was simply a fact of life for those men and women. Similarly, there is no specific mention of the Great Depression in any of the records. Nevertheless, the believers continued to come and worship though for many years the worship services were held only every other week and then in the evenings. There is mention in the Trustee minutes in 1942 of an offer from the Ladies Aide to pay for installing a bathroom in the basement of the sanctuary. (Notes indicate it was still being discussed in 1949).
Even through the difficult times in the 20s, 30s and 40s, it is clear that God had a plan for the church and perhaps beginning around 1945 with the calling of Rev Sinclair Reed to be the part time pastor (he also pastored 4 other churches in the area) the plans of God for His people in Hepburnville began to take form. There was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the church on August 21, 1947 when Rev Reed was the supply pastor.
For the entire life of the church up to this point, the Sunday School classes had been held in the sanctuary. There were about 2 adult classes and 3 classes for children. Each was set apart from the others by a black curtain hung on a circular frame high enough to keep one class from seeing another. Probably not the best venue for classes but it appears the people of Lycoming Centre have always put a premium on education. It had been clear for a long time that an addition was needed to improve the program for children and young people and to have a place for social gatherings. The first official discussion of an addition was recorded in the minutes of the Trustees on January 29, 1952 The issue seemed to be determining whether or not the sanctuary basement could be excavated or would an actual addition be better. Later that same year the first real budget was prepared showing total expenses proposed of $3,100.00.
The parking lot was created in 1954 under an arrangement with the Lycova Grange that owned the land. In the early days, there were pavilions where members parked their horses and buggies. Also in 1954 the men of the church knowing the need to raise some money for an addition to the church began a multi year project called the “Lord’s Acre” Acreage across the creek from the church was set aside and the men planted, oats, wheat, sweet corn and field corn. All labor and machinery were donated and the men raised about $1500.00 that first year. Records were kept and one notation early on states “Oran Weaver’s dog ate Carl Snyder’s lunch but for 2 sticks of celery. Oran shared his lunch with Carl but both went home hungry.”
1957 was a busy year for the people of Lycoming Center. On February 27 there was a congregational meeting to approve a call to the Rev Ralph Fogal. This would be the first full time pastor in many years and there was concern about the ability of the church to bear the financial burden. The story is told of a close vote with one more vote in favor than opposed. There seemed to be some uncertainty because of the close vote and Carl Snyder rose to speak. “This is America,” he said “and in America, the majority rules. With this pithy statement the decision was ratified and March 5 Rev Fogal chaired his first Session meeting. A building committee was formed and met initially on May 28, 1957 The General Chairman was Clifford Waltz and the treasurer was Vada Koch. A little over 2 years later the new addition was dedicated on September 27, 1959. It is the building we call Taylor Hall.
In 1962 Ralph Fogal resigned to take another position and a PNC was formed to call another pastor. On June 2, 1963 Rev Paul E Gordon preached the first of 34 years of sermons and a new era had arrived although few would have predicted such a long ministry at the time given the history of the church. Milestones along the way include the election of the first woman elders on October 20, 1971. Those elders were Vada Koch and Florence Markley. There were major floods in 1972 and 1996 and some other minor ones along the way. The first weekend in November 1978 marked a major milestone and turning point in the life of this church. Someone had heard of a Methodist program known as a “Lay Witness Mission” in which lay people from many churches come to a congregation and testify about their faith. Allen and Senie Burns and about 30 witnesses came to the church that weekend and those of us who were there can tell you that the church by the grace of God had a mighty spiritual revival that weekend and nothing has been exactly the same since. Out of that weekend came a time of spiritual growth and renewal that in many ways has nurtured and sustained us ever since.
Over the years of Paul Gordon’s service the church grew in numbers and in the vitality of our ministries. Hallelujah Hall was added in 1987. Following the death of Paul’s beloved wife Faith Anne in February 1997 it seemed to the man we affectionately refer to as “the Rev” or “PG” that God was calling him to a time of rest and renewal and so with sadness for ourselves and great joy for Paul we accepted his resignation and celebrated his years of ministry in a farewell in June 1997.
Once again we were faced with an empty pulpit and a PNC was again appointed under the chairmanship of Bill Beltz. The process was long and arduous and seemed at times to be nearly fruitless but our faith was rewarded when God in his providence pointed out the one man whom we should call. I have said many times since that God knew we were not particularly good at making choices and decisions so he sent only one man to us and we had the good sense to confirm God’s choice and call the Rev. William Younger (known to one and all as Billy) to be our Pastor. The rest as they say is history.
We are a people of God confident in Him and his plan for our lives. We have strong and vital ministries in music, youth, worship, Christian Education and missions. We have the benefit of a vital ministry with our Korean counterparts and Pastor Rho. We have resolved a potential crisis by purchasing the Grange property and have successfully converted the manse to an office and resource center we dedicated the summer of 2002 as Faith Centre in honor of Faith Anne Gordon.
In August of 2010, Rev. Dr. Billy Younger accepted a call from Union Presbyterian Church in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania as the Lead Pastor. By God’s grace, our pastoral search concluded in just over 4 months with the calling of the Rev. Jerry Fourroux, Jr. who began his ministry with us in March 2011.
In January 2013, we ended our affiliation with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA), and joined a new denomination – ECO, the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians. ECO is a growing national reformed Presbyterian denomination that has a missional emphasis, and one that we are excited to be a part of.
So here we are in 2015, 168 years after the founding of this congregation looking to the future with confidence, and trying to be what our fore runners were, a faithful people of God – a people who endeavor to glorify God in all of life, in Worship, Education and Outreach.