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History of the Churches of the Pittsburgh Baptist Association

by William Pankey


This historic church is the oldest congregation in the Pittsburgh Baptist Association. The record shows that in 1775 the members met at five different places to hold communion: Laurel Hill, Corse, the church at the forks of the Youghiogheny River, Muddy Creek, and Ten Mile. The first church edifice was probably at the forks of the Youghiogheny River, now McKeesport. A later record indicates that services were conducted in a log house on the farm of Robert Estep—the present site of Venetia. In 1780, David Phillips came from Chester county, where he had been a member of the Great Valley Baptist Church. He purchased the farm where the Peter's Creek Church is now located, calling it "Ninevah." The organization was at first called "the church upon Peter's creek." According to records in the Washington County Court House, "the trustees of Peter's Creek Baptist church purchased a building site of John Cox, the transfer being made September 10, 1788." This Cox farm was near the present town of Gastonville.

The records of Washington County assert that "Rev. David Phillips was called to preach in April, 1781, and was ordained the following May, and from that date he preached at Elizabethtown, Gastonville, and Budd's Ferry on the Youghiogheny River, until 1793."

Shortly after 1794 the Gastonville and Elizabethtown churches united in the calling of a pastor, but there is no record of what became of the "Church on the Youghiogheny."

In 1797, a part of the lot, now the site of the Peter's Creek church. was purchased. The first edifice was a log chapel, which was replaced in 1832 by a brick edifice, at a cost of twelve hundred and fifty dollars. The theological controversy agitated by Alexander Campbell, following 1825, did much to weaken and divide the congregation.

The centennial anniversary of the church was observed November 10, 1873. The third church edifice was erected in 1884, and has been used continuously by the congregation—until the corner-stone of the present new edifice was laid, in 1938.

The following members of the church have entered the Christian ministry: Charles Rigdon, John Rigdon, James Estep, Henry Wade, Joshua Phillips, J. W. Higbee, Sidney Rigdon, Frank Cramer, Frank King, John Erbe, John Lauderbaugh, Kimber Boyer, and Philip B. Boyer. In 1866, Miss Zillah Bunn was baptized in this church, later serving for twenty-five years as a missionary in India. The first Woman's Missionary Society was organized in the church August 11, 1878; it has had a continuous existence to date. Two of the early Sunday school superintendents were William McNary and Isaac King. Among the early deacons were Joseph Phillips, Joseph Higbee, Charles Bailey, Ephraim Estep, Isaac King, William Benson, John King, Joseph Phillips, Jr., John Maits, John Maits, Jr., Samuel Heath, Peter Boyer, Samuel Boyer, Edward Biggs, and Isaac Phillips. The Peter's Creek church now seems to be on the verge of another membership boom, due to the increasing number of families moving into the community. The present membership is 155.

The following ministers have served the church: Rev. John Whitaker (1775-1780), Eev. David Phillips (1780-1824), Rev. Charles Wheeler (1824), Rev. John Winter (1825), Rev. Joshua Bradley (1826-1827), Rev. Alexander Campbell (1827-1828), Rev. William Shadrach (1829-1835), Rev. William Penny (1836-1837), Rev. Benoni Allen (1837-1838), Rev. James Estep (1838-1857), Rev. David Williams (1859-1863), Rev. George Seymore (1864-1865), Rev. J. M. Collins (1866-1868), Rev. A. J. Collins (1869-1872), Rev. Henry Llewellyn (1873-1874), Rev. T. J. Briston (1875-1876), Rev. G. Moffat (1876), Rev. A. J. Collins (1877-1878), Rev. J. K. Cramer (1879-1888), Rev. J. S. Hutson (1889-1890), Rev. E. R. Tilton (1890-1894), Rev. H. B. Bond (1895-1896), Rev. J. W. Moody (1897-1898), Rev. W.H. Chapman (1899-1902), Rev. W. E. DeYarnett (1903-1905), Rev. A. J. Furman (1905-1908), Rev. J. T. Davis (1909-1911), Rev. W. E. Ruch (1911- 1917), Rev. E. H. Baker (1917-1919), Rev. Paul H. Smith (1920-1923), Rev. Frank Cramer (1923-1930), Rev. J. F. Thiessen (1930-1934), Rev. Arthur F. Purkiss (1934), Rev. James H. Williams (1935- ).

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