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History of the Churches of the Pittsburgh Baptist Association

by William Pankey

BAPTIST BEGINNINGS IN WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA

Prior to 1692, the vast territory extending westward from the Allegheny Mountains was inhabited by the native Indians only. In that year the first trader, Arnold Viele, made a journey across the headwaters of the Allegheny River from the Hudson and upper Delaware, and traveled down the Allegheny and Ohio to the Shawnee Indian country. Upon his return he brought a group of Shawnee Indians, who established themselves in a village on the upper Delaware. About the year 1725, they became dissatisfied with the measurement of the "walking purchase" of the Penns and migrated to the Forks of the Ohio, where they established several towns.

Traders from the East soon followed the Indians across the mountains. In quick succession these trails became highways for the pioneering settlers, and the marching military forces that followed. As the military establishments became stronger, affording more protection to these early settlers, the religious foundations were gradually laid. No substantial religious establishments were attempted until 1768, when the Penns made their purchase of the area west of Laurel Hill and south of the purchase line between Cherry Tree and Kittanning. Prior to that date, western Pennsylvania was the scene of bloody contacts between the Indians, the English and the French soldiers.


Ketoctin Baptist Church, Loudoun County, Virginia

In the parlance of historical genealogy, the Pittsburgh Baptist Association is the great-great-granddaughter of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. The Baptist Associations formed in the colonies were in the following order: Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), 1707; Charleston (South Carolina), 1751; Sandy Creek (North Carolina), 1758; Kehukee (North Carolina), 1765; Ketoctin (Virginia), 1766; Warren (Connecticut), 1767; Stonington (Connecticut), 1772; Redstone (Pennsylvania), 1776; Shaftsbury (New York, Massachusetts, Vermont), 1781; New York, 1791; Baltimore, 1792. The Charleston Association became the progenitor of the Associations to the southward, except Ketoctin. The Ketoctin, Warren and New York Associations were formed from the Philadelphia Baptist Association. The Minutes of the Philadelphia Association for 1764 have the following entry:

Concluded to receive the Church at Ketoctin, and the church of Opekon, in Virginia, into the fellowship with this Association.

The Ketoctin Baptist Association was formed in 1766, pursuant to the following action taken by the Philadelphia Baptist Association :

"Agreed that the Churches in Virginia have our leave to form themselves into an Association, provided they go on the same plan, and hold union with us.''

In addition to the Ketoctin Clinrcli, Mill Creek Church, Smith's Creek Church and Broad Run Church became constituent members of the Ketoctin Association. By the year 1809, this Association reported thirty-six churches and two thousand members.

About the year 1768 there came into the Redstone country, from New Jersey, the Reverend Henry Croslye (Crosbye) and the Reverend Isaac Sutton. With the assistance of others, these New Jersey preachers organized, in 1770, the Great Bethel Baptist Church, at Beesontown, now Uniontown. This is the oldest church west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The main stream of Baptist life in western Pennsylvania flowed down the Monongahela valley from Virginia. In subsequent years other Baptist streams flowed from the mountaintop at old Beulah, near Ebensburg, and still others from western New York. All of these streams had their source at Philadelphia. A few years prior to 1770, there began a general movement of pioneer Virginians into the Redstone country. Numbered among these pioneers was the Reverend John Corbly. His missionary activities resulted in the organization of the Goshen, the North Ten Mile and the Peter's Creek Baptist Churches, in 1773. The Turkey Foot Baptist Church was organized in 1775, and many others followed in quick succession.

The Redstone Baptist Association was organized October 7, 1776, with the following six churches as constituent members: Great Bethel, Goshen, North Ten Mile, Peter's Creek, Pike Run and Turkey Foot.

At the annual meeting of the Redstone Baptist Association, August 31, 1832, Forks of the Yough Church (Salem), Turkey Foot Church (Confluence), and Loyalhanna Church (Saltsburg) , were dismissed to form the Monongahela Baptist Association, with the National Turnpike as the boundary line, but with the privilege of any church on either side of that line to change its Associational affiliation whenever it was deemed desirable.

The Pittsburgh Baptist Association was organized in 1839, by a group of churches withdrawing from the Monongahela Baptist Association for that specific purpose. Included among the charter churches constituting the Pittsburgh Association were, Great Bethel, Peter's Creek, and all the then existing churches in the city of Pittsburgh. Today there are seventy-four churches in the Pittsburgh Association, with a total membership of approximately twenty thousand.

 

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