History of the First Presbyterian Church of Irwin

Early Scotch-Irish Presbyterians coming as immigrants from Ireland to escape persecution there, established communities first in eastern and northern Pennsylvania, and afterward pushed westward into the Cumberland Valley and into western Pennsylvania. It was the latter group that organized the Redstone Presbytery (then called Blairsville Presbytery), bounded by the Allegheny Mountains, Lake Erie, West Virginia, and on the west by the "setting sun". One of the earliest churches in the presbytery was Long Run Presbyterian (later to merge with Bethel Presbyterian and which is now Christ United Presbyterian) established around 1772.

Long Run Church Circleville, PA by E.K. Weller


Long Run Church

The completion of the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad through Westmoreland county in 1852 brought out the coal from the mines that evolved and changed North Huntingdon township's chief industry from farming to bituminous coal production.*

Presbyterians at Long Run (now Calvin Presbyterian Church) felt drawn to establish a preaching station in Irwin as the new community developed in the early 1860's. In 1864, together with other local Presbyterians, they arranged to hold services every other Sunday at "Candle Lighting" in the German Reformed Church.

In 1869, when the new Irwin School building was built on Main Street, the Long Run congregation gave the trustees the authority to pay rent for the use of the assembly room on the second floor for regular Sunday services. The first Sunday school class was held on the afternoon of April 25, 1869 and the first church service followed that evening.

On November 7, 1870, the Presbyterian Church of Irwin was organized with an official charter to be granted later. The original forty members received their charter on March 30, 1872 and immediately began plans to construct their church building on Main Street.

  Weathered black and white photo of first wooden church. The angle shows the steeple towards the front with modest awning roof over stair landing leading up to the front door. This door is bookcased by tall rounded top windows on both sides of the front and where the front wall is slightly recessed from the center part of the wall holding the door. To the right the church's left side wall is depicted with a row of tall arched windows (as on the front) running along it's side. These windows are at the same level as the front windows. Below and parallel to these are square windows for the lower (basement) level.

Original wooden church that is now the Grey Hall apartments further down the street from the present church. The members purchased the plot of land it stands on April 11, 1872 from John and Mary J. Irwin. The structure was completed in 1873 by the Fulton Brothers, a local construction firm.

 The first building, a wooden structure, was completed in 1873 and was the center for educational and worship events until the need for a larger building became evident in the early 1900's. Plans for the present building began in March of 1914 under the direction of a 20-member building committee. The groundbreaking took place on September 20, 1915 at which time our charter was amended to read "The First Presbyterian Church of Irwin". The cornerstone was laid April 30, 1916. The church was completed on April 17, 1917 at a cost of $50,873.11.

  Black and white photo of present day church. The 3 front doors to the sanctuary, however; are colored red as a color photo would show.

Ground breaking for the present day church took place on September 20, 1915. On April 30, 1916 the cornerstone was laid. The church was completed April 17, 1917 at a cost of $50,873.11.

The history of our church is one of growth and Christian influence, active participation in the Presbytery and leadership in the community. We have provided strong support for mission work locally as well as around the world, and have been blessed to have several members of our church continue the educational process leading to ordination.

Seventeen pastors have served the church:

David Dickey 1871-1873   J. A. Eby 1904-1906
R. M. Brown 1873-1877 Rollin R. Marquis 1906-1910
S. K. Howard 1878-1880 Humphrey J. Rendell 1911-1914
A. E. McCogney 1880-1882 Samuel Blacker* 1914-1939
B. F. Boyle 1882-1888 Wilber J. Matchett 1940-1948
R. A. Hunter 1888-1890 E. Michael Flanigan 1948-1969
A. F. Boyd 1890-1894 Larry A. Dunster 1970-1998
J. E. Hutchinson 1894-1903 Lanny Mellinger 2000-2003
Dr. Ronald Wakeman
Current Pastor
* Current church began operation under Rev Blacker