Mountaintop Presbyterian Church

History of our Church

 

The Beginning:            The Years from 1876 to 1928

This is a record of the tremendous effort of the Reverend W.J. Day and the group of dedicated Christians who together organized our church and shepherded it through the early years of our existence. Much of the information is taken from memoirs of Rev. Day and records compiled by Eva W. Swortwood.

The modest beginning of our congregation began in May of 1876. A committee, comprised of John B. Gloman, John M. Chase and others, representing the communities of Solomon’s Gap, Fairview, and Penobscot approached the Rev. William J. Day, Pastor of the Coalville Presbyterian Church( now the Ashley Presbyterian Church) to assist them in organizing a Presbyterian Sunday School in the Mountain Top area. Later that year the Sunday School was opened with John B. Gilman, Superintendent; D.F. Dietrick, Assist. Superintendent and H. Deitrick, Secretary in an old one room school in the woods below Solomon’s Gap or South Fairview. Rev. Day walked the distance from Ashley to the Schoolhouse every two weeks for many years to preach a Sunday sermon.

No information is available about the years between 1880 and 1887, but for the evidence of effective stewardship of Rev. Day and his congregation.

In June of 1879, the trustees resolved to purchase land for a church structure. The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company donated a lot 100’ X 190’ on the Penobscot, White Haven Road. The deed was dated August  26, 1879. *The Board of Trustees consisting of John M. Chase, Daniel Deitick, G.B. Stewart, Redmond Lines and Henry Zerfoss. A building committee consisting of J. Chase, G. B. Stewart, Jacob Brong, and William T. Small, hired a contractor, Samuel Dutt and ground was broken in September, 1879. The building was completed in early 1880.

The building was dedicated on February 20, 1880. The Rev. F.B. Hodge of First Presbyterian Church of Wilkes-Barre preached the sermon for church members and their many friends from Ashley and Wilkes-Barre who were transported to Mountain Top for the event by special train provided by the CRR of New Jersey. At the dedication a total of $782.00 was pledged to complete payment on the building and the Ladies organization of the church donated the bell which had been purchased for $183.00

The church remained a branch of the Ashley Presbyterian Church until 1887, with Rev. Day providing the pastoral care for both churches until 1887. In April of that year, Rev. Day, at a meeting of the Lackawanna Presbytery, presented a request that the Mountain Top Church be separated from the Ashley Church and be reorganized as The Presbyterian Church of Mountain Top. The request was granted and the final entry in the Session minutes of May 22, 1887, moderated by Rev. Day, recorded the letters of dismissal to 82 members of the Ashley church and transferring them, by charter to the Mountain Top church. (*list of original charter members of church)

On Wednesday evening, May 25, 1887, the committee appointed by Presbytery met and enjoyed a sermon, preached by the Rev. Dr. Hodge, followed by Rev. Day reading the list of the 82 members transferred to the Mountain Top Church who were then organized as the Presbyterian Church of Mountain Top.

Much of what we know of this important occasion is taken from a copy of an article of the Wilkes-Barre Record of February 22, 1887
 

A special train left this city Friday evening at 5:30 o’clock crowded with people to attend the dedication of the new Presbyterian church, at Mountain Top. The train stopped at Ashley, where the number was largely reinforced. After about an hour’s pleasant ride, the party arrived at their destination.

The services were opened by the singing of the appropriate anthem "How Beautiful are Thy Dwellings", by the Ashley Presbyterian Church choir. Rev. Andrew Brydle, of Pleasant Valley, read for the Scripture lesson, the exceedingly appropriate prayer of Solomon, at the dedication of the Temple at Jerusalem. Prayer was offered by Rev. H. H. Wells of Kingston. The Hymn "Crown Him Lord of All" was then sung by the choir, after which Rev. F. B. Hodge, of the First Presbyterian Church, this city, preached the dedicatory sermon from the lxxiv Psalm, ‘How Amiable are Thy Tabernacles of Lord of Hosts’. The sermon was a masterly vindication of the truth of Christianity from the flippant and groundless assertion of atheists and free thinkers. The necessity of the Christian religion for the welfare and liberty of humanity, was incontrovertibly demonstrated. That liberty , as we of the present day understand it, it is impossible to attain without the influence of the Christian religion. After singing Rev. W. J. Day made a few remarks introducing the several ministers present, after which he gave an interesting history of the church, from its origin to the present time, with amounts of subscription received., and the donors. He stated that the amount still due was $750.00, which was raised then and there. Thus the church was dedicated entirely free from debt.

The church stands upon a hill, near the railroad, is a very neat structure, will seat about 125 people, and is very nicely furnished within and without. The whole cost was $3,190.00 which includes furnaces, carpets, pulpit furniture, and the ladies of Mountain Top by their own efforts raised sufficient money to purchase the bell. The idea of having a church at this place was conceived by the mind of Rev. W. J. Day of Ashley many years ago and it was owing to his unceasing endeavors the it is now an accomplished fact. He assumed the responsibility of building the church and solicited and received funds for its erection from New York, Philadelphia, White Haven, Berwick, and many other places. For nearly 10 years he ministered to the people of that place as a preacher of the Gospel and too much can not be said in praise of his zeal. The church was built by Mr. Dutt of this city who was highly commended for the excellent manner in which he completed his work. The thanks of all concerned are due Mesrs. Cassidy and Polhemus for the use of the train to convey those who attended the dedication; also Mr. L. F. Tennant now of Ashley for their kindness shown. Taking it all together, it was a most successful and enjoyable affair and will long be remembered by those who attended. A number of clergymen were present representing Plymouth, Pleasant Valley, Kingston, Ashley and this city.

 

Later in this year of 1887 the Rev. Day retired and the pastoral duties were provided by a ministerial student Mr. Mc Masters during the summer of 1887. The Rev John H. Aughey of Charitan, Iowa answered the call to this church in May 1888. Again very little is known about the church history during it’s entrance into the 20th century. It is known that Railroad stopped operation of its Round House on Penobscot causing concern for the financial health of the church as well as the community. However, this small congregation of Christians remained faithful to their God and their church. They were rewarded with introduction of new businesses which brought with them new parishioners committed to life of the church. Between 1891 and 1928 the church was served by many pastors.

By 1926 the church had outgrown it's present location. Under the direction of the Rev. Andrew Scott, who had been called to this church in 1921, a plan was presented to and approved by Presbytery to secure a location for a new and larger building. In 1927 the Irvin Zerfoss property near Main Road (now Chestnut Street) was purchased. Early in May of 1928, ground was broken by Elders, J. Brong, and R. C. Keener. Ministers present at this service were the Rev. Dr. Van Krug, Rev. Flack, Rev. Graham, Rev. Andrew Scott, from Presbytery and the Rev. Brong from the Methodist Church of Mountain Top as well as George L. Fenner, Elder of Presbytery.

Work on erecting the building started immediately with masonry contractor H.O. Roth under the supervision of D. R. Koons, general contractor. The work proceeded rapidly and on July 15, 1928 at 3:00 P.M. during a special service Mrs. Emma Johnson was given the honor of laying the Corner Stone. This service was also attended by our Reverands Flack and Scott as well Rev. Brong from the Mountain Top M. E. Church.

On November 11, 1928 at the 11:00 AM service our present brick building was dedicated. Participants in this service. Were Rev. Robert Graham, Pastor of the Ashley Presbyterian Church and moderator of Presbytery, the Rev. James Kerr, Dalton, Atty. George L. Fenner, Suburban Superintendent of Presbytery, J. Andrew Boyd and Rev. Andrew Scott. This service and the services that followed during the week were planned by the Session assisted by Mrs. B.J. Swartwood, Choir Director . Persons attending services during the following week were blessed to hear speakers, Rev. W.H. Sugden, Rev. J. B. Craven and Rev. Samuel Mc Dowell. Other celebrations were picnics at Mt. Park. The Central Railroad of New Jersey furnished transportation for both the Presbyterian and Mountain Top M E Sunday Schools to Mt. Park and back to Penobscot. The close of the year 1928 found our church growing in spirit and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to our community.

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