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Our History

The history of the First Presbyterian Church of Murrysville goes back to the beginning of Murrysville itself. Our church was the only place of worship in Murrysville in the early 1800’s so our members read like a Who’s Who of Murrysville founders.

•1781 – Redstone Presbytery was organized

•1781 – Jeremiah Murry worked his way west as a peddler to what is now Murrysville

•1815 (approx.) – local Presbyterians started to hold occasional tent services on what are now the Murrysville Cemetery grounds (above the current church)

•1819 – the Northern Turnpike, a toll road, came through the Turtle Creek valley

•1820 – town of Murrysville was founded after Jeremiah Murry laid out the town square along the new pike

•June 1, 1830 - Jeremiah Murry deeded a parcel of land containing “two acres and 80 perches”, strict measure, to include a meeting house and graveyard. His bequest stated “It is my desire to further the cause of Christianity and in particular the Presbyterian religion, and whereas a number of persons have associated themselves in a congregational capacity and have executed themselves so as to build a meeting house on said premises…”

•October 6, 1830 - the local Presbyterians were granted a petition first by Redstone Presbytery, then by the newly-formed Blairsville Presbytery, to have a congregation organized

•1830 – the first church, a brick building, was completed. It was 40 feet long by 30 feet wide with a 13 foot ceiling.

•March, 1831 – the congregation was organized and four ruling elders were chosen. There were 49 charter members, mostly former Plum Creek Church members that had been traveling ten miles or more to services.

•October 19, 1831 - Reverend Francis Laird was installed full-time by the Presbytery, after sharing his time between Plum Creek and Poke Run churches and then being directed by the Presbytery to organize the church at Murrysville.

•1831 - Reverend Laird started a classical school in Murrysville

•1834 - the congregation grew so much that an addition was added to the church

•1837 - the church was replaced by a larger brick church on the same site

•1854 – Reverend William Edgar was installed. He served half-time at Harrison City during the Civil War years.

•1862 - the classical school was organized on a permanent basis as the Turtle Creek Valley Academy by Francis Laird Stewart, grandson of Reverend Laird

•1866 – Reverend William Spargrove was installed. A new enthusiasm developed and fifty new members joined the church the following year.

•1866 - Reverend Spargrove of the First Presbyterian Church became principal and changed the name to the Laird Institute. The Laird Institute gave the community an intellectual background remarkable for a small town and resulted in many ministers, doctors, lawyers and teachers coming from the church.

•1869 - plans were drawn for a new two-story brick structure to handle the growing congregation

•June 23, 1871 – Dedication of the new church (located next to the present Laird Hall)

•May, 1873 – a tornado tore a portion of the roof from the new church

•1874 – another storm tore the bell tower from its setting, depositing the wreckage on the lot next door. The roof was repaired but the bell and tower were not replaced.

•1878 – the Haymaker Well, a project of Obadiah and Michael Haymaker of the church, was drilled in Murrysville. This well was the first commercial natural gas well in the country.

•1880 – Reverend Spargrove resigned his charge after greatly increasing the membership of the church

•1887 – pipes were laid to bring natural gas to the church for lighting

•1915 – Möller pipe organ was installed

•1923 – the church, pipe organ and manse were wired for electricity

•1933 – Murrysville Tree Sign was planted by the Boy Scouts under the direction of F. Morse Sloan - scoutmaster, gas producer and member of the church

•1934 – during the Great Depression, women of the church made and sold soup every Wednesday to pay the insurance premiums on the church property.

•1946 – the old manse was sold and Westminster House at the corner of North Hills Road and Old William Penn Highway was acquired as a new manse

•June 19, 1957 – Laird Hall was dedicated, becoming the center of many activities for the church and community

•January, 1961 – Dr William R Johnston was installed as pastor and a manse on Sequoia Drive was purchased to be his home. The Westminster house became space for offices, Sunday School, and choir rehearsals.

•March, 1961 – double sessions of church and Sunday School started

•November, 1965 – plans were started for the construction of the present sanctuary building

•October 5, 1969 – first service in the new sanctuary

•February 22, 1970 – dedication of the new sanctuary building

•1971 – informal Sunday morning worship at Laird Hall began

•1979 – the old church next to Laird Hall was razed

•September 9, 1980 – church office suffered a serious fire

•1982 – cross built from Corten steel was constructed next to sanctuary building

•May, 1984 – acquired the “Stiglitz property”. This piece of property has become the current Presby Park

•January 8, 1987 – acquired the “McCutcheon property” between the current Westminster House and Presby House

•1996 – sanctuary went through extensive remodeling

•1997 – sold easement to the United Methodist Church next door for their current parking lot

•June 4, 1997 – acquired Presby House

•September, 2001 – J Charles MacPherson III installed as pastor

•2005 – built a pavilion in Presby Park

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