AREA HISTORY: Religious History, Lower Chanceford Township, York County, PA
Research by Kathy Francis
History of York County, Pennsylvania. John Gibson, Historical Editor.
Chicago: F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1886.
CHANCEFORD PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH – This church is located a short distance southeast of the
village of Airville, and its early history was intimately connected with the Slate Ridge
Church, of Peach Bottom Township, the two congregations, being served by the same pastors for
many years. The exact time of its organization could not be accurately ascertained, through
references are made to it in official records as early as 1760. The first settlers of this
interesting section were a very worthy class of Scotch-Irish, many of whose descendants are now
members of this church. The first house of worship was known as “the tent,” which was removed
and a substantial church built. The present church was built in 1850. This one is soon to
give place to a new one.
Rev. John Strain was installed pastor in 1762, and served until his death in 1774. Rev. John
Slemons was installed in 1781, and his pastoral relation dissolved in 1799. Rev. Samuel
Martin, D. D., was installed in 1799, pastoral relation dissolved in 1845, and he died the same
year. Rev. John Farquhar was ordained and installed in 1846, and died in 1866. He was highly
educated. Some of his published sermons and other writings are of rare merit. Sketches of the
clergymen preceding him, will be found in the history of the Slate Ridge Church in this work.
The next pastor was Rev. Robert Gamble, who was installed in April, 1867, and served until
September 20, 1882. Rev. C. B. Cross, present pastor, was installed in September, 1883. He is
a graduate of Princeton.
The present parsonage is located near the church, surrounded by ten acres of church-land. The
congregation is large, and composed of an intelligent and prosperous people.
In the adjoining large cemetery rest remains of the former members of this church, including a
number of Revolutionary patriots.
THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH – This church body was organized in 1858, at Pittsburgh, by the
union of the Associate Presbyterian and Associate Reformed Presbyterian Churches, whose history
runs back into Scotland, as Covenanters and Associates (Seceders).
The present members in York county, are the descendants of Presbyterians, who immigrated to
this country from the Province of Ulster and county of Antrim, the Scotch-Protestant districts
of North Ireland. The rise of rents and tithes and several bad harvests from 1724 to 1729, and
the oppression of the government, led many to immigrate to America. Four thousand and two
hundred sailed in three years. A number sold themselves for four years to pay their passage.
Some of them arrived in York County as squatters, in 1723, and as settlers in 1732. A part of
them were from Scotland. Their first religious services were held in dwelling houses and in
The church at Airville was organized March 27, 1771. William Gabby and Daniel Sinclair were
elected ruling elders. The Rev. John Cuthbertson had preached occasionally in that locality,
for about twenty year previous to this time, and after the organization, he frequently
A REMARKABLE MISSIONARY – Rev. Cuthbertson seems to have been a remarkable traveling missionary
through Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and Connecticut. He arrived in this country from
Scotland, in 1751, and landed at Newcastle, Del. He kept a diary, in which he reports having
preached during the first year, 120 days, baptized 10 children, married 10 couples, and ridden
on horseback 2,500 miles, exposed to all the dangers of frontier life. He preached in private
houses and in tents. Some of these tents, he writes, were located in groves, with an elevated
platform for the speaker, and board nailed against a tree to support the Bible. Thus did this
apostolic man toil for thirty-nine years, during which time he preached 2,452 days, baptized
1,806 children, married 240 couples, rode on horseback about 70,000 miles, or nearly equal to
three times around the globe. The last year of his life was spent in York and Lancaster
Counties. He died in 1791, aged seventy-five years, and his dust now rests in an unpretentious
graveyard, on the peaceful banks of the Octorara Creek, in Lancaster county.
ANECDOTES OF REV. CUTHBERTSON - He was very highly revered by the people with whom he worked,
and many interesting stories are related of him, which were transmitted to posterity by former
generations. A few, to illustrate that there was a vein of humor in his nature, should be
related: He once asked if it were wrong to sing songs, when he answered in his broad Scotch,
that he thought it would not be wrong to sing, “I love Lillie and Lillie loves me.” It is also
said that if any one made an excuse that the table was not well supplied, or that the
accommodations were not good, he would say, “None of your sunful excuses.” He was very fond of
a cup of tea, especially after a fatiguing day’s journey on horseback. As tea was a very rare
article then in this country, he was accustomed to carry it with him in his saddlebags, for his
own use. Arriving at his stopping place in this county, while on a trip westward, late one
evening, he handed the precious parcel to the lady of the house, asking her to prepare some for
supper. She complied cheerfully, emptying the entire contents into a kettle of water, boiled
well, carefully drained off the liquid and served up the leaves after the manner of greens.
When the reverend guest perceived the error as he commenced to partake of his meal, he
exclaimed, in characteristic Scotch, “Dear woman, if you had gi’en me the broth, you might have
had the kale,” At one time he says he traveled eleven miles searching for a wagon to borrow.
Such vehicles were very scarce then.
EARLY MEMBERS AND CLERGYMEN – Some of the first members of this church in 1774, were William
Wilson, George Buchanan, Hugh Ross, William Smith, James Anderson, Samuel Dickson, William
Fullerton, Samuel Nelson, William Maughlin and Alexander Ewing.
Revs. Lind and Dobbins preached as supplies until the arrival of Rev. Charles Campbell, of
Stewartstown, Ireland, who was installed in 1801. Lower Chanceford and Hopewell were in one
charge, and so continued until the year 1858. Rev. Campbell died in 1804, at the age of
Rev. Josiah Wilson became pastor in 1808, and died in 1812. He lived near Muddy Creek Forks,
on the farm now occupied by Francis Grove. There was no regular pastor then until 1843, when
Rev. D. B. Jones was ordained and installed. During the thirty-one years without pastoral
care, the congregation became much weakened. Some families met for worship during this
interval. Mr. Jones remained until 1847, and was soon afterward succeeded by Rev. William
Carlisle, who resigned in 1856. In May, 1857, Rev. Joseph Boyd was called and remained one
There was at this time, an Associate Presbyterian congregation in Lower Chanceford, connected
with the Guinston charge. In 1858 this congregation united with the one at Airville, and
formed the United Presbyterian Church of Lower Chanceford. The pastors since that have been
Rev. T. F. Baird, from 1861 to 1865, when he died. Rev. D. G. Bruce, from 1869 to 1872, when
he resigned. Rev. A. S. Aiken was ordained and installed on the 29th of April, 1875, and is the
present efficient pastor. To him we are indebted for much of this information.
In the old “Nelson Graveyard,” one-half mile below Airville, on the York and Peach Bottom wagon
road, rest the remains of many of the early covenanters of this section. There is now a new
cemetery adjoining the remodeled church in the village. This, and the church, are surrounded
by a beautiful grove of oak trees. The present church building was erected in 1843. A neat
and cozy parsonage belonging to the congregation was erected in 1884.
PINE GROVE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH – This church is situated in Lower Chanceford on the wagon road,
leading from York to Peach Bottom, twenty-five miles southeast of the former and five miles
northwest of the latter place, and equi-distant from the Presbyterian Churches of Lower
Chanceford, Slate Ridge and Slateville.
Rev. Samuel Park, who had completed and resigned a pastorate of forty years in Slate Ridge
Church, began to hold meetings in the vicinity of Pine Grove Schoolhouse in 1851, preaching
every alternate Sabbath afternoon in private houses, and subsequently in Pine Grove
Schoolhouse. July 28, 1853, a few Presbyterian families, residing in that vicinity, who felt
the inconvenience of the distance to be traveled over in reaching the churches above named,
resolved upon erecting a church edifice (40x35 feet) on land donated by James Barnett. The
building was finished in 1857, and October 30, 1857, the church of Pine Grove was organized by
a committee of Presbytery appointed for that purpose. There were then five members and two
ruling elders. These elders, whose names are James Barnett and Herman Snyder, yet live and
continue to officiate in the capacity for which they were chosen. Other elders, as
circumstances required, were elected and ordained, whose names were James McKay, Thomas Norris,
Enas F. Barnett and Daniel Shenk. Mr. McKay, who was elected an elder in 1858, died in 1864.
The session, as now constituted, consists of four elders: James Barnett, Herman Snyder, Enas
F. Barnett and Daniel Shenk. The deaconate was introduced into this church in 1876 also. The
names of those who have served in this capacity are D. J. Barnett, Alexander Monroe, Jr.,
Richard Ruff, S. P. Snyder and G. T. Barnett.
There have been received to membership in this church seventy-six persons; the removals by
death and otherwise number forty-one, leaving, at this date, a membership of thirty-five.
The Rev. Samuel Park continued to preach to this people up to 1859. The Rev. T. M. Crawford,
then pastor of the Slateville church, and the present occupant of the pulpit of Pine Grove, has
ever since 1859, in the main, supplied the Pine Grove pulpit, excepting two and one-half years,
included in 1871, 1872 and 1873 when it was occupied by Rev. Alexander F. Morrison, who was at
the same time pastor of New Harmony church, and excepting also four and one-half years in the
aggregate, when Rev. Samuel Park, Rev. John Farquhar, pastor of Lower Chanceford church, and
Rev. Robert Gamble, his successor at Lower Chanceford, and Rev. J. D. Smith, successor of Rev.
Samuel Park at Slate Ridge, and Rev. D. M. Davenport, successor of Rev. T. M. Crawford at
Slateville – were at different stages of the church’s history associated, and took their turns
with Mr. Crawford in supplying the pulpit at Pine Grove.