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Rich Hill Presbyterian Church & Cemetery - Wilmington Twnp PA

The congregation that became known as the Rich Hill Presbyterian Church, thirty members led by the Reverend John Munson, was founded in early February 1840. It was soon approved as a Presbyterian Church to serve the local residents in the rural area south of Volant, in what was then Mercer County, Pennsylvania. The first fulltime preacher assigned to the church was the Reverend Newton Bracken, who also served as pastor at the Portersville Presbyterian Church – where his father Reid Bracken had been preacher for twenty-two years. The younger Bracken served in the capacity of pastor of both churches for fifteen years.

The initial services were held in a local schoolhouse, in farmer’s barns, or in private homes. Land was soon purchased on the Eastbrook-Volant Road in an area known as Rich Hill – from which the church took its name. A small church building was erected in 1842 by contractor William Emery and an adjoining cemetery was started soon after as well. In 1866 the church began sharing a pastor with the Leesburg Presbyterian Church, and the two churches were closely affiliated for many years. A nearby parsonage, on land purchased for $275 from Daniel Booher, was also opened in 1872.

The congregation quickly grew and a larger building was soon needed. The old church, under the tutelage of the Reverend Henry Cooper, was torn down in mid-1879 and the construction of a larger wooden frame church commenced at the same location in September 1879. The $1,600 cost was defrayed by selling the lumber of the old building for $200. The new church was completed in February 1880 and dedicated – free of debt – during a ceremony on Thursday, March 4, 1880. The church continued to grow and in 1895 had 175 members.

In June 1920 an official charter application for the Rich Hill Presbyterian Church, signed by Robert K. Blevins, W. M. Jordan, J. W. Welker, James M. McConnell, and B. F. McDowell, was filed in the Lawrence County Court House. It stated that the mission of the church was for, “…the worship of Almighty God according to the faith, creed, discipline and usages of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.” I believe the Rich Hill and Volant Presbyterian Churches formed a union at about this time (possibly earlier) and shared a pastor for the next few decades. During 1939 the old church was upgraded with a full basement, new windows, and refinished floors and pews. In addition electricity was installed throughout the building.

On the weekend of June 15-16, 1940, the congregation, led by the Reverend Homer K. Miller, celebrated its 100th anniversary. The New Castle News of June 17, 1940, had this to say about the celebration, “Special services featured the two-day celebration, festivities being opened on Saturday at noon with an Old Timers picnic in the new church basement. Attorney Homer Drake of New Castle, a former member of the church, raised in Rich Hill, filled the role of toastmaster. Mr. and Mrs. Francis Farmington of Edenburg presented the church with a huge anniversary cake, topped with a model of the church, during the picnic… At 2 o’clock Saturday afternoon the church history was presented… Reminiscences followed, with talks being given by several in attendance… Interdenominational fellowship night was observed Saturday evening… Centennial communion services at 10:30am opened the Sunday services with six new members being received and one baptism taking place. Rev. David King Kerr, pastor from 1935-1938, gave the sermon and Rev. (Earnest K.) Mechlin, assisted by Rev. Miller in the administration of the sacrament.” Various others sermons given by former or visiting pastors Charles M. Rohrbaugh, Charles Z. Bell, William Byers, and Harry E. Kauffman and other speakers rounded out the events held on Sunday.

On April 5, 1959, a small Sunday School addition, built onto the back of the church, was officially dedicated. Later that year, in October, the church, with a membership of almost 200 parishioners, dissolved its union with the Volant Presbyterian Church and went its own way. In 1963 the cemetery was enlarged when the Fassinger family donated some adjoining property, and two years later a major remodeling of the interior of the church was undertaken.

In January 1989 the Rich Hill Presbyterian Church began sharing a pastor – at least for a time – with the Eastbrook Presbyterian Church. The following year, in September 1990, the church celebrated its 150th anniversary. In June 2015 the youthful Reverend Maxwell J. Muska, a native of New Brighton, took over as pastor. He also serves as the pastor of the Harlansburg Presbyterian Church. In November 2015 the congregation proudly celebrated its 175th anniversary.


The congregation that became known as the Rich Hill Presbyterian Church was founded about seven miles northeast of New Castle in 1840 – and a small church was erected two years later. A cemetery was also established on the church grounds. In 1879 the church was dismantled and replaced with a larger building (shown above), which was completed in March 1880. (c1940)


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Rich Hill Presbyterian Church and associated burial ground is located along Route 168, which is seen at right edge of photo. (c2014) Full Size


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