In 1848, Samuel Ott, a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Wheeling, organized a Sunday School, which met in the basement of his home at 4002 Water Street. There were eight members. When the church was organized, the Sunday School moved to the Bogg's Run school house. However, it did not become an official part of the church until 1851.
On Friday afternoon, November 2, 1849, in the little school house on Bogg's Run, a group of local Christians met with two representatives of Washington (Pennsylvania) Presbytery, the Rev. Cyrus Dickson, D.D., and the Rev. H. R. Weed, D.D. They proceeded to organize the Third Presbyterian Church, to be located in Ritchietown, then a suburb of Wheeling.
Fourteen people became charter members. From the First Presbyterian Church of Wheeling, came Duncan Campbell, Margaret Campbell, Andrew Hall, Hiram Martin, Elizabeth Martin, and Mary Garrison. From the Reformed Dissenting Presbyterian Church of Three Ridges, Pennsylvania, came Rosanna Humes. From the Forks of Wheeling Presbyterian Church came Thomas McCombs, and Elizabeth McCombs (his wife). On examination, Grace Blake, George Blake, William Little, Delilah Little (his wife), and Sarah Hintsman were received. Andrew Hall and Thomas McCombs were elected and ordained as ruling elders. Hiram Martin and George Blake, were elected trustees.
When the church was organized, Ritchietown was outside the corporate limits of Wheeling. Cornfields and swamps separated the little village from the city. There were no paved streets, no street lights, and no street cars. The people walked through mud to come to church. Coming in the evening, they had to carry lanterns, and also brought candles to furnish light in the church. During the long sermon, these candles were blown out to economize, leaving only one candle burning on the pulpit.
Early in 1850, the Rev. Alfred Paint became stated supply for the newly organized church. Apparently he was blessed with means. When the little school house on Bogg's Run became inadequate, he donated the lot and house at 3804 Jacob Street. In 1850, the church moved to that address. The Rev. Alfred Paint also refused any pay for his services.
In 1851, the frame building at 3804 Jacob Street was torn down, and a one story brick structure replaced it. It was built by one of the church's first elders, Andrew Hall, who was a contractor.
The Rev. Alfred Paull served till the fall of 1852. During his ministry, the congregation increased from 14 to 43 members.
In the winter of 1852, the Rev. Edgar Woods, an elder of the Second Presbyterian Church of Wheeling, and a licentiate, began preaching in this church. His services were so acceptable that he was called to become the first regular pastor. He accepted, and was ordained and installed in October of 1853. The church grew steadily under his ministry. He continued as pastor till June 9, 1857, when he accepted a call to a church in Ohio.
For two years, the church had no regular pulpit supply. Then came a series of stated supplies. The Rev. J. V. Dodge, 1859-60, the Rev. Marcus Wishart, 1861-62, and the Rev. R. V. Dodge, 1863-64 (who later became pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Wheeling). In 1864, Andrew Hall, the first elder, died. A marble tablet commemorating his service to the Lord was placed on the north wall of the sanctuary by his children and grandchildren.
For two years the congregation was again without a regular preacher. The situation became so discouraging that the members almost gave up and disorganized. In fact, negotiations were in progress to sell the church property to the English Lutherans. At this lime, Elder Samuel Ott stepped forward and said, "This shall not be." Mr. Ott then persuaded the Rev. Jonathan Crosse to come to this struggling church.
On December 16, 1806. the Rev. Jonathan Crosse was installed as the second regular pastor. This was Mr. Cruse's first and only charge. His labors were greatly blessed in this field. He took a doying church, and, with the help of God, revived it and made it strong. The history of the Presbytery of Washington describes his ministry here, "On different occasions the Holy Spirit was given in great measure, and many souls were converted to Christ." He was an earnest and evangelical pastor. The Rev. Jonathan Crosse served till the spring of 1873. A marble tablet commemorating his service to the Lord was placed on the south wall of the sanctuary by his children and grandchildren.
In May of 1873, the Rev. A. G. Eagleson became the third regular pastor of this church, and served until April of 1875.
The Rev. Daniel Williams, a medical doctor, labored as stated supply from 1876 to 1879. While he ministered here, his wife organized the Ladies Missionary Society (1877), and served as its first president.
The Rev. Joseph Lyle became the fourth pastor of this church on November 9, 1879. During his ministry there were several revivals, and large numbers were added to the church. The history of the Presbytery of Washington (Pennsylvania) describes him, "The Rev. Mr. Lyle was a man greatly beloved by all who knew him. He was most earnest in his labors, active in ministering to every good work."
The congregation had been worshipping for 33 years in the one story brick church built in 1851. In the early church there was no choir. Two men sat in front of the congregation and "clerked" for the church. During the ministry of Jonathan Crosse, some boys and girls of the church banded together to form the first choir. Among these were Joseph Dudley, Sr., Mrs. Rebecca Wheat, Mrs. Lucy Cross Wiley, Miss Maggie Ott, and Mr. Isaac Stewart. The choir at that time was at the opposite end of the church from the pulpit. Later, a platform was built to the left of the pulpit, in the front of the church. Such was the arrangement in 1884 when the one story brick church was torn down.
The foundation for the new church was almost completed when the flood of February 1884 wrought great havoc in this community. Scarcely a home escaped great damage. The Rev. Joseph G. Lyle did all he could to protect property and minister to his people. As a result, he undermined his health and died, April 11, 1884.
The Rev. Samuel G. Hair served this church from October 1, 1884 to February 24, 1886, but he was never installed as pastor. During his ministry, the construction of a two story brick building continued. He was a faithful pastor, and his wife an effective co-worker. When they left, she presented an organ to the church.
The Rev. W. M. Eaton, from Washington and Jefferson College, supplied the pulpit from February 24, 1886 to October l, 1886.
On October 1, 1886, the Rev. L. W. Barr became the fifth pastor. During his ministry, the building begun in 1884 was completed. On July 19, 1887, it was dedicated. A newspaper clipping of the following day describes the church and service.
"The church is a substantial and handsome two-story brick, built after the model of the Thomson M. E. Church on the island, with some modifications. The main entrance leads by a broad and easy flight of stairs to the rear of the main audience room. The choir occupies the alcove within the tower, at the opposite end from the pulpit and facing it. The pews are of a very handsome design of oak with trimmings of cherry. A neat carpet and the beautiful stained glass windows give the interior a very cheerful and inviting appearance. "Bracket lights at convenient intervals furnish light to those on the side seats, and the interior is rendered brilliant at night by two two-hundred candlelight Siemens-Lungren burners, hung with glass prisms.
"The church was crowded yesterday afternoon at three o'clock, when the formal dedication took place. The choir was reinforced by the addition of Professor Shockey as organist, and Mr. O. G. Schofield among the vocalists. The other members are Mr. and Mrs. Otto Jaeger, Misses Ethel and Lizzie Bickerton, Chris Voitle, and C. Z. Dalle. They made fine music.
"The sermon was preached by Rev. Dr. D. A. Cunningham, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. Mr. Isaac Stewart reviewed the history of the congregation."
The Rev. L. W. Barr was an effective pastor. He instituted regular monthly session meetings, at 6:30 on Saturday evening. He organized the elders for congregational visiting. He and his session showed great concern for the unsaved in our community. His work was greatly blessed of the Lord. Many souls were brought to Christ, and the spiritual life of the church reached a new high. Mr. Barr resigned in the spring of 1890 to become Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Bellaire, Ohio.
The Rev. Charles M. Alford, D. D., became the sixth pastor of this congregation on April 21, 1890.
During his ministry, the $1,700 debt on the building was paid. The Dorcas Society, with Mrs. Sallie Pipes as its first president, came into existence for the purpose of paying this debt. Achieving that goal, the Dorcas Society continued raising money for yearly church expenses.
Mr. Alford was a brilliant and forcible preacher of the Gospel. Many souls were added to the church. Mrs. Alford was an energetic worker. She organized and helped the young people in their work. They served till late in 1894, when Mr. Alford resigned to accept a call to Philadelphia.
In February, 1895, the Rev. Robert R. Bigger, Ph.D., took up his duties as the seventh pastor of this church, though he was not installed till May 12 of that year. Incidentally, he is the only minister thus far who had an earned doctorate. Immediately after his coming, beginning February 10, 1895, two weeks of evangelistic meetings were held. 75 people were added to the church.
In the summer of 1895, the church was remodeled. A large choir gallery was built in the front of the church, and a large vocallion connected with water power was installed. The cost of this repair amounted to more than $2,000, which was paid within a year. Led by Mrs. Rebecca Wheat, the Dorcas Society assisted greatly in raising that sum. After which the Dorcas Society disorganized, and many of its members joined the newly organized King's Daughters.
Another revival in 1898, ending on March 1, brought 65 new members into the church. The Rev. W. A. Williams assisted Mr. Bigger. At this time, there were 314 members in the church, and 504 members in the Sunday School. The Sunday School had outgrown its seating capacity. So, the Sunday School was remodeled and the church auditorium improved at a cost of $8,000.
The remodeled building is practically the same as it stands today. The Sunday School was divided into departments by folding doors. A kitchen, a lavatory, and a library were added on the south side of the church. An 18 foot addition was made to the front of the church, adding that much to Sunday School rooms downstairs and providing a vestibule in the back of the church upstairs. The stairway was moved to the south west corner of the church so the vestibule would not be divided. The vestibule and the church auditorium were separated by doors that could be opened to increase the seating capacity of the auditorium. Four windows were placed in the upstairs portion of the addition, dedicated to the Rev. Joseph Lyle, Elder Edward Steele, Elder Isaac Stewart, and Elder Joseph Dudley.
On October 1, 1900, a three room cottage at 3842 Eoff Street was purchased for a manse. The trustees at the time were: Charles Jones, Charles R. Miner, Edward Steele, Jr., William A. Sonderman, Thomas Murrin, Anderson Fulton, Frank Krebs, and Sam Simpson.
In 1901, the Dudley family donated the individual communion service set which we now use, in memory of Mrs. Elizabeth Dudley. And the Murrin family presented the communion table which we now use, in memory of Thomas Murrin, president of the Board of Trustees.
In 1903, the mortgage on the church was burned at a special service, the remaining $4,000 of the remodeling debt having been raised. According to the session records, the pastor, the Rev. R. R. Bigger, was presented with "a fine suite of furniture by the congregation on the occasion."
1903 marks the highest Sunday School enrollment in the church's history, 576 were enrolled, making ours the largest single Sunday School in the state of West Virginia. The church enrollment at this time was 326.
With regret, the members of the congregation accepted the resignation of the Rev. R. R. Bigger in the fall of 1903.
The Presbytery of Wheeling was organized in the Third Presbyterian Church on June 6, 1904, according to the direction of the General Assembly. Mr. Leyenberger was elected Stated Clerk.
Mr. Leyenberger, being the son of a missionary, and having been born in China, led the congregation to adopt the Chefoo Mission Station in October of 1907.
In 1910, the church was closed four months for extensive remodeling. A newspaper clipping dated November 3, 1910,describes the building after that.
"The interior of the church presents a very handsome appearance, having been frescoed and painted, and fittedwith beautiful new artglass windows. The seating capacity has been entirely changed, in order to give a center aisle ..." "The pipe organ has been overhauled ... a new steam heating plant installed. The entire work will cost $3,750." "The trustees of the church are W. A. Sonderman, president, Clyde Beal, secretary, Herman Bentz, Chris Voitel, Arthur Mersing, A. Fulton, and W. J. Stein."
That news report from 1910 continues: "Only one charter member of the church is living at present, Mrs. McCombs of Sherrard, who is 90 years old, and has been a consistent member all her life. A fine memorial window has been presented to the church in memory of the late Samuel Ott, who was really the founder of the church."
Under the date of April 14, 1912, the session record reports, "The most largely attended communion service in the history of the church was held this morning, 350 members partaking of the sacrament."
Under the date of April 16, 1912, this very interesting record appears in the session minutes, "During a wonderful religious revival conducted by the Rev. W. A. Sunday and his company of workers, of six weeks duration, between February 17 and March 31, about 8,437 men, women, and children confessed faith in Christ. The great majority of these were new converts, while probably about 1,000 were renewals." Then follows a list of 124 people who united with Third Church as a result of this campaign.
In 1915, a large Felgemaker pipe organ with electric motor power was installed. It cost S2,000. The congregation paid $1,000 and Andrew Carnegie $1,000.
In 1916, the basement was dug out and cemented. Mr. William A. Sonderman and Mr. Beal raised the money to pay for this.
On May 9, 1917, a congregational meeting was held to elect the first board of deacons, three men and three women. Mr. Carl Schellenberg, Mr. Edward Jefferson, Mr. John Noble, Mrs. William Anderson, Mrs. Charles Bowers, and Mrs. Isadore Fulton were elected. They were ordained on June 3, 1917.
In July of 1918, a choir dressing room was built over the vestibule. Choir vestments were purchased, and the processional and recessional of the choir introduced.
The flu epidemic in the fall of 1918 caused the city Health Department to close all churches. Services in Third Church were suspended for the month of October. And the evening service was not resumed till December 29. In 1919, the elders' Communion chairs were purchased by a group of quilting ladies: Mrs. Sudie Rasel, Mrs. Charles Springer, Mrs. Anderson Fulton, Mrs. William Anderson, Mrs. E. V. Steele, Mrs. John Roe, Miss Bertha Rasel.
In 1920, the Friendly Helpers Class presented the Baptismal Fount in memory of Isadore Fulton, Sunday School superintendent and elder.
February of 1921 brought another successful evangelistic service. Mr. Leyenberger was assisted by the Rev. Henry Falconer. Fifty-five persons were added to the church.
In 1924, rolling partitions were placed in the Sunday School to replace the old folding doors, and the Sunday School was modernized. A vestibule was built for the primary department. The library was moved to the rear of the Sunday School, and a large rest room built in its place.
In that same year, a Vox Humana stop was placed in the organ by Miss Bertha Rasel, and chimes were added by the congregation, in memory of Mr. Herman Bentz.
In February of 1927, a new Bible was purchased for the pulpit. It was selected by the Rev. James P. Leyenberger.
In 1927, church enrollment reached an all time high of 561 members. At the same time, there were 304 Sunday School members.
On December 29, 1928, the Rev. James P. Leyenberger passed away. For 25 years he had faithfully served his people assisted by a very capable wife and adopted daughter. Mr. Leyenberger's was a full and fruitful ministry, abundantly blessed of the Lord.
As a tribute to him, the congregation and friends of Mr. Leyenberger have placed a memorial scholarship in the College of Wooster. At the death of his wife, Mrs. Bessie S. Leyenberger, in 1937, the congregation increased the scholarship and added her name.
In May of 1929, the Rev. J. Morgan Cox became the ninth minister of the church. Before Mr. Cox's coming, the membership had fallen off considerably. In 1930, there were 435 active members, 126 less than in 1927. Those were days of depression. Times were difficult. But Third Church met her financial obligations, and even made improvements. In 1930, the Sunday School rooms were refloored. The membership increased to 487 during Mr. Cox's ministry. Mr. Cox is particularly remembered for his work with the young people. In December of 1933, he resigned his pastorate to go to a church at Lisbon, Ohio.
On April 25, 1934, the Rev. George H. Bohlender was installed as the tenth pastor of this church.
The floods of 1936 and 1937 did much property damage in this community and the church. So it was decided to move the Primary Department and kitchen from the basement to the first floor. As a memorial to Mrs. Bessie S. Leyenberger, a room was added to the south side of the Sunday School room. The junior department was moved to the west end of this room, and the kitchen to the east end.
In 1937, new hymnals were purchased by individual members in honor, or in memory of their mothers. These hymnals were dedicated on Mother's Day.
In 1939, a new lighting system was installed in the church auditiorium, made possible by a gift from the Leyenberger estate. At the same time, the auditorium was repainted, a new carpet laid, and the pipe organ reconditioned.
On June 11, 1942, the Rev. George H. Bohlender resigned as pastor to enter the chaplaincy of the U. S. Army, where he served with distinction in the Pacific theater of war.
On February 1, 1943, the Rev. Arthur Pritchard was installed as pastor. He came from the Concord Presbyterian Church at Hooker, Pennsylvania.
In September of 1943, the Women's Association was formed. This organization united the Women's Society, the Bess Leyenberger Circle and the Mary Bigger Circle of King's Daughters.
During Mr. Pritchard's ministry, our church gave $5,270 to the Restoration Fund. Mr. C. R. Beal and his committee worked hard to accomplish this.
As a memorial to two of our young men who died in World War II, Paul Helfer and Frank Decker, a wing in Dumagette Hospital, Philippine Islands was rehabilitated by gifts from this congregation. The Helfer family later presented the church with the cross and two vases used on the communion table, as an additional memorial to their son, Paul. In 1946, Mrs. A. W. Kunkel placed a Christian and an American flag in our sanctuary in memory of her daughter, Ione Kunkel Ellmaker.
The Rev. Arthur Pritchard resigned this church September 1, 1947, to become pastor of the Warwood Presbyterian Church. He will always be remembered as a hard working and sincere pastor.
For two years, the church was without a minister. The pulpit was supplied chiefly by students from Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. The membership decreased from 379 to 316 active members, and a Sunday School membership of 200.
In 1947, the members of the Dorcas Class, Mrs. William Pritchard, Sr., teacher, presented a concert grand piano to the church.
On October 12, 1949, the Rev. William J. Turner, Jr., was installed as the twelfth pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church. Mr. Turner came to our church immediately after completing his work at Princeton Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey.
In November of 1949, a gas heating plant was installed.
In February of 1952, the church auditorium was again painted.
In 1953, the basement of the church was partitioned to make three new classrooms. It now accommodates the Primary Department of the Sunday School, the Twin T Class, and the Berean Bible Class.
In February of 1954, the minister was moved from the old manse at 3842 Eoff Street, to a new one at 71 Mt. Lebanon Drive, Bethlehem.
During Rev. Turner's first five years as minister of the Third Presbyterian Church, 154 new members were added to the church roll. Of that number, only 10 had been added by letter of transfer. The remaining 144 were received by confession or reaffirmation of faith. On November 2, 1954 we had a membership of 364, and a Sunday School enrollment of 230. During this time the Church increased its benevolent giving from 19 percent in 1951 to 32 percent in 1953.
In December, 1955 a new heating plant was installed in the Church Building at a cost of $5,900.
In April, 1956 a 5-year long-range extension plan was adopted to renovate the Church Building and request was made to Presbytery for permission to borrow $20,000 to repair and improve our Church.
On January 26, 1958, Rev. Turner resigned to assume the pastorship of the Third Presbyterian Church in Monongahela, Pennsylvania.
On March 15, 1959 Rev. Donald S. Stewart, having served as our student Minister from September, 1958 through February 1959, while completing his formal training at Pittsburgh-Xenia was formally ordained and installed as the thirteenth pastor of our Church.
In April, 1959 the silver communion cups, in use since 1901, were retired due to their condition and were stored with proper identification having been donated by the Dudley family in memory of Mrs. Elizabeth Dudley. Now in use is a set of clear plastic communion cups.
In May of 1959 a Communion set was presented to William Pritchard, the first man from our Church to graduate into the Ministry.
Also in that year a gift was presented to Mr. Kenneth Miller who was the second man from our Church to be ordained into full time Christian Service and the first to serve in the United Presbyterian Church.
The Rev. Stewart resigned this Church in 1962 to become pastor of the Great Valley Church, Malvern, Pennsylvania.
The Rev. Andrew G. Slade was installed as our fourteenth Pastor on June 23, 1963, having come to us from the Bloomfield United Presbyterian Church, New Concord, Ohio.
In 1966 we were the first Church in the Synod of West Virginia to complete our campaign to the 50 Million Fund; this was a campaign for funds to make capital improvements to the mission agencies of the Presbyterian Church. On February 6, 1968 Mrs. C. F. Marx assumed Choir Director's duties along with her organist responsibilities. Mrs. Rudolph Wodarczyk having retired as Choir Director after many years in that capacity.
In 1969 new carpeting was installed in the hallway, Sunday School rooms were painted as well as the exterior of the Church.
Also, in 1969 our 120th anniversary saw the return of former pastor Rev. Donald S. Stewart as guest speaker.
In 1970 the manse was painted and a new roof installed.
1971 saw the beginning of the DISC program (Dimensions in Stewardship Commitment) This was a great step forward in the financial condition of our Church. Also, in December, 1971 final payment was made on the manse mortgage.
In February, 1971 the Session and Board of Trustees were merged; and at this time the first women Elders in the history of our Church were installed.
1973 saw completion of basement renovation made possible by a Government grant due to the June, 1972 flood which caused considerable damage to our heating plant and basement.
At this time Rev. Slade was serving a term as President of the Greater Wheeling Council of Churches.
Our 125th anniversary was commemorated by a month-long celebration beginning with Communion on October 6, 1974, World Wide Communion Sunday; a pageant tracing our Church history on October 13; the appearance of the 'Young Apostles' on October 20th; Stan Scott, Evangelist on October 26th; an anniversary dinner on November 2nd with Dr. Paul N. Elbin as guest speaker; and closing with Communion Service on November 3, 1974.
Our Church has a glorious history, one marked by growth and accomplishment. She has been blessed and used of the Lord. We honor the names of those faithful laymen, laywomen, and ministers who have made her what she is. But above all, we praise and honor God, Who worked through men. God has given the increase.
We also want to give recognition to Mr. John E. Acker who has served our Church at various times in the capacity of Deacon, Trustee, Elder, Sunday School Teacher, Sunday School Superintendent and Choir member; he has been for many years and still is a loyal and faithful servant of the Lord.
"So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase." -- I Cor. 3:7.