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History


The first question that we usually hear is, "Where on earth did that name come from?" It's a good question with a simple answer that walks us right into the unique and beautiful history of how God in Christ has worked through this congregation for more than a century and a half.  Appleby was the name of a wealthy Englishman in Philadelphia who owned all of this land in the mid 1800's.  In 1830, the land was purchased and a school was built for the kids in the area.  The local residents sometimes gathered to worship there, but the movement that later became Appleby Manor Memorial Presbyterian Church didn't pick up steam for a few more years.
 
Josiah Copley was a nationally known newspaper writer and an outspoken abolitionist who lived in Kittanning.  He worshipped at the Presbyterian church in Kittanning. But as the abolition of slavery became more and more of an issue that divided the nation, Mr. Copley and several other abolitionists began to feel that they were no longer welcome in Kittanning.  In 1835, they left to organize an abolitionist Sabbath School on this site. A year later, a larger log school house was built and people gathered to learn, to pray, to worship and to preach the Gospel of freedom to all of God's children.
 
Rev. Levi M. Graves was ordained in 1840, served as our first pastor, and ran a school in his home for young men seeking to improve themselves.
 
On November 20, 1842, there were twenty members of the new church. The Appleby Manor Memorial Presbyterian Church was formally organized in the Presbytery of Blairsville. The next year, the first church building was constructed. It was only about thirty-five by forty feet.  We worshipped there for nearly fifty years. 
 
Josiah Copley had a daughter named Mary.  At an event held at the church, hosted by her father, to organize care for the widows and orphans of Civil War Soldiers, Mary met a wealthy local coal baron by the name of William Thaw.  The two were married shortly thereafter. In 1892, Mrs. Mary Copley-Thaw donated the large church building that was the model for our current house of worship.
 
Unfortunately in 1909, the church was struck by lightning and it burned to the foundation. Interestingly, that same year, the Presbyterian church in Kittanning, from which the original group of abolitionists that formed Appleby Manor left, also burned to the ground because of a boiler fire.
 
Harry Thaw, Mrs. Copley-Thaw's son sifted through the wreckage of the fire and found all the pieces to the original bell.  He had them sent to a friend who owned a foundry in Philadelphia to be recast into the bell that we still ring every Sunday morning.
 
Mrs. Copley-Thaw was generous. She paid for another building to be built in its place.  It was finished in 1911 and we worship here today.
 
Mrs. Copley-Thaw is only one of so many generations of strong and faithful women who have contributed so much to the life and leadership of this church. We recognize those contributions, and we have been ordaining women to the offices of the Church since the early 1930's.
 
Over the generations, we have grown to become a theologically and politically diverse community. We are committed to recognizing God's love for all people because we believe God's love is bigger than the things that divide us. We believe that no matter what paths you have walked there is room for you at the table.
 
Our history doesn't stop there. God is still speaking. And the God that we encounter throughout the scriptures and in our life of faith continues to open our hearts and minds to how He calls us to serve. We just try our best to listen.