A Rich History & Roots in Presbyterianism
Chartiers Hill United Presbyterian Church, otherwise known as "Hill Church," takes its name from its location on the hill near Chartiers Creek. Founded in the early 1770's, the first recorded meeting was held on the fourth Sunday of August, 1775. 'At that meeting the Reverend John McMillan, founder of Jefferson College, preached in the home of John McDowell, one mile east of the present church.
Prior to the construction of the first Hill Church building, John McMillan preached in homes and out of doors, weather permitting. Often he used a tree stump as a pulpit near the present Oak Springs Cemetery while sentries stood guard against Indian attacks. The first church was made of logs and was without heat or adornment. Completed in 1778, that church stood slightly south of the present building.
Print by Ray W. Forquer
Around 1800 the log church was replaced with a stone structure. It is said that the stones were taken from a nearby Indian mound. In 1832 heating stoves were added during remodeling.
The present church, constructed in 1841 was completed at a cost of $2500, the bricks being made of clay dug from the church grounds. Eight years later the Reverend Joseph R. Wilson and his wife joined the congregation. They were to become the parents of President Woodrow Wilson.
Here, in 1900, the interior of Hill Church is heated by six coal burning stoves. Lighting is provided by a chandelier in the center of the sanctuary and by two oil lamps on wooden standards. The choir platform is raised four steps from the aisles in the southwest corner.
Hill Church today
Pews for the congregation are divided into three sections by two aisles. Each pew, raised one step from the aisle has a spittoon. The pulpit, with the organ behind it, stands centered in the front of the church. Two entrance doors are located at the rear of the pews. Outside horse sheds, constructed by parishioners, are located in a line between the church and the parish building and on the other side of and parallel to the road.
Artist Ray W. Forquer gives a glimpse of a typical fall day at the start of this century. The regular movement of men and their horses along what is now Route 19 creates a steadiness that compliments the simple brick church. The church appears solid and timeless just as it seems to be today.
As the parish grew, a two story brick manse was added in 1908 Around that time a local contractor added the belltower, bell and spire and replaced the two doors shown by Forquer with a single door and two windows. In 1921 the basement was excavated and converted to a usable space for activities. When Route 19 was widened and relocated in 1950 the parsonage was razed and a new one was purchased several miles away. In 1957 a Christian Education Building was erected with funds from the demolition of the parsonage. Today, Hill Church is one of Western Pennsylvania's most beloved landmarks with a proud history of 210 years of growth and activity.
(Provided by Countryside Prints, Inc. / 31 East Wheeling Street / Washington, PA 15301 / 412.222.7550.)