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Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church
1865 Knoxlyn Road * Gettysburg, PA 17325 * (717) 642-5332
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Celebrating 162 years since 1748 founding
In the summer of 1740 the Presbytery of Donegal began to provide preaching for Presbyterians who had settled along Marsh Creek and took steps to organize a church.
Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church owes its origin to the fact that in 1741 there began a schism in the Presbyterian Church in the colonies which lasted until 1758, a schism which was a result of the George Whitefield revival meetings and the questions that arose concerning the qualifications of ministers.
Sympathizers with Whitefield and the Tennents withdrew from the regular Presbyterian churches and organized what they called New Side Presbyterian churches, the original churches being known thereafter as Old Side Presbyterian churches, until the reunion in 1758.
Just when the rift reached Marsh Creek is not known, but such sympathizers in the Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church, which was organized in 1740, withdrew in 1748 and were organized by the Reverend Andrew Bay, a minister of the New Side Presbytery of Newcastle, into the Presbyterian Church of Lower Marsh Creek.
Their first house of worship was a log church located at a graveyard on the west bank of Marsh Creek, a few miles southwest of the Mother Church which later relocated in Gettysburg. The church was crude throughout, having benches instead of pews, and without any facilities for fire in winter. In it the Presbytery of Carlisle was organized on October 17, 1786.
In 1790 the congregation chose a new site several miles away near "The Great Road", now known as the Fairfield Road, and the present substantial stone structure was erected in a grove of giant oaks, near a spring in the vale. Families brought stones to church services from the various farms for use in constructing the church.
Originally there were four doors, the seats were very straight and highbacked, the pulpit was narrow and deep, and it was elevated on the north side of the building. Like the log church, it had no facilities for any fire in winter until many years after its erection.
About 1850 the stone church was thoroughly remodeled, the improvements being: a new roof, floor and pulpit; seats lowered and sloped in the back; venetian blinds; carpeting; a vestibule with two doors into the vestibule and the original doors closed. In the Civil War during the Battle of Gettysburg the church was used as a field hospital by the Confederate troops.
In 1891 the stone church again was remodeled; the two doors closed and one opened in the center; the east windows closed and stained glass put in the rest; and the present pews and pulpit furniture added. In more recent years it has been repainted and repaired, electric lighting has been installed, and Fellowship Hall has been excavated and finished in the basement.
Although renovated many times, the ancient stone church still stands, a credit to the congregation and a comfortable house of worship wherein to praise God for his many blessings. It is an historic landmark which says to present day successors of Presbyterian pioneers: "Come to the church in the wildwood, oh, come to the church in the vale; no spot is so dear to my childhood as the little 'stone' church in the vale".
The Reverend Alexander Dobbin, who established a famous classical school in Gettysburg, was closely enough associated with Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church to be buried in its old cemetery. As Pastor of Rock Creek Reformed Presbyterian Church and later on as Pastor of "Old Hill Church" he was a big factor in forming a union of the Reformed and the Associate Presbyterian groups. This led to a merger in 1858 with another Presbyterian group, resulting in the United Presbyterian Church, a part of the merger which formed the present United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
In the late 1950's, the Congregation excavated the area beneath the Sanctuary to add Christian Education rooms and a Fellowship Hall due to enrollment increases.
In the 1970's, a Manse was constructed near the church to provide housing for the called Minister. In addition, a Sexton's house is located next to the church building itself.
In 1995, a new, 6000 square foot Christian Education Building was constructed. It housed 6 SS rooms, a Pastor's Office, a Church Office, large kitchen, and a larger Fellowship Hall to seat 125. By God's grace and goodness, the entire project debt was retired in 3 years time.
In 1997, the Sanctuary was completely refinished and repairs made to the pews and furniture. This work was able to be completed thanks to a generous donation by the family of a former member.