Historic Church Tour Summary

On Saturday August 18, 2018, a group of us met at the Historical Society parking lot and made our way south of Indiana to visit two historic churches in Indiana County. The two churches have what can be described as a friendly feud: which church is the oldest? Bethel or Ebenezer? At each church the group had a church representative to give a tour of their church and grounds along with a the history about the grounds, the building, and even the cemeteries.

churchtour

The oldest recorded history of Bethel Presbyterian Church began on April 15, 1788 with a barn owned by Major James McCombs, where the first church services were held. In 1797, a log cabin was built on the church grounds and used as the church for many years, until a frame structure was built in 1842. The present building was built and dedicated on August 29, 1886 for a cost of $3,000. There were no more major renovations to the building until 1957 when a basement was installed for a cost of $12,000. Another major renovation came in May of 1993 with the dedication and addition of the Educational Wing for a total cost of $145,000.

Bethel sanctuary
Bethel Presbyterian Church Sanctuary

There is some sadness in the church’s history when the minutes of the church were destroyed by fire, not once but twice: in 1933 and again in 1935. Unfortunately, in 2005, the records were lost once again due to a burglary of the church. During the burglary, three suspects stole the office safe which contained records of members and their baptisms, weddings, and funerals. The safe was found later in a farm pond, but all the records were burned including the session minutes that dated from August 18, 1935 through the time of the burglary. Thankfully, a member of the church was able to complete some of the record restoration.

Ebenezer Presbyterian Church is an impressive two-story brick building, with the main sanctuary located on the second floor of the structure, originally only accessible by a set of stairs in the back of the building. Interestingly enough before the current structure was built, the former structure was turned the opposite way, with the front door facing toward the hillside, and every Sunday it was one person’s job to stand guard to watch for Indian attacks. The structure has remained the same with a few modifications over the years. One of the major modifications was the removal of the pews on the first floor (yes this church had two sanctuaries) the reason being it was easier to only heat the first floor during the winter months. The impressive sanctuary boasts the original gas lights, although modernized for electricity; along with the original wooden pews. Ebenezer has a unique feel inside with the large stained-glass windows along with the high ceiling; walking inside takes one back to a simpler time.

ebenezer light
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Sanctuary and lights

Buried in the Ebenezer Church is John Montgomery, for whom Montgomery Township, Indiana County is named. Mr. Montgomery was born in 1759 in the County of Antrim Ireland and came to America in 1774. He enlisted in the Army in 1776 and was attached to the life guard of General George Washington in which he served until the end of the war. John Montgomery died at the age of 81 on November 11, 1840. In his will he left $75 to the Ebenezer Sabbath School for a library. At one time the Federal government offered to move Montgomery’s remains to Arlington National Cemetery, but the residents of the town refused their offer, wishing John Montgomery to stay at Ebenezer.

We thank everyone who attended the tour and remind you to watch the Society’s newsletter and social media for upcoming events.

It’s Fair Time!

This year marks the 156th Indiana County Fair, and this week has always been a great time for those living within Indiana County. As with all fairs there is the usual exhibitions of animals, agricultural products, home-made goods, etc. but there are also fun features such as harness racing, balloon ascensions, medicine shows, carousels, and more. 

There were some notable balloon ascensions at the Indiana Fair. In October 1873, A “Professor Light” made a balloon ascension which onlookers came very near being involved in an accident. At the time there was a western wind which blew the balloon into a large tree, so Professor Light saw the danger and threw out some of his sand bag ballast. The balloon raised enough to escape danger, but the sand bag struck Mrs. Myers on the back of her head, but she was not severely injured. The balloon descended in Cambria County and Professor Light was back in Indiana County the next morning for another trip. 

In 1874, Master John A. Wise, age 13 made a balloon ascension at the Fair. As he ascended he waved the American Flag. It was reported that this was his first aerial voyage alone. His father was a noted balloonist, hailed as the “Father of American Ballooning,” he made the longest balloon trip in America – he traveled 800 miles in 1859 – a record which stood until 1910. Little John landed four miles north of Indiana. 

In 1890, there was another exciting balloon exhibition at the Fair. There was a balloon ascension that featured parachute jumps, this was never seen in Indiana County. This was featured as part of a balloon race and after achieving the height of two or three thousand feet, a signal was given and both men jumped from the balloon and opened their parachutes. 

FairPlates
Hand painted plates that were entered in the 1890 Indiana County Fair art division 

Another popular event at the Fair were the horse races. At first the tract was only one-fifth of a mile long, but this was lengthened in 1876 to one-third mile. An annual “Ladies Riding Match” was held on the Friday afternoon of Fair Week. This featured proud equestrians on well-groomed mount, with flowing skirts and natty accouterments, and the side-saddled up and down the tract. 

HorseRacing
A horse race on August 26, 1949 at the Indiana County Fair

Some other noteworthy Fair happenings: 

In 1887, a troupe of 25 Indians dressed in full Indian costume was advertised for the Fair. 

In 1888, Indiana merchants offered a list of gifts to a couple who would be publicly married in the Music Stands at the Fair Grounds. 

In 1889, the Fair had a “large steam flying machine” that was brought from Idlewild Park. It featured 24 artificial horses and a number of carriages which were located on a forty feet diameter platform, run by steam, along with music. Fair goers could ride the carousel for 5 cents a person. 

The 1896 fair drew crowds thanks to a display of a “petrified woman.” 

In 1915, there was a bomb-dropping demonstration. 

1895 Fair
A group of eight, possibly normal-school girls, posing in front of the Smith Photography barn at the fair in 1895. 
See Clarence Stephenson’s 175th Anniversary History. 

 

Honorable Jonathan Nicholas Langham

Jonathan Nicholas Langham was born August 4, 1861 in Grant Township. He was the son of Jonathan and Eliza Jane (Barr) Langham. He attended the local schools and then entered Indiana State Normal School (now IUP) from which he graduated in 1882.

At age 16, like others of his day, Langham began teaching school at Salt Well School, Susquehanna Township, Cambria County. It was during this time, as was customary at the time, he read law at the office of J.N. Bands of Indiana. Langham was admitted to the Indiana County Bar in December 1888. It was in 1915 that Jonathan N. Langham was elected as Indiana County judge and was reelected in 1925 and served until 1936.

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Judge Jonathan Langham

Langham married Clara Cameron, daughter of John Graham and Jane (Wilson) Cameron. She died in 1928, and the two had two children: Nora Louise and Elizabeth Cameron Langham.

Judge Langham also served as postmaster of Indiana, appointed by President Harrison, which he served for four years in this capacity. He was also Corporation Deputy in the office of the Auditor-General in Harrisburg, where he served for five years. He was also elected to the United States Congress for the 61st, 62nd, and 63rd sessions of Congress. Judge Langham was also, at the time of his death, a Pastmaster of Indiana Lodge No. 313, Free and Accepted Masons; a member of the Pennsylvania Consistory, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Pittsburgh; and an honorary member of the Supreme Council, Thirty-Third Degree, Scottish Rite. He was a Past Noble Grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and a charter member of the Benevolent and Protective Orders of Elks. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Judge Langham was known for his conscientious serves and great understanding when rendering decisions. Many people believed that he aided justice by granting mercy to those who deserved it and punishing the guilty.