Church history

"The United Presbyterian Church of West Sunbury came into existence on May 6, 1835, when the Reverend Joseph Johnson reported to the Lakes Presbytery of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church that a new congregation had been formed in Butler County. The initial records of the newly begun church are dated June 27, 1835, when the first baptisms took place. The first records of session meetings present the names of Robert Findley, William McMichal and Dunbar Christy as elders.

Regular services were held - presumably in private homes - until 1840, when it was decided to construct a house of worship. A meeting was held in Samuel Ekin's home where John Smith, Samuel Louden and Joseph W. Christy were appointed as the building committee members. They awarded to Joseph Wasson the building contract in November 1840, with the building to be constructed on a parcel of land located west of town and donated by Samuel Ekin and Mrs. Robert Findley. Builder Wasson was to receive $700 and 'one choice pew' for the construction of the church. He, however, did not complete the building and the responsibility for this task fell to members of the congregation. Pews were auctioned to provide the moneys for the building fund and a yearly tax was placed on the pews to provide for the minister's salary and congregational expenses.

Sixteen years after the first building was erected, the need for a larger building was seen. The congregation awarded a contract to Hugh Sproull for $2100 to build a new house of worship. The ensuing years saw the building removed and rebuilt on Beaver Avenue in town. The Reverend J. Hall Breaden was pastor at this time and W.J. McKinney contracted the moving and rebuilding project at the cost of $2200. The first meeting was held in the new church on August 28, 1891, and worship services continued in this building until December 1932.

The history of the West Sunbury Presbyterian Church is closely linked with that of the old West Sunbury Academy which was established in 1851. In 1858, the Reverend William T. Dickson who was a Presbyterian minister and a native of Butler County took charge of the Academy. On Sundays he held religious services in the school. Interest in the services grew, and several families presented a petition to the Presbytery of Allegheny asking for a church organization. The request was granted and a church was organized on September 4, 1860. The thirty-seven original members were received on certificates from other churches and the first elders were Henry C. Linn, M.D. and Joseph W. Thorne.

The first official records of the new congregation were dated February 1862, when four new members were received and the Reverend John Coulter was installed as pastor. Rev. Coulter had been serving the congregation at the Concord Presbyterian Church since 1823 and now jointly served both congregations for two years. In historical records of this time, the West Sunbury Church was spoken of as a daughter of the Concord Church.

Worship services were continued in the Academy building for almost fifteen years until a new church building was constructed by Hugh Sproull at a cost of $5000. This new building was dedicated on July 4, 1875, and was in continuous use until the last service was held on August 9, 1953.

The first official record of any attempt toward uniting the United Presbyterian Church (previously the ARP congregation) and Presbyterian (PCUSA) congregation is found in the congregational record of 1916. However, this attempt ended in failure, as did a second attempt three years later. Joint church services were held for a period of eight months in 1919 and 1920, with worship alternating weekly between the two buildings. This union also ended in failure. Again in September 1923, an attempt was made toward the federation of the churches but this did not become a reality for ten more years. On October 19, 1932, both the Presbyterian and the United Presbyterian congregations held meetings to vote on articles which would form the basis of a union of the two churches. Both congregations voted in favor of the union and on January 1, 1933, the United Presbyterian congregation moved into the Presbyterian Church building and joint services were held. In May 1933, the formal union was ratified by both Presbyteries and on May 29, 1933, the final formal steps were taken, seventeen years after the initial step.

Through the years it grew more apparent that more sanctuary and sabbath school room was needed, and as early as 1939 there was discussion of an addition to the church. At a congregational meeting in April 1950, a report was given concerning the building of a new church or the remodeling of the present structure. A vote was taken, with the congregation being in favor of constructing a new house of worship. In 1951 the trustees were given authorization to acquire land that had belonged to the Academy and Arthur Wick. A building committee consisting of Arthur Wick, Lyle Hilliard, Clair L. Glenn, Lynn Hockenberry, and Robert A. Young was formed. B.J. McCandless was chosen as architect, Frank McCarrier was general contractor, Ronald D. McCarrier and Robert A. Young served as building fund treasurers and Dr. Samuel L. Louden led the congregation spiritually through the building years. The cornerstone was laid on September 20, 1953, and special dedication services were held on September 26, 1954, with the new pastor, Rev. George W. Woodstock, and former pastors, Dr. Samuel L. Louden and Dr. Homer B. Henderson, participating.

One hundred fifty years have passed since the beginning of the United Presbyterian Church in West Sunbury. As a congregation of God's people, we thank Him for His past guidance and blessings and humbly ask for His continued guidance and blessing as we move forward with the work of His Church."

From: The One Hundred-Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration of the West Sunbury United Presbyterian Church 1835-1985. A pamphlet produced for Foundation Sunday, September 1985.

Meet the Staff

Dale Rice

Music Director


Holly Collins


Holly Collins has been the sexton at the West Sunbury Church since 2010. Her parents are Ed and Kathy Bartholomew. Holly is a graduate of Moniteau High School (Class of '88) and received a diploma in Food Service Management from the Butler County Vo-Tech. Holly is employed by the Moniteau School District as a part of the cafeteria staff at Dassa McKinney Elementary School.

Holly lives with her husband Russ and daughters Courtney (21), Kayla (15) and Karley (12). Her hobbies include serving as DJ for area youth dances, boating, fishing, swimming and spending time with family.

Caitlyn Wilbert

Administrative Assistant

Caitlyn is currently a student at Butler County Community College. She plans on transferring to Slippery Rock University for Social Work. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, photography and traveling.