JOHN PITCAIRN. A BIOGRAPHY Rev. C. TH. ODHNER 1917
[Photograph of John Pitcairn]
NEW CHURCH LIFE
VOL. XXXVII JANUARY, 1917 No. 1
In the Writings of the New Church we are taught that a mountain always signifies love; and it may truly be said that the love of the Lord's New Church which filled the heart of John Pitcairn was a spiritual mountain. The greatness of a mountain is not fully realized as long as we dwell by its sides: a distance is required in order to estimate its proportions.
A future generation will be able, better than the present, to judge of John Pitcairn's place in the history of the New Church. At present we can but guess at its meaning. It is known, in a general way, what Mr. Pitcairn has done for the Academy and the General Church of the New Jerusalem, in an ultimate sense. His work in this world is now finished, but the fruits of his love and intense activity will be reaped by those who are to follow after him. What these fruits shall be we can see only with the eyes of faith and hope,-visions of the day when the New Church as a whole shah be united in appreciation of the principles and uses of the Academy, and of the still more distant day when the Lord's New Church shall begin to come to her own in her mission for the regeneration and salvation of the universal human race.
For all the great movements in the past history of the world the Lord has always raised up leaders endowed and prepared as His special instruments. Emanuel Swedenborg was that servant whom the Lord raised up and prepared for the supreme and incomparable mission. William Henry Benade was a servant raised up for a special mission within the organized Church,-the use of bringing to a focus those interior views of doctrine which had been gradually developed within the Church during a century of intellectual struggles, and most especially the recognition of that fundamental truth that the Gospel of the Second Coming is indeed the Word of the Lord. And Mr. Benade was sent not only to become the intellectual leader of the Academy movement, but to outline, organize and lead in the establishment of those practical uses, by which alone a distinctive and genuine Church Specific may be founded in this world.
But Mr. Benade, the great New Church priest, would have been helpless, in an ultimate sense, had not the Lord raised up another servant to hold up his hands in the terrible struggle which followed upon the proclamation of the principles of the Academy,-a servant who also was endowed with special gifts, in order that a secure ultimation on this earth might be provided for that internal movement which the organized New Church as a whole, with incredible blindness, has now during forty years opposed and endeavored to stamp out.
This servant was John Pitcairn, the friend who has so recently passed from our midst that we scarcely can realize as yet the loss of his bodily presence. It is not the loss of his ultimate support of the Church that will be missed so much as the inspiration of his ever active interest in all things of the Church and the mature wisdom of his counsel,-not to speak of his own genial friendship and the interesting news which the ever traveling "Uncle John" used to bring to us from the New Church in various distant parts of the world. But love does not die, it is immortally active, and we are all certain that in the world where he now is he can and will do far more for his beloved cause than he ever could in this lower existence.
To write the life story of John Pitcairn is in one sense an easy task, for after his death there were found no less than thirty-six note-books and diaries, ranging from the year 1855 to the year 1914, in which at various times he jotted down the events and movements of his life. Some of these contain only a few pages of notes, others are complete diaries and itineraries of foreign journeys. Moreover, during his last lingering illness he was urged by his physician to write his autobiography in order to have something to divert his mind. This he was loath to do as he did not consider himself of sufficient personal importance to be preserved in the "amber" of an autobiography.
Nevertheless, a special secretary, Miss Cyriel Lj. Odhner, was engaged to note down his reminiscences, and though these were elicited with some difficulty, yet a vast amount of related material was accumulated and has been generously placed at our disposal.
It is not our purpose, however, to place before our readers the minute details of John Pitcairn's personal career. He himself would have been opposed to such a proceeding, but we are sure that he would not oppose our using the outlines of his life as a scaffolding within which to construct a sketch of the history of the New Church during his days and in his environments. We will, therefore, utilize this opportunity, first to tell something of the Pitcairn family, and then present a brief account of the early history of the Pittsburgh Society. Since this Society reared our "Uncle John," and was the cradle of the Academy, its story certainly deserves to be recorded in the Annals of the New Church.
ANCESTRY AND FAMILY.
In the counties of Fife and Perth in Scotland the name of PITCAIRN is one of great antiquity. The name itself is supposedly derived from the old Gaelic word "pit," meaning a croft or place of residence, and "cairn," meaning a memorial mound or heap of stones. From an estate thus named came an old and wide-branching family of great distinction in the history of Scotland, a noble house which for some seven centuries has produced a great many lairds and lords, beside numerous soldiers, magistrates, physicians, clergymen and statesmen. Notable in the history of the American Revolution was the Major JOHN PITCAIRN, of the British army, who with the cry, "disperse, ye villains, disperse!" led in the battle of Lexington, where he fell, mortally wounded. One of the sons of this John Pitcairn was the Ensign ROBERT PITCAIRN, who, while on a naval expedition, was the first to sight that isolated island in the Pacific Ocean which from him was named "Pitcairn Island."
The genealogy of the house of Pitcairn has been written in a volume of 533 pages, entitled THE HISTORY OF THE LIFE PITCAIRNS, by Constance Pitcairn, (Edinburgh, 1905), but a careful search of this work has failed to establish any direct connection between the historic Scotland house and that more humble Scottish family from which the subject of our sketch descended. That there was a connection seems probable from the evidence of the Christian names common to both families. The first known ancestor of the senior house was "John Pitcairn, of Pitcairn, of that Ilk," the first laird of Innernethy, who, in the year 1250, had certain lands granted to him by his kinsman, Sir Hugh de Abernethy. And after him, throughout the centuries, there is a constant recurrence of names such as John, Alexander, Robert, Hugh, David, Margaret, Helen, Janet, etc., surnames which figure so frequently in the branches of the American New Church family of Pitcairns.
Inasmuch as very many members of this family have been more or less prominently connected with the New Church, we may be pardoned for introducing an account of the more immediate connections of our friend, John Pitcairn,-a family tree which has been reconstructed after some research and which should not be lost to future generations.
With the usual American indifference to ancestry, John Pitcairn never took pains to ascertain the names of his forebears any further back than to his grandfather, ALEXANDER PITCAIRN, (1), who was a manufacturer of Clocks in Johnstone, a small industrial town located in the county of Renfew, some ten miles west of Glasgow. This Alexander Pitcairn, (whose immediate ancestors came from Edinburgh), married Janet Currie, with whom he had three sons, Alexander, Robert, and John.
I. Of these, the oldest son, ALEXANDER PITCAIRN, (2), was the first of the family to emigrate to America, where he settled in Pittsburgh, Pa., about the year 1830, and engaged in the manufacture of woven goods. He was also the first one to receive the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. Having been long dissatisfied with the doctrines of the Old Church he one day, (about the year 1847), spoke of his doubts and difficulties to a Scotch friend of his, Mr. Thomas Hogan, in Pittsburgh.
The subject of the Trinity was under discussion, when his friend said, "Come home with me and meet my wife. She has something interesting to tell you on that subject." The wife was Mrs. Katherine Hogan who had received the doctrines of the New Church through her sister, Mrs. Anna Aitken, and she now handed Swedenborg's TRUE CHRISTIAN RELIGION to Alexander Pitcairn, who quickly recognized the truth of the new revelation, and soon afterwards communicated his knowledge to his two brothers. Alexander has been described as a handsome, honorable man, a typical Scotchman in his straight-forward outspokenness. He died at Pittsburgh on September 23, 1888, at ninety years of age, leaving behind him five sons, Alexander, John, Robert William, and Andrew, all of whom were more or less intimately associated with the New Church.
II. ROBERT PITCAIRN, (1), the brother of Alexander, was born at Crossley, Scotland, 1891, and came to America about the year 1830, residing, at first, in Lowell, Mass., and, finally settling in Guilford, Ohio, where he engaged in a successful business career. Through his brother, Alexander, he became acquainted with the writings of the New Church, and was a very earnest reader. He died Sept. 17, 1855, and his wife, Sean Edward, Feb. 18, 1887, at the age of 85 years. They had eleven children, of whom eight grew up and became members of the New Church.
1) MARY, (born Aug. 25, 1828), who married Mr. Clark Ritchey, of Blairsville, Pa Later she moved to Pittsburgh, where she is still living. She and her daughter, Miss Janet Kitchey, are devoted members of the General Church of the New Jerusalem.
2) ALEXANDER PITCAIRN, (3), was born at Lowell, Mass., August 29, 1831, and died in Pittsburgh, August 13, 1904.
He became a very successful business man and organized the Excelsior Express Company of Pittsburgh. He also was a faithful member and generous supporter of the New Church, and married his cousin, Janet Pitcairn, the sister of Mr. John Pitcairn of Bryn Athyn. For many years before his death he was an invalid, confined to his bed; he was survived by four children.
a) EDWARD PITCAIRN, (born Aug. 9, 1865), who is the Treasurer of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company.
b) DAVID, (born Nov. 17, 1867), who is connected with the same company.
c) AGNES, (born April 22, 1860), who is an active member of the Pittsburgh Society.
d) HELEN, (born Nov. 10, 1862), who married Mr. Samuel S. Lindsay, Comptroller of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., and Secretary of the Pittsburgh New Church Society. She and her husband are well known members of the General Church, and all of their children have received their education in the schools of the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, with the exception of the seventh, who is still too young.
3. JANET, (Mrs. Campbell), the third child of Robert Pitcairn, (1), was born Aug. 6, 1833, and died May 15, 1904. She was a woman of fine and strong character, with great executive and business ability. After a successful career as a business woman, she was married, late in life, to Mr. Andrew Campbell, who died Feb. 6th, 1861. She was an exceedingly active member of the New Church, hospitable, generous and great-hearted, and her house was always a social centre of the Pittsburgh Society.
4. JANE, the fourth child of Robert Pitcairn, (1), was born May 25, 1836, and died May 15, 1883. She married, first, Mr. Robert Crum, and after his death, Professor Frank Wery, the New Church astronomer, formerly of Pittsburgh, now of Boston. By her first marriage she had two children: Mr. Robert Crum, who is connected with the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., and Ida, who married Mr. Andrew Campbell, the stepson of her aunt, Mrs. Janet Campbell; Ida Campbell and her husband reside in New York and are members of the General Church.
5. EDWARD PITCAIRN, who still lives in Pittsburgh, where he was connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad.
6. KATHERINE, married Mr. John K. Ruckenbrod, of Salem, Ohio; his daughter by a first marriage, Mrs. Abbie Boyle, still lives in Cleveland, a member of the New Church.
7. MARGARET, (born September 1, 1838; died February, 1916), was a very active member of the New Church. Late in life she married the Rev. Herman C. Vetterling, a New Church minister, who for a few years was the pastor of the Pittsburgh Society.
In 1884 he became a convert to the teachings of Theosophy and Buddhism, and retired with his wife to California, where, under the Hindu pseudonym of "Philangi Dasa," he published an extraordinary volume, entitled SWEDENBORG THE BUDDHIST, and later edited a journal called THE BUDDHIST RAY, which claimed to be the organ of the "Buddhistic Swedenborgian Brotherhood" of San Jose, California.
8. ARTEMAS PITCAIRN, (born June 13, 188; died April, 1905), the eighth and youngest child of Robert Pitcairn, (1), became associated in business with Mr. John Pitcairn, while both lived in Oil City, and was for many years his confidential secretary and right-hand man in the business of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. and other affairs. His home, during the most active part of his life, was at Tarentum, Pa., but his last years were spent in Pittsburgh. By tradition as well as conviction he was a Newchurchman, though never very active in the work of the Church. Three of his daughters, in 1886-7, attended the Academy Schools, but the family, as far as we know, is no longer connected with the Church.
III. We come now to the immediate ancestor of the youngest branch of the family,-JOHN PITCAIRN, Sr., the father of them John and his wife received the doctrines of the subject of the present biography. He was the third son of Alexander Pitcairn, (1), of Johnstone, Scotland, and was born there on November 11, 1802. Gifted with marked talents for mechanics and invention, he conducted a machine shop in Johnstone, but failed in business, owing to misplaced confidence in an unscrupulous partner. After paying his debts he and his wife, with their two young daughters, emigrated to America, about 1835, and lived for a time in Brooklyn, and then in Paterson, N. J., where their daughter, Janet, was born. But his ventures did not meet with the success he had expected, and the family, after a few years, returned to Scotland. The lure of the new world proved too powerful, however, and the family,-now increased by three sons and a daughter,-in the year 1846 again crossed the Atlantic and settled this time in Pittsburgh, where the two elder brothers, Alexander and Robert, had made their homes.
From the New Church, and the whole family was baptized by the Rev. David Powell about the year 1849. John was a man of a somewhat stern and reserved nature, but of the most scrupulous sense of honor and uncompromising rectitude. He died at Pittsburgh on Nov. 28, 1884.
His wife was a Highland girl, Agnes McEwen, of Argyleshire, born January, 1803, the daughter of Neil and Catherine, (Campbell), McEwen. Our informant, Miss Maria Hogan, describes John Pitcairn's mother as a most loving and lovable character,-of a disposition very similar to that of her grand-daughter, Vera,-sweet, kindly, self-sacrificing and spiritually minded. She loved to speak of the Word and the Writings and was a constant reader of both,-literally wearing out her copies. She died at Pittsburgh, April 19, 1891, at the age of eighty-seven years.
John Pitcairn, Sr., had the following children:
1. HELEN, (Mrs. Rush). She was born in Scotland, her mother being the first wife of John Pitcairn, Sr. Helen was a woman of great refinement and intelligence, and became a very warm receiver of the Heavenly Doctrine, speaking about it to everyone, whether her listener was of the New Church or not. She married Dr. Robert B. Rush, of Salem, Ohio, who was also interested in the Doctrine, though not a member of the New Church. She was the darling of all her half brothers and sisters, but died at middle age, March 1, 1874, without any children of her own. Her adopted daughter, Mrs. Bessie Sharp, of Salem, is a devoted member of the General Church.
2. CATHARINE, (born, 1829; died, 1893). She married Mr. James Branyan, who owned a large farm in Christian county, Illinois. Both she and her husband were affectionate receivers of the Heavenly Doctrine, and had a large family.
3. JANET, (born October 22, 1831). She married her cousin, Alexander, the son of Robert Pitcairn, (1). Throughout her long life she has been an active member of the Pittsburgh Society and a generous supporter of the local and general uses of the Church. Respected and beloved by all, she is now the senior member of the New Church in Pittsburgh, and the last survivor of her generation of brothers and sisters.
4. ROBERT PITCAIRN, (2), was born May 6, 1836, and died in 1909. At an early age he left home to enter into the service of the Pennsylvania Railroad, in which he rapidly rose from one position of trust to another, until he became the General Agent and one of the Vice-Presidents of the great Company,-one of the most eminent railroad men of the country. Though in childhood he attended the New Church Sunday School in Pittsburgh, together with Andrew Carnegie, with whom he was intimately associated, he was, while away from; home, drawn into the social life outside the New Church, married out of the Church, joined the Presbyterian denomination and became one of its most eminent laymen. Personally, "he was a fine man," according to Miss Hogan, but this Chapter being the history of the New Church Pitcairns, we cannot enter into further details of the life of Robert Pitcairn, the Railroad Magnate.
5. MARGARET, (Mrs. Starkey), was born May 18, 1838. Like her brother John, she was intensely devoted to the New Church, and she and Miss Maria Hogan were the first women selected for membership in the Academy after its first organization in 1876. After her marriage to Dr George R. Starkey, in 1882, her home at 1638 Green St., Philadelphia, became a special Social center of the early Academy. Here the severely critical Editorial Board of the WORKS FOR THE NEW CHURCH used to meet in clashing and flashing array of "Greek against Greek," the various papers and editorials and notes passing through the fire of the learning, doctrinal acumen and sparkling wit of men such as W. H. Benade, J. P. Stuart, N. C. Burnham, Louis H. Tafel, W. F. Pendleton, George R. Starkey, John Pitcairn, Walter C. Childs and others.
Doctor and Mrs. Starkey, in the movement of the Academy to the country, were the first to establish their home near Alnwick Grove, now known as Bryn Athyn. Here the Doctor died, on June 18, 1896, and Mrs. Starkey, on November 27, 1904, leaving her property and most of her capital to her beloved Academy.
6. JOHN PITCAIRN, the subject of our biography, was the sixth child of John Pitcairn, Sr. He was born at Johnstone, Scotland, on January 10th, 1841, but for further detail's we must refer our readers to the pages yet to come.
7. HUGH PITCAIRN, the seventh and youngest child, was born August 26, 1845, and died July 14, 1911. Like his elder brother he left the parental home at an early age, was engaged in Railroad work for some years, afterwards studied Medicine and became a practicing physician at Harrisburg, Pa. Later in life he entered into diplomatic service and was for a number of years the United States Consul at Hamburg. He was of a strongly religious nature, and connected himself with the Methodist Church, of which he was an active and prominent member. No one of his family is connected with the New Church.
THE NEW CHURCH IN PITTSBURGH.
The origin of the New Church in Pittsburgh has been somewhat difficult to trace. The Heavenly Doctrine was first brought West of the Allegheny mountains by John Young, a Philadelphia lawyer, who, in the year 1789, settled in Greensburg where, for thirty-seven years, he filled the office of Presiding- Judge of Western Pennsylvania. Judge Young was born in Scotland, 1762, and at the age of twenty-two emigrated to America. He was one of the few who became interested in the Heavenly Doctrines through attending the lectures of James Glen, in Philadelphia, in June, 1784, and soon became a most enthusiastic Newchurchman. It was he who, in 1788, solicited the subscriptions of Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, Governor Kane, and other eminent men, for the publication of an edition of the TRUE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, (Philadelphia, 1789), and after his removal to Greensburg he was instrumental in bringing the Writings to the notice of a great many persons in various parts of the new Western country. In 1805 he married Miss Maria Barclay, of a well known New Church family in Bedford, Pa., and it was he who furnished copies of the Writings, to be circulated, page by page, to that eccentric but lovable New Church missionary, Jonathan Chapman, generally known as "Johnny Appleseed."
Pittsburgh first appears in the Annals of the New Church in the year 1805, when Adam Hurdus,-a member of the Manchester society,-settled there for a short time.
It is known that he met Judge Young there, but found no other receiver, and, therefore, he packed his family and goods on a boat and sailed down the Ohio river, finally landing and settling at Cincinnati, where he became the founder of the New Church in that city.
For many years we hear nothing further of any receiver in Pittsburgh, until 1832, When we find the name "Joseph Barclay, Pittsburgh," in the list of New Church addresses, published in the Journal of the "Western Convention" He Was probably one of the Barclays from Bedford, Pa, and his name continued on the 1st until 1839, When it disappeared and was replaced by the name of "Caleblsbister." At this time, however, a little circle was gathering in Pittsburgh, most of the members having been drawn, it would seem, from the neighboring New Church circles in Bedford, Greensburg, and Wheeling.
In the year 1841 we find the following communication from Pittsburgh in the Journal of the Central Convention:
You will be pleased to learn that in the city of Pittsburgh, where perhaps it was heretofore thought there were no receivers of the New Church doctrines, enough has lately been, seen and felt to awaken the attention of at least a few to these doctrines. The prospect is now encouraging. We may count at least eight or nine who, I think, have sincerely embraced the truth, and a half dozen others who have commenced reading. We hope soon to be able to increase the number of our books, and to assemble ourselves in some kind of organized form for mutual instruction. On Several accounts we should be much delighted to receive the visit of a New Church clergyman, and we hope the Lord will soon make this provision for us. Several of our children require baptism, and at least one adult. My sincere Prayer is that the Lord may build up his New Church in His own time, and that we may all be humble instruments in His hands to accomplish this great and glorious purpose.
This communication, dated May 27, 1841, is signed by "A. J. Cline," who, as we learn from other sources, was Andrew J. Cline, Esq., formerly of Bedford, Pa.;-a highly respected gentle man who has been termed "the father" of the New Church in Pittsburgh. His letter led to a correspondence with the Rev. Richard De Charms, who, in November, 1841, Paid a memorable visit to the Pittsburgh Circle, to sow the seeds there of a movement which, after many years, resulted in the founding of the Academy of the New Church.
In his usual lively style Mr. De Charms describes his visit as follows in THE NEWCHURCHMAN for January, 1842, P. 433:
On Monday, I proceeded on my way to Pittsburgh, stopping only while the stage changed horses at Bedford, to see my particular friend, that affectionate member of the church, S. M. Barclay, Esqr., but remaining two days at Greensburg. Here is a large portion of the family of the late Judge Young, whose long and affectionate adherence to the New Church will not soon be forgotten. O how my heart yearned with many a tender and fond recollection while I enjoyed once more the lavish hospitalities of his venerable roof. I could hardly realize that he himself was not there in bodily presence-just in the other room, pouring over those works of priceless wisdom; which he so much loved to study. I am sure his influence was on our spirits pointing them and leading them upward to their better and eternal home! May that influence descend and rest as the dew of Hermon on the hearts of those he loved and has left on earth! Three of his daughters, at their own suggestion, proceeded with me to Pittsburgh, and helped to constitute the society which was about to be instituted there. Mrs. Foster, the Judge's youngest daughter, wished to have her child baptized, and was desirous that the sphere of the sacred ceremony might be warmly shed upon the budding association. She was accompanied by her husband, who cordially united with her in the baptismal ceremony, although not yet himself a formal member of the New Church; and I feel it to be my duty to acknowledge here, with thankfulness, that he contributed liberally towards defraying the expenses of my journey.
Arriving in Pittsburgh, I discovered, with regret, that I had made a mistake in the letter which I had written to announce my coming. Owing to the press of my many engagements, and the consequent hurry of writing several letters to the different places at which I was to officiate, I had unconsciously named the Baltimore for the Pittsburgh time so that the brethren in Pittsburgh were not looking for me till the following week. They were, therefore, not so well prepared as they wished. It was their desire to have procured some regular meeting house for me to preach in, and to have announced the preaching in the public papers. As it was, the meeting house of the Campbellite Baptists, or Disciples, could have been procured, but I preferred not preaching in a place consecrated to the worship of the old church. For I have not, heretofore, felt myself free, in such places, to preach New Church truths. There is something that restringes my spirit and hampers my utterance. I do not like to go into any man's house and pull it down, over his head. If the New Jerusalem were only a sect of the old Christian church, it might not be so. But, perhaps, I am here only confessing my weakness or my error. For why should not the preachers of the New Church go and teach in the houses of the Old Church, as the Lord and his disciples did in the synagogues of the Jews?
But such is my case; and whether it be well or not to confess it, the fact will explain why the brethren did not try to get an Old Church place of worship for me to preach in, and why our meetings were held in the private house of Brother J. H. Mellor. As he is the organist of an Episcopal church in Pittsburgh, and was not able to procure a substitute on the Sunday I was there, our meetings for worship were appointed in the afternoon and evening of that day, and a meeting was held at his house on the previous Saturday evening for the institution of the society. This arrangement was made because there was not time for all the exercises on the Sunday. A constitution having been drawn up, matured and adopted, it was signed, with the usual formalities, by eight persons on Saturday evening, and they were pronounced a society, with a benediction, under the title of "The New Jerusalem Society of the city of Pittsburgh and its vicinity." Two or three more members, who could not be present on Saturday, signed the constitution next day. In the afternoon of the Lord's Day, a discourse was delivered on baptism, and five were baptized, namely, Anna Aitken, an intelligent native of Scotland, whose husband, now deceased, was a lecturer on phrenology, and lived, with his wife, for some time in Pittsburgh without being able to find any New Church people there,-Henry Mayer Cline, an infant son of Andrew J. and Ann Cline,-Mary De Charms Foster, the infant daughter of Henry G. and Mary Jane Foster,-Louisa Price, and Charles Chauncey Mellor, children of John H. and Julia Ann Mellor. And in the evening a discourse was delivered on the Holy Supper, and that sacred ordinance administered to five communicants.
I have not room here to say all that I could wish of the prospects of the New Church in Pittsburgh. I do not believe that the Church, as a visible body, can permanently abide, and grow prosperously, here, or anywhere, without the regular administration of its ordinances, and the continued preaching of its doctrines, by properly qualified ministers, set apart and supported in their office. All societies that begin without looking sooner or later to a provision of this sort, will sooner or later become extinct. New Church history already records facts in proof of this assertion, were it not manifestly true in the nature of things. Our brethren in Pittsburgh are aware of its truth, but their worldly circumstances are as yet not such as to afford them the pecuniary means of acting accordingly. The plan has been suggested, however, of uniting the various receivers of our doctrines in Pittsburgh and its vicinity with those in Steubenville and Wheeling, in a combined effort to support a minister between them. I have confident hopes that this plan will be carried out, and that it will be eminently conducive to the growth and health of the Lord's New Church in that quarter.
We cannot forbear to add here from the Reminiscences of Mrs. Anna Aitken, ("auld Auntie Aitken"), concerning the same memorable occasion, as published in NEW CHURCH LIFE for 1891.
Mrs. Aitken was then the last surviving member of the original circle in Pittsburgh, a veritable "mother in Israel;" she was what may be called "a character,"-a most enthusiastic New Church soul, bright, keen, witty, and speaking with the quaintest Scotch accent. She and her husband, Andrew Aitken, had received the Heavenly Doctrine in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1840, and in the summer of the same year emigrated to America and settled in Pittsburgh, where her husband died on February 18th, 1841.
Mrs. Aitken thus describes the finding of companions in faith, and the first formation of the Pittsburgh society:
An acquaintance of ours to whom we had talked about religious matters a good deal, and had acquired some knowledge regarding the claims of the New Church, was attracted to a volume which he saw lying upon the counter in a store where he happened to have some business, and on opening it, found it was Mr. Barrett's Lectures, and on inquiring as to who owned it, was told that it belonged to Mr. John Mellor, and, further, that he was a believer in views therein contained. He lost no time in finding that gentleman, telling him about me, and how anxious I was to find even one individual who could sympathize and reciprocate in the acknowledgment of the worth of the treasures of heavenly wisdom vouchsafed to the world in these latter days, and which often caused me to pause and ask myself, "Can it be possible that of all the multitudes of church-goers whom I meet on Sunday on their way to the many places of worship, not one among the number knows anything about the good tidings except one solitary woman?" and frequently questions arose in my mind causing me uneasiness; but the Arm of Truth invariably upheld me, and in the conflict I always came out the conqueror, and more and more confirmed in my convictions of the Divine Origin to which the Doctrines lay claim.
Your readers may believe me when I tell them how much pleased I was, when, one day, two strange gentlemen called upon me, (I was then living at the house of my sister in Allegheny). They told me they had heard that I was alone, and wanted so much to find if there were any Newchurchmen in or about the neighborhood. I told them of my trouble, and showed them some of the works which we had brought with us from Scotland, and, of course, we became friends at once. Mr. Mellor invited me to his house, where afterwards the Society was formed.
I am unable to give the particulars as to how it was brought about that the Rev. Richard De Charms visited us, but I remember how diligently we tried to hunt everywhere to find if others might possibly be found. The NEW JERUSALEM MAGAZINE had the name of Mr. Caleb Isbister printed in the list of Isolated Receivers. Him we found living at Sharpsburg, about six miles from the city.
He was immediately notified that his presence was invited to meet a few friends who were endeavoring to make some arrangements to have meetings, etc. Ere this, however, I may mention that the name of Mr. Andrew Cline was added to the number, and Mr. George Smith, who had lately arrived from Lancashire, England, and was a firm believer as well as the rest of us, which is a point not to be lost sight of as earnest and sincere acceptance of the great Truth of the Second Coming of the Lord may be said to be a great centre from which may flow a genuine desire and effort to give fixedness and stability to conviction. Well, as I have said above, it remains a mystery to me by what means the event was brought about, but well do I remember that sacred day in the month of November, 1841, when I was invited to the house of Mr. John Mellor, and there I met the parties above alluded to, and Mr. and Mrs. Foster, whose infant daughter, along with myself, was baptized by Mr. De Charms. It seems to me that prior to the meeting, perhaps a day or two, a constitution was written out by him, assisted by Mr. Cline. This was read and approved and our signatures affixed to it before the society was formally organized. I must not forget to state that Miss Elizabeth Young, (who afterward became Mrs. Woods), daughter of Judge Young, who was but recently deceased, was along with her sister, and also signed the constitution.
Of the persons attending this first-New Church meeting in Pittsburgh, (which, by the way, the place on Saturday evening, November 6, 1841), but little is recorded. Besides the Persons mentioned above, there was present also a Mr. D. W. Coats, of Allegheny, of whom we know nothing but the name. Of Mr. A. J. Cline, we have already mentioned all that we know. Mr. John H. Mellor, the bookseller and organist, was probably the son of Mr. James S. Mellor, an old and faithful member of the New Church in Wheeling, West Virginia, and he himself remained for many years the most steady and representative member of the Pittsburgh Society during its days of small beginnings.
Caleb Isbister was for many years the president of the little society, an office which, according to the Rev. David Powell, he was "utterly incompetent to fill." Mrs. Foster was the oldest daughter of judge Young, of Greensburg; and Elizabeth Young, (afterwards Mrs. Woods), was her younger sister. They were soon joined in Pittsburgh by the youngest sister, Mrs. Clopper. And Mrs. Aitken soon had the happiness to be joined in the New Church by her two sisters and their husbands,-Katherine, who married Mr. Thomas Hogan, and became the mother of two strong members of the Church, Miss Maria Hogan and Mrs. Norris,-and Margaret, who married Mr. Carnegie, a strong Newchurchman, and became the mother of the famous philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
Soon, also, other folks came over from Scotland and joined the Pittsburgh Society,-Alexander Pitcairn, and his two brothers, Robert and John; but all, not only the Pitcairns and the Carnegies, but all the others mentioned above, were in limited financial circumstances in those days, and could do but little for the cause of the New Church.
In his second report to the Central Convention, (May 17, 1842), Mr. A. J. Cline mentions that the society in Pittsburgh now numbers twelve members, and that they have had meetings regularly every Sabbath. "We assemble together in the afternoon, use the book of worship, read from the Word and the Writings of the Church, and conclude by reading a sermon. Our reading is frequently arrested by remarks made by one or other of the members present, and thus useful discussion is often elicited and mutual instruction received." The cause of New Church Education was from the beginning close to the heart of the Church in Pittsburgh. "Are the children of the New Church in this country adequately provided for?" asks Mr. Cline. "Have they a proper supply of books, and is there abundant available means of promoting their spiritual growth and improvement in the Church? Might not something more be done than has yet been done for the purpose of convincing parents generally of the great importance of this sacred trust, and of the duty which devolves on them of rendering a strict and solemn account thereof to the Lord?"
In the Journal of the Central Convention for 1845. We find the following report from Pittsburgh, signed by Caleb Isbister:
In giving an account of the state of our society for the last year, I would say, that it has been prosperous. We have come out before the public, by having engaged a public room for our meetings on the Sabbath. Previously they had been held at the private residence of our much respected leader, A. J. Cline, Esqr. We have had a visit from the Rev. Mr. Powell, of Steubenville, O., who delivered some very interesting lectures, and baptized quite a number of children and adults. We have also given publicity to our library, by publishing a catalogue of the books in it, and inviting the public to the use of it.
One or two persons have joined the society as members; and there are several others who are regular attendants at our meetings. We have made some attempts at a Sunday School, by assembling the children together once a month. Our meetings are now held in the Rev. Mr. Todd's school room, Allegheny City.
We have to regret the loss of the services of our much respected leader, Andrew J. Cline, Esqr., who has truly been a nursing father to this society. He is removing to Holidaysburg. We shall have to content ourselves as a weaned child; but our Lord may have appointeh him to gather into His kingdom others also, whose dwellings are not with us. The religious worship of the society is now led by leaders, who are appointed, for a limited period, from amongst the members of the society.
This is the last report from the Pittsburgh Society to be found in any of the printed journal's of the Church, until the year 1858,-a silence thirteen years long! The history of the society during this interval must, therefore, be filled out from old letters now preserved in the Academy Archives,-chiefly those of the Rev. David Powell.
Our younger readers will ask, Who was David Powell? He was a New Church minister, the son of David Powell, Sr., who was also a New Church minister, one of the very earliest in the Church. David Powell, Sr., was a brother-in-law of the Rev. Thomas Newport, who received the doctrine of the New Church in the State of Delaware in the year 1799; soon afterwards he moved to Lebanon, Ohio,-some twenty miles to the northwest of Cincinnati,-where he began to evangelize among the new settlers with the result that in 1812 he was able to form a New Church circle, known as the "Turtle Creek" Society, and, in 1832, helped to organize the "Western Convention of the New Jerusalem," which in 1848 resolved itself into the Ohio Association and united with the General Convention.
David Powell, Sr., received the Writings in 1798, through Mr. Newport, and in 1817 formed a small New Church society at Steubenville, Ohio, on the Ohio river, some twenty-five miles north of Wheeling and about the same distance from Pittsburgh. He was ordained by Adanu Hurdus, and died in 1823, a faithful, earnest and much beloved man.
His son, David Powell, Jr., was born at Steubenville in 1909, and for many years conducted a school there, but gradually entered into the missionary work of the New Church, and in 1842 was ordained by the Rev. C. J. Doughty, of New York.
He served successively at Danby, N. Y.; Wheeling, West Virginia; Pomeroy and Middleport, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and finally at Darby, near Philadelphia, where he died, July 5th, 1854. Mr. Powell was, doctrinally, one of the soundest and strongest men in the Church, and was the closest friend and supporter of the Rev. Richard De Charms in the Central Convention. After his removal to Darby he became intimately associated with his younger friend, William H. Benade, and it was Mr. Benade who, in 1856, edited and published the AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF THE REV. DAVID POWELL.
From the letters of Mr. Powell we learn that in January, 1845, he delivered a course of six lectures in Pittsburgh to audiences of from, 100 to 150 persons, baptized ten children and administered the Lord's Supper to twelve communicants. The lectures were delivered "in the chapel of Mr. Tassey, who gave notice in the city papers that he would, next Sunday, deliver a lecture in answer, to explain and defend the Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity."
In February and March, 1846, Mr. Powell was again at work in Pittsburgh. The society had now rented a school room in Allegheny City, meeting every Sunday. "I think good was done to the Society itself, for an impression had previously prevailed that 're-baptism' into the New Church was unnecessary. This matter was pretty freely discussed on both sides. After I had presented the subject in its true light, as I understand it, I left them free to think of it for themselves. It had the result, however, that before I left nearly all who had not been baptized into the New Church came forward and received that ordinance. The last Sabbath was a very pleasant day. Just twelve received the ordinance of baptism,-ten adults and two youths. After this about twenty partook of the sacrament of the Holy Supper. The Society has fully doubled within the last year in resident members, though Mr. Cline and family have moved away."
In July of the same year he writes: "The Messrs. Highbys may now be looked upon as receivers. . . .
I had also the pleasure of learning that a few strangers who came to hear my lectures and sermons last winter, have continued to attend the meetings of the society ever since."
Continuing his monthly visits to Pittsburgh, from Steubenville, where he was located, Mr. Powell writes on October 5, 1847: "In, Pittsburgh about twelve weeks have been spent. During that time twenty-seven public discourses were delivered in the Hall of the 'President Engine House.' This is where the Society now hold its regular meetings every Sabbath." In December of the same year he writes: "I still preach in Pittsburgh the first two Sabbaths of each month. In the afternoon I am engaged in giving a series of discourses contrasting the New Church doctrines with the leading views of the Old." . . . "I now look upon Pittsburgh as an important point in our Church, second only to Cincinnati in the West."
In October, 1848 Mr. Powell settled as resident pastor in Pittsburgh, at a yearly salary of $400.00. The "Apollo Hall," on Fourth Street, had been rented for the services. The attendance was steadily increasing, Mr. David McCandless and Mr. J. J. Henderson being among the new receivers. During the year there was great excitement in the city on account of several prominent members of the Presbyterian Church being tried and excommunicated on account of Swedenborgian "heresy."
From the letters of the year 1849 we learn that an addition of twenty members had been made during the: past year, and that there were now fifty adult members, with twenty children in the Sunday School conducted by Mrs. Anna Aitken. (Andrew Carnegie and John Pitcairn were among the pupils in this school.)
In, the year 1850 some of the new converts began to give a great deal of trouble to the minister, especially a group of three or four ratiocinating lawyers who had developed notions of their own about the non-eternity of the hells and the lawfulness of intercourse with spirits; the patient minister reasoned in vain with them; the contributions to the Church began to fall off and in September, 1850, Mr. Powell was forced to terminate his engagement in Pittsburgh and return to Steubenville.
For seven or eight years now the history of the New Church in that city is almost a blank.
The society had no resident pastor, and no annual reports have been found in any of the contemporary journals of the Church. The Central Convention had become defunct, and the Pittsburgh Society did not join the General Convention until 1859. Moreover, we have seen it stated in print that the Book of Records of the Society has disappeared, which would be unfortunate, if true. Investigation should be made in Pittsburgh. As late as 1891 the book was still preserved, for Mrs. Aitken, in her "Reminiscences," published in NEW CHURCH LIFE for that year, says that "having procured the Society Journal, I find a pretty full and accurate account has been kept."
From a letter by the Rev. W. H. Benade to the Rev. J. P. Stuart, dated May 24, 1853, we learn that he had just visited Pittsburgh, (though probably not his first visit). "I managed to get as far as Pittsburgh, week before last, but could not spend more than that week with them. There is some little stir among the Calvinists of the place; some inquiry among intelligent men. If they only had more frequent preaching I think something could be done there. I baptized nine persons, three adults and six children."
In another letter to Mr. Stuart, dated Jan. 22, 1856, Mr. Benade says: "Through Mr. De Charms I hear that our friend, Courtney, and other lawyers of Pittsburgh, have started anew some old notions,-about the contradictions of Swedenborg, the non-eternity of hell, the final restoration of al the wicked to heaven, and man's non-free agency in spiritual matters. Why is it that so many of our seemingly strongest men will not read as they should? And how can they find such doctrines in Swedenborg? They propose publishing a book for private circulation, containing 200 questions."
In 1858 we find in the: Journal of the Pennsylvania Association a printed report concerning a visit by Mr. Benade to Pittsburgh. Starting from Philadelphia, July 10, he stopped on his way to Altoona "to call on some members of the Church who had recently taken up their residence there." These were Mr. John Pitcairn, Sr., and his wife, who for a time lived at Altoona with their son, Robert.
Arriving in Pittsburgh, Mr. Benade was the guest of Mr. David McCandless, and on this occasion baptized six adults and four children. Concluding his reports he states that "Upon no former occasion have I experienced so pleasant, so warm and earnestly devout a sphere of worship in that city as at that time."
On August 25, 1859, "the First Society of Pittsburgh and Vicinity" was admitted into the Pennsylvania Association and thereby became affiliated with the General Convention. During 1859-1860 the Society received visits from various New Church ministers, T. P. Rodman, B. F. Barrett, W. H. Benade, and Abiel Silver. Mr. Henry Higby was then the president of the society, and John J. Henderson, secretary. In 1860 they were visited by the Rev. J. C. Ager and the Rev. A. E. Beaman; they now had regular services in a large upper room on Fourth Street, between Wood and Market Streets, Mr. L. J. Koethen being the leader, and Mr. E. Westervelt the superintendent of the Sunday School. In 1863 the Society secured the regular ministrations of Mr. Benade "for a portion of the year." And in 1864 they were able to rent and furnish a hall at the corner of Sixth and Wood Streets and to call Mr. Benade to become their resident pastor.
Henceforth the reports from Pittsburgh became regular, and from them the history of the New Church in that city may be easily reconstructed. The main features will appear in the biography of John Pitcairn.
(To be continued.)