A Brief History of Our Church and Community
Includes excerpts gleaned from the church centennial celebration book, compiled in 1971, and a section entitled “A Historical Review” by Raymond G. Niklas
Back around the time this church was founded, the village of Bakerstown was located on the Plank Road, now known as Old Route 8. The surrounding area consisted almost exclusively of farms. Travel was by horse or on foot. All the roads were clay except the Plank Road which was, literally, made of planks.
Most of the people in the area were farmers and of Scotch and Irish ancestry. These were a stout-hearted and dauntless people accustomed to many adversities. Their very lives depended on their crops which needed the sun, rain, snow and wind. They felt very dependent on God for their well-being. Each village of what was to become northern Allegheny County took great pride in its own community, so it is understandable that there had to be a church and school. The church then had a twofold purpose: First, it served spiritual needs, and next, it served the social needs of the people. After the church service, people visited, exchanged news and had a genuine interest in each other’s well-being; also the young people took this opportunity to see and talk with each other. Mostly the social life revolved around the church and some around the school.
So it was that a determined group of Christians began to hold church services in the yellow frame school house located on the north end of the John Ewalt farm which is where the present Richland Youth Foundation stands. Rev. L. R. McAboy, D.D., pastor of the Crossroads Presbyterian Church, who for some years preached in the school house, encouraged and assisted the people to build their own church. The First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown was chartered and opened in 1871.
By 1905, under Rev. Dible’s leadership, the church was growing out of their present building so a room, 30 ft. x 32 ft. was added to the south side of the church, also a belfry and porch were added on the west side of the church. Pastors Porter Williams, Norman Hunter, Harry Gerhart, and O.S. Fowler served the church following this time period, leading into the Great Depression and the Second World War
During the 1930’s and early ’40’s FPCB’s attendance and finances were at a very low ebb as the Great Depression and the war took their toll. Thomas Lambert served as pastor during this time. But, thanks be to God, the postwar boom meant that the community around us began to change. Many new homes were built; farms were broken up into subdivisions; the area began to grow and, in 1946, a young, dynamic pastor was called, Rev. Jim Little.
In June of 1947, Jim was installed and God blessed FPCB with incredible, postwar growth. A new manse for the Pastor Little and his wife was built in 1947, a new church basement was built at the north end of the church structure, then, in 1954, a new Sunday School wing was completed (the site of our current Bakerstown Presbyterian Children’s Center.) 1958 saw the church purchase the Bakerstown Methodist Church building, which is now used as our Youth Annex, and continued growth saw the need to expand the size of the sanctuary to its current look, a project that was completed in 1959.
Rev. Little accepted a call the of God to minister in Idaho that same year, and that led FPCB to call another young pastor, who began a 35-year ministry that changed the face of Bakerstown forever. Rev. Richard A. Morledge made “wonderful worship, fabulous fellowship and excellent education” the church’s core ministry philosophy. Under his leadership, two thriving (now independent) ministries were launched at Bakerstown – the Lighthouse Foundation and Hosanna Industries. Dr. Morledge became known throughout this region for his godly leadership, inspiring sermons and for the affectionate title he still holds as our Pastor Emeritus: “The Bishop of Bakerstown.”
Dr. Morledge retired in 1995 and in 1997, the church called Dr. David McDonald to be only its thirteenth senior pastor in 126 years. Rev. McDonald brought vision and a pastor’s heart to ministry, launching the Bakerstown Presbyterian Children’s Center, bringing the Samaritan Counseling Center onto our church campus, introducing Stephen Ministry, Leadership Development Training and bringing numerous other ministry innovations to the church. Rev. McDonald accepted a call back to his native Georgia in 2005.
In February of 2008, the Rev. Dan Muttart became the fourteenth senior pastor in church history, becoming a close friend and protege of Pastor Emeritus Morledge, and bringing high energy to the preaching and teaching ministries of the congregation. With new housing developments going in around the church, a strong emphasis on preaching the Word of God with accuracy, and application to everyday life, and with a dynamic staff in place, FPCB is poised to cooperate with Holy Spirit power, and to experience yet another new wave of spiritual growth. In fact, the Holy Spirit was powerfully on display on December 2, 2012, as FPCB, by a 92.3% vote of the congregation, disaffiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
We are excited to continue to introduce people to the joy, the energy, the fun and the life-changing nature of a relationship with our Triune God, and to see how he uses this venerable and dynamic church to take people in our community and world to new heights of spritual encounter, faith and obedience!