SAINT MATTHEWS EPISCOPAL CHURCH STEVENSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA
By Carol Hoose Brotzman
Saint Matthews Episcopal Church Historian and the Beaver Meadows United Methodist Church Historian, which was formerly included in the Rush Mission mentioned below.
RD#1, Box 1206, Laceyville, PA 18623, 570 869 1034
Saint Matthews Episcopal Church is just outside Stevensville, PA on Route 706
Preface: These pages are dedicated to the faithful folks who served the Saint Matthews Episcopal Church through the years, especially to Joseph and Martha Muka Yanavitch who have done so much towards its preservation in recent years when times were the toughest and funds were the hardest to come by with no regular congregation. Joe left for his heavenly home on July 22, 1998, however Martha has continued to do whatever she can, especially manicuring the lawn to perfection.
The church was originally established in Pike Township, however the township was split about 1926 and now it is located in Stevens Township, Bradford County, Pennsylvania.
There is no distinct cemetery associated with Saint Matthews, but the church records reveal where many members were buried. There are many references to many being buried in Camptown cemetery, facing the rising sun; many more folks are in the Stevens Family and the Stevensville Cemeteries located nearby.
The first Bible preaching began in 1799 and continues yet through 2003 with special services. The priest baptized folks all the way from Bethlehem to Stevensville, Pennsylvania. They are recorded in the minutes. I have copies of the two original books and will do look-ups.
Saint Matthews Episcopal Church was officially organized in Pike Township in 1814, thus making it one of the earliest churches in this region. Those applying for a charter were: Dimon Bostwick, Benajah Bostwick, Jabez Bosworth, Salmon Bosworth, Daniel Ross, and David Olmstead. The first priest, or rector was to be Reverend Manning B Roche. Without a building; he held services in the back of Salmon Bosworth’s store. In 1824 Bishop William White consecrated the present church edifice, which was erected about 1814. It is the oldest church building in use in the dioceses.
Reverend Jackson Kemper who later became a missionary to the North West, the Diocese of Wisconsin, accompanied him from Philadelphia. In 1825 Reverend Samuel Marks became the permanent rector serving Bradford and Susquehanna Counties. The first Sunday school was then organized. He served the church the church until 1834, with an absence from 1831-1832. His early successors at the church have been Samuel Tiffany Lord, Reverend Freeman Lane, Reverend Barclay A Smith, Reverend DeWitt C Byllesby, Reverend Hale Townsend, Reverend William Smith Heaton, and the Reverend George Paine Hopkins who filled the pulpit at least three different terms.
Canon Edward Frear began his ministry at Stevensville in 1908, providing only summer services. He was married there to Miss Helen Kalbfus June 7, 1910. We can see from his records that the church has only been used for summer services since. Saint Matthews is the oldest Episcopal Church in the Bethlehem Diocese that has been in continuous use since it was founded. This church is now served by the Montrose Priest, and meets mostly in the summer time months. In 1997 there was a very special Christmas service. How lovely the church looked with original decorations and trimming done by Martha Yanavitch.
The church itself is quite unique, having no electricity, and the original furnishings. Brass oil lamps furnish the lighting, descending from the balcony and on each side of the altar. The altar itself is lined with an original red velvet bumper which was installed in 1894. It was taken up in 1924, cleaned and turned. Mrs. Olive Keeler, a faithful member of the church Olive attended to this before the church’s 100th anniversary celebration. The church had received its first carpeting in 1838.
The church processes some wonderful antiques, which are not stored at Saint Matthews I would like to say. One is the beautiful pewter communion set, which was presented in 1849 by Mr. and Mars George Mansley of Towanda.
The original pump organ rests in the back of the church, and an electric organ powered by an extension cord from the Joe and Martha Yanavitch home. The "new" organ must be at least 50 years its self. Martha tells me an electrical service box was installed outside the church about 2001 to be used for the organ, but for many years the extension cord provided by the Yanavitch family was the only electricity available.
Old plank benches, hand hewn and planed, are used to sit upon. There are six pews on the outside edge, with a right angle formed of pews in the front corners. The center has four double pews, with a full guardrail in the front. There is room to the right of the pulpit for the choir to be seated. The stained glass windows beside the choir area are dedicated in loving memory to Lewis L. Bosworth and Sarah A. his wife; it was a gift from their children and is dated 1894. It depicts a magnificent burgundy-red cross. The window adjacent to it is also dated 1894 but has an angel’s face in the center. It was dedicated in loving memory to Helen J. Wells. One of the rectors feared the Yanavitch children, Theresa and Joseph, would break the beautiful stained glass windows playing, but God himself damaged the angel with a hailstone. When you approach the church from the Yanavitch home, it appears the angel on that window is following your every move. She seems to focus on you as you approach the back door where most people enter through the office area. Martha and I just feel she is guarding the church!
On the other side of the church, beside the electric organ the stained-glass window depicts a unique harp, dedicated to Mrs Harriet C. Burrows by her five sons. The remainder of the large windows have many little squares, maybe eight inches square, and are of frosted glass. The same hailstorm a few years back broke out panes that were replaced with regular glass. The newer replacement windows do blend with the originals.
There is a full balcony on both sides and in the upper back quadrant, which provided more sitting room for those large congregations of the past. The elegant purple-based stained-glass window behind the alter records: "In Loving Memory of the Founders of Saint Matthews Church of Pike". It is viewed best from the balcony. The 1814 on one side of the windows represents the origination of the church and the 1895 date depicts the date the window was installed. There is a silver cross honoring Reverend Hopkin’s mother, Catherine Davenport Hopkins resting under this window.
The church was damaged by fire about 1863. The repairs were completed by 1864 when the large window over the chancel was installed. In 1884 the church was still undergoing repair, according to the records. The red carpet was installed on the floor and the present alcove and Holy Table for the vesting room were added.
The list of the founding members can be found beside the gigantic wood stove that is located behind the pews. Its is enclosed in a neat little half circle arc, which is lined with benches to warm those cold little wet feet that walked to Sunday School oh so many years ago. The stove might be workable, but the stovepipe surely isn't.
The church was wallpapered about 1970 with a generous donation from a community member that had passed on. That must have been a tremendous job, as those ceiling have to be twenty feet high where there isn't any balcony. They did a great job.
By the summer of 1998, the church was in great need of repair from deterioration. Joe Yanavitch and Edward Stark of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church of Montrose who headed the preservation committee met with a carpenter to evaluate the building’s problems. In just the short time form January to June, the church foundation had sunk, and the door to the balcony would not close. The foundation needed work and the roof needed to be repaired. They decided to replace the roof. The repair work began December 4, 1998. The roof had been installed in 1949.
The old type photos of Mrs. Catherine Davenport Hopkins and her son the Reverend Hopkins adorn the entryway. Their frames are the molded style of gold and oak. The following information was typed and framed beside the photo of Reverend John Payne Hopkins.
Reverend John Payne Hopkins was born June 11, 1818 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died at his home in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania 1903. He was ordained in Burlington, Vermont by Bishop Hopkins 1838. He was ordained a Priest at Montrose, Pa 1839 by Bishop Onderdork. He was first assigned to Saint Matthews of Pike in 1863, then he went to Saint Paul’s Church in Troy the following year 1864, and then in 1873 he was back at Saint Matthews until 1899.
Throughout the church are many old books, mostly prayer books, dating to back as far as 1812. In the office or Vestry room, which was added to the church about 1894, are many prayer booklets and hymnals with words only. That is the way the earliest hymnals were written. Songs were taught rhythm by the old fashion rote method. Some of these are in the original metal trunk- like cases. The office is located beside the Alter so to speak. Beside the altar are two large Family Bibles. The covers are inscribed; one with SAINT MATTHEWS and the other has E W HAWLEY.
The front of the church is graced by blue flagstone steps from a local quarry, just the right height to step on to, or off from, a buggy. The stone started out as one piece, but had to be cut in half to accommodate the current transportation mode of horses. The cost was a meager $36.00, thus reminding us of the unique architecture and eras of time this church has spanned. This wonderful building is a step back in time that is well preserved. It is a history lesson just waiting to be taught.
Historians note regarding the deed:
The property was set up as so that the church must remain active or the property reverts back to what is now the Benton Sumner property. That is why there has always been a church service held at least once a year. Elwin Edwards had possession of the deed for many years. He put it on display for a Stevensville Old Home Day celebration and it disappeared! It is something the folks around here would like to have back in the community where it belongs.
Historians note regarding Reverend Hopkins compiled by Katherine Fassett Schuster (1905-1998):
The Reverend George Hopkins home, or parsonage became what was known as the Locust Inn. He and his wife were the proud parents of two daughters, Essie and Julia. Miss Essie was very reserved, and Miss Julia was just the opposite. Both were well educated in New York City. Neither married, however while in New York, Miss Julia fell in love with an opera singer. Her parents disapproved, and that was the end of that! Their house was at the hub of social activity in Stevensville, and was even a stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves seeking freedom. Harvey Edwards was the handyman employed by the Hopkins family. When the Elder Hopkins passed on, the girls sold the farm to Harvey and moved to Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. The house was converted to the Locust Inn in 1962 by Elwin Edwards. The Locust Inn burned May 16, 1997, but by then the ownership had been sold out of the Edwards family for nearly thirty years. Wayne and Lois Edwards purchased the property in 1993. Gilles Restaurant is now on the site where all the activities of long ago took place.
The old Pine Glen School was located nearby on what is now the former Arden and Mary Learn property. This was a Methodist Circuit stop of the Rush Mission. This building was purchased by Reverend Hopkins in 1893 and moved across the road from his home. It was rented to Elwin Edwards’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Edwards, to be used as their home. The Rush Mission dropped the Pine Glenn circuit stop from church services May 28, 1877 due to lack of members. (Recorded in the Quarterly Conference minutes of the Rush Charge).
Historians note regarding Cemetery information on the Reverend Hopkins family:
In the Stevensville Cemetery Book page 34, compiled by Linda Culver English.
There is a large headstone in the Hopkins-Bostwick lot adjacent to the William H. Bunt lot.
On the 1st side:
Julia Eliza Hopkins daughter of Reverend G. P. Hopkins died Feb 14, 1915
Essie M. Hopkins daughter of Reverend G. P. Hopkins died March 21, 1920
Reverend George P. Hopkins departed this life July 16,
1903 age 88 years
wife, Sarah W. Bostwick departed this life April 30, 1899 age 82 years
THE GRACE OF HE LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOU, AMEN
3rd side on the back
William D. Hopkins born Ireland Sept 9, 1797 died October 9, 1870 (maybe his father?)
Joseph Burnett Hopkins died May 17, 1856 age 7 years (son?)
George P. Hopkins served his country with the US ARMY in the Civil War where he died at the age of 16 years July 22, 1862.
On the last side it records Bostwick
Pennet M. Bostwick born August 4, 1805 died April 25, 1891,
In memoriam, a daughter of Dymond Bostwick and Zalvaisa Bostwick
She died November 19, 1894 age 87
* Historians note regarding Reverend Hopkins’ additional family: His only son George Junior died in Philadelphia of Typhoid while serving in the US Army. He was just age 16 when he passed Wednesday July 22, 1862. He was buried July 26 with his father attending.
CHARTER MEMBER LIST RECORDED ON THE BACK WALL OF THE CHURCH
|David Olmstead||Adolphus Olmstead|
|Joseph Bosworth||Cornwall Bush|
|Samuel Stephens||John Haywood|
|Daniel Ross||Ambrose Allen|
|Jessie Ross||Ephraim Fairchild|
|Denison Bostwick||Fairchild Canfield|
|Benajah Bostwick||Elisha D. Wolf|
|Salmon Bosworth||Stephen Evert|
|Josiah Bosworth||William Frink|
|Orange Bosworth||Alby Bosworth|
|John C. Stephens||John Haywood|
|Irad Stephens||Samuel Brown|
If anyone would like to make a donation to help preserve and maintain this wonderful old church, please mail contributions marked for care of Saint Matthews Episcopal Church to:
Edward A Stark
13 Lincoln Avenue,
Montrose, PA 18801-1334
The following is a little information about the community from a 1955 special services document from the diocese of Bethlehem:
Many of the first settlers came here from Connecticut. They raised sheep and owned and operated a wool-carding mill, which was located nearby the church. The actual first edifice was destroyed by fire. I have found no other reference to this building.
At a time when it’s common to hear reports about churches closing their
doors, Bradford County’s oldest church will soon begin holding regular
Sunday services for the first time in 63 years.
Beginning Saturday, July 8, worship services will be held at St. Matthew’s Church in Stevensville. The services will be held at 5:30 p.m. every Saturday evening from July 8 through Sept. 2. St. Matthew’s is located just outside of Stevensville on Rt. 706. Since 1946, the church has been yoked to St. Paul’s Church in Montrose.
The historic church was founded in 1799 in response to the results of the American Revolution, which separated those Church of England parishes in the colonies from their English counterparts. The Episcopal Church was formed in Philadelphia in 1785, and fourteen years later, in 1799, St. Matthew’s was established in Pike, now Stevensville.
St. Matthew’s was officially organized as an Episcopal Church in 1810 by sheep farmers from Connecticut. The first church building burned down in 1814, coincidentally, the same year the capitol in Washington was burned by the British. The current sanctuary was built in 1820, consecrated in 1824, and has been used for worship for 172 years. It is the oldest church in the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem and the oldest church in Bradford County, having been established before the county even existed.
The building still stands as it was built in 1820, but the only “modernization” has been the conversion of the whale-oil lamps to kerosene. The original large pot-bellied stove still stands in the rear of the church but has been disconnected for safety reasons. The stones at the entrance are Pennsylvania bluestone; they were purchased as a single flagstone, but had to be cut for transportation from the quarry. A balcony runs along the side and rear walls.
Regular church services were discontinued in 1943 when the population shifted away and attendance dropped off. Since then, charming and historic St. Matthew’s has been used for weddings, baptisms and other special occasions.
Because the church does not have electricity and the pot-bellied stove is antiquated, the building is not hospitable for services during the winter. One service in July and one service in August have been held there for years, but this summer will mark the first time in 63 years that the church will be used weekly.
“We are pleased that we are able to return regular worship services during the summer at St. Matthew’s,” stated Rachel Warriner of Bartron, senior warden of St. Paul’s in Montrose. “This historic church has stood faithfully, with great dignity and beauty for decades. It quietly holds the prayers and presence of generations of our forbearers. It now reaches out and welcomes our community into its sanctuary for prayer and worship. We invite our neighbors and summer visitors to join us in worshiping God in Historic St. Matthew’s.” Contributed by Carol Hoose Brotzman