Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
The Romance of Old Barclay by Clarke
Chapter Five - Churches at Barclay
The Romance of Old Barclay

By Staley N. Clarke

Originally Published 1928, Towanda PA

Photos by Joyce M. Tice October 4, 1998
Retyped for Tri-Counties by Richard Harris and Connie Unganst and Formatted by Joyce M. Tice

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[Page 9]



As always when a community grows up, religious sentiment quickly cropped out in Barclay and two churches were organized—a Catholic and a Presbyterian.

Barclay was in the Towanda parish of the Catholic church and it was when the Rev. Patrick Toner had charge of that parish that the church was built at Barclay. It was a fine building for those days, with the usual high steeple and cross. There were two galleries, one at each end, and the alter was fixed beautifully. The church also was fitted with an organ.

In 1875 when Barclay was booming, Rev. Charles F. Kelly, a highly educated and accomplished gentleman, was in charge and he is probably the best remembered of the priests going there. Father James Whalen followed Father Kelly. The first records of his activity are in February, 1877. He died several years ago at St. Patrick’s rectory, Scranton.

It is believed from records available at the home of Very Rev. Father J. J. McGuckin in Towanda that Father M. J. Hoban, who later became bishop of the Scranton diocese, followed Father Whalen. It is known that Barclay always held a dear spot in the venerable bishop’s heart and he often loved to talk of the days he had spent on the mountain. Some of the older residents will remember, too, how he traveled over the mountain roads in all kinds of weather to help cheer the sick and administer the rites of the Church to the dying. One of the last priests to conduct services on the mountain was Father Morrison, who died several years ago at South Waverly.

In connection with the church, the Catholics at Barclay had a priest’s house with a living room and library. Usually the assistant pastor at Towanda went to Barclay on the train Saturday night and held confession there that evening. On Sunday he conducted mass and taught the large Sunday School, returning to Towanda on the train Monday morning. While in Barclay he took his meals at Andy Keeliher’s.

Now there is nothing left of the old church or priest’s house either. A few people have a piece of wood from the ruins of the former, but that is all. Mrs. Anna Sheehan of Towanda has a dearly loved prize in her home—one of the stations of the cross from the church—and it is believed Mrs. Mike Madigan of Grover, near Canton, also has several of these. Mrs. Will Lane of Towanda has some of the candlesticks.


By direction of presbytery, Rev. William Harris of Towanda visited Barclay and preached several times. Mr. Dechert also spent some time there in the months of September and November of the same year. Then in March, according to Craft’s history, Mr. McWilliams moved his family on the mountain; preached a few times at Fall Creek, at Graydon, but most of the time at Barclay. December 26, 1866, 24 persons were constituted a church by a committee of presbytery, and Messrs. Muir, Huntington, and Turner were ordained elders; William and John Ditchburn and D. Short were chosen deacons.

Mr. McWilliams left in February, 1869, and was followed by Rev. Edward Kennedy. Mr. Christison was supply for a short time in 1875, and was succeeded by Rev. James Petrie Janary 23, 1876. He is the pastor best remembered by those from Old Barclay now living around Towanda. In 1878 the church’s property consisted of a pleasant little church, a parsonage, and a schoolhouse, costing all together about $4500. The Sabbath School had 225 teachers and scholars.

The Rev. Kennedy mentioned was the father of Mrs. F. I. Champlin of Orwell and W. B. Kennedy of Merryall.


According to Craft’s history there used to be a Baptist Church at Barclay but it could not have flourished much because little is known concerning it. It was formed June 8, 1877, with 11 members, five newly baptized and six on experience. John Hunter was deacon and Robert Morris clerk. George P. Watrous, an associational minister, preached there a number of times.
Barclay Cemetery Listings
Barclay Cemetery Photos
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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 9/13/99
By Joyce M. Tice