SEPTEMBER 2016: 200 YEARS OF UNION PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Reverend Thomas Kerr was installed at Union January 7, 1925. He was born in Buckinghamshire, England. His father was Scottish. His family came to America when he was 5 years old. He graduated from Auburn Theological Seminary in New York. One of his pastorates before Union was at a church that makes us look new. It was the Old Buckingham Church, founded in 1698 by Francis Macennie, who is known as the Father of organized Presbyterianism in America. The day the Kerrs were moving to Union there was a blizzard and they had to be transported to the church from Quarryville on a bobsled. One of Rev. Kerr’s desires now that he was living in the country was to have his own chickens.
He had fixed up the barn at the old manse a half mile south of Union with the hopes of purchasing some. One evening he saw a long line of cars coming down the dirt road from Kirkwood and walked out to get a better view. To his surprise, they all turned into the manse. The congregation was having a surprise poultry shower for him. They brought him chickens, ducks and geese of every size and description. One hundred people showed up and they had a grand time with music and refreshments.
Look to minister- And you thought we just had baby showers!!
His first wife died and he later married Sara Cunningham. They had a daughter and she grew up and married local boy, Almus Shoemaker. Kathryn Shoemaker would go on to become an extremely dedicated member of Union church. It was during Mr. Kerr’s pastorate that the practice of annual homecomings was begun. Our magnificent pipe organ was installed during his pastorate. Much of the money for it was given in memory of his late wife. One half the cost of the organ was donated by the sessions of the churches where he had served before Union, including $500 from old Buckingham church. He died at the home of his daughter in Kirkwood on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1934 and is the only Union minister buried in the larger cemetery.
The last minister I am going to discuss is Doctor William Horatio Crapper. Is that a great name or what? Doctor Crapper was installed in 1937 and is in all likelihood the earliest minister that most of us long timers here can remember. He remained here for 16 years, second longest in Union history, leaving in 1953. Like Rev Kerr, he was also born in England and attended The Sheffield School of mining there. He came to America in 1920 and after attending a lecture by the famous Reverend Billy Sunday decided to enter the ministry. As a little boy, I remember very little about him other than when he preached he yelled very loud and banged on the lectern very hard! During his service the area suffered a very serious polio outbreak and services and schools were closed for several weeks. Later that same year, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the session gave the Red Cross permission to use the lower rooms of the church for possible war refugees. Reverend Crapper was an excellent mechanic and carpenter and during his tenure the stain glass windows were rebuilt and the first inside bathrooms were installed. The horse and buggy shed was torn down and landscaping was done with a total expenditure of $29,000, quite an expenditure in that time. AND, the large letters with the name Union Presbyterian church were installed on the west side. There was considerable debate as to whether or not birds would build nests on them. Those letters and myself are virtually the identical age. Dr Crapper, in 1951 , presented Jack Ferguson to the session as a candidate for the ministry. In 1980 Doctor Crapper was still alive at age 97. Union would be without a pastor for about a year before Glen Knecht was ordained in 1954. Reverend Knecht would be the oldest pastor that many in this area would remember and is at this time, the oldest living Union Presbyterian Church pastor. Reverend Knecht in fact drove here and visited with Jane Ferguson very recently. The manse next door was built by John Herr, with Rev. Knecht as its first occupent.
I told you way back, there would be a quiz at the end, so take out your pens and papers!!