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East Union 150 Years 1


1850 1

1850  East Union Church Founded

“On June 3, 1850, the founding congregation of East Union Church gathered for a special outdoor worship service. Along with the distractions of birds singing and the wind blowing through a nearby stand of willow trees, there was probably an undercurrent of excitement that made it difficult to concentrate on the day's lesson.

For years, these deeply faithful people had been attending Deer Creek Associate Reformed Church or Bull Creek Presbyterian. Both churches were a significant distance away, and attending was often difficult or impossible during the cold winters and wet springs. Now, with more families moving into the area and the established families growing with children, it was time for a community church. After the service, and probably a shared picnic lunch, the adults discussed the specifics of the new house of worship…

Finally, in September, East Union Associated Reformed Church was ready to shelter the congregation. The completed building was a plain, square structure. The bricks were made from the same clay soil upon which the church stood. Inside were two lines of wooden pews, which were rented by members of the congregation. A small raised platform served as a pulpit, and the choir sat in chairs on a similar platform at the rear of the church. A pot -bellied stove provided heat. The only light was the daylight coming through two small windows. Lamps were purchased later with proceeds from the pew rentals.


1858 East Union “becomes” Presbyterian

“In May of 1858, the synods of the Associate Presbyterian and the Associate Reformed voted to unite to form a new denomination. With this action, East Union became East Union United Presbyterian Church.”


cemetary1868  East Union Cemetery Established







1901  Facelift for the Church Building

“The original church building got a facelift in 190 1 with the addition of a vestibule and a new slate roof. Other improvements were made as well. The pot-bellied stoves were replaced with a furnace, part of the basement was excavated, new lights were installed and carpet was laid in the aisles… A year later, in 1902, the congregation voted to allow the use of an instrument during worship, although the change wouldn't take effect until January 1, 1903.”


1908  East Union Church Establishes Mission Churches in Russelton, Curtisville

In 1884, a test drilling indicated that the area near Russellton supported a rich vein of coal. By the end of 1904, the first coal mine was fully operational and the Bessemer Coal and Coke Company had built a cluster of homes to house the miners. In 1908, to service the religious needs of the miners and their families, East Union established a mission church that met weekly at the boarding house in Russellton. Various ministers preached at the services, and the women of East Union organized a Sunday School. Male trustees from East Union, working with other trustees from various churches in the region, began to raise funds to build the Russellton flock their own church.

In addition to the Russellton Mission Church, the pastor and members of East Union established a Sabbath School in Curtisville, another mining town a few miles away. Meanwhile, the church itself continued to attract new members. While its congregation was still primarily comprised of farmers, it was becoming more diverse as people connected to the mines began to attend.

1939  East Union Church building Annex

“On October 17, 1938, ground was broken for a much-needed addition. Dedicated on July 2, 193 9, the new annex included four Sunday School rooms, a kitchen, and a large social hall. New red brick was put on both the church and the annex, and a steeple was added.”


1958 Further Expansion

“The new addition…the educational wing…gave East Union more classrooms, a large basement recreation area (now known as Kennedy Hall), and a new, modem parsonage. Also that year, East Union United Presbyterian Church became a complimentary body of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America… A year later, in 1959, Russellton Presbyterian Church… officially united with East Union. It was a friendly merger of two congregations that were already very close. Shortly after that, increased attendance forced the Session of East Union to implement two Sunday worship services.”


1962  New Sanctuary

“The cornerstone for the new church was laid on Sunday, November 25, 1962. The completed sanctuary, connected by a breezeway to the original church, was dedicated on August 25, 1963.”

The old sanctuary was renamed Founders’ Chapel. It is still called that today, but its tradition of worship was never set aside. Every Sunday a "junior" worship service was held there for the mentally and physically handicapped residents of a local group home. The children of the
church who had outgrown nursery, but were not quite old enough for regular worship joined these special guests. Together the two groups, led by teen and adult volunteers, sang, prayed, and learned about the many wonderful stories in the Bible. This “special worship service” continues with vitality to this day, now called the Faithful Followers service, it hosts up to 50 handicapped worshipers and their caregivers each Sunday, coming from many group homes around the region.


2001  East Union Community Center Dedicated

East Union’s “Strong Pastoral Leadership through the years”

James Given 1854-1857
E.N. McElree 1863-1866
William Weir 1866-1869
James A. Brandon 1871- 1876
J.M. Witherspoon 1877-1882
W.F. Miller 1884- 1896
James A. Brandon 1897-1907
R.A. Biggerstaff 1908 - 1911
M.S. McBane 1912 -1916
W. Guy Hamilton 1917-1922
Howard M. Bruce 1923-1943
W. Allan Shannon 1944-1950
Walter L. Farris 1951 -1955
Richard K. Kennedy 1956-1993
Rev. John Rickloff (Interim) 1993-1995
Richard L. Young 1995 - 2001
Rev. Laurie Milligan (Interim) 2002-2004
Rev. James C. Ramsey 2004-Present