Early Pioneers to this area

{Taken from the 100th Anniversary History of the Scotch Ridge Presbyterian Church, compiled by the Rev. Fred Cochran, beginning on pg. 3.} The first great Scotch migration from Ulster to New England began in 1718 and lasted until 1750.

THE SCOTCH IN AMERICA – They first settled in New England in rural settlements. The Scotch-Irish also accounted for the strength of the early American Presbyterian Church.

TO PENNSYLVANIA – They later migrated to Chester and Lancaster counties in Pennsylvania, a few miles south of Philadelphia, which became the first Mecca for Scotch emigrants, especially those from Ulster, Ireland. They came early in the 18th century to invade the Cumberland valley where they were able to farm and practice their religious freedoms.

UNREST – It was from the hearts of these people that there later came a spirit of unrest, a thirst for adventure, and a desire to better their worldly condition. This led to the Scotch swarming to the land west of the Alleghenies – the “Land of Promise”. Being hardy and energetic, they were well suited to cope with the savage Indians and the hardships of frontier life.

THE WESTWARD MOVEMENT – The Germans and Scotch-Irish began a trek to the Northwest Territory.

THE EARLY SETTLERS OF SCOTCH RIDGE AND VICINITY – Due to the scarcity of early written records, it is somewhat difficult to determine who the early settlers were, and exactly when they settled at Scotch Ridge and vicinity. They came across the Allegheny Mountains by wagon, horseback, and on foot. They crossed the Ohio River at Rayland (or Warren) and at Martinsferry – these being the locations where a ferry existed. The Mitchells, Alexanders, and Moores crossed the river at Rayland and came up across Rayland point, and settled on what is now Scotch Ridge.  They came just past the Jordan family, up across the hill to McKims, and came in past the Pickens’. The Mitchells settled at Jordans, Finneys and Cochran’s, the Alexanders at the church, and the Moores to the south.

SOME EARLY FAMILIES

Some other earlier families in Belmont-Jefferson County area were Treadway, Wineburner, Porter, Smith, Valentines, Meloys, and McElhinneys. These pioneers located there around 1790.  Others here by 1799 were Steele, Berry, Barnes, Pickens, Latimer, VanBelt, Thorburn, Parker, Raley, and West.

Among the prominent early settlers of Scotch Ridge and the vicinity were Colonel Thomas McCune and his family, his younger brother, Joseph McCune, and James West, who came to Warren Township, Jefferson County, in 1796 and acquired all of Section 28.

One of the early tasks of the pioneers once completing the building of their log homes was to provide a place of worship. Since the early settlers were nearly all native Scotch, or of Scotch descent and were cradled in the Presbyterian faith, it was natural that the worship of these first settlers should take on a Presbyterian aspect. There were five sites or centers of early worship.  We must also consider how close Belmont and Jefferson County lines were located during this period of settling and building.

The Scotch Ridge Tent (1798) – The first missionaries were Dr. John McMillan and Dr. Thomas Marquis east of the Ohio and northwest of the Ohio River. They visited as early as November of 1796 and originally organized congregations of Indian Wheeling Creek (now St. Clairsville) and “Indian Short Creek” (now Mt. Pleasant).

SHORT CREEK - was located on the farm belonging to the late William J. Finney, just across the road from where the present Beech Spring School building now stands. The school building is now a private home. The farm then belonged to John Mitchell, one of the three early Mitchell brothers to locate this area. Under the spreading branches of the large walnut tree, the Short Creek Church came into being.

  1.  TENT – There was no beautiful house of worship, just a “tent” which was a covered wooden stand for the minister with an elevated singing and speaker’s stand. The congregation sat on rough logs. From the slope of the hills looking eastward toward the Ohio River Valley to the blue Virginia (now West Virginia) is the road winding down to Hoge’s Hill of which ‘Little Fork’ of Short Creek built their first ‘rough log’ meeting house. The first elders were Richard McKibben, Thomas McCune, James Clark, and James Eagleson. The early accounts that Rev. Joseph Anderson was ordained on the Mitchell site are in error as pointed out by Mr. McConahey in his research. The early church was brought into existence in what was then the Northwest Territory, a little over four years before Ohio became a State (March 3, 1803). Religious services were held on the tent site for several months, or even a year or more. There were at least two burials on the early site. The ruthless plough-share has been driven over their resting-places again and again, their names forgotten, but their bodies’ rest in the graves waiting the resurrection day.

  2. The Log Cabin Church on Short Creek (1798-1818) – The first house of worship was built at the foot of what was later known as Hoge’s Hill, that is the road came down to the Creek from Irish Ridge, near the rippling waters of Little Short Creek. It was a rude log house, without a fireplace or heating. It was probably erected in November of 1798, when the congregation was organized and by April 15, 1800 when Rev. Joseph Anderson was called as pastor they required only a few days of labor for a pioneer crews skilled to use a broad-axe and frow, and using oxen or horses to assemble the logs of the building site.

  3. Union House of Worship – Tradition says that Henry West, Hugh McConahey, and William Pickens built the pulpit, which was taken to the Union House of worship on the hill at Oak Grove Church. The congregations worshipped here in this log house for about twenty years until about 1818. There is nothing to identify the site of this house of worship. It is said that over one hundred people were buried in the adjoining cemetery.  It is a sad and tragic story to report, that due to carelessness and lack or local respect for history or the dead, that there are no tombstone markers left to mark the resting places of these hundred dead, and no indication today of even the location of the cemetery.

  4. The Oak Grove Site (1818-1829) – For the next eleven years, 1818 to 1829, the congregation occupied the one-half acre of the Associated Reformed Church, known as the Union House, located about two miles east of Mt. Pleasant, with the present enclosed graveyard. This site is just south of the former site of the Old Oak Grove School, near the farm later owned by William Murray. The congregation enjoyed a luxury building in the form of a heated stove. In this spot sleep some of the Fathers and Mothers of Israel, including the first elders, Thomas McCune, Adam Dunlap, Alexander Maxwell, Hugh McConahey, and other names such as Fulton, McCleary, Smith, Kain, Haythornwait, McMechan, and Snodgrass. Rev. Anderson resigned at the end of this period in 1829 when (Squire) Thomas Mitchell, Robert (Nelson) Theaker, and James H. Drennen finally made the house of worship into the threshing machine.

  5. To Mt. Pleasant in 1829 – The congregation moved to Mt. Pleasant in 1829, and worshipped for a time in the Associate (Seceder) Church at the East End of the village where the old Seceder Cemetery now identifies the spot. A new brick church was erected on the northwest corner of Union and High Streets in Mt. Pleasant. The building committee consisted of Adam Dunlap, John Hogg and William Pickens. Henry Amrine did the woodwork. Rev. Benjamin Mitchell was pastor of the Mt. Pleasant Congregation from 1829 to 1876, a period of 47 years.
  6. Scotch Ridge Church - When the congregation moved from the Oak Grove location to Mt. Pleasant in 1829, some of the Scotch Ridge residents probably began to meet around in the different homes, due to the long distance in traveling over poor roads especially in the winter season. (This church was located in Belmont County, just adjacent to Jefferson County.

Location of Worship Sites

  1. The Beech Spring Tent
  2. The Little Short Creek Log Cabin
  3. The  Union House
  4. The Oak Grove Associated Reformed
  5. The Mount Pleasant Brick Churches
  6. The Scotch Ridge Church Site (Belmon

NoteHenry West and Jane McGeary West are both buried in the old West Cemetery, on the Pyle Farm, near Upland Heights, Yorkville, Ohio. The markers are in good shape. The West’s are of Scotch-Irish descent and came from Ireland. The Beers Atlas of 1871 shows the land {property}… then owned by John Pyle, now owned by Hunter. From the site of this house, a winding lane can still be identified, leading to the Old West Cemetery – a small plot on the high hill a half or three-quarter mile distant, now largely abandoned, overgrown, and uncared for. This is near the original homes of Col. Thomas McCune, Capt. Joseph McCune, and James West, in Section 28. This raises the question of where James West and his wife were buried. Several of the above locations were in existence at the time of James West’s death, January 8, 1806.

Joseph McCune (married Mary Shannon) died about 1802 and is thought to be buried in the Presbyterian Church Yard at the foot of Hoge’s Hill a mile upstream from present Glen Robbins. Neglect has overtaken the Little Short Creek Church Yard and all the markers have been removed or destroyed through the years. The Y. and O. Coal Company built a coal tipple practically on the exact spot. Hugh McConahey was born in 1775 and died in 1817. He and has wife, Margaret McCune are both buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery. (Their tombstones were moved along with other McCune and McConahey tombstones in the 1960’s to the Old Seceder Cemetery. This move was organized by the Steubenville DAR. Many tombstones remain in the Old Oak Grove Graveyard.) 

Tribute to the Little Church and Graveyard on the Hill

Loyal and Faithful, but Silent old Guard

Guarding those that sleep, in thy grassy yard,

True to your trust, through each passing year,

Through bright spring day and the Autumn drear.

 

Watchful are you through the long stilly night,

You the first to note the dawn of morning light,

On the top-most crest, of ye old scotch Hill,

Through the hot summer days, and long winter chill.

 

Erected to glorify God, by that grand old Scot,

So that all of His descendants, to you may be brought,

As a shrine where to worship, & a guard for the dead,

Comforts & blessings through you have been shed.

 

For a short while we desert you, through the wide world to wander,

But we keep a warm spot in our hearts, for that great Alexander.

Who bequeathed to His children, this beautiful spot,

And when death claims our dear ones, to you they have brought.

 

So on with your Vigil, the Eons of Time,

To guard over the dead, is a duty sublime,

And on resurrection morn, may it be by God’s Will,

That the Captain of the Guard, be the little

Church on the Hill.

 

Note - The husband of one of the descendants of James Alexander wrote this narrative poem. Author’s name is unknown.


Joseph Smith, died Nov 22, 1821, Oak Grove Cemetery, Mt. Pleasant Twp, Mt. Pleasant, Jefferson County, Ohio.

Tombstone photo taken by Flora L. VerStraten in the spring of 2006,  during the Oak Grove Cemetery Clean up. Assisted with the clean up John Borkowski and Belmont County inmates. Tombstone reads, In Memory of, Joseph Smith. This and many other tombstones are old slate style, pre-dating the 1830's.