Compiled and researched by Flora L. VerStraten, 2004
Piney Fork church first began as the Piney Fork Associate Reform [also referred to as the Presbyterian Church] in 1800 with the first minister being Alexander Calderhead. He served for 12 years until his death. The first meetings held near the cemetery property where the first crude church log cabin was built in 1824. It was called a “tent” meeting house. The members of the church downed logs and the logs were placed as “benches” for the congregation to sit. A tent between two trees was the first and most primitive type of church here on this location.
In 1838 a nice brick church was built up on the top of the ridge, above the pioneer cemetery. This log church measured 60x30. If one looks carefully in the early spring or late fall and winter, you can see where the church once stood, along with the remains of the large sandstone foundation. A few red bricks still remain from the chimney and are scattered about in a small area inside of the foundation.
Many of the early pioneers are buried in the Piney Fork Cemetery just down over the hill from the last church. Most of the tombstones are illegible, sunken deep in the ground or missing! I did read a tombstone inscription that dates back to 181. The last burial date was in the early 1900’s, so that tells us that no one has been buried in the Piney Fork Cemetery for 100 years!
Some of the ministers to serve at Old Piney Fork were: Alexander Calderhead, followed by Rev. John Walker, Rev. Thomas Hanna, Rev. Joseph Cloky, Wm. Lorimer [from 1860 to 1880] and then Rev. J.M. Jamison. Church services were stilll being held in 1880, when the history of Jefferson County was written and recorded. The church moved down the road, probably near the turn of the 20th century, thus forgetting about all the early settlers that were buried in the old Piney Fork Pioneer Cemetery.
This area is deep in history including the earliest pork packing industry in 1815; the Quaker’s settled in this area as early as the Presbyterians in 1800 and performed their first marriage in the Quaker meeting house in 1801 of Evan Evans to Mary Brite. The squatters were here before 1800 when the first survey was conducted in 1800 and forced the squatter, William Kirk to leave.
Comments about the Piney Fork church and cemetery taken from, Tombstone Inscriptions, by author Esther Powell states the following, “This church and the cemetery were located at the northern edge of Smithfield Township, near the border of Wayne Township, in Section 24. This was on a township road that ran parallel to State Road 151 about ˝ miles south of it. This road has been destroyed. The only access to it now is a long distance walk through thick underbrush on the surrounded by the HASS farm. Services were still being held in the church in 1880 but the church is now gone and the cemetery completely overgrown. The first church service here was in 1800. Mrs. Powell states, “Because of the difficulty in getting to the cemetery and finding the tombstones in the underbrush, the inscriptions were copied by Louis Hass, son of the adjoining farm, on Sept. 23, 1967 who had to crawl in the cemetery and just read what stones he could get to and see… “
Some early pioneer tombstones inscriptions as of 2004 and include some prominent surnames: Francis, McNary, Hervey, Kyle, Moore, Carson, Barkhurst, and McCoy.
PINEY FORK PIONEER CEMETERY: Piney Fork U.P. Church history - This article was extracted from the Herald Star Newspaper not dated: In 1799 or 1800 the first preaching service was held under the oaks. After this a tent was pitched for the preacher to stand under, while the congregation sat on logs and puncheon scats, with pulpit between two trees. William Gillispie sold an acre of ground in 1832 for which a log house 70 feet by 80 feet was built, the late Thomas Hamilton of Adena being the contractor. This structure had glass windows and pews with doors, as well as a number of puncheon seats. In 1837 or 1839 a brick church was built John S. Lacy, builder, James Moore, William Kyle, and Hugh Thompson the trustees…In 1888 a new church was erected, up on the hill. Rev. Alex Calderhead was the first minister, preceded by Rev. Hanna in 1830.
Earliest birth date recorded in Piney Fork – William Hervey, Jr., born 9 Oct. 1775, died 25 Feb. 1855. The last known burial in Piney Fork – Robert Francis, born 1818, died 1902, 82 yrs old.
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