Clergyman James Satterfield
Mollie Lewis Lyon
Let me introduce you to the Clergyman. He is one of my ancestors that has made reading about my line easier because much is written about him. He would be an uncle, about seven generations back.
He was born in 1767, the fifth child of James and Margaret (Meed) Satterfield, in Queen Anne County, Maryland. The father died and Margaret married a Mr. Davies. The family moved to Washington County, Pennsylvania as they were farmers and the country was expanding.
James didn't want to stay on the farm, though. 1790, exporting provisions to New Orleans provided a new venture. He built his own flatbed. Most flatbeds at this time carried flour, bacon and whiskey. James only carried his flour and some from his neighbors. He did well with this trip, enough that he could sail back to Baltimore. He visited friends in Maryland. On his walk back to Pennsylvania, he had time to wonder about life. He quoted about his thoughts on the walk, “I felt something pressing on me that I should take the money thus earned and go to learning.”
Part of the choice came from an earlier decision at fourteen, as some sources state, he found religion. After his time at the academy at Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, he pursued a course in theology under Dr. John McMillan. This was common at the time. A sort of apprenticeship, like many trades, to prepare the student for his vocation. The foundation of Princeton Theological Seminary, the first of its kind,in 1812, impressed James. He believed this to be a great event in the history of the Presbyterian Church. He did not attend Princeton, as he was established by then as a reverend. He wanted to see uniformed scholarship for ministers of the Gospel.
By 1800, James was licensed by the Presbytery of Ohio and must have felt secure enough in his profession that he married Polly Orbison of Washington County, October 28, 1800, soon after a missionary tour among the “Indians,” as far as Detroit. According to Neshanock Presbyterian Church in New Wilmington history, on the fourth Sabbath of July, 1801, he received the call from the united congregations of Moorefield and Neshanock. Moorefield was log cabin church where the cemetery is now in Hermitage.
Both churches were built of logs. March 2, 1802, after the Presbytery fasted and prayed, they laid hands in the presence of the congregation, set him apart to the office of gospel ministry and installed him according to his call.
James was thirty three and they felt he had “ripeness of judgment and breadth of experience.” He was strong, “physically, mentally and spiritually.” But they weren't as good at paying him his income as they were of paying him compliments. He had to purchase two hundred acres on the Shenango River, outside of Wheatland. This land was closer to Moorefield Church. He lived on this land and farmed it until his death. Unfortunately, Polly died July 23, 1802.
Between the two congregations, he had one hundred forty members. He also held offices higher up in church government, such as treasurer, moderator and stated clerk at different times. He was a minister, a farmer and traveled on church business. Catechism was taught in homes, so he found himself on horseback often to teach this as well.
The frontier soon gave way to new settlers. New denominations grew in the area, to compete for church membership. Atheism and lawlessness posed a bigger problem. As trees fell though, sin's actions couldn't hide as well. Churches then held their own trials for the members. Gambling was one crime a few were charged with.
At this time, the physical appearance of James written - above medium height, lightly, though strongly built, his “face revealed character that commanded respect.” He found his second wife, Ann Gibson from the Neshanock Church, marrying her March 27, 1804. The had five surviving children- Samuel, Mary, Sarah, Margaret and James. Hadassah and Annie died in infancy. Ann, also passed away September 12, 1816.
James' third wife is interesting. Sarah was born 1789, the first white child born in Pennsylvania west of the Allegheny River. She was also the daughter of General David Mead of Meadville, Pennsylvania.
I wish sometimes the history books told of how they met. The clergyman and Sarah married September 3, 1816. Sarah died May 22, 1823. They had two children, Mead and Elizabeth. They lived to adulthood and married, but neither had children. Mead became a minister, too, in Harrisville, Pennsylvania. He died after four years of service.
The Clergyman, as everyone called James, moved on to found the Unity Church outside of Mercer, in 1832. He helped start churches in Trumbull County, Ohio, too, as part of the Hartford Presbytery. June 27, 1837, he was appointed to organized the West Middlesex (in town) Church as well.
To the end of his life they described him, as wearing his hair in a braid, clinging long to knee breeches and silver buckles after they were out of style. His physical endurance was remarkable with his many hardships, yet in his eighty ninth year, he could mount his horse unaided.
James must have kept ties with his first church. His sister, Margaret Campbell belonged there, and her family. Moorefield, though, on August 16, 1844, absorbed into a new church at Sharon, Pennsylvania. He mounted his horse, even in bad weather, November 1857. Services were all day then and he stayed the whole time. He developed pneumonia, forcing him to bed at his daughter's home. On November 20, 1857, James spoke his last words. He hoped his wick was trimmed and burning, like the virgins' lamps in Matthew 25, ready to meet the Lord. From reading, not only the accounts from his members, but what he did as long as he did, I think he was ready.
The clergyman's body is buried at Moorefield Cemetery, row 16. 2. About sixteen years ago, when I first started researching my family, I found the tombstone and was able to read “Reverend James Satterfield died, November 20, 1857.” A few weeks ago, I went back to take a picture and the etching has washed off the limestone. Fortunately, a couple of women wrote down all the graves in Mercer County, recorded in volumes. The Mercer County Historical Society and Grove City Historical Society has copies of these books.
His picture is hanging on the wall at Unity Church. I couldn't find it anywhere for the longest time and I thought, he's too far back. I asked the Unity Facebook page if they had a history of their church and the message came back, they had a display with his photograph.
James Satterfield impressed me most with his stamina. He came to Jesus at age fourteen. He decided after making money to learn and leaned to the ministry of the gospel. He never wavered from what I've read. It is reported his sermons were well prepared. He handled a trial on his theology brought about by an elder with grace. He founded many churches in this area and was part of my spiritual heritage even when I didn't know it. And he was ready to die, at age ninety in 1857.
|At Unity Presbyterian Church|
|Along the Shenango River, where James Satterfield's house was|
|His final resting place|