The Warrior Run Presbyterian Church in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania

Posted by on Jul 9, 2014 in Colonial Articles, Historical Articles | 14 comments

The colonial historical fiction novel I’m currently writing is set in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania in 1777. Because I want my book to accurately reflect the Scot-Irish Presbyterians who lived in that area during the colonial time period, I have visited a number of local historical sites. Come along with me as we visit the 179-year-old Warrior Run Presbyterian Church and learn about Pennsylvania’s Scot-Irish settlers.


By the early 1700s, large numbers of Scot-Irish Presbyterians began emigrating from Northern Ireland to the American Colonies. Many of those who arrived at Philadelphia or several ports in Delaware began moving into Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In addition to building homes there for themselves, they established Presbyterian churches which remain to this day.


In June, 1769, land in Northumberland County was made available for purchase. Many of the Scot-Irish sold their Lancaster County properties and bought land in this new area – then the unsettled frontier of the colonies. And being a godly people, they brought their Presbyterian faith with them.




The original Warrior Run Church was built about 1775. It was a log building situated next to where the Warrior Run Creek emptied into the Susquehanna River near present day Watsontown, Pennsylvania. In 1779, British-allied Seneca Indians burned down the log structure during the “Great Runaway” – a terrifying time in central Pennsylvania when settlers ran away from the area to escape marauding Indian war parties.


Once the threat of Indian attacks in Northumberland County had passed, the congregation rebuilt the church, but on land farther away from the creek and the river. This second building, also a log structure, was large enough to hold 300 worshippers. It burned to the ground in 1833, cause unknown.


Two years later, the congregation built the current building just feet away from where the second structure had stood. The congregants meant for their third building to last. Constructed with a limestone foundation and red brick walls, the one-story building is in the Greek Revival style.




Each of the church’s 13 windows contains 28 individual panes of original glass – a lavish expense when the rural church was built in 1835. As I looked through the windows, I noted the delightful bubbles and waves found in old glass.




The exterior shutters are functional. They were designed to be opened during warm weather to help cool the sanctuary and closed during winter to help keep the building warm.




The floor of the four-columned front portico is made from bricks and edged with limestone blocks.





Notice the herringbone pattern on the portico’s floor. Because limestone is plentiful in this section of Northumberland County, it was used as a base for the church’s foundation and porch.





On Sunday mornings, the congregants entered the large church via the two front doors.




The interiors of the old Presbyterian churches are austere. Because Presbyterians wanted to focus on worshipping God, their sanctuaries were devoid of “decorations” that could distract the people sitting in the pews.




Notice the lack of lighting inside the sanctuary. The Warrior Run Church never had electricity—or heat—installed. While the church is still used for special occasions, services are mostly held during the daytime in warmer months.




During the early 1800s, many members of rural Presbyterian churches actually paid rent in order to have their own pews. One of my Scot-Irish ancestors, Colonel John Kelly – a Revolutionary War officer from Northumberland County, rented Pew 33 in the nearby Buffalo Crossroads Presbyterian Church.


The main characters in my novel are Scot-Irish Presbyterians who purchased land in Northumberland County after leaving their home in Lancaster County. Their lives on the Pennsylvania frontier were fraught with danger. At times, it was difficult to distinguish a friend from an enemy. In such a sparsely populated area, the lines between right and wrong, good and evil could easily have been blurred. When the Indians massacred their families and friends, no settler would have been criticized had they decided to quit and leave. But along with their unwavering Presbyterian faith, the determination to succeed that had accompanied their fathers from Scotland to Northern Ireland had traveled with the sons across the Atlantic. These new Americans brought that same persevering spirit with them when they moved into Pennsylvania’s wilderness –  and when they chose to fight for American independence from Britain. During that dangerous and frightening era, the Scot-Irish Presbyterians set an exemplary example for us to follow in today’s unsettling times.


As we leave Warrior Run Presbyterian Church, please look in the background of the final photograph for a glimpse of the adjacent cemetery. In August, I will discuss how I found the names for the characters in my novel by walking through this cemetery.




Photographs ©Cynthia Howerter 


Historic Warrior Run Presbyterian Church is located at 246 Warrior Run Boulevard, Turbotville, Pennsylvania.


  1. Thank you, Cynthia, for your wonderful historical tour of the Warrior Run Church. I’m so proud of you and am looking forward to reading your first novel. You are truly a blessing to the Body of Christ.

    • Thank you, Jane Jacobson, for your kind words. You have been a wonderful blessing to me ever since we first met. Your support means so much to me.

  2. What an enjoyable post! I love history — and can’t wait to read your book. 🙂

    • Thank you, Cathy Baker! I’m glad you enjoyed this. It’s heartwarming to learn how many people enjoy history!

  3. I have visited this particular church and graveyard without knowing its rich history. So glad to be enlightened!

    • Ha, Terry McDonough! You were with me when we visited it! 🙂 It is a lovely place.

  4. I’ve missed your postings, Cynthia, enjoyed this one & all your attention to details. I also had family who entered through Philly, settled in Lancaster County, served in the Revolutionary War & eventually re-settled here in Allegheny County. Can’t wait to read your novel!

    • You are so sweet, Sue Horvat! Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I’ve missed writing for Soar With Eagles these past months, but writing my novel has taken all of my free time. I’m hoping things will ease up a little soon so I can resume writing for my website.

  5. Such rich history! I love learning more about the Scot-Irish Presbyterians. They have a strong and vibrant faith, even today. We are members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

    • Oh, Anne, I’m so glad you enjoyed this article. A lot of people do not realize that the Scot-Irish played a major role in obtaining our country’s independence from Britain. It’s been a pleasure and privilege to research and write this novel.

  6. You are really doing your homework and it looks like you are having fun. I know this will be a good read. Looking forward to reading your book. Don

    • You are so dear, Don. Thank you for always being supportive of my writing. You’re right; I’ve been having fun researching my novel. 🙂

  7. Fascinating! Thank you for the wonderful history lesson! Can’t wait to read the book!

    • Hi, Kimberley! Glad you enjoyed this article. I’ve visited the Warrior Run Presbyterian Church several times and always learn something new and interesting. What a joy to tell others about this wonderful piece of our American history!

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