August 25, 2015

Rev. Hugh Earseman Served Parishioners for over 50 years

Being a Pastor or Minister of a congregation is a demanding job.  There are sermons to prepare, sick people to visit, and mourners to comfort.  Parishioners need counseling and support through their trials.  Keeping up with these demands as well as being a husband and father would make this all the more difficult.  Certainly it takes a special person to serve as a Minister.

Often I am sure a Minister might prefer to move and begin fresh in a new congregation.  Perhaps this would help with inevitable burn out.  Or maybe one might want to jump into leadership and supervise other clergy instead.

Reverend Hugh Fraser Earseman served his congregation for over 50 years as their Minister.  As Joel, a member of the Edenburg Presbyterian Church in Knox Pennsylvania wrote, "It is extremely rare for a pastor to serve one church for over fifty years, and Reverend Earseman served the Edenburg church for a total of 54 years.  Local newspapers recorded that over two hundred people came on the wintry day of February 27th, 1934 to the celebration that was held to celebrate pastor Earseman’s 50th year of service.  Reverend Hugh F. Earseman was called as the second formally installed pastor. He served from February 1, 1887 until October 30, 1938. 

Hugh Earseman was born in 1858 in Pennsylvania to Scottish immigrants.  Something inspired him to pursue the ministry; Hugh was ordained to the ministry on 30 June 1885 and 'Reverend' Earseman took over the decade old congregation in 1887.  He even supervised the tearing down of the Old Winebrennarian Church where they had met since formation in 1876, and the building of the currently standing church in 1897.  

I know very little about this caring man of God, at least about his training and upbringing.  What I do know a lot about is his love for his congregation and his family.  How might I know?  After all, I am an unrelated woman living in Georgia decades after his death.  

I have come into possession several letters the Reverend wrote to a relative of mine, a Mrs. Carrie Bloss Lynde, who was a member of his congregation for a time.  As she moved back home, Reverent Earseman wrote to her neatly typewritten letters of encouragement and love.  He even spoke at her funeral when she died some years later.  So in a way, I know a great deal about Reverend Earseman, more than dates and facts can tell.  

In each letter, he not only asks how Carrie is, but shares how others she knew from the congregation are doing.  He offers encouragement in her health problems.  And he encourages her to visit and/or update him on her condition.  And he shares details of his children's lives-- how they are doing, what they are doing.  His love shows.  Listen to how he shares his love in the following quotes:

"I do hope you are well and that you plan to come to see us some time.  Maybe when the roads get good we could drive up and get you.  May the new year be good to you."  

"I hope you are better soon.  When you can do so send me a card or some news.  I shall be anxious to hear from you.  I assure you I shall hope most earnestly for your recovery and send you best wishes.  Very truly yours."

In another, he encourages her with information of someone in similar circumstances. "I got your letter today and was both sad and glad over it.  I was sorry you had to go to the hospital and suffer the pain and anxiety of an operation.  But I was glad you are better and hope that soon you may be entirely well and strong as ever.  I always dread operations for any of my friends.  You never know just what you will find."

Here is how he describes who must be his children or grandchildren living with him in 1929:  "Marjory and Karl were here ... Lois came the day before them.  Marjory read the Three Bears and other little books till they knew them by heart.  Both are rather fine looking children.  Bobby is a big white headed boy.  He is smart and knows all the Mother Goose Rhymes and will say speeches by the hour.  He learns anything very rapidly and so does Josephine.  Just repeat any little verse to them a time or two and they know it and do not seem to forget it at all."

In 1930 his update included this information, "Both of the little ones were sick... Bobby was very sick one day with temperature above 104 degrees.  But they are all right now and Josephine has not missed a day at school so far.  She likes to go and is learning to read fast.  Bobby gets lonesome for her some days.  The little Clover youngsters come over and play with him."

In 1933 he wrote, "Josephine and Bobby are both in school.  This is the third year for her and the first for Bobby.  Both have done well.  Bobby likes his teacher very much.  He is rather a nice looking boy.  Josephine is red-cheeked, black hair and quite chubby.  She is a dear little girl and very helpful.  Bobby is light haired.  Both are full of life and like to play."

Of himself, he is modest and grateful.  In 1933 he wrote, "I have not been any too well.  At times I have severe headaches.  I can get around as well as ever and for my age have much reason to be very thankful for the strength I have."  
He described a visit he made with an ill congregant.  His experience is probably typical of his ministry.  "Yesterday afternoon I went over to Clarion and stayed all night with Mr. a nd Mrs. C. W. Wisler.  They are both pretty well but Colonel is failing a good deal.  He delights in talking over old times and is full of tales of long ago.  He is past 81 years of age.  We have been friends for more than forty years, and I have known his wife that long.  We had a pleasant visit together.  Isabel took me over and I came home this forenoon on the bus."

Many more little living snippets like this show a man of God who loved and served his people.  I honor Reverend Hugh Fraser Earseman for his goodness, his service and his tenacity.

Sources:  "The Edenburg Presbyterian Church,"  Joel, Class of 2004.

Obituary of Carrie V. Bloss Lynde.

Letters in possession of Melanie Johnson, written by Reverent Hugh F. Earseman to Carrie Bloss Lynde, dated Jan 4, 1929- June 7, 1933.  Letters courtesy of Rita and Lee Goldthwaite.

General information about Hugh F. Earseman was found on  

P.S.  I would love to pass these letters on to his descendants.  Please contact me.  They belong in your hands.


  1. Thank you for this lovely tribute to my great-grandfather! My husband and I are leaving in a few days to visit the county in Ohio where Hugh grew up. Several years ago we visited Knox, and although the church was locked tight, the five-and-dime store clerk across the street called a church deacon, and we were given a wonderful tour and history lesson. The first thing we saw was a very large picture of Rev. H F Earseman. I had never seen a photo of him, so it was a very special moment for me.

    In 1950, my grandmother Mary Earseman Bowman, wrote a collection of memories for her eight children, and the first two pages were about her parents, grandparents and assorted interesting relatives. I reread these earlier this morning, and decided to do one last internet search for clues . . . and found your just-posted post!

    Hugh and Myra (McIllhattan) had eight children -- Mary, George, Marjory, Lois, Willis, Isabel and two infants that did not survive.

    Bobby and Josephine were Isabel's (my grandmother's youngest sister) children. Sadly, several years after Hugh wrote to Carrie about his grandchildren, Isabel's husband was killed in a highway accident when he collided with a snowplow. They then lived with Hugh and his family. Josephine's granddaughter recalled her grandmother telling her that on Saturday nights everyone would gather in the dining room to listen to Hugh practice his sermon for the next day.

    Hugh's father and mother traveled from Inverness, Scotland to Pittsburg in 1842. Both he and his wife, Marjory Fraser, were devout Covenanter Presbyterians who read the Psalters to their children every day. Hugh's father, Walter Scott Earseman, died early leaving Marjory a widow with six young children. Hugh was the second to the youngest. They had just purchased a farm near Wellsville Ohio. Hugh recalled that the only time he saw his mother cry was when Morgan's Raiders stole their cow and horse.

    Some interesting insights from my grandmother's memoirs into life as a minister's child:

    "I do think there used to be some hardship in being a minister's child. We were always noticed and reported on in Knox. We always had to go to church, to prayer meeting . . .we were not allowed to dance nor play cards . . . We did all grow up with a pretty strong sense of right and wrong. We never were allowed to believe "Conscience was a guide", unless it might be a parent's conscience. We did have a wonderful lot of reading . . . My father read the Bible aloud twice a day and I have later been grateful for that."

    Ice skating in the winter, 4th of July and Sunday School picnics were family highlights. Picnics were horse and wagon style: "The farther away from town the better the picnic . . A long, long table was set, coffee make in a wash boiler, lemonade by the gallon . . you tried to eat strange cooking, not your own family's."

    How nice to add another dimension to this remarkable man. I love messing with genealogy, but the best part is weaving together the stories of the people who have so influenced our lives.. That way they remain enclosed in our family circle and in our hearts. Someday I would like to read the rest of those letters. Thanks again.

    Barbara Meidinger

  2. Barbara, Thanks for the information! We need to talk! Please contact me.