HISTORY OF ELKTON PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The history of the Elkton Presbyterian Church begins in 1741. Cecil County records show that on June 1, 1741, Robert Lucas, Zebulon Hollingsworth, Thomas Ricketts, and Robert Evans received from William and Araminta Alexander, his wife, the deed to one acre of land in the center of Elkton on which to build a meeting house. The deed stipulated the meeting house should be, “convenient for people assembling to worship God, and hear His Word preached.” The deed stipulated if, “the said house, so to be erected and built, should be neglected and let to decay, or by accident be destroyed or burnt and not repaired, nor built anew for the space of three years, so no sermon can be preached, nor congregation therein assembled to worship Almighty God, for the space of three years’ the property would revert to the previous owners.”
During the mid-1700s, the Presbyterians split into two factions, known as the New Lights or New Side and the Old Light or Old Side. The Elkton Presbyterians were of the New Lights persuasion and they had difficulty in finding a minister who shared their views. The members then united with Pencader Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, Delaware. Services were not held in the Elkton church for more than a period of three years, so the property reverted to the original owners.
Between 1760 and 1833, Presbyterians in Elkton worshipped at Pencader, Head of Christiana, or Rock Church. On October 4, 1832, the New Castle Presbytery received an application to appoint supply ministers for Elkton. The following year, on May 3,1833, a committee appointed by the New Castle Presbytery met in the Cecil County courthouse in Elkton, for the purpose of organizing a Presbyterian church in Elkton. The church was officially incorporated in October 1833.
Land for the first church building and cemetery was purchased from Mr. Enoch Cloud on July 1, 1833 for $300. On January 21, 1834, the first church building was dedicated. No pictures of description of this building have been found, but it was probably a wood frame structure.
Holding together the congregation during the Civil War was difficult. This definitively was not an easy task in Cecil County, where loyalties were divided. Thirteen church members who served in both the Union and the Confederate armies are buried side by side in the cemetery.
After the Civil War, the church began to focus on the construction of a new church building. The new building was dedicated on September 22, 1874, with Rev. W.W. Heberton as pastor. At its dedication, the total cost to build and furnish it was $18,000. The church was declared, “the handsomest Presbyterian church out of the cities of the Presbytery of New Castle.”
In 1883, the church celebrated its 50th anniversary under the pastorate of Rev. W.W. Heberton. A booklet was printed for this occasion and a single copy still resides in the assembled records kept by the current church. A manse was built on East Main Street in 1884 during the pastorate of Rev. Robert W Beers. Between 1893 and 1908, a chapel was built for a Sunday school, and the first organ was installed. In 1906, renovations were completed in the Sunday school, including the metal ceilings and walls, which still are a part of the ambiance of the chapel today.
The church celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1908, and its 100th anniversary in 1933 with an all-day program that was published in detail by both local newspapers, the Cecil Whig and the Cecil Democrat. The three services planned for the day’s festivities were said to be well attended.
In 1949, the pulpit was remodeled, the organ was rebuilt, and new hardwood floors and carpet were added. At the time, the church property’s value was estimated at $195,000. In the 1950s, under the direction of Rev. George Leukel, more members were added as elders and deacons. The first woman trustee, Miss Katharine Bratton, was installed. Improvements were made to the church interior, a new manse was built, the parish house was purchased and remodeled, and a new parking lot was added.
In 1958, the church held a celebration for its 125th anniversary. This time only two services were held. There were 323 members listed on the rolls, a high mark in the church’s history.
In 1962, the church began what was then its largest renovation. The Education Building addition was erected on the side of the old parish house. Before the addition could be built, the parish house had to removed. In July 1962, the three-story structure was moved to a location on Delaware Avenue where it sits today. The cost of the new building was $109,998 and was dedicated on April 21, 1963. In 1977, the steeple was refurbished; the sanctuary was air-conditioned in 1987 as was Fellowship Hall in 2004. A new pipe organ was installed in 1992, changing the appearance of the chancel area.
Our most recent renovations occurred in 2007 at a cost of $900,000. Those renovations made the building complex handicapped accessible and available to everyone in the community. The Sunday school rooms and offices were expanded. The choir was provided with a large room to practice along with ample storage space. A dedication ceremony was held in October 2007, with all choirs performing, including our new hand bell choir.
In 2008, the church celebrated its 175th anniversary. Special services were held, as well as a community fair and a congregational dinner.
Laurie Loveless was installed as the first female pastor of this church on October 19, 1997. She was responsible for transforming the vision of Elkton Presbyterian Church. While serving, the men began a Bible study and a monthly breakfast. The church’s outreach expanded to include a food pantry, a weekly community kitchen, and a partnership with a sister church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Under her leadership, the church annually went on adult- and youth-centered mission trips to other parts of the United States. Mission trips included two trips to Kentucky, two to North Carolina, five to the Gulf states, two to Steubenville, Ohio, and two to New Jersey as well as to Clairveaux Farms in Cecilton, Maryland.
As mentioned, during her tenure the largest capital campaign project totaling more than $900,000 was initiated, completed, and fully funded, with the total debt retired in 10 years. Church membership doubled during her ministry.
1. The research of Samuel Dixon.
2. Miss Susan Bratton’s history of the Elkton Presbyterian Church
3. May 1933 Cecil Democrat
4. EPC documents
5. Material assembled by members Mrs. Beth Moore and Mr. Dale Collins