Hunterstown ...Then and Now

The Great Conewago Presbyterian Church

"You may hear the distant toll of the school bell,
the happy sounds of children at play 
or music from the old church pump organ."
Linda Cleveland, Local Historian

Photo by Rev. Donald Mitchell

 Visitor's Always Welcome!


 Great Conewago Presbyterian Church marks 275 years

Posted: Friday, July 24, 2015 12:06 am

On Sunday, July 26, the congregation of The Great Conewago Presbyterian Church will celebrate its rich history of 275 years. Tours of the historic church, chapel and its cemetery will be offered from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. by members of the congregation and cemetery trustees. Worship Services are held at 10 a.m. each Sunday.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Great Conewago Presbyterian Church, 174 Red Bridge Road Gettysburg, was established largely by Scotch-Irish settlers who first met about 1738. The exact date is uncertain. The earliest records were scant and later ones were destroyed by fire in 1864.

The first printed mention of Great Conewago Church is in the 1740 minutes of Donegal Presbytery. Worship moved from private homes to a log structure located near the present day gate to the cemetery in 1743. Worshipers provided their own heat in this building with sheet iron foot warmers.

For several years after its organization Great Conewago depended on periodic supply ministers, the first of whom was the Rev. Samuel Caven in 1740, who simultaneously served Falling Spring Presbyterian Church in Chambersburg.

Under the guidance of The Rev. Joseph Henderson the present stone building was constructed in 1787. The circular stone above the front door identifies the name given the church at the time: Re. Joseph Henderson Meeting House, 1787."

After the resignation of Rev. Henderson, the congregation spent several years without pastoral leadership until the call of the Rev. Dr. David McConaughey. He also served Upper Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church which is the present day Gettysburg Presbyterian Church. These two churches joined under the call of Rev. James Watson who served for 17 years. With his resignation the yoke between Great Conewago and Upper Marsh Creek dissolved.

Beginning in 1998 until its completion in 2002, the sanctuary underwent a complete restoration which was proposed and guided by the Reverends William J. Murphy and Donald L. Mitchell. The Reverand Mitchell continued his pastorate until 2012. During his tenure the Education/Community Center was completed in 2008 and the 1887 chapel was completely restored.

The Reverend Charles W. Best and the congregation of The Great Conewago Presbyterian Church invite you to experience the beauty and history of our church and grounds by attending the Open House and Tours on Sunday, July 26 from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. You can also visit us at





Great Conewago Website ...

The original brass keys ....
Photo Courtesy Shane Dunlap, Evening Sun

~ Sunday Worship Service   10:00 am ~

 Founded in 1740

174 Red Bridge Road
Gettysburg, PA. 17325 / at Hunterstown

"Whatever you do,
In word or deed,
do everything in the name
of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father
through Him."
  Colossians 3:17

Photo Courtesy Shane Dunlap, Evening Sun

This beautiful old church has been in use since 1787,
but the congregation has worshipped in the immediate area since 1740. 
          From 1747 to 1787, the congregation met in a small log cabin near the cemetary gate.
During the pastorate of the Reverend Joseph M. Henderson,
the present church was built, thus the name, Henderson Metting House.
At the time of the Battle of Gettsyburg, the church served as a field hospital.
In 1849, the present entrance was made and the three other entrances closed.
The pulpit and the high back pews were changed and a foyer and choir loft were added.
Again, in approximately 1870, general repairs were made
which included new pulpit furniture, new carpet, pews and oil lamps.
The present six chandeliers include two originals which hang
in almost the exact place as a hundred years ago.
In 2002, all roof trusses were reinforced,
a large masonary crack was repaired, pews were restored,
floor joists were replaced, floor boards were rehabilitated and replaced,
the balcony was totally rebuilt, a handicapped accessible restroom 
and entrance were made, a utility room was added,
heating/air-conditioning systems were installed,
and carpeting was replaced.
A Celtic cross was fashioned out of salvaged timbers
from the old  balcony and hung behind the pulpit.



Painting by ... Edwin L Green, Williamsburg, VA

Great Conewago Church

The church has been in use since 1784; the congregation has worshipped in the area since 1740.

The adjacent cemetery has graves of Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers.




                     James O. Phelps

                     360˚ Panoramic Photography

                     The Civil War Battlefields




Photo from GCPC archives

In this photograph, with an unknown date, members of the congregation at the Great Conewago Presbyterian Church pose in front of the building.

The 225th Anniversary Celebration was held on
January 22, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Pastor Donald Mitchell
with Bob McIllhenny/McIllhenny Banners

Pastor Mitchell

Members Hunterstown Historical Society


Cemetary Tour

Hunterstown native Fred Kammerer giving a tour of the Great Conewago Church Cemetary to the members of HGAC during their Annual Summer Picnic in August of 2006.

Special Note:There are 30 Revolutionary soldiers
and 9 Civil War soldiers buried in the Great Conewago Church Cemetary.

Historic Gettysburg of Adams County presenting The Great Conewago Presbyterian Church with a Civil War Hospital plaque. Pictured from left to right: Troy Harman, National Park Service ranger and historian; Gerry O'Brien, local historian; Mike Vallone, Gettysburg Battlefield Guide; Laurie Harding, board member HGAC and president of Hunterstown Historical Society; Chuck Teague, president of HGAC and NPS ranger; and the Reverend Donald Mitchell.
Dedication was held in the spring of 2005.

Deb McCauslin

Debra Sandoe McCauslin of Gettysburg’s For the Cause Productions speaks about the life of Hunterstown resident Eliza Jane Payne. Eliza was born a slave in Virginia.
She was manumitted at age 5 and moved to Pennsylvania with her mother Catherine a.k.a. “Kitty.”  Kitty and her children were kidnapped by 5 men in 1845, beaten, gagged, loaded into a wagon and taken back to Virginia to slavery. The were imprisoned in the Rappahannock County Jail for over 300 days. The local Quakers aided Kitty and her children and eventually they were freed again and returned to Adams County. Kitty was penniless and afraid to live alone so she placed her children with area families.  Eliza went to live with the Campbell family near Hunterstown. She resided with them until the last remaining member of that family died and then she joined her sister in Kansas
. In 1863, she was a member of the Great Conewago Presbyterian Church and she had a pew assignment in the last row. She endured the battle
and avoided capture by Confederates and she later saw President Lincoln deliver his immortal speech.

For more information on Eliza Jane Payne, contact Deb at or call 717-528-8553.

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