The History of Cove Presbyterian Church
Of course, Cove's history involves more than dates, places and buildings. First and foremost, Cove is a community of people. Below are some of the people who have contributed to who and point us toward what we'll become in the future.
The story of Cove Presbyterian Church begins many years before the Revolutionary War. The territory of Ohio was home to many Indian tribes, from the banks of the Ohio River westward. The Ohio River became the official border between the settled colonies of Pennsylvania and Virginia and the homeland of the Indians.
Fort Pitt was the starting point for many adventuresome settlers who wanted to move west and south. Settlers leaving Pittsburgh and traveling by boat down the Ohio River always had to keep a watchful eye to the western shore of the river because it was very common for Indians to paddle out into the river and attack families on their way to find a new home. In fact, when people did settle in western Virginia most of the settlements were along creeks that flowed into the Ohio River. By locating their cabin and farm along the creek, back perhaps a mile or two from the river itself, the settlers gained valuable buffer space between themselves and the ever-present threat of Indian attack.
One of those early settlers who came to western Virginia was Harmon Greathouse. He brought his wife and family by horseback from western Pennsylvania in 1771 and built a cabin near the creek that bears his first name, Harmon Creek. Harmon learned how to coexist with the Indians who ventured over from Ohio. In fact, Harmon traded with them, and the Indians taught him valuable lessons about the wildlife of the region. Unfortunately, one of Harmon’s sons, Daniel Greathouse, who came to dislike the Native Americans, would take part in the murder of Chief Logan’s family in 1774 and set back relations between the settlers and the Indians for many years.
In 1776, John Holliday was sent from Fort Pitt to western Virginia to build a fort on Harmon Creek for the purpose of housing soldiers to defend the region. When John Holliday arrived over the hills from Pittsburgh, he found Harmon Greathouse already settled on his farm. Holliday built his fort on the banks of Harmon Creek, two miles from the Ohio River and near the mouth of Overbrook Creek. The exact site is not known, but based on John Holliday’s description, it must have been near Overbrook Towers Apartments. Today, Overbrook Towers and the road hide the creek. The creek now flows through a culvert under Cove Road.
Because of the constant threat of Indian attack, the early settlers of the valley lived inside Fort Holliday at night while tending their farms in the day. After a few years of peace, Fort Holliday was no longer needed, and the growing settlement around it became known as Holliday’s Cove.
Another settler of the region was James Campbell who built his log cabin on Kings Creek and farmed from Kings Creek to what is now Weirton Heights. Most of the settlers were of Scottish descent, and therefore the Presbyterian denomination was the first religion in the area. The small group of Presbyterian settlers needed a place of worship, so James Campbell deeded them five acres of land on top of his hill and a small log church was built. The name of the church was Three Springs Presbyterian Church, probably because of three springs on the site. The site of the original church has been built over, but the general location is near Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street. There is an historical marker in a used car lot there commemorating that church.
Springs Presbyterian Church, is in the center of the present Three Springs Cemetery, across from Wendy’s on Three Springs Drive. A marker notes the location of that second church building.
The first permanent minister to serve Three Springs Presbyterian Church was Rev. Elisha MacCurdy. Rev. MacCurdy was a young preacher who was known for his inspiring sermons. He served that church from 1799 until 1824. The church grew during that period and included worshiping Presbyterians from both the Virginia (West Virginia) settlements as well as the settlers over the Pennsylvania line near Paris.
In the early 1800’s, the village of Holliday’s Cove grew because it was on one of the main routes between Pittsburgh and points west. There was a tollhouse on the road that was on the lot where our sanctuary sits today. That tollhouse became the center of information and activity for the little town of Holliday’s Cove. Homes were built along the road that ran next to Harmon Creek (Cove Road). And homes were built along what is now Main Street from the Community Center southward. That village of Holliday’s Cove became one of the most important towns in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. The Christian families of Holliday’s Cove built a school called the Academy so that their children could be educated. They also used the building for Sunday School lessons. The Presbyterians of Holliday’s Cove wanted a church building closer to their homes, so the Holliday’s Cove members and the Pennsylvania members split into two churches in 1846. The Holliday’s Cove church members worshipped in the Academy building until 1860 when a brick church was built on a lot on Main Street, site of our current Christian Education building. In 1866, the Cove Presbyterian Church bought the tavern next door (the former toll house) and converted it into the parsonage.
The property on the corner of Cove Road and Main Street has been the site of many brick and stone buildings since 1860, and all of them have been named Cove Presbyterian Church.
E. T. Weir came to our valley in 1909 and started his new steel company on farmland north of Holliday’s Cove. The town that grew up around the steel mill was named Weirton. As that town grew southward, eventually the streets of Holliday’s Cove and Weirton would join at Ferguson Avenue and Main Street. As the need for a city government became evident, the city of Weirton was formed by joining the unincorporated Weirton with the incorporated town of Holliday’s Cove in 1947. Everyone from Ferguson Avenue south along Main Street, West Street, Elm Street, all of Marland Heights, and Cove Road would have to change their mailing address from Holliday’s Cove, West Virginia, to Weirton West Virginia. On July 1, 1947, the history of Holliday’s Cove, West Virginia came to a close. Many of the names that included the word “Cove” eventually disappeared. Cove School, Cove Car, Cove Valley Lumber and Cove Theater are now gone. Cove Presbyterian Church may be the last to honor the name of the little settlement along Harmon Creek that was one of the first settlements west of Pittsburgh.
Cove Presbyterian Church has one other contribution to the historical names that are still in use in Weirton. The first log church, called Three Springs Church, moved in 1804 to a new location. The road in front of that church and cemetery was named Three Springs Drive. That road today is highly developed and is the center of business activity. The name “Three Springs Drive” commemorates the church that was built there in 1804, the forerunner of Cove Presbyterian Church.