Upper Octorara Presbyterian Church (UOPC) was established in 1720 by a group of Scotch-Irish immigrants. The name Octorara came from an Indian word meaning “Rushing Waters.” There was an Indian settlement located along the Octorara Creek and a smaller campsite was situated nearby in the present cemetery.
The first regular minister, Reverend Adam Boyd, mentored and recommended by New England’s celebrated Cotton Mather, was ordained in the log meeting house in 1724. He traveled by foot or on horseback going from settlement to settlement to reach his parishioners. During his 44 years as pastor, 17 daughter and granddaughter Presbyterian churches were established. The log meeting house accidentally burned and a stone church building within adjacent session house was erected in 1738. Today, this original session house is used as a museum for church artifacts. In 1840, stones and all useable building materials from the stone church were carried across the road and used to construct the sanctuary worshipped in today.
Reverend William Foster (1768–1780) did much to stir the flames of freedom during our nation’s struggle for independence. His stimulating sermons were published and circulated in the surrounding area to arouse patriotism and keep the “fires of liberty burning.” An attempt was made by the British to capture Reverend Foster and to burn down the church. However, Reverend Foster, with the help of neighbors, outwitted the British by leaving the territory before he could be apprehended. General Howe’s plan was abandoned. In the adjoining cemetery, you can find several headstones marking the remains of those who took part in this important conflict for independence.
The Sunday School movement took place during the 40 years Reverend James Latta (1810-1850) was pastor. Six chapels were erected in the area to conduct afternoon Sunday School and for evening worship. Public school was conducted in the basement of the Sadsbury Chapel. The Octorara Schoolhouse, built in 1836, is located on and is part of our historic campus. Presently, it is being used as the sexton’s office. The Manse was erected in 1857.
The beautiful stained glass memorial windows in the sanctuary were donated in 1908 during the ministry of Reverend Thomas Kerr (1906-1912). A Christian education building was added to the northern portion of the 1840 building in 1958.
In the 1960s, Rev. James H. Brown led Saturday evening prayer and praise services which attracted people of all denominations from all over Pennsylvania and surrounding states. These charismatic services have had a lasting impact upon the religious world of today. Each year we have several visitors who come on a spiritual pilgrimage to Upper Octorara where they were so deeply and powerfully touched by God.
In 1976 a commemorative plaque, which is located on the southwest corner of the 1840 building, was presented to UOPC by the Daughters of the American Revolution. A narthex, including church offices, was added to the southern portion of the church in 1979. Upper Octorara is designated a Historic District, with the church building, manse, Session house, school house and spring house listed on the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places.
In 2000, Rev. Bill Kelly became the Pastor of Upper Octorara. At the request of members of the congregation, and authorized by the Session, a contemporary worship service was developed and is offered as well as the more traditional service on Sunday mornings. UOPC helped develop the Parkesburg Point youth ministry in our community, and is active in the Parkesburg Churches Community Outreach, a cooperative ministry of churches in the area to help meet needs of people in the community. In 2007, through the New Wineskins Transitional Presbytery, Upper Octorara became part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. We are now a member church in the EPC’s Presbytery of the East.