Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Reverend William Wick


Helen Chapel of the First Presbyterian Church, By Nyttend [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

“In Youngstown, the name ‘Wick’ is a synonym for fiscal integrity and unusual ability, for high character, and for public spiritedness.” — Joseph G. Butler.

Two Wick brothers were among the very earliest to settle in Youngstown and the Wick name not only runs through the city as Wick Avenue, but also the city’s history. Henry and William Wick were both born to Lemuel and Deborah (Lupton) Wick. In this post, I will focus on the older brother, William, who established the first congregation in the Western Reserve, First Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Wick and Wood Street, just across Wick Avenue from its present location.

Reverend Wick was born on Long Island July 29, 1768. The family later moved to Washington County, Pennsylvania. He was educated at Washington and Jefferson College in nearby Canonsburg. He married Elizabeth McFarland, daughter of a Revolutionary War colonel on April 21, 1791. They started out married life on a Washington County farm. They would eventually have eight sons and three daughters. William Watson Wick, their eldest, served as a congressman from Indiana.

Wick read theology in the “Cannonsburg Academy,” a log cabin school presided over by a Dr. McMillan, who persuaded him of the need for preachers on the growing frontier. He completed his studies and was licensed to preach on August 28, 1799. He accepted calls to two churches in Mercer County, Hopewell and Neshannock in 1800. The Presbytery of Ohio released him from the Neshannock call so that he could begin ministry in the Western Reserve in 1801, the first permanent minister in the Western Reserve, receiving support both from the Presbytery and the Connecticut Missionary Society (remember that it was the Western Reserve of Connecticut), along with Joseph Badger.

One of the families that moved to nearby Coitsville Township at the same time was that of William Holmes McGuffey, whom Wick knew from Washington County. McGuffey received his early education from Wick, and one wonders how much he influenced the McGuffey Readers. Wick educated him in Latin as well as using “Webster’s Speller” and Lindley Murray’s English Grammar

Reverend Wick divided his time between the church in Youngstown and the Hopewell congregation. The ministerial life was hard and his health had been delicate even during his years on the farm. In October 1814 a severe cold weakened his lungs. He continued ministering through the winter, his health continuing to fail. He preached his last sermon on February 13, 1815 but address them in his home until he died, March 29, 1815.

At his request, he was buried in Youngstown. On his tombstone, it is noted that he preached one thousand five hundred and twenty-two sermons and married fifty-six couples. The Youngstown church grew rapidly, thanks to an awakening of religious interest in 1803.

First Presbyterian Church continues to this day, it’s tall white spire overlooking downtown Youngstown from the bluffs to the north. I wonder if Reverend Wick would have thought his little log cabin church would still be ministering to the spiritual needs of people in Youngstown over 200 years later?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.