Derry Church Heritage
In the early 1700's great numbers of Scots-Irish people left their homes in northern Ireland to emigrate to the American Colonies. They were a hardy, persevering breed of people who brought their religious beliefs and love of liberty with them. It was such a group of people who settled in the area around our present church. Legend has it that they began worship as early as 1724.
Derry Church was founded officially in 1729. In 1732, the congregation called its first pastor, the Rev. William Bertram. Bertram was born in Scotland and educated at Edinburgh University. He is one of three former pastors buried in our cemetery.
The little Session House, or Pastor's Study, was built in 1732.
In 1810 the structure was given a new roof of pine shingles and the log exterior was covered with weatherboarding. The building was enclosed in glass for preservation in 1929 by Mr. Milton S. Hershey. In 1741 the land upon which the meeting house stood was deeded to the congregation by John, Thomas and William Penn, sons of William Penn. In 1769, Old Derry Meeting House was built. This was a large, barn-like structure which stood on the site of the present Chapel for over one hundred years.
The congregation was at its peak in 1763. Then followed the years of the Revolutionary War and migrations to more enticing frontiers. At least forty men who fought in the Revolution are buried in the Derry Cemetery.
By the year 1883, Old Derry Church was in a dilapidated state and the congregation had dwindled to a handful of people. The old church was torn down and the official records were stored in the attic of the manse at Paxton Presbyterian Church. A fire on August 24, 1894 partially destroyed the manse and our records were burned.
In 1884, a group of people, many of them descendants of the early pioneers and former pastors, were responsible for building the Presbyterian Memorial Church of Hershey. This is our present day Chapel.
The John Elder Memorial Chapel, an extension of the 1884 church, was erected in 1935. A Christian Education Building was dedicated in November 1951. A Sanctuary, offices, lounge, boardroom and classrooms were built in 1965. Our present church, newly renovated and enlarged, was dedicated January 29, 1995.
Derry Church began with a solid foundation and, over the decades, the people and their leaders have built upon that foundation with their faith, their commitment, their stewardship and their love of God. All that we have been in the past and what we are now comes to bear as we move into the future.
Cemetery Records | 49KB PDF File