Northwestern Pennsylvania has very distinct ties to our first president George Washington.  There's many stories about his impact on the history of this area.  One of those stories involves the development of a small town in Warren County called Irvine. (pronounced ER-vinn)

Washington wanted to reward the Pennsylvania citizens who fought in the Revolutionary War. He decided to give them parcels of land in the wonderful wilderness area near Brokenstraw Creek and the Allegheny River.

Joanne Oviatt is an historian from Irvine and knows all about the history of her town.  She says it was a good decision by Washington to give the soldiers land instead of money.

"That was better than money because at the time it was a new country and what kind of currency do they have?” 

Washington chose General William Irvine to survey the land and divide it into parcels. Irvine was from Carlisle, near Harrisburg, but he fell in love with the green hills, the flowing water, and the wild animals.  The city guy took a parcel for himself.

"He loved it so much that he actually bought more land to a total of 3,000 acres.  So that's a lot of love,” says Joanne.  

The town of Irvine would eventually be named after the general, but it was his grandson, Dr. William Irvine, who finished building the family mansion called Brokenstraw Farm.  Doctor Irvine's wife, a socialite named Sarah, began to hold Sunday School classes on the massive front porch for the children of local settlers.

"The first week they had seven children,” says Joanne.  “The second week they had 13 children.  The next week it was a few more."

In 1839, at the request of his wife, Doctor Irvine began building a little stone church for the community.  The Irvine Presbyterian Church still stands today. It's a wonderful reminder of the early days of Irvine. In recent years, the women of the church occasionally dress as women did in Sarah Irvine's time.  They like to tell the amazing history of the church and the town.  It's not entirely a happy story.  The first service held in the church was Sarah's funeral. She died shortly after its completion. The socialite is buried in the church cemetery surrounded by the beautiful greenery she came to love.

"You have to think about Sarah.  She came from a social life and creature comforts.  And then moving to the wilderness?  It had to be a big jump,” says Joanne.

The women of the church will again be dressing in their 1800s apparel.  They will talk about the church’s history during a meeting of the Erie Presbytery Women’s Association to be held this weekend.  The church is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.