Brief history of the
Berkeley County, Hedgesville, WV


Tomahawk Presbyterian Church was known in the early history as "Back Creek Church." It is believed that Scotch-Irish immigrants traveled from Pennsylvania and settled in Back Creek Valley. The early congregation started about 1745, one historian dates it to around 1740.

A meeting house was constructed later near the present church location and was known as "Mr. Vance's Meeting House." In October 1770, a call was extended to Mr. Hugh Vance to serve as pastor. The church was strong and well known in the western part of Berkeley County. However, by 1825, the church was almost at the point of extinction. Some historians surmise that a decline in church membership occurred when men left the area to fight for our Country's independence during the Revolutionary War, followed by a period when frontier settlements were frequently harassed by Indians.

Between 1826 and 1830, the Rev. James Brown, with six church members, supervised the erection of the present stone building, which replaced the decaying log structure.

From 1846 until 1859, the Rev. James Jennings was pastor and the church was known as "Stone Church, Back Creek." Once again, as war ravaged the nation, the church declined in membership as men joined either the Union or Confederate forces. For almost thirty years there was no regular pastor and the church once again became almost extinct.

In 1891, the Rev. S. M. Engle became pastor and with eight longtime members the church grew to sixty-one and continued to reach one hundred eleven in 1920. The Rev. Engle left in 1895 and the following pastors served until 1920: Rev. Edward Leyburn, Rev. John Leps, Rev. John McBryde, Rev. Richard Lancaster and Rev. B.H. Franklin.

On April 16,1896, the church was renamed the Tomahawk Presbyterian Church. The church is located in the community then known as Tomahawk Springs. The name came from the limestone basin of a spring, a natural curiosity in the shape of a tomahawk, which is located a quarter of a mile northwest of the community.

The Rev. Joseph A. McMurray came on the field and served faithfully for twenty years. From 1941 until 1954, the church members welcomed the Rev. Julian Owen, Rev. John Fleming and the Rev. Ray King. From 1955 to 1957, the congregation continued in worship without a regular minister. In 1957, the Rev. Everett Hellmuth was called to serve.

In 1960 an educational unit was added to the church sanctuary. It was built with the same native stone as the church sanctuary 135 years before. In 1962, a call was extended and accepted by the Rev. Foster Couchman. In 1970, the Rev. James Thompson accepted the church's call. In 1975, the church was, again, without a minister.

In 1974, a pavilion was built on the church grounds to be used by the church members and residents in the community.

In 1976, the Rev. F. H. Morton came on the field as minister and the Vestibule was added to the front of the Sanctuary.

In 1982, the Rev. Tara McManaway, the first woman minister in the history of the church and the first woman Presbyterian minister to serve the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, came to pastor the congregations of Tomahawk and Hedgesville Presbyterian Churches. (Falling Waters Presbyterian Church, with whom Tomahawk and Hedgesville churches had been yoked for a number of years, had grown in membership and its congregation decided to call their own minister.)

In 1986, a Presbyterian Church in Berkeley Springs donated a bell, no longer in use, and a bell tower was erected for its hanging.

Pastor Lon A. Snelson served Tomahawk from 1989 until 1991. The Rev. Robert McCarter served as Stated Supply from February 1991 through January 1993, when he retired from the ministry for the second time. Thereafter, Certified Lay Pastor Ron Wilkes served Tomahawk and Slanesville Presbyterian Churches for a brief period. In 1993, Tomahawk joined with five other Presbyterian Churches to form the parish of the eastern Panhandle. Three interim Senior Pastors served the Parish with the Rev. McCarter, again, serving Tomahawk as a Parish Associate from May 1995 through December 1997. During it's existence, The Parish called two Senior Pastors, the Rev. David Shaffer and the Rev. Robin Reese.

In 2007 the sanctuary floor was replaced and the pews restored. In 2012 a full function kitchen was installed.

CLP Paul R. Wolverton faithfully served this congregation over a decade from 1999 to November 2011

Tomahawk Presbyterian Church is currently served by Bill Barnett, Commissioned Ruling Elder with Shenandoah Presbytery.

Shirley McDaniel is our youth Sunday school adviser.  Maria Bock and Irene Stillwell serve as pianist and organist.

The cemetery around the church includes tombstones dating back to 1806 and grave sites much earlier than this. Unfortunately there are quite a few unmarked graves or field stones and temporary markers with no inscriptions. If you have any information, which would assist us in identifying any of these graves, please call us or write if you can help. Let us know if you would like to help us with our efforts to map the cemetery or have experience that could make this task easier for us.

We would also appreciate any additional church history or old photographs that you would like to share.


Tomahawk Presbyterian Church
Presbyterian Church Road

P.O. Box 2204
Hedgesville, WV 25427





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