The Joseph Kerr Family

Because the Kerr family’s white obelisk is badly worn, it is difficult to determine who is buried here. There is a chance that Joseph Kerr, MLEPC’s first minister, is here with his wife and brother, but that has not been verified.

Joseph Kerr (1778-1829) was born in County Derry, Ireland; graduated from Glasgow University in 1798 and came to America in 1801 with his brother William and possibly another relative named Ebenezer-all three arrived at the same time, were sponsored by Daniel McDonald of St. Clair Township and applied for naturalization on August 10, 1808. Joseph was licensed by the presbytery of Monongahela in April 1803. A history of the United Presbyterian Church refers to Kerr as one of the “pioneer ministers of western Pennsylvania…living at remote distances, these ministers were compelled to make long journeys on horseback to fill their appointments; to travel through unsettled portions of the country, beset by dangers from unbridged streams, wild beasts and prowling savages. Their compensation for this work was very small.”

Kerr was installed as MLEP Church’s first minister on Oct. 17, 1804 at a meeting at Nathaniel Plummer’s home. The book “History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania” (published 1889) states Joseph was “a large man, tall, well proportioned physically, commanding in personal appearance, affable in his manners, kind and sympathetic. To know him was to love him.”

In 1825, after 21 years with MLEPC, Joseph left the church to accept a position as chair of theology at the Associate Reformed Synod of the West’s new seminary in Pittsburgh (later the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary of the United Presbyterian Church of North America). Joseph later led the Second United Presbyterian congregation in Pittsburgh. His son-in-law John Dickey succeeded him at MLEPC, serving from 1830 to 1839.

Joseph was married to Elizabeth Reynolds and they had a large family that included three sons who entered the ministry-Moses, David R. and Joseph Reynolds. Joseph Sr.’s will stipulated: “I leave to the student’s fund of (illegible) Associate Reformed Synod of the West two hundred dollars to be paid out of the debts owed to me from the St. Clair Congregation and others as my executors shall think best.”

Joseph’s brother, the Honorable William Kerr (1776-1862), was a judge and served as a ruling elder of MLEPC where he was a member for 50 years. William married Jeannie Nevin. Rev. Boyd, who knew William well, referred to him as “a princely man in appearance, bearing and in all conduct.”

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