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1977197819791980198119821983198419851986198719881989

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH CELEBRATING 125TH ANNIVERSARY
February 19, 1981

Pix #1 - Location was 340 W. Fremont St.

Pix #2 - Church at Perry and Fremont as it was in 1893 and until about 1940.

Pix #3 - Rev. Van Dyke

Pix #4 - Rev. Wm Foulkes

Pix #5 - Rev. J.A. Patterson and Family

Pix #6 - Rev. C.D. Martin

Pix #7 - Rev. R.G. Hutchins

Fostoria's third oldest church, First Presbyterian, at Perry and Fremont, will start celebrating its 125th Anniversary Feb. 22 with special church services, followed by a dinner and program on Feb. 25 at the church and highlighted with other activities throughout the year.

Don Murphy, the church organist, who grew up in the church, and then returned to town in 1970 to settle here, chairs the event. This column too will present old photos and recollections of the church's past from time-to-time to help preserve its history.

According to historical data published in the program in 1956, when the local church was 100 years old, it was on Feb. 11, 1856, that the first group of six people some of whom were already Presbyterians, responded to a public notice previously given, and...a meeting was held preparatory to the organization of a Presbyterian Church in the village of Fostoria, at which Rev. W.C. Turner presided and Edwin Bement was appointed Clerk, after which the meeting was opened with prayer.

BIRTH DATE 1856

Those present were: W.C. Turner, James Hill and wife, Mrs. Riegal, Edwin Bement and James M. Hill. A committee of two, James Hill and Edwin Bement, was appointed by the moderator to prepare and present a Confession of Faith and Covenant for consideration at the next meeting, Feb. 25, 1856.

When the next scheduled meeting convened there were nine persons present. The confession of Faith and Church Covenant were read by the committee and adopted by those present.

Caleb Munger and wife Ann presented letters from the Congregarional Church of Brunswick, Ohio; Hohn Milligan and wife from the First Presbyterian Church of Millgrove, Ohio; Mr. and Mrs. James Hill from the Presbyterian Church of Center, Washington Co., PA; Mrs. Mary J. Riegel from the Presbyterian Church at Cannonsburg, PA. Edwin Bement was examined and approved.

Caleb Munger, James Hill and John Milligan were chosen Elders of the church and Edwin Bement was elected clerk of the session. Rev. Turner, John Milligan and Edwin Bement were appointed as a committee to draft a constitution for a Church Society.

FIRST MET IN HOMES

Initially, church services were in the homes of the members, until the Methodist Church offered the use of its church building on Sunday afternoons, which "used until the members built their church".

The first Communion Service of the new church was held Aug. 31, 1856. Then on Sept. 5 the records of the Session were examined and endorsed by the Presbytery of Maumee and approved by the Presbytery at Plain, Wood County, and signed by F.C. Baldwin, moderator.

The historical data about the early church indicates that the small group met regularly, observing communion at three month intervals, and "deep in the hearts of the little group there was a longing and praying for a santuary they could call their own.

Then either on June 26 or July 4, 1858 (the record being uncertain) at a regular Sunday Communion Service redolutions were adopted and committees appointed toward the building of a new church.

Marcus P. Skinner, the maternal grandfather of Mira Ebersole, whom older Fostorians will remember, learning of the action of the group, donated two lots on West Fremont Street on which to build. The accompanying photo in the upper left shows the church when it was completed. The site is the same location where Gladys Andes Harrison later built the home where she lived until her death in 1972, and where the Frank Burns family now lives.

FIRST CURCH BUILT 1859

The formal decision to build a church did not rid the small congregation of doubts and fears about the venture, even though Mr. Skinner donated the land for it. But, under the leadership of Rev. Turner, and a few of the members, also the influence of C.W. Foster; the foundation for the new church was laid in the spring of 1859, and the building was ready for use in November of that year. The total was $10,000.

The same year, aug. 13, 1858, the congregation extended a formal call to Rev. Turner to be the pastor. He had been serving since 1856, when the church was formed without any committment on the part of the members. As a teacher in Fostoria's early school, which was in the Methodist Church at one period, he was probably earning his livelihood. The established salary for Rev. Turner as the newly installed pastor was $500 a year. There were only 22 members at that point.

The historical data about the church for those early days indicates Rev. Turner was a very hard worker, highly intelligent and deeply spiritural. He had a magic influence with young people, organizing them into prayer circles, social circles and literary societies. He also organized a Select School to prepare young men and women to teach or to enter college, giving special attention to higher mathematics, Latin and Greek.

STEWART REMEMBERED

In 1859, after the new church building was completed. I particularly remember F.R. Stewart when I first became associated with the Presbyterian Church as a boy, around 1914. He was prominent in Fostoria's civic life as well as the church. During Rev. J.E. Fisher's pastorate, after Capt. F.R. Stewart returned from military service, he became an Elder, continuing in that office until his death in 1922. After his death his sons had placed a batismal fount in the church in memory of thier father. It was replaced at the time of the new organ and chancel in 1956.

PASTOR JOINED ARMY

We are not approaching the history of the church when the Civil War engulfed the nation. After Rev. Turner was formally named pastor he served for two years and then resigned and enlisted in the 49th Ohio Regiment in 1861. Three-fourths of the male membership followed him enlisting and for awhile it was doubtful if the church could survive, but somehow it did.

Rev. S.C. Curtis served the church from 1861-1864, then returned to Beaver, PA, to be a professor at Beaver College.

During the postwar reconstruction period there were a number of pastors.

However, two of them were outstanding...Rev. David Van Dyke and Rev. William Foulkes.

POSTWAR PASTORS

Van Dyke was said to be a dynamic personality, and under him the church grew and increased in influence in the community. At that time, liquor interests were becoming very active and Van Dyke became involved to such an extent that one night as he was coming home from a temperance meeting at Prairie Depot, one of the church families, the Mungers, hid him in their home north of town until morning for safe lodging.

Rev. Foulkes came to the church as a two-weeks temporary supply in 1861, but made such an impression on the members that they extended a formal call, and he remained for seven years. During his pastorate the church grew numerically and spiritually, so much that the congregation realized they were rapidly outgrowing the church building. Failing health caused him to resign in 1888.

Dr. William Hiram Foulkes son, who spent his boyhood days in Fostoria, when his father was pastor, later became the moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. I believe it was during the years when he was a pastor in New York City.

The need for a larger church continued. During the pastorate of Rev. Henry Gardner, who succeeded Foulkes, in 1890, the land at the corner of Fremont, Perry and Wood Streets was purchased and construction of the new church was started. It is the present site of the church, and other than additions and alterations is the church as built 125 years ago.

NEW CHURCH BUILT 1893

When the new church was completed it cost approximately $50,000, including the organ. The old church was then sold to the First Baptist Church. They used it until they built a new church, and then it stood vacant for many years. Beside it was the residence of Mr. and Mrs. W.D. "Pap" Andes, parents of Gladys, and where she lived as a girl. She later became the possessor of the site and had the house erected at 340 W. Fremont St., which is still there.

The new church was completed in 1893, during the pastorate of Rev. R.H. Coulter, who had served only two years as a supply pastor. The dedication of the organ and the musical program was an extraganza even according to historical accounts.

GROWTH ERA

When Rev. Coulter left he was succeeded by three pastors who were rated as outstanding according to old data. They were: Rev. James Albert Patterson, Rev. Robert G. Hutchins, Rev. Clement David Martin. Patterson came to the church directly from seminary. His main achievement was promoting Christian endeavor, and soon there were approximately 100 members...also revitaling the Sabbath School. Hutchins, according to history, was not only a very intellectual and spiritual man, but adept in financial matters. When he became pastor in 1898, the church was in debt $20,000. The national economy was in bad shap then, but in one service he secured enough three-year pledges to liquidate the debt.

The only known living member of the local church who was affiliated during the days of the last three names pastors is Edna Hatfield, Fostoria, who reached 101 last December. More about her later.

There are few members or previous members still living who started going to the church when Rev. Martin was pastor. Those whom I have discovered so far are: Frank Longfellow, now living in Florida, and Esther Chance and Corrine Speck, Fostoria. I'll report others if I discover them.

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