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HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF JOHNSTOWN

 
            September 3, 1835, the Presbyterian Church of Johnstown was organized and chartered and convened in the home of a member. Pursuant to the Presbytery order, Rev. William Wylie of Old First Presbyterian Church in Newark moderated the first meeting of the Ruling Elders.  The first minutes read: “In pursuance of an order of the Presbytery of Lancaster the Rev. William Wylie ­­assisted by the Rev. Jacob Little, organized a church to be known as the Presbyterian Church of Johnstown.  There were 8 charter members. In March of 1837, the first church home was built for $1,000.00 on the same lot as the current brick church structure. 
            Session dealt with a number of interesting issues such as the entry in the minutes of April 5, 1850 regarding the subject of the use of Wine in the Communion elements:   “On motion it was resolved by this Session that the wine to be used on sacramental occasions in this church be prepared from the raisins to be had at our stores and that the wine usually processed be dispensed with.” The minutes of May 24, 1851 the Session adopted the following resolution and read it to the congregation: “Whereas the Church is the light of the world and its members are required to deny themselves and take up the crop, cut off a right hand that offends, to come out from the world be separate be crucified to the world and not conformed to it, do what is lovely and of good report which will excite love harmony and spirituality in the church so that the prayers of God’s people shall not be hindered. Therefore, it is the unanimous opinion of this Session and we think in accordance with the views of the Presbytery and Synod and the instructions of the Bible that it is improper for members of the church or their families to attend circuses or places of mere amusement, parties of simple pleasure, parties at unreasonable hours which will interfere with family and secret worship and those kind of parties that are calculated in their tendency to injure the cause of religion. Christians and their families should be a pattern of all that is lovely and of good report so that the world may surely follow their example. As we have consecrated to Him who died for us and will judge us at last our time and talents our wealth example and influence the above things we consider inconsistent with the vows we have taken upon us, the honor of Christ, the edification of the Church and the Salvation of sinners around us.”   The statistical record showed 51 members on April 1, 1853. 
            Membership numbers greatly declined over the next several years and on April 2, 1870, the statistical report showed 25 members. While it being Civil War times which could have played a role in membership, there was marked decline over a period of years while members were subjected to a very strict level of conduct. The church Session often acted as “Court” calling in members for various improprieties and multiple suspensions were made. Course language, intoxicating liquids, unsavory and immoral behavior were not tolerated and were reasons for examination and suspensions--as were attending the circus and dancing.
            (This is a note written by Rev. R. W. Boyce, Pastor (1912) regarding the years between 1870 and 1885) The old church was used at one time as a township house; polling place; a tin shop; a pelt house; a storage place of agricultural implements; a cabinet maker’s shop. It was on fire twice, but was put out by citizens. In 1885 it was reopened as a church with new papering, new pews and organ. Electric lights and gas furnace were among its conveniences.
            In 1885 a complete renovation of the 1837 frame structure was done with redecorated walls, new chairs, lights and an organ brightened the service June 14, 1885. Worship was held on Sunday afternoons every two weeks by Pastors from Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Centerburg. With the Westminster Book of Confession as a discipline guide, families earning membership were expected to live exemplary lives. They had their own pre-emptive right to a particular pew for the entire family on Sunday.
            January 6, 1908 – Session met and agreed to allow the United Brethren to occupy the Presbyterian Church the odd Sunday and every Monday. They would agree to pay half of fuel and take of care of the church for both parties, also to pay half insurance.
            April 1, 1910 – Statistical Report showed 42 members and on April 29, 1910 –The Presbyterian Church of Johnstown was Incorporated as a not for profit business with the Secretary of State, State of Ohio for the purpose of “Preaching the Gospel and religion, life and instruction.”
            June 2, 1910 – An article in the Johnstown Independent of the same date reported the Presbyterian Church received a subscription for a thousand dollar donation from The Board of the Church Erection Fund of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. There is about $4,000 subscribed now; it is thought that the amount can be raised to $4,500. The erection of the church is practically assured. The building committee has not been selected but it’s thought the structure will be of brick veneer or frame.
            June 23, 1911 - The original wood frame church was cleaned out and pews and other movables were stored. The pews were removed and hauled to the town hall by the team and wagon of Mr. L. Emerson, driven by Lee Emerson. Mr. Truman Baughman took down the bell which had called the people to worship for so many years. The bell from the bell tower was taken down and the organ was moved to the home of Mr. C. Dinsmore. The pulpit is with Mrs. Pearl Johnson; the chairs (6) at Mrs. Dave Blamer, the others at Mr. Fred Neeley’s; the stands at Mrs. Pearl Duckworth’s. The books and blinds are at the Independent Office. We will hold our services in the Baptist Church until our new church is finished.   On June 24, 1911 - The building was auctioned off becoming the property of Mr. Frank Paige. The building was moved away on July 3rd by a Mr. Thomas from Alexandria. The frame church building was moved to the north side of West Pratt Street where it stood until the late 1950's. Ground was broken July 11, 1911 and construction commenced into the late fall and started again in the spring. The church bell was hung in the new tower on May 15, 1912
            A Dedication Service for the new brick church was held on Sunday October 6, 1912.   The project was completed at a cost of $8,000.00 and the first meeting was October 10, 1912. The Rev. J.W. Boyer, who had assumed the pastorate in 1908, presided. Fred Neely was Superintendent of Sunday School and Elmer French was Assistant Superintendent for 38 members. The first funeral held in the new church was that of Mr. Thomas White, aged 86, on January 14, 1913. At the morning service of May 25, 1913, 43 new members were received and an infant was baptized, then two additional members at the evening service and bringing the membership to 118. 
            January 13, 1927 - The church and manse at 138 W. Coshocton were paid for and there was a Jubilee meeting with Parker Tippett burning the note as members sang the Doxology.
            1943 - 1961, the exact date is not clear from Session minutes when the church merged with the Johnstown Baptist Church. The minutes of the annual meeting April 2, 1944 show “It was moved and seconded that the name Union Baptist and Presbyterian Church be adopted. So voted.” The membership was 42. The two churches had a dedicated Christian Fellowship until late 1961 when the dissolution was consummated by the Baptist-Presbyterian Federation. During the 18 years, fourteen years were under the Baptist ministers.  The Presbyterians kept their rolls separate and continued their minutes and official contact with the Presbytery.
            June 28, 1953 - A Hammond Church Organ was installed and dedicated at a cost of $2,818.00. The organ was purchased with funds collected at the time of its installation. 
            1972 – A Schulmerich Carillon came into our possession primarily through the generosity of the Dr. Sophie Rogers Foundation.   In 1993 the carillon was upgraded and refurbished with a fundraising campaign.
            October 1972, ground was broken for the 5,020 square foot addition to the existing building for the education wing and fellowship hall. It was finished for approximately $94,000 and dedicated on November 18, 1973.  A flagstone step from a rear door to the sanctuary has been mounted on the church on the southeast corner facing Main Street as a cornerstone proclaiming, “Faith is our Stepping Stone.”
            In 1973, a non-sectarian Pre-school opened in the Christian Education rooms mentored by Mrs. Ruth Pelkey and Mrs. Hazel Almendinger. Mrs. Marie Brown, Mrs. Jean Weaver and Mrs. Barbara Luft taught forty-two students.
            In 1985, the Presbyterian Church of Johnstown celebrated its 150th anniversary with a celebration fitting a Sesquicentennial.  The membership on July 25, 1985 was 249.
            In 2002, a schism resulted between those members wishing to leave the denomination and those wishing to remain a church of the Presbyterian Church USA. The Session of the church were unsatisfied with what they felt was a departure of the Presbyterian Church USA in both ordination standards and Biblical principles and feeling lead by God, voted to “recommend the process of withdrawal from the denomination and align ourselves with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”   On April 21, 2002, the pastor and 65 members transferred their membership to form a new church under EPC. 
            April 22, 2002 – The Presbyterian Church of Johnstown began a new era proclaiming this time to be “A New Beginning in Christ’s Love.” The membership on December 31, 2002 was 164. 
            Between the period of May 30, 2007 – April, 2010 - a Building Expansion Steering Committee was appointed, and a fund raising campaign commenced to expand the sanctuary and make improvements to the existing church. On May 10, 2009, a Groundbreaking Ceremony was held outside the church where the sanctuary is to be expanded. One of the church’s oldest members and Elder, Lawrence Bishop, had the honor of making the first cut into the soil. Lawrence, an avid craftsman, has over the years designed and provided a number of different cabinets and also pew hymnal holders under the seats of the pews.   On July 31, 2009 – The original stained glass window from the 1912 church was moved 60 feet from it’s original placement to the new placement on the west end of the sanctuary. August 2009A cornerstone on the southwest side of the sanctuary reads “Faith Is Still Our Stepping Stone.” January 10, 2010 – the congregation held its first service in the newly constructed extension of the sanctuary. Additional renovation of the older sanctuary is continuing at this writing. Membership on December 31. 2009 was 184.  - A white dove landed on the new roof when it was finished and has returned several times. 
            As of September 3, 2010, the Presbyterian Church of Johnstown has been fulfilling its mission to go forth and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in the Johnstown community as it celebrated its Septaquintaquinquecentennial (175th) anniversary. On September 26, 2010, a combined Anniversary Service and Dedication Ceremony for the New Sanctuary was held with the congregation, Presbytery and community members attending. 

1837 Photo

1837 Photo of Johnstown Presbyterian Church

1912 Photo

1912 Photo of Johnstown Presbyterian Church

  
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