Richland Co., Ohio


Church Records

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Mansfield's Pioneer Churches

Source:  RICHLAND SHIELD & BANNER:  18 January 1896, Vol. LXXVIII, No. 36


Submitted by Amy


That the churches of Mansfield are a powerful factor for good is not to be denied and the members of the churches are gratified to know of their success.  Mansfield is a city where there is less suffering than any city of its size in the state of Ohio, and this is due in a great measure to the influence of the churches.  The plane of morality in this city is high, much above the average, and for this the churches must receive the credit also.

Mansfield ought to be, and probably is, proud of its churches, and the interest taken in religious matters.  There are now 19 organized church societies in the city of Mansfield;  they are generally plain and substantial but some of them are spacious and beautiful.  If churches are indications of civilization, this city can justly feel that she stands in the front rank.

In 1815 the village of Mansfield consisted of 22 houses and two block houses.  That year the Rev. George Van Eman, the first Presbyterian minister here, began his labors.  The services were held in the upper room of a block house on the square, which was then used as a court house.  The following is from an address of Rev. S.W. Miller delivered in 1876.  Referring to Rev. Van Eman he says:  "He was certainly the first Presbyterian minister, and in all probability the first minister of any denomination who preached in Mansfield."  John Weldon says, "I think Dr. James (referring to William James, the well-known Methodist minister) was the first preacher that settled in Mansfield.  He was a Methodist, and built a log house at the corner of Third and Main Streets."  On the other hand, the following positive statement is preserved, made in 1838, by Henry Newman of Bryan, O.:  "The first man who held religious meetings in Madison Township was Rev. Bowman, a pioneer missionary.  The neighbors met at my father's cabin, three miles down the Rocky Fork from Mansfield;  in all there were about eight or ten persons including work hands.  The place is now known as Beam's Mill."

The second preacher in Madison Township was Rev. George Van Eman, a Presbyterian.  He collected a congregation in 1814 or 1815 in Mansfield and served the people until Rev. James Rowland came;  and about the same time Rev. William James came.  The Rev. Charles Waddell and Rev. Somerville of the Methodist church, came to Mansfield in 1816, about the same time or soon after the first Methodist church was built, a little southeast of the big spring, and, shortly after the Presbyterians built a church on the hill on East Diamond Street.

The first Presbyterian church of Mansfield was organized some time in the year 1816 by James Scott and George Van Eman, who were directed to do so by the old Presbytery of Lancaster.  At the organization there were six male members and seven females.  Two elders were elected;  George Coffinberry and Richard Hay, the former of whom had been an elder before coming to Mansfield;  the latter had been a member of the Associated Presbyterian Church.  In 1820, when the Associated Presbyterian church was organized in Mansfield, he transferred his membership thereto and was at once intrusted [sic.] with the same important office.  In 1817 G. Benyhill, Matthias Day and Noah B. Cook were elected and ordained Ruling Elders.

Rev. Van Eman was installed by the Presbytery of Lancaster.  The exact date is unknown, but it was prior to October, 1817, the date of the Presbytery of Richland by the Synod of Ohio.  Rev. Van Eman applied for a dissolution of the pastoral relation in May, 1820, but was not dismissed until August of the same year.  There was no church edifice in his time, the services being sometimes held in private houses, but generally in the court house.  In his report to the Presbytery in April, 1818, he says:  "Mansfield church consisted of 45 members, April 1, 1817.  Since added, on examination, 15;  on certificate, 10;  total now in communion, 70."  In 1867, he said:  "When I came to Mansfield, there were but ten communicants;  when I left about 40."

In August, 1820, Rev. James Rowland first visited Mansfield.  The following April, at the request of the church, then consisting of about 25 members, the Presbytery appointed him stated supply for half of his time for one year, the church promising him, $200 on subscriptions, at the same time allowing him one-half his time for supplying other churches contiguous to Mansfield.  He was ordained June 26, 1821, and installed April 8, 1823.  Sometime during the early part of his ministry, a frame church was erected on the spot where the present edifice now stands.

Rev. Rowland was succeeded in April, 1839 by Alexander M. Cowan.  His was a stormy pastorate and was terminated in August, 1842.  In the autumn of 1840, a second Presbyterian church was organized, the result of a bitter and long continued controversy between two factions.  The church was about equally divided between the two factions, and the fire only burned higher and hotter by virtue of the oil poured on by the Presbytery, until, for the sake of peace, a second organization erected and occupied a building near the site of the present Catholic church.  After Mr. Cowan the pulpit was supplied for a longer or shorter time in succession by S.M. Templeton in 1847;  Evan Evans in 1843;  W.C. Knifflin in 1844;  T.F. McGill in 1845;  James W. Dickey in 1847;  J.E. Marquis in 1854;  J.W. McCregor in 1857.

The corner stone of the old Presbyterian Church edifice was laid September 17, 1858, and the first service held in the basement Feb. 25, 1859, Rev. John Lloyd preaching on that occasion, J.R. Burgett was pastor, then Hon. R. Wilson, in November, 1859, Rev. George Morris in March, 1861, Thomas Davis in September, 1865, David Hall in May, 1868, S.W. Miller in March, 1874, Rev. Miller resigned in 1880.

The organization of the Congregational church in Mansfield was first agitated in 1833.  In the autumn of that year James B. Walker, then a layman, happened in Mansfield, and was requested by Mathias Day, Sr., and others, to draft a paper setting forth reasons for and articles to the organization of a new ecclesiastical society.

To the articles of the association were appended the following names:  Thomas Smith, Thomas Taylor, Daniel Cook, Williamson Carrothers, Samuel Smith, William Maxwell, Thomas Smith, A. Sutherland, Luther Cook, Robert Bowland, Robert McComb, E.P. Sturges, Jedediah Smith, Edward Sturges, J.M. May, Jacob Parker, M. Douglass, Jr., Edwin Grant, Daniel Wise, John Walker and Robert Lowry.

This association procured temporarily, for a place of worship, the upper room of the warehouse of E.P. and E. Sturges, in which they for a time assembled.

In 1835 this association resolved to have a church building and formed a meeting-house association, of which Thomas Smith was President;  E.P. Sturges, Treasurer;  Williamson Carrothers, William Maxwell, C.L. Avery, C.T. Sherman and Robert McComb, directors.  They proceeded to purchase four acres of ground on Park Avenue West upon which they erected a substantial brick building for lecture and Sunday School purposes.

August 18, 1870, the old church, around which clustered many tender memories, was destroyed by fire.  Subscription papers were at once circulated, and a fine new church was built, which was dedicated June 8, 1873.

Of one thing, however, there is no doubt;  that is, that the first church erected in the town of Mansfield was a Methodist, and the organization was one of the earliest in the city, Rev. James built a log house on the corner of Third and Water streets, which would indicate his intention of settling here permanently.  The first meetings of the church were held at the home of a Mrs. Smith in 1823, and afterwards at an old building which had been erected in 1816.  The Methodists erected a new frame church at the corner of East Market and Water Streets about 1836 or 1837.  This building they occupied about 30 years, commencing the erection of the present brick building in 1867, finishing it in 1870.  It was dedicated in July, 1870, by Bishop Clark.  The cost of the building was $35,000.

The history of the first Baptist church in Mansfield dates back to 1818.  In November of that year, Elder French, a missionary visited Mansfield and held meetings in private houses.  Some of these meetings were held at the home of Mordecai Bartley, two miles northwest of Mansfield.  May 15, 1819, the first Baptist church society was organized.  The number of names at that time enrolled was 53, among which were Mordecai Bartley, D.I. Swinney, Nehemiah Story, Matthew Cunen, Eliphalet Flint, John Palmer, John C. Gilkison, John Rigdon, Robert Bentley, Baldwin Bentley, Charles Spooner, Richard Woodhouse, Peter Ogden, James M. Gilkison and their wives.  The membership was scattered throughout all the townships adjoining Madison.

The brick church, standing at the northwest corner of Park Avenue West and Walnut Street was erected in 1862, at a cost of about $25,000.  It was dedicated Jan. 17, 1863.  J.W. Osborn was first pastor and continued preaching for the church eight years.  He was followed by S.A. Collins, J. Barstow, E.D. Hunt, John E. Chessore, T.J. Siegfried and J.W. Davis.

Rev. F.J. Ruth established the Lutheran church in this city in October, 1831.  There were but six persons in the town at that time who were Lutherans;  but in the summer of 1832, he organized a church with 15 members.  Some of these were Jacob Hammer and wife, George Loher, George Peterman and wife, M. Flory, wife and daughter, Samuel Startsman and wife, Mr. Shroeder and wife and a few others whose names are not known.  The first meetings were generally held in the old court house.

The membership of the church in 1880 was 350;  the deacons were A.J. Bortz, Elias Troutman, M.D. Harter and S.G. Eyerly.  The elders were Benjamin Bair, Daniel Gerberich, Abraham Small and S.S. Balliett.  The trustees were David Bell, Lewis Bowers and Leonard Sheets.

The Church of Christ in Mansfield was organized about the year 1834.

St. John's Evangelical church was erected in 1865 and cost $6,000.

The German Lutheran church was erected in 1860, and cost about $2,000.  The principal member of the original organization were John Krause, Sr., Conrad Berg, Adam Risch, Henry Schmuck, Philip Beck, Balthaser Ahlheim, John Matthes, Peter Ackerman, Adam Beck and John Steiner.

St. Peter's Catholic church was organized in 1855 by Rt. Rev. Bishop Rapp of Cleveland.  Some of the first members were Jacob Scholl, Bernard Yager and Matthew Schambs.  The old church was erected in 1872.  The present pastor, Rev. Andrew Magenhann took charge Sept. 7, 1869.

Grace Episcopal church was organized by Rev. J. Cracraft in 1846.  The principal original members were Benjamin Johns, Philip Bartley, Uzziel Stevens, H.B. Horton, Mr. & Mrs. Barrett, Mr. Beach and Mrs. Sherman.

The African Methodist church was organized in 1875, and the principal members were George Conley, Philip Harris, Judge Sheffield, William Steward and Mrs. Rachel Steward and Mrs. Isaac Pleasants.

The Mayflower church, a Congregational organization, was found some years ago and R.H. Edmonds is pastor.  The church is in a prosperous condition and is doing much good.

St. Luke's Lutheran church, corner of Marion Avenue and Park Avenue West, was organized in 1886, with Dr. Smith as pastor.  This society grew out of dissensions which arose among the members of the First Lutheran church.  Rev. George H. Reen is pastor.

The other churches of the city and their pastors are:  First Baptist, no minister at present;  First Christian, Jay E. Lynn;  Believers in Christ, H. Schwier;  First Congregational, J.W. Hubbell;  Grace Episcopal, D.F. Davis;  St. John's German Evangelical, F. Buesser;  First English Lutheran, H.L. Wiles;  German Lutheran, R. Boethelt;  Methodist Episcopal, Duston Kemble;  Free Methodist, J. Lawrence;  First Presbyterian, D.J. Meese;  Associate Presbyterian, William Ballyntine;  Reformed Presbyterian, R.J. Gault;  United Presbyterian, F.B. Foster;  St. Peter's Catholic, Rev. Andrew Magenhann;  United Brethren, F.P. Sanders.

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