The following has been consolidated from various past bulletins and articles, and a lot of it from memory by the writer. It is not infallible, but due to the scarcity of official records, it is the best we can do. Hopefully, it will give some sense of the past, of where we are today, and more importantly, what the future can hold for this congregation.
A group of about 16 residents of Grove City, Ohio, members of the German Reformed Church, met on November 16, 1856 to petition the Presbytery of Columbus to allow them to change their allegiance to the Presbyterian column and to organize a Presbyterian Church in Grove City, Ohio. It was decided then that the name of the Church was to be The First Presbyterian Church of Grove City. A committee, headed by the Reverend James Hoge of First Church, Columbus, met the petitioners and after considerable discussion, the Church was organized in November 1858. The first Elders were Jacob Diemer and Walter Amos. The first Deacons were John Clark and Tobias Bullin. The first Trustees were George H. Allen, E.C. Drett, and William Foster Breck. The services were held at first in a log building known as the "Union Church" (or as the "Highland Mission") the site of which was in the rear of what is now a brick house at 4086 Broadway. Later, a plot of land was acquired and a church built on the site where the house that was formerly the home and office of the late Dr. J.C. Sommer now stands at 3496 Park Street just west of the railroad tracks. Later, because of the trains frightening the horses, it was moved further west to 3506-3510 Park Street where a double house now stands.
In August, 1883, plans were made to sell the building to help obtain funds to build a new church. On July 19, 1884, during the pastorate of Reverend E. Thompson, the church building on Park Street was sold to Adam Grant for $400. Adam Grant then sold to the congregation for $300 a 60 foot by 260 foot lot at the northeast corner of Kingston and Broadway. On October 19, 1884, a new church was dedicated. It was a small one room brick building located on the lot purchased from Mr. Grant where an auto repair business is now located. In the early days, one small corner of this building was partitioned off for a Sunday School class. Near the 26th anniversary of the dedication, while excavating for a cellar, one wall fell. In a few months it was rebuilt and ready for use, largely by the efforts of the "Ladies Aid Society," who raised funds for the project.
From at least 1931 thru 1949, this was a joint pastorate with Galloway Presbyterian, with the minister living in Galloway during most of that period, and if memory serves right, during at least part of that time services were held here only every other Sunday. Then, in 1946, the old manse at 3550 Park Street, which had been a rental property, was repaired enough so that the Reverend Wilbur Kuenzli could move into it when he came on the field. These years, and even into the 1950's were lean ones in which sometimes it was a battle just for survival. We were not able to pay the pastor enough to hold him or to get another easily when he would leave, so there would always be several months between pastorates. During the times that we were fortunate to have Presbytery assign to us a permanent stated supply pastor we held our ground pretty well, but there were other times when we might have a different pastor every Sunday. It was then that it seemed we were taking one step forward and two steps back. Some of the permanent stated supply pastors assigned to us during these years were Dr. Frank Throop, Rev. A.J. Wold, Rev. Robert Foreman, and Rev. James Verburg, who was responsible for the beginnings of youth activities in the Church. During this time, also, there were just not enough persons willing to fill the Church offices, so some of us had to double or triple duty.
It was decided in 1949 that if we were going to have a chance of progressing, we must try it as a single pastorate. It was at this time that we started receiving national Mission Aid to supplement the minister's salary, and it was then that Rev. Herrick L. Todd started his second pastorate here. The National Mission Aid continued until 1961.
The congregation in about 1949 or 1950, also concluded that in order to better serve the congregation and a growing community, it should consider moving to a new location where it would have room to expand. The old brick church building had been condemned and it was not feasible to repair it. The building was not modern at all, minus plumbing, and with no place for Sunday School classes except in the sanctuary; and in a small township house next door which we were permitted to use part of the time. Sufficient land for a new church plant at our present location at 4227 Broadway was donated to the Church by Dr. and Mrs. A.B. White. In 1950, a steel structure was built which housed a kitchen, fellowship hall, restrooms, and some space for Sunday School classes. After much thought and many meetings, some of them with the national Missions Committee of Columbus Presbytery,the congregation voted to launch a building fund campaign to raise funds for a new Church. This first successful campaign was completed in 1954 during the second pastorate of Rev. Herrick L. Todd. We also needed a loan from the Presbytery, and the names of Rev. Keith Conning and Rev. Ivan Wilkins come to mind as two of our friends who helped in this regard.
The early 1950's saw the beginning of what was called the "Ox Roast". The purpose of this event was to raise money for the building fund, and was held annually in the fall, usually in September. There was a large tent erected on the street in the downtown area. The work started on Friday night and continued until well after midnight on Saturday before things were cleaned up. The fare consisted of roast beef sandwiches, Ox burgers, sloppy Joe's, vegetable soup, pie, and beverage. The Grove City High School Band usually gave a concert during the evening. A lot of hard work was involved but a lot of good fellowship was enjoyed as well. This event continued until about 1964 when we were no longer permitted to use the downtown area. The semi-annual steak dinners, sponsored by our ever active Presbyterian Women's Association, became our substitute for the "Ox Roast" and this has become a tradition also although now it is held only once a year in the fall. Special events by the Deacons have taken the place of the spring steak dinner.
The little brick Church, having been condemned after 71 years of service, was razed to make way for a Gulf Service Station in 1955. Rev. Joe K. Bury was our pastor, this being his first pastorate, and quite a challenge to any young minister. We now had no church building to call our own except the metal building which we would use, so worship services and some Church school classes were held in the Kingston Elementary School. The school building was used for 21 months.
The Sanctuary, enlarged in 1983, in which we now worship was completed in 1957 at a cost of $45,000 and dedicated on February 23, 1957. This was a very proud time for those of us who remember all that went before the culmination of our dreams. It seemed that until then, in the language of the military, we had been fighting a "holding action" and you all know what happens if you don't get reinforcements in time. But, we didn't have to "surrender" because reinforcements did come and those of you who joined us in the 1960's made it possible for this congregation to continue planning for the future. A small addition was added to the rear of the Sanctuary in 1961. This is the room that then housed the Grove City Pre-School. We were, at this time, still using the metal building for Church school, kitchen facilities, scouting, and fellowship. About this time, the manse on Park Street was traded for the residence just south of the Church so it could then be our new manse. This house, several years later, was sold and moved to another location. It was then that a housing allowance was provided for the ministers rather than a house itself.
he Christian Education building, with a basement beneath, which also housed the Fellowship Hall and kitchen was started in August 1971 and completed in April 1972 at a cost of $130,000 and dedicated on June 4, 1972. A new blacktopped parking area was also included in this project. Dr. Edwin A. Shoemaker was our pastor. In the late 1970's the property just north of the church was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Ed Montoney and given to the church. The brick house on the property was razed and the lot landscaped.
We celebrated the 125th anniversary of the founding of this Church on November 4-6 1983 under the leadership of our pastor, Rev. Glenn J. Craig. Former pastors and members were invited to come back and participate. We were, at that time, embarked on a building program that would enlarge our sanctuary by extending it east toward Broadway, and also added the wing, which until now, held the choir room, a classroom/meeting room, the nursery, and the pastor's office. The choir room and the classroom/meeting room remained in their present location, the nursery became a classroom, and the pastor's office became a combined parlor and library. Additional parking was also added. This was completed at a cost of $350,000 during the pastorate of Rev. Glenn J. Craig. We are meeting today, April 20, 1997, to dedicate the latest addition to our Church facilities. This consists of a new Fellowship center, kitchen, additional classrooms, restrooms, overflow space at the rear of the sanctuary, and a large entry hall on the west side where the Pre-school was previously located. The former Fellowship Hall was remodeled to accommodate the Pre-School and provide extra Sunday School classrooms. The offices of the pastor, the secretary, and the nursery are also located in the remodeled area. Additional land including a dwelling on Sunshine Place was purchase for $80,000 to accommodate this expansion. The cost of the remodeling and new addition is $866,000. We hope, with these new facilities to be better able to serve our congregation and our community
The Church has had several notable pastors and stated supply pastors. One of these was the Rev. Thomas Woodrow, grandfather of President Woodrow Wilson. Rev. Thomas Reed, who supplied our pulpit in the late 1920's, was a chaplain at the Ohio Penitentiary, and had some interesting stories to tell of some of his experiences. Each pastor we have had, at least within the memory of the writer, has contributed something special or unique in his own way to the life of this Church and congregation. Each stated supply pastor has also made a special contribution. Those who some of us will remember were Rev. A.J. Wold serving just before Rev. Boone, Rev. Ollie Stang serving just before Dr. Craig, Rev. Marion Redding serving just before Rev. Quist, and Rev. Daniel Mortinger serving just before Dr. James M. Moran and current Rev. Robert Tolar, Jr.
This history was originally written upon the occasion of the Church's 125th anniversary celebrated November 4th thru 6th, 1983. It has been brought up to date for the dedication of our new expanded facility on April 20, 1997 by our lifetime member, Glenn Smith.