Westminster Presbyterian Church History

In 1861 a group of twenty-five men and women from First Presbyterian Church on Scribner Street felt the need for a church on the east side of the Grand River. With the assistance of Rev. Courtney Smith, Supply of First Church, they banded together to become the Westminster Presbyterian Church. They were received by the Grand River Valley Presbytery on 17 Jul 1861. Twelve Articles of Association were adopted. The first trustees chosen were: C. H. Chase, W. E. Groves, C. J. Dietrich, A. H. Botsford and L. L. Riggs.
It was a time of struggle and hardship with many distractions, including the beginning stages of the Civil War. Soldiers were encamped on the hill between Fountain Street and Michigan. The older church (First Presbyterian) was not too sympathetic feeling the town could not support two Presbyterian churches. New people coming to town tended to join the well-established church.
The group rented the Swedenborgian Church at the northwest corner of Lyon and Division and met there for four years. The Rev. Courtney Smith continued to serve the Supply for this time period. He resigned in 1865. That fall a call went out to the Rev. Reuben S. Goodman, nephew of Rev. Smith.
By 1866, the site for the church building was purchased for $1,400. It was located at the northeast corner of the present post-office block, Division Avenue and Lyon Street NW. Money was scarce as it was the close of the Civil War. The pastor and trustees worked diligently to secure the necessary funds. Rev. Goodman made a trip east at his own expense to obtain funds for the building.
Through faith in the Lord, hard work and determination the edifice was completed and dedicated in March of 1867. Ten new members were received on dedication day. The little church was of red brick, 50 ft. by 70 ft., fronting on Division Street. The interior was finished in light pine. It had green carpeting, white walls and colored glass windows. The choir and organ were above the audience over the hall entrance. It had the capacity for seating 300 with a Sunday school room in the basement. Later, a kitchen was added.
The first Ladies Aid Society was organized by the minister's wife. Its records were destroyed by some boys during a church supper. The society eventually furnished the church.
A cabinet organ was purchased, but finding volunteer choir members was difficult. It was decided to obtain an organ player and pay $40.00 per year to that individual. Miss Everett was became the organ player and Miss Stone was the leading soprano, who was paid $7.00 per quarter.
The Women's Missionary Society was begun on 15 January 1874 with Martha Ball as its first president. Miss Ball had been a missionary to Turkey.
Many changes took place in the next years. An attempt to change the name to Second Presbyterian failed. In 1874 the federal government bought the church property and additonal land for the site of the present post office. The trustees received $14,075 for their church building. The members continued to use the church for an additional two years.
In 1875 three lots at the southwest corner of Jefferson and Fulton were purchased. A chapel was built on one lot and the foundation was laid for the main auditorium. A building committee was appointed to plan and build the sanctuary. It was completed in 1886, ten years after the foundation was laid. A new organ was installed. The church and organ were dedicated during the ministry of Rev. Sanford H. Cobb.
In 1882, the Ladies Aid Society was re-organized as the Christian Workers Society. Its goal was to work for the welfare of the church, for the property, for the care of the sick and visiting all new families to invite them to the church.
Amos Musselman, Elder and ardent church worker, established the Madison Avenue Mission School in 1888. This Mission became Immanuel Presbyterian Church in 1890.
Income during this period was from pledged contributions, rental of pews and Sabbath collections. In 1888 the envelope system was put into use. Soon after this the free pew system was adopted.
A report in 1891 showed a steady growth in membership which increased from 25 to 258 communicants in thirty years. The Sunday School also grew and it had 237 members. Societies at that time were the Home Missionary Society, Foreign Missionary Society, Mission Band, Christian Workers, Westminster League and Young People's Society.
In 1895 Rev. Dr. John M. Fulton was called to the pastorate. He remained for seven years and there was continued growth. The choir loft and pulpit were remodelled. The Christian Workers presented a new steam-heating system to the church. Miss Kittie Doan was chosen to work with the poor and neglected of the city at a salary of $25 per month.
The Fortnightly Society for married couples was started. It was organized for "philosophy and fun". Combined ages of the couples had to be 80 years or less.
During the pastorate of Rev. John T. Thomas (1910-1915) important changes were made to the auditorium. The pulpit and choir loft were moved to the south side of the sanctuary, a new balcony was placed on the north side, improvements in the Sunday School rooms, the pastor's study and the kitchen were made. As usual, the Christian Workers raised $2,000 to redecorate and refurnish the interior of the church.
Miss Vera Ingerson joined the church in 1916 as the foreign missionary to Chosen (Korea).
in 1917 the Christian Workers Society sent a proposal to the Trustees that they would purchase the lot south of the church for $6,000. The Trustees were asked to pay the interest and convert the chapel into a church house. Things were delayed due to the city possibly deciding to run State Street through to Monroe, which would take out part of the church property. It wasn't until 1922 that the church decided to stay in the downtown loction. 26 November 1922 the corner stone was laid for the new church house. Dr. William Samuel Hess was pastor during this time.
The church continues in the same location today (2009) working with the inner city peoples needs.

1900's Goodman Guild

Top Row: Mable Alexander, Edith Butler, Daisy Hill, Helen Hayes, Edna Kinzie, Clara Goodman
Bottom Row: Mildred Gilmore, Myrtel Vieger, Bessie Johnson, Florence Hood, Harriett Hart, Albertine Munson


Westminster Sunday School - Young Men's, 1916

Standing: Carl Herron, Robert Rice, Cleo Smith, --- Heinz, Donald Williams, ----, Mr. VanAiken, Hugh Driscoll, Christ Beukema, Edwin Elliott, Ward Palmer, Robert Gray
Middle: Ernest Beard, Roderick McKenzie, ----, Theodore Applegate, Hugh Wilson,  Foster Potts, James Kerr, ----, John Beukema, jack P. Beukema
Bottom: -- Jarvis, Lee M. Woodruff, Russel Powers, Lum Chu, Edward Pritchard, Gerritt Jurgens, John H. Millar, Richard Wren

Transcriber: ES
Created: 8 April 2009
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/churches/presbyterian/westminsterHistory.html