Grand Rapids Churches in 1876


St. Andrews----corner Sheridan and Maple streets. Membership, 4,000. Church in process of erection, will cost $60,000. Father McManus, Pastor.

St. James----north side of Bridge street, between Broadway and Straight streets; west side. Membership 3,000. Father Pulcher, Pastor.

St. Maryís (west side, German)--corner of First and Turner streets. Father Ehrenstrassen, Pastor.


S. Graves, D.D., Pastor. Corner of Fountain and Bostwick streets. Membership, 500. Cost of church edifice, $80,000.


First Cong. Church---corner of Park and East Park streets. I. Morgan Smith, Pastor. Membership, 700.

Second Cong. Church---corner of Grove and Plainfield avenues. E. C. Olney, Pastor. Membership, 85.


St. Markís----eastside of Division street, between Lyon and Fountain streets. Samuel Earp, Rector. Membership, 550.

St. Paulís---eastside of Turner, between Third and Fourth streets; west-side. Sidney Beckwith, Pastor. Membership, 180.

Good Shepherd----north-east College avenue and East Bridge street. W. K. Knowlton, Pastor in charge.

Grace Church---Northeast corner Wealthy Avenue and Prospect streets W.K. Knowlton, Rector.


Corner of Lyon and Division streets. S. E. Pierce, Pastor. Membership, seventy-five.


German Lutheran--southeast corner of East Bridge and Division streets. Henry Koch, pastor. Membership, 400.

Swedish Lutheran---east side of Sinclair, between Bridge and Hastings streets. No pastor.


Westminster--still occupying their old house on U.S. lot by sufferance. Preparing to build. F. C. Kendall, Pastor. Membership, 200.

First Presbyterian Church---corner 1st and Scribner streets; west side. W. A. Fleming, Pastor. Membership, 112.


Division Street Church---corner of Division and Fountain streets. F. F. Hildreth, Pastor. Membership, 400.

2d Street Methodist Church--corner Turner and 2d streets, west side. George D. Lee, Pastor. Membership, 250.

German M. E. Church (colored)--north side, Withey, between Jefferson and Center streets. M. Butler, Pastor.

Wesleyan Methodists---corner Turner and Crosby streets. Obed Tapley, Pastor.


Congregational Emanuel---place of worship, corner Ionia and Monroe streets, in Godfroyís Block. Emanuel Gerecter, Rabbi. Membership, 40.


First English---North Division street. Peter Moerdyk, Pastor. Membership, 85.

Second Reformed (Holland)--corner of Bostwick and Lyon streets. N. H. Dosker, Pastor. Membership, 650.

Third Reformed (Dutch)--Fulton street, east of the city limits. Adrian Kriekaard, Pastor.

Fourth Reformed--Legrand, near Taylor street. No Pastor.

Christain Reformed--No. 200 North Division street. C. Cloppenbery, Pastor. Membership, 300.

True Dutch reformed--Spring, near Island street. G. E. Boer, Pastor. Membership, 1,500.


The society has scarcely an active existence. They own the building corner of Lyon and Division streets.


First Universalist---Pearl street, between Ottawa and Ionia. Charles Fluker, Pastor.


They have an association of about eighty members, bur own no property, and have no regular place of meeting.

A few of the Grand Rapids churches are property historical, being in their several orders pioneers, and parent churches.


As is noted elsewhere, 1836-7 brought many people to Grand Rapids; a mixture of all sorts. As like seeks like in crystalization, so people with religious opinions seek out those with whom they can sympathize. There was the Mission, which was for a time the nucleus of the Baptists. A few were Methodists, who banded themselves; a few had Episcopal proclivities; some were Catholic, and to them the sainted Vizoski was spiritual leader. There were some 25 or 30 whose preferences were Presbyterian or Congregational. These, headed by Deacon Page and Samuel Howland, took measures to organize a church. They agreed that it should be Presbyterian, as there were no Congregational churches anywhere near. The first preacher was James A. McCoy, who served them about a year, and came out Episcopalian. The meetings were held at first in the dining room of the Old National Hotel; afterwards in the Court House. October, 1838, they invited the Rev. J. Ballard, then preaching at Grandville, to become their pastor. He held that position until the 1st of January, 1848. In the meantime, the church, following the predilections of most of its members, had become Congregational. This was done in 1839. In 1841, the society bought the Campau (Catholic) Church, paying about $3,500. For it. In the purchase they were greatly aided by people at the East. Mr. Ballard was followed by Rev. Thomas Jones, who stayed three years. He was succeeded by Henry L. Hammond, stayed five years; left in 1857; succeeded by Rev. S.S. Greeley, who also ministered five years; a part of the time on furlough as chaplain in the army. The present incumbent, Rev. J. Morgan Smith, commenced his labors in 1863.

The first Church, in 1872, was sold; converted into stores, and soon went up in smoke. At the same time the present structure was built by Park Place; costing some $70,000. Membership about 500.


Among the earlier settlers were a few whose predilections were toward the Episcopal church--three or four who were members of the order. As effort was made to establish the nucleus of a church in the fall of 1836; seventeen men signing an article, by which they banded themselves, under the name of "The Parish of St. Markís Church." Nothing, however, seems to have been done, further than electing a set of church officers.

Again, in the summer of 1838, by a similar article, signed by thirteen persons, a band, or "Association,: as it was called, under the title of "St. Markís Church," made a preliminary organization. Their names were Geo. Coggershall, John Almy, C.I. Walker, George Martin, Charles Shepard, James Lyman, John Parnell, Wm. A. Richmond, Thomas B. Church, John P. Calder, Henry P. Bridge.

It seems that little was done, further than electing a board of officers, a year afterwards, Nov. 18th, 1839. That may be given as the date of the active existence of the church or society. At this time, a call was given to the Rev. Melanchthon Hoyt to become the pastor. A room was secured for public services in Mr. Bridgeís store.

April 26th, 1840, measures were taken to obtain the recognition of the Association as a church. At the same date, preliminaries were arranged for erecting a church. A lot was given by Charles Carroll and Lucius Lyon, N. W. corner, at the crossing of Bronson and Division streets. The lot immediately west was purchased for $100, and on them a church 27X41 feet, 14 feet posts, was erected; and consecrated April 5tyh, 1841. There is no record of the date of the consecrating by the bishop. The date given is the date of the record of the deed of consecration.

Jan. 11th, 1842, Mr. Hoyt sent to the church the alternative--to install him as rector, or that he should resign his charge. The church accepted his resignation with expressions of esteem and regret.

May 24th, 1843, a call was extended to the Rev. (since Dr.) Francis Cumming, who soon commenced his labors. The precise date of his assuming the office is uncertain. On the records of December 25th, he is shown as rector. Dr. Cumming took hold with energy, and under his charge the church increased in numbers and strength. In 1848, November 18th, the second church was consecrated. This church was the front part--minus the towers--of the present edifice. The building has been twice enlarged, and modified--first in 1855, and afterwards in 1871.

May 21st, 1861, Dr. Cumming notified the church that he had accepted the position of chaplain of the Third Michigan Infantry; and leave of absence was given him. The 10th of the following September, he resigned, (See Biographical Article.)

Dr. Cumming was followed by Dr. I. P. Tustin, who came July 22d, 1863; and was the much beloved pastor until June 10th, 1870.

Oct. 25th, 1870, the Rev. Samuel Earp was called. He filled the place very acceptably until April 1st, 1877, when he resigned. The church has 600 communicants.

This church has branched into several; by opening mission Sabbath Schools in different parts of the city, the nucleus of churches has been established.

St. Paulís Memorial (west side)--April 20th, 1871, present number, 92 communicants; and Church of the Good Shepherd, corner of College Avenue and Bridge streets, Sept. 10th, 1873, with 60 communicants, are no longer dependent on St. Marks; and are under the pastoral charge of the Rev. Sydney Beckwith.

Grace Chapel, on Wealthy Avenue, with 51 communicants, is under the charge of the Rev. Wm. H. Knowlton.

Connected with the St. Marks Church, the St. Marks Home, a place of refuge for the destitute and a hospital for the sick, was opened Feb. 15th, 1875; which, during the first year of its existence admitted 148 persons; expending between two and three thousand dollars; mostly the contribution of those connected with St. Markís Church. To this "Home" Dr. Platt contributes his daily attendance. It is also a free dispensary of medicines to the poor. The buildings are given rent free by Mr. and Mrs. E. P. Fuller.

It may be here remarked that Grand Rapids is the only town where the Episcopal denomination has secured a leading position. Most of the other churches are recent and at present comparatively feeble. The following condensed summary of them is from the Bishopís Report for the year 1876. The year against each church, is the date of its organization.


Cedar Springs, Kent County 1875 Mission; com. 2
St. Markís Mission Cooperville, Ottawa Co. 1874 com. 11
St. Paulís Courtland 1860 com. 12
St. Johns Ionia 1848 com. 93; No rector
Holy Trinity Mission Lowell 1875 com. 10
St. Paulís Muskegon 1867 com. 58. Vacant
Christís Plainfield 1851 com. 4
St. Paulís Mission Portland 1872 om.4
Rockford Mission Kent County 1874 com. 13
Sand Lake Mission Kent County 1875 com. 4
Trinity Saranac Ionia County 1860 com. 55; Rev. L.L. Rogers, Rector
Church of the Redeemer Whitchail Muskegon Co. 1879 com. 12;Rev. Robert Wood, Rector
St. Johnís Grand Haven 1874 com. 90;Rev. Wm. Stone, Rector
Grace Holland 1867 com. 26; Rev. I. Rice Taylor, Rector

It will be seen that St. Johnís, at Ionia, is the only one that is not recent, excepting the one at Plainfield, which can hardly be said to exist. The strong footing which the order has in Grand Rapids, is mainly attributable to the energetic action of the Rev. Dr. Cumming in early years, placing it at once among the leading churches.


The special interest that historically attaches to a church, centers around its origin and early progress. This church is in the Grand River Valley, the Pioneer, originating in the Indian Mission, which ante-dated settlement.

On the removal of the Indians, in 1836, the few Baptists, vis: Dea. H. Stone, Capt. Thomas Davis, Ezekel Davis, Abram Randall, and wife, Zelotis Bemis and a Mr. Streeter, banded themselves, and under the pastoral guidance of Elder Wooster, held meetings in a room in the National Hotel. They afterwards had the services of the Rev. T. Z. R. Jones, an able man, who was partly sustained by the Missionary Society. They held their meetings in the little school house on Prospect Hill, about west of the U. S. Building. Additions were made to their number. But, unhappily, dissension marred their prosperity. Elder Jones left, and for many years they were like sheep without a shepherd. They had no stated supply until 1848, when having secured for themselves the house erected by the Episcopal church, and employed the Rev. C.A. Jennison, a man of fine culture, and of noble characteristics, the church seemed to spring into active life, and to prosper. Failing health compelled the resignation of Elder Jennison, and he left, soon to die. He was succeeded by the Rev. A. J. Bingham, son of the Mackinaw Missionary; also a man of culture, and an able preacher. Mr. B. stayed about three years. He was followed by Rev. Francis Prescott, a most worthy man and efficient preacher, who left for missionary work in the northern towns of the county, in 1856. The church then called the Rev. L.M. Woodruff, of Malone, N. J. Here commence a period over which history may as well draw3 a veil. The result was, the church was divided into two unfraternal bodies--the First and the Tabernacle churches which division lasted until 1869, when the two churches were united. The First Church was dependent for a time on temporary supply. Afterwards for five years the Rev. Mr. Van Winkle was their pastor, who was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Butterfield. They built a small brick church, where the Baptist church now is.

The Second or Tabernacle Church was for a year or so under the ministration of the said Woodruff, followed for two or three years by C.B. Smith, D.D., who was followed by the Rev. Mr. Reed. They had a house of worship on Division street, south of the U.S. Building.

At the above date, 1869, the two noble-souled pastors, Butterfield and Reed, deeply regretting the divided state of the Baptists, both resigned, as a step preliminary to a harmonious union of the two churches. This union was soon effected. The Rev. Dr. Graves was called to take pastoral charge. Steps were taken to erect a church, which was completed in 1877--a building which speaks for itself, costing $75.000.

Since the union, the church has been prospered, now numbering 500 members, in harmonious action, under an able leader.

It may here be briefly said that the early history, before 1846, is one of missteps, by means of which they lost the vantage ground they had at the first, dissatisfying many who, in their days of struggle and feebleness, would have come in with them. Its onward progress commenced with the very acceptable labors of the noble Jennison. The dark day again commenced in 1856. The early pastors, Jennison, Bingham, and Prescott, all of blessed memory are dead. Two of them, Prescott and Bingham, rest in Fulton Street Cemetery. T.Z.R. James, at a good old age, after a life of usefulness, died in 1876, at or near Kalamazoo. The original members of the church are all also dead.


This was one of the pioneer churches, started under the auspices of the Ohio Conference. By that conference, in August, 1835, a mission was formed, called the "Grand River Mission," extending all along the Grand River; to which Osband Monette was appointed; and the district was called "Ann Arbor." Henry Coldazer was Presiding Elder. Preaching was had in private houses at Grand Rapids, once in four weeks.

In May, 1836, the Michigan Conference was created. At its first session, held in September, Frederick A. Seaburn was appointed to the Grand River Mission. Seaburnís mission was less than a year; he being, by an indignant populace, rode out of town for lewd conduct, and expelled from the Conference. It is to be hoped that in after years, he brought forth fruits meet for repentance. But after his inglorious expulsion from Grand Rapids and the Conference,. He disappeared from the Methodist horizon.

In 1837, one Mitchell, was appointed to the Grand River Mission. The district was called "Flint River." Samuel P. Shaw presiding.

The original class was started in 1835, consisting (as the record is lost, individual memory is relied upon) of Knowlton P. Pettibone and wife, Mehitabel Stone, Mrs. Chilson, Mrs. Van Amburg,, Mrs. Sliter, Cornelia Hopkins and Mary E. Norton. There soon joined it: Mrs. J. Turner, Mrs. E. Turner, Wm. Anderson and wife , and James Ewing and wife.

From this small beginning its growth has been steady, not paroxysmal. It has always been a live body.

From the earliest times it had to complete with Catholic, Reformed, Congregational, Baptist and Episcopal churches, all organized at about the same time, and in a sparse population. Of course, all must be feeble, but none of the feeble ones died. With its intense inherent vitality, a Methodist society never dies.

Until 1842, its preaching was by those who rode (or walked) the circuit.

The first church (now used as part of a livery stable) was erected in 1848; was enlarged in 1851. It was originally about 30 by 40 feet; a very simple concern, built not for display, but for purposes of worship. The present edifice was dedicated in 1870; was erected at an expense of $50,000.

The church has twice swarmed, giving rise to the West Side and East Street churches.

The circuit or stationed preachers have been:

Circuit--Monette, Seaburn, Mitchell and Frieze, aforementioned; 1837, R.R. Richards and A. Staples; 1849, E. Crippin and Daniel Bush; 1841, Cook and Stanley.


1842, Franklin Gage 1844, A.M. Fitch 1846, J.E. Parker 1847, M.B. Camburn
1848, R. Reynolds 1849, J. Summerville 1850, F.A. Blades 1852, A.J. Eldred
1854, R. Sapp 1856, J. Boynton 1857,H.Morgan 1859, M. A. Daugherty
1861, D. R. Latham 1862, Wm. Rork 1863, J.W. Robinson 1856, J. Jennings
1866, A.J. Eldred 1869, Geo. W. Joslyn 1871, Henry Spencer 1874, T.F. Hildreth

The present membership is about 450. The location of the church has been unchanged--the old edifice giving place to the new.

Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 2 June 2010