Church & Cemetery History of Chillicothe, OH

From: The County of Ross
Henry Holcomb Bennett, Editor
Published by Selvyn A. Brant
Madison, Wis. 1902


Continued from the History of Chillicothe, Ohio.

Nothing like an extended notice of the various religious organizations which have existed in the city of Chillicothe can be attempted in this volume. The little leaven planted in the wilderness so many years ago has grown to mammoth proportions, and no city of like size in the State of Ohiopossesses greater evidence of spiritual growth, or more devout and conscientious leaders in the great cause of christian life. Several churches have been organized, from time to time, in which the zeal of their promoters exceeded the demand for their services, hence they had but an ephemeral existence. But of the persisting organizations which have grown to prominence and influence, there are many, and their present day status is the best evidence of their high standing and liberal support.

The first church of the Presbyterian faith was organized by the early pioneers, and services were conducted in the cabins, or at any accessible point, until a. church building was erected. The old First church was attended by the worshiping pioneers, regardless of their individual preferences as to creed; and it was not until 1797 that the Presbyterian church came to be recognized as such, and to maintain a separate organization. The first minister, and organizing pastor, was Rev. William Speer, a young man who left his home in Chambersburg, Pa., and crossed the mountains on horseback, to enter upon a career of usefulness in the unbroken wilderness of the Northwest Territory. The organization was effected in compliance with the wishes of a few devoted settlers of the early dav, and on the 3d of October, 1797, the church was received into the presbytery of Transylvania as "New Hope Church," a designation which it retained until 1811, Chen it became the First Presbyterian church of Chillicothe. Services were at first held in an unfinished log cabin, with no floor laid except the sleepers, and no means possessed by the worshiper to purchase the lumber necessary to finish the building. The sleepers were utilized for seats, a most appropriate use for church sleepers, even in modern times. As the congregation grew in numbers and interest, meetings were held in the old State house, and so continued until about 1811, when the first church building was completed on Second street, east of the present canal. A number of eloquent and zealous pastors occupied the pulpit of this church during its early years after the expiration of Mr. Speer's four years' pastorate. In 1844 "The Old Rock" on West Main street was built, dedicated May 31, 1846, and served until 1893, when the building of the present handsome church was begun. Rev. J. L. Roemer is the present pastor. The Third Presbyterian church was organized as the "Associate Reformed church" in 1806. It was afterward known as the United Presbyterian, under the care of the Kentucky presbytery, subordinate to the general synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian church. Some changes were subsequently made, which were due to the divided sentiments of church members, north and south, on the slavery question; but the final result was a transfer of relations to the presbytery of Chillicothe, old school, and the continuance, growth and prosperity of the organization, as the Third Presbyterian church. The present pastor is Rev. Chauncey L. Hamlin.

The Second Presbyterian church came into existence about 1837, as a necessity due to the growth and prosperity of the First church, and as a subdivision of that body. Rev. George Beecher, a brother of Henry Ward Beecher, of national renown, was called to the pastorate during the first year after the organization. Mr. Beecher was a man of rare ability, and gave promise of a successful career, which was terminated in a tragedy which cost him his life. While protecting some choice fruit from the incursions of birds, he accidentally shot himself in his own garden. With the harmonizing of differences in creed between the First and Third Presbyterian churches, and the phenomenal growth of prosperity of both, there seemed to be no further need for the existence of the Second church; and, that body having become involved in debt, its property was sold to the old First church, and the congregation redistributed among the other churches.

The history of early Methodism in Chillicothe dates from the first years of the city's existence, and is centered around Walnut Street and Trinity Methodist Episcopal churches. In 1796-7, meetings of this sect were held among the settlers, in their private residences, or elsewhere, as circumstances permitted. The first public meeting place was in a log house on East Water street. In 1803-4 they were holding meetings in a log house at the northwest corner of Second and Walnut, or occupying the State house, jointly, with other congregatetions. Among the first supporters of this church were Dr. Edward Tiffin, Judge Thomas Scott, Dr. McAdow, Hector Sanford, Dr. William McDowell, and Daniel Madeira. In the diary of Francis Asbury is found the following entry: "Sept. 24, 1803, at Chillicothe. Preached in the State House to about five hundred hearers; again in 1805 preached at Chillicothe; entertained again by Governor Tiffin. Friday, September 4, 1807, came to Chillicothe and preached in our neat new house to a large congregation. On Monday we opened conference, sitting till Friday noon. In 1808 I was invited to spend the night under the hospitable roof of Gen. Thomas Worthington, within sight of which lies the precious dust of Mary Tiffin " Other episcopal visits are noted in 1809 and 1814. The new church referred to by Bishop Asbury was built in 1807 on Second street, east of the alley between Walnut and Paint, north side, though not completed until 1810, during which three years the congregation occupied it. This building was bunted in 1820, and another erected on the same site. The present church on Walnut street was erected in 1850, and was an imposing structure, for its time. Many historic names have been associated with this congregation, and many distinguished divines have been connected with the organization. Rev. Austin M. Courtenay, D. a, is the present pastor. As an outgrowth of the zeal and popularity of Walnut Street church, three other organizations of similar faith are now in existence in the city, viz.: African Methodist Episcopal, with Rev. J. P. Maxwell, as pastor; German Methodist church, Rev. William Andre, pastor, and Trinity Methodist Episcopal church, under the pastorate of Rev. Albert H. Lathrop. This church has existed since the fall of 1843. The first pastor was Rev. John Bartow. Trinity is one of the most popular and useful religious organizations of the city, and has counted among its pastors a number of the most intellectual men in the conference.

St. Paul's Episcopal church was organized in 1817, Rev. Roger Searle being the first rector. The first meetings were held at the court house. Rev. Mr. Searle had pastoral charge of several other congregations at this time, among which was the church at Portsmouth. The organization was effected at the house of Richard Douglas, at which meeting Levin Belt and Thomas James were made wardens: Richard Douglas, James Barnes and Edward King, vestrymen, and Henry Brush, William K. Bond, Edward King and R. Douglas, reading clerks. Mr. Bond was also the first secretary of the vestry. A church was erected in 1821, on the south side of Walnut, between Main and Fourth streets. and dedicated on the 12th of September of that year, by Bishop Philander Chase. This was the first Episcopal church dedicated west of the Allegheny mountains. Rev. Ezra B. Kellogg was installed as the first pastor, and entered upon his duties February 17, 1822. The church was incorporated February 3, 1831, about which time a new house of worship was rendered necessary by the growth and prosperity of the organization. The church on East Main street was erected in 1833-4, and consecrated on the 5th of September, as St. Paul's, thus retaining the old name. The old church building on Walnut street was sold to Bishop Purcell, and became the property of St. Mary's Roman Catholic church. Under the auspices of St. Paul's and by Rev. Edgar G. Murphy, St. Andrew's chapel was founded in 1894, this then being the first church in the city east of the canal. In 1897 the colored citizens founded St. Mark's mission of the Episcopal faith, selecting a room in the Clinton House on West Water street. The present rector of St. Paul's is Rev. S. N. Watson, D. D., assisted by Rev. S. R. Duval who has special charge of St. Andrew's and St. Mark's missions. In the prosecution of the parish work, Miss Sarah Cook Broadwell is designated as the parish visitor or deaconess, whose mission it is to seek out and relieve the deserving poor, and render aid in sickness and distress. To the furtherance of this noble and self sacrificing work, she is specially adapted, and willingly and gladly secludes herself from the world for the good of humanity.

St. Mary's Catholic church is the outgrowth of the missionary labors of pious and zealous priests, who entered the wilderness in the early days, ministering to the wants of the scattered flocks at remote points, and establishing missions even among the hostile Indians. No nobler record of self sacrifice, devotion to principle, and zeal in the furtherance of a worthy cause can be found in the annals of history than the patient endurance, courage and fortitude of the noble fathers of New France, who traversed the country in advance of the white settlements. No doubt the Scioto valley received attention, probably about the time of the establishment of the first church in the West, on the banks of the Wabash. The early history of Catholicism in Chillicothe is somewhat obscure, at least as a matter of public record. But no doubt the Catholics were equally as aggressive as their Protestant brethren in the dissemination of the doctrines of the mother church. In fact tradition places Chillicothe among the early missions of the church where missionary fathers met the people at their homes several times each year and ministered to their spiritual wants. In the early thirties, however, Mr. Martin Bowman, a devout adherent to the Catholic faith, fitted up a room in his tavern, and piously donated its use to the church. This was occupied until the purchase of the old Episcopal church in 1837; and on the 7th of June of that year Rev. Henry D. Juneker came as the first regular pastor.

The old church was remodeled, and dedicated as St. Mary's church, and here was the nucleus of Catholicism in the city. With a rapidly growing membership the small church soon became insufficient for the accommodating of the people, and St. Peter's church was commenced in 1843, and completed and dedicated three years later. Rev. Otto H. Borgess was installed as the regular pastor. Many of the communicants being of the German nationality, their native language was installed as the prevailing tongue in religious worship. This continued until in recent years, for the accommodation of the younger members, the principal services are held in both English and German. The congregations of St. Mary's church attended both meeting places, the congregations speaking members attending the old church on Walnut street and the Germans going to the new church at the corner of Water and Church streets. This is a very prosperous congregation, now in pastoral charge of Rev. F. H. Bene. St. Mary's church continued prosperous under the watchful care of Rev. Carroll, S. J., and by 1849 it had again outgrown its quarters. In that year the trustees of the Methodist. Episcopal church were authorized to sell the old building on Second street, and this became a temporary, home for St. Mary's congregation. This edifice escaped, as by a miracle, the destructive fire of 1852, when buildings on both sides of it went up it ashes. It served as a religious home for the parishoners of St. Mary's until the erection of their present edifice on South Paint street in 1867-8. The corner stone was laid on April 7, 1867, by Bishop J. B. Purcell, and this was an event in the history of the city which will long be remembered. Thousands of people of every religious creed were in attendance. Father J. B. Murray, a man universally esteemed as a worthy citizen and devout christian gentleman, was pastor of St. Mary's from 1869 to 1883. His kindly disposition, broad charity, social temperament and disposition to mix with the people, rendered him a universal favorite. Since 1889, Rev. Alfred D. Dexter has been pastor in charge of St. Mary's. In connection with this church the Sisters of Charity, under the supervision of the pastor, conduct a parochial school for the religious and general training of the parish children. The Sisters of Notre Dame conduct a similar school at St. Peter's.

Quinn Chapel is the oldest African American church in the city. It was organized May 30, 1821, and has passed through the varied experiences of the pioneer churches, and is today a monument to the memory of its early founders. They have a neat church edifice on the north side of Main street where they have met for worship since 1858. The present pastor is Rev. J. F. Maxwell. The First Baptist church is another evidence of the early piety and religious zeal of the African population. This church bears the distinction of being the first. Baptist church organized by colored people, west of the Allegheny mountains. It was organized on the 13th of July, 1824, and has maintained a healthy existence since. The society has a neat and commodious church, erected in 1870, and since beautifled and improved, located on the north side of Fourth street. Rev. J. F. Walker is the present pastor.

Tabernacle Baptist church was organized March 23, 1890. The first regular pastor was Rev. A. Bartley. The congregation has a neat church building on the northeast corner of Hickory and Main streets. Rev. W. S. Baynes has been pastor in charge for several years, and the success of the organization is largely due to his untiring efforts.

The Christian Union church was organized in June, 1894, under the labors of Rev. J. W. Zachary, of Lexington, Ky. Rev. James Johnson was the first pastor, succeeded by Rev. Allen Wilson, and he, in turn, by Rev. C. M. Keene. Rev. R. J. Flora, the present pastor, conducts services each alternate Sabbath, at their church at the northeast corner of Arch and Park streets.

The Church of Christ, in charge of Rev. Randolph Cook, is located on Bridge street, near Water, where regular services are conducted.

Plymouth Congregational church was organized July 5, 1892, and succeeded to the control of the "Biggs Mission," which was established and conducted, for a time, under the ministrations of the First Presbyterian church. This organization erected a church on the north side of Water street, near Sugar, which they now occupy. Rev. C. Brooks Voorhees is the present pastor.

The First German Evangelical Protestant church was organized in 1836 by representatives of the faith from Germany and Bavaria. Rev. Dr. Rosenfieldt was the first pastor. The church was incorporated in 1846, and the same year began the erection of a new church building which they still occupy on the north side of Main street, near Walnut. Rev. J. A. Toensmeier, the pastor at present in charge, conducts services in the German language in the forenoon, and in English in the evening, of each Sabbath.

The German Evangelical Salem church was organized in this city, April 7, 1877. The first pastor was Rev. A. F. F. Kohler. In 1881 the society built a church at the corner of Fourth and Mulberry, where services are regularly held by the pastor, Rev. J. A. Reinicke.

Calvary Evangelical Lutheran church is the youngest of the religious organizations in the city, with the possible exception of a few missions, which are of a transitory nature. This church was organized November 1, 1899, through the board of home missions of the general church. It came into existence through a popular demand for English speaking, as expressed by some of the members of the Evangelical Lutheran church. Public services are held in the Foulke block, Rev. George H. Scianur being the missionary in charge.

The United Brethren in Christ have two church organizations in the city, the "First" church being located at the southwest corner of Second and Watt streets. Rev. D. E. Weaver is pastor in charge and conducts two services each Sunday. The German United Brethren church, under the pastorate of Rev. Paul A. Miller, has one service each Sunday. This, the younger of the two churches, is located at the corner of High street and Allen avenue.

There are five burial places within reach of the city, three of which are denominational or church grounds. These are St. Margaret's, on the north side of Allen avenue, just beyond the city limits; St Mary's cemetery and St. Peter's, practically the same, are located on the north side of Allen avenue, west of Vine street. These take the name of the churches, and are consecrated to the use of the institutions with which they are connected. All are carefully cared for by competent persons, and have been in existence since the organization of the churches whose dead they receive.

The public cemeteries of the city are Grand View and Green Lawn, the former located at the southeastern end of Walnut street, and, from its elevated position, commending the finest landscape view of the valleys of the Scioto and Paint creek, while the beautiful city of Chillicothe is spread out like a grand panorama to the northward.

Previous to the establishment of Grand View cemetery, about 1841, most of the churches had burial places connected with them, and there was once a public burying ground near the present site of the Baltimore & Ohio depot. But the development of the town in every direction deprived this place of the quiet and seclusion which one always associates with a burial place for the dead; hence the purchase of this site, which has been enlarged and beautified as the years passed, until it is now an ideal spot. It contains the mortal remains of several of Ohio's most distinguished citizens, whose final resting places are rendered conspicuous by the erection of worthy monuments. The private citizen and the soldier are equally honored by the reverence and sacrifice of surviving friends, to the end that this sacred spot is rendered beautiful, in keeping with the sadly reverential purpose which made its existence a necessity. The site of Grand View cemetery has been briefly described in another chapter, hence a repetition is unnecessary. A board of directors for the management of the business affairs of the cemetery is elected from the lot holders, and these select the general superintendent, sexton and his assistants.

Green Lawn cemetery is designated as the Scioto township burial ground, and is located southeast of Chillicothe, and in plain sight from Grand View. It is a well kept ground, under the management of a competent and efficient board of directors. This ground was laid out since the establishment of Grand View, though interments had been made on the site, as a private burial place, previous to its being thrown open to the public.


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