This church was formed November 15, 1839. By appointment of Presbytery, Rev. Peter H. Golliday and Rev. Edgar Hughes were present for the purpose of examining members. The persons composing the church at the time of its organization were: John Dougan, John B. Taylor, Thomas Young, Matthew B. Cochran, Ellis G. Young, Ebenezer Bishop, and Larkin Gordon, with their wives, Margaret Fryar, Mary Fryar, Cynthia Fryar, Fielding Young, Margaret E. Young, Wm. Clenedist, Jane Williams, Ann Sayre, Eliza Hamilton, Nancy Park, Parmelia Maxwell, Wm. McGookin, Sarah Sturdevant, (???) Watson, Sarah Jeffries, Wm. McGlathery, Lavina Fryar, Sarah Thompson.
The first elders chosen were: John Dougan, Wm. McGlathery, and John B. Taylor. The names of those who have since been elected to this office are: Moses C. Browning, Wm. L. Fryar, Thomas Hannah, Wm. Blanchard, Robert Fox, Almond Samson, Wm. C. Scott, John Cheney, Daniel K. Zeller.
The first minister was Charles Sturdevant, whose pastorate continued about four years. Those who have since served the church as preachers are: Thomas Whallon; A. R. Naylor; F. P. Monfort, about five years; Rev. McGuire, who, after about a year and a half, died; John F. Smith, three or four years; W. H. Van Doren, three or four years. In July, 1864, L. W. Chapman became minister of the church, and continued until May, 1870. In July following, J. M. Hughes commenced his labors, and was installed as pastor a few months afterward.
For a short time after the organization of the church, their meetings were held in the house of the United Presbyterians. The next year they built a frame meeting-house on Front street, between Walnut and Market streets. Their present brick church edifice on South Fifth street was commenced in July, 1852, and dedicated in January or February, 1854.
Source: "History Of Wayne County", Andrew W. Young, pg. 401, Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1872.
Richmond Palladium, December 7, 1869; Page 3, Col. 4
Among the many who were attracted to our young city in the days of its infancy, were certain staunch Puritans of the Presbyterian persuasion. Their number was however too small to admit of a church organization, and they were content to hold meetings in private dwellings, until the fall of 1837, when, on the 15th of November, the First Presbyterian Church of Richmond was organized, by Rev. Peter H. Golliday and Rev. Edgar Hughes, with thirty-two members, of whom only four or five yet survive.
The first meetings for worship were held in a double brick house on the north side of Main, between Pearl and Front streets; but after the organization they were held every other Sabbath in the Associate Reform Church on South Pearl street. The society continued to worship here until there own church was completed, early in the spring of 1839. This building, located on the east side of Front street, a few doors south of Walnut, was a plain wooden structure, twenty-four feet wide, by thirty-six deep. It contained but a single room, which was finished with a small pulpit, and some fifteen or twenty wooden benches, yet it was all the society desired, - a place where they might worship God after the manner of Calvin and Knox. Here they continued to meet for more than sixteen years.
Rev. Charles Sturdevant was at first the Stated Supply; but in September 1841, Rev. Thomas Whallon was installed as the first regular pastor, which place he filled until his death in 1845; Mr. Whallon was beloved by his whole congregation, and his death cast a gloom over the church which was not soon dissipated.
For the next year there was no resident pastor, the pulpit being occasionally filled by Rev. A. R. Naylor, until the spring of 1846, when Francis P. Monfort, a licentiate at the time, was appointed to the charge, and during the same year he was ordained and installed as regular pastor. In 1851 the pulpit was again vacant, and during the following winter, subscriptions were started for the purpose of erecting a new church building. Mr. Thomas Hanna donated a house and lot valued at $1200.00; providing the church should be built within three years; and Chas. W. Starr, who yet lives in the memory of many of our readers, gave a vacant lot on south Fifth street, only stipulating that a place should be constructed for a clock, at least sixty feet from the ground. The church was completed within three years, and a place left in the spire for a clock; but alas! it remains to this day vacant, the clock is wanting.
In 1854 the new church was formally opened by Rev. C. Leavenworth. The number of communicants at this time was about eighty, new members were however received at almost every meeting of the session, and on Dec. 27th, 1857, Rev. J. F. Smith being at this time pastor, thirty-four persons were admitted one meeting.
In the fall of 1860 Mr. Smith was succeeded by Rev. W. H. Van Doran, one of the most able preachers ever stationed in our city, who continued until the winter of 1863, when he resigned his position and has since been engaged in preparing a commentary on the Bible. The pulpit being now again vacant, several candidates appeared, the most prominent of whom were Rev. J. R. Geyer, and Rev. L. W. Chapman. The choice fell upon the latter gentleman, who has continued to faithfully perform all the duties of pastor since that time. Such is a brief outline of the history of this church, commencing with a membership of thirty two, it now has upon its rolls the names of two hundred and thirty-seven active members, of whom sixty-three have been added during the present year.
The great schism which divided the church in 1837, had no effect upon the little band. There were no new schoolmen among them, and they all clung, and have ever continued to cling to the old school branch. Hence during the late reunion of the branches, there have been no old differences to adjust, no old wounds to heal, and no lacerated parts to bind together. The organization has remained alike unchanged by the separation and reunion.
The building in which the society has at various time worshipped have undergone many vicissitudes. The dwelling on Main street has given place to a business house, at present occupied as a butcher shop. The old Associate Reform Church has been moved on to the Public Square, and the pedagogue now occupies the place once filled by the preacher: while the frame church on Front street was first transformed into a carpenter shop and then into a modern dwelling house. The Fifth street church is still occupied by the society, and late improvements have rendered it one of the most commodious and comfortable in the city. The exterior however bears evidence of neglect which a coat of paint would tend much to remove.