GC church celebrates 150 years

Volunteers construct the current First Presbyterian Church of Grove City building around 1950. Here (left to right) Maggie Baumgartner, Minnie White, Wayne McGinnis, Vera Ridderbusch, C.J. Baumgartner, Reverend Herrick Todd and Bob Cryer work on the church that is now located at 4227 Broadway.

On Nov. 9, the First Presbyterian Church of Grove City, located at 4227 Broadway, will celebrate 150 years of ministry in the community – and beyond. 

Current membership swells under the recent leadership of pastors like Reverend James Moran and Reverend Timothy Jones, yet the church evolved from humble origins – built with a great, abiding faith in a love that surpasses all understanding.

The year was 1856 when a small group of members from the German Reformed Church, now known as St. John’s Evangelical Church, petitioned the Presbytery to organize a Presbyterian church in Grove City. Within two years, in November 1858, formal services were held – first in a log building and, later, on property at 4086 Broadway. Eventually, the little church held services at 3510 Park St.

Then, Grove City was little more than a farming community. The first baby born in the area drew breath in 1853 – just five years before the formal establishment of the Presbyterian church. The Civil War began and ended after the church opened its doors and President Lincoln fell to an assassin’s bullet long after the First Presbyterian Church of Grove City sang its first hymn. 

From the beginning, the First Presbyterian Church was about people, people who came from near and far to both celebrate God. Members like retired teacher Brenda Steinhoff, the fifth generation of her family to attend the church,  remembers.  

"My family are descendants of the Gantz family," explained Steinhoff. "They were here in the area by 1830. My grandfather, Reverend Herrick Todd, was the pastor here starting in 1938. The Galloway church and the Grove City church were mission churches with one pastor. My grandfather preached at one church on one Sunday and the other on the next one."

Steinhoff was quick to point out that Christian duty extended to other members of the family as well. 

"My grandmother, Alice Todd, was the traditional minister’s wife. They got two workers for the price of one. And my father also had the traditional expectations of a preacher’s kid. He was expected to be perfect."

During the Great Depression and in the post World War II years, there was a small, but determined core of families that kept the spirit of God alive – despite difficult times.

Steinhoff’s grandparents, Reverend Herrick, Alice Todd, Dr. A.B. and Minnie White, represented that dedicated group. 

"All four were very strong, faith-filled people who made personal sacrifices to keep the church going," Steinhoff said. "The leaders, everyone in this core group, inspired others to share their gifts."

Several factors ultimately led the First Presbyterian Church to move to its present location on Broadway. In 1884, the church had opted to move to a one room, brick building at the corner of Broadway and Kingston. Children, like Mayor Ike Stage,  recall playing in the lot directly behind the church at that site. The building had no bathroom facilities, though the congregation was rapidly outgrowing its sanctuary and encountering the challenges that come with an older building. 

The present church stands on land with ties to several church members. Dick Davis was born on the land which was ultimately purchased by Dr. and Mrs. White. The Whites subsequently donated the land to the church. The late Ed and Martha Montoney also donated a brick home that they owned on the property. 

Today, the First Presbyterian Church of Grove City celebrates its past and honors the sacrifices of those who have come before. This ministry now offers family-based programs designed to help individuals learn and grow at every stage of their lives.

Programs at the church include adult and children’s Sunday school programs, Presbyterian women, fellowship groups for every age, Bible studies, and an Alpha program for those seeking life’s truths. The church, which counts numerous Eagle Scouts among its members, also hosts Boy Scout Troop 136. 

The First Presbyterian Church of Grove City plans a variety of events on Nov. 9 to mark its 150th anniversary – including an ox roast and a proclamation by Stage. 

For more information, contact the church at 875-4322.

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