First Congregational Church
by Marvin Kusmierz (2003)
Established in 1875- 900 Sixth (corner of VanBuren) Street - Bay City, MI
In 1875, the population of Bay City was about 16,000 with many new families continuing to move here. Lumber and salt manufacturing were the principle industries fueling the city's growth at that time when the "Congregationalists" began their efforts to organize a church of their own.
Several meetings were held that year to determine whether or not their was sufficient support, and on June 13, 1875, the first Congregationalist service was held at the Good Templars Hall at 308 Center Avenue. The service was lead Rev. J.B. Dawson of Ovid, Michigan.
On June 29, 1875, a meeting held at the home of Mr. F.H. Blackman and a committee was formed that began the initial process of inquiry among the Congregationalist. Following this meeting, another was one was held on July 25, at the County Court building among those interested who voted in favor a organization. There were twenty-five founding members:
Nineteen by letter -
George F. and Mrs. Mary J. Hood, Thomas J. and Mrs. Martha J. Cooper, Martin M. and Mrs. Mary E. Andrews, Dr. and Mrs. Elizabeth Morehouse, Mrs. Melissa Townsend, Mrs. Hattie Douglas, Mrs. B.A. Tyler, Mrs. J.M. Hoyt, Mrs. Ida Blackman, Mrs. Z.B. Graham, and Mr. Frank Murray,
and six by profession of faith -
Ralph and Mrs. Margaret Crable, Taylor F. and Mrs. Mary A. Langstaff, Mrs. Effie Earl, and Mr. R.E. Brewster.
On July 27, the first church officers were elected. Board of Deacons members were:
Dr. Joseph Hooper, Mr. T.F. Langstaff, and Ralph Crable.
Subsequently, the following Deaconess were elected to the board:
Mrs. Mary Hood and Mrs. Z.B. Graham.
Church services continued at the County Court room with Rev. S.P. Barker, of Ionia, Michigan providing temporary pulpit duties beginning in August 1875, but his service lasted only three months, and the services returned to being led by guest ministers or lay people. In October 1875, the County Court room was no longer available for church services, and they had to be moved to the auditorium of the German Lutheran Church on the corner of Madison and McKinley avenues. Services at this location only last several weeks before before returning to the Good Templars Hall again. During this period the Church continued work aimed at a permanent place of worship.
1902: Sunday School Class of
Mrs. Powers (Miss Margaret Smith)
1920s: Original Church Building
Van Buren Street entrance (new addition to right)
1950: Original Church Building
with new entrance/bell tower on Sixth St.
On December 1, 1875, a ground breaking ceremony was held on the southeast corner of Sixth and Van Buren streets for a permanent structure. The building committee was composed of E.Y. Williams, Ralph Crable and F.H. Blackman.
On April 20, 1876, the new building at a cost of $3,433.43 was dedicated. The Rev. Zacariah Eddy, D.D. of Detroit provided the first sermon, with the help of of Rev. W.D. Love, D.D. of Saginaw, and Rev. Richard Cordley, D.D. of Flint participating in the service.
Pastors from 1875 to 1950:
Rev. J.B. Dawson,
Ovid, Michigan, on June 13, 1875.
Rev. J. Homer Parker,
Pontiac, Michigan, first full-time pastor new building, on March 12, 1876
Rev. S.P. Barker,
Ionia, Michigan, on October 12, 1878
Rev. J.G. Leavett
of New Glocester, Massachusetts on October 7, 1879.
Rev. W.W. Lyle,
a bachelor, on January 2, 1881. He was chaplain for the 11th regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War and wrote the book, "Lights and Shadows of Army Life", based on his personal war-time experiences on battlefields and in hospitals.
Rev. Charles T. Patchell,
of Woodville, New York, on November 22, 1892.
Rev. Victor Brown
of Longmount, Colorado, on July 11, 1910.
Rev. William Walker,
Beloit, Wisconsin, on November 27, 1916.
Rev. A.J. MacKenzie,
Winnepeg, Canada, on February 1, 1919.
Rev. Henry J. Simpson,
Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 1, 1992.
Rev. Edwyn Evans,
Calumet, Michigan, on December 1, 1929.
Rev. Rudolph Roth,
Charlotte, Michigan, in April 1935.
Rev. Robert Barksdale,
Lowell, Michigan, on June 15, 1941.
Rev. Thomas S. Vernon,
Armando & Memphis, Michigan, on March 16, 1947.
In the 1920s the Essexville Congregational Church located at Langstaff and Essex streets in Essexville disbanded, and many of it's members transferred to the First Congregational church.
The membership of the First Congregational Church is not large, but its has remained relatively stable since it's existence. As the morals of society has gone went through dramatic changes beginning with the 1970s, a period young adults focused on individual needs. The number of mother's joining the work force increased substantially, and divorce became an acceptable solution to marital problems. Church attendance was declining as individuals and families denied themselves the support of a religious fellowship. The First Congregational church weathered this period well mainly because of it's large established base of elder members.
One hundred and twenty seven years later, the original church building continues to serve members of the church well. The building has seen several up dates during this time. The original entrance on VanBuren street was closed in favor of one on the Sixth street side of the building, and in the 1920s a large addition added.
The church building features a sanctuary with a balcony. A full kitchen and large dining facilities in the basement that includes a curtained and elevated stage on the west wall. The upper level of the east side of the building has several Sunday school rooms for different age groups. On the main level below the Sunday school section is a large furnished room by the deacons and trustees for meetings, and as a gathering place for small social activities. Administration offices are also on the main level. For the church's Centennial Celebration, the sanctuary was restored. The elaborate and beautiful woodwork as refinished, stain windows repaired, and walls patched then finished with a fresh coat of paint. During recent times an elevator was added to provide handicap access to the building.
If you live near the church or should be driving by it at the time of a Sunday service, you'll hear the inviting melodious sounds of the church's majestic pipe organ, as if it was calling for you to pause a moment to nourish your soul.
Related Notes & Pages
2003 view of the church building looking south east. Hidden is an extension on the south east section of where offices for the minister and secretary are located. The upper level has rooms used primarily for Sunday School classes. The basement includes kitchen facilities and large hall with a stage.
Andrews, Martin M.
Cliff, Wm. O..
Cooke, Geo. & Frances
Cuthbert, Charles C.
Fisher, Charles D. Mrs.
Foss, Edgar B.
Frantz, Charles H.
Gansser, Augustus H.
Lyle, William. W. Rev.
Munger, Averton E.
Perry, Harold H.
Tennant, James H.
Andrews, Martin M.
Andrews, Mary E. (Mrs.)
Barker, S.P. (Rev.)
Barksdale, Robert (Rev.)
Blackman, Ida (Mrs.)
Brown, Victor (Rev.)
Cooper, Elizabeth Morehouse (Mrs.)
Cooper, Thomas J.
Cordley, Richard (Rev.)
Crable, Margaret (Mrs.)
Dawson, J.B. (Rev.)
Douglas, Hattie (Mrs.)
Eart, Effie (Mrs.)
Eddy, Zacariah (Rev.)
Evans, Edwyn (Rev.)
Graham, Z.B. (Mrs.)
Hood, George F.
Hood, Mary J. (Mrs.)
Hooper, Joseph (Dr.)
Hoyt, J.M. (Mrs.)
Langstaff, Mary A. (Mrs.)
Langstaff, Taylor F.
Leavett, J.G. (Rev.)
Love, W.D. (Rev.)
Lyle, W.W. (Rev.)
MacKenszie, A.J. (Rev.)
Moorehouse, Elizabeth (Mrs.)
Patchell, Charles T. (Rev.)
Parker, J. Homer (Rev.)
Roth, Rudolph (Rev.)
Simpson, Henry J. (Rev.)
Townsend, Melissa (Mrs.)
Tyler, B.A. (Mrs.)
Vernon, Thomas S. (Rev.)
Walker, William (Rev.)
11th Reg., Ohio Vol. Inf.
County Court room
Essexville Congregational church
German Lutheran church
Good Templars Hall
Lumber & salt mfg.
New Glocester, MA
Congregational Home Mission Society, June 7, 1900, Page 80|
-----Five Poles now belong to the Bay City Congregational Church. This much cause for rejoicing over the steady spiritual growth of the converts.
Chautauqua Monthly Magazine, Oct., 1898 - Mar. 1898, Page 341.
-----Michigan: The Chautauqua Vesper Service held in the Congregational Church, Bay City, was the direct means of adding three new names to the twelve already pledged to the work.
Michigan Architect & Engineer - April, 1919:
A.E. MUNGER, Archt., Bay City. Prep plans for add ^ alt. to 1 story & basement church, Bay City, 40 x 85. Brick stucco, maple floors, stain glass, pews. Owner, First Cong'l Church, Bay City. Bids close Sept. 10.
Pamplet: "First Congregational Church - 75th Anniversary 1875-1950, compiled by M.M. Andrews (1924) and Alta M. Porter (1950).
Pamphlet 1875-1975, First Congregational Church - 100th Anniversary, 1875-1975