First Christian Church Had Beginning Six Years
After Founding of Niles
James Heaton Donated Lot for Church In 1843. Article
from Niles Daily Time Special Centennial Edition, September 1934.
It was about six years after Niles was founded that the First
Christian Church of Niles had its beginning.
Sometime in the year 1837 Rev. Harvey Brockett did some
preaching here in the interest of the Disciple Brotherhood. There
is no record of what he accomplished but it can be assumed that
he laid the foundation for Rev. John Henry, who came
a couple of years later. Rev. Henry was then 43 years old - just
in his prime, and a much-gifted man.
He preached in a little brick school house on
Leslie Avenue, and there organized the Disciple Church of Niles
in 1840. This church was a part of the religious body known as
the Disciples of Christ, which came into being following the work
of Alexander and Thomas Campbell in western
Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and bordering states,
about 130 years ago.
Third Church Here
At the time this church was organized there were two other churches
in Niles, the First Methodist Episcopal and the First Presbyterian,
both of which had been established some years earlier. It is likely
that there are not more than 200 churches of the Disciple of Brotherhood
older than the Niles church, which is now 94 years old. During
the first two years of the local church, its membership grew from
fewer than 50 to 91.
Heaton Donates Lot
The first four years all meetings were held in the small Leslie
Avenue school house. In 1843 the lot on which the present church
and parsonage now stand was given to the church by James Warren
Heaton. The deed to this lot was given May 4, 1858 by the executors
of the Heaton will to Henry Baldwin and J. R. Noble
who are designated in the deed as “trustees of the Disciple
Church of Niles, Ohio.”
In 1844, one year after the donation of the lot,
there had been erected a frame building in the style of architecture
of the day. The pulpit was at the south end with an entrance door
on each side – one for men, one for women. The building
was heated by stoves, and in the early days was lighted by candles;
some years later oil lamps were used. In 1876 the two south doors
were closed and an entrance was made in the north end from Church
Sreet. In 1882 a belfry was added, the same bell which is used
today was then installed. The late J. G. Butler, Jr.,
said that he heard James A. Garfield preach a sermon from the
pulpit in this old white church as it was then called.
For many years after the church was organized
there was no located paid pastor. Whenever there was no preacher
present, the Elders conducted the Lord’s supper, and read
and explained scriptures. Some of the leaders of the church in
those days were opposed to the plan of having preachers who gave
full time and received pay for doing so. Therefore, many of those
early preachers engaged in farming, teaching, or business for
a livelihood, and for the love of the cause gave their spare time
to these newly established churches upon the western reserve.
New Church in 1890s.
The cornerstone of the present brick structure
was laid June 2, 1894, with an address by Rev. J. M. Van Horn
and was dedicated by President E. V. Zollars of Hiram
College on November 25, 1894.
With the building of the McKinley Memorial it
seemed that the association would want the land occupied by the
First Christian Church and parsonage. In order to have a suitable
site in case this should occur, the church, in the fall of 1919
bought a tract of land on the north side of Church Street. facing
the Memorial. The two buildings on this property have been converted
into what is now known as the parish house, and it is used as
the meeting place for the intermediate and junior departments
of the Sunday School.
Summer Bible School.
Since 1924 a daily vacation Bible school, lasting
for two weeks, has been conducted by the church. It consists of
three departments of excellent teachers. Children from all churches,
both Catholic and protestant, have attended.
One of the latest developments in the local church
has been the plan of the unified service, a program which combines
in one continuous service the best essential elements of church
and Sunday School. This new plan was adopted on Sunday, April
22, 1934 as the regular program, after a trial period on 10 Sundays
which began in February.
List of Ministers
Ministers who have served the church from the time of its organization
follow: Harvey Brockett, John Henry, John Applegate, J. T.
Smith, James Farrout, William Winfield, E. W. Wakefield, Oran
Gates, Theobald Miller, Thomas Hillick, Walter Hayden, Gideon
Applegate, F. S. Whitzler, Mathias Christy, J. M. Monroe, O. C.
Smith W. H. Rogers, S. B. Teagarden, N. N. Bartlett, J. M. Van
Horn, S. F. Heinselman, T. W. Shepard, C. R. Morrison, E. L. Candee,
W. L. Bowell, C. M. Oliphant, Veoter Wilson, E. E. Curry, L. W.
Lowe, C. M. Oliphant, D. R. Moss, D. D. Burt, J. F. Mahoney, Prof.
E. B. Wakefield, Prof. E. E. Snoddy, Allan T. Gordon, Wilford
H. McLain, Elmo B. Higham, W. Stanley Collins.