History Snipits


Here are some of the activities that happened the Week of May 30, 1909 – Sunday, Public Worship “True Greatness.”         Bible School  “Believing and Doing” James 2:14-26.         Meeting of the Y.P.S.C.E. “Heroes of Home Mission          Public Worship “The Conflict of life.”         Thursday Mid week Service  and Friday the Hays Bible Class will hold an all-day work meeting. This was written in the bulletin . Memorial Day, with its sad and sacred memories, has again come.  And as each new one makes its advent, we recall anew the great and tragic events that made the occasion for the day.  Time is its rapid flight has borne us on till we are forty-four years from the close of the great Civil War, in which thousands of lives were sacrificed and billions of treasure expended to save our county from dismemberment.  The asperities and alienations engendered by the great struggle between freedom and slavery have largely passed away; and those who participated as soldiers on both sides, who are still living, fraternize with each other as brothers and fellow-citizens of one common country.  Let the graves of the dead soldiers be decorated with flowers and wreaths of laurel, and the memory of their noble deeds revived anew in oratory and song. Clara Nicholes Historian


Early Groups of First Church

The Hays Class – 10 charter members which started ca 1906 in which this class helped the needy; there was no town relief agency at this time, only the township trustees furnishing coal to the needy and shoes to children of school age.

The B.E.S.T. Class (the Quilters) – This class was organized in 1921 with 10 Charter members and at the end of the first year, there were 22 members. B.E.S.T stand for “Be Ever Seeking Truth”, at which time the class began the study of the Old Testament, which was finished in 1927.

Beardslee Fellowship – was formed about 1922, as the reorganization of the Hays Class. The group was engaged in lawn fetes, bake sales, church suppers, and festivals.

Fidelitas Class – was formed in 1922. ” Fidelitas” meaning loyalty, faithfulness and devotion. Dues were set at 10 cents per month until 1973, when they were raised to $2.00 per year.

The Blenders – was organized for friendship, understanding, and Christian service by women of the Union Congregational Church and the First Church, Congregational in October, 1963. The Blenders have never had a President or a Treasurer. Dues were not required, but an occasional offering was collected for special causes.

Women’s Fellowship – Still in business. Things have changed with the times but still for the same reason.

Homemakers Class – Met in ‘37 and ‘38 every Sunday morning in the room now known as the

Griffiths room. They were a large group of young married couples who did not follow a lesson plan but had discussions on problems and topics of all kinds, plus current topics.

Men’s Forum – Formed in 1935 as a Men Club which met once a month in the fall and winter evenings for a social time. The church ladies served a dinner in the Social Room. With the exception of a time during WWII, this group was continued under the leadership of succeeding pastors.

Clara Nichols Church Historian


Some History of Women’s Fellowship

1918 – The first meeting after the “Influenza” ban was lifted was November 2nd.

1921 – Mrs. Warren discussed the investigation of the kitchen and other improvements.

1930 – It was voted to give the Salvation Army the use of the kitchen for canning, Mondays & Tuesday for three weeks.

1941 – On March 12th, Women’s Association purchased two portable sewing machines at $29.50 each.

1943 – A request was made for six inch knitted squares of 4-ply yarn. Sewing Committee reported 1,473 garments made during the year.

1953 – In March, motion made & seconded to purchase new cushions & covers for Sanctuary at a cost of $2,821.15.

1961 – The Association contributed 90 Health Kits and 36 baby layettes to the refugees in Europe and Middle East.

1962 – There were ten groups at this time.

1963 – Groups to be shuffled every three years & named for a college with Congregational background.

More information

Clara Nichols, Historian


Sanctuary Improvements

Over the years, the First Church Sanctuary has gone through frequent improvements, as well-articulated by former Historian Betty Talcott in “A Glimpse of History” which outlines all of the church’s physical changes from 1810 until 2002.

The sanctuary was built in 1862 and went through few changes after the choir loft and organ were installed in 1867-71. Memorial windows were added in 1903. In 1951, the Skinner Organ had been installed. And the Bosley Window was added in 1975.

Visually, for members seated in the pews, there have been few changes since the addition of the Memorial Windows 1903. However, in 1967, major changes took place. The original four aisles that had split the pews into three seating areas, were resituated to create a center aisle — more conducive to bridal entrances during weddings. A new altar and altar rails were added, and the chancel platform was lowered and redesigned, providing for a new pulpit, lectern and altar. And, then later in the mid-1980’s, new carpet was installed in the sanctuary.

Beyond those improvements 30 years ago, no major changes have occurred in the sanctuary.

Doug Smith, Historian



Those Bargain Pews

By 1867, First Church Congregational leadership opted to a add building for conference rooms, Sunday School rooms, a pastors study, a parlor and parsonage. That building remains – with updating and changes – as the today’s church offices, Warren Room and East Rooms. This was done for at a cost of $15,239.

The membership of First Church had doubled and grown to 450 members, including 246 active members. The church and its sanctuary were basically new, having been constructed only four years earlier, when membership was at 220.

Also at the time, there were enough seats in pews to hold all 450 members when they all attended church for special celebration services, such as Easter and Christmas. Routinely, throughout the year, families settled into certain numbered pews and referred to each pew as “our pew,” because, indeed, they were paying for the pews they sat in each week. Pews were leased for $20 to $30 per year, with the front row at $28 and back row at $20. There was no sound system in the 1860’s, making the front seats more valuable.

Interestingly, that tradition of “our pew” continued over the years but with less structure and no payments. People, in general, are most comfortable returning to their same seat each visit, whether in church, restaurants, theaters and even at home. And today’s First Church members tend to fall into one of two “seating categories” – always the same pew or never the same pew. Some members prefer the comfort of one place. Others like to have a different vantage point each week.

Both are perfectly reasonable options, today, especially true when there isn’t a per pew $20 to $30 fee involved.

Doug Smith, Historian

With assistance from church histories prepared by Alma Poole and Viola Stevenson McAuley



The Evils of Dancing

With our Christmas celebrations upon us and so many opportunities to joyously interact with fellow members, friends and family, we should pause to notice that the passage of time has resulted in changes to social and religious practices, rules, acceptance and exceptions. This hand-written report from our First Church files is “attested” (witnessed and signed) by N.P. Bailey just before Christmas ..

“For Dec. 23, 1850:

“Whereas the practice of promiscuous dancing prevails to an alarming extent – a practice which has been condemned by grave bodies of men as inconsistent with a profession of godliness, and a flagrant transgression of the injunction of the Apostles, ‘be not conformed to this world;’ therefore, Resolved:

“That we wholly disapprove of the practice and regard it as the duty of the members of the church to discountenance it in all cases where their influence may extend.”

The Pastor was requested to read the above resolution at least once from the pulpit to a full audience. Hopefully, our Pastor will offer a more joyous type of Christmas wish.

Doug Smith, Historian



“Should We Build a New Church?”

Because of a recent inquiry about First Church’s architect, there was occasion to dig around in old documents, maintained at the church, in particular into the church histories prepared by Alma Poole and Viola Stevenson McAuley. With our current repairs underway, this is noteworthy:

In 1861, Uri Seeley, a key person in the congregation, made an appeal to members to build a new church because the existing church was crumbling around them. “Plaster is falling from our ceiling, and the horses are ashamed to be in their sheds, they were so bad.” After his appeal and a decision was made, the congregation bought the corner lot, contracts were arranged — with S.C. Porter, Architect, and Henry Blair, Contractor — arranged by church leaders C.A. Avery, L.A. Porter and E.S. Pike. On Monday, June 30th, 1862, men began to dig trenches for the walls of the new church.

The Cornerstone was laid August 7, 1862 and includes a box, full of items from that era, including names of contractors, the architect, church leadership, local newspapers, etc. By this time in 1862, there are 220 members, up from 150 in 1857. The first formal use of the building was an

annual meeting, May 4, 1863. The new building was dedicated May 27, 1863 – completed and

furnished for $45,000.

It should also be noted that Noted Historian Betty Talcott was the person who tracked down the name of the architect mentioned in this History Snippet.

Doug Smith, Historian




Worship Services

9:00 a.m.   Contemporary
11:00 a.m. Sunday School
11:00 a.m. Traditional

First Church Congregational
22 Liberty St
Painesville, OH 44077
(440) 357-7518