Church History of Greenfield - October 2012

There is no doubt that as soon as settlers broke ground in Greenfield in 1828 that they met for worship. The first services were conducted by the Methodist itinerant preachers, who, from time to time, visited the town.

In 1830 a circuit for formerly established. Rev. James Havens, Tarkington and Swank were among the first preachers on the charge.

The churches that we’ll be looking at today were some of the first in Greenfield.

 

Bradley United Methodist Church

The first service was held at the old log court house, which stood at the present courthouse site. After a period of time services were held at the log school house that stood on the east side of North State Street about half way between North Street and what was called the branch.

In 1840 a small framed church was built on the west side of South State Streets, a short distance below the railroad track. That building was occupied until 1866 at that time a new brick structure was built on the corner of South State Street and South Street. The Reverend at the time was Rev. George W. Bowers. It was officially dedicated in 1867.

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The church continued to grow. The church Ladies Society took action and had the foresight to purchase property for future expansion. The bought the empty lot at the Northwest corner of US 40 and Pennsylvania Street where the church currently stands. The lot was purchased for $3,500. Church member Nelson Bradley donated $5,000 to the cost of building a new church. In the honor of his donation the church was renamed Bradley Methodist Episcopal Church. The new church was dedicated on November 30, 1902 and its congregation is still active today.

 

Greenfield Christian Church

The Sebastian’s, Branhams, Offutt’s and Rainses all moved from Kentucky to Greenfield in the early days and all had doctrines and practices of the Christian Church. Between 1840 and 1854, ministers of this church occasionally visited Greenfield and meetings were held in private houses, the old seminary building, in the court house and in the old Methodist church building.

The church officially organized while using the old Methodist church building in the spring of 1854, under the ministry of Elder J. C. Thornberry.

The congregation’s first church structure was placed on lots that were donated by Lewis Sebastian and Colonel Tague. It was located on the east side of the court house square. A new structure wasn’t built until the old courthouse was razed. At that time the bricks from the old courthouse were carried across the street and were used to construct the new church building. This building served the congregation for 40 years. This building was later used by the D. H. Goble Printing Company and located on what is now American Legion Place.

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In 1895 a new structure began. This structure, located at the southeast corner of North and East Street still stands and serves its congregation.

 

Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church

This church originated in Blue River Township at the home of Soloman Tyner in June 1841. Eventually the congregation grew and they started a second church in Greenfield at a date that is unknown, probably sometime around late 1840 to early 1850’s.

The first Pastor was Morgan McQuary and the church stood on the North side of North Street between East and Spring Streets. A church at 204 E. North Street could very well be the same structure. It was a little hard to explore. But it fits the historical description. If it isn’t then it’s almost guaranteed to be the same lot. This church location has been several denominations over the years.

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The last church to meet regularly there was the Protestant Church of Greenfield. Today the Shiloh Christian Church meets at 4980 S. CR 500 E.

 

Presbyterian Church

The church was organized On July 30, 1855. John Foster led the congregation. The group first met in the old Masonic Hall located on the southeast corner of Main and Pennsylvania Street.

In the fall of 1867 the congregation began construction of their first church on the northeast corner of Pennsylvania and South Street. The new building was dedicated on December 20, 1868. Reverend Isaac W. Monfort was the pastor at that time.

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In 1906 they constructed a new church building located on the same lot. This structure was dedicated on September 21, 1906. The congregation still holds services at this location.

 

St. Michaels’ Roman Catholic Church

The first Catholics in Greenfield celebrated mass in the homes of the several families to 1860. The first mass was read by Rev. Father Vessonies. Several pastors followed for the next several years.

By 1889 the congregation had grown to the point a new structure was needed. In February 27, 1898 the congregation dedicated its new church located at 226 W. North Street. This structure is still standing today, although it’s no longer a Catholic Church it is home to the Garden Wedding Chapel.

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A new church and school was built in 1953 at 519 Jefferson Blvd. Both church and school are active today.

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Methodist Protestant Church

The Methodist Protestant church was organized in 1885 and they first began meeting in the Presbyterian Church. Reverent Hugh Stackhouse conducted services at this time. Later on services were held in the home of Pastor Charles Evans. Then they were moved to Grange Hall and then to a brick blacksmith shop which stood on southwest corner of East Main Street and Spring Street.

The following summer and building was constructed on South Street. The first church was built under the pastorate of Rev. J. C. Smith. The original parsonage was built under the pastorate of Rev. D. W. Evans, in the year 1891. The church was remodeled and enlarged in 1898 under the pastorate of Rev. D. W. Evans.

The church remained a Methodist protestant congregation until 1939 when the reunification of the Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Protestant merged; it was then called South Street Methodist Church.

In 1956, six acres were purchased on the northwest side of Greenfield and in 1961 a new building was erected and dedicated in 1962. The church was renamed Trinity Park Methodist Church due in part to its location on Park Avenue. In 1968, when the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist church denominations united it became Trinity Park United Methodist Church. The addition of an education wing was built in 1968 and then a parsonage was constructed in 1972 behind the church building. A new gymnasium/ recreational facility were added in 2009.

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Greenfield Friends Church

This church was organized in November 1889. Services were held by Esther and Nathan Frame in the old courthouse. Later services were moved to the old Masonic Hall.

In 1890 a new church building was constructed on North Street. It was dedicated on December 15. Services were held here until 1962 when they constructed a new church at 323 W. Park Avenue. This structure was dedicated on October 14, 1962. Services continue at this location today.

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Heavenly Recruit Holiness Association

Sunday school was originally organized first in the summer of 1895 in a small house at the corner of South Pennsylvania and Pierson Street.

In December 1897 the school identified itself with the Heavenly Recruit Organization and H. S. Fuller was selected Pastor.

In 1898 a structure was purchased and moved to Lot 17 on Pierson Street. They worshipped there until 1906. A new block building was constructed and was dedicated on May 19, 1907. This structure no longer stands.

Through a series of incorporations the church currently goes by Evangelical Christian Church (Wesleyan) since 1945.

 

United Brethren in Christ

This congregation was organized under the preaching of Rev. Z.T. Mower in 1897. They met in a brick structure that stood on the southwest corner of Lincoln and Swope St. which was erected in 1898. This structure stills stands at 328 N. Swope St. and it’s currently the home to Faith United Methodist Church.

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Heavenly Recruit Church

This church stood on the east side of A Street, between 4th and 5th Street. It was erected in 1906. This church was organized by John Lewis. This church is no longer active.

Ada New Methodist Episcopal Church

The Greenfield School Board erected a new school house on the east side of Greenfield in 1906. Mrs. Ada New was elected as teacher of this school. In the meantime she was not only the teacher of the public school, but she also led a Sunday school and church. In the early spring of 1907 a board was officially organized. The board later debated naming the new church. The congregation desired to name the church after its founder. It was officially named Ada New Methodist Episcopal Church on May 20, 1907.

 

The congregation gathered on May 28, 1908 and gathered rocks and boulders which were to be used in the construction of a new church. Unfortunately the poor construction of the foundation walls led the congregation to hire an architect and rethink their design.

After much time the new cobble stone church was dedicated On September 17, 1911. Today this church is not active.

Christ’s Union Mission Church

This church began meeting in the summer of 1908. At that time they met in local residences in the western part of the city. In that same year Mrs. Malissa Copper donated property on North Street to the Greenfield Schools for the construction of a library, which currently stands today. The house which stood on that property was given to the Christ’s Union Mission Church and was moved to the northwest corner of Walnut and Franklin Streets where it was remolded as a church.

Christ Scientists

This church was organized in July of 1914. They originally met in the home of John Corcoran on Douglas Street. In the spring of 1915 they rented a rear room over a downtown book store and held services there.

Unfortunately no information could be found as to how long this church was organized but it is no longer active.

 

 There are many churches located in Greenfield and they all have a unique history. Regardless of their religious affiliations they all have contributed to the historical fabric of this community not only from a religious standpoint but from a structural landmark and congregational member standpoint.

The churches in this community have a longer history than most business, buildings and people. Churches have also some of the most complete history kept up to date by its members who are always willing to share that history. Many churches have display cases full of artifacts and most have time capsules in their cornerstones which always make for interesting way of capturing that history.

If you’re visiting a community, churches are a great way to get an idea of your communities’ history. This is true for Greenfield as most of these churches make up our structural fabric of our historic downtown area. You can most times easily find dates on the outside of a church as to when it was erected. You can also gain clues from its architectural style. Churches can also be useful in tracing family genealogical migrations.

Church records are among the most fascinating sources for genealogist. They can give you birth records, baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burials of your ancestors. They can reveal the extent of which your ancestors participated in religious affairs. Churches can also give clues as to a community’s immigrant makeup.

Exploring churches can be an exciting adventure. It might be time to dig deeper into your churches background you could be surprised at what you might learn about not only your church but the community in which you live in.

 

By Greg Roland

Sources: Richman History of Hancock County

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