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Our church was organized in Van Wert County in 1843, with twelve members who held public services at the court house. Van Wert was a village with log homes, a junction of two well traveled paths which past giant trees and extended through the bogs of the Great Black Swamp /extensive video version.
Members sometimes found sermons indigestible and took violent issue with the minster and his interpretation of scripture. Part of these yearly years, the pastor was shared with the Decatur, Indiana, church. From 1845 with 23 members, our church went without a regular pastor for seven years. Services were held within a log cabin until 1847 when the congregation was granted use of the Methodist Church every two weeks. In 1852, Rev. Thomas Elcock /grave, a circuit rider from Delphos, became our first regular pastor.
The land was purchased in 1853 southwest corner of Main and Harrison where this conventional church still stands, only with a basement under it and a brick exterior. The original cost was $3,000.
By 1861 our church was debt free. Little is known of the civil war era outside of some of our members serving. The Church reprimanded members for such things as unjust treatment of one’s wife, excessive drinking, non-payment of just debts, and poor church attendance.
In 1873 the first church structure was built at our church’s current location of Washington and W. Crawford. Many members were opposed to the construction. Being at street level, the building would have been subject to the flood of 1913 and sequential flooding until the build was condemned and razed in 1922. Note the banks around our current church and height of the first floor was motivated because of such flooding.
By their fifty year anniversary, the longest serving pastor would have been Rev. James Gordon from 1890 to 1913 with 380 members. In 1892 a pipe organ was installed. During the era, our choir became very renown through the region. A number of members left in 1898 to serve in the Spanish American War. By 1899 our church sponsored Rev. Rees Edward who was a missionary in China for forty years.
Passed down within the generations of our membership was that structural integrity of the roof was failing which was the motivation to tear down the building a mere 49 years.
Prior to WWI, the church was preparing to build a new structure by purchasing additional land, plans drawn, and finance arranged. By 1918 during the 75th anniversary, membership was at 519. With the war ending and Rev. George Frantz starting his tenure in 1918, the church was torn down by 1922 with services meeting for three years within the YMCA. Boy Scout Troop 35 started within our church during this same time.
The 15th century gothic architecture of our church is credited to Dr. George Frantz who toured European Cathedrals during his summer vacations.
The initial construction company went into bankruptcy, material shortages caused delays, and refinancing had to be arraigned. Anna, the youngest daughter of Rev Thomas Elcock laid the corner stone on June 14, 1923. The chancel windows were the only stained glass in place at the time of the dedication on Oct. 11, 1925.
The exterior is made of Indiana lime stone.
The three panels of the wood doors signifying the “Father”, “Son”, and “Holy Ghost”.
The “Holy Table” within the chancel was produced by the world’s most famous ecclesiastical wood carver, Alois Lang. The reredos canopy of the table signifies the “Burning Bush”, “The Lamb of God” and the “Crosa and Crown”. The outer panel’s backgrounds signify vine and grapes representing the body and blood of Christ. The center is a rose, a symbol of love and beauty. The flanking panels are Gothic detail.
The rotatable lectern held the Old Testament on one side and the New Testament on the other. Initially pews from the former building were adapted. Memorial gifts provided funding for the pulpit lectern, chancel railing, baptismal, piano, light fixtures, pew cushions, electronic organ, and stained glass windows over the years. Many donors’ names are those well known names such as Morgan, Eggerss, Marsh, Clymer, Bonnewitz, Purmort, Morgan, Elcock, Gilpin, Wilson, McConahay, Gleason, McMillen, Humphrey, Leslie, and others detailed on various plaques around our church. Downtown buildings also bear some of these names along with city streets and county roads.
Rev Frantz was also instrumental in the subjects contained within the design of our stained glass. The lower windows portray Old Testament bible stories. Early New Testament stories are detailed on the north upper windows with Christ’s ministry within the east end of the south side along with the crucifixion on the west side. The west end upper on the south side detail the apostle’s ministry after the resurrection. The east windows are of the Book of Revelations.
R. Toland Wright Studio in Cleveland, Ohio created the Saint Paul Window (13) and the Chancel Windows (1-3).
One of our members recalled his father talking about being 13 years of age when his grandfather drove to Cleveland around 1926 to pick up one of these sets of windows. They drove a "Maxwell" automobile while transporting the windows back within the rumble seat.
R. Toland Wright was born in 1887 and first thought of creating stain glass windows at age 18 while a designer within a printing firm.
One of the most quickly completed works of R. Toland Wright was the Saint Paul Kemper Memorial Window within our church. The contract was signed in May of 1927 and the stain glass window completed just three months later.
The R. Toland Wright Studio continued until his death in 1934.
The Saint Stephen window (14) and along with the Elisha (21U) / Joseph & Jacob (21L) windows are from the Von Gerichten Studios of Columbus, Ohio. The Von Gerichten studio, later known as the Capital City Art Glass Company also had a studio in Munich Germany with the studios creating roughly 1800 stained glass windows within churches in the United States. The Columbus studio closed during the 1930's.
Henry Keck Stained Glass Studio, Syracuse, New York created the stain glass windows of the First Presbyterian Church of Van Wert, Ohio, with the exceptions listed below.
Henry Keck studied glass design at the Royal Academy School of Industrial Art in Munich Germany and in 1913 opened his own business in Syracuse, New York. In the 1920's, the Studio hired Stanley Worden with his skills also elevating to a master stained glass artist. While many other studios closed during the 1930s, the Henry Keck Stained Glass Studio's reputation for initiative design aided in sustaining their business until 1974 which was 18 years after Henry's own death in 1956.
The Henry Keck Stained Glass Studio window design includes bright pure colors, mild facial tones, dense leaded outlines featuring realism, and figures within the glass appear to portray emotion.
"Stanley Worden believes this was the largest and finest set of windows the studio ever made."
This book lists our church window purchases (including those of Scott Chapel) starting in 1939 and ending in 1956.
The entire collection of these stained glass windows have corresponding audio bible verses at: http://vwpresby.org/tour
While our church has the beauty because of the generosity of those in the 1950's and earlier, a noteworthy benefit two our worship service has been a Schantz pipe organ installed in 1970. In the late 1980's our stained glass windows were removed, repaired, and set back in place.
Like many churches, in the 1990's our church membership focused on becoming handicap accessible and meeting government regulations of separating rain water from the sanitary sewer system. An elevator accessing all three floors was constructed along with a two room addition. In 2000, an air conditioning was added and the heating system updated.
Near 2006, when a neighboring church closed it's doors, the estate of a local farmer made it possible to create our current parking lot.
Since 2010, continued generosity through estate giving made it possible for our most recent three year building maintenance update.
Today, our church make up a typical cross section of our community.
Membership is equally respectful of those worshiping in jeans and a sweat shirt as those in more formal dress.
Commonality in love for our Lord and Savior extends an atmosphere that all are welcome.
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