The Presbyterian faith began as part of the Protestant Reformation in the mid 1500’s in Switzerland, under the leadership of John Calvin who is considered the “father” of Presbyterian and Reformed faiths. During the 1600’s as America began to be colonized, large numbers of Presbyterians began to emigrate, bringing their Scotch-Irish Presbyterianism with them. The spread of the faith into Ohio began in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s as settlers moved westward in search of Ohio¹s forests, rivers, and potentially rich farmland.
The Presbyterian faith found its way into Logan County soon after the War of 1812, as itinerant preachers came to establish churches among the settlers. One of these was Rev. Joseph Stevenson, a circuit rider who established 13 “preaching stations” in Logan and Champaign counties. The faith began to locate in another part of Logan County in the mid-1820s as well and, as Bellefontaine grew, Presbyterians felt the need to establish a church. The church became a reality in March of 1828, when Rev. Stevenson, already the pastor of Cherokee and Stoney Creek churches, agreed to serve as the church¹s first pastor.
In 1833 the membership numbered 99, but because the ideas of some of the early leaders did not always harmonize, it was resolved to separate. The Second Presbyterian Church came into existence on September 28, 1836. The Rev. Edwin B. Raffensperger took charge of First Church in 1855 and healed the division, which resulted in the reunion of the First Church.
In 1830 Associate and Associate Reformed Presbyterian congregations were organized in Bellefontaine. These congregations joined together after the union of 1858 to form the Covenant United Presbyterian Church. For the next 108 years, Covenant United and First Presbyterian churches existed within several blocks of each other. In 1964 the First United Presbyterian Church of Bellefontaine was formed by the merger of First and Covenant United congregations and have worshiped in the church at 117 North Main St. since then.
The first church meetings were held in the court house until erection of the first structure in 1828 which was two squares south of the court house on South Main St. which is now occupied by the Grace A.M.E Church. The congregation moved to a larger brick structure on North Main St. just north of the First Methodist Church. The original church at 117 N. Main St. was dedicated in 1874, remodeled in 1907 and rededicated in 1908. The church house was added in 1928 at the time of the Centennial anniversary. A number of renovations inside the structure have taken place since then to keep up with the times and repairs.
Former pastors and tenures are listed below.
- Rev. Joseph Stevenson 1828-1844
- Rev. George A. Gregg 1844-1854
- Rev. E. B. Raffensperger 1854-1859
- Rev. George P. Bergen 1859-1863
- Rev. George L. Kalb 1863-1898
- Rev. George E. Davies 1899-1910
- Rev. William L. Barrett 1911-1922
- Rev. Paul W. Gauss 1923-1936
- Rev. Edward W. Ziegler 1937-1944
- Rev. Alun O. Jones 1945-1961
- Rev. J.L. Hayes 1962-1963
- Rev. Bliss Cartwright 1964-1969
- C. F. Amidon, Assistant 1966-1967
- Rev. Walter Radulovich 1970-1978
- Rev. Thomas R. Stout 1978-1985
- Rev. Robert B. Fulton 1986-2016
- Interim Pastor Rev. Kenneth M. Locke 2017-Present
From the pioneer days of the early 1800s to the present day the First United Presbyterian Church has been a presence in the city of Bellefontaine and Logan County, meeting the needs of the members of the congregation during each generation. Our ministry has progressed to include not only local endeavors, but to include national and world mission. The First United Presbyterian Church is reaching out to nurture God¹s people with the Good News of Christ¹s Love from Logan County to the ends of the earth.