History of David's Church: 1826-1976
David’s Church Kettering, Ohio - A Sesquicentennial History Prepared by: Sesquicentennial Booklet Committee Norma Jean Hendricks, Author; Milt Willis, Artist; Mary Creame; Hazel Storms; Dorothy Shoe; Susan Shoe; Valerie Andrews
After the organization of the territorial government of Ohio in 1788, settlers rapidly entered this “Western Territory.” Seeking the fertile farmlands of the valleys of Ohio, they crossed the Cumberland Mountains over the hazardous trail blazed by Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap. They loaded their belongings and families onto flatboats, forged the rivers, and then trod the virgin forests in quest of their new homeland. The population swelled from 3,000 in 1790 to 581,000 by 1820.
Many of these pioneers were German settlers from the farmlands of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Sturdy, thrifty, and hard-working by nature, they were quick to establish their homes and wring from the soil the rich rewards of their labor. Their religious convictions stemmed from the German Reformed faith, and as they settled, they gathered to hear the Word of God from their loyal itinerant ministers.
The first Reformed minister to come to this part of Ohio was Jacob Christman who came in 1803 and organized the Reformed Church at Springboro, Ohio. Another pioneer minister, Reverend Jacob William Dechant, served as pastor of the St. John’s Congregation at Miamisburg, Ohio.
Among these early ministers was Thomas Winters who was destined to become instrumental in establishing the Reformed Church throughout the villages of western Ohio and eastern Indiana. Thomas Winters was born in Harbaugh’s Valley, Maryland on December 23, 1778. He became a minister in the Reformed Church in 1800. On December 24, 1801 at Martinsburg, West Virginia a son whom they named David, was born to Reverend and Mrs. Winters. They named later sons Valentine, Thomas, and John.
Reverend Winters in 1809 brought his young family on flatboats to the Mad River where they built a log home and cleared a patch of land for cultivation. Soon he became the first minister of the Beaver German Reformed Church built in 1809 on the Dayton-Xenia Pike. By 1815 he was called to Germantown to lead the congregation of the German Reformed Church there. During his career, he traveled by horseback to the outlying settlements to preach the Word of God, baptize, marry, and bury the early Christian settlers. Before his death in 1863, he had educated five young men for the ministry, two of whom where his sons, Thomas and David.
David Winters preached his first sermon at Mt. Zion Church when he was just sixteen years old. (Many years later his daughter, Flora Winters Morgan, was to comment on what he wondered all the time he was preaching what those gray-haired men thought of a boy of sixteen standing there telling them what to do!) During his young life at Germantown, he married; however, his wife lived for only six months and he buried her at Germantown. He continued studying for the ministry under his father.
In 1824 at New Philadelphia, Ohio, he was ordained. Upon his ordination, he moved to Dayton where he organized the German Reformed Church which was to become one of the leading religious institutions of the city. Still he continued ministering to the laboring farm people in the regions outlying the city, where he would preach under the tall trees of the forest, in log huts, and barns, or in the homes where they gathered.
In Dayton, David Winters came to know the William Huffman family through making purchases at their general store. One Sunday the Huffman family attended his service to hear him preach. Afterwards they invited him to their home for dinner. Mrs. Lydia Huffman, a devout Baptist, and he quoted and argued scripture all evening. The next Sunday evening he was again invited for dinner. This time Mrs. Huffman said to him, “I believe you are a good man and a Godly man. I like you and so does my daughter, Mary. You may marry her.” Astonished, David Winters replied, “Mrs. Huffman, I am not in a position to marry your daughter. She has always been accustomed to plenty. I cannot keep her as you have kept her. I have nothing but my prayer book, my Bible, my horse, and a five dollar bill in my pocket.” Mrs. Huffman said to him, “That does not matter. She likes you and I like you. You marry her and I, with ample means, will see that you get a start. After that, you can pay me back when you are able.” David Winters married Mary Ann Huffman on January 11, 1826. Eventually nine children were born to them: David, Elizabeth, Mary Jane, Lydia Ann, Charles, Edward Thomas, William, Emma Virginia, and Flora.
In 1833 Rev. Winters organized the First Reformed Church with six members. His wife paid for the ground for the church located on Ludlow Street. It was considered one of the most attractive examples of architecture in the area. For seventeen years David Winters preached his sermons there, alternately in German and English. At his services it was said the crowds were so large that extra benches had to be brought in. He was gifted with both a beautiful speaking and singing voice. His favorite hymn was “There Is A Light in the Window For Me.” He was noted for his lengthy prayers.
There was a wide-spread belief in the community that if Parson Winters performed the ceremony, the marriage would be prosperous. Perhaps this explains the phenomenal number of 5,090 couples he married during his long ministry. His daughter recalls that he was “paid all sums and amounts of money form a quarter to twenty-five dollars, all kinds of presents, valuable and otherwise” for performing marriage ceremonies. One couple even paid him with a pound of snitz-dried apples! Another young couple-he, a very poor man, and she, a very rich young woman-came to him to be married. When her parents learned of it, they were extremely upset and accused Parson Winters of marrying anyone to get a quarter. (In later years, the parents lost their fortune and had to be taken care of by the then-prosperous young man.)
David Winters in 1850 resigned his pastorate at First Reformed Church to devote more time to the rural churches which for many years he had been serving as a circuit-rider minister. Zion Church formed in 1820 was one of these. Zion was a High German Reformed Church and David Winters preached there in both the German and English languages.
In the “Creager Neighborhood” down along the Lebanon Pike, a group of German farmers appealed to “Father” Winters to help them found a German Reformed Church where only the English language would be spoken. Within the neighborhood, also, was an Evangelical Lutheran Congregation which needed a place to worship. The two denominations joined together to build a church. To honor their beloved minister, they named the church DAVID’S CHURCH.
At the organizational meeting on September 15, 1826, John Kerschner, Thomas Creager, Henry Creager, and Lewis Licklider were elected to act as trustees for the two denominations. From the minutes of the meeting: “The church when built, to belong to said denominations and subject to such rules, regulations and discipline as the said congregations may hereafter adopt or agree upon for the better order of Christian worship. The house of worship is to be built of logs, two stories high, with a gallery, and constructed as the trustees and minister may deem necessary. English preaching is to be allowed in said church.”
On March 26, 1830, Reverend Winters’ staunch friend, Christian Creager and his wife, Mary, were paid $20.00 for 1.44 acres of land upon which the two-story log church was built. (It is believed this log church was situated nearer the main road and is today land belonging to the David’s Cemetery Association.) From other members came gifts of labor and materials. That log meeting house served as community center/church until 1853. No record exists to inform us what happened to the Lutheran congregation, but evidence points to a gradual assimilation of the two religious bodies.
In the Beavertown neighborhood, Reverend Winters helped found the Mt. Zion congregation on the Indian Riffle Road. A few years later, he saw the need to organize Hawker Church on the Xenia Pike.
Meeting in 1850, the Miami Classis (forerunner to today’s Association) gave David Winters responsibility for the Mt. Zion Charge, consisting of Mt. Zion, David’s, Zion, and Hawker Churches. He served these churches faithfully, preaching at two churches one Sunday and the other two, the next, until his advancing age made it necessary for him to curtail his activities. In 1880, David’s Church and Hawker Church formed the Valley Charge and retained Michael Loucks for a salary of $800 per year. Services were held every Sunday at both Hawker’s and David’s Churches, alternately in mornings and afternoons. Reverend David Winters continued his ministry to Zion and Mt. Zion Churches.
Rev. Loucks was responsible for the introduction of the first Constitution of David’s Church. The following resolutions were adopted:
- The number of trustees shall be three instead of four.
- Three trustees shall be elected, the one receiving the highest number of votes for three years, the one receiving the next highest number of votes for two years, and the one with the least number of votes for one year, and thereafter at each annual election one to be elected for three years.
- The duty of the trustees shall be the provision for the repair of the church and the cemetery and the appointment of a sexton for the same.
- A Congregational Treasurer shall be elected for a term of three years with a possible subsequent re-election.
- That a financial report be prepared and presented at each annual congregational meeting.
The Women’s Missionary Society (today’s Women’s Guild) had its beginning during Reverend Louck’s ministry. The first Harvest Home Festival of the Valley Charge was held Thursday, August 19, 1880. The third was held in 1882 at Johnson Bradford’s grove near Hawker Church. David’s Women Missionary Society members who comprised the committee were: Mrs. M. A. Prugh, Mrs. Millie LeFevre, Mrs. Carlton Ridenour, Mrs. Julia Himes, Miss Ella Bradford, and Miss Addie Jackson.
For five years Reverend Loucks divided his time between his pastoral duties and a publication, “The Christian World.” On April 5, 1884 he resigned as pastor to devote all his time to the publication.
Reverend J. B. Henry was called on November 23, 1884, to the pastorate of the Valley Charge. In June 1885, at the annual meeting of the Miami Classis, the Valley Charge was restructured. Hawker was added to the Mt. Zion Charge and Mt. Carmel, Zion, and David’s constituted the Valley Charge. Thus began the shared ministry of Zion and David’s which was to endure until 1926.
Death came to the beloved pioneer minister, David Winters, on May 4, 1885. He had lived for 83 years, and during the sixty-one year of his ministry, he had preached more than 8,000 sermons, officiated at 1,300 funerals, baptized 3,000 people, confirmed 2,400, and administered the Lord’s Supper to 22,150 communicants. He actively supported Heidelberg College in Tiffin and the institution honored him with the degree of Doctor Divinity.
Some of the churches to which he devoted his life were: First Reformed (predecessor of Central Reformed Church which in 1965 split to become Oak Creek UCC and Mt. Olive UCC), Mt. Zion (today, Mt. Zion Memorial UCC), Aley’s Church (Greene County), Hawker Church (today, Hawker UCC), and David’s Church. Thirteen church buildings were erected by those churches he served during his career.
His funeral service was held at the Ludlow Street First Reformed Church.
Newspapers of the day report that it was the largest and most impressive funeral service ever held in the city of Dayton. While the church was packed, the sidewalks from Second to Third Street were crowed, and streets for blocks around were choked with horses and buggies. He was buried near the chapel at Woodland Cemetery, to be joined just four weeks later by his wife of fifty-nine years, Mary Ann Huffman Winters. A pioneer era in the church history of the Dayton area passed with him.
Meanwhile, the original two-story log church which was the meeting place for David’s Church was replaced with a brick structure build in 1853. This brick building is the nucleus of today’s church. It was a plain building of one room, heated with wood-burning stoves, and lighted by kerosene lamps hung on the window frames. The glass in the windows was reddish-brown in color and of a lacy pattern, cut in panes about 9” x 12”. There was no basement. Two single doors graced the entrance, one on the west side for women to enter, one on the east side for the gentlemen.
There is no record how funds were raised, but it is believed the church was built about the same time as many of the pioneer brick farmhouses still standing in the area today. Some of those house are: the Georgetown Apartment Clubhouse (Creager-Pyper Home), the 4625 Far Hills Avenue Offices (Creager-Young home), and the Groby Home. The bricks for these buildings were probably fired in the field nearest the gravel pit (now David’s Cemetery) and the stones were quarried from the James quarry (now Marilake). As we know of David’s tradition, the members of the congregation did much of the construction work themselves.
More land was acquired in 1867 when Henry and Mary Creager sold 72 perches (about ½ acre) to David’s Church for ninety dollars. Trustees mentioned in the deed are John Prugh, John Shroyer, David Prugh, and Jonathon Whipp.
Although some minor repairs were made in the church in 1867, it was 1880 when a renovation of consequence occurred. In order to install the first furnace, a small excavation was made under the northeast corner of the building. This cellar room was reached by descending through a trapdoor in the floor above it. One member (rumored to be Jake Miller) thought the newfangled heating device which was installed would never warm the church. He came to services dressed in his fur cap, ear muffs, muffler, and overcoat!
Also during Reverend Henry’s pastorate, enough money was subscribed in 1885 to fresco the interior walls of the church with Biblical scenes (yet today in the attic evidence of the fresco remains), and to install a new tin roof, new carpet, and a beautiful central chandelier large enough to hold forty-two kerosene lamps set in tiers in circular frames from which hung glittering glass prisms. This hung until about 1905 and is vividly remembered still by those women whose weekly task it was to wash, trim the wicks and refuel all forty-two globes. Unfortunately, no one remembered what happened to the chandelier.
Reverend Henry resigned the Valley Charge on March 25, 1888. He was succeeded by Reverend William H. Tussing who was elected on the day on which his predecessor resigned. Tussing’s uneventful pastorate was of about a year’s length and was followed by Reverend Edward Herbruck, D.D, a supply pastor.
Much sentiment existed within David’s Church in 1889 to be separated from the Valley Charge and to be constituted an independent charge. A petition was sent to the Miami Classis requesting the change; however, no action was taken. In 1891 though, Mt. Carmel was dismissed from the charge. David’s and Zion became a joint charge, with Reverend B.F. Davis serving as pastor until January 1, 1893.
In 1891 the Consistory of David’s Church deeded to the Cemetery Association the David’s Cemetery grounds, together with the existing endowment fund. The cemetery previously had been under the control of the trustees of David’s Church. In order to meet expenses, the cemetery held an annual picnic. Photos of the occasion attest to the popularity of the event. For over twenty-five years, these picnics were an annual event. Although the cemetery became a separate organization, even today its Board of Trustees is comprised primarily from the ranks of the pioneer David’s families.
Another noteworthy transaction took place in September, 1891, when Isaac LeFevre donated an acre of land to the trustees of David’s Church. The acre of land was located north of the church on the east side of Lebanon Pike and was used as the site of a parsonage built in 1892. Trustees named in the deed were William LeFevre, William Willey, and Frederick Dern.
Agitation for withdrawal from the Valley Charge again surfaced within David’s Church in 1893. A vote for independence was taken; results were thirty-eight in favor, ten against. No further action is noted.
Reverend H.L. Hart was elected pastor on August 18, 1895. Prior to and following his ministry, these men served as pastor: George Lonaker, Reverend L. D. Summers, Reverend E. P. Appenzeller, Reverend David Raiser, Reverend J. D. Neff, and Reverend J. H. Albright. It is believed some of them were students.
Our first knowledge of worship practices comes from this period. Communion was served from a silver chalice. A special unfermented wine and unleavened communion bread about four inches square were made by the women of the church. Elizabeth Routsong and Harry Norris in 1899 were the first known couple to be married in the church. The usual custom was for the marriage to take place in the home of the bride. Following the regular Sunday worship service, “Libby” and Harry walked to the front of the church and asked the minister to marry them. Her Sunday school Class (which included Rose Miller) where her attendants. Most probably it was Sally Routsong Barnes who played the organ for the wedding.
The beautiful clock which today hangs in the fellowship hall was a gift of the Sunday School Class of 1896. Blanche Willey Groby carried it from her home to the church.
On August 17, 1891, Elizabeth Creager (widow of Henry Creager) and her sons, Cyrus H. Creager, Albert O. Creager, and John W. Creager donated for one dollar a parcel of land containing 11/100th of an acre, lying to the south boundary of the church property. The land was for the purpose of building a hitching shed for sheltering horse and buggies of the church members. This shed is well remembered still by members in the congregation.
David’s Church ushered in the new century by calling Reverend D. A. Parks to be its minister. He led worship eight months a year at David’s Church and four months at Zion Church. From David’s he received an annual salary of five hundred dollars and a parsonage home for his family. The six years of his ministry is characterized by much activity and growth. Membership rose to two hundred and four members during his ministry.
An occasional visitor to David’s Church during this time was John H. Patterson, president of the National Cash Register Company. He was a mercurial, flamboyant personality. Attending church with him were his son, Frederick, and his English physical instructor-valet, Charles Palmer. They came in their riding habits and sat always on the east side in the back row of the church. Mr. Patterson always dropped a ten dollar gold piece in the collection plate.
From the church minutes of May 4, 1907: “Mr. J. H. Patterson sent out a force of men and a lot of shrubbery and planted around the church and yard at his own expense, which is very much appreciated.” And again the minutes of May 19, 1907 read: “Mr. Patterson donated and delivered to the church a fine blackboard of the finest design. Also $100.00 to procure literature for the young people to read.” March 15, 1908, Mr. Patterson offered to contribute $500.00 for the improvement of the parsonage, provided the congregation raised three hundred dollars. The congregation accepted the challenge and the result was the complete remodeling of the parsonage.
Pastor Parks spoke of making an effort to obtain a church bell. Mr. Patterson offered to furnish all the materials for the belfry, but no labor. Mr. Palmer submitted a written offer to pay $300.00 for the bell as a memorial to his English son. Members pledged some money, but mostly manual labor to erect a belfry to hold the bell. An architect was paid one hundred dollars for the plans which sketched a belfry patterned after that of Independence Hall.
Cyrus Creager was in charge of teaming-that was getting the materials to the church by teams. Neighbors who did not belong to the church, “hired hands,” and members took their teams and wagons to haul the brick and lumber from the “Cash” out to the church. They built the belfry at the south end of the church.
Martin Young, with the help of his son, Russell, and Wesley Creager, was asked to pickup the bell at the train station in Dayton. The Young wagon was not strong enough to hold the bell so they reinforced it with a double thickness of tobacco rails, making an eight-inch bed. With help from railroad workers, they loaded the bell onto the wagon and slowly traveled down Lebanon Pike. Farmers brought their haylift forks from their barns and by using ropes and pulleys; they hoisted the bell into place.
But it is doubtful that Mr. Palmer ever saw or heard the bell (or for the matter, paid more than $150.00 towards his pledge!) For Mr. Palmer was accused by the Cox-owned Dayton Daily News in an election-year editorial of “practicing the art of hypnotism and so dominating the mind of his master (John H. Patterson) as to sunder all friendship-his family, business, and social.” Palmer reportedly had said that Dayton’s one output besides cash registers was meanness and pettiness. Because of his dislike for the city, he had convinced Patterson to move the National Cash Register Company out of Dayton.
Palmer’s control over Mr. Patterson opened his own advancement within the company, for his salary was increased from forty dollars a month to one thousand! Officers of the company (some of whom were Patterson’s relatives) either resigned or were let go. Palmer organized a company of NCR horsemen. Men who had never before been in the saddle were compelled to go through all sorts of maneuvers. One man was thrown and killed.
The Daily News raised its voice in protest. Angered, Patterson sued the News for libel in both local and federal courts for over a million dollars.
The trial began. Just before noon recess one day, Mr. Patterson was questioned about some campaign contributions. Hastily, his layer’s called for recess. When the trial reconvened, Mr. Patterson was not in the courtroom. He and Charles Palmer had taken a train for New York and sailed the next day for Europe. From the middle of the ocean, he cabled his attorneys to drop all suits and assume the legal expenses for both sides.
Mr. Patterson remained in Europe for a time. When he returned to Dayton, Charles Palmer was not with him. Mr. Patterson’s interest continued in the country church on David Road, however. On November 13, 1910, he presented a check for $600 and another for $250 to be used for the liquidation of the existing church debt.
Church members had long recognized a need for additional space for social activities. The hard-working congregation, using pick and shovel, excavated the cellar into a full-sized basement. A kitchen was built and Mr. Patterson supplied all the furnishings for the kitchen and dining room. Ample space was opened up for Thanksgiving dinners, winter oyster suppers, and ice cream festivals-even then an important David’s Tradition.
Church was the center of social life in rural communities. The scope of entertainment activities was extremely limited and besides, the farm people had little time available for leisure. But at church dinners, “hired hands” joined with the land owners, and Presbyterians visited with their Reformed neighbors for a full country-style meal and country-style good time.
Although we have no written documentation, the stained glass windows probably were installed during Revered Park’s ministry. It is believed the plain-design windows cost about one hundred dollars each. Windows were donated as memorials to Samuel Swadner by Mrs. Caroline Swander, Marguerite Issbell Donalson, David H. Prugh by Mrs. Mary A. Prugh, and Rev. David Winters. Others were donated in honor of Rev. D. A. Parks by the 100 Point Club of the NCR of 1907 and Rev. H. L. Hart by the YPSCE (Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor). Individual windows were purchased by Amos Roop, Malinda and Jacob Miller, and the Women’s Missionary & Aid Society. The remaining windows were bought by the congregation at large.
Reverend Parks resigned from the Valley Charge on October 23, 1910, and Reverend C. G. Beaver arrived on January 19, 1911. During his pastorate the old gasoline lighting plant was replaced, a modern heating plant was installed at the parsonage, the interior of the church was redecorated, hardwood floors were laid, and the rostrum was elevated. Reverend Beaver’s ministry closed on December 26, 1915. A succession of supply pastors followed. Reverend Thomas G. Dietz was elected to serve the Valley Charge on April 15, 1917.
America was at war. And David’s young men in khaki were Pvt. Leland Norris, Sgt. Dwight L. Barnes, Lt. Raymond Deardorf, and J.E. Prass Armistice in 1918 brought a return to normalcy.
Reverend Dietz was chronicling the events of David’s Church in “The Valley Messenger.” From this publication we learn that the annual picnic was held August 1, 1918 at Waldrhue Park. The slogan was “Bring well-filled baskets.” Walter Creager received the “Cross de Air” for bravery when he chased away the bumble bees. Emily Groby, Charles Cruea, Elmer Kress, and Laurence Harris won contest awards. The Ladies Aid Socitey customarily met for their all-day meeting the second Thursday of the month. Its membership numbered twenty-five and Elsie A. Rice served as president. The August meeting was spent in sewing and quilting.
And within the YPSCE, leaders for the month of September were Mabel Creager, Paul Hurst, Gladys Kauffman, Edgar Gerhard, and Mabel Middlestetter. Also, September Cottage Prayer meetings were held Wednesday evening at 8:00 in the homes of William James, Mrs. Prass, Edw. Routsong, and J.M. Bartch, with Lester Gerhard, Gove Himes, Harry Routsong, and Elmer Kress as leaders. Officers of the church were Cyrus Creager, Secretary, John Henger, Treasurer, Rose Miller, pianist, and W.B. Willey, Sunday School Superintendent.
On September 25, 1920, for one dollar, the church acquired nearly an acre of ground lying south of the church from Etta Young Creager and Walter P. Creager, Bessie Young Kress and Elmer Kress, Russell H. Young and Mildred W. Young and Esther G. Young, children of Martin H. and Ellen Michael Young. The land was intended for use as a parsonage site; instead the land was used as recreational space.
Reverend Dietz left the Valley Charge in the fall of 1921 and a student of Central Theological Seminary, George P. Kehl, served until December 10, 1922, when Reverend J. P. Stahl, D.D. was elected pastor. It was during this period that electric lights were installed by Dayton Power and Light in the parsonage and church at a cost of more than fifteen hundred dollars. Reverend Stahl resigned from the charge on May 1, 1925, and was followed on May 4, 1925, by Reverend James W. Bright, an aggressive young man.
At a meeting of the Southwest Ohio Classis of the Reformed Church in May, 1926, a committee was formed to study the districts with a view to reorganizing the charges, wherever the environs justified the change. The committee, after considering the great development project at Moraine and the growth in the vicinity of David’s Church, recommended to the Classis the dissolution of the Valley Charge and the creation of separate charges at David’s and Zion Churches. Both churches voted unanimously on August 22, 1926, to ratify the adoption and on September 26, 1926, the Valley Charge was finally dissolved.
Incorporation papers were drawn up and legalized on October 2, 1928. Signing the papers were Jacob H. Kohl, Edward Prass, William H. Puterbaugh, Clarence W. Grant, Elmer Kress, Gove Himes, Elbert Brewer, and Harry W. Routsong. David’s Church now stood on its own.
An ambitious remodeling project was embarked upon in 1927 which was to enmesh the church in debt for nearly twenty-five years. Sunday school rooms were added onto the front of the church and excavation beneath the rooms provided space for sanitary facilities, kitchen, and a furnace room. The belfry was repaired and moved to the north end of the church and a new roof was added. A forced-air heating system was installed. A complete renovation of the sanctuary turned the congregation around. Entrance to the sanctuary was gained through double doors on both sides of the chancel, which was placed at the south end of the church. Side sections of the ceiling were lowered, new light fixtures were added and pews were refinished. The contract for remodeling went to Bill Puterbaugh, a member of the consistory.
Two arched stained glass windows were donated as memorials: the large one on the north wall by Samuel B. and Blanche Groby and family, in memory of William B. and Lucetta Willey and the smaller one on the south wall by Samuel and Romanca Harrington in memory of Daniel and Elizabeth Yike. A Hook & Hastings two-manual and pedal pipe organ was dedicated to the memory of his wife by D. W. Iddings, a neighbor of David’s Church and well-known attorney.
In 1929, Reverend Bright left David’s to be replaced by Reverend Marcus P. Schoefle whose habit it was to stand beside the pulpit as he delivered his sermons, rarely referring to notes. But Reverend Schoefle inherited the financial challenge of the remodeling project.
Total cost of the project was $29,000, to be financed by pledges from members of $9,000 and a loan from the Fidelity Building & Loan for $20,000 at 6 ½ % interests. Just as the project was completed, America’s financial structure collapsed and the Great Depression engulfed the farm families with the overwhelming task of paying off the debt. Paying just the interest on the debt was impossible-and the church soon owed $1,200 back interest. In 1934, the possibility of losing the church property loomed before the congregation.
A plan to refinance the loan was investigated by J.E. Prass. Members and friends of David’s (Charles and Hazel LeFevre, Genoa Wheatley, Jacob and Clara Kohl, Lizzie Hibberd and Dan Isler) agreed to use their personal stock in Fidelity Savings and Loan to pay off David’s debt. Then the church was to repay free of interest the $17,000 to these benefactors. But to accomplish this plan, the back interest had to be paid and some generous members donated the interest money.
To pay off the debt became the on-going goal of every church member and organization. Fund-raising methods were conceived. One plan was for each family to contribute a penny per member per day to the church. A committee composed of Hazel LeFevre, Bessie Kress, Madge Prass, Mary Grant, and Mildred Young, among others, collected from members once a month. It was not always possible for members to give a penny per day-they didn’t have it to give!
The untiring Ladies Aid Society, assisted by their husbands, gave dinners. Thanksgiving and New Year’s dinners with all the traditional foods were prepared and served. Sometimes they fed as many as 400-500 people. It was suggested in later years that the price of the dinner be increased to $1.25.
Dividing into groups A and B to share the work, the Ladies Aid Society initiated a series of cafeteria-style dinners in which they served fried chicken, swiss steak or ham, two fresh vegetables, salad and home baked pies and cakes. The expertise of these cooks was known throughout the Dayton area. These dinners took place every other week from spring until Thanksgiving for several years.
To fully understand the history of the local church requires an examination of the origin of the denomination to which it belongs. Our denominational history begins with the Reformed movement.
The Reformed Church was started by Ulric Zqingli of Switzerland in 1523 and his teachings spread into Germany. Many Reformed German and Swiss people immigrated to America to escape suffering and oppression from the Catholic king of France, Louis XIV. They settled in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Thirteen ministers attended the first meeting of the Synod of the German Reformed Church of America in 1793. Later another synod formed in Ohio with its own seminary, college, and church paper. The 300th Anniversary of the Heidelberg Catechism in 1863 was chosen as the occasion to unite the two synods. They met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and organized the General Synod. German was dropped from the official name of the church, reflecting the change to an English-speaking body.
The Evangelical Synod of North America also had its origin in Germany where the Reformed and Lutheran religions had spread. King Frederick III of Prussia united the two into the United Evangelical Church of Prussia. In the early 1800’s, many Prussians escaped the tyranny of Napoleon when they came to America, through the port of New Orleans, and journeyed up the Mississippi River to Missouri. Separate Evangelical churches created by these settlers banded together in 1840 to form the German Evangelical Church Society of the West. Again in 1877, the name was changed to German Evangelical Synods of North America. The word German eventually was dropped from the name.
Both denominations had much in common. One June 26, 1934, in Cleveland, Ohio, the Reformed Church of America and the Evangelical Synod of North America merged. With the union completed, David’s Reformed Church took the name of David’s Evangelical and Reformed Church.
The first minister to be chosen under the new name was Reverend A. C. Yost, who with his mother moved into the parsonage in 1936. Later, members of the congregation traveled to a small town north of Dayton where Reverend Yost married his bride, Ruth. During his ministry David’s struggled under the weight of heavy debt.
In the late thirties and early forties, homes were being built in Van Buren Township by newcomers from the city. The agrarian way of life still predominated, but a few new faces began to appear at David’s Church.
Suddenly, the Day of Infamy changed the course of life of each and every American. Farmers worked at home and then worked the second shift at a war plant; women took jobs in factories, offices, and schools; Bouganville, Midway, Guam, and Normandy became places of worried interest.
At David’s, women sent their sons to war. An honor roll bearing the names of the following young men hung in the sanctuary: Charles M. LeFevre, Ralph Mockabee, Wibur James, Richard Miller, Roy M. Young, Jerry Schiebrel, Edward McKelvey, Richard Creager, Paul Hurst, Talford Pyper, Charles F. Kress, Raymond Kress, Robert Fleischman, Ralph Simpson, Don Norris, Russell Young , Jr., Edgar Norris, Lloyed R. Kress, Lester H. Henry, Lyle Ketter, Paul Prass, Nelson Hurst, Harold Pelton, Donald Mockabee, Donald Karns, Howard Wilson, Orville Brewer, Willard Mockabee, and Duane Horton. Gold stars signifying the highest sacrifice glisten before the names of Charles M. LeFevre and Raymond Kress.
In late 1940 the possibility of selling the parsonage was first discussed in the Consistory and the congregation approved, “at a time and price to be determined by the Consistory.” In July 1943, the parsonage property on Far Hills Avenue (today, the Inn Restaurant) was sold for $6,500. Reflecting the economy of the day, the cost for real estate services was number 325 and for legal assistance, $150. The remainder was invested in US Government bonds by the new treasurer of the church, Crume Keifer.
Because of the housing shortage, the minister moved into the church. In January of 1945, the parsonage of 212 Cushing Avenue was ready for occupancy. Consistory stipulated that at the new parsonage only one male dog could be kept and none at the church.
Hiroshima completed the circle of man’s inhumanity to man. World War II ended August, 1945.
Reverend Yost resigned as minister effective January 1, 1946. Reverend Ben Herbster was asked by David’s Pulpit Committee to request a trial sermon form Navy Chaplain Clayton T. Rammler of Covington, Kentucky. Reverend Rammler complied and with a unanimous vote of the congregation, he was offered the ministry of David’s Church at a salary of $2000 per year. It was the good fortune of David’s that he accepted, and in March, 1946, he and his wife, Ginny, and their family moved into the parsonage.
A new era in the life of David’s Church began. Land which for generations had been family farms was in demand to build homes for the returning GI’s. Sons had chosen not to return to their father’s farms after the war. So, developers bought Van Buren Township farmlands and quickly rows of houses sprouted where rows of corn had grown. The economy of the nation took strides beyond our history’s experience. At David’s, this surge of economic well-being, coupled with the influx of newcomers from the community, created a blend of the old and new which revitalized and strengthened David’s Church.
Reverend Rammler instituted new procedures for record keeping. A Sunday school room was converted into an office and built-in bookcases were installed for him. New religious programs begun were the Vacation Bible School and the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Refurbishing and modernizing church facilities commenced.
A campaign to achieve church debt liquidation was undertaken. It took three efforts to do it but finally on April 6, 1950 at a special church service, the notes were burned. At long last the 1929 remodeling project had come to an end.
Almost immediately after that debt was settled, discussion was taking place regarding the need for more choir space. Perhaps a balcony was the answer, or perhaps by “turning the church around,” more space could be achieved. A committee composed of Victor Greimann, Russell Creager, Luther Weidner, and George Routsong was formed. Their plans were submitted and the congregation voted to proceed with the church improvements.
Throughout the Depression and World War II, David’s had become ‘run down.’ Therefore, the list of improvements covered repairing, painting, tiling, varnishing, and patching wherever needed. But the major accomplishments involved waterproofing the exterior brickwork, building a new arch to frame the large art glass window at the north wall, building a platform for the choir loft, creating the chancel from the back steps entryway, and turning the pews around to face the altar, which was once again at the northern end of the church. Other improvements involved converting the coal furnace to gas and bringing city water into the church.
Some of this was contractual work. But much of it was accomplished in true David’s spirit of hard-working members donating their helping hands. Nearly $20,000 was saved by the Friday Night Work Crew who worked more than just Friday nights for over a period of three years to complete the work. Climaxing this renovation was the Centennial Celebration of David’s Church Building in 1953.
By the fifties, the population of Van Buren Township had reached the required number to be classified a city. Residents were seeking services which a city government could provide. Some citizens set into motion procedures to bring about incorporation in 1952. Although some areas detached from the township, the largest portion of Van Buren Township became the City of Kettering on June 24, 1955, with a population of 38,118.
The combined impact of the postwar religious revival and population explosion stirred churches throughout the country to build new facilities. David’s was no exception. A series of new building projects began in 1955.
First, a new ranch-house parsonage was built on land purchased for it on Mad River Road. Then at the church, a Colonial-columned porch was added to the southern entrance with kitchen facilities provided underneath it, the Sunday school class partitions were removed from the rear of the church and a two-story Christian education wing containing eight classrooms was erected to the east side of the church. Financing for the $105,000 program was achieved through the services of the Wells Fund-Raising Organization. As building chairman of the project, Vic Greimann gave unstintingly of himself to guide it to a successful completion. By 1958 the much needed space for classrooms was ready for dedication.
Just as changes were occurring in our local government and in our local church, so also at the denominational level a major union was underway. The Evangelical and Reformed Church joined with the Congregational Christian Churches of the United States in a merger June 25, 1957, thus forming the United Church of Christ. Reverend Ben Herbster was chosen the first president of the newly-formed denomination.
The heritage of the Congregational Church stems from the founding in the 1620’s of Plymouth Colony by the Pilgrims and of Massachusetts Bay Colony by the Puritans. Congregationalists absorbed the Congregational Methodists in 1892, the Evangelical Protestants in 1923, and the German Congregationalists in 1925. The Christian Church in 1820 united Methodists from North Carolina, Baptists from Vermont and Presbyterians from Kentucky. The Congregationalists and Christian Churches united in 1931. For the most part, the Congregational Christian church traces its ancestry to Reformation movements in England.
Two years following the adoption of the constitution forming the United Church of Christ, the testimony of faith, expressed in contemporary language, was approved. This is our oft-used Statement of Faith.
David’s United Church of Christ had undergone changes within its organizations. The Ladies Aid Society was now known as Women’s Guild, but it had retained its missionary purpose. Members diligently volunteered many hours to our local hospital and sewed for and supported many different service agencies. Pathfinders originally a Sunday school class and instrumental in the campaign to eliminate the 1929 debt, now gathered for Sunday evening pot-luck suppers. For many years the choir directors and organists of David’s were volunteer members of the church. Entering the modern era of professional assistance, David’s called upon Howard Zettervall as choir director and Louise Whyte as organist at the Wurlitzer organ. With these two fine musicians at David’s, an excellent music program was established. A young couples group formed under the name of the Builders. Since it was mostly Builders’ children occupying the new Christian education wing, the name was appropriately chosen.
David’s young people were active members of the Youth Fellowship. To encourage youth programs through YF and the Christian Education Department, it was recommended that an assistant minister be hired to assume these duties. To this end, Reverend Dennis Peterson was installed in August, 1963.
Reverend Rammler startled the congregation in 1963 with the announcement of his resignation from the ministry of David’s to assume the presidency of the Southwest Ohio Association. For seventeen years Clayton Rammler had competently led David’s from a country church to a suburban church; from a debt-ridden church to a nearly debt-free property, much increased in value, size, and facility capabilities; from small congregation of neighborhood families to a community-wide congregation. This maturation of David’s Church was in large part due to the foresight and direction of Clayton Rammler. The congregation felt deep gratitude and love for him and his family, and although they regretted his departure, they also acknowledged pride that he had been chosen to his new post as head of the Association.
Reverend Dennis H. Peterson carried on the ministerial responsibilities. He participated in December, 1963, in the celebration of the dedication service of the new office facilities under the chancel, and the remodeled sanctuary which featured new Colonial padded pews, a new organ, and a new communion table.
At a special service on February 9, 1964, Reverend Manfred A. Stoerker was installed as the minister of David’s Church. He, his wife, Lowella and children were welcomed from their St. John’s UCC home in Bellevue, Kentucky, to the parsonage on Mad River Road.
Fellowship activities which have continued into the present years began during Reverend Stoerker’s ministry. The Builders initiated a spaghetti supper in 1965, Women’s Guild served their first Pilgrim’s Feats and the church families gathered to create Christmas crafts at the first Advent Sunday Workshop.
None of David’s young people had ever chosen the ministry as a vocation; however, Marcia Medford assumed the life of a minister’s wife when she married the assistant minister, Dennis Peterson. She and Dennis left David’s in 1965 to assume the pastorate at Lawrenceville, Ohio.
Harry A. Wackerman, Jim Damewood, and Dennis Long followed in accepting responsibility for the youth work. Laymen who have served in recent years include Boy Taylor, Paul Martines, and Mary Ann Everill.
A strong aspect of Reverend Stoerker’s ministry was his deep concern and compassion for those who were ill or shut-in. When Reverend Stoerker resigned from David’s Church in November, 1967 to become the administrator of Riverview Home near Cincinnati, he found a ministry particularly well suited to his talents.
A young-in-spirit gentleman of eighty years bore the duties of interim minister for six months. Dr. W. R. Grunewald had already devoted fifty-eight years to the ministry when he retired from St. John’s United Church of Christ in Dayton. But when David’s made its request of him, he left retirement behind. David’s Church responded with true affection for reverend Grunewald and his wife, Elsie.
While Reverend Grunewald served, a pulpit committee composed of a cross-section of David’s congregation was chosen. They determined that the minister chosen to lead David’s into the seventies would need to fulfill particular requirements. They deemed important a strong figure in the pulpit; a man of diplomacy; a man who could relate to both sexes and all age groups; and a man who would contribute to the community. Their search led them into Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois. After conducting many interviews, the committee agreed that one man met all their requirements. His name was submitted to the congregation and he was called to serve.
Carl J. Mohr answered that call to become David’s spiritual leader. Personal facts reveal his background as a son of Wisconsin minister, the husband of Bea, rather to two sons, and a past minister of United Church of Christ churches in Iowa and Cincinnati. Upon his arrival in June, 1968, he stated his conviction that “David’s Church has a bright and rewarding future in her mission of proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ, both here and around the world, just as it has had a significant history of some 142 years.”
A first step towards achieving that “bright and rewarding future” of which Reverend Mohr spoke was taken by a vote of the congregation to “dress-up” the narthex and basement fellowship hall. A window wall was built at the rear of the church, wainscoting, and Colonial light fixtures were added in the narthex and coordinating carpet was installed in the church and narthex. With comfortable furniture placed, the narthex was converted into a lounge-meeting area. The basement room was brightened with fluorescent lighting, an acoustical-tiled ceiling, carpeting, and paint. Opportunities for social activities expanded with fuller use of church facilities.
Reverend Mohr moved to broaden the range of David’s social activities. New organizations founded have been Keenagers, Men of David’s, and the Priscilla Guild. Additionally, the Board of Christian Education has developed many events to widen learning and social opportunities for all age groups. Open Door Teen Breakfasts, Adult Seminars, Festival of Arts NASA, Family Retreats, Breakfast Together-Learning Together labels a few of these special programs.
“Proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ” through unique worship experiences has been the goal of youth, laity, music and, dialogue services. Communion, served both in the pew and, at other times, at the altar, is observed on six occasions throughout the church year. During Lent each year, confirmation is granted to eighth graders who have completed a two-year study of the Bible and church history and who profess their wish to join the church.
Mission work by Women’s Guild is accomplished in numerous ways; moreover, the Priscilla Guild disburses its funds derived form the Christmas Bazaar to both local church and missionary needs. Other organizations within the church also carry out various service projects. Pledges supporting the growth of United Church Homes in Ohio and the 1776 Achievement Fund place stewardship in the hands of individuals. Beyond individual and organizational efforts; David’s Church each year increases its budgetary allotment to our Christian World Mission. Thus sharing is David’s response to missionary commitments, “both here and around the world.”
A milestone of “historical significance” which has occurred during Reverend Mohr’s ministry is that women have taken their place in the decision-making body of the church. Francis Ely became the first woman to join Church Council. Through to the present year, she has been followed by Correne Patterson, Norma Jean Hendricks, Willa Marie Magner, Frances Pelton, Lois Gerhard, and Phyllis Brower. The year 1973 was particularly noteworthy in the Correne Patterson was the first female elder to be elected president of the congregation. Serving with her as vice-president was Willa Marie Magner.
The 142 years since Reverend Mohr arrived have lengthened into one hundred and fifty. A year-long simultaneous celebration of our sesquicentennial and our nation’s bicentennial is being observed. Mabel Creager Barnes is chairman of the committee which has arranged pictorial displays of generations of David’s families, early Van Buren Township schools, and brides of David’s. An exhibit of gowns worn by David’s Church brides was on display in June when the congregation surprised Car and Bea Mohr with a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration. Independence Day was observed with a picnic following church; at two o’clock the picnickers rang the church bell, joining David’s bell with the bells pealing simultaneously across America. Special worship services throughout the year have focused attention on various aspects of our history, and will lead to the rededication and renewal service planned for December. Highlighting the year is a celebration banquet scheduled for September.
To discover our heritage and to better appreciate it is an elementary purpose of any history. Through research and study, it is possible to record the names, dates, and events of the past which make up one hundred and fifty years of history of David’s Church. Sometimes, church is used to designate a building, but a building is inanimate. The church is people-spirited people who are drawn together by common beliefs and aspirations. Spirit is intangible, but it is like a river moving on year after year, changing, yet the same. The spirit of David’s Church is our heritage.
There is an old saying that is you copy the work of one person, this can be considered plagiarism. If, however, you copy the work of more than one person, it is referred to as research. Much research has gone into the writing of this history. To list all sources would require space which can be used better to express appreciation to the many people who have had a part in it.
First of all, thanks is extended to the committee of Mary Grant Creamer, Hazel LeFevre Storms, Dorothy Shoe, Susan Shoe, and Valerie Andrews for their dedicated help in researching and editing; and to Milt Willis for his invaluable knowledge and assistance in the field of printing.
In addition, appreciation is proffered to Reverend Mohr and those members of the congregation at David’s and other churches who generously added their store of information.
Last of all, my personal expression of deep thanksgiving is offered to Russell and Mildred Young, for introducing me to David’s Church (and the world); to Karen, Bill, Jr. and Michael, to whom this heritage is transmitted; and finally to Bill, Sr., for his inestimable, encouraging support.
Norma Jean Young Hendricks
(December 2, 2001)
A Moment in David’s History
For six months David’s enjoyed the interim pastor Dr. W. R. Grunewald, a wonderful octogenarian who had already devoted fifty-eight years to the ministry before he retired. He left retirement and endeared himself to David’s Church. During this time a pulpit committee made up of a cross section of the congregation decided that he new minister should fulfill several requirements. The committee wanted a strong figure in the pulpit, a man of diplomacy, a man who could relate to all age groups and to both genders. Last of all, they wanted a pastor who would establish a profile in the community. The search led the committee into other parts of Ohio, as well as to Kentucky and Illinois. After many interviews with candidates the committee agreed that one man met these many requirements. His name was submitted to the congregation and he was called to serve. To find out whom this new pastor was to lead David’s Church (and some of the long-timers already know), tune in next Sunday!
(December 9, 2001)
A Moment in David’s History
The new pastor after Rev. Grunewald’s interim ministry was Rev. Carl J. Mohr. Rev. Mohr was the son of a Wisconsin Minister, and had been past minister of United Church of Christ churches in Iowa and Cincinnati. Arriving with his wife and two sons in June of 1968, he stated his belief that “David’s Church has a bright and rewarding future in her mission of proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ, both here and around the world, just as it has a significant history of some 142 years.” The first step toward that bright and rewarding future was taken by a vote of the congregation to make some cosmetic changes in the narthex and basement fellowship hall. A window wall was built to the rear of the church, wainscoting and Colonial light fixtures were added in the narthex, and carpeting was installed in both the church and the narthex. With the addition of comfortable furniture the narthex became a lounge-meeting/greeting area. In the basement, Fellowship Hall acquired fluorescent lighting, and acoustical tiled ceiling, carpeting and paint. Rev. Mohr also moved to broaden the range of social activities. New organizations were Keenagers, Men of David’s, and the Priscilla Guild. Additionally, the Board of Christian Education expanded programs to include Adult Seminars, after school programs for the children during Lent, and family retreats. A milestone occurring during Rev. Mohr’s ministry was the inclusion of women in the decision making body of the church. Francis Ely became the first woman to join Church Council, and in 1973 Correne Patterson Moran was the first female Elder to be elected president of the congregation.
(December 16, 2001)
A Moment in David’s History
David’s Church was saddened, when in 1981 Rev. Carl Mohr left David’s Church to go to the Church of the Bonnie Brae in Colorado. Carl and Bea returned to Ohio to pastor a church in St. Mary’s and since their retirement from there have enjoyed traveling the world. Following Carl Mohr was interim pastor, Greg Gibson who is a practicing attorney as well as an ordained minister. From 1982 to 1985 Rev. Ward Tilton was David’s new pastor. When Rev. Tilton left David’s he left to enter a career in counseling. In his first annual report to the congregation, Ward Tilton commented that David’s Church had “an incredible amount of talent in its members.” He went on to say, “There is probably very little we can’t do if we set our mind to it.” The talent Rev. Tilton spoke of came to the floor while David’s Church searched for their new pastor. During this time, Rev. Joe Casto served as interim pastor. Happily, in 1986, Rev. Bill Youngkin accepted the call and came to our church family.
(December 23, 2001)
A Moment in David’s History
The Youngkin family, Bill, Betty, Molly, and Jeremy, came to Dayton the summer of 1986. Rev. Youngkin was moving from a congregation, which he had gotten underway in College Station, Texas, eight years previously, to an established church of 160 years in Kettering, Ohio. He brought with him new energy and new ideas. Under Rev. Yougnkin’s leadership this congregation has benefited from his bringing together leadership talents of both long time members and new comers, making lay leadership more diversified. As the church bulletin tells us every Sunday, “Ministers of David’s Church: (are) All David’s People.” In the past fifteen years we have seen the happy marriage between traditional and contemporary worship services with more lay participation, and we have made more connections to the community with such events as the ecumenical Thanksgiving service, the Third Street Bridge event, and the Vineyards program. The youth program has grown larger and stronger and the SALT program has been established. Among David’s Church members, stewardship has grown in proportion to the needs of our new building and the resulting increase in staff and programs. Finally, the Mission Board, which used to allocate benevolences only, has changed its function so that it is now oriented to programs and multiple giving efforts, as with Habitat for Humanity. With so much happening in the church, it is apparent that our pastor cannot do it all without assistance, and David’s Church added an Associate Pastor to the staff, first in Cynthia Robinson, and since her departure, with Becky Erb Strang whose ministry has been a blessing for both Bill Youngkin and the congregation. The most concrete evidence of Bill’s tenure is the new addition to the church building (no pun intended) from 1997 to 1999. There has been a major re-organization and re-modeling of the existing basement, and with the addition of the two story addition on the east side of the church we gained a new Fellowship Hall, a new kitchen, new bathrooms, new pastors’ studies, new conference rooms, new office spaces, and new classrooms. What an accomplishment for David’s Church and Bill Youngkin in the last fifteen years!
(December 30, 2001)
A Moment in David’s History
For the past year we have been learning the history of David’s Church and how it has stood for just twenty-five years short of two centuries. We have been the beneficiaries of our forbearers, their hard work on behalf of their church, and their dedication to God. Our predecessors have left this church for us in trust and we must honor that trust not only by celebrating the past, but also by looking to the future. We must establish programs that secure the preservation of this wonderful building as physical presence within its walls, and we must look to the future of this congregation as a wider spiritual presence outside its walls. The slogan for the building campaign for the most recent addition was “To Honor our Past and Celebrate our Future.” Let us keep that in mind as we move through the next twenty-five years to our Bicentennial year. In the meantime, one final wish, “Happy 175th Birthday, David’s Church!”