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Service will mark 150 years of faith

More than 150 years ago, 14 First Presbyterian Church parishoners gathered to celebrate their faith.

Wednesday, October 18, 2000

More than 150 years ago, 14 First Presbyterian Church parishoners gathered to celebrate their faith.

This Sunday, several hundred will come together – this time, to mark an anniversary.

The church, located at the corner of Fifth Street and Railroad Avenue, was first organized July 27, 1850, by the then-Presbytery of Scioto and has grown steadily since then, said the Rev. Harold Demus, the church’s pastor.

He said the 150th anniversary celebration will be Oct. 22, despite being a few months later than the actual founding date.

"We have celebrated the anniversary of the church on several different dates for several different reasons," he said. "When I came to this church, I discovered that they were originally celebrating the church’s dedication."

He said when the church was founded services were held in a nearby school building that was also used by several other churches. The first building was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1852.

"Part of the original church still sits on property donated by the Iron and Coal Company of Ironton," Demus said. "In the early years of Ironton, the early leaders of the city came up with the idea of founding the iron foundries. They knew it was very important to establish churches in the area to reduce the amount of crime that would take place."

The church later grew and needed larger facilities.

"They built a 100-foot tall tower in August 1882," he said. "With it, they installed a bell and (a) clock that was visible from four different directions. At the same time, they built our current sanctuary."

He said the 118-year-old black walnut sanctuary is where the anniversary celebration will take place.

"The sanctuary is built like an inverted hull of a ship so it didn’t need any main support beams," Demus said. "The black walnut ceiling rises to 50 feet at its highest point."

The worship center also features a massive rose window that portrays John Milton Campbell at work in the mission fields of Africa, he added.

"The window was given to the church by his brother, Hiram Campbell, one of the iron masters in Ironton at that time," he said. "Hiram is also the brother of John Campbell, the founder of Ironton."

The festivity will feature a direct descendent of the man in the rose window, he added.

"Milton Campbell’s great-great-great grandnephew, the Rev. James A. Campbell, will be the guest speaker," Demus said. "Ironically, he is a missionary and the director for the office of the Russian Task Force. They are a missionary group to the Yupik Eskimos of the Yukon and Siberian Russia."

Yupik Christian convert Della Waghiyi will also visit this weekend and will sing in her native language, he said.

He said the church’s regional moderator, Delores Nagy of the Scioto Valley Presbytery, will start the service.

"We will have former pastor John Kuckuk present during the service," he said. "The widow of the late former pastor Rev. Allen Christy (1939-1944) and several of their children will be attending also."

Since the denomination’s heritage began in Scotland, Marty Smith will play the bagpipes throughout the ceremony, he added.

"Following the service, our youths will act as servers for a sit-down luncheon," Demus said.

Along with the Historical Society, representatives from the mayor’s office will be present during the celebration and many of the church’s historical artifacts will be on display, he added.

"We will also give a tour of the church, which will start in the Arundel room," he said. The public is cordially invited to attend."