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Westminster Presbyterian Church Records

 Collection
Identifier: MS-276

Scope and Content

The records document over two hundred years of the church, from its beginnings in 1799 as First Presbyterian Church, to its split into the resulting Third Street Presbyterian Church, to its merger in 1919 as Westminster Presbyterian Church. The records document all aspects of the three churches, including the administrative functions, buildings, education classes, finances, membership, ministers, worship services, and organizations and their work within the church and for the community. The collection is divided into three main subgroups: First Presbyterian Church, Third Street Presbyterian, and Westminster Presbyterian Church. Each subgroup is organized by function and format. Through its membership, buildings, and community programs the church has a long established presence in the heart of downtown Dayton.



Subgroup I: First Presbyterian Church, 1799-1919, while only 9 boxes of material, contains the earliest documentation in the collection, as it was the beginning of Westminster Presbyterian. The records include histories. Early administrative records of First Presbyterian Church include Board of Trustee minutes 1887-1903, congregational meeting minutes from 1869, 1908-1919, and Session minutes from 1901-1919. The education records in Series 3, while sparse in coverage, offer a glimpse into the operations of the Dayton Sabbath School. Financial records in Series 4 are also light in number, but do provide insight into financial functions through items such as a deed for pew purchase, subscription records, treasurer’s account book, and cash ledger. The Membership records in Series 5 are among the strongest documentation of First Presbyterian with manuals and membership directories covering 1864, and 1891-1919. The Minister files in Series 6 are strong in documenting the life of Reverend Thomas E. Thomas who served First Presbyterian Church from 1858-1871. He was a widely-known Bible scholar and anti-slavery minister, which is well documented in this series. Organizations documented in Series 7 are dominated by the Ladies’ Church Society cookbooks from 1873-1911, but also include a few minutes for the Men’s League Club, Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, Young Ladies Foreign Mission Board, Young Men’s Association, and Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavors. Series 8 documents the services at First Presbyterian through a few bulletins from the early 1900s. Photographs in Series 9 visually document the church buildings as well as the ministers and elders.



Subgroup II: Third Street Presbyterian is the smallest of the subgroups, and had the shortest duration as an independent entity in Westminster’s history. The strongest series in this group is the Administrative Records in Series 1, which contain Session minutes and registers on microfilm from 1839-1918. Also a complete run of bound bulletins from 1895-1919 maintained in the church, documents the church’s services and news. Early education records in Series 3 are incomplete, but contain a book of teachers and officers as well as Sunday school attendance records from the early 1900s. Membership records in Series 5 include a list of members at the time of the centennial in 1899. The Women’s Society records in Series 6 document its activities from 1909-1913 through minutes. Photographs in Series 7 provide visual documentation of the Third Street Church building.



Subgroup III: Westminster Presbyterian Church is by far the largest subgroup in the collection. It is divided into 15 series. Series 1 History contains not only written and published histories, but also anniversary materials. Series 2 documents the Governing Bodies of the Church. These records include full runs of meeting minutes and correspondence by the various levels of leadership of the church and show how the church is structured and administered from a national to local level.





Series 3 Administrative Records contains a near complete run of annual reports spanning 1960- 2018, manuals and directories, calendars, personnel files and studies. This series is strong in documenting the membership, activities and daily functions of the church, as well as the church’s activities within the community. Two types of calendars exist in this series. The first are calendars which are actually bound bulletins. The second type of calendar is a handwritten daily schedule for the church.





Series 4 Buildings, consists largely of blueprints of the current church building, which was built by the Schenck & Williams firm and dedicated in 1926. For additional information on financing the building and capital improvements, see Building Committee and Church Building Campaign Committee records in series 5 and financial records in series 7.





Series 5 Commissions & Committees: While many of the committee records are limited in scope, overall the series offers information on how the work of the church was organized and carried out. Committees on Christian and religious education and on the May Festival (a religious festival of the arts) are the most complete records in this series. Also of note are records dating 1920-1948 which document the work of Every Member Canvass, a stewardship committee. Among documentation of Westminster’s role in serving the community from the 1970s-1990s is the Community Life Commission records.





Series 6, Education, documents the Sunday School from the 1920s-1960s, and is also strong in documenting the Youth Fellowship during the 1980s-1990s.



Financial Records in Series 7 are strongest in documenting the church’s finances from the 1920s-2010. For additional information on decisions regarding finances, consult Series 5 on Commissions and Committees, as well as annual reports in Series 3 which provide annual Treasurer’s reports. In addition, the Board of Trustees records in Series 2 will offer insight into the decision making process regarding budgeting and use of church monies.



Series 8 Membership Records’ strength is in the alphabetical membership lists from the 1940s-1960s, as well as new member cards organized by date from 1926-1947. Also included are the travel diaries and writings of Adah Dodd Poince, a member of the church who also taught a popular Bible study. There is also biographical information on active church members. For additional information on membership, see manuals and directories in Series 3.



Series 9 Ministers contains the working papers of the ministers of Westminster, including biographical information, correspondence, and sermons. Ministers with several files are listed first, alphabetically by last name. Extensive files of Dr. Hugh Ivan Evans and Dr. William C. Schram are prominent in this series. Dr. Hugh Ivan Evans served the congregation from 1923-1955. During his tenure he was instrumental in leading the congregation during the early years of its merger, and in erecting and paying for a new church building. Rev. Dr. William C. Schram served the congregation from 1973-1989. The rest of the series is arranged alphabetically by the minister’s last name.



Music in Series 10 contains information on Westminster’s renowned choir and organists. It also contains information on acquisition and planning for new pipe organs. For music recordings search Series 15.



Series 11 Organizations and Programs is one of the largest series of the subgroup. The series is organized alphabetically by the organization’s name. Major groups include Men’s Club of Westminster, Missionary Society, Poince Bible Class, Presbywed, Westminster Service Club, Women of Westminster, and Young Adults.



Series 12 Publications contains a strong run of the Chimes newsletter for 1931 to 2019, documenting activities, events and news of the church. It also provides insight into how the church responded to global and local events.



Series 13 Worship Services consists almost entirely of worship bulletins for both regular worship services and special services. The bulletins date from the first service when the First Presbyterian Church and Third Street Church officially merged in 1919 and run almost complete through 2019. The bulletins not only provide information on the service, but also give information on the week’s activities and the names of staff. A complete bound set of calendars (bound bulletins) maintained by the Church Office exists in Series 3 Administrative Records. See Series 15 for special services and regular services recorded on CD-Rom.



Series 14 Photographs is arranged by subject found in bold type. The subjects complement the series and are as follows: Buildings; Education; Music; Staff, officers and members; Organizational Programs and Activities; and Worship / Special Services. For more visual images also look in Series 15: Audio/Visual.



Series 15 Audio/Visual contains CDs, films, record recordings, reel-to-reel sound recordings, tape cassettes, and video tapes of special events, services, lectures and classes. The CDs are in the E-Archives, the film is at Med. Sci.

Dates

  • 1799 - 2020

Creator

Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing most material in this collection. However, some materials have access restrictions due to format:

Audio/visual materials: Due to preservation concerns, original audio and video materials cannot be played in the reading room. Patrons may have access to reference copies. Items without reference copies can be digitized at the request of a patron for the cost of creating a digital copy. Please provide us at least two weeks advance notice if you would like to request an audio or video reference copy. Call 937-775-2092 or e-mail us at library-archives-ref@wright.edu.

Electronic records: Access to electronic files in this collection, indicated by an e-number (e.g., ms276_e0001), is restricted until they are fully processed. Requests for unprocessed electronic records can be submitted for consideration, with at least two weeks advance notice. Call 937-775-2092 or e-mail us at library-archives-ref@wright.edu. Archives staff reserve the right to restrict access to files with privacy or confidentiality concerns or to deny requests in which the review period is insufficient, given the volume of records requested and the desired access date. Access to original electronic media (original CD, floppy disk, etc.) is restricted.

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

History of Westminster Presbyterian Church

Westminster Presbyterian Church was founded in 1799 and named First Presbyterian Church. The new congregation of ten worshiped in Newcom’s Tavern, a small log cabin in the heart of Dayton. They eventually moved into their own meeting house in 1800 and the congregation continued to prosper and grow. By 1838, the Presbyterian church across America was dividing into the “old” and “new” schools of thought. The “old school” favored the concept of original sin, and ecclesiastical court and law, and favored slavery. The “new school” had their roots in the Puritan tradition and many favored the anti-slavery position. Locally, the members of First Presbyterian were also divided, resulting in 72 of its 187 members leaving to form Third Street Presbyterian Church, which adhered to the “new school” ideas. The Third Street Presbyterian Church was built on Third and Ludlow and dedicated in 1840.



For 81 years the two churches, only a city block apart, maintained their separate congregations. However, in 1919, the two churches were reunited to become Westminster Presbyterian Church. This reunited congregation worshiped in Dayton's Memorial Hall until the current building was completed in 1926. One of the notable features of the Westminster Presbyterian Church building on North Wilkinson Street is the Te Deum Window, a creation of Tiffany Studios.



Westminster is a vital church that offers its members numerous opportunities for fellowship, study and prayer, and community service through Small Groups, Presby Groups, Interest Groups, and larger organizations such as the Westminster Presbyterian Women. The significant presence and contributions of the Westminster Presbyterian Women are well documented in the collection. The women participate in Bible study, prayer, and supporting local and worldwide missions.



Westminster Presbyterian Church has a rich musical heritage. In 1920 the Westminster Choir was organized under the direction of John Finley Williamson. By 1926 the choir had toured the United States and Europe and Dr. Williamson had established a Choir School. The Choir School rapidly outgrew the church facilities and was moved to the Conservatory at Ithaca, New York. A few years later it moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where it exists today as the Westminster Choir College. The church choirs include the Westminster Choir which sings for the Sunday worship service, and for most of the special services. In addition, the Westminster Choir presents major choral literature, frequently with instrumental accompaniment. The church also has Choirs for children and youth, and handbell choirs. Each year the church features musical talent during its May Festival, a festival of religious arts.



Christian education is an important part of Westminster’s mission and history. In the early 1800s, Sarah Bomberger, a member of First Presbyterian Church, was instrumental in starting the first Sunday School, and participated in starting the Sabbath School of Dayton and the Sabbath School Association. Records of the Sabbath School are among the earliest in the collection. The Sunday School program today is administered by the Christian Education Council. Junior and Senior High Youth participate in Youth Fellowship, which provides them with a well-balanced program of activities that focus on fellowship, worship, study and service. Adult Education is also an important part of the church’s history. In the 1950s over 400 adult members of the congregation regularly attended Roberts’ Class, a Bible Study led by Mason Roberts, General Manager of Frigidaire.



With over 200 years of history, Westminster has a long established role within the Dayton community and beyond. In celebration of its bicentennial, members of the church extensively researched the history and published it in Westminster Presbyterian Church: Increasing the love of God and neighbor, 1799-2003, which is available in the collection in Box 14, File 4. The church also has a website at http://www.westminsterdayton.org.

Extent

125 linear feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The records are a rich source of information on the church's growth, teachings, membership, and activities, as well as its role in the community of Dayton and beyond.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into three subgroups: First Presbyterian, Third Street Presbyterian, and Westminster Presbyterian. The records are further organized by function and format:

  1. SUBGROUP I : First Presbyterian Church
  2. Series 1 : History
  3. Subseries 2 : Administrative
  4. Subseries 3 : Education
  5. Subseries 4 : Financial and Legal Records
  6. Subseries 5 : Membership
  7. Subseries 6 : Ministers
  8. Subseries 7 : Organizations
  9. Subseries 8 : Worship
  10. Subseries 9 : Photographs
  11. SUBGROUP II : Third Street Presbyterian Church
  12. Subseries 1 : History
  13. Subseries 2 : Administrative Records
  14. Subseries 3 : Education
  15. Subseries 4 : Financial Records
  16. Subseries 5 : Membership
  17. Subseries 6 : Women's Society of Third Street Presbyterian
  18. Subseries 7 : Photographs
  19. SUBGROUP III : Westminster Presbyterian Church
  20. Subseries 1 : History
  21. Subseries 2 : Governing Bodies
  22. Subseries 3 : Administrative Records
  23. Subseries 4 : Buildings
  24. Subseries 5 : Commissions & Committees
  25. Subseries 6 : Education
  26. Subseries 7 : Financial Records
  27. Subseries 8 : Membership
  28. Subseries 9 : Ministers
  29. Subseries 10 : Music
  30. Subseries 11 : Organizations & Programs
  31. Subseries 12 : Publications
  32. Subseries 13 : Worship Services
  33. Subseries 14 : Photographs
  34. Subseries 15 : Audio/Visual

Other Finding Aid

A complete box and folder inventory for this collection is available on the Special Collections and Archives web site at http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collection_guides/guide_files/ms276.pdf.

Acquisition Information

The records are on deposit from Westminster Presbyterian Church and were transferred to the Special Collections & Archives in 1995.

Accruals

Additions to the collection are received on a regular basis.

Related Material

In celebration of its bicentennial, members of the church extensively researched the history and published it in Westminster Presbyterian Church: Increasing the love of God and neighbor, 1799-2003, which is available in the collection in Box 14, File 4 and through the library catalog.

Title
Guide to the Westminster Presbyterian Church (MS-276) Records
Status
Completed
Author
Finding aid prepared by Toni Jeske, 2004
Date
2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • June, 2010: Additions processed.
  • March, 2012: Additions processed by Jeri Kniess.
  • April, 2013: Additions processed by Noel Rihm
  • 2016 September: Additions processed by Sarah Allison
  • 2016 September: Finding aid revised according to DACS by Toni Vanden Bos
  • 2019 July: Additions processed and finding aid updated by Lisa Rickey

Repository Details

Part of the Wright State University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives Repository

Contact:
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA
937-775-2092