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First Lutheran Church of Dayton Records

Identifier: MS-212

Scope and Content

The records of the First Lutheran Church are arranged within ten main series: (1) Administrative Records, (2) Vital Statistics, (3) Sunday School, (4) Church Related Materials Dealing with Church History, (8) Subject Files, (9) Organists and (10) Photographs.

The Administrative Records in Series 1 mainly consist of the meeting minutes of the Church Council, spanning the years 1840 to 1976. Arranged chronologically, these minutes are the best first-hand account on the day-to-day history of the church. Also included in this series are some scattered records of the Church Treasurer and a few miscellaneous administrative records.

Series 2, Vital Statistics, which is also arranged chronologically, includes information on baptisms, communions, marriages, and deaths within the church between the years 1839 to 1914. There are also church directories in this series that list the names of church members during much of the church's history. There are three additional volumes belonging to other series that hold information pertaining to vital statistics. Volumes 1 and 2 of Series 1 contain records of baptisms and communions and also a list of church members from the earliest years of the church. Volume 34 of Series 4, an annual or quarterly record of church events kept by various young people's groups from 1870 to 1910, contains the names of many members who were sick or who died during the years covered by the book.

Series 3 Sunday School records, is divided into two sub-series: Sunday School Administrative Records and Sunday School Related Classes or Groups. Arranged chronologically, the Sunday School Administrative Records in Sub-series 1 contain constitutions, meeting minutes, and information on the day-to-day running of the Sunday School, perhaps the most important institution in the First Lutheran Church. Sub-series 2, Sunday School Related Classes or Groups, is arranged alphabetically by group. These groups provided church members with important opportunities to gather for either purely social reasons or to discuss religious topics. The records left by the groups contain meeting minutes, directories, and calendars.

Groups unrelated to the Sunday School but who also provided social opportunities for church members are gathered in Series 4, Church Groups. This series is divided into four sub-series. Sub-series 1, Missionaries, documents the various missionary groups that connected the First Lutheran Church with others, both at a national and a local level. There are publications and convention proceedings of the Woman's home and Foreign Missionary Society (W.H. & F.M.S.) of the General Synod, a national organization, and of the Miami Synod, a regional organization, in which church members were actively involved. Within the First Lutheran Church itself, the Woman's Home and Foreign Missionary Society was its oldest established organization. Unfortunately, Dayton's flood of 1913 destroyed much of the group's records, leaving only two volumes of meeting minutes spanning the years 1918 to 1945. There is, however, an almost complete record of the church's missionary society for young women, known first as the Young Woman's Missionary Society and then later as the McCauly Missionary Society.

Sub-series 2, Other Women's Groups, contains histories and meeting minutes of women's groups, most of whom were involved in either charitable activities related to the church or in purely social functions. Sub-series 3, Men's Groups, and Sub-series 4, Youth Groups, also have the same kinds of records. All three are arranged alphabetically by group and then arranged chronologically.

Series 5 are Publications given out by the church to inform its members about services and church events and meetings. Sub-series 1, Sunday Bulletins, describe the weekly services of the church from the 1910s to 1984. Also, within the bulletins are notes on church news and about church groups. The collection of the Sunday Bulletins is complete from 1971 to 1984. Sub-series 2 contain Newsletters. These newsletters, which came out weekly, monthly, or quarterly over the years, intimately cover church events from 1895 to 1984; however, the collection of the newsletters is only complete from 1970 to 1984. Both the Sunday Bulletins and the Newsletters are arranged chronologically.

Series 6, Blueprints, is composed of the complete blueprints of the church's current building designed by the firm of Peters, Burns and Pretzinger in 1905. Also included are miscellaneous blueprints of additions and alterations to the church building and of its electrical system.

The Materials Dealing with Church History in Series 7 are mainly secondary works written about the First Lutheran Church, such as plays, books, and pamphlets. There are also descriptions of church organizations, descriptions of the church's building, and miscellaneous undated newspaper clippings. For general background on the church's history and organizations, this is the series with which to start.

Series 8 is made up of Subject Files. Arranged alphabetically, these files are incomplete and contain papers from the 1940s all the way through the 1980s. Because of its scattered nature, the best use of this series can only be to supplement information found in the other series.

Series 9 is a small series about the Organists of the First Lutheran Church, well-known in Dayton for their expertise. Pamphlets describing the church's organ, programs and information about organist Paul Ray Jones make up this series.

Series 10 is a miscellaneous collection of Photographs. The photographs have been placed into groups, which are then arranged alphabetically. Very few of the photographs are dated and even fewer have any identification of the people pictured in them.

Series 11 consists of church books such as hymnals and prayer books. Most of these books are written in English; however, there are several books in German.


  • Creation: 1839-1984


Language of Materials

A small amount of materials, particularly in the books and hymnals, are in German.

Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions on accessing materials in this collection.

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 First Lutheran Church of Dayton

The First Lutheran Church of Dayton, Ohio, was founded in July of 1839 by a group of Dayton Lutherans led by businessman Frederick Gebhart. The church is the first and oldest Lutheran church in Dayton.

Throughout its history, the First Lutheran Church has been a downtown church. Its first meeting was held in the storeroom of Gebhart's dry goods store on Main Street. The church then built and moved into a series of church buildings in the downtown area. Finally, in 1906, the congregation settled into its present location at First and Wilkinson streets.

The First Lutheran Church has been very involved in the growth of Lutheran churches in Dayton and surrounding areas. It has been responsible for the organization of six Lutheran congregations: the Trinity Chapel, the Harshmanville Congregation, the Second Lutheran Church, the Trinity Lutheran Church, the Grace Lutheran Church, and the North Riverdale Lutheran Church.

The First Lutheran Church was also involved in the founding of Dayton's St. John's Lutheran Church. In 1864, the First Lutheran Church's council dismissed its pastor, Reverend Daniel Steck, for allying himself with the controversial Clement L. Vallandigham, leader of the anti-war Copperhead Movement. Steck then formed St. John's creating an unofficial competition between the two churches, which took many years to subside.

In recent years, the First Lutheran Church has struggled to maintain unity as more and more of its members have moved from the downtown area to the suburbs. The church has also been troubled by difficulties in finding pastors who reflect the congregation's beliefs about the Lutheran religion. For a complete history of the church, At the Center: A Sesquicentennial History of the First Lutheran Chruch, Dayton, Ohio, 1839-1989, found in Box 8, File 12, is recommended.


8 linear feet


First Lutheran is the first and oldest Lutheran church in Dayton. Records include minutes of the Church Council, financial records, vital statistics containing information on baptisms, marriages, deaths, and confirmations, Sunday School records, newsletters, church bulletins, materials dealing with church history, photographs, and records of various church groups and committees. There is also a complete set of blueprints for the church's current building which was designed in 1905 by the Dayton architectural firm of Peters, Burns, and Pretzinger.

Statement of Arrangement

The collection is arranged into eleven series:

  1. Series I: Administrative Records
  2. Series II: Vital Statistics
  3. Series III: Sunday School
  4. Series IV: Church Related Groups
  5. Series V: Publications
  6. Series VI: Church Blueprints
  7. Series VII: Historical Materials
  8. Series VIII: Subject Files
  9. Series IX: Organists
  10. Series X: Photographs
  11. Series XI: Books and Hymnals

Acquisition Information

The records of the First Lutheran Church of Dayton, Ohio, were accessioned into the Wright State University Department of Archives and Special Collections in April of 1991. They were donated by the church.

Processing Information

Processed by Tina Ratcliff in May, 1991. Additions processed by Patricia A. McEldowney in October, 2010.

Guide to the First Lutheran Church of Dayton Records (MS-212)
Finding aid prepared by Tina Ratcliff, 1991
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2010: Patricia A. McEldowney

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA