The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter XXVII
Religious Organizations
Part I

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



Religious Organizations.

Religion is like the fashion. One man wears his doublet slashed, another laced, another plain; but every man hath a doublet. So every man hath his religion. We differ about trimming.

John Selden

The religious settlers of Genesee County came here not to lose their influence in isolation, or to cover their light by worldly cares and pleasures, but to unite their strength in building up the kingdom of truth and righteousness. So those of like faith, and education early formed themselves into societies or church, and began planning for permanent influence. Hence, the fine church edifices which now adorn our community stand, and will stand, for spiritual excellences which are of more value to humanity than the highest towers which trade and commerce can erect or the most exquisite works which genius and art can produce.

The religious affairs of the county have kept pace with the rapid increase of population and the development and growth of the community. The number of church societies has been materially increased and there has also been a marked increase in the efficiency of those which were formed and started in the early days. From the earliest settlement of Flint River and the surrounding villages, the churches have exerted a vast influence in every good movement that has concerned the welfare of the commonwealth.


The Court Street Methodist Church has claims to being the oldest church society in Flint, as Bradford Frazee, a minister belonging to the Saginaw mission, preached in Flint River in 1834 when there were not more then four or five families living in the settlement. The following year, 1835, the Rev. William H. Brockway, a member of the same mission, traveled from Saginaw every third week and preached in Flint river, and also five miles north, at Mt. Morris, then called the "Cold Water Settlement," the early settlers of that neighborhood being nearly all of the temperance faith. The Rev. Mr. Brockway always traveled on foot, carrying his bundle, his Bible and his hymn book, and held his meetings on the upper floor of the frame store owned by State & Wright.

In 1837, however, a small number of the Methodist faith organized themselves into a society, but they seem to have suffered the most extreme financial embarrassments, for the steward's account of the first two quarters show the whole amount of money received, including public collection, to have been fourteen dollars and sixty-two cents. Later, in 1837, the name of "Flint River Mission," appears on the minutes of the Saginaw mission, with Luther D. Whitney, preacher, in charge. Mr. Whitney names in his journal the following preaching places: Genesee, Pine Run, Kearsley, Atherton Settlement, Grand Blanc, Miller Settlement, Torry Settlement, Carman Settlement, Richard Johnson's and Stanley Settlement.

At a conference of the Methodist church held in 1841 the Rev. B. F. Bangs was appointed to Flint and during the first year of his labors a site was secured for a parsonage and church. The conference of 1843 sent the Rev. William Mothersill to the Flint River work and during his pastorate a small building for church purposes was erected, the size of the building being thirty-five by fifty-five feet. The building of this church was a great achievement. Several times the work was discontinued for the want of funds; then small contributions would enable the work to be resumed and the finances of the members and friends were taxed to the utmost. From 1841 to 1854, however, the church increased in numbers under the pastorate of a number of vigilant workers.

About the period of 1855-60, it had several very vigorous pastors; George Taylor, John Russell, John A. Baughman and T. J. Joslin, under whom the work of the parish was so ably conducted that in1860 it was found that the church accommodations were entirely inadequate. Accordingly during the pastorate of the Rev. Mr. Baughman the building was enlarged and beautified. For several years preceding this time the subject of temperance has excited much interest in the community. The question of the practicability of mitigating or suppressing intemperance by the enactment and enforcement of prohibitory laws were discussed with great earnestness, which aroused the enmity of the liquor interest, and the church received a number of threatening message supposed to emanate from that source. However, the alterations on the church building were scarcely finished when, in 1861, it was reduced to ashes, the work, as many though, of the opponents of temperance reform. In 1862, however, another large building was erected at a cost of twelve thousand dollars. The work of the church went successfully on under a number of pastors, including the Rev. W. H. Perrine, Rev. W. E. Bigelow, Rev. Luther Lee, Rev. Thomas C. Gardner, and Rev. J. F. Davison, all of whom labored in the fields of practical and spiritual endeavor with an ever increasing membership until 1873, when the Rev. Dr. McEldowney, formerly professor of Latin and Greek in Albion College, took charge of the pastorate.

Following the Rev. McEldowney were A. F. Bourns, W. H. Peace, James Venning and I. N. Elwood. In 1888 a splendid new edifice was built to make room for the large congregation, and in 1889 it stood completed and was dedicated by Bishop Thomas Bowman. Again, in 1892, a fire broke out from accidental causes and the beautiful new church was burned to the ground. Afflicted, but not cast down, the society devoted itself to the task confronting it, till another edifice was erected, the same in which they now worship and which was dedicated in 1894. From the first appointment in 1834 until the present time the pastors of the Court Street Methodist Church have been earnest, hard-working men, having at heart the interest of their congregation. The present incumbent, the Rev. Howard Field, is no exception, and under his pastorate the membership has reached the one thousand four hundred mark.

From the first appointment in 1834 to the present year of 1916 the pastors who have served the Court Street Church have been:

Bradford Frazee

W. H. Brockway

O. F. North

L. D. Whitney

Larmon Chatfield

Ebenezer Steel

F. B. Bangs

William Mothersill

Harrison Morgan

David Burns

M. B. Camburn

B. S. Tayler

William Mahon

J. M. Arnold

George Taylor

J. A. Baughman

W. H. Perrine

W. E. Bigelow

Luther Lee

T. C. Gardner

J. F. Davison

John McEldowney

W. H. Pearce

James Venning

I. N. Elwood

J. P. Pryor

N. G. Lyons

Henry E. Wolfe

G. W. Grimes

C. E. Allen

A. Raymond Johns

Ralph Cushman

Howard A. Field


At the time of the burning of the Court Street Church in 1861, some of the members of the society held the opinion that a more central location should be chosen for the new church. This, however, being though unwise, the situation resolved itself into the forming of a new society on Garland Street, on the opposite side of the river. By means of transfer from the old church, their membership soon amounted to eighty. The first pastor was the Rev. Isaac Crawford, under whose direction the new house of worship was erected and finished before the close of 1861, the lots on which the church was built being generously donated by Chauncey L. Payne and Charles P. Avery. In 1878 the Rev. T. J. Joslin was appointed pastor, the same minister by who untiring work the Court Street Society has been able to rebuild after the fire of 1861. The Garland Street Church win the one year of Mr. Joslin's pastorate brought its membership up to nearly three hundred. The first church building has been improved from year to year, until in 1888 it was decided to erect a spacious brick edifice on the same site. By a curious parallel the corner stone was laid on the same day as that of the third Court Street Church. The degree of success realized by the Garland Street Church is seen in the fact that during the years from 1888 to 1916 the membership has steadily increased, until at this time, under the pastorate of the Rev. G. W. Olmstead, it numbers twelve hundred.


The pastors who have served the Garland Street Church since its organization in 1861 to the year of 1916 are:

Orrin Whitman

W. O. Burnett

G. W. Lowe

E. R. Hascall

William Fox

Isaac Crawford

Jacob Horton

A. F. Bowns

H. S. White

W. W. Washburn

G. H. Whitney

E. E. Caster

T. J. Joslin

E. W. Frazer

G. W. Jennings

G. N. Kennedy

G. H. Whitney

E. D. Dimond

W. H. Rider

G. W. Olmstead



The Oak Park Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1909, the first service being held in a tent erected for the purpose at the corner of Newall and North Saginaw Streets. Within six months the site was purchased and the chapel adjoining the present edifice was build under the direction of the Rev. Frank Field, the first pastor. Two years later the basement of the church was built and the services, with the Rev. Frank Miner as pastor, were held here until 1915, when the church edifice was erected, the entire cost being seventy thousand dollars. The new church which was dedicated in 1916, is one of the handsome churches of Flint, with a most approved system of lighting, and has also installed an acousticon, or telephone system, for the aid of the deaf.

Under the pastorate of the Rev. Horace Mallinson, who has been in charge of the past three years, the membership has reached the six hundred mark, and the Sunday school rolls include four hundred names.


The Kearsley Street Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1909, through the efforts of the Rev. P. B. Hoyt, who is now the pastor of the Lake View Methodist Episcopal Church. The church building, at the corner of East Kearsley and Forest Streets, was formerly an old mission church which was erected a number of years ago, but has been arranged to suit the needs of the growing congregation. Mr. Hoyt remained as pastor for six years, or until 1915, when the Rev. Mr. Duddeon took charge. At the recent conference held in 1916 the church was admitted tot he Flint Ministerial Association and the Rev. C. W. Hill appointed as pastor. it has a membership of one hundred, a Sunday school of two hundred, and flourishing societies of both the Junior and Epworth Leagues.


The Riverside Methodist Episcopal Church was also organized in 1909, through the efforts of the same Rev. P. B. Hoyt who was influential in effecting the organization of the Kearsley Street Church. This church is located on Lewis Boulevard in the suburb of Homedale, and was also under the charge of Mr. Hoyt until 1915, when Mr. Duddeon took charge of the pastorate in connection with his work at the Kearsley Street Church. In 1916 this organization was also admitted to the Flint Ministerial Association and the Rev. George Tripp was appointed pastor, It has a membership of one hundred, with a Sunday school attendance of two hundred.


The Lake View Methodist Episcopal Church was first started in 1911 as a Sunday School in Elm Park, a southern suburb of Flint, the classes being held in a house at the corner of Pingree and Perris Avenues. During that year twenty persons effected an informal organization and the Rev. J. B. Goss officiated as pastor. The society was permanently organized in 1912, by the Rev. Harrison Karr, and a building was erected for church purposes on Ferris Avenue. The Rev. G. W. Wright then took charge of the pastorate for two years, followed by the Rev. George Loomas, for one year. In 1916 the Rev. P. B. Hoyt was appointed pastor, and under his leadership the society has purchased the property at the corner of Fifteenth and South Saginaw Streets and will eventually erect a church edifice. The present membership is eighty-four, and the membership of the Sunday School is two hundred and fifty-one. The Epworth league and the Junior league also have an increasing membership.


The African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1875, at the home of Mrs. Nancy West, by a few members of one of the Sunday School classes in the Garland Street Church, and was under the supervision of the Rev. John Furgeson. It was part of a circuit of which Saginaw was the head. A church building was shortly erected in 1876, called the Quinn Chapel church, and cost the members many years of energy and struggle. Among the pastors who have been in charge were John Furgeson, C. W. E. Gilmore, G. W. Brown, J. S. Masterson, S. Simons, Benjamin Roberts, J. S. Hill, D. A. Graham, W. H. Simpson and others. Their present membership numbers about one hundred under the Rev. William Morley, pastor.


The society of the Free Methodist church was organized in 1880. Their church building, which was a part of the old Presbyterian Church, was purchased and moved to its present site on Oak Street in 1885. 

The following have served as pastors:

A. V. Leonardson

W. N. Pittinger

W. S. Haight

E. D. Hartley

E. Steere

E. W. Harding

A. S. Andrews

J. M. Greene

W. W. Hoyt

H. Montgomery

Rev. Mr. Jackson

Rev. Mr. Warren

The society at present, under the present pastor, the Rev. Mr. Porterfield, numbers seventy-three members and one hundred and seventy-five scholars in the Sunday School.


The Second Free Methodist Church was organized about the year 1908 and the Rev. F. J. Calkins appointed pastor. In eight years the membership has increased to one hundred ten, the present minister being the Rev. Mr. McCarty.


The Methodist Protestant Church is one of the youngest church organizations in the city, being organized in 1900. Its building was dedicated, march 28, 1901, on the corner of North Saginaw and Elizabeth Streets. From a small beginning, its membership has increased to over two hundred. Its pastors have been W. H. Cole, M. J. Weaver and the Rev. Mr. Hescott. In 1916 the Rev. W. H. Cole was recalled to a second pastorate.


The society of the Fourth Ward Evangelical Church dates its beginning to the year 1864, when it was detached from the Owosso Mission and constituted a mission by itself. During the first hew years it was part of the circuit of six towns. In 1868 they began the building of a brick church in the fourth ward, which they dedicated in march, 1869, and which they have much improved recently. For many years their society enjoyed great prosperity, but there came a time, as seems to be the case with almost all German congregations in this country, when the language problems became a serious question. The children of German families, growing up with American children, learned our language and soon wished their church services conducted in English. So this was agitated for some years, till in 1897 they resolved to change all their public services from the German to the English language and since then the society has increased in growth. The membership in 1916, under the Rev. C. B. Stroh, numbers two hundred fifty, with an increasing Sunday school and a large Young People's Alliance.


The Kearsley Park Evangelical Church, under the direction of the Rev. Mr. Kirn, organized in 1916, is doing a wonderfully flourishing work, and even in a few months has gained a membership of eighty-five, with a Sunday School of three hundred. The influence of such a church in the out-lying districts of Flint can hardly be estimated and does credit to the pastor in charge.


The first settlers of Flint found church organization on either side of them, and on the Sabbath day they could elect to go to the meeting either to Genesee, four miles to the north, or to Grand Blanc, six miles tot he south, so, there being no congregational society in flint river, on May 7, 1837, seventeen persons of that faith met at the "River House," the home of Lewis Buckingham and organized the Congregational Association.

However, there was no Congregational Association in this region, so this society, in 1840, submitted its articles of faith to the presbytery of Detroit and was taken under the care of that body. Afterward we find it appealing to this presbytery in cases of discipline and submitting to its government. The first communion was held in a barn standing near the east corner of the square west of Saginaw and north of Kearsley Streets.

The Rev. Orson Parker supplied the pulpit a part of the first year, being succeeded by the Rev. John Beach. In 1845 the Rev. J. G. Atterbury was ordained and installed as the first regular pastor. Not long after Mr. Atterbury began is ministry, the church entered upon the work of erecting a house of worship and in 1848 an edifice was dedicated, being a large white wooden building, of the old-fashioned type, on the corner of Saginaw and Second Streets. One of the organizers of this church society, Wait Beach, a son of Jonathan Beach, who ha participated in the scenes of the Revolutionary War, gave the land for this, the first house of worship of the Presbyterian church; he also gave the land for the Methodist Church and parsonage on Court Street; also land for the first cemetery and the land for the court house.

One of the early pastors of this church was the Rev. H. H. Northrup, who served as pastor from 1852 until 1867 and afterward spent the remainder of his long life in Flint. During the ministry of the Rev. Archibald McSween, who assumed the pastorate of the church in 1868, the land on Grand Traverse Street, now the site of the Presbyterian manse, was purchased and fitted up at a cost of about four thousand dollars.

In 1876 the Rev. George P. Tindall accepted a call to the pastorate and labored for five years, during which time eighty-five new members were received. Mr. Tindall then retired from the service. In 1885, the old church being inadequate for the needs of congregation, it was voted to erect an imposing stone structure two blocks to the south on Saginaw Street. this undertaking was accomplished under the direction of the pastor, Rev. Henry Melville Curtis, who, during his pastorate in Flint, became very influential in the affairs of the church. Rev. Mr. Curtis closed his pastorate in 1890 and was followed by the Rev. George F. Hunting, D. D., who remained from 1891 until 1895; the rev. Henry Neill, who was pastor from 1895 to 1899, and the Rev. J. G. Inglis, who occupied the pulpit from 1899 to 1901.

Mr. Inglis was followed by the Rev. Charles A. Lippincott, D. D., who remained for twelve years, from 1901 to 1913. Under the pastorate of Doctor Lippincott, a man who ability was recognized and valued both in his parish and in the business and civic circles of the community, the work of the church was rapidly extended and the membership greatly increased. Doctor Lippincott resigned to take charge of a pastorate in South Bend, Indiana, and the present pastor is Rev. H. D. Borley, under whose leadership the church rolls now contain seven hundred names, and the benevolent societies carry on a large and beneficent work.


The Parkland Presbyterian Church society has nearly completed its first church building, under the pastorate of the rev., Howard J. Clifford, a one-time leader of the Salvation Army. It is a sightly edifice of brick and stone, following the lines of old English architecture, with a seating capacity of nearly five hundred. The needs of institutional work are well looked out for in the system of club rooms, shower baths, kitchen, etc., and there is a primary room for two hundred children. the entire work has been carried on without debt.


As early as the year 1837 an attempt was made to secure the permanent organization of a Baptist church in Flint. Several efforts having failed, finally a society was effected, which was begun under the direction of the Rev. Alfred handy, missionary of the American Baptist Home Mission Society.

The first meeting of the society were held in a room over the jail, in the court house, but within a few years a church building was erected and on December 12, , 1855, was dedicated the first house of worship of the First Baptist Church of Flint. In 1868 it was enlarged and re-dedicated. The first seven years of endeavor were full of trials and discouragements, but from 1869 to 1874 it enjoyed a high degree of prosperity. In common with all churches, its financial support suffered fro some years from the great panic of 1873.

The first church, a frame building, was built after a hard struggle and was afterwards enlarged. This building served its purpose until, in 1890, their numbers and ability had increased so they were enabled to erect the beautiful and commodious structure that stands at the corner of Second and Beach streets, a credit to themselves and the city.

During the pastorate of Rev. C. E. Lapp, 1905-10, a branch Sunday school was established in the northern part of the city, which, owing to the rapid growth of that section, soon developed into an independent organization known as the North Baptist church. This church now has a membership of four hundred and twenty-five and a property valued at from forty to sixty thousand dollars, and its pastor is Rev. George M. Vercoe.

At the present time the First and North churches are co-operating in a Hungarian mission work in the neighborhood of Center street and Industrial Avenue. The First church is also interested with another down-town church in promoting mission schools in that rapidly-growing section of the city known as the Fifth ward.

The First church owns a parsonage, which is splendidly located about four blocks from the house of worship, and some vacant lots which are being held for use as the city grows. The church membership, under the present pastor, Rev. G. C. Crippen, numbers eight hundred.

The following is a list of pastors of the Baptist church during the years of its history:

Alfred handy

A. K. Tupper

J. S. Goodman

J. S. Boyden

Charles Johnson

S. Cornelius

S. W. Titus

James Cooper

C. J. Thompson

W. L. Farnum

L. D. Temple

W. L. Farnum

W. W. Hicks

E. R. Curry

C. E. Lapp

J. M. T. Childrey

G. C. Crippen



The Colored Baptist Church conducts its work under the leadership of the Rev. Mr. Dunzy, with a membership of about sixty. It has a fine church edifice with rooms for social service.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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