Picture it? Allen County and Lima in the early 1830s. Heavily forested. Fewer than 100 adult males recorded on the 1830 Allen County Federal Census and a total population of just 578.
1831- The survey of Lima is completed and the streets and lots plotted. The town’s boundaries are: North Street on the north, West Street on the west, Tanner Street (now Central Avenue) on the east, and the Ottawa River on the south.
By 1832 the last of the Shawnee Indians have been relocated to Kansas.
Town lots are being sold for $25 or less – about $550.00 in current dollars.
The town square and the streets are muddy pits when it rains.
Although the trees had been cleared from the streets, large stumps still remain, requiring the horseback rider and wagon driver quite an obstacle course.
As folks began to move into the area, they begin to hold religious services when circuit riders or missionaries visit the county. No doubt those early Allen County Presbyterians were worshiping together when the the opportunity arose.
Two of those missionaries were significant in the establishment of the Presbyterian church in Lima. One was Reverend Thomas Baker Clark. The other was Reverend James Cunningham. It is important to note that one of Reverend Cunningham’s descendents – his great-great-great granddaughter is a member of this congregation and is with us today – Anna Selfridge.
So, let’s go back to Saturday, August 24, 1833. Reverend Thomas Clark is in town from his home in Belle Center in Logan County. He and 14 adults gathered in the log cabin county courthouse to organize the first church in the village of Lima.
After a sermon by Reverend Clark, John Jameson was installed as a ruling elder and Alexander Beaty was ordained and installed as a ruling elder.
Then the following were received in fellowship and communion of the church:
John Jameson and his wife Sally Ann who came from Marion County.
Alexander Beaty and his wife Mahala who came from Champaign County.
William Cunningham and his wife Anna came from Ashland County. He was the first doctor in Lima. He also is the son of Reverend James Cunningham.
Sarah Hover and Sarah Hover Jr – the wife and daughter of Ezekiel Hover who came from Trumbull County.
Caroline Hover and Eliza Hover – the wife and daughter of Joseph Hover who also came from Trumbull County. (Joseph and Ezekiel were brothers)
William McComb and his wife Elizabeth who came from Franklin County.
And John Ward who came from Champaign County.
On Sunday, August 25, 1833, Reverend James Cunningham arrived from Knox County and joins Reverend Clark. During the worship service communion was administered and seven children were baptized.
Those fourteen charter members probably had no idea that the church they organized would still be in existence 175 years later. But here we are today, August 24, 2008 celebrating the religious spirit of those Allen County and Lima pioneers.