Church History

Church History

The First Split

In 1840, under Mr. Kittridge's guidance and with much labor by the members, a small, 2-room brick building was built on the site of the present church. The timing was not propitious, however. Perhaps because of debt (0f the $874 cost of the new building, $431 had to be borrowed) or distance, several of the members living east of Bedford withdrew and built another Presbyterian church (the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church), in Pinhook. To help pay its debt, the Bedford congregation rented its building half-time to a Baptist congregation and used the front room as a school.

The Second Split

Shortly after the newly-chartered church had split for local reasons, the split in the national Presbyterian church into "New School" and "Old School" presbyteries reached Bedford. Most of the congregation remained with Mr. Kittridge in the "New School" church, but a number of dissenters built a two-story brick house (Bedford Presbyterian Church Old School) on the southwest corner of Church and Locust Sts. (now 14th and "K" Sts., present site of First United Methodist Church). The Bethlehem congregation also joined the Old School presbytery.

The New School/Old School split lasted until 1858, when the three congregations united into the "Bedford Independent Presbyterian Church" at the present location. The "Old School" church building was sold to the Methodists. In the mid 1860's the church ended its independence and joined New Albany Presbytery. When, in 1869, the national denomination split into the "Northern" and "Southern" Presbyterian churches, the Bedford church became a Northern church.

By 1869, the building at 15th and "L" had become unsuitable for the growing congregation. In 1870, it was torn down and a larger brick church was erected over the foundation. It was built at a cost of $7,000, and was dedicated on July 30, 1871.

The Building Expands

Like the community at large, the Bedford Presbyterian Church tended to follow the fortunes of the stone industry. It grew rapidly in the decades before and after the turn of the century. In 1900, during the pastorate of A.M. Irvine, extensive remodeling of the church was undertaken. The brick shell of the old sanctuary was completely surrounded by a new stone construction, giving the church a radically different appearance. New stained glass windows and new furnishings were installed, and some of the old furnishings went to nearby churches.

In 1903, the Rev. J. W. Findley became the pastor, and during his decade of ministry, the church opened a chapel on the northeast corner of "J" and 7th Sts. Mr. Findley was succeeded by Dr. DeWitt T. Scott, under whom a large addition was built on the east side of the church: the first story contained classrooms, and the second story had a kitchen and social room. The sanctuary was also renovated, with a new organ and new pews. The addition was dedicated on January 21, 1917.

The More Recent Years

Re-named in 1957 as First Presbyterian Church of Bedford, the church was renovated in 1967-68, nearly a century after the construction of the brick walls which still formed the sanctuary. Planned under Lawrence H. Cater and completed under Arthur J. DeYoung, the renovation replaced the old manse south of the church with a new addition containing the Voris Fellowship Hall, a kitchen, church offices, a nursery, and restrooms. The old second floor social room was remodeled into classrooms and a youth room, and the sanctuary was extensively renovated and modernized. The sanctuary was extensively remodelled as well and the Riley Memorial Pipe Organ was installed.

In 1987, part of the adjoining parking lot was purchased, providing the first church-owned off-street parking. In 1988, the Voris Fellowship Hall and offices were air-conditioned. In 1990-91, the sanctuary, classrooms, nursery, and church library were completely redecorated. In 1993-94, the boiler and church roof were replaced, the Voris Fellowship Hall and kitchen were redecorated, and the front restroom was remodeled into a handicap-accessible facility.

First Building

Second Building