The Presbyterian Church of New Castle, IndianaA Brief Early History
Sunday, April 28, 1889, witnessed an interesting and important event in the history of the Presbyterian Church of New Castle. That was the day and 10:30 am was the hour for the dedication of the beautiful new church building at the corner of Court (south 12th) and Church Streets. Long before the hour for the services to begin, the people anxious to witness the new edifice, commenced congregating, and before time for the opening exercise the large auditorium, with a seating capacity of over 500, and the lecture room adjoining were filled with an anxious and expectant crowd. The beautiful interior of the new building challenged admiration and expressions of pleasure and gratification came form every observer.
The main auditorium is 52 by 42 feet. There are two main entrances to the building, one at the southwest corner and one at the west side, and a private entrance for the minister on the east side. The pulpit and choir stall are located in the northeast corner, the rows of seats running diagonally instead of straight or square across the room. This arrangement faces the entire congregation towards the minister and it also gives to the room a unique and novel appearance. The church is furnished with 250 opera chairs of the latest improved style, finished in cherry, and so arranged as to leave the aisles from different and distant points of the room, centering at the pulpit. In addition to these are a large number of other chairs conveniently arranged, affording great seating capacity for the size of the room. In the north end of the church is a lecture room 27 by 20 feet and adjoining that is a Sunday school classroom, both are arranged to be open and made a part auditorium when occasion may demand. The interior of the building is finished in quartered oak, oiled and very beautiful. A rich carpet of sky blue tint covers the floor and adds much to the beauty of the room. The ceiling is very high, reaching up to the roof and the acoustic properties of the room are excellent. The walls and ceiling are plain white. Beautifully patterned cathedral glass windows shed a subdued light upon the scene, heightening the beauty of the surroundings. Upon the rostrum is a plain, handsomely finished dark cherry, back of which is a chair stall, cut of by a plush curtain, suspended from a brightly polished brass railing. The building is lighted by gas light from a reflecting chandelier that hangs high above the congregation in the center of the room. The pulpit and rostrum were surrounded by flowers and plants, and among the decorations a beautiful floral cross and anchor, emblems of love, faith and hope, added a charm to the scene.
When the hands on the clock pointed to the hour of 10:30, pastor Rev. F. C. Hood arose to announce the opening hymn, "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow," the audience seemed to catch the inspiration that shown in his countenance, as he felt that the full fruition of his hopes was about to be realized in the completion of and dedication of the new church. After the singing of the hymn, Rev. J. H. Edwards, pastor of the Christina church, invoked the divine blessing. Prayer was offered by Rev. A. S. Wooten, of the M. E. church, which was followed by a solo by Miss Adda Harden. Rev. J. A. Rondthaler. D. D. of the Tabernacle church of Indianapolis, Indiana delivered the dedicatory sermon.
Reverends Robert Irvin and George S. Rea first organized the Presbyterian church of New Castle, Indiana, in January 1844. The members at that time were: Jane Swain, David C. Hazzard, Eli S. Messick, Sarah A. Messick, Hiram A. Bundy, Maria Bundy, Prudence Akin, and Catherine Gilbert. The first elders elected by the church were Eli Messick and Hiram A. Bundy, who were ordained the day following the organization of the church. The first Minister called to the charge was Rev. George S. Rea. Since then the following ministers have been called to preside over the church, which has grown froma small beginning to one of the most prosperous religious organizations in the city: A. R. Naylor, R. M. Overstreet, William Armstrong, H. K. Hennigh, H. N. Shockley, J. A. Lawbach, R. T. Drake, A. Telford, D. A. Tawney, Carles F. Beech and F. C. Hood.
Soon after the organization of the little congregation, they contracted for the erection of a church building at a cost of $700. It was a frame structure of small proportions and plain in appearance. It was dedicated November 20, 1845. This building stood without material change and was used until June 23, 1888, when it was removed to give place to a new one. The subject of a new building was first mentioned to the official board at a meeting held on April 4, 1887, but the suggestion met with no encouragement and the project was regarded as an impossibility, owing to the limited membership of the church and their financial condition. But to those who had studied the matter the plan looked plausible and the enterprise was not to be given up. On Sunday, April 10, a meeting of the congregation was called for the following day to consider the question of building. At this meeting the necessity of a new building was urged and the plausibility of the project presented by those interested in a very earnest manner. But while all present appreciated the urgency of the case only one saw the plausibility and the meeting was dismissed without any action taken. But before the people got out of the house a new inspiration seemed to take hold of a few, and at the suggestion of Joshua L. Morris the meeting was called to order and it was resolved to try. A soliciting committee was appointed and went earnestly to work. Subscriptions were taken with the understanding that they would not be binding unless $5,000 could be raised by November 1st of the same year. Many members of other churches and some not identified with any church subscribed liberally. The first of November found the committee with a little over $5,000 on their books. A building committee was elected at a meeting September 5, 1887. This committee originally consisted of R. B. Carson, T. R. Vaughan, John M. Morris, D. W. Chambers, T. W. Millikan, R. B. Smith and F. C. Hood. Joshua I Morris was subsequently elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of R. B. Carson.
After long waiting the committee, at a meeting held April 26, 1888, decided upon plans submitted E. H. Ketchum, of Cincinnati, Ohio. Bids were opened on May 22, the lowest being that of Marion Hathaway for $5,580, to whom the contract was awarded. The work of excavating for the new building was begun in June. The corner stone was laid with appropriate ceremonies August 22, 1888.
It was the expectation of the committee that the building would be ready for occupancy not later than the first of year 1899. But owing to many delays, which were the faults of no one and over which no one had control, the work was not completed until last week.