First Lutheran Church

Bellefontaine, OH

"God's Work, Our Hands As We Keep Christ First"

A Brief History of The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bellefontaine, Ohio


The congregation of First Lutheran, Bellefontaine, Ohio, was founded in the home of John Horn, just north of the city of Bellefontaine. Prior to that time Lutherans in the area had worshiped in homes under the direction of missionary pastors.
The Rev. James B. Hoffman, a son-in-law of the Horn family served as the first pastor. The second pastor, the Rev. J. G. Harris, was also a son-in-law of the Horns. He served for two years and resigned on account of “low remuneration.” The congregation was again served by missionary pastors and for another year by Pastor Hoffman, their first pastor.
On March 25, 1848, Dr. Ezra Keller, founder and president of Wittenberg College, in Springfield, reorganized the congregation. The church was then served by a seminary student and by several interim pastors, and was vacant from time to time.
On April 20, 1851, the congregation reorganized a second time under the leadership of the Rev. John P. Brickley, of the Wittenberg Synod. It was during Pastor Brickley’s tenure and because of his encouraging leadership; the congregation acquired property and erected their first building. There were 28 members at the time of the 1851 reorganization. The earliest records of the council date from this time. The first building erected was a one story structure on the corner of Detroit and Sandusky Streets.
In 1881, the first church building was razed and the site leveled to erect the current church building. The original building consisted of two assembly areas, one for worship wand one for Sunday school. The main entry was in the base of the steeple facing Detroit Street. During construction the 1,800 pound bell was hung in the steeple.
In 1914, the building underwent major remodeling that included interior and exterior changes. The steeple was deemed “unsafe” and was removed. Portions of the exterior were bricked and the window designs were changed to permit the installation of stained glass windows. It was at this time that the “Come Unto Me” window over the altar was installed and the three symbols of the Holy Trinity were painted around the window.
In 1952, the congregation purchased land for parking and expansion. The expansion dream was realized in 1957 with the dedication of the Youth Building which housed classrooms, a fellowship hall and church offices.
The series of physical changes continued in 1989 when the congregation engaged in a renovation that saw the removal of the wall between the two parts of the Worship area, a new entry on the west side of the building and the enclosure of the courtyard.
Beyond the physical building of the parish, First Lutheran has had many significant milestones in service to the Logan County community. In 1962, Pastor Jerry Schmalenberger established a preaching point at Indian Lake in Russells Point. It was under the direction of Pastor Robert Secrist that the congregation of Galilee Lutheran Church at Russells Point was organized and chartered in 1967.
In 1964, the Lutheran Community Services was established to assist the needy and underprivileged in the area. Most of the leadership, funding and workers came from First Lutheran. The LCS has occupied several different locations, expanded its services from clothing and food to a whole host of Christian ministries, including a community kitchen (Our Daily Bread), a Thrift Store, and numerous direct assistance programs and community support operations.
It is impossible to summarize in a few words all the information that is the history of First Lutheran. In 2015, the congregation celebrated 175 years of service to God and the community.