History of Norwood Baptist Church
Cincinnati, Ohio, 1897
By Mrs. S. W. Lloyd
Norwood Baptist Church — the church of many names, as it is sometimes called, legally the Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church — was organized in 1866. This organization was composed of members from the old Duck Creek Baptist Church. It was the second church sent out from the mother of Hamilton County Baptist churches, and perhaps the strongest that ever left the fold of the grand old mother.
In 1859 a house of worship was built at Pleasant Ridge, under the direction of Rev. B. F. Harmon, then pastor at Duck Creek. This mission remained under the control of the Duck Creek Church for seven years. The effort grew, until the people felt the need of regular pastoral work. Accordingly they petitioned the mother church to give them the services of their pastor one-half of the time. This request was not granted. Aroused by this refusal, and feeling sufficiently strong to carry on the work of a church, 61 members, on April 14, 1866, asked and were granted letters of dismission from the Duck Creek Church, to begin work as an independent organization at Pleasant Ridge. They took with them Brother Kirkpatrick, then acting pastor of the church they had left. These members, on May 21, 1866, enrolled their names, adopted a Declaration of Faith, a church covenant, and rules for church government, all of which remain in force at the present time.
On May 31, 1866, a Council was called for recognition services, and the following churches responded by delegates: Second Baptist Church (Cincinnati), Freeman Street Baptist Church (Cincinnati), German Baptist (Cincinnati), Columbia Baptist Church, Duck Creek Church, Mt Carmel Baptist Church, New-town Baptist Church, Mt. Auburn Baptist Church, Second Ten Mile Church, Clermont Church, Lockland Baptist Church, and Muddy Creek Church. The following visiting brethren were also in attendance: Revs. T. J. Melish, W. Kidder, Wooster, O.; G. G. Furguson, New York; J. Degarmo, Indiana; Geo. F. Davis, Jr., Rochester, N. Y.
The Committee of Attestation consisted of the following: J. A. Kirkpatrick, S. M. Ferris, J. H. Tangeman, and Jos. Emery.
Officers of the church were :
Under the pastorate of several ministers, the church was for many years a prosperous and successful body. The services were well attended and a large Sunday-school was maintained. Brother Kirkpatrirk was followed, August 1, 1867, by Brother C. E. Bristol, who served the church until April, 1869. Brother Bristol was succeeded by Brother J. E. Morris, June 12, 1869. He completed his labors November 26, 1870. At this time calamities came upon the church. Some of its members removed to other places, and a still larger number of the most influential and financially ablest withdrew, under the leadership of J. E. Morris, and formed the Berean Baptist Church.
The church thus depleted became so weak that pastors were employed jointly by the churches of Pleasant Ridge and Mt. Carmel. Brother F. A. Douglas was called November 22, 1874, and continued until November 1, 1875. The church was again without a pastor till August 1, 1877, when Brother Jos. Hawkins was called. He served the church very acceptably for two years. Brother J. R. Powell was pastor from March 1, 1880, till November 1, 1881. Brother N. E. Bennett served the church two years, from April 1, 1882, to April 1, 1884. The last of these pastors was T. C. Probert, whose pistorate continued from July, 1886, to May 1, 1889. Brothers W. W. Sawyer, W. N. Wyeth, and Dr. G. W. Lasher acted as supplies during several intervals between pastorates.
This did not prove to be a period of great ingathering of souls. The church labored under many difficulties. In June, 1887, the cause at Pleasant Ridge was
The history of this time is best given by our beloved brother, Wesley A. stewart, in an article prepared by him a few years since, for one of our local papers, The Norwood Enterprise:
"At last the strength of the Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church was so reduced, ind the outlook became so hopeless that, by vote of the church, it was decided » close the doors of the house in Pleasant Ridge and remove to Norwood, then just entering upon its wonderful growth.
"This was a daring move on the part of the little handful of members resid-ngin the young suburb. Omitting the pastor, who shortly resigned, and his ictive wife, the active members in the incipient movement could be counted on ;he fingers of one hand. But our cause seemed to prosper; others soon joined is. It proved to be a wise change, although in a few months Brother Probert retired to take charge of another church in this state.
"This was a most critical period in the work at Norwood. The church was still small, and none were wealthy. At this time (May 25, 1889), Rev. B. F. Harmon was introduced to the field with the determination on the part of the church to let the future of the work rest upon his decision. With a bravery, born of faith in the God he had served so long, the grand 'old builder of churches' decided to give Norwood a trial.
This critical point settled, a new building was considered necessary to the successful prosecution of the work. In August, 1888, the question of erecting a house of worship was considered, and a building committee was appointed, consisting of the pastor, Brother Probert, who was then serving us, and Brothers W. A Stewart and R. M. Wickersham. But nothing was done till Brother Harmon's ministry, when the work was undertaken in earnest. It was perhaps the most trying time in the church's history. The committee began the search for a lot on which to erect a house and establish a church home. Setting out with a determination not to be pushed into a corner, but to have a central location that would accommodate the Baptists of the entire town, the territory of Norwood was canvassed for three years. All sorts of refusals met the committee, from the courteous and evasive to the coarse rebuff. Perhaps some of these answers might have been different, could one have looked into the future and seen the beautiful little structure that finally arose as the Baptist Church.
Finally, when Dr. W. H. Hopkins opened up a small subdivision, among the first to whom he offered lots were the Baptists. The doctor will ever be gratefully remembered by them.
Two lots were secured, forming a frontage of 85 feet on Sherman Avenue, nd running back on Station Avenue. The work of building was entered upon. It met with sympathy and encouragement on every hand.
At a meeting, in the city, of the Cincinnati Baptist Union, the Rev. Johnston Myers spoke of the long and noble service of the reverend pastor at Norwood, of how much work he had done, the time that he had given, what sacrifices he had made for the good of the denomination, and proposed that the new building be known as the "Harmon Memorial," and that the Baptists of the city contribute to its erection. The suggestion took well. Mr. Harmon was absent at the time, but, upon his return, the project received his approval, and the work was begun. The estimated ability of the little church did not exceed $3,000. A house was erected costing about $8,000. The spirit of Cincinnati Baptists was never more nobly exhibited. Contributions were received from the other evangelical churches of the village, which implied more than money.
Each church over which Brother Harmon had held a pastorate contributed stained glass window. These helped to beautify our little edifice, and the names of Duck Creek, Mt. Lookout, Linwood, Columbia, and Mt. Washington will ever be associated with B. F. Harmon in the Memorial Church."
September 17,1891, twelve days later, the corner-stone was laid with appropriate services. At night the Town Hall was filled to overflowing with an enthusiastic and appreciative audience, and the Baptists were bid "God Speed " by their neighbors, by other evangelical denominations, and by brethren from other Baptist Churches.
April 10,1892, the church edifice was ready for dedication. Brother Harmon's work had been well done. Enough had been subscribed to dedicate free of debt, but because of the failure of the payment of some subscriptions, Subsequent assessments made for street improvement, together with running expenses, the church has never been entirely free from debt.
Brother Harmon was permitted to enjoy one anniversary of our church edifice with his people. Before the next he had joined the "Church Triumphant," June 8, 1893. He died on his return from the Anniversaries in Denver, while at his sister's home in Humboldt, Kansas. He was brought home and buried from the Memorial Church, June 11, 1893.
Brother Harmon needs no eulogy in this Association. No man's life was ever more "rounded and filled out," no man's work was ever more nobly accomplished than his. Between him and his people a peculiarly tender tie existed. That he loved Norwood and his people we all know, and his influence for good will ever remain in the hearts that love and venerate his memory.
A picture by Landy, presented by the sons of Brother Harmon, hangs in our Sunday-school room.
The pastor to succeed Brother Harmon was Rev. C. C. Cox. Under him the church grew steadily. In two years he resigned. He has now a pastorate at Newport News, Va. He is a man of marked pulpit ability and meets with great success in his new field.
Our present pastor, Emerson L. Swift, was called June 14,1896, and ordained September 19, 1896.
Since the removal to Norwood, 1887, the time has largely been employed in the organization of our forces. There has been no great ingathering of souls. Many most excellent members — men and women — rooted and grounded in the faith, have come to us from sister churches, and thus aided wonderfully in our advancement. The field is extensive, and has demanded the wisdom and care of the past. The membership has gradually increased until at present we have one hundred and seventeen, the largest number ever enrolled. Our Sunday-school is now much better equipped. In two years it has doubled in size under the faithful direction of deacon W. A. Hunt. Missionary spirit in the church has marvelously increased. This year we report $150.60 for home and foreign missions. We have a system for benevolent collections:
Four active business men constitute our present Board of Deacons: Brothers S. L. Morgan, A. M. Graves, W. A. Hunt, and J. M. Baker.
September 13, 1896, the church lost a devoted and tireless laborer in the death of Deacon Wesley A. Stewart. Through the critical days of the church's history his faith never wavered, his interest never flagged.
The future was never more hopeful than now. That we do not succeed will be due to our failure to work with God. Our possibilities must be realized.
[From the Miami Baptist Association Minutes, 1897, pp. 26-29. Document from the Miami Baptist Association Office, Cincinnati. - Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]