BEGINNINGS FOR TALLMADGE AND THE CHURCH
At the time our church was established, the western boundary of the United States ran, in part, along the Cuyahoga River. The area west of Pennsylvania, north of Stark County and up to Lake Erie was part of the Connecticut western Reserve. Tallmadge existed only as a settlement in the wilderness of Portage County (now part of Summit County, which was organized in 1840).
On July 12, 1806, the Reverend David Bacon contracted to purchase 12,000 acres of the township he then named Tallmadge, after its largest proprietor. Rev. Bacon then went through Connecticut to make known his plan to found a Christian town. Tallmadge’s first settlers came from Connecticut in response to local publicity about the opportunities in the Western Reserve. In Rev. Bacon’s home, the first cabin built in the Township, on January 21, 1809, it was instituted to organize the Church of Christ in Tallmadge. The Church was the basis of the town, giving it its true character from the beginning. Thus amid the almost unbroken forest, the little Church began its life. Some of those who were in the Bacon cabin when the Church was organized lived to see the original membership of nine grow to 300.
THE CHURCH BUILDING IS CONSTRUCTED
In 1813, when the Township was but six years old, the matter of building a meeting house was canvassed. Meetings then were held in log cabins or barns. In 1815 the first Tallmadge Academy building was erected on the north side of the square, where the historic church now stands, and for the next few years it was also used for church services.
It was here, in December of 1819, that the need for a new building was brought before the congregation when the Reverend Simon Woodruff preached a sermon on the text “Behold now where we dwell the place is too strait for us.” During the following months plans were made, the location selected, $3,500 was raised by subscription payable in installments in lumber and wheat (wheat was then 25 cents a bushel), and a building committee was appointed. Monday, December 24, 1821, was designated for a bee to cut and draw timber, and by sunset, timber sufficient for the building was on hand at the appointed site in the center of Tallmadge. The site for the new Church was originally on the East side of the square. However, on the morning after this site had been selected, the Academy building burned to the ground, and the site was changed to the North side where the burned building had stood.
Construction began in August, 1822, and the building was completed in August, 1825. It was dedicated to God on September 8, 1825. At that time, the pews were square, with doors at the entrance, and the high pulpit was at the south end, accessible from the vestibule by a winding stairway. There was no water supply and no heat. In the early years, church members brought small foot stoves from their homes. Stoves were added in the autumn of 1833. A water supply was never installed.
RENOVATIONS TO THE CHURCH BUILDING
The building was remodeled in 1849, and the pulpit was moved to the north end and modern pews installed. Sometime after 1862, a new heating system was installed, so that stoves were now in the basement, with trap doors cut into the sanctuary floor, which could be opened for heat to pass through. The first organ was purchased in 1867 and installed at the south end. Between 1886 and 1889, an addition was built on the north end of the building, providing space for a new organ and for the choir.
THE CHURCH SHAPES ITS IDENTITY
For many years the church organization included both the church, with its own officers providing for worship and Christian activities, and a separate Society incorporated for the management of its business affairs. In 1902 this dual organization was abandoned and the church was incorporated as the First Congregational Church of Tallmadge.
In 1957, when the merger of the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches and the General Synod of the Evangelical and Reformed Church created the United Church of Christ, First Congregational Church of Tallmadge voted to join this newly formed Christian denomination. Through its participation in the United Church of Christ, this congregation continues its affiliation with the National Council of Churches in America, and with the World Council of Churches.
THE CHURCH EXPANDS
Space limitations and the lack of water in the original church building on the circle caused a very early need for additional space for church activities. In 1912 the church acquired its first Parish House, on the south corner of West Avenue and the circle. When this facility was outgrown, a new Parish House on North Avenue was constructed in 1954. This building is now the Tallmadge City Hall. The Parish Houses provided a fellowship area for meals, classrooms, offices, and, of course, bathrooms!
THE CHURCH MOVES
In 1964, a thorough self-study revealed that the best course for the future of the congregation lay in the purchase of additional land and the construction of a completely new facility which would provide under one roof the sanctuary, classrooms, choir practice area, meeting rooms, fellowship hall, kitchen, and offices that the church badly needed. In 1968, construction began on Heritage Drive, one block east of North Avenue, and less than a mile north from the historic church on Tallmadge Circle. At that time, it was decided by the congregation that the historic church should be turned over to the Ohio Historical Society for restoration and preservation.
HISTORIC CHURCH ON THE CIRCLE
In 1969, having outgrown the building, The First Congregational Church of Tallmadge moved into our current location at 85 Heritage Drive. The last regular service was held on the Circle May 11, 1969, and the new Church on Heritage Drive became our official home the following day. Today the Historic Congregational Church on Tallmadge Circle is managed by the city of Tallmadge, and it is available for weddings, baptisms, memorial services, community events, and special church services.