A brief history of Perrysburg First Church
Methodism Arrives in the Maumee Valley
In the late summer of 1819, Rev. John Kent, a young circuit rider from the Detroit Methodist Circuit, was given the task of spreading the gospel to the little settlement below the bluff where the deserted Fort Meigs had stood. The town, named Port Miami of Lake Erie, was founded in 1810 by the United States government and is the location where Perrysburg First Church was first established.
The government sent Amos Spafford, a Revolutionary soldier and map maker originally from Vermont, to be the Postmaster and Collector for Port Miami of Lake Erie. After the settlement had been wiped out twice by the flooding and ice floes of the Maumee River, Amos wrote the government to ask them to send surveyors to create a town up the embankment of the bluff. Perrysburg was then founded in 1816 and named Perrysburgh by Amos honoring the September 10, 1813 victory of Commodore O.H. Perry against the British navy on Lake Erie.
The first Methodist “class” began meeting in August of 1819 on the flat land near the river in the log cabin store of John Hollister or at the log home of the recent widow, Mrs. Amos (Olive) Spafford. Later, a portion of the Methodists moved their class up the embankment from Orleans (the nickname given to Port Miami of Lake Erie by its early inhabitants) to a new home built in 1823 by Amos’ son, Aurora. Every member was expected to attend a Bible and prayer class on Wednesday night. A few of the early Methodists later began meeting at Peter Cranker’s home on West Second Street. As Orleans became deserted, the church membership expanded and other new homeowners became class leaders, namely: G.W.Creps, Fred Jezzard, A.S. Williams, Fred Wellstead, William Barton, and Joshua Chappel.
By mid-1830, the attendees outgrew the Spafford house and moved their meetings into the newly established town to join with other small classes in a one-room schoolhouse on the northwest side of Second and Walnut Street. The families who lived in the country had to ride wagons or horses over a mile to church, took their entire family’s dinner, and stayed all day as it was the only time of the week that all the church members would be together for worship and fellowship. Governor Robert Lucas, on duty here in 1835 with the Ohio militia to control the fizzled-out boundary dispute with Michigan, is reputed in the church’s early written history, to have given the first $5.00 and a prayer at a meeting at the schoolhouse for the establishment of a real wooden church building. The present-day lot on Walnut and Second Streets’ bill of sale was signed by President Andrew Jackson on December 6, 1830. It was then purchased by the church trustees on October 30, 1835, for $300.00.
The first wooden church was built during the fall of 1835 and opened the following year at a cost of around $2,000. Similar to the churches of New England’s architecture, it was rectangular with a high steeple. Its duplicate, a Presbyterian edifice, was erected by a Maumee Presbyterian congregation founded in January of 1820 by Aurora’s Spafford’s brother Samuel. First Presbyterian Maumee still stands on the original land.
By 1928 the 93-year-old wooden building was deemed too small and unsafe for the growing congregation. It was torn down that summer and the congregation met in various places until construction of the new cut stone church basement and brick building was completed. It was a glorious day when the new church was dedicated on March 22, 1931. The congregation proudly named it, “The Mother Church of Methodism in the Maumee Valley.” The facilities were expanded in 1968 to include an educational wing and new offices. During those years, the church acquired a new slogan, “Friendly First Church.”
Aurora Spafford’s large white 1823 Gregorian style home, where the church members met for several years, still stands at 27340 West River Road west of Fort Meigs. The Perrysburg Area Historic Museum, Inc. bought the home on July 30, 2009, to create a local museum. A list of the early Methodist class attendees is included in the furnishings.
Perrysburg First Church celebrated its bicentennial birthday in October of 2021 with a special Sunday morning service and a re-dedication ceremony and celebration on Sunday afternoon.