The First Presbyterian Church in Greenfield will hold a two-day celebration of its bicentennial Oct. 2 through Oct. 3 that is open to the community.
“We are excited to celebrate the history and heritage of our church with the community and look forward to the next 200 years,” said First Presbyterian Church Pastor Mike Anderson.
Founded in June of 1820 by the Rev. Samuel Crothers, Greenfield’s First Presbyterian Church played a noteworthy role in the operation of the Underground Railroad during slavery. Crothers was known as an outspoken abolitionist who wrote extensively about the evils of slavery, according to Anderson.
Many of Crothers’ church members aided the Underground Railroad and some served as “conductors” who helped runaway slaves by providing safe passage to and from locations along the escape routes, often at night while working to evade slave catchers. Other members used their homes to hide runaway slaves on their way to Canada or other free states.
“Rev. Crothers was one of the leaders of the local abolition movement in Greenfield, Highland County, and beyond,” said Anderson. “It’s difficult to estimate how many slaves he helped pass through Greenfield because of the secrecy of the effort, but the number is significant.”
One of the Underground Railroad routes through Greenfield made its way from Ripley, where local Presbyterian minister John Rankin served as a prominent conductor of the Underground Railroad. Rankin’s efforts were documented in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” Anderson said.
The First Presbyterian Church of Greenfield has roots that extend more than two centuries into the past. According to the church’s website. While the church was officially organized in 1820, it was another 72 years before the church “was granted letters of incorporation by the state.” The current location on the corner of Fifth and Jefferson streets became the church’s home more than 112 years ago. On April 3, 1903, the building, made of native stone, was first opened “for a recital on the grand pipe organ,” reads a historical entry on the website written by Ione Priest in 1999.
The Oct. 2 portion of the celebration will consist of an interactive history display and tours of the church, located at 457 Jefferson St. in Greenfield, and manse.
An early church service will be held Oct. 3 at the patio at the original location of the First Presbyterian Church at Travellers Rest and the Old Burying grounds near the Save A Lot at 110 Jefferson St. in Greenfield.
During the service the Rev. Terry Washburn will enact a historical portrayal of the Rev. Samuel Crothers and a wreath laying ceremony will honor the legacy of Crothers.
A later worship service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 3 in the main sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church. The service will feature music and memories shared by former pastors.
COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place including free masks and sanitizer. Masks are not required, but strongly recommended.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.