Conneaut First Assembly of God Church – Early History
Many good things have had a small beginning. The beginning days of this church were no exception. God raised up the church here in Conneaut. He raised it in the fires of prayer, fasting and a hunger for God.
There was a work here (though unorganized at the time) that arose from prayer meetings held in the homes of Christians in Conneaut and surrounding areas. Some were from the Methodist Church, some were friends and neighbors. But all had one thing in common . . . that hunger for all that God would do in their lives.
According to early records this group took on the form of a more organized group, even having pastors coming to lead the fledgling group. E.S. Williams, who served the Assemblies of God as General Superintendent for twenty years (1929 – 1949) and as President of Central Bible Institute from 1929 to 1948, arrived in Conneaut, Ohio as pastor during the Fall of 1912. He pastored here for two years before moving on to Bradford, Pennsylvania, and into the history pages of the Assemblies of God.
In what became known as the Liberty Street Prayer Meetings, a congregation of believers was formed, later meeting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Tucker. Pauline (Tucker) Mallory recalls: “In 1922 there was a sewing bee held at the home of my Mother, Bertha Tucker, on Rockwell Street, making clothes for a missionary to India, Anna Helmbrecht.” She goes on to tell how she fell down the steps and hit her head, injuring a nerve that controlled motion and power to her left side. “The doctors said ‘paralysis with no hope.” Her parents, Howard and Bertha Tucker, believed in healing. She was prayed for by her parents and their friends at church fervently throughout the year. “One morning when Father went out to work he found three men sitting in a car in the driveway who had been there through the night praying for my healing. That morning I move one finger, indicating that God was starting to heal me and giving these people added faith.” With one year of gradual progressive healing, Pauline regained full use of her left side. “And they all gave God the praise and glory.”
Rev. Burton Ellis shares some of his memories of those “Precharter” days. “During 1917, 1918, 1919 and early twenties, I was there and before. At that time no one had ever heard of the Assemblies of God, Church of God, Foursquare or Pentecostal denominations. Someone was able to come into possession of the Bridal Call, a magazine which related the great outpouring and ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson. They began reading of the various accounts and with a passionate hunger said “Why can’t we have this here also?” There was quite a large group. Finally house meetings began. I recall most of them. Sister Blakesly, a widow, on Liberty Street; people laid on their faces with heads under their chairs for hours. Sometimes it was sunrise when they went home. Maxine Morgan, who also lived on Liberty Street, editor then of the Conneaut newspaper; Charity Smith, lived across from the Dairy Queen, the Tucker family on Depot Street, mighty warriors for God. George Schray, Harbor Street, a tailor uptown. Frank Swap family, Father of Alice Hathaway, on Buffalo Street, the Helmbrecht family on the East side of Conneaut, one of them eventually went to India as a missionary. Ross Jones was a scientist and assistant principal of the junior high school, a prophetic dispensational teacher and youth leader, and Dwight Ellis, Main Street, all of these and many more, prayed and sought God continually.”
Prayer meetings were common. They were held in a variety of places such as the homes of Dr. and Mrs. Upson, George and Nettie Hannah, Ross and Ethel Jones, the Gee family, and many others.
Brother Ellis goes on to say: “On the Liberty Street old school grounds, now a playground, Nell Mays, a woman, erected a tent. It was there for weeks. People could hardly get near it for the crowds. On Broad Street, a tent was put up and it was the same way. At one time the group rented a hall in the block just east of St. Mary’s church. The hall would seat possibly 200. Ministers came such as Harold Cornish, J. Clark Savels, L.A. Hill, and Ray Shearer. Such meetings I have not seen until this present tie. Nearly everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit. In all of these meetings it seemed all of Conneaut came … the Postmaster, Mayor, and business people, and from all walks of life. I was there and went with my Father and Howard Tucker to Levittsburgh, near Warren, to meet with Gayle Lewis who was associated with the Assemblies of God, concerning leadership for the church’s future which finally evolved.”
Gayle F. Lewis eventually became a Pastor in Conneaut and went on to become General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
One writer speaks of the early “established” days in the following manner: “At 450 State Street in the small store room at $7.00 per week (with heat and innumerable cockroaches thrown in) was the first established meeting place where many of us were blessed and baptized in the Holy Spirit. This was first under the ministry of Brother Ray Shearer and several evangelists including Daddy and Mother Kerr.”
The Assembly of God Church at Conneaut, Ohio was set in order as an organized church on February14, 1925 by J. Clark Soules of Byersville, Ohio and we incorporated with the State of Ohio September 24, 1925. Our first place of worship was in a building at Depot and Broad Streets. Later in a store room at 450 State Street. The church building at 299 Broad Street was erected in 1929 and 1930 by Roy Harley, who died from injuries received from a fall during construction. The church building was dedicated November 29, 1931.
(The preceding was compiled from historical records, written first hand accounts and Official Board Minutes, verifying dates as close as possible for total accuracy. Some differ from previous accounts where shown by official documents.)
Some Highlight dates are as follows:
– Mortgages on church building burned June 15, 1941, with Gayle F. Lewis speaker.
– The auditorium, basement and Sunday School rooms were dedicated April 5, 1942, again with Gayle F. Lewis speaker.
– Groundbreaking for Sunday School annex was Sunday, June 3, 1951, with District Superintendent James Van Meter speaker. The Sunday School annex was dedicated October 4, 1953 with T.E. Hartshorn speaker.
– The Sunday School annex mortgage burned October 14, 1962, with District Superintendent C.W. Hahn speaker.
– Baptistry framework built by William Dodge with assistance from church men. Metal baptistery tank installed by Melvin Hart and was dedicated by Pastor Earl E. Hart October 9, 1960, at time of first baptismal service.
– The present building was dedicated October 2, 1969 with the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Rev. Thomas F. Zimmerman as one of the guest speakers, along with a host of former Pastors.