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Our History

The picturesque suburb of Northville was once a farm town with strong ties to the timber logging industry. Within a few years of its settlement, many acres were cleared and planted, and cabins were built for the people who settled here. Among the early pioneers of Northville was a Revolutionary War veteran named Joseph Yerkes. He became convinced that this small settlement in which he lived could support a church. Yerkes, with his sister Mary and six others, petitioned the Elders of their Farmington, Michigan, conregation, asking that they be allowed to organize a new church in this northern section of what was then Plymouth Township.


First established in 1829, our church was originally named First Presbyterian Church of Plymouth. The services were first held in the home of Joseph Yerkes, and then moved to a log school house, since it was empty on the Sabbath. In 1867, the Village of Northville was formed, and in 1869, the members of the church voted to change the name to First Presbyterian Society of Northville. In 1835, land was purchased on Main Street, and the first actual church building was constructed. It was a wooden frame building, 24' x 33', and it cost approximately $330 to build.


It wasn’t long before the congregation had outgrown its building once again, and a new sanctuary was proposed and built. This time, it was constructed along more classic lines, at a cost of $3,000. The supporting walls of the new structure were 16" thick, and the building resembled a typical New England-styled church. At that time, the entrance into the church sanctuary was off Main Street, through a porch with fluted columns. A portion of that building’s foundation remains as a part of the lower level of the present church. That sanctuary, which was one of the oldest church buildings in all of Michigan, is thought to be the oldest Protestant church in one place, in continuous use, west of the Allegheny Mountains. Members of the church met in that building for 124 years. And thanks to an early member, we have a brick from that building. The Historical Marker Plaque on Main Street recognizes how long the church has been in this location.


In 1889, electric lights became available in the area, and by 1897, the Northville Telephone Company opened with a capacity for 100 subscribers. In 1904, the Village Library was founded, thanks to Dr. Mary E. Lapham. There was a tremendous amount of residential and business growth in the area, and in 1919, Henry Ford opened the Northville Ford Factory, the first of the cottage industries.


The building prior to the current sanctuary was called Presbyterian Church House. Largely a gift of Mr. & Mrs. P. H. Grennan, it was built in 1929 and in the early 1930's. What is now Boll Fellowship Hall was built onto the south side of that sanctuary. Some records indicate that Fellowship Hall was actually an existing building in Detroit which Mr. Grennan paid to have dismantled and rebuilt as an addition to our church. After that work was completed, there was no new construction from the Depression through the 1950's.


At the annual meeting of the Presbyterian Church in 1963, the congregation voted to raise funds and begin construction of the Christian Education addition. Dedication of that wing took place on October 4, 1964, with Reverend Lloyd Brasure officiating. The addition included 16 classrooms in the two-story building.


In March 1969, the members of the church conducted a campaign drive to raise funds for the construction of a new sanctuary to increase seating capacity. Its cost was estimated at over $270,000. The edifice we now use was dedicated in 1970. Topping this 400 seat brick sanctuary is an 83 foot high belfry which is lit at night.


During 1990 and 1991, plans were drawn to renovate, update and improve the entire facility. A $1 million dollar campaign took place, which made many improvements to the facility including the creation of new staff offices, air conditioning part of the structure, installing an elevator, creating handicapped rest room facilities and improving fellowship hall. The campaign also included the acquisition of a $300,000 Casavant organ, which was given to the church by Larry and Anita Bennett.


In the fall of 2000, the congregation pledged to support a new Vision for our Church. In the spring of 2001, the renovation of Boll Hall and the Christian Education wing began, as well as the addition of more classrooms and a Christian Life Center. The new classrooms, meeting rooms, main kitchen and Christian Life Center were dedicated on September 8, 2002. The Northville Presbyterian Preschool opened in the new addition in the Fall of 2003. As a witness to Christ and the ministries of this Church, the congregation undertook an additional capital campaign in the fall of 2003, Growing Our Vision, to provide financial support for our growing ministries.


In the Summer of 2005, the Music Center was renovated to create and furnish a practice room for the vocal choirs, a separate practice room for the handbell choirs, and a music staff office.


The First Presbyterian Church of Northville has had over 40 ministers and assistants. The Reverend James Dubuar is the longest serving pastor of the Church, around the time of the Civil War, for 23 years. 

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