Churches of Grand Rapids 
and Surrounding Areas

A Brief Historical Outline

Grand Rapids and Kent County has long been considered a very religious community. As such, the Churches have played a large part in the area and should be of special interests to the genealogist.

This being the case, here is an outline about the churches of Grand Rapids from the earliest settlements. This information was garnered from the following book which is available from the Grand Rapids Library.

Gathered at the River:
Grand Rapids, Michigan and its People of Faith
by James D. Bratt and Christopher H. Meehan
for the Grand Rapids Area Council for the Humanities
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Copyright © 1993 

Prehistory to 1836:


The Odawa and their religion
Baptist mission of Isaac McCoy and Leonard Slater
Roman Catholic mission of Frederic Baraga and Andreas Viszoczky



First (Park) Congregational
Organized 1836 as First Presbyterian;
1837-38: Rev. A. D. McCoy
1839-47: Rev. James Ballard
1863-83: Rev. J. Morgan Smith
1916-33: Rev. Dr. Charles W. Merriam
1933-52: Rev. Dr. Edward Archibald Thompson
1962-71: Rev. Dr. Ned Burr McKenney
1972-90: Rev. Dr. William F. Allinder
1992-: Rev. Dale C. Nelson

First Methodist
Organized in 1835 as the Grand River Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church
1835-36: Rev. Osbond Monnett
1935-57: Rev. Dr. Lester A Kilpatrick
Rev. Gary Haller; Rev. Laurie Haller

St. Andrew's Roman Catholic (St. Andrew Cathedral)
Organized in 1833 as St. Mary's Mission at the Grand River Rapids
1833-35: Rev. Frederic Baraga
1835-53: Rev. Andrew Viszoczky
1893-1917: Rev. John A Schmitt
1917-51: Msgr. Dennis E. Malone
1956-68: Msgr. Charles W. Popell
1975-80: Msgr. Hugh M. Beahan
1984-: Msgr. Gaspar F. Ancona

St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Organized in 1836.  It is still in the original location and church at 134 N. Division.

Other churches of this time period:
Baptist: 1837-42: ??; 1837: Rev. S. D. Wooster

Baptist Mission
Organized in 1822 as Thomas Station
1826-27: Rev. Isaac McCoy
1827-36: Rev. Leonard Slater
1836 moved with the Odawa to Gull Prairie/Prairieville, Barry County

Beckwith Hills Christian Reformed
Organized 1875 as Fourth Reformed
1880-1963 as Coldbrook Christian Reformed

Bethlehem Lutheran
Organized 1873 as Swedish Evangelical Lutheran
1874-80: Rev. N.A. Yongberg

Fairview Wesleyan
Organized 1867 as First Wesleyan Methodist Church of Walker
1867-70: Rev. L.J. Francisco
1985 merged with Emmanuel Wesleyan to become First Wesleyan

First Christian Reformed
Organized in 1857 as True Protestant Dutch Reformed
1857-: Rev. Hendrik G. Klyn
1873-76: Rev. Gerrit E. Boer

Fountain Street Church:
Organized in 1842 as First Baptist; 1869-77 Baptist Church of the City of Grand Rapids; 1877-1965 Fountain Street Baptist; now known as an Independent Liberal

Zion Tabernacle
Established 1849; Swedenborgian.

These are but a sampling of the early churches of Grand Rapids. In the years following 1875, many more churches were to rise up in Grand Rapids. For a full accounting of the churches of Grand Rapids as well as pictures of the early churches and detailed histories of them, this book is a must have. Details show the involvements of the churches in politics, labor and social issues of their day in addition to information about the many ministers. I do believe nearly every church in Grand Rapids and the surrounding area are listed with their current addresses as well.

Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
Created: 10 March 1999