The First Split...
In 1840, under Mr. Kittridge's guidance and with much labor by the
members, a small, 2-room brick building was built on the site of the
present church. The timing was not propitious, however. Perhaps because
of debt (0f the $874 cost of the new building, $431 had to be borrowed)
or distance, several of the members living east of Bedford withdrew and
built another Presbyterian church (the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church),
in Pinhook. To help pay its debt, the Bedford congregation rented its
building half-time to a Baptist congregation and used the front room as
The Second Split...
Shortly after the newly-chartered church had split for local reasons,
the split in the national Presbyterian church into "New School" and
"Old School" presbyteries reached Bedford. Most of the congregation
remained with Mr. Kittridge in the "New School" church, but a number of
dissenters built a two-story brick house (Bedford Presbyterian Church
Old School) on the southwest corner of Church and Locust Sts. (now 14th
and "K" Sts., present site of First United Methodist Church). The
Bethlehem congregation also joined the Old School presbytery.
The New School/Old School split lasted until 1858, when the three
congregations united into the "Bedford Independent Presbyterian Church"
at the present location. The "Old School" church building was sold to
the Methodists. In the mid 1860's the church ended its independence and
joined New Albany Presbytery. When, in 1869, the national denomination
split into the "Northern" and "Southern" Presbyterian churches, the
Bedford church became a Northern church.
By 1869, the building at 15th and "L" had become unsuitable for the
growing congregation. In 1870, it was torn down and a larger brick
church was erected over the foundation. It was built at a cost of
$7,000, and was dedicated on July 30, 1871.
The building expands...
Like the community at large, the Bedford Presbyterian Church tended to
follow the fortunes of the stone industry. It grew rapidly in the
decades before and after the turn of the century. In 1900, during the
pastorate of A.M. Irvine, extensive remodeling of the church was
undertaken. The brick shell of the old sanctuary was completely
surrounded by a new stone construction, giving the church a radically
different appearance. New stained glass windows and new furnishings
were installed, and some of the old furnishings went to nearby churches.
In 1903, the Rev. J. W. Findley became the pastor, and during his
decade of ministry, the church opened a chapel on the northeast corner
of "J" and 7th Sts. Mr. Findley was succeeded by Dr. DeWitt T. Scott,
under whom a large addition was built on the east side of the church:
the first story contained classrooms, and the second story had a
kitchen and social room. The sanctuary was also renovated, with a new
organ and new pews. The addition was dedicated on January 21, 1917.
More Recent Years...
Re-named in 1957 as First Presbyterian Church of Bedford, the church
was renovated in 1967-68, nearly a century after the construction of
the brick walls which still formed the sanctuary. Planned under
Lawrence H. Cater and completed under Arthur J. DeYoung, the renovation
replaced the old manse south of the church with a new addition
containing the Voris Fellowship Hall, a kitchen, church offices, a
nursery, and restrooms. The old second floor social room was remodeled
into classrooms and a youth room, and the sanctuary was extensively
renovated and modernized. The sanctuary was extensively
remodelled as well and the Riley Memorial Pipe Organ was installed.
In 1987, part of the adjoining parking lot was purchased, providing the
first church-owned off-street parking. In 1988, the Voris Fellowship
Hall and offices were air-conditioned. In 1990-91, the sanctuary,
classrooms, nursery, and church library were completely redecorated. In
1993-94, the boiler and church roof were replaced, the Voris Fellowship
Hall and kitchen were redecorated, and the front restroom was remodeled
into a handicap-accessible facility.