Finding Aid for Fort Street Presbyterian Church records, 1849-1962

Summary Information

Detroit Public Library. Burton Historical Collection.
Fort Street Presbyterian Church (Detroit, Mich.).
Fort Street Presbyterian Church records
Date [inclusive]
69.0 Linear feet (61 boxes, 127 volumes, 2 extra large manuscripts)
Location note
Level B, B10n
Language of Materials
In English.

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Biographical/Historical note

Founded 1849.

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Scope and Contents note

Contains some early records of the First Protestant Society and the Presbytery of Detroit.

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Organized into 14 Series: I. Boxes I-VIII. II. LMS. III. Financial records. IV. Board of Trustees. V. Session records. VI. Bible school. VII. Women's Association. VIII. Mother's Circle. IX. Youth Group. X. Organizations. XI. Church Camp. XII. Glass Slides. XIII. Pictures. XIV. Blueprints. Series;

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Detroit Public Library. Burton Historical Collection. June, 1964

Revision Description

  Nov. 30, 2009

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition


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Fort Street Presbyterian Church records, 1849-1962 (OCLC record)


Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • First Protestant Society.
  • Presbytery of Detroit.


  • Blueprints (reprographic copies)
  • Church records
  • Typescripts

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About this Collection

In a city which as, until recently, been careless of preserving it's past, Fort Street Presbyterian Church stands as a monument to the small group that formed it as the Second Presbyterian Church and to the succeeding congregations that carried on to the present day. The stately homes that once surrounded their edifice have given way to a more commercial aspect, but the city in which many members took a leading part is now growing appreciative of its historic institutions. In the year 1849 the pioneer period in Michigan was drawing to a close. Outlying counties were filling up fast, and the more adventurous were leaving for the gold and fields of California. But those with a nose for business were finding plenty of action at this hub of the Great Lakes. The next several decades which saw the growth of the church, saw also the growth of the fortunes of many of its members. Among them were James P. Joy whose name is linked with railroads; Eber Brock Ward, "Detroit's first millionaire" whose fleet of boats brought iron ore from the upper peninsula to be smelted in Detroit's first iron foundry. Sylvester Larned, Shubael Conat, Frederick H. Buhl and Zachariah Chandler were just a few of the members whose names figured prominently in the city's progress. Among the first organizers of the church were Samuel Zug, remembered best as the owner of Zug Island, and Detroit's Postmaster, Thomas Rowland and his wife Catherine Mason Rowland, sister to Michigan's first governor. Perhaps because of these links with the past and the close involvement of its members with the life of the city, the Fort Street congregation has kept an awareness of its unique contribution, and has preserved many of the records of its activity and growth. A very small but noteworthy group of these mementos are six little notebooks covered in brown leather, containing records of the First Protestant Society, 1842-1845, 1953. They record the receipts for pew assessments, each trustee being responsible for collecting for a certain number of pews. The First Protestant Society in Detroit was the forerunner of the First Presbyterian Church. The Second Presbyterian Church as a splinter group from which the present Fort Street Presbyterian Church was formed. From these first small notebooks to the bulky volumes of later years, the growth of the institution can be traced through the increase of complexity and it's finances.

But more than the business side (which in Presbyterian churches is the work of the trustees) was involved in growth. The work of the Session (composed of Elders, Deacons and the Minister) increased with the addition of new members. Minute books covering the years 1849 to 1901 attest to their activities. Church manuals succeeded by Yearbooks and later by Directories are valuable additions to the records of he church. It is to be hoped that others will turn up to fill the gaps.

The records of an institution such as this show how closely it was bound up with the lives of its members. The heartbreaking fires in 1876 and 1914, which, in both cases, followed soon after the building had been reconditioned and redecorated, seemed only to increase the determination of the parish to survive. The financial problems were always resolved by generous acts by members at both ends of the financial scale. Church anniversaries were duly celebrated with appropriate ceremonies and publications at every twenty-fifth year and many of the years between. Many able pastors contributed to the well being of the church, not the least of those being the ones of recent years who have encouraged the congregation to stand fast as the world shifted about them. While other churches fled to the suburbs, Fort Street Presbyterian Church remained, "a spritual beacon in the heart of Detroit." As Dr. Edward H. Pence foretold in a letter to his flock in 1915, in fifty years the location has grown in value and has now become part of the revitalization of the area. It now stands as a historical remnant of old Detroit the edification of tourists and convention goers and as a church center for those who make their home in downtown apartments.

The vitality of the church is well illustrated by the organizations formed within it. Although early records of the Bible School are missing, there is a complete set of records from 1876-1921. The records of the Women's Association are many, although incomplete, and several other organizations are represented. The church camp in Oxford Township, Oakland County, was acquired in 1920 and is represented by two boxes of memorabilia.

Church publications form an important part of its records as do the many pictures and blueprints preserved with them. Four hundred and seven glass slides and a box of stereoptican are included in the collection.

Miss Sarah Grindley, whose family was for many years active in church affairs, collected old photographs, records, and information into a history which was published at the time of its one hundredth anniversary. She deserves much credit for her labors and her writings are a part of the church archives. Mr. Joseph Grindley, her brother, might properly be called the first Curator of the Fort Street Presbyterian Church Archives. They were kept in wooden cabinets in the church basement. Mr. Grindley died in 1961. A historical committee was formed which included William M. Watson, Chairman, Acrchibald S. Watson, W.E.C. Huthwaite and Dr. Harvey Merker. The Messrs. Watson went over the volumes and made notes which were attached to the volumes. They also assigned numbers to them in chronological order. In June 1964 the records were transferred to the Burton Historical Collection.

It was found necessary to reorganize the Collection into sections of material representing the different groups that ran the business of the church and its organizations. For this reason a strict chronological sequence was not possible. For the sociologist, the historian as well as those interested preeminently in church history, the material listed on the following pages should prove increasingly valuable in the years to come. For the biographer of many of Detroit's leading citizens or for the student of Detroit's history the records of this church serve to round out many of the other material already in the Burton Historical Collection.

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General Note

See finding aid for complete listing.

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Collection Inventory

Boxes and LMS 

Box I 

Papers and Correspondence: 1849-51, 1880-99, 1900-1929, 1931-35, 1962 

Memorials, Citations, etc. 

Contribution Plan 


Plans for Future of church 

Fire Appraisal, 1914 

Specifications for Repairs, Fire of 1914 

Box II Biography 

Pastors and members 

Lists of members and officers 


Box III Activities 

Record Books of Church Dinners, 1946-1949, 2v. 

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, General Assembly, Detroit, 1891, 1943 

Annual Excursion; 1900, 1901, 1904, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1926, 1928, 1930, 1934 

Songs, Pageants, Poems 



Boy Scouts 

Athletic Association 

Guest Book, Register of Servicemen Entertained at Fort Street Presbyterian Church, 1943-1944 

Box IV Anniversaries 

Celebration material; 25th, 45th 50th, 75th, 76th, 80th, 85th, 90th, 97th, 99th, 100th, 110th. 

Box V Records of Baptisms 


Box VI First Protestant Society Records 

Trustee Book No. 1 

General note

Receipts from Pew Assessments, 1842-44. Pews 1-31 (Inscribed) A. Shirley.

Trustee Book No. 2 

General note

Receipts from Pew Assessments, 1842-44. Pews 66-94.

Trustee Book No. 5 

General note

Receipts from Pew Assessments, 1842-44. Pews 126-145, Cash Memorials E. Bingham. Trustee "Society" Collection, 1843-45.

Pew Assessments 1853, 1 v. 

First Protestant Society Contributions to paying oft the Mortgage, 1843. 1 v. 

Articles of faith and Covenant of the First Presbyterian Church in the City of Detroit. / Printed by George L. Whitney. -- 1834. 

General note

Adopted 1826. -- Includes a list of officers and members with notes in pencil, signature on cover, E. Bingham.

Articles of Faith and Covenant. -- 1850. --   2 c.

General note

Detroit. -- Revised.

-- Manual. -- 1872. 

Eilers' Sunday School Teacher's Class and Guide Book. -- 1883. -- 

General note

Signed, Henry H. Swan, First Presbyterian

BOX VII Death Records 

Miscellaneous Death records and obituary notices 

Box VIII Annual Resorts 




Manuals (includes roll of membership) 




1881 (2 parts, List of Congregation and Handbook) 




Yearbooks (includes same information as handbooks) 



















General note

(Filed in large MS drawers)

Chart Showing benevolent offerings and average attendance, 1885-1935 

Diagram of Church Showing Few Holders 

Roll of men in service 

Boy's camp honor roll, 1933 

Signs (2) 

Mounted Pale of Detroit Free Press, Nov. 19, 1905 

-- Golden Jubilee 

Mounted page of "Detroit Times", Feb. 24, 1924. 75th Anniversary. 

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Financial Records 

A1 Acccount Books 

General note

Income from funds and organizations, outgo for maintenance and salaries.

Mar 1924 - Dec. 1927 

Mar 1930 - Dec. 1932 

Mar 1935 - Dec. 1937 

Mar 1938 - Dec 1940 

J8 Cash receipts and disbursements 

1939-1954 (unbound) 

L4 Ledgers 



1932-1 935 


James Joy Fund before 1951 

Session fund before 1951. --   1 v.

R2 Record Books (Weekly Collections from pledged contributions) 

Mar 1890-1907 

Mar 1904-1910 

Mar 1907-Feb 1908 

Mar 1911-Feb 1915 

Mar 1915-Feb 1916 

Mar 1916-Feb 1917 

Mar 1917-Feb 1918 

Mar 1918-Feb 1919 

Mar 1919-Feb 1920 

Mar 1920-Feb 1921 

Mar 1921-Feb 1922 

Mar 1922-Feb 1923 

Mar 1923-Feb 1924 

Mar 1924-Feb 1925 

Mar 1925-Feb 1926 

Mar 1926-Feb 1927 

Mar 1927-Feb 1928 

Mar 1928-Feb 1929 

Mar 1929-Feb 1930 

Mar 1930-1931 

Mar 1931-Feb 1932 

Mar 1932-Feb 1933 

Mar 1933-Feb 1934 

Mar 11934-Feb 1935 

Mar 1935-Feb 1936 

Mar 1936-Feb 1937 

Mar 1937-Feb 1938 

Mar 1938-Feb 1939 

Mar 1939-Feb 1940 

Apr 1940-Mar 1941 

Apr 1941-Mar 1942 

Apr 1942-Mar 1943 

Apr 1943-Mar 1944 

Mar 1944-Feb 1945 

Apr 1945-Mar 1946 

Apr 1946-Mar 1947 






1948-050 Numerically and Alphabetically arranged 

1937-38 Unbound 

1938-39 Unbound 

1939-40 Unbound 

1940-41 Unbound 

1941-42 Unbound 

Pastors record of members. -- 1937-1938. --   v.1 & 2.


Register of members n.d. 1v. 

Register of members divided into postal zones, 1v. 


Scrapbooks 1910-1923 

Miscellaneous newspaper clippings 

-- v.1, 1915-1940 

-- v.2 

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Board of Trustees 

Box 1 

Legal papers 


Articles of Association 

Annual reports, 1926-1945 

Fund report, 1947, 1950-1952 

Eleanor B. Buhl estate 

James Joy bequest 

Box 2 

Bills and receipts, 1870-1900 

Pew assignments, 1911 

Payroll record sheets, 1953 

Pledges, 1892, 1910-15 

Box 3 

Receipt books, 1946-1948 

Check book, 1953-1954 

Box 4 

Daybooks, receipts and expenditures, 1868-1890 

-- 1907-1913 

Building Committee 

Daybook of Building Fund, 1905-1914 

-- 1914-1920 

Subscription record, 1905-1908 

Minutes of Building Committee, 1876-1877 


Minute books, 1949-1875 

-- 1876-1911 

-- 1913-1915 

-- 1914-1920 

1880-1884 Meeting of Official Boards 

Salary records (for pastor, singers, organist, organ blower). --   1 v.


H3 Pew register books 




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Session Records 

Box: Benevolence Funds 

Records books, 1870-1878 

-- 1879-1890 

-- 1904-1910 Record of Contributions 

Folder: Annual Reports of Benevolences 







Annual Reports of the Board of Deacons, 1936-1940 

Certificates of Dismission, 1900-1920 

M6 Minute books 




1897-1901 (rough notes) 

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Bible (Sunday) School 

Box: Registers 









Box: Record Books 













n.d. Girls and Boys 

n.d. Boys 

Box: Class Records for 1956, by grade 

Box: Bible School Teachers Organization. Minutes, 1914-1916 

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Women's Association 

General note

Began as a Ladies Benevolent Society, then Women's Missionary Society. In 1901 combined with the Women's Foreign Mission Society to form the Women's Association.

Box 1 Correspondence, minutes, Records, Reports 

Ladies Benevolent Society, Minutes, 1871-74 

Ladies Home Missionary Society, Reports 1880-1891 

-- 1893-1905 

-- 1893-1905 Records 

Young Ladies Missionary Society, Records, 1872-1899 

Box 2 

Annual reports, Women's Home Missionary Society; 1900-1908 

-- 1900-1908 

Minute Books, 1909-1917 

-- 1917-1921 

-- 1930-1940 

Yearbooks, 1909-1916 

-- 1920-1927 

-- 1931-1940 

-- 1942-1945 

-- 1948-1949 

Box 3 Account Books 









Box 4 Mission Materials 

Westminster Guild, Scotten Chapter 

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Mother's Circle 

General note

Organized 1911 to aid in Church House activities.


Minutes, n.d. 

Thank you notes 

Minute books, 1911-1918 

-- 1922 

-- 1922-1931 

-- 1932-1936 


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Youth Group 

Box 1 

Accounts, 1932-1935 

-- 1941-1950 

Senior High Photographs, June 1957-1958 

Box 2 

Westminster League 

General note

Established 1891 until 1922.

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Bhea Mission Band 

General note

Organized Feb. 7, 1874. Named for Mrs. S.J. Bhea, Mission to Porsia.

Box 1 

Treasurer's Book, 1874-1881 

Attendance Book, 1892 

Minute Book, 1888-1897 

Minutes and records of attendance, 1904-1909 

-- 1909-1913 

Folder 1 

Papers and records, including annual reports, membership roll, history of the Bhea Mission Band, correspondence 

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Box 1 

Mens association - Minutes, 1908-1913 

-- Daybook, 1908-1912 

-- Constitution, Officers, Committees, 1917-1918 

Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor - Constitution and By-laws 

Defenders of the Fort - Minutes, 1908-1910. 1 v. 

-- Constitution, Menus, Programs. 1 Folder. 

Miscellaneous Publications 

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Church Camp. --   2 Boxes, 1 Volume.

General note

Established June 1920 in Oxford Township, Oakland County.

Information Leaflets, 1922-29 

-- 1931 

-- 1933 

-- 1937 


-- 1939 

-- 1940 

-- 1943-51 

-- 1953-55 

-- 1960-61 


Pictures and Songs 

Camp Expenses 

Camp Bills 

Rating Sheets 

Financial Record Book 

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Church Publications 

Church Calendars, "All the Week", 1896-1921, unbound. 

Church Bulletins, 1914-1958, Bound 

-- 1961-1962, Unbound 

"The Record". --   volumes 1-8

"Fort Signals". Scattered Copies. --   Volumes 1-8

Clippings. --   1 box.

Papers of Sarah Grindley. --   2 boxes.

History of Fort Street Presbyterian Church 

Detroit Federation of Women's Clubs 

Photo album. 

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5 large 

1 small 

General note

James Joy's Bible

6 small. 

The preacher's homiletic commentary. --   27 v.

Men of Michigan. 

The hopes of Hope Castle / Sarah Towen Martyn 

Recent explorations in Palestine / Coburn 

Cave Boys / Hanford M. Burr 

The Great Republic by Master Historian. --   v. 1,3,4

The Holy Spirit in Scripture and Experience / Masses 

Detroit. City Directory. --   (Facsimile)

The reproach of Christ / W.J. Dawson 

On the Trail of Immigrant / Edward Alfred Steiner 

The education of the heart / W.L. Watkinson. 

Winning the Oregon Country / Paris 

The lions of the Lord / Harry Leon Wilson. 

Arthur Pierson : A biography / Delavan Leonard Pierson 

Wholly for God / Stanley Howard Frodsham 

Giovanni and the others / Burnett 

Amurru, The Home of the Northern Semites / Clay 

Common Prayer 

The travel lessons on the Old Testament / Porbush 

Religion and Medicine / Elwood Worcester 

Manual of Presbyterian Law. -- 1926, 1927. 

Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. General Assembly. 

General note

1951, pt. II ; 1952, Pt. II, III ; 1953, Pt. I, II ; 1954, pt. I - III ; 1955, pt. I, II.

Minutes / Synod of Michigan. -- 1952-1953, 1955-1956. 

Bulletin / Alma College. -- 1958 Apr. 

Catalog / Princeton Theological Seminary. -- 1946-1947. 

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Glass Slides 

General note

407, listed in 4 notebooks. Stereoptican and glass slides.

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General note


Fort Street Presbyterian Church. 

General note

large photo.

Mother and daughter banquet. -- 1933 May 9. 

Camp pictures. 

General note


Drawing of inside of church. 

Elders and Dr. Morgan. -- circa 1920 

Daily Vacation Bible School. --   47 pictures.

Inside of Church decorated for Memorial Day. 

Presbyterian map of Scotland. 

Presbyterian Alliance of Detroit. -- 1899. 

Camp pictures, clear lake. 1927 

General note


Pageant "Jeptha's Daughter." --   3 pictures.

Longitude Section, drawing of Church. 

General note


Banquet Picture. -- 1917. 

General note


Banquet, 90th Anniversary. -- 1929 Feb. 22. 

Dinner tedered to Fred J. Fisher. -- 1928 Jul. 26 

Map of Detroit. -- 1831. 

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Church house. 15 

Honor Roll (drawing for Bronze Tablet), 2. 

Proposed New Storm doors ... 3. 

Alteration to ... Church, 2. 

Proposed Alterations. 2c. White drawings. 

Structural Details. Tower Transmission Level. Canadian Bridge Co. 

(5 blueprints from Grindley) 

Alterations to ... Church. Shelter over 3rd St. Basement Entrance. 2. 

Alterations to ... Church. New Screen and Doors at Fort St. Entrance. 

Floor plans. Hand drawn by C.H. MoLennan. April 1938. Choir Loft Encasement. 

Elevations. May 9, 1938. --   2 sheets.

Floor plans, proposed changes to Church House, Dec. 5, 1927. --   3 sheets.

New Kitchen Arrangement. -- 1921 Jun. 28. 

New Lintel and Column between Classrooms and kitchen. -- 1921 Aug. 31. 

Alteration to Church House. 1928 Jan. 10. --   3 sheets.

Photostat of drawing, rebuilding after fire. -- 1876. 

Floor plans. -- 1937 Jun 9. --   5 sheets.

Sketch of surveys of Lyndon Township, Washtenaw County. 

Sketch of survey, Fort Street. 1949 Sept. 26. --   2 c.

Alteration to Church House 1946 Dec. 2. 

Alteration to Church House. -- 1938 Jan. 10. --   2c.

Proposed Storm Doors, Proposed Shelter over Basement Entrance. 1938 Jan. 10. --   3 sheets.

Sketch of Survey, Oxford Township. 

General note

Site of Camp.

Camp buildings. -- Sept. 1934. 

Choir loft. -- 1938 May 20. 

Vestibule for Narthex. -- 1938 Feb. 3 

Alterations for Church House. -- 1938 Jan. 10. 

D.P.W. Obstruction on West Fort Street. 

Organ loft. 

General note

4 small.

Church Camp plans. -- 1934 Jun. 7. 

General note

2 copies.

Mess Hall and Kitchen at Recreation grounds near Oxford, Mich. --   3 p.

General note

2 copies.

Sketch, Downtown Detroit. -- 1958 Dec. 15. 

General note

Indicates relation of first and Fort Street Presbyterian Churches to various city plan progects. -- Revised March 26, 1959.

Boat House. -- 1934 Sept. 

General note

8 copies.

Proposed choir loft. -- 1937 Jun. 21. 

Stone wall along west side of Fort Street Presbyterian Church. 

Church house. -- 1907 Jun. 12. 

Sketch of Survey. Oxford Township. 

Photostats from drawings. --   4 sheets.

Proposed revision of front of Church. -- 1937. 

Floor plan. -- 1937 Jun. 9   3 sheets.

Basement plan of Church House. 

Mess Hall and Kitchen at Recreation Grounds near Oxford, Mich. --   3 sheet.

BUILDING PLANS (This Drawing Paper) 

Proposed Change to Church House. -- 1927 Dec. 5 

Tracings. Proposed Revision, Church House. --   3 sheets.

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