The history' of Bacon Memorial Presbyterian Church is the stop, of the people who gave time, talent, money, imagination and skills to build a congregation. May those who shared in the created and sustaining rejoice in the continuing service of this congregation to the glory of God.
In 1910 a Sunday School began in a tent on Mr. James Singer’s property on Evershed Avenue (now 56th Street). Later they moved to the basement of the Evershed School on Ericsson Place (now 57 th Street) and when this was no longer available, they built a Community House on Morris Avenue (now 59th Street). When this became overcrowded, a portion of the Sunday School moved into a firehall on Stephenson Avenue at 57th Street. The ladies spent Saturday evenings cleaning spittoons and making the room presentable for the Sunday School.
In 1922 LaSalle was an independent village whose president was George Stone, a member of this congregation. The western limit of the village of LaSalle was 56th Street. The first church in that area of the village known as Evershed began holding services in 1922. Called Third Presbyterian Church, it was a union of a Presbyterian church organized March 5, 1906 at 27th and East Falls Street and the Evershed Union Sunday School. The merged church was housed in the basement of the Community House on Morris Avenue. Ministers who served this church were Rev. Robert Parkhill and Rev. J. Melvin Keys. In July 1928, the Rev. John K. Borneman was called to Third Presbyterian Church. By this time the church had outgrown its one-room structure and the Sunday School was meeting in the Evershed Fire Hall.
In its earliest days, the living seed of faith was planted and struggled to survive with the loving care of dedicated lay people in the Evershed community. It was not ministers or the presbytery who started the church but a group of dedicated Christians, many of whom were inspired by a Billy Sunday Crusade. These founders included Robert Mould, Anna Jobson, Mr. E.A. Butler, Charles Crick, Rachel Keller, Mrs. Bassert, Ada Steele, Anna Crick, Grace Burdick, Hazel Ransom, and James Singer. Other dedicated workers in the early years included Mr. and Mrs. Fred Crawford, Mr. and Mrs. John Friend, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Robins, Mr. and Mrs. James Rennie, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Broadley, Mr. and Mrs. George McRae, Florence Haake, Kathryn Haake Mitchell, Ruth Haake Coppock and Mr. and Mrs. Albert Pierce. Services were conducted from 1922-1925 by lay leaders. The Rev. Robert Parkhill served from 1925-1926 and the Rev. J. Melvin Keys served from 1927-1928. Finally the church was able to call the Rev. John K. Borneman and his wife, Elizabeth, who worked diligently to establish a secure foundation for the church. They received strong support from First Presbyterian Church under the leadership of Dr. Albert S. Bacon and the Rev. Albertus VanRaalte who conceived the collegiate system and gave Bacon Memorial Church great financial support. With a budget of approximately $7000, Bacon Memorial received $5000 per year from First Church.
By 1929 First Presbyterian was sufficiently interested in the growing LaSalle Church to sponsor a new building and to merge the two congregations. In 1930, after the death of Rev. Bacon, and in recognition of his service, Third Presbyterian Church changed its name to the Albert S. Bacon Memorial Church. The new building, cost $55,000, was dedicated on October 12, 1930 and, except for a remodeling of the sanctuary to increase seating capacity, served a growing congregation until September 13, 1959 when the present sanctuary was dedicated.
In 1939, the Rev. Mr. Borneman left Bacon Memorial to assume duties as chaplain in the United States Army. In 1941 the Rev. Ray K. Hallin came as Assistant Pastor of the First Presbyterian Society of Niagara, for, since some financial support and guidance were provided by First Church, Bacon was not as yet an independent church. In 1944, when Bacon became mortgage-free, steps were initiated to set up an independent church. The Bacon Memorial Presbyterian Church was organized on March 20, 1945. In May of that year, The Rev. Mr. Hallin was installed as minister of the newly organized church and served until his retirement in 1975.
A picture of the Confirmation class of 1948.
In 1949 the church sanctuary was remodeled to provide more seating for the growing congregation. The following year a manse was purchased at a cost of $22,000.
When the expansion program started in 1955 the plan was to add a sanctuary to the north of the church but there was not enough room on the lot north of the church so the Hooker house and lot to the south of the church was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Federlein. The planning committee with Philip Burridge as chairman, Donald Roberson, John McVicker, C.W. MacRitchie, Ernest Crawford, Frances Carter (Landres) and George Kay, initiated action that resulted in groundbreaking ceremonies in September 1958 and the dedication of the new sanctuary and connecting building a year later. An additional expansion was the purchase in 1950 of a manse at 121 – 58th Street.
The Jennings Scholarship Loan Fund was established in 1963 to provide financial assistance to college students in need of funding.
The Borneman Chapel was furnished and dedicated in 1967 in memory of John K. Borneman. That year we also celebrated the burning of the mortgage ($20,00) on the manse.
1972 was a year of celebration when we observed our 50th anniversary of service to the community. The next year, however, was a year of loss when the education building burned and a time of planning and evaluation ensued. It was 1975 when we celebrated the burning of the mortgage ($85,000) on the church and rebuilt the salvageable part of the church school, chapel and Soley Lounge at approximately $96,000. That was the year that Rev. Mr. Hallin retired after 34 years of service at Bacon. He was named Pastor Emeritus. Our faithful secretary of 24 years, Jean Andrews also retired and in August of that year the Rev. Wallace E. Easter arrived as interim minister. A co-operation committee was appointed to work with Riverside Presbyterian Church with help from the Presbytery of Western New York to study and develop a plan of working together to benefit both congregations. However when a final plan was presented. Bacon voted to approve but Riverside rejected it. In 1976 Hallin Hall, the educational building was dedicated, the manse was sold for $30,000 and the Rev Peter M. Bach was called as pastor. The following year he received his doctor’s degree and led a health fair trip to Ohio. The Belle Ray Study Center for our youth was dedicated in memory of a former schoolteacher and elder.
Some interesting statistics (from 1974 Annual Report):
Peak church membership – 1957 1018
Peak average attendance – 1961 306
Most members received in one year – 1948 148
Most members received at one time – 1948 71
Most children baptized in one year – 1955 105
Highest Church School enrollment – 1956 453
Education Building Fire that occurred in July 1973:
In March 1983 Peter Bach resigned and Rev. Donald French became our pulpit supply preacher and the Session assumed many more duties to compensate for the lack of full-time pastoral leadership. In June of the following year the Rev. Knight Washburn was called as pastor. In May of that year the name of the church legally became Bacon Memorial Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) following the reunion of two branches of the Presbyterian Church. A manse was purchased for the new pastor at 728 – 87th Street at a cost of $52,000.
In the spring of 1987 Margaret Bowen became the first member of Bacon Memorial to be elected Moderator of the Presbytery of Western New York. During the summer of that year the Washburn’s exchanged parishes with the Rev. Trevor Wilson and his wife Elizabeth of Templepatrick, Northern Ireland and both congregations expanded their horizons with the international experience.
1990 was the year we began the Third Sunday Luncheon, which has become a time of good eating and fellowship. The summer of the following year we continued our overseas ties when Elaine Dunne came to us and to Riverside as a summer intern.