The first Baptists in Monroe Township held services in private homes and schoolhouses in the early 1800s.
The Johnstown Baptist Church congregation is preparing to celebrate a milestone Sunday, June 29, when it welcomes members, past and present, to mark 50 years at its current location at Concord Road and South Main Street.
"Most of the people who were around here then are gone, so it's been difficult trying to locate family members," said Lila Grimes, a longtime member.
"But history is important because it is part of your heritage, and this is a wonderful congregation and it's been wonderful to be a part of it," Grimes said.
A catered meal will follow the special service at the church that was dedicated in January 1964.
"We're calling it a homecoming celebration," the Rev. Larry Griffin said.
"We started with a master mailing list and began contacting family members. There are still a few founding members who are part of the congregation and it's nice to have them around."
Griffin, a mathematics teacher at Johnstown-Monroe High School, has led the church for the past eight years.
The Rev. Reuben Kyrk was the pastor when the building opened. He is expected to attend the celebration along with other past leaders.
Not only does the anniversary mark 50 years in the current building, but also 175 years since the founding of the congregation, which totals less than 50 members.
Grimes, who was in high school when the current building opened, has dedicated time to documenting the history.
Area Baptists built the first church on a hill near Hartford Road, just north of town in 1830, according to church records. It was formed of bricks made from the soil of the Rev. Eli Ashbrook's farm where the structure stood.
The Baptist Church of Johnstown was organized in 1839. It is assumed that several groups of Baptists merged at that time, Grimes said.
For years, the congregation met in a building at the corner of Pratt and Oregon streets. It still exits as a home and is one of the village's oldest structures.
In 1868, a high-spiraled church was constructed on the West Side of Johnstown at the corner of Coshocton and Oregon streets where the building stood for nearly a century.
For a period of time, beginning in 1943, the Johnstown Baptists joined in a union with Presbyterians that lasted nearly 20 years before it dissolved in 1961.
Two years later, ground was broken for the current building. The first service was held in December of that year.
Since then, the building has undergone a number of renovations, including the current project to replace its original sign.