Post Card Shows Tipp City's Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church as It Was Long Ago
By Judy Deeter
TIPP CITY - These post cards of Tipp City’s Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church were recently found in a local antique store. They show the church’s former building and parsonage, which were located at the southeast corner of Third and Broadway streets. The church building still stands; the parsonage was demolished many years ago. The church building was the second of three houses of worship built and used by the church.
The post cards were published by Diederich-Schaefer Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was a religious supply house (a business that sold religious items to churches). It is believed they were created for or around the time of the church dedication ceremony, which took place on June 23, 1912. They are included in a church dedication ceremony booklet. A copy of that booklet is part of the Grace Kinney Historical Collection at the Tipp City Public Library.
It is believed that the first Catholics came to Tipp City sometime between 1840 and 1850, near the time of the town’s founding. (Note: The post cards have the town name “Tippecanoe City” printed on the front. That was Tipp City’s name until 1938. Tipp City’s founder John Clark gave it that name in honor of General William Henry Harrison. Harrison campaigned for President of the United States using the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”)
In those early years, Tipp City Catholics depended on a traveling missionary priest for their spiritual needs. A church parish was organized in 1856. In 1857, the first church building was constructed at the northwest corner of Third and German streets at a cost of $937. The lot on which it stood was purchased from William Troupp for $50. It was built by a Mr. A. Waldo. The Most Rev. Archbishop John Baptist Purcell dedicated the building in October 1858. At the time, the Tipp City church was considered a mission church. Father Hemsteger of Piqua held services there once a month. The first church building was demolished in 1911 when the new church (shown on the post card) was built. Church services were held in a nearby church school building while the new church was being constructed.
Historical records indicate that the Rev. Albert J. Van Den Bosch became the church priest in 1907. He had previously served at St. Boniface Church in Piqua. Soon after his arrival, he decided that a new church building must be built and soon began collecting funds for it.
The cornerstone for the second church was laid on June 16, 1911. Items important to the church were placed in it including: a history of the parish, financial reports from the previous four years, a list of financial contributors and what is termed “The Official Document,” which was written in Latin. The Official Document seems to be a listing of important church officials.
The building was designed by Dayton architects Thies & Thies in an Italian style. A listing of companies and individuals involved in constructing the church is in the dedication booklet along with a list of financial contributors. According to that booklet, the church altar was made from lumber of the old church and “…is an exact copy of the altar in St. Mark’s Cathedral, Venice, Italy. The style of the entire church is that of an Italian Villa throughout and everything in it, furniture, decoration, windows, etc., are carried out with this one idea.” The windows—described as being painted glass—were made by the Munich Art Glass Studio of Chicago. (Some sources say that they were made in Germany.) The church’s old 1866 bell was also placed in the new church. The church seating capacity was 200. It cost $10,000 to build.
The parsonage located on the east side of the church is believed to have previously been a home at the site. It underwent remodeling when the new church was constructed. The 1982 HISTORY OF MIAMI COUNTY, OHIO says, “The parsonage (where the Center now stands) was remodeled, a new porch was added to the front.” The post cards' images show that the exterior of the church and parsonage are similar in design and color.
As previously stated, the second church was formally dedicated on June 23, 1912. Local writer John Sylvester wrote in his column in the Miami Union newspaper, “Many of our citizens attended the dedication of the Catholic Church in Tipp.” It is thought that Sylvester may have been referring to people from Troy. The only individuals he specifically named in his column as attending were the H. Caw family.
On December 8, 1912, baby Francis Pilliod was the first person baptized in the church. He grew up to be a Father Francis Pilliod, a priest.
The church building in the post card image was used until near the end of the 20th century. In 1995, church committees began working to build a new church building. The current church (the third church building) is located at 753 South Hyatt Street. It was dedicated on March 22, 1998; built at a cost of $1.95 million.
On New Year’s Eve in 2008, the church dedicated a bell tower. Inside the tower was the old 1866 church bell. The event was a highlight for the 150th anniversary of the parish.
The second church is still in use. Today it serves as the Grace Communion Church.
Photocopies of church documents and newspaper clippings are available for research in the Grace Kinney Historical Collection at the Tipp City Public Library, 11 East Main Street, Tipp City.
The St. John the Baptist Catholic Church website also contains an historical report, which provides information about the church from its earliest times to the present day.