The beginnings of Jones Road Chapel can be traced to mid-1800s in what was then Newburgh Township (but later annexed by Cleveland). Welsh brothers David I. Jones and John Jones purchased property at the end of Jones Avenue from Alonzo Carter (son of Lorenzo Carter, the first permanent settler of Cleveland) and built their first rolling mill in 1853. Welsh laborers were recruited to work in the mill, which later became American Steel and Wire Co. As the Welsh population grew they would gather in each other’s homes to sing hymns and hold prayer meetings. As interest grew, a Sunday school was begun with 13 pupils. In 1858 a Welsh Congregational Church was started with 15 charter members in the home of William Jones. By September 1869, on a Wales Street lot donated by Justus Hamilton, a church building was completed and dedicated.
Buildings and Building God’s Kingdom
In 1861 because of rapid increase in the church, the building was enlarged by twice its dimensions. In 1862 the Calvinistic Methodist members of the church withdrew and organized a separate church on Cannon Street, a few blocks away. In 1863 the Baptist members separated to established a church on Wire Street.
As the Welsh population continued to grow, a larger building was needed. Deacon Samuel Evans was the contractor for the new building estimated at $8,700.00 for which the members raised $1,200.00. The church gratefully remembers that David I. Jones and John J. Jones came forward to pay the balance, so that the building was dedicated free of debt.
As the church was built during the hundredth year of the nation’s proclamation of independence from Great Britain, it was dedicated as the Centennial Welsh Congregational Church. This name can still be observed cut into the stone seated near the peak of the roof’s cornice on the front of the building. Following the Civil War, the church shared with the community many difficulties, but notwithstanding them, the membership grew and the influence expanded in the religious and social life of the area.
Power Through Prayer
During the first half century of the church’s existence, prayer was a major and vital part of the church’s life. Prayer meetings were held on Monday evening following a full Sunday schedule, and it was said that there were scarcely ever any empty seats. Sometimes these meetings would continue for as long as two weeks, but despite this, so many of the members were prepared and capable that it was unnecessary to call on the same person twice to lead in prayer! With spiritual power thus generated one can understand why this period was one of heartening growth and helpfulness.
Music as Medium
It has been said that if more than three Welshmen are together it won’t be long before they will be singing, so it is no wonder that music became an important part of the life of the church. Indeed, the Welsh who settled in southern Cleveland were no exception. Hymn singing gives an outlet for their deep fervent religious feeling through the medium they love best, the music of human voices blended in harmony. During the hot summer days, people in neighborhood would sit outside on their porches and enjoy the beautiful singing streaming from the open doors of the church.
Faith and Names
When considering church history the most vital aspect is the people who worship as the Scripture teaches by faith and grace. We also look to the founders of our church who had traveled
across the ocean and gathered together to create a community which encompassed their deep spiritual beliefs and who worshiped faithfully leaving us a strong background to carry on and preserve their faithfulness.
Written by Chris Schwab, pastor of Gateway Church – Downtown