immigrants flooded into the Covington area in the years before the Civil
War. A number of German Protestants living in the west end wished to
establish a church and school in their community. On April 18, 1862,
18 individuals met at the home of Heinrich Wilhelm Schleutker, at the
corner of Pike and Craig Streets, to begin plans for a new congregation.
It was decided at this meeting to name the church the Evangelical Reformed
Church. A plot of ground measuring 50 x 99’ was acquired at the
northwest corner of Lockwood and Willard Streets in May 1862. While
the church building was under construction, the congregation met at
several temporary locations, including a schoolhouse and a local firehouse.
The cornerstone for the new Gothic Revival church was officially set
in place on June 13, 1862. The structure was dedicated on April 6, 1863
(Palm Sunday). The cost for the structure and furnishing amounted to
$8,000. The church was two-stories in height and built of brick. The
main floor contained classrooms and meeting rooms. The second floor
sported Gothic arched windows and was utilized as the main worship space.
The eighteen charter members of the congregation were: Heinrich Wilhelm
Schleutker, Gerhard Heinrich Schleutker, Joahnn Friedrich Schletuker,
Hermann Thiesing, Johann Heinrich Timmermann, Hermann Heinrich Uhlhorn,
Dietrich Stadtlaender, Wilhelm Heinrich Schild, Carl Mieth, Wilhelmine
Catherine Elisabeth Schleutker, Maria Wilhelmina Elisabeth Schleutker,
Maria Elisabeth Schleutker, Catharina Elisabeth Thiesing, Catharina
Timmermann, Louise Uhlkhorn, Carolina Stadtlaender, Johanna Maria Schild
and Maria Braun.
The congregation also sponsored a school. Like German Catholics in Covington,
the people of the congregation wished to teach their children the traditions
and language of the old country. The school opened at the same time
as the church. Tuition at the school amounted to .25 per month. Only
children of German parents were permitted to attend. The school was
not long lived.
The congregation grew quickly. By 1868, membership had increased to
300 in number. Among the early members was John Schleutker, a local
baker. Schleutker was known for his delicious pumpernickel bread which
he supplied to many neighborhood residents. Schleutker’s association
with the church was so strong, that many Northern Kentuckians referred
to the church as the Pumpernickel Church. Schleutker’s son, John,
served as the organist for the church for more than fifty years.
In 1889, the congregation financed the construction of a three-story
brick parsonage as an addition to the rear of the church building. Cost
for the worked reached $2,500. In 1894, members of the congregation
who lived in Ludlow and Bromley established a new church. Immanuel German
Reformed Church was constructed at the northeast corner of Boone and
Harris Streets in Bromley. Eventually, Immanuel became an independent
The congregation voted in 1896 to remodel the church building. At this
time, a new façade was built. The façade included a large
Gothic arched window and a tower with steeple. The renovations also
included stained glass windows. The newly remodeled church was dedicated
on December 7, 1896.
As German immigration to Northern Kentucky slowed, the desire to conduct
all services in the German Language ceased. In 1904, the members of
the Sunday school were given permission to use English language materials.
At about the same time, the board agreed to conduct brief Sunday Services
in English between the Sunday school classes and the main Sunday German
service. In 1913, the congregation voted (80 in favor, 2 opposed) to
conduct English and German services on alternate Sundays. The entry
of the United States into the First World War brought the use of German
to a complete halt. On April 28, 1918, the congregation voted to eliminate
the use of the German language entirely. Also at this time, the name
of the Church was changed to Grace Reformed Church.
Grace Church maintained a membership of about 300 throughout the pre-World
War II era. In the years following the war, the west end began to change.
Long-time residents began selling their property and moving to the suburbs.
Like many other congregations, Grace Church lost members. In 1957, Grace
Reformed became a part of the United Church of Christ Denomination.
At this time, the name of the church was changed to Grace United Church
By the 1960s, members began discussing the relocation of the church
to the suburbs. A vote of the congregation, however, indicated that
a majority wished to remain in the downtown location. Throughout the
1970s and 1980’s, membership and Grace United Church of Christ
plummeted. In 1975, membership stood at 103. By 1982, only 73 active
members participated in church activities.
Declining membership reached a crisis point in the mid 1990s. In 1995,
less than 20 members participated in Sunday Services and most of these
were elderly. A decision was made to close. The last services were conducted
on October 29, 1995.
Kentucky Post, October 28, 1995, p. 9k, October 30, 1995, p. 1k;
Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of Grace Reformed Church, Covington, Kentucky,
1862-1937 (KCPL Collection); History of Grace United Church of Christ,
1862-1962 (KCPL Collection); Vercouteren, Karl J., The German Churches
of Covington, (Covington: 1977), p. 9; Sixteenth Anniversary of the
Grace Reformed Church, Covington, Kentucky, October 22, 1922 (KCPL Collection).