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Culver's Methodist Church History


Dr. Benjamin Wiseman began his medical practice in Culver in 1880 and retired in 1924, earning a respected reputation in the area that was reflected in his obituary in the Culver Citizen, which reported his death on November 4, 1933. His speech on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Culver Methodist Churches Organization was donated by Edna Taber, whose husband, Bill, was Benjamin Wiseman's grandson (as well as an amateur photographer -- his photos appear in several instances in our vintage Culver photos gallery). Below is the text of the original article and his speech, as donated by Mrs. Taber:

June 26, 1918
Methodist Congregation Fitting Observe Fiftieth Anniversary of Organization

Sunday was a great day for Culver Methodism.  If celebrated a twofold achievement-the anniversary of a 50 year existence as an organized local church and the raising of a fund of $1,200 for the liquidation of the old $560 church debt and the installation of a new furnace and leaving a surplus of $150 or more for future needs.  The money was secured from the members of the church and congregation.

The Sunday program started off with a fine presentation of a Children's day cantata by the Sunday school.  This was followed by a sermon by Dr. H. L. Davis of the First M. E. church of South Bend.  Dr. Davis spoke to a full house on the theme of the church's mission and accomplishments, particularly in its relation to the war.  He regards the church as the greatest agency in the winning of the war and In the establishment of a permanent peace.  While he believes in peace and in the principle of arbitration for the settlement of International differences he is no pacifist, and he bluntly declared that a "damnable country that says you can only sail upon such waters as we dictate and use only such ships as we approve should be sent back into the hell from which it sprang".

At the close of the service the congregation was conveyed in automobiles to Thayer's grove at the south end of the lake where a great picnic dinner was served on two long tables.  It is estimated that between 250 and 300 were present.  An interesting program filled in the remainder of the afternoon. Addresses were made by Revs. H. L. Davis of Leiters Ford, and Clouse of Culver. Mrs. Slonaker recited several selections.  The most important feature of the afternoon was assigned to Dr. Wiseman who read a careful and intelligently prepared paper on the history of the Culver church.  We append this paper and suggest that it be filed away by every reader of the Citizen:

Dr. Wiseman's Address:

The groves were God's first temples, and we meet today in this lovely temple to celebrate the planting of one of the not insignificant milestones in the onward march of Methodism in Indiana.

Macaulay said, more than half a century ago, "A people which takes no pride in the achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything to be remembered by remote descendants."

Among the beautiful customs that have come down to us from the past few are more pleasing or valuable than the celebrations with which we mark the epochs in our lives, or in the lives of our great institutions.  We enjoy these events in their anticipation and in their realization, ad we treasure the memory of them after they are over.  They have a certain ministry of education for us, and they always help to commit us anew to our better ideals.

Thus we celebrate the graduation of our children and youths from school and colleges: thus we emphasize their confirmation in religion; thus we solemnize their marriage; so we mark their entry into a new profession.  In this way we dedicate churches and institution, and men and women; and all concerned feel more or less an inspiration, and are given afresh to saner and loftier ambitions.

In reviewing the history of any achievement - though in a brief manner, as in the present instance-it would seem to be proper, if not imperative to devote at least some little time to mention of conditions underlying or relative to, a consideration of the principle theme, such as environment and predisposing social, industrial and economic features affecting the community and contiguous territory, which might make for the success or failure of the enterprise.

When I came, in November 1867 with my father's family to Culver (then known as Marmont) there were, within what was generally considered as its limits, fourteen dwellings, one effete and almost defunct pump factory, one blacksmith shop (built of tamarack poles and standing where the bank now stands), one general store, one drug store (on a small scale), and a district school house (standing where the Street now is, between Uncle William Osborn's residence and the hotel).  There was a post office (mail received once a week by hack route from Plymouth via Wolf Creek and the village of Maxinkuckee), and one physician, Dr. Gustavus A. Durr.

A movement was started in the winter of 1867-8 to erect an M. E. church. Religious services were held, at more or less regular intervals, in the school house, and there was a Methodist organization and a resident pastor.  I am unable to say what other points he served besides Marmont, but I remember him and his family quite well.

There were two denominations dominant in the community-the Baptists and the Methodists.  The leading members of the Baptist congregation were Elder Fo (a superannuated minister and a man of erudition, John Bumstead, James, John & Jacob Green, John, Riley and James Robbins, William Thomas and Jonn Horgesheirr. The formost workers in the Methodist organization and those most concerned in the erection of the church building were Oliver Porter, Thos. W. Redden, Edward Medbourn, James Duddleson, William Dinsmore, Albert Duddleson, John Buswell ad Lorenzo D. Wiseman.  One of these men is still living, Albert Duddleson of Argos, Ind.  To the foregoing list should be added the names of the worthy Christian wives of these men; also the name of Dr. G. A. Durr who, thoug not a member of this  brancn of tne church, contributed generously his time, energy and substance to the success of the undertaking and was, in the years following, a loyal supporter of the church organization.

The lot on which the building was erected (during the summer of 1868) -- that on which the present building stands -- was purchased for $50, which was regarded as a fair price, indeed, for that much real estate in that day.  It would seem that, assuming that other necessaries connected with prosecuting the enterprise to a successful issue were as cheap as the real estate, the burden these men assumed was not so heavy after all; but, be it remembered that the echoing thunders of the civil war had scarce more than died away and that prices of such material as had to be bought were still high; that the country was still to some extent, in the throes of the reconstruction period, and that the resources on which the projectors of the movement had to rely were more or less uncertain on account of the economic, industrial and commercial status which prevailed.

Much of the subscription had to be paid in such raw material as could be furnished by the farms owned by the subscribers; some by such work as the subscribers were able and could find time to do.  But notwithstanding this a not insignificant amount of cash had to be furnished, mostly by the parties named, and right nobly did each perform his duty.  In the furnishing of material, one tree, a large poplar, furnished by Edward Medbourn ("Uncle Teddy," as he was called) supplied all of the necessary siding.  It was a large tree, purchased by Bro. Medbourn of Jeremiah Mosher for $30, and the trunk was cut into sawlogs. It was converted into lumber at Berlin's sawmill, northeast of the lake.  The snow was so deep that winter that falling in the tree was buried in the snow.

The building was 56x48 with an 18 ft. ceiling.  It had the bell tower and spire common to that day surmounting the front (east) end of the building. The seating was after the manner of country churches of the time, with long seats lengthwise of the building on either side of the pulpit and altar, furnishings an "amen corner" on each side of the west end of the room.  These seats were all made by my father, L. D. Wiseman, who was the architect and the foreman of the carpenter work.  His principal assistants in the latter were J. S. Bernie and August Hoppe.  Several of the old seats are now in use in the basement of the present building.  It will be of interest (to know that the old frame is encased within the brick work of the present modern structure.  It was used there from motives of sentiment which you will readily understand -- and I think it was a great and noble sentiment, indeed, that suggested the idea of thus perpetuating the memory of those who built the first church erected in our township.

The singing for some years after the church was built was led by either John Buswell or my father.  Father had a very smooth, melodious voice particularly in his younger days, and was able leader, but it was to Bro. Buswell that the congregation looked for power of tone. He was also a very ready and rapid reader of music.

The church was dedicated in 1869.  Rev. W. R. Nickels, then stationed at Plymouth, preached the sermon at that occasion. The hymn sung on that occasion was "From Greenland's Icy Mountains."  The house was full, and I have never, before nor since, heard such earnest singing by a congregation.

The prayer and class meeting services held in the earlier days of the old church were very interesting and elevating.  It is said that on one occasion the prayer meeting on Thursday night had been so exceptionally interesting that "Uncle Teddy" Medbourn forgot that he had come horseback and walked home, a distance of more than two miles, leaving his horse in the village.  Such a spirit of interest in those days.

As this landmark of Methodism was planted at a time when the dying embers of the "Lost Cause" were emitting their last spark, it seems particularly appropriate that the final removal of the last vestige of debt from the newer and modern structure -- of which we are so justly proud -- should be accomplished as the arms of our country, borne by its heroes on the fields of France and Belgium, are preparing to give the finishing stoke of victory to the war against brutal autocracy and for the rights of man.  It is an inspiring thought that the descendants of those pilgrims who came to this continent to plant the banner of freedom and human rights thereon are marching as crusaders on the land of their ancestors vvhere, may God grant, they may establish the principles of liberty for which our Revolutionary fathers fought and died.

I wish to close with a word of eulogy and fidelity and perseverance of those "hears of oak" who planted the seed that has brought forth and blossomed out into this loyal energetic and progressive band of adherents to our beloved church, and faithful workers in the vineyard of the Master.  Strenuously did the battle under the banner of the Cross -- through discouragements most depressing and at times, through poverty dire and privation most grievous -- yet amid it all they lived their devout lives with fortitude, and quietly walked with God.  Would it be transcending the limits of imagination to feel that, in their present state of existence, we are the objects of their earnest solicitude; or that, as we stand in an atmosphere vibrant with the irradiations of love and devotion, we become cognizant of a presence we can only feel or, mayhap, voices which we cannot hear -- corning to us o'er mystic cable: "Do-your-work-well; ours is -done; God-bless-you; goodbye."

Letters were received from Revs. Fraley and Nicely, conveying good wishes.

At the Children's day service a collection of $17.84 was taken for the educational fund -- a most beneficent branch of church work which enables young men and young women to borrow $500 without interest for the purpose of paying college tuition, the indebtedness to be liquidated within five years after graduation.