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"ONE TOWNSHIP'S YESTERDAYS"
By Edwin Corwin
LI. CHRON ICLE OF THE CHURCHES
THE ORIGINAL CHURCH REGISTER of Zion gives an historical sketch of the organization of the congregation. The handwriting is old-fashioned and the ink is faded and brown. The words are as follows:
Organization of the Zion's Congregation
"In the good Providence of God in the year 1857, the Rev. Basler of the Synod of North America of the German Reformed Church commenced to preach at this place, and continued to do so for about Eighteen Months. The field was then without any regular Minister until the year of (omitted, but probably 1861) when the Rev. J. Michael commenced his Ministerial labours and continued to labour for Three years, after which the Congregation was vacant until the Rev, G. A. (Fritchie) Fickes was called to supply the people with preaching and continued his labours for about Eighteen Months. The Congregation again became vacant, and had no regular preaching until January lst, 1865. The Rev. J. Schlosser took charge of the Congregations composing the Marshall Co. Mission, preaching only once in every four weeks. In the Fall of 1865, the Classis of St. Joseph (in whose bounds said Mission is located) by resolution instructed the Rev. J. Schlosser to take the Constitutional steps and Organize a German Reformed Congregation in the so called Romicks (Romig's or Kaley's) School House. A meeting to carry this object into effect was commenced in said School-house Thursday evening, March 29th, 1866. On the following Sabbath Morning an Election for officers took place and resulted in the choice of John Romick for two years and John Zechiel for one year (Elders,) and John Addler for two years, and Frederick Stahl for one year (Deacons.) The Pastor then proceeded to the Constitutional Organization of a Congregation of the German Roformed Church with the following named persons as members, John Romick, Anne Romick, John Zechiel, Roseanne Zechiel, Simon Wolffrom, Margaret Wolffrom, John Addler, Magdalena Addler, Frederick Stahl, Christeanne Stahl, Elizabeth Didmyer, Mary Wolffrom, G. A. Morloch, (Morloch), Elizabeth Morloch, Rejina Stahl, Wm. Good, Mary Shall, Rebecca Edinger. Thus on the 1st Day of April 1866 the Zions Congregation of the Marshall Co. Mission was Constitutionally organized in connection and supervision of the St. Joseph Classes, Synod of Ohio and Adjacent States of the German Reformed Church."
In a later church register of the congregation a transcript of this sketch appeared, with the spelling of a number of names changed, and perhaps brought more up-to-date. Other changes were made throughout the text, but the quaintness and sincerity of the original warrants its preservation as first set down. The insertion of two or three of the parenthetical explanations comprises the only changes made in the above ropy as compared with the original.
The pastors of Zion Church, from the year 1865 onward, have been given the following mention in the church records:
There occurred a vacancy in the records from the pastorate of the Rev. Jesse Schlosser until the Rev. Jerome B. Henry became pastor of the congregation, September lst, 1877, His labors ended in August, 1882, when he was called to Preside over the Collegiate Institute at Pleasantville, Ohio.
The Rev. William F. From commenced his pastorate in Septem-ber, 1883, the charge having been vacant for one year. He closed his labors at the expiration of his year, preaching his farewell sermon August 17th, 1884.
The Rev. Peter J. Spangler commenced his labors, November 2nd, 1854, at which time he preached his first regular sermon to the congregation. A protracted service, conducted by Brother Spangler, is mentioned, commencing on Friday evening, March 20th, 1885, and continuing until the Sabbath, April 5th, 1885. On this occasion ten persons were admitted into the church and five children were baptized.
The Rev. N. H. Loose commenced his labors November 1st, 1887. His pastorate ended, June 1st, 1889.
The Rev. Samuel Shaw entered the pastorate, June 1st, 1889, and continued until October 1st, 1892. Of interest is a program, inserted in the records, of the Fourteenth Annual Sunday School Convention of the St. Joseph Classes, held in the First Reformed Church at Three Rivers, Mich., and lasting two days. The Rev. Samuel Shaw took part in the program of the last day, May 20th, 1891, when he delivered an address, "Unruly Scholars--How Best Gain their Attention."
The first officers of Zion Church are mentioned in the records of the congregation as having been elected as follows:
April 1st, 1866, John Romig was elected Elder for two years, and John Zechiel, Elder for one year. John Adler was elected Deacon for two years, and Frederick Stahl, Deacon for one year. These Brethren were installed into their respective offices on the same day of their election by the Pastor.
April 28, 1867, Frederick Stahl was elected Elder for two years, and John Zechiel, Deacon for two years. May 26th, 1867, they were installed by the Pastor, and continued to serve for three years. April 16th, 1868, Simon Wolfrom was elected Elder for two years, and John Romig, Deacon for two years, and on the 30th of the same month were installed by the Pastor and each continued in office for three years.
The elections of 1870, 1871, and 1872 are then mentioned. At a meeting at the house of John Zechiel on March 29th, 1872, three Trustees were elected, John Zechiel, Louis F. Stahl,, and Jacob H. Zechiel, to serve for the term of three years, and until their successors should be chosen. The Rev. Jesse Schlosser was chairman of that meeting. Mrs. Christeanne Stahl was secretary of the congregation at that time.
On January 1st, 1879, L. C. Zechiel was elected as clerk of the congregation. On January 1st, 1854, Charles H. Stahl was elected congregational treasurer. In April, 1886, Lewis F, Stahl appears on the records as clerk, and also for several years thereafter. Louis C. Zechiel was elected as clerk, January 10, 1892. He continued as such until 1909, when Claude R. Newman assumed the duties, continuing until the present year, 1934.
The Elders of Zion Church and the term of office of each are on record as follows:
John Romig, 1866-68; John Zechiel, 1866-67; Fred Stahl, 1867-72; Simon Wolfrom, 1868-' John Zechiel, 1872- Here occurs a vacancy in the records until Rev. J. B. Henry became pastor. During this vacancy, however, it is known that the office of Elder was mostly filled by John and Jacob H. ZechieI. John Zechiel, 1878- ; Jacob H. Zechiel, 1878-80; Louis F. Stahl, 188084; Jacob H. Zechiel, 1884-85, 1885-87; L. F. Stahl, 1886-88; Jacob H. Zechiel, 1887-89; L. F. Stahl, 1888-90; L. C. Zechiel, 1889-91; L. F. Stahl, 1890-92; Jacob H. Zechiel, 1891-93; Louis C. Zechiel, 1892- ; Jacob H. Zechiel, 1893- ; Louis C. Zechiel. 1894-96; L, F. Stahl, 1895- , William G. Zechiel, 1896- ; Albert C. Wolfram, 1897- ; Louis C. Zechiel, 1898- ; Albert C. Wolfram, 1898- ; L. C. Zechiel 1900- , Albert C. Wolfram, 1901- ; L. C. Zechiel, 1902- , A. C. Wolfram, 1903- ; Wm. G. Zechiel, 1905- ; Claude R. Newman, 1910- , Watson Romig, 1913- ; John A. Newman, 192021; Henry Miller, 1921- ; Edwin Hoover, 1922- ; Harry Leopold, 1930.
The Deacons of Zion Churn and their terms of office are on record as follows:
John Adler, 1866-68; Frederick Stahl, 1866-67; John Zechiel, 1867-70; John Romig, 1868-71; Jacob H. Zechiel, 1870- , John Zechiel, 1871-72; Benjamin D. Ebling, 1872- Here occurs a vacancy in the records until September list, 1877, during which time the office was mostly filled by Louis F. Stahl, William J. Good and Benjamin. D. Ebling. William J. Good, 1878-80; Louis C. Zechiel, 1878-81; Charles H. Stahl, 1880-82; Benjamin D. Ebling, 1881-84; Solomon Romig, 1882-84; Henry Zechiel, 1884- ; Louis F. Stahl, 1884-86; Ezra Blanchard, 1885; Henry Romig, 1886-87; L. C. Zechiel. 1856-88; Charles H. Stahl, 1887-89; L. C. Zechiel, 1888-90; Charles H. Stahl, 1888-91; Martin Mahler, 1888-90; Albert C. Wolfram, 1890-92; Charles H. Stahl, 1891-93; John C. Zechiel, 1892- , John Ditmire, 1893; John C. Zechiel, 1895- ; Louis C. Zechiel, 1896-; Chas. H. Stahl, 1897- ; William G. Zechiel, 1898-1900; Chas. H. Stahl, 1899- ; Albert F. Stahl, 1901- ; Chas. H. Stahl, 1901-; John W. Romig, 1902- ; William G. Zechiel, 1903- ; Watson Romig, 1904-08; Zina Duddleson, 1905-17; Claude R, Newman, 1908-10; Watson Romig, 1910-12; Jerome Zechiel, 1912-13; John Ditmire, 1914-18; Henry Miller, 1917-21; Dick Newman, 1918-24; Bryan Hedges, 1921-26; Samuel Kaley, 1922-29; Harry Leopold, 1924- ; Paul Hoover, 1926-29; Kline Sales, 1929- , J. Dick Newman, 1929
In November, 1885, according to the old records of Zion Church, "the committee of reconstruction of the Marshall and Winamac Charges met at Marmont in Special Classis to transact business relating to above named Charges. The Division was as follows: Marmont, Twin Lakes, Zions Congregations from Marshall Charge and Bruce Lake, and Marshland, (Delong) from Winamac Charge to constitute the Middle or New Charge.
"December lst, 1888, by a call of Brother B. F. Good, the Consistory of the new Charge was organized at Marmont, Indiana. Brother Hanesakel was appointed Chairman, and Brother L. C. Zechiel, Recording Secretary, and Brother B. F. Good, Corresponding Secretary.
"After some suggestions made by some of the members present in regard to naming the Charge, it was on second Ballot voted to be called Marmont Charge."
The Marmont Congregation had been organized nearly four years previous, on March 11, 1885. Zion was the parent church. The Rev. Peter J. Spangler, their pastor of Zion, became also pastor of the Marmont Charge.
"The particular branch of the Reformed church with which we stand identified," L. C. Zechiel says in a historical review, "was composed of German and Swiss emigrants to this country. It was not long until the organization known as the German Reformed church was effected. Its principal stronghold was in Pennsylvania and the adjoining states. Confining its work primarily to the German immigrants for many years her growth was no doubt much retarded, but as the English language became more dominant in the states as well as the church the word German was about forty years ago dropped from the name and the church is now known as the Reformed Church in the United Stales.
"In course of time this portion of Hoosierdom which we inhabit became settled and among the settlers were those who in the East were members of either the Reformed or Lutheran church. The home missionary was not slow in following in their wake and so it was that in about the year 1855 Rev. Bassler commenced to preach here in the old log school house situated about a quarter of a mile south and east of this church (Zion). Following the Rev. Bassler came Rev. Fritchie and Rev. Fickes, both holding services in the German language. Commencing about the year 1860 Rev. Jonas Michael of Winamac, the first English Reformed minister in this section of the country, began a pastorate continuing for several years. During the same time a Rev. Nicolai preached occasionally in the German language. For a time the congregation chiel, 1894-96; John Ditmire, was vacant, being then known as the Marshall County Mission. On January 1, 1865, the Rev. Jesse Schlosser of Pleasant Grove, now Kewanna, took charge of the congregations, the charge being then composed of Bruce Lake, Twin Lakes, St. John's and Pleasant Grove congregations. The Zion congregation had, however, never been constitutionally organized as a part of the Reformed church, so on the evening of March 29, 1866, such all organization was commenced with the following charter members: John Romig, Anna Romig, Simon Wolfram, Margaret Wolfram, John Adler, Magdalena Adler, John Zechiel, Rosina Zechiel, Frederic Stahl, Christeana Stahl, Elizabeth Ditmire, Mary Wolfram, George Morlock, Elizabeth Morlock, Regina Stahl, William J. Good, Mary Schall, and Rebecca Ettinger. An election was held resulting in the choice of the following brethren: John Romig, elder for two years; John Zechiel, elder for one year; John Adler, deacon for two years; Frederic Stahl, deacon for one year. On the following Lord's day morning, being April 1, 1866, the officers thus chosen were solemnly ordained and installed into their respective offices and thus was completed the organization of Zion congregation of the Reformed church and so continues to this present time. As many of the older members of the congregation were Germans the preaching service was partly German. Sometimes both the English and German languages were used in the same service.
"For many years the public services were held in the Kaley school house, being the buliding now occupied (in 1916) by Brother Henry Miller, while cottage prayer meetings were regularly held at the homes of the members. These prayer meetings were well attended and looked forward to with joyful anticipations as seasons of spiritual refreshing no less than as times of happy social intercourse. The people did not go in automobiles, nor yet in surreys, driving over fine gravel roads at the rate of 10 to 25 miles per hour; rather, our fathers were plodders, hitching to their farm wagons, driving sometimes horses, sometimes ox teams through sand and mud and over corduroy bridges, and some even walked, the mother carrying the baby in her arms, the father the next oldest in his arms and perchance another on his back, all the while rejoicing in the prospect of a spiritual as well as temporal feast of good things in store at the end of the journey. In those days none were too poor to go to church and Sunday school. Boys and girls came to Sunday school barefooted, and very few had other Sunday clothes than the clothes of the following week put on clean on Sunday morning. Those were my boyhood days, and it is with a mingled feeling of regret that I note the changes that have taken place. Thus time went happily on.
"In those early years the Sunday school was in session only during the warm months of the year and was held as a union Sunday school by the two dominant church organizations of the community--the Reformed and Evangelical people. The literature was bought jointly, consisting of testaments, song books without notes, and German primers. The custom was to select a superintendent from one church one year and from the other church the next. Primitive as everything was, the Christian people of the community served well their day and generation . ' "
About the year 1872, there came into the neighborhood a Protestant Methodist minister by the name of Douglas who, together with the Rev. Cando, commenced protracted meetings resulting in a "great revival." As a result of the meetings a Protestant Methodist class was organized. When the meetings closed, about the first of March, a Sunday school was organized.
Zion congregation at length decided to build a church. The present edifice was erected and was dedicated by Rev. Jesse Schlosser on May 4, 1873. From that time the congregation prospered and grew so that at one time the Sunday school had an enrollment of nearly 200 and the congregation more than 150.
At one time four different church organizations held stated services in Zion community. Two disbanded long ago, while a third removed its organization and house of worship to Culver, and Zion alone remains.
In early days, religious services in the southwestern section of the township were usually held in what was commonly known as the "Kaley Schoolhouse." The Reformed Church was then but a Mission point. To these services, some came on foot, some on horseback, some with ox-cart and others on their log wagons with seat-boards laid across the wagon-bed. None came in top-carriages their or even rubber-tired buggies, according to the Stahl Family History. Jacob Peter Stahl recalls that on numerous occasions he as a child was carried to services on the arms and shoulders of his parents. The distance from the Stahl home to the Kaley school was about four miles.
"Worship was conducted in the Community School House district No. 8," which the writer designated as the "School House Church." "This arrangement continued for a number of years and was open to all denominations down to the year 1872," the year that the Zion's Reformed Church building was erected on its present site. It was in that same year that the Emmanuel Church, of the Evangelical Association, was erected about one and one-half miles to the east of this location. After this, use of the schoolhouse as a place of worship ceased. Thus, the old schoolhouse, with its crude and meager accommodations, had served its sacred purpose and borne its fruit. The church was early designated as the "Zions Congregation of the Reformed Church of the Marshall County Charge of the St. Joseph Classis of the Ohio Synod."
Information as follows is given regarding the pastors of Zion in the Pastoral Register of the church:
Jesse Schlosser, Jan. 1, 1865-1873.
Peter J. Spangler, 1873-4.
C. Scheel, 1874-5.
Louis Richter, about Jan, 7, 1876-1877.
(There being no record, these items above, concerning the Reverends Spangler, Scheel and Richter, are recorded from memory.)
Jerome B. Henry, Sept. 1, 1877-Sept. 1, 1882.
William F. From, Sept 1. 1883-Sept. 1, 1884.
Peter J. Spangler, Nov. 2, 1884-July 1, 1887.
N. H. Loose, Nov. 1, 1887-June 1, 1889.
Samuel Shaw, June 1, 1889-Oct. 1, 1892.
J. W. Barber, Nov. 10, 1892-July 1, 1900.
Henry N. Smith, July 1, 1900-Dec. 15, 1941.
S. Elmer Klopfenstein, Jan. 15, 1902-Apr. 15, 1907.
A. J. Michael, May 15, 1907-June 15, 1915.
J. W. Bechtel, Oct. 17, 1915-Oct. 15, 1917.
G. P. Fisher, Dec. 20, 1917-Nov. 1, 1919.
J. F. Tapy, Jan. 1, 1920. C.
A. Lang, to July, 1931.
Harvey Harsh, Mar. 1, 1932
That was the extent of the information given by the church register about the pastors who have served in Zion Congregation, and the years their pastorates commenced and ended. Information from another source gives the name of Rev. Jonas Michael as pastor around the year '61.
The old church register gives the following concerning visiting ministers:
Rev. A. L. Hassler of Fort Wayne visited at a communion service held December 30, 1883, "preaching for us a number of times during the week previous."
"Rev. W. A. Miller of Winamac assisted our pastor in communion service held April 20, 1884, preaching to us the Saturday previous."
Other items from the church register:
At a congregational meeting, January 8, 1893, it was decided to take action with reference to building a parsonage at Marmont. Brother L. F. Stahl was elected as solicitor and was instructed to proceed at once to secure subscriptions for the purpose,
On January 5, 1896, at a congregational meeting, it was "Resolved to remodel the interior of our house of worship."
During the summer of 1913, it was decided to repair and redecorate the interior and exterior of the church building, and this was later done.
From the church register is obtained the following data relating to the trustees of Zion, and the years of their service:
John Zechiel, 1872-1898.
Jacob H. Zechiel, 1872-1898.
Louis F. Stahl, 1872-1898.
A. C. Wolfram, 1895- .
L. C. Zechiel, 1893- (parsonage trustee).
A. C. Wolfram, 1898- .
Arthur W. Zechiel, 1898- .
Albert F. Stahl, 1898- .
C. W. Newman, 1909- .
Zina Duddleson, 1909-17.
John W. Romig, 1909- .
John Ditmire, 1917-18.
John Newman, -.
In ink of a faded brown, an early record in the church register gives the "Names and dates of receptions and dismissions, etc. of the Members of the Zions Congregation of the German Reformed Church, Marshall County, Indiana. April 1st, 1866. J. Schlosser, Pastor."
The following first eighteen members were all received by letter at the beginning, April 1, 1866. (The name by marriage, given here in parentheses, was added later to the record) :
Frederick Stahl (died Jan. 24, 1874), Christeanne Stahl, John Romick (died Feb. 3, 1884), Anne Romick (died Mar. 28, 1882), John Zechiel, Roseanne Zechiel, Simon Wolffrom (died Jan. 1857), Margaret Wolffrom (died Nov. 8, 1833), John Addler, Magdelena Addler, Elizabeth Ditmyer, Mary (Wolffrom) Good, G. A. Moloch, Elizabeth Moloch, Regina (Stahl) Zechiel, William Good, Mary Shall, and Rebecca (Edinger) Willson.
Four members were received by letter April 3, 1867, making a total membership of twenty-two.
These four were Jacob Casper, Elizabeth Casper, L. F. Stahl, and G. R. Bevilhimer.
These were the original members of Zion Church.
The number of members reported to the classis, covering several years in the 'eighties and 'nineties, were recorded as follows: 1885--57. 1886--45. 1887 -38. 1895-52. 1896-91. 1898 -93. 1899-97. 1901-94.
It will be noted that William Good was one of the first members of Zion Church congregation. This pioneer resident of Starke County was among the last original members of the church to pass away. His death occurred at Knox, Indiana, November 20, 1933. He had reached the advanced age of eighty-seven years, nine months and nineteen days. In '49, at the age of three years, he came with his parents from Seneca County, Ohio, to Starke County, Indiana. The family emigrated by wagon. Most of William J. Good's life was spent in Starke County. He was united in marriage to Mary Wolfram on March 1, 1868. Soon after his marriage, he joined the Zion Reformed Church. With neighbors of the Zion community, he had hauled the lumber and helped with the building of the Zion church edifice. He also helped later in platting the cemetery and hauled the first corpse to be buried in it. He and his wife were from the beginning ardent and faithful supporters of Zion Church.
An event of importance, the fiftieth anniversary of the Grace Reformed Church of Culver, prompts the writer to add a few items that he believes to be of interest, beyond those carefully recorded facts already included in a published history of Grace Reformed Church, prepared especially for anniversary week.
The historical notes here presented may add but little of appreciable value to that which has been written before; they may be counted as little side-lights perhaps, and as such may serve to illumine, however faintly, the pages of the chronicle of our churches. The writer here dwells especially on the quaintness of the old-time church records, from which has been gleaned the greater part of the material.
Grace Reformed Church
The Marmont Congregation of the Reformed Church, St. Joseph Classis, was organized on March 11, 1885. with the following officers and members: Pastor, Rev. Peter J. Spangler; Elders, John Zechiel and David Reed; Deacons, John W. Souder and Oliver Morris, Secretary; and Charter Members: John and Rosina Zechiel, Henry and Losetta Zechiel, John W. and Matilda Souder, Oliver and Margaret Morris, David and Mary Reed, Ora Brawn, Joseph and Emmaline Benner, Ezra and Sarah Blanchard, Joseph and Mary Bender, and Elizabeth Behman.
In an. old record book or the congregation we read: "At a (Consistory) meeting held at Twin Lake Congregation Nov. 15, 188(5), Spangler was elected Pastor of Marmont Congregation for the term of one year from Date." And later: "November. 1886, at a Joint Consistory held at Plymouth Reformed Church Loose was elected Pastor for the term of one year," etc. In November, 1887, at a Joint Consistory held at Plymouth Reformed Church, Reverend N. H. Loose was elected Pastor for another year.
Rev. Samuel Shaw was called to the Marmont Charge in 1888, and remained three years, four months, till November 1, 1892.
Rev. Joseph W. Barber was called in November, 1892.
Rev. Henry N. Smith began his work, July 1, 1900, as Pastor in the (and here we have the full title) Marmont Charge of the Reformed Church in the United States, Ohio Synod, St. Joseph Classis. He was installed, October 17, 1900, by the Reverend Mathes from Goshen, Indiana, and Reverend Hartman from Plymouth.
The succeeding pastors were: Rev. S. Elmer Klopfenstine (1902;1907), Rev. A. J. Michael (1907-1915), Rev. J. W. Bechtel (1915-1917), Rev. G. P. Fisher (1917-1919), Rev. J. F. Tapy (1920-1925), Rev. C. A. Lang (1926-1931), and Rev. Harvey E. Harsh (1932- ).
An event of no small importance was the building of the church edifice. The Marmont Reformed Congregation held a meeting at the home of Reverend Shaw, October 25, 1889. Brother John Zechiel, in behalf of himself and his children, made the following proposition and requests: "That he and his children will in memory of the deceased wife and mother erect and enclose a church edifice. The congregation shall assume to raise a sum sufficient to finish and furnish the building on the inside." John Zechiel and family requested that an inscription be placed in a suitable position upon the building: "Erected to the memory of Rosina Zechiel, wife of John Zechiel."
The Reformed Church in Culver was built in 1890.
The edifice, while being built, was to be under the control of a building committee chosen by the congregation, and when complete to be under the control of trustees chosen by the congregation. "Said John Zechiel would ask that the. Congregation assist in the procuring of the grounds and in hauling the necessary logs to the mill." The congregation accepted the proposition unanimously. The brethren elected then to a building committee were: John and Henry Zechiel, John Souder and Oliver Morris. The Rev. Samuel Shaw acted as president and L. C. Zechiel as secretary pro tem of this meeting.
From the Marmont Congregation of the Reformed Church, August 15,1897, a committee of three was appointed, Henry Zechiel, Henry Koontz and David Smith, "to investigate the cost of putting in a furnace in the church and the cost of building a coal and wood house and the cost and estimate of heating by stoves." In due time the committee reported in favor of a furnace. The idea was to raise funds and purchase a furnace of the Wrought Iron Range Company of St. Louis. In July, 1900, Father Zechiel moved that the furnace committee be continued with Samuel Buswell in the place of Henry Koontz. Walter Hand was chosen then to do the soliciting.
About the time of the furnace committee's inception, a congregational constitution was drafted.
Some time in the summer of 1897, a change of the church name was brought about by the change in name of Marmont to Culver (City).
At a meeting of the Zion Church congregation in January, 1914, Claude R. Newman and John W. Romig were appointed as a committee to visit, in conjunction with a similar committee of Grace congregation, the Delong and Bruce Lake congregations with the view of bringing about the reconstruction of the Culver charge. After various meetings of the joint consistories of the charge and the visit of a committee of the Classis, the charge was divided on August 12, 1914, Grace and Zion congregations constituting the Culver charge.
The following are some of the names of the members of Grace Church Consistory who have served at. different periods throughout the history of the church; the record, however, is not complete as here given:
Elders--John Zechiel (1885-1909), David Reed (1885- ), Henry Zechiel (1886-1909), Oliver Morris (1888- ), John W. Souder (1891- ), L. F. Stahl (1897-1909), Albert F.Stahl (1899-1909), William Hand (1899-1909), S. G. BusweIl (1899-1909), J. H. Zechiel (18991909). David H. Smith (1899-1909), Charles Zechiel (1899-1909).
Deacons--John W. Souder (1885-1890), Oliver Morris (1885- ), Ezra Blanchard (1887-1893), Oliver Morris (1887- ), Henry Zechiel (1890- ), Henry Oyler (1891-1896), Samuel Ulery (1892- ), Moses Menser (1894- ), Samuel Buswell (1895-1909), David H. Smith (1897-1909), Jacob H. Zechiel (1899-1909), Wilbur Brown (1899-1909), Walter Hand (1899-1909), John Zechiel (1899-1909), Albert F. Stahl (1899-1909), Austin Romig (1899-1909).
In the above list, dates are given only up to the end of the year 1909 and are incomplete; likewise, during the period from 1885 to 1909, there may have been other members not mentioned on these records, which apparently are the only ones available, perhaps the only ones extant.
Poplar Grove M. E. Church
The Culver charge of the Methodist Episcopal Church includes at this time the church at Poplar Grove, located east of the northernmost shore of Lake Maxinkuckee, on the Argos road. Poplar Grove is an extremely old church as churches go in this region.
From data which the writer was unable to complete, we may glean a few things of interest concerning Poplar Grove church. Marvin Louden, being one of the oldest residents on the east side of the lake, was interviewed some time ago. He said that the Poplar Grove edifice was built before the Civil War. Church services were first held in the school house, located just east of the present church. This original structure, the combination church and school house, was of hewn logs. There were no benches in the building in those early days; that is, no benches as we would expect to find, arranged in rows like the pews of later days. Instead, pegs set in the log walls supported slabs which served as seats for the congregation on the Sabbath and for school children during the week.
Some years afterward (and perhaps some old resident will supply the date), another church edifice was erected. This was of frame construction. It is the same church that we find at Poplar Grove today. At the beginning, it appeared just about as it does now, except for some remodeling, according to Mr. Louden.
This new church was not, however, on its present site. It is the same old building, but it used to stand farther east, close to the old part of the graveyard. It was moved westward and repaired.
Church at Maxinkuckee
Information relative to the church history of the village of Maxinkuckee is fragmentary. The writer has not completed this chapter.
As has been already mentioned, the Congregation at Maxinkuckee was probably organized some time prior to 1854.
It seems that the Methodist Church at Maxinkuckee is Methodist Protestant, not Methodist Episcopal. Some doubt has been expressed that it could have been always Methodist Protestant. An old resident told the writer that he is sure a preacher by the name of Norris used to preach there, and he thinks Norris was Methodist Episcopal. At any rate, the Methodists did not have full sway at Maxinkuckee, all down through the years. In very early days, when Maxinkuckee was the "lower settlement," the people there were mostly of the "New Light" or old Christian Church. The Maxinkuckee Christian Church has continued until late years.
A new church edifice was built for the Methodist Protestant people at Maxinkuckee in 1914. The work on the structure was almost completed by the middle of October, that year, and the building was dedicated on Sunday, October 18th. The writer was informed also that a church was built at Maxinkuckee in 1888.
Among the former pastors of the Methodist Protestant Church at Maxinkuckee, living in 1934, were the Reverends L. Coomer, Better, and Stanton, at Marion. Ind.
Other Old Churches Marvin Louden recalled the church at Wolf Creek, which was demolished when he was a boy of around ten years. He mentioned another church, wrecked about eighteen or twenty years ago. The first building was of frame construction.
One of the staunch old Methodists of this region was James O. Louden, who was a member of the Methodist church since the age of eighteen, or around the year 1855. He was born in 1837, died at Rutland in 1904, and was buried in Poplar Grove Cemetery.
About the year 1872, there came into the Zion neighborhood a Protestant Methodist minister by the name of Douglas who, together with Rev. Cando, commenced protracted meetings, resulting in one of those "great revivals" of early days.
Describing the early church in Indiana, Julia Henderson Levering says that "neighborhoods grew up, schools were gradually started, and `meetings' were held, when the itinerant preachers came around on their circuit of the isolated settlements. One of the characteristics of the early days was the liberal hospitality connected with the religious meetings. Whenever the associational, synodical, or quarterly meetings were held, each settler of the immediate neighborhood would provide for a score of people that might come from a distance. (There were good things to eat). As the 'meetin' broke, the mother in Israel would go about among the congregation, and gather up a dozen or more of the attendants from the remote settlements, and take them home to dinner with her."
The North Union M. E. Church, gone some years now, was located about two and one-half miles northwest of Culver, just over the line in Starke County, and attended by a number of people resid ing in Union Township. The church building was struck by lightning on the evening of May 19, 1917, and was totally destroyed. The building was of wood construction and had been erected about thirty years previous, around 1887.
George W. Osborn, who removed from that neighborhood to Culver in the Fall of 1916, was one of the trustees of the North Union Church. Reverend Rodgers of Leiters Ford was the minister in change at the time of the fire. The church edifice was directly across the road from Mrs. Albert Overmyer's. Her home was burned over a year previous and not long afterward rebuilt.
East Washington Church
The East Washington Methodist Protestant Church, concerning which the writer has an hand only a few notes, was erected in 1886. In that year, the Evangelical people of the Washington section helped to build the Methodist Protestant structure, one mile east from where their own church now stands, for the privilege of worshiping there and holding English services. In 1891 the Evangelical people withdrew and in the same year began preparations for their own church.
Thirty years ago, the Rev. Thomas Whittaker was preaching his farewell sermon at the East Washington M. P. Church (in August, 1905), after which the Reverend Lineberry, president of the Conference, took charge of the Maxinkuckee Circuit and Reverend Whittaker of the Keystone Circuit. The Whittaker family, after having been at Washington five years, moved to Keystone. In October, ‘05, Reverend Rogers was moving into the parsonage at Washington, so we read in old newspaper files. Many still remain in that neighborhood who could recall much concerning the churches there, and could provide a wealth of material to add perhaps to some later and more complete chronicle of the churches of Union Township.
The Methodist Church
The Methodists were in evidence in this region. from the beginning of the white settlements. Prior to the establishment of regular congregations and the building of churches, the work of the Methodist faith was carried on under the authority of a mission.
The Reverend Warren Taylor, an itinerant of the Wesleyan persuasion, attempted, around 1860, to place upon record such reliable information as he was able to gather at that time regarding the introduction and progress of religion in Marshall County, up to the time he wrote. "Ministers of the Gospel of different denominations," he says, "appear to have preached to our earliest settlers almost immediately after the latter located themselves in the county. These religious meetings, however, at the first, were like angels' visits, few and far between. In 1836, Rev. Stephen Marsters was, by the Indiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, appointed to a mission, which embraced the counties of Marshall, Fulton, and Kosciusko.
"In Marshall County he had four appointments, one at the house of Stephen Farnsworth, about six miles northwest of Plymouth, one at the house of George Vinnedge in North Township, one at the house of Sidney Williams where Argos now stands, and one at his own residence, which was then on the Michigan road, about one mile north from the Fulton County line. In Fulton County he had four appointments, and in Kosciusko two. During the year he organized societies at the most or all of these appointments, except at George Vinnnedge's where a society had been previously organized by a minister from St. Joseph County.
"Mr. Marsters was succeeded in the circuit, or mission, by Rev. William Fraley." Reverend Taylor was unacquainted with Reverend Fraley's talents or labors, so made no comment.
The Reverend Thomas Owens succeeded Reverend Fraley, and probably commenced laboring on his work in the fall of 1838. Reverend Owens was of pleasing demeanor, possessing fine natural abilities, and gave promise of rising to eminence as a minister of the Gospel, both in talents and usefulness. But his career was short. Being of weak constitution, he went into a decline, which was accelerated by the hardships of an itinerant life, and he died two or three years after closing his labors on this circuit. He was succeeded by the Reverend Boroughs Westlake.
In Plymouth, the Methodist Congregation was organized in the year 1836, at a time when some of the first permanent settlements were being made in the Maxinkuckee region. In the beginning, at Plymouth, there was a small membership, but this increased apace as the mid-county region grew in population.
The Congregation at Maxinkuckee village was meeting in the year 1854 and evidently had been organized some time prior to that. The Marmont Congregation is heard of as active in the year 1863, but may have had its inception at an earlier time.
It is of interest that the first resident minister in the county, though not a Methodist, was a resident of Union Township. He was a Baptist by the name of William Thompson, and he lived on a farm near the present village of Culver, in 1856.
In 1867, the people of the Marmont community were mostly Methodists and Baptists, worshiping alternately in the old school house. The Methodist Church edifice in Marmont was built in 1868. The church was rebuilt in 1898-99.
Several residents recall incidents and circumstances in connection with the building of the first church. Among these is Ezra Hibray of Maxinkuckee, who says that the church at Marmont was originally of frame construction, and was painted white. "The lumber for the church," he adds, "was bought right down in the hollow here, at Maxinkuckee, and was rafted across the lake." That lumber was milled at Fizzletown, or what is now called Maxinkuckee. There used to be two saw-mills here. The Methodist church across the lake was built under Beall, if I remember right." Rev. B. H. Beall was pastor at Marmont in '68.
It is a tradition in the Medbourn family that the siding of the original Methodist Church edifice in Marmont was all made out of one poplar tree, which came from the Thomas Medbourn property.
So it was that the Methodist services were first held in the school house in the Marmont community. Then, for many years the wooden church structure served the congregation faithfully and well as a meeting house. Finally, the need of a more commodious and pretentious edifice was felt, and, accordingly, the present brick building of the Methodist Episcopal denomination was erected in the year 1898, at a cost of five thousand dollars, on the original church site at the southwest corner of Main and Washington Streets. In outward appearance, the present church has changed but slightly since its erection. The faces of the clock in the tower are gone now. They were there, doing duty at the beginning of the century. Today only the blank spaces they used to occupy mutely bear witness to the former existence of the big timepiece, the "old town clock." Also, in those days, surmounting the tower was a weathervane supported by an ornamental device of wrought iron. At the street corner stood an old fashioned lamp-post.
In 1905 the church was composed of about one hundred members and had a flourishing Sunday School, with an average attendance of seventy-five pupils. The Epworth League and the Junior League had about forty members apiece. The Ladies' Aid Society, "fund raisers" for the church, then was headed by Mrs. Callie Medbourn as president. Mrs. O. A, Rea, wife of the doctor, was secretary, and Mrs. William Porter, treasurer. Rev. Wayne Nicely, a recent appointee of the Northwest Indiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and a graduate of DePauw University, was the pastor. Reverend Nicely had succeeded Rev. George Ransom Streeter as resident pastor. Reverend Streeter went to Wheeler. Ind., in 1905. Frank C. Baker was superintendent of the Sunday School and president of the Epworth League.
An historical record of the pastors of the Culver and Poplar Grove churches was compiled by Rev. Voris B. Servies from the conference minutes in the possession of the Conference Historical Society. This was several years ago. The record, brought down to date, runs as follows:
Methodist Episcopal Pastors Maxinkuckee
1858--John T. Jones, Charles Smith.
1859-60--Robert H. Calvert.
1861--John H. Cissel (one of the great men of the early church)
1862--Moses Wood. Marmont
1863-64--A. Byers supply
1865--J. M. Dressler.
1866--Levi Moore supply
1867--William Mahin supply
1868--B. H. Beali.
1869--J. B. Adell.
1871--S. C. Platts (3 months) and Sam Plants.
1872--R. Beebee supply.
1873--Miles H. Wood
1874-75--R. B. Beatty.
1877--A. J. Clifton.
1878--Henry P. Vencill.
1879--W. H. Mehaffie.
1881-82--W. H. Mehaffie.
1883-84--W. R. Nobes supply.
1885--W. R. Nobes supply.
1886--J. W. Loder Marmont
1887--John Emery supply.
1888-89--Thomas Birch supply.
1890-91--R. M. Hutchins supply.
1892--H. M. Cannon.
1893--Henry Ross. 1894--R. W. Burton supply.
1895-96---F. G. Howard supply. Culver
1897--F. G. Howard.
1895-99--F. O. Fraley.
1900-01--F. C. Taylor.
1902-03-04--G. R. Streeter.
1905-06-07--W. M. Nicely.
1910--W. B. Morgan.
1911-12--W. C. Harris.
1913-14-15-16--J. F. Kenrich.
1917-18--W. W. Clouse.
1919-20--E. M. Kuonen.
1921-22--O. L. Chivington.
1923-24-25-26-27-2-8- 29-30-31 --Voris B. Servies.
1931-32-33--William B. Warriner.
Quite a number of these pastors are recalled by people who have long been residents in this township. Ezra Hibray of Maxinkuckee says he remembers Beall, of '68, and had heard, he is sure, of Calvert and Dressler of earlier dates.
A list of Methodist preachers. dating back to long ago, is generally pretentious, as in the local case. In early days, as Allan Harding once remarked, "Methodist ministers moved so often that a list of their children's birthplaces looked like a railroad time-table."
It was thought that the Rev. Sam. Plants of 1871 might have been the eminent Samuel Plantz of Lawrence College at Appleton, Wisconsin. The writer communicated in March, 1934, with Dr. Milton C. Towner, assistant to the president of Lawrence College, inquiring if Samuel Plantz, the Methodist preacher who was president there for many years, might possibly have been a member of the Northwest Indiana Conference and was ever located in the Marmont (now Culver) charge. The reply stated that "according to the Lawrence College Alumni Record Samuel Plantz was born June 13, 1859, and was educated at Milton College, Lawrence University, School of Theology, Boston University between the years 1880 and 1883." The opinion was that "this together with the difference in the spelling of the names would seem to indicate that President Plantz of Lawrence College was not the Reverend Plants of Marmont."
Closely affiliated with the Methodist Church in Marmont, and later in Culver, were John and Betsy Matthew, and no history of the church would be complete without mention of this attachment. John Matthew, a native of England, who died in Culver, January 15, 1916, settled in Marmont around 1886. The family's first residence was in the old Methodist parsonage. The entire Matthew family became members of the M. E. Church when the original frame building stood on the present location. Mr. Matthew and his wife were for many years known as Uncle John and Aunt Betsy. They took a great interest in the church and were ever intimately associated with its affairs and progress. John Matthew died in 1916, Betsy in 1926, just ten years later, and they were buried side by side in the Culver Cemetery.
The Evangelical Church
In the year 1872, there was erected, about one and a half miles east of Zion Church, in the lower part of the township, a house of worship for the congregation of what was designated as "The Emmanuel Church, of the Evangelical Association." The location was not far south of Lost Lake, in the northeast corner of the crossroads south of the present Keller farm. It was right in the corner, near the roadside. It was called the "Albright church," and was so designated on maps of 1881 and prior, but it went by the official name of the Evangelical Association.
This original church edifice, built in '42, was moved in 1899, or rather was wrecked and rebuilt in the present village of Culver, with an addition which made it about twenty feet longer. Some years later, the church was further improved by being brick veneered and otherwise changed. The remodeling was done in 1924, and the church structure of today is as it appeared on the completion of those improvements. Preliminary work was begun under the direction of a building committee in March, 1924. The cornerstone of the new church was laid Sunday afternoon, May 25, 1924, at an impressive ceremony with Rev. J. W. Metzner, of Elkhart, delivering the dedicatory address. The completed church was dedicated on September 28, 1924, with appropriate dedication day services.
When the Evangelical Church building was moved in from the country and set up again in town, it traveled a distance of some two miles from its old location south of Culver. The church in the country had two entrances. In town, it lost one of these, became more modern (and have you noticed how fast those old-fashioned two-entrance churches are disappearing almost everywhere?). Well, the town church accepted one entrance, located in a corner of the building. The new church, as it now stands, is frame, with brick veneer.
There are several Evangelical churches in the township. Besides the church at Culver, there is one at Hibbard, one at Rutland, closed for quite a while but reopened this past year, and the East Washington and the West Washington churches in the Washington neighborhood.
These churches were originally on the Twin Lakes Circuit. Of late, the Rev. V. V. Hammer, of Hibbard, has been preaching the Circuit, which includes Washington, Hibbard, Rutland, and Twin Lakes.
The Culver Evangelical Church was founded in September, 1899.
Years ago, there used to be an Evangelical church west of Burr Oak. An old map, drawn prior to 1881, shows it, designating it as Evangelical and locating it on the northwest corner of the W. Overmyer land, at a crossroads, west of Burr Oak. Of these roads, the one running north and south passed by the west side of the Overmyer farmhouse The church has long since disappeared. This William Overmyer farm later was George Osborn's. The farmhouse was burned to the ground.
The Evangelical Church at Hibbard was dedicated in 1913. Celebrations of the anniversaries of the event have been held in later years. We read of one such, held on Sunday, December 14, 1924, the eleventh anniversary, the speaker being Prof. H. R. Heininger, of Naperville, Ill.
From fragmentary data, the writer attempts to piece together some of the history of the church in this township. It is related that there were several Evangelical parsonages in what is now Culver; and that the first of these was originally "in the square", in the corner of which is now a frame building, at the northwest corner of Main and Madison streets. This parsonage was in the Circuit.
Concerning Washington church, some interesting data has been gathered by members of the congregation.
"The Washington Society," according to the church historian, "was organized by Henry Prechtel in 1880 from a part of the Pleasant School. house appointment, located near the south shore of Maxinkuckee Lake. This society disbanded, part of it uniting with the Zechiel society, namely: J. C. Zachman and wife; John Snyder and wife; Wash Overmyer and wife; Debolt Kline, Sr., and wife; George Kline and wife; Daniel Frey and wife; Theo Kline and wife; J. L. Schuermann and wife; Debolt Kline. Jr., and wife; and Mary Krieg. Zachman was the first class leader.
"They first worshiped in a school house near the church from 1881-86. Here Prechtel held a revival in 1881, which proved a success. In 1886 our people helped to build the M. P. church, one mile east from where our church now stands, for the privilege of worshiping here, and holding English services. In 1891 our people found it expedient to withdraw and in the same year began preparations for an Evangelical Church. H. E. Overmyer, pastor, called a society meeting and elected a board of trustees, namely: Wm. Curtis, Pres.; Wm. Kline, Sec.-Treas.; Wash Overmyer. These with J. L. Zachman and A. Savage were made the building committee. The church was 28 x 44 feet. The cost of the church, exclusive of the lot and donated work, was $1,350.00. D. Martz, P. E., dedicated it February 21, 1892. $308.00 was raised on this day, which more than covered the debt. A Young People's Association was organized on March 14, 1895, with 46 members. First president was Charles Martz.
"In 1880 the women of the Evangelical Association who were filled with missionary spirit, petitioned the Board of Mission for the privilege of organizing Missionary Societies in the local churches. The General Conference of 1883 granted the petition. District organizers were appointed to carry out the work of organization.
"In 1892 Mrs. S. S. Albert, organizer for the Elkhart District, organized a Society at Washington church. Rev. J. Rees was then pastor of the church. The first president of the Society was Mrs. Clara Kline. As the first meetings were held at the church after Sunday school, the men and women attend the meetings and for that reason most of the men and children were listed on the early membership roll of the society.
"The charter members were Mrs. Sarah Curtis, Martha Krieg, Clara Kline, Sarah Kline, Mother Elizabeth Kline, Victoria Kline, Mrs. George Kline, Mrs. Schuermann, Lizzie Savage, Almedia Overmyer, Grandma Snyder, Mrs. Norris, Kate Burkett, and Grandma Frevert. Of this number only Mrs. Sarah Kline remains as an active charter member."
The Washington Sunday school was first organized in 1870 in the old school house.
At the Hibbard Church a meeting of the men of the Hibbard Circuit was held on December 11, 1933, for the purpose of organizing an Albright Brotherhood Society. The guest speaker for the devotional service was Earl Snyder, of Culver. The officers then elected were: Rev. V. V. Hammer, president; William Lake, vice-president; Wayne Kline, secretary; and Ray White, treasurer.
Our record of the Evangelical pastors is meager. This work, begun by the writer, has been interrupted, so the notes following are far from complete. The names of some of the pastors, with one or more years of their service in the township, might be mentioned:
Rev. Charles McConnehey (1905).
Rev. J, E. Young (1913-14. He came to Culver in February, 1913, from Ridgeville, Ind. Early in April, 1914, he was returned to the Culver Evangelical Church, and Rev. Tiedt to the Culver Charge.)
Rev. F. L. Snyder (1916).
Rev. J. H. Rilling (1931-32-33-34, at Culver. He retired in May, 1934, and moved to South Bend, having completed 3 7 years of continuous service in the conference.)
Rev. R. L. Haley (1934-35, at Culver. He came from Peru, Ind., to fill the vacancy caused by the retirement of Reverend Rilling.)
Rev. Virgil V. Hammer (of the Hibbard Circuit, including St. ,Paul Evangelical, Washington Evangelical, etc., was assigned in May, 1-9,34, to Terre Haute.)
Rev. Charles Yoh (Hibbard and Washington, 1934-35.)
Rev. H. Hazenfield (Trinity and Rutland, 1934-35.)
Hibbard Circuit was divided in May, 1934, for the ensuing year, Hibbard and Washington to be served by Reverend Yoh, and Trinity and Rutland by Reverend Hazenfield. Brother Yoh, the new minister, preached his first sermon at Washington early in June, 1934. He came, a young man, from the Theological Seminary at Naperville, Ill. This Seminary was well represented at a memorable meeting at Washington in October, 1934, as their male quartet was on the program and the two ministers, Reverends Yoh and Hazenfield, were students from there. At this meeting, John and Will Kline and B. A. Curtis sang a trio from the song book which was used when the Washington Sunday school was first organized in 1870 in the old school house, and as children they learned to sing the song, "My Sweet Home in Heaven."
The original house of warship of the United Brethren Church at Burr Oak was a beautiful building, of frame construction, painted pure white. The windows were of stained glass. Above this graceful edifice rose abruptly a sharp-pointed steeple. That was before the church burned, in the summer of 1914.
In November, 1905, a new system of lights was installed in the church. This was a first class improvement; the church was made real up-to-date.
It was at about four o'clock on a Friday afternoon that the church burned. The date was July 21, 1914. A heavy storm was passing over the county, and in the midst of it the United Brethren Church at Burr Oak was struck by lightning and burned to its foundation. The building was valued at two thousand dollars, and the insurance policy had been allowed to lapse. Witnesses said a ball of fire seemed to drop from the heavens upon the tower, and almost instantly smoke appeared. In three-quarters of an hour, the building was in ashes.
After the fire, the congregation was faced with the necessity of starting over again, so far as a house of worship was concerned. There being no insurance money to use, it was a matter of raising some elsewhere, the establishing of a new building fund. No time was wasted; the church people pitched in at once, "rolling up their sleeves" for the task ahead of them. Socials and various such events were held by the women folks, adding splendidly to the fund. The men got together and cut lumber on the M. L. Voreis lands, his Yellow River farm. The men did the cutting and the women served lunches to keep them going.
M. L. Voreis donated all the rough timbers for the framework and other parts of the church structure requiring them, while the men of the church cut the timbers, prepared the logs, and hauled them to the saw mill (which, it seems, might have been Lew Pero's, if we are not mistaken) . The ladies of the church served dinners an long tables outside. The church rearing was a community affair in many respects.
So, today, a substantial church stands at Burr Oak for the United Brethren. Sturdily built, it will stand for many years unless disturbed by some act of Providence. The present structure is faced with cement blocks.
The Church of God
The Church of God was early established in this part of the country. Soon after the first religious, meetings were held in Union and neighboring townships, "Pisgah" church was built, just outside Union Township, and the Church of God became an important factor in the religious life of the settlements. Prior to that, practically at the beginning, the "New Light" or old Christian Church was prominent in this section, and the followers of Campbell were active very early. The Church of God had a large following by the middle of the past century.
At Burr Oak today there is located a house of worship of the Church of God (Abrahamic Faith). Rev. A. E, Hoskins is pastor.
Looking backward over a span of thirty years, one finds interest in the activities of the Burr Oak congregation of that time. A new bell was placed in the tower of the church, in August, 1905. After thirty days trial, the bell proved unsatisfactory, and the people of the church decided not to keep it but to buy a larger bell. This bell was placed and was all that was desired of it. Various outside preachers preached at the Church of God at Burr Oak in those days. One hears of a memorable event, the union picnic of the summer of '05, held in Overmeyer's woods. In the afternoon, there was a Bible reading, which lasted one hour. Pastors at Burr Oak
Some day it may be possible to gather together a complete history of the churches at Burr Oak and then also we may have an interrupted record of the pastors who have served there in both churches. The writer is giving the few fragments now among his notes:
Rev. D. F. VanVactor was at Burr Oak in 1905.
Reverend Kline preached in Burr Oak in August, 1904.
Reverend Hester of the W. M. Church preached his farewell sermon for the year at Burr Oak, on Sunday, August 14, 1904.
The Church That Is No More The original church erected in the north end of Union Township was built on the Flory farm, which later became the George Osborn farm, where the farmhouse was burned. Church was first started there, west of Burr Oak, at the crossroads, in the old Flory school house. George Flory was the proprietor of the land.
The church-school house has been gone for a goodly number of years. Many, in passing by today where the building used to stand, have no idea that such ever existed. Old residents remember it. Few recall what became of it. And where, in fact, did it disappear to, what really did become of it?
Well, like many other buildings of the township, including several old school houses and the Albright church down in the lower section, it was moved. We are told that the building was taken over to Burr Oak, taken to town, as it were. And what became of it there? It lost its identity; it became the old "Red Star" store. Currens started his first store there. Then the buildings burned, closing the chapter of the church that is no more.
The Christian Church Thompson, the historian, speaks of "the church of the Christian Connection, commonly known as New Lights," which was among the first to be found represented in the Union Township area. Rev. Isaac Reed, Presbyterian missionary to Indiana, reported, in March, 1827, many societies of the New Lights among the Indiana religions of that period. The New Lights church was very early here; it was in evidence in the Maxinkuckee region practically from the first of the settlements, in 1836. The historian Thompson tells of New Lights services as having been among the first religious services in the township.
In later years, the Christian Church, so called, was developed. There was a congregation formed at Maxinkuckee, on the east side of the lake. The church was known as the Maxinkuckee Christian Church. This church has continued for many years
One reads in newspaper files of the time of preaching services at Maxinkuckee every Saturday evening by Reverend Shepherd; that was in the autumn of 1905. And in the autumn of 1935, one reads of the coming of Rev. Amos Barnes as the new minister at Maxinkuckee.
In mid-December, 1905, the Culver newspaper editor "was informed that the Henry Haag property in the north part of town had been bought by the people of the Christian Church and the dwelling would be rebuilt and used for a church." The information was correct. About a week later the Reverend Shepherd of Plymouth came to Culver for a few days looking after the interests of the new Christian church building. And special dedication services were held at the Culver Christian Church Sunday afternoon, December 31, 1905. The organizers of the Culver church did not let any grass grow under their feet (notwithstanding the lateness of the season.)
The Christian Church was in a frame building on Lake Street, a short distance north of Lake Shore Drive. The building is still there, on the west side of the street, having been converted back to a dwelling. The congregation has dispersed. Families represented as members of the Christian congregation included Hand, Buswell, Marks. Riggens, and Ferrier.
Henry Haag first had the building as a residence. He also had a tin shop there, and the building was of the same proportions as today. The property was bought from the Haag family. Also, a vacant lot adjoining (to which in late years the old Gandy house was moved ) was obtained from W. E. Hand. The funds for the purchase of the church property was raised by subscription in 1906. The property was not deeded by gift. The congregation expected to build a better edifice later, but the plan fell through. The property was deeded to the congregation, and when the congregation gave up the idea of continuing the church, it was sold back into private hands and the building rebuilt into a house.
Walter Hand lived in the house at one time. His son, Merwyn, was born there.
William Riggens was the second superintendent of the Sunday school of the Christian Church. In July, 1906, the Reverend Shepherd, so one reads in church news of that year, delivered a discourse at the Christian Church in Culver. The writer has no further account of the church history, no further reference to preachers who preached here, therefore must close this brief chapter, hoping that some other writer, more fully informed, may take up the story where this leaves off.
The Episcopal Church
In November, 1905, the Culver members of the Episcopal Church purchased a lot of Captain Ed Morris for $150. They contemplated erecting a church building the following year. The building did not materialize. The members of the church finally gave up the idea of having a congregation in Culver, and in later, years have attended services at the church in Plymouth.
The All Saints Guild was active in Culver and vicinity around the years 1904 and 1905. The guild would meet with different hostesses. We have record that meetings were held at the homes of Mrs. H. J. Noble, Mrs. Lord, and Mrs. Frank Lamson at the Palmer House
The Catholic Church
In the year 1897, the first Catholic Church in the township was built in the village of Culver. The edifice stood on a lot at the northeast corner of Lakeview Street and Lake Shore Drive, where Carl Adams now lives. In September, 1905, during a severe storm and midst a downpour of rain, the building was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
The church was a frame building and had a rather small tower, above which rose a little steeple. There was a cross at the top of the steeple. The tower was provided with square, slatted ventilators at the sides. Birds had built their nests inside, and when the lightning struck, these nests were immediately set afire.
It was during a heavy storm on Friday evening, September 1, 1905, that the edifice was destroyed. The fire started in the very top of the steeple and was noticed by several persons from the start, but, from the lack of fire fighting equipment, they were powerless to do anything towards saving the church, and lent all their energies to saving nearby buildings. Since there was a heavy rain falling and no wind to speak of, it was easy to keep the fire from spreading. The fire company was out and did all that could be expected of any company with no more firefighting facilities at hand than they had.
When the storm came up, S. C. Shilling was out driving. As he was putting his team into the stable toward the center of town, Mr. Shilling thought it was his own home that was burning for it was right in line with the church when he drew up at the stable. Mr. Shilling says that the lightning struck the church tower. It was a spectacular fire.
Culver was then a mission of the Catholic Church, connected with Monterey. It was in that parish, in St. Ann's Parish. After the church in Culver burned, the mission in this community was abandoned, and the church was not rebuilt.
Ed Bergman, now of Plymouth, bought the laud after the church was burned, and in August, 1912, erected a dwelling house thereon.
Charles Hayes remembers the church distinctly. He says at that time there were plank walks all over town and Lake presented a much different appearance from what it does now, thirty years since the church was destroyed.
Seasonal services were held at the church, and the last service for the summer of 1905 was held there on Sunday, August 26th, by Rev. Joseph Bilstein, of Monterey. Father Bilstein, as was customary, would come up from Monterey on Sundays to celebrate high mass at the church in Culver. The destruction of the edifice was a blow to him.
There were two priests associated with the Culver church: Father Joseph Bilstein, now of Tipton, Ind., and Father Charles Thiele, still living and now at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Fort Wayne. Peter Keller, of south of Culver, who was one of the parishioners, says he does not know whether both were here while the church was standing. It is possible that Father Thiele built the church. One reads in the Culver Citizen of June 29, 1905, that Father Thiele, formerly pastor of St. Ann's Church, Monterey, was changed from Whiting to Fort Wayne about that time.
The Sheerins of Indianapolis were also among the sponsors of the church at Culver.
Of special interest are the conditions appertaining to the establishment of the Catholic Church in Culver. The church was built on lot number 12 in the Vandalia Addition to the town of Uniontown. The property was conveyed, by warranty deed, by Anton Mayer and Sophie Mayer, his wife, of Vigo County, Indiana, to Right Reverend Joseph Rademacher, Bishop of the diocese of Fort Wayne, May 39, 1897. The Bishop willed all his property to Right Reverend Henry Joseph Richter, Bishop of Grand Rapids, Mich., to the Rt. Rev. Ignatius Frederick Horstmann, Bishop of Cleveland, Ohio, and the Very Rev. Joseph H. Brammer, of Fort Wayne, Ind., "to have and to hold in trust for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne."
Of these three trustees, Father Brammer later died. The Right Rev. Herman J. Alerding succeeded Father Rademacher as Bishop (Fort Wayne) , who transferred the lot to Edward J. Bergman, of Marshall County, on January 23, 1912.
The African M. E. Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church in Culver was first a mission, then went into the A. M. E. Conference about 1917. The first pastor under the Conference was the Rev. Charles Bell, who later went to Bermuda and who died recently (in February) during a charge in Pennsylvania.
The congregation worships in a chapel located in Harding Court, between Lake Shore Drive and Washington Street, in the village of Culver. This is a rather small frame building, with an open bell tower. The site is only a few steps distant from the shore of Lake Maxinkuckee.
The chapel is known officially as Rollins Chapel of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and is a monument to an upright and God-fearing benefactor of his race. The ground for the church edifice was donated by George Rollins, one of the pioneer colored men of Culver, who had property. He came with Colonel Fleet from Mexico, Missouri, when the Colonel joined the elder Mr. Culver in the establishment of Culver Military Academy.
At intervals during the history of this church, resident pastors were located at Culver. Among these was the Rev. A. T. Williams, who was assigned as pastor in October, 1924. Interest was stimulated when it was then announced that the African M. E. Church would again have a pastor in Culver and the first church services of the year would be held.
When the Evangelists Came
Thrilling days were those, 'way back in the early 'nineties, when several of America's foremost evangelists came to the shores of Maxinkuckee, and figured in "revivals" or "camp meetings" under the trees and amidst the glories of nature, beside the blue waters of the beautiful lake. And the name of a man who did a very great deal to perpetuate the fame and beauty of the lake is linked with the widely-known names of the "revivalists." One associates evangelists with H. H. Culver. It was Mr. Culver who was responsible for their coming to the lake.
The revival meetings were held in a tabernacle located on the present Culver Military Academy grounds at the northwest corner of the lake. And there came T. De Witt Talntadge and Sam Jones to conduct the meetings and to deliver their remarkable soul-inspiring sermons and to lend their magnetic presence to the gatherings of many people from miles and miles around. For about two weeks, the meetings lasted. And it was financed by Mr. Culver.
A witness of these happenings says that folks got pretty much excited, and there were not a few conversions. Interest became widespread, and people were attracted from far and wide. The meeting grounds were surrounded by a fence (seems to me it was made of rails or something of the sort). And they say that folks just crowded under that fence (or maybe they swarmed under). They got in, anyway.
As for the tabernacle that had been honored by such distinguished presences and had rung to such eloquence and inspirational discourse, it became the Academy mess hall--the old mess hall, and not of course the splendid structure of today.
One could go on and on telling about these revivalist days--and one would like to do so--but time is fleeting, and there is so much else to be said, that we must be hurrying on.
Hard Times at Hibbard
Many, many years ago, so the story goes, Hibbard had quite a struggle to get ahead, to convince the world that it really was a very self-respecting and law-abiding community despite the name which had been thrust or wished upon it, that awesome name of "Helltown." Now Hibbard had been designated quite officially as Dante, and the mail Dante of olden times told folks a great deal about the Inferno, the under regions of eternal fire and damnation, but since Dante was a respectable man (at least, we think he was, and perhaps a pious one too), there is no reason why his name should be contorted into Helltown. Perhaps it was because Dante was a foreigner and Helltown was so downright American.
An old resident of that region (not the Inferno, but Dante-Helltown-Hibbard) tells us a little secret about Hibbard, which sort of lets the church folks out. He says that when Hibbard was called Helltown, church was then held in the school house (religion and education were sharing the same premises), and the church people were not yet equipped properly and fully to lick the devil. As time progressed in this little cross-rails town, the church people grew stronger and stronger and the devil around there got weaker and weaker. At length church moved out of the school house, and after a while edifices were reared to the honor of the Lord. The devil was cowed; his satanic majesty's henchmen and lieutenants did less cavorting about the neighborhood and began to look for more fertile (or maybe more arid) fields elsewhere. Helltown became Helltown no longer. Finally the devil admitted himself beaten, and withdrew his forces, whilst the churches rejoiced.
Now, that's the story, embellished a little no doubt, but said to be not so very far removed from the truth, after all.