Transcribed from: BIOGRAPHICAL MEMIORS OF BLACKFORD COUNTY, IND.; EDITED BY BENJAMIN G. SHINN; THE BOWEN PUBLISHING COMPANY. CHICAGO, 1900. Pages 252 Â– 258
We shall only be able to sketch briefly and imperfectly the churches and church organizations of Blackford county. A large number of religious denominations are represented by organizations or by members and professed adherents in Blackford county. The following churches are comprised in the list: Old School or Predestination Baptist, Missionary Baptist, Christian (Disciple), Christian (New Light), Church of God (Soul Sleeper), German Baptist (or Dunkard), Lutheran, Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Protestant, Methodist Wesleyan, Orthodox Friend or Quaker, Presbyterian, Protestant Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Reformed Dunkard, Seventh Day Adventist, United Brethren (Liberal), United Brethren (Radical), Universalist, and it may be two or three others. The Christian Scientists and Spiritualists also have organizations.
As early as the time of the organization of the county the two Baptist and the Methodist Episcopal churches were here with ministers and organized membership. The early ministers of the Old School or Predestination Baptist church were Abraham Buckles and John Buckles, of Delaware county, both of whom preached at Hartford City, the latter for several years. Among the leading members at this place were Jacob Stahl and wife, Mrs. Abraham Stahl, Asher Van Cleve and wife, Adam Hart, Jacob Hart, Aaron McVicker, Jacob Covault, Abraham Hess, Abner Hess, Stillwell Truax and their wives and the brother and sisters of Mrs. Truax, named Karney. A church was also formed northwest of Hartford City, the membership being in both Blackford and Grant counties, the society being known as the Â“Walnut Creek Anti-Mission Baptist Church.Â” Among its active supports were James Gillespie and Daniel Watson, both ministers, and Peter Bonham. James Baldridge and others from a distance also preached in this county, and William N. Buckles, a son of John, who resides near Mill Grove, has for a great many years exercised the functions of a minister in this denomination.
The first ministers of the Mission Baptist church were Franklin G. Baldwin, one of the Vermont colonists that settled at Montpelier, and Rev. William Tisdale, an aged veteran who lived in Virginia or Kentucky and who traveled through the wilds of northeastern Indiana as a missionary. One of his stopping places was the home of John Wells, north of the Salamonie, where he preached the gospel to the few early settlers in this neighborhood. Among the original communicates of the church at Montpelier were the families of Elder Baldwin, John Wells, William Ellsworth, Newton Putnam, John C. and Francis G. Spaulding and some others of the Spaulding family.
At Hartford City the early adherents of this church were David Johnson, Ira and John Casterline and their families and Mrs. Dr. Clouser. David Johnson was probably the leading spirit, and through his untiring efforts in season and out of season a frame church building was erected on East Washington street, about the year 1844, which was also used in later years as a school house. Rev. William Chaffee, an able and scholarly minister of the denomination, located in Hartford City about 1850, and during the following fifteen years preached at several places in the surrounding country.
Among other ministers who preached in this county about the same time were Nathan C. Rice, Clayton B. Kendall, who married a daughter of Elder Baldwin, and John C. Skinner, who resided near Bloomfield in Jay county. There are now two organizations in this county, one near Montpelier and one near Pleasantdale school house in the south part of Harrison township.
It is probably not now known when or by whom the first Methodist sermon was preached in the territory comprised in Blackford county. But it is known that the Methodist itinerant, Â“the man on horsebackÂ”, was always on the frontier line of civilization, ready to erect the standard of the cross in the rude cabin of the earliest settler.
Among the earliest pioneers in Licking township were John Ervin and Elijah Sims, both local preachers in the Methodist Episcopal church, and just across the line in Jay county, near where the city of Dunkirk now flourishes, was Isaac Sutton, also a local preacher. Hartford City and Licking township were at first in the territory of the Marion mission. The preachers in charge from the fall of 1837 to 1841, each serving one year, were George W. Bowers, John H. Bruce, Daniel F. Stright and John H. Hull. In 1841 two men were appointed on the charge, viz: Hezekiah Smith and Brenton Webster. In 1842 John S. Donaldson and William Anderson were the appointees. The first regular preaching was at the house of William Payton and prayer-meetings were held at the house of John M. Marlay. The first members of the church here were the families of Ervin, Sims, Payton and Marlay, already named, and those of James E. B. Rose, Sylvester R. Shelton, Francis H. Graham, Abraham Cassel and a few others. Soon after there were added the families of Simeon T. Marlay, Philip Smell and Silas Maddox. The first church building in Hartford City was erected by the Methodists in 1843, a hewed-log house on lot No. 2 in block No. 4. It was occupied for about five years and was superseded by a brick building on the west side of the public square, 35x 40 feet in size. The bricks were made and the walls erected in 1847, and the house was finished and dedicated in the summer of 1848. At the conference session of 1843 Hartford circuit was formed and Francis M. Richmond was appointed to the work, who remained for two years. In 1873 Hartford City became a station with M. S. Metts as pastor. In June, 1879, the present church building was dedicated by Rev. Abijah Marine, with E. M. Baker as pastor. In 1896, under the pastorate of L. A. Beeks, the building was remodeled and enlarged and again dedicated by David H. Moore, D.D., now one of the bishops of the church. The present parsonage was built in 1886, during the pastoral term of H. J. Norris.
The early preachers at Montpelier and near there were G. W, Bowers, Seth Smith, Henry H. and Arthur Badley and George Guild. Among those who constituted the original membership were the families of Thomas Hulett. Josephus Streeter, Josiah Twibell, Michael Maddox and Lyman Simpson. A frame house of worship was built two or three years prior to 1860. The present commodious church was erected in 1895. Methodism now has in this county four societies in Licking township, three in Jackson, two in Harrisaon and one in Washington. In membership and number and value of church buildings it is the leading denominations in the county.
In 1843, there were several persons in and around Hartford City of the Presbyterian faith and they desired to enjoy the forms of worship and pulpit ministrations provided by the church. Accordingly a society was organized of the New School branch December 18, 1843, with Rev. Samuel Steel as pastor. The following persons became members: George Atkinson, Abigail Marlay, Jacob Brugh, Lydia Brugh, Elijah Spangler, Nancy Ann Spangler, William Taughinbaugh, Lydia Taughinbaugh, James Parker, Elenor Parker, Jacob Emshwiller, Sarah Dildine and George Folkenroth. To this number was added, in the following March and April, Mrs. Jane Moore, Mary Ann Emshwiller, William Rousseau and Miss Elizabeth Atkinson. In 1845 Thomas Spencer became the pastor and in 1848 he was succeeded by Asa Martin. Both of these gentlemen taught school here while serving the church. In March, 1852 Alfred Hawes was employed for four months, to spend one Sabbath in each month with this church. On May 2 of this year Philander Anderson was invited to become a stated supply for one year. On September 24, 1853, the name of the local church changed to Blackford Presbyterian church. About this time the society seems to have experienced a season of depression and discouragement. On October 7, 1854, a petition was presented to the Muncie presbytery (Old School) asking for the organization of an Old School church here, as the New School minister (Anderson) had gone away and they were destitute of preaching. Revs. C. A. Manor and J. F. Boyd were appointed to visit and investigate the condition of affairs here. At a meeting held April 3, 1855, it was resolved to seek admission to the Old School presbytery. The petition was signed by John Kirkpatrick, Jacob Brugh, Ralph Dildine, George Atkinson and John Templin. The ministerial services of Rev. J. F. Boyd were requested. The request was granted and the church received and enrolled as the Presbyterian church of Hartford. The following ministers have since served as pastors, the year being given in which their term of service began.. 1857, R. McCullough: 1861, John A. Campbell: 1869, William Armstrong: 1873, William H. Honnell: 1877, W. W. Eastman: 1878, D. B. Rogers: 1883, P. S. Cook: 1884, John Q. McKeehan: 1890, A. J. Arrick: 1892, J. W. Fulton: 1897, Edwin Craven. About 1844 the first house of worship for this church was built here on a fractional lot on the east side of Mulberry street, midway between Washington and Water streets. Henry Ward Beecher once preached in this church. It was during his pastorate at Indianapolis and when he was on his way to attend the session of the presbytery or synod at Fort Wayne. He stopped over the Sabbath at Hartford City. Several persons still living here remember the occasion and heard the sermon. About 1868 a larger and better furnished frame church with a cupola and bell was erected on the southeast corner of High and Franklin streets, which was occupied for twenty -four years and then removed, in 1892, to make room for the present brick building, which was completed and dedicated in 1893. The dedicatory sermon was preached by Charles H. Payne, D.D., secretary of the board of education of the Methodist Episcopal church.
There has been a Presbyterian society in Montpelier for several years and a comfortable frame church was recently built there. Fred W. Willman was pastor for a short time after the church was built.
As early as 1847 had German Lutherans in and around Hartford City had pastors to visit them. Rev. Kleinegies stationed at Greenville, Ohio, frequently walked the seventy miles from there to attend to the spiritual wants of the people of this neighborhood. He confirmed a class about the year 1850. Rev. P. T. Hoffman confirmed several young people in the old court house. The services were usually held at the Gochnauer and Wadle school houses and sometimes in the groves. Pastors Hursch, Sandhaus and Dechant served the people before the organization of the congregation. The latter confirmed a class in 1858 at the Gochnauer school house, and Rev. Hursch confirmed seventeen persons in the old Baptist church. In the winter of 1866 Rev. J. D. Nunemacher was recommended to the people by the president of the English district. He was called to organize and serve congregations at Hartford City, Warren and Montpelier. On March 30th and 31st he organized in the Wadle school house the Evangelical Lutheran ZionsÂ’ congregation of Hartford City. Although all the fifty-one members were German, they decided also to have English services. Rev. G. Baughman installed Rev. Nunemacher at Hartford City, July 10, 1866. The services were held in the Methodist church. Steps were at once taken for the erection of a church. The corner stone was laid March 29, 1867, and the church was dedicated in October by Pastor Nunemacher and Revs. Hinkel and Hursch. In 1868 the congregation united with the joint synod of Ohio. Rev. Nunemacher continued until 1869 when he left and S. C. Weisman was called and preached a few times. Student B. F. Schillinger, of Columbus, Ohio, served the congregation from September, 1870 till the spring of 1873. J. B. Schumann, student of Columbus, Ohio, served for two years. September 3, 1876, student Charles Mayer, of Columbus, Ohio, was called. He continued as pastor till July, 1880. During his pastorate an English Sunday school and parochial school were organized. Rev. W. J. Schroyer was installed December 12, 1880. He served seven years. February 6, 1888, Rev. Samuel Baechler was called from Goshen, Indiana. In him were united the energy of youth and the experience and wisdom of old age and he was much beloved by the people. He was suddenly called to his eternal rest, August 4, 1890, having become deathly sick while in the pulpit. William Lehman was then pastor from November, 1890, till the spring of 1893. In November, 1893, Rev. C. A. Schaefer accepted a call and has since been the efficient pastor of this church. In 1899 the present beautiful church was built and dedicated. The congregation has about fifty voting members and nearly two hundred confirmed members.
The Catholic church has had organizations and a considerable membership at Hartford City and Montpelier for many years. For a long time religious instruction and pastoral oversight was supplied by priests from Fort Wayne, Union City, Marion and other places. More than thirty years ago a frame church was built in Montpelier on the west side of Jefferson and the south side of Windsor streets. Several years later a frame church was built in Hartford City on the southwest corner of Water and Spring streets, which met the wants of the congregation for a few years. With the advent of manufacturing establishments consequent on the discovery and utilization of natural gas the Catholic population was largely increased and this building became too small to accommodate the augmented membership. In 1897 the frame house was removed and the present beautiful and artistic edifice erected in its place. About the same time a new brick church was erected in Montpelier in the western part of the city. Rev. Charles Dhe, a resident of Hartford City, has the charge and pastoral care of both these churches.
The Christian church, sometimes called New Light, to distinguish it from the Christain or Disciples church, was among the first to begin work in Blackford county. Fifty years ago or more there was a society which had its meeting place at the house of Roderick Craig, about a half mile east of the village of Dundee. Mr. Craig and James McConkey were among the active supporters of the cause here. Among the ministers who served this church were Phineas Roberds, Moses McDaniel and Samuel C. Minnick. Some forty years ago there was an active society two miles south of Montpelier of which John Chandler and Seth S. Simonton and others were leading members. Revs. Thomas Aker, David Greer, James M. Gunkel and Seth S. Simonton were some of the preachers who ministered here. This body of Christians now has organizations and comfortable houses of worship at Montpelier and in the western part of Jackson township and a society in Washington township.
The Methodist Protestant church has had organizations in this county more than fifty years. Rev. Lair Runyon, who was for many years a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal church, was among the first to join the Protestant branch in the vicinity of Hartford City. For many years societies were maintained at the Waugh school house, two miles west of Montpelier, at the Slater school house, in the south part of Hartford City and the Lillibridge school house in the south part of Washington township.
At the present time there are societies at Trenton and three and one-half miles west of Hartford City.
The Wesleyan Methodists have had a society in Hartford City for several years past and a creditable house of worship at the crossing of Cherry and Franklin streets. Revs. Spohn, Moon, Blake and Hopkins are among these who have preached for this church.
The United Brethren in Christ have been represented among the churches in Blackford county from an early date. The branch of the church known as Liberals have had flourishing societies for years at Bethel church on the west side and Pleasantdale church on the south side of Harrison township, at Millgrove, Hartford City and near the center of Washington township. Among the pastors of these churches have been William Gossett, A. C. Wilmore, G. L. Maddox, J. W. Utsler, M. Groenendyke, F. S. Minshall and M. F. Dawson.
The Radical branch of this church has a flourishing society at Fairview church, four miles north of Hartford City. The session of the annual conference was held there in 1899 with Bishops Halleck Floyd and Milton Wright both in attendance.
The ministers of the Christain or Disciples church preached in the northern part of Blackford county as early as fifty years ago, among the first being Rev. G. McDuffie and Rev. Thompson, who preached at Matamoras over forty years ago. There has been for years past an organized society at Montpelier, with the frame church building on the northwest corner of Jefferson and Green streets. From fifteen to twenty-five years ago there were a number of residents of Hartford City who had been members of this church, and as there was no organization here they found homes temporarily in other churches. In 1887 Rev. B. F. Aspy held a series of meetings here and formed a society. For some time services were held in Van Cleve opera house and the Briscoe Hall. In 1894-5 a commodious and well arranged brick church edifice was erected on the north-east corner of High and Grant streets. It was dedicated in the spring of 1895 by Rev. L. L. Carpenter, of Wabash, Indiana. The pastors since Rev. Aspy have been J. L. Weaver, E. C. Wells, C. M. Keene and A. F. Ayres.
The German Baptists or Dunkards have at least three societies in this county, one in Hartford City, with a church building on West Franklin street, one two miles west of Hartford City and one in the northeastern part of Washington township. The ministers resident in the county are I. J. Howard, Levi Winklebleck, Gabriel Kitterman and John Groves. Prior to 1860, Rev. George W. Studebaker preached frequently at the residence of John Blount, immediately north of Matamoras, and at the residence of Eli McConkey, three miles west of Montpelier, where he organized a church.
The Orthodox Friends have had a church organization for many years in the southeastern corner of Harrison township, with a good frame country church, and more recently they have formed a society and built a substantial church in Jackson township, about five miles southeasterly of Hartford City.
The Episcopal church has yet no resident pastor in the county, but religious worship is conducted occasionally in Hartford City and Montpelier by ministers from neighboring cities and these points are sometimes visited by the bishop of the diocese.
The Church of God, popularly known as Soul Sleepers, has a society and a good church building at Dundee. Some twenty-five years ago Rev. W. H. Hornaday, a minister of this order, located in Hartford City and he and other ministers preached here and at the Bailey school house and probably other points in the county.
In August, 1883, Revs. Henderson and Godsmark, elders of the Seventh Day Adventist church, held a series of meetings in a tent on North Monroe street and lectured on Bible subjects, including The Prophecies, The Laws of God, The Nature of Man, The Destiny of the Wicked, The Home of the Saved, etc. The result was the formation of a church with over twenty members, They believe the seventh day of the week, or Saturday, to be the scriptural Sabbath and observe it accordingly. Shortly afterward a house of worship was built immediately south of the Wesleyan Methodist church on Cherry street. They have had no resident minister.
For more that half a century there has been occasional preaching in different pasts of the county by Universalist ministers and it is probable that a society was formed at one time in Hartford City. While there are several persons of the faith scattered over the county there is no organized society at present so far as the writer knows.
For the past two years the Christain Scientists have held regular services in Hartford City.
The Spiritualists have had an organization in Hartford City for a number of years.