Church History of Miami County, Indiana Part 1
From: History of Miami County, Indiana
Edited by: Mr. Arthur L. Bodurtha
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1914


Long before any permanent settlements were made in the Wabash valley by white men, Jesuit priests visited the Indians with a view to securing their conversion to the Christian faith. Most of the early French traders were Catholics and these early missionaries often said mass at the trading posts for the benefit of the few white people who might be living in the vicinity of the post. It was therefore natural that the Catholics should be the first to establish a church organization in Miami county. The first priests to hold services at Peru came from Bardstown, Kentucky. Father Badin was here as early as 1834 and made several visits to the infant city during the next three years.

When the town of Peru was laid out two lots on the northwest corner of Fifth and Miami streets were donated as a site for a Catholic church. The first building erected thereon was completed in the spring of 1835. It was a modest, unpretentious structure and was without a resident priest until in 1837, when Father M. J. Clark was assigned to the work of building up and ministering to the parish. He remained until 1842 and during his pastorate the parish was frequently visited by Father Maurice St. Palais, whose missionary work took him into the states of Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. When Father Clark left Peru in 1842, Father St. Palais was the only priest until 1846, when Father Fisher took charge. He was succeeded by Fathers McDermot, Carius and Zucker, and in April, 1860, Father Bernard Kroeger became pastor. He was an active worker and under his charg the priest's residence was built, at a cost of $2,000; the Catholic cemetery was purchased and consecrated, and in 1865 a brick church edifice was completed, at a cost of $21,000. The old frame church was then taken for a schoolhouse and used as such until it was destroyed by fire during the pastorate of Father Lamour, who succeeded Father Kroeger in October, 1871, and served until September, 1875. A new schoolhouse was erected, at a cost of $16,000. When Father Henry Meissner took charge in September, 1875, he found the parish in debt over $16,000 and the business depression that followed the panic of 1873 made it somewhat difficult to raise money. Notwithstanding this the new priest went to work and on December 23, 1886, the parish was out of debt. A few years ago the church building was thoroughly overhauled, the walls covered with stucco and other improvements made that has given to the congregation a comfortable and commodious home. The present membership is about 2,000 and the priest in charge is Rev. John H. Guendling. The patron saint of the parish is St. Charles Borromeo.

Not long after the close of the Civil war Catholic priests from Marion and Kokomo visited the town of Bunker Hill and held services at the home of Thomas Gorman. A church was organized in 1870 and four years later a lot was purchased in the north part of town and the building, which had been used as a shoe shop, was remodeled for a church. In 1882 a neat frame house of worship was erected at the north end of Elm street, at a cost of $1,300 and the parish of St. Michael had a permanent home. After a number of years the congregation gave up the church organization, the members transferring their allegiance to St. Charles' church at Peru or other parishes as best suited their convenience.


As early as 1831 William M. Reyburn, who was a local preacher of this denomination, settled in Miamisport, now a part of Peru. At the request of a few Methodists living in the neighborhood he conducted services at the homes of some of them during the succeeding year. According to a history of the Methodist Episcopal church of Peru, prepared by W. E. Mowbray and published in Stephens' History of Miami County, a class was formed about the year 1835. Among the members of this class were William M. Reyburn, George S. Fenimore, William R. Mowbray and their wives and Mr. and Mrs. John Lowe. The first house of worship was completed in the spring of 1836. It was built by George Fenimore and John Garrol and was located on West Third street, on a lot donated by the proprietors of the town of Peru. The country around Peru was organized into a circuit in 1836 and the congregation was supplied by "circuit riders" until 1849, when Peru was made a station. The lot at the northwest corner of Main and Wabash streets was then purchased and the building afterward occupied by the Odd Fellows was erected. Rev. Walter L. Huffman was the first pastor after the station was established.

Mr. Mowbray, in the article above referred to, says that in 1854 "there was a division of the society, one part of the members remaining at the Main street church, and the other worshiping on Third street south of the site of the present new church building." According to the same authority the two congregations were united in 1859, but in 1860 another separation took place, with Rev. V. M. Beamer as pastor of the Main street church and Rev. W. R. Edmonson in charge of the Third street church. In a short time the building on Third street proved to be too small to meet the needs of the congregation and, according to Rev. Ernest E. Neal, who was pastor of the church a few years ago, the Second Presbyterian church, at the corner of Main and Miami was purchased. The denomination then had two churches in Peru - one on East Main and the other on West Main. The former was known as the "silk church" and the latter as the "calico church." In 1874 the two congregations were again united, Rev. John C. Malin taking charge as pastor. The church since then has had a steady, healthful growth. The present house of worship, at the southeast corner of Main and Cass streets was erected in 1890, at a cost of about $35,000, and later a parsonage was built at the corner of Main and Hood streets at a cost of $3,000. In 1906 the official board of the church authorized Giles W. Smith to compile a history of "Methodism in Peru." This history was afterward published. It contains pictures of the old church edifices and portraits of some of the pastors and prominent members.

About 1833 itinerant Methodist ministers visited Jefferson township and held services at the house of William. Smith, near the present town of Mexico. In 1835 Rev. John A. Brouse, a Methodist missionary, came to the settlements along the Eel river and held services at the homes of the settlers. Other missionaries followed and in 1839 a small class was organized. Among the members were Nathaniel Leonard, William Eidson, Charles Murden, Nathan Raines, Henry Howes, Joseph Burke, William Smith and their wives, and Thomas Henry, Asa Leonard, Timothy, Matthew, Elizabeth and Orpha Murden. In the year 1844 a frame house was built on the Rochester road, in the northern part of the village of Mexico. This was the beginning of the Mexico Methodist church. About that time the Mexico circuit was established by the conference out of part of the Rochester circuit. In 1864 the circuit was divided, only four churches remaining on the Mexico circuit, viz.: Chili, Mexico. Bethlehem and Bethel. The same year a brick house of worship was built at Mexico, at a cost of about $2,200.

The Chili Methodist church was organized in the year 1838 or 1839, though services had been held at the home of Robert Miller a year or so before that time a short distance east of the village. Little can be learned regarding the early history of this congregation, but it is known that meetings were held at the houses of the members until about 1845, when a small frame church was built at Chili. Among the early pastors were Revs. Allen Skillman, Paul Jones, O. P. Boyden. Jacob Colclazer, P. J. Beswick. John Davis and William Reeder. In 1866 a brick house of worship was erected, a short distance from the old frame house, thus giving the congregation a comfortable and commodious home. The subsequent history of the organization differs but little from that of the average village congregation.

About 1839 Robert Miller and his wife, E. I. Kidd and wife, Ellen Kidd. J. D. Cox, Richard and John Miller, Allen Lockridge and a few others got together and organized the Paw Paw Methodist church. Meetings were held at the homes of the members until about 1842, when a frame church was erected on the farm of Richard Miller, adjoining the village. This church was the leading one of Paw Paw for many years, but with the decline of the village it lost much of its former prestige, though it is still a typical country church. Rev. S. C. Miller, in a historical sketch of Richland township, published a few years ago in the Peru Republican, says that about a month after the first families settled at Paw Paw Robert Miller and Mr. Kidd started for Peru to find a preacher to assist them in organizing a church. Taking their axes with them, they blazed a trail southwestward until they came to the Indian trace, which they followed to Peru. They did not succeed in finding a minister, but left word with William M. Reyburn, a local preacher of the Methodist faith, to request the regular preacher on his return home to follow the Indian trace until he came to a beech tree with a hand carved in the bark pointing to the northeast, from which place he was to follow the marks or blazes on the trees. A few days later a man was seen on horseback working his way along the blazed road and it was presumed that he was the minister. This surmise turned out to be correct. The preacher first reached the house of Mr. Kidd, whence messengers were sent out to other families and in a short time a congregation of nineteen persons assembled. This was the first service of the Paw Paw Methodist church.

The Macy Methodist church was organized in 1842, nearly eighteen years before the town was laid out. Among the early members were George Wilkinson, Thomas Clemens, English Ogle, Baldwin and James Wilkinson and their wives and a few others. Services were held at the homes of the members for several years before the congregation was strong enough to undertake the erection of a church. In 1844 a log house of worship was erected at the cross roads, where the town of Macy now stands. and this building was used both for school and church purposes for several years. When the new school house was built in 1860 services were held there for some time. A number of new inhabitants came to the town, which was laid out in that year, and steps were taken to erect a church building A lot was procured in Powell and Wilkinson's addition and the new church was dedicated in 1871. It cost about $1,400 and served as a home for the congregation for about twenty years, when it became too small for the attendance. A movement was therefore started which resulted in the erection of the present comfortable and commodious house of worship at the northeast corner of McKee and Commerce streets. It is a handsome brick structure, with ample seating capacity, and was dedicated in 1895.

About 1843 a Methodist church was organized at Gilead, though services had been held at the homes of James Fiers and Alfred Dowd some seven or eight years before that date. Among the first members were Dr. E. H. Sutton, Nelson Hawley, Charles Cleland, Sullivan Waite, Lorenzo Dowd, Alfred Dowd and their wives, Mary Dowd. Chauncey Welton and Louisa Welton. Alfred Dowd was the first class leader. One of the first preachers was a man named Bennett and Arentis Dowd preached to the congregation in the absence of a regular minister. Shortly after the church society was organized a house of worship was erected. It was a log structure, which served the congregation until 1867, when it was torn down and a neat frame house was erected on the site.

What is known as the Olive Branch Methodist church, in Perry township, was founded about 1843 and for several years was one of the strongest church societies in that part of the county. Death and removal of members so weakened the congregation that the organization was abandoned a few years after the close of the Civil war.

Meetings were held at the homes of settlers of the Methodist faith in the vicinity of Converse as early as 1842. The town of Xenia (now Converse) was laid out in the spring of 1849 and in 1855 the Methodist congregation, which had been organized some years before, erected a neat frame house on Wabash street, at a cost of some $600. This building answered all the needs of the society for about thirty years, when the growth of the congregation necessitated the erection of a new one. The old house was removed and in its place was built a handsome brick edifice, 50 by 59 feet in size, at a cost of $7,000. Among the early members of this congregation were Joseph and John. Powell, Jesse and Shadrach Elliott and their families and Louisa Kimball. Revs. Bowman and Bradshaw were two of the early preachers and the first pastor in the new building in 1886 was Rev. George S. V. Howard. The Converse church is in a prosperous condition and, next to Peru, is one of the strongest Methodist societies in the county

The Methodist church at Bunker Hill was organized in 1846, with David and Malinda Hockman, John and Eliza Townsend and John and Eliza Barnes as the leading members. The first meeting was held in a little log house that stood on the farm of John N. Huffman. a minister named Davis conducting the services, and it was through his efforts that the church was organized. A few months later Lewis N. Snodderly, A. C. Lamborn, Jacob Coucher, James Dabney. Andrew Cunningham and their wives, Benjamin Fish, Mrs. Moses Larimer and a few others united with the church. With this added strength the members began to talk of erecting a church, but the first house of worship was not dedicated until 1855. It stood south of the main part of the town, not far from the Deer Creek township line, and was known as the "Railroad Chapel." Here the congregation continued to hold meetings until the erection of the present brick church at the corner of Elm and Broadway streets, which edifice was dedicated in 1870, with Rev. George Havens as pastor. Since that time the church has enjoyed a reasonable degree of prosperity and it is one of the leading religious societies in the southern part of the county.

Calvary Methodist Episcopal church, the first to be organized in Erie township, was founded in the summer of 1846. The little class established at that time consisted of Daniel Mendenhall, Frederick White and Alfred Miller and their wives, and perhaps one or two others. A minister named Donaldson was the first to hold services there, the meetings being held at the house of Daniel Mendenhall until about 1848, when a log house was built on the farm of Mr. Mendenhall. In 1865 a frame church was erected on the same site. It was 35 by 50 feet in size and cost about $1,600. Twenty years after the erection of this building the congregation numbered about seventy members, but in recent years the membership has lost by deaths and removals until the church no longer wields the influence it did in the early years of its history.

A Methodist society was organized at the village of Miami - or rather where the village of Miami now stands - in 1846, by Rev. James Ricketts. The village was laid out in 1849 and a few years later a neat frame house of worship was erected and the church is still kept up, though its membership is not as strong as in former years.

Ebenezer Methodist church, located in the northeastern corner of Union township, has long been prominent. In 1847 Daniel Lockwood and wife, their two daughters, Elizabeth and Robert Bain, Mrs. Mary Carlyle, William Hiteshew and his wife, Sarah D. Hiteshew. banded themselves together to worship after the Methodist faith. A history of this organization has been written by J. N. Baldwain, but it exists only in manuscript form. The members first met in a school house near the site of the present Ebenezer church. Three houses of worship have been erected. One of these was dedicated in 1859 by Rev. A. S. Larkin. Another house was built in 1900 - at least it was dedicated in that year and was probably completed at that time. Mr. Baldwin's history states that the second church was dedicated by Rev. N. D. Shackelford and the third by Rev. H. W. Bennett, though there appears to be some confusion as to which was the second church and which the third, as he gives an account of the erection of only two. One building burned in 1899. The first pastors were Revs. George Guild and R. A. Newton, of the Rochester circuit. In February, 1913, the church had just experienced a successful revival and a notable increase in membership.

About 1847 or 1848 Methodist ministers visited Clay township and held services at the house of Morris Little. A little later a society was organized and in 1854 a frame house of worship was erected at Waupecong, the first in Clay township After a fairly successful career of about thirty years the congregation dwindled to such a degree that meetings were discontinued and the old church was torn down. About 1880 Rev. John Evans visited Waupecong, revived the interest of the few members of the Methodist church living there, reorganized the church and a neat brick building was erected, at a cost of about $1,800. Since then the Methodist church of Waupecong has enjoyed a fair degree of prosperity.

About the time the first Methodist church was organized at Waupecong members of that denomination formed a society in Harrison township and soon afterward erected a small frame church on the farm of Henry Powell, near the Clay township line. This became known in time as the McGrawsville Methodist church. In this connection it is worthy of note that in the early days camp meetings were frequently held in the northeast corner of Clay township; in which the churches at Waupecong and McGrawsville took a leading part.

A class was organized at Perrysburg in 1854, by Rev. Enoch Waymire, though meetings had been held in that neighborhood more than ten years before that date. About twenty members constituted the class, but no house of worship was erected until 1865, the services up to that time having been held in the Presbyterian church. When the society did build it erected one of the finest and best appointed churches in the county, at a cost of about $2.300. This church is still in existence. though it is not so strong in membership as in former years.

The Methodist church at Five Corners was organized a few years before the beginning of the Civil war and in 1860 a frame house of worship was erected. It flourished for a time, but twenty five years after it was established the membership was only about twenty.

Services were held by Methodist missionaries in Butler township as early as 1841, but no regular organization was effected until some years later. Then a society was formed at Santa Fe, where a neat frame house of worship was erected in 1869. Like many of the churches in the small towns, this congregation has never been very strong, but no doubt the members derive as much real fellowship from the association as they would if they belonged to some larger and wealthier church.

Soon after the village of Birmingham was laid out in 1868 a Methodist class was formed there and meetings were held for a time in the public school house, Rev. J. J. Cooper, of the Perrysburg circuit. acting as pastor. With the decline of the village the church also declined and most of the members united with other congregations.

The Pleasant Hill Methodist society, about four miles northeast of Macy and not far from the old village of Hooversburg, was formed at an early date, the Powells, Bennetts, Carpenters and some others constituting the membership. A log house of worship was erected on the farm of William Dukes some time in the '60s and meetings were held there regularly for some time. Some ten years later a frame house was erected one and a half miles northwest of the old church. This had always been a successful organization and at the close of the year 1913 the congregation was planning to build a new and more elaborate house of worship. The charge belongs to the Gilead circuit.

Rev. R. J. Parrott organized a Methodist church at Denver in 1873, with a membership of about forty, most of whom had formerly belonged to the churches at Chili and Mexico. Before the close of that year a handsome frame building, 36 by 50 feet, was completed at a cost of $1,500. This is one of the youngest Methodist churches in Miami county.

A colored Methodist church was organized in Peru in the early '70s and the first meetings were held in the engine house by Elder Patterson. In 1874 a small brick church was erected at the corner of Third and Tippecanoe streets and Rev. Robert Jeffries was installed as pastor. It soon became evident that the society was unable to support a resident pastor and for some time ministers from Logansport or Kokomo visited the congregation at intervals About 1893 Rev. Zachariah Roberts became pastor. but served only a short time. The congregation was never very strong and at the beginning of the present century it consisted of less than a dozen members. It now has a regular pastor and is enjoying a fair degree of prosperity.

At Cary a society of Wesleyan Methodists was formed at a comparatively early date. An undenominational church, similar in doctrine had its outgrowth in meetings held in a tent near the village of Miami in 1889 by Rev. J. F. Shutters. Early the following year a society was organized and a frame house of worship erected in the village at a cost of about $1.200. It is known as the Mission church. There are two Wesleyan churches in Peru - one on old Flax hill in the northwestern part of the city and one in North Peru. They were established about twenty five years ago. The same pastor serves both churches, each of which has a substantial frame structure.

An old atlas of Miami county shows a Methodist church on the north side of Section 11, in Peru township, on the road to Chili, another in the northeast part of Allen township, about a mile and a half from Deedsville. and a third on the northwest quarter of Section 4, in Washington township, about a mile and a half from the county infirmary, but the writer has been unable to learn anything of their history.

Probably the youngest Methodist Episcopal church in Miami county is the one at Amboy. It has been organized but a few years, but has been prosperous from the beginning. In 1913 a neat and substantial brick house of worship was commenced and was finished early in the following year, the dedication of the building being celebrated on March 15, 1914.


On Thursday, November 26, 1835, thirteen members of this denomination assembled at the residence of William N. Hood, in Peru, for the purpose of organizing a church. The meeting was presided over by Rev. Samuel Newbury. The original thirteen charter members of the First Presbyterian church of Peru were: Stewart and Margaret Forgy, O. P. Jennison and wife, Cornelius Vauriper, Mrs. A. M. Vauriper, Rebecca Williamson, Margaret Sergeant, Sophia C. Hood, Mary Ann Newbury, Miss Caroline Nesbit, Miss Emily Sergeant and Frederick W. Sergeant. For a time the meetings were held at the house of Mr. Hood. Then Mr. Newbury purchased a lot upon which stood a double log cabin, which was thrown into one room and fitted up with seats. This house stood on West Fifth street. Later the services were held in the cabin erected by William Smith and used for the first school taught in Peru. On January 28, 1836, was elected the first board of trustees, consisting of William N. Hood, O. P. Jennison and Stewart Forgy. At the same time F. A. Sergeant was chosen clerk. Stewart Forgy had been elected and ordained ruling elder at the time the society was organized

The proprietors of the town of Peru. William N. Hood, Richard L. Britton and Jesse Williams, presented the congregation with a lot on West Third street and in the spring of 1836 a frame house was commenced by John W. Timberlake and Henry Robinson. It was occupied about the beginning of the year 1837 and was the first Protestant church erected in Miami county A Sunday school was organized by Mr. Newbury and at the end of two years from the organization of the church the congregation numbered twenty four members. Rev. Asa Johnson became pastor in October. 1837, and continued with the church until 1848, when he was succeeded by Rev. Milton Starr. Rev. F. S. McCabe began his ministry in Peru in July, 1852, and continued as pastor for nearly fifteen years. During his administration a new church was erected. It was dedicated on July 4, 1858. and served the congregation until the erection of the present building at the northwest corner of Main and Cass streets, at a cost of $65,000.

The pastors from 1868 to 1894 were Revs. Everett Thomson, Henry L. Brown, Samuel Wyckoff, J. B. Parmelee. Matthew 31. Whitford. Leon P. Marshall and Solomon C. Dickey. On January 21, 1894, Rev. Harry Nyce began his labors as pastor and has since been in charge. Under his ministry the present magnificent stone edifice at the corner of Main and Cass streets has been erected. The cornerstone of this building was laid with appropriate ceremonies on May 1, 1905. At that time James H. Fetter prepared and read a history of the society, from which many of the facts in this sketch have been gleaned. On June 1, 1905, the old church building on West Third, near Broadway, was sold to Harry F. Masters and C. P. Eckstein for $10,000. This building was used as a courthouse while the present courthouse was being built. It is now used as a laundry.

The Second Presbyterian church in Peru, a society of the Old School, was in existence for several years. This congregation erected a brick house of worship at the southwest corner of Main and Miami streets, which was used until the First and Second Presbyterian churches were amalgamated about 1870 after which the edifice was used by the Baptists, Methodists and Congregationalists and is now owned and occupied by the Christian church

In 1846 Revs. A. Johnson and O. V. Lemon, two Presbyterian ministers, visited Gilead and organized a church. Two years later a frame house of worship was erected and for several years services were held regularly, though the congregation was never strong numerically. The removal of some of the most active member so weakened the society that the church was abandoned in 1868, the old house of worship being used as a store room for many years after that time.

About the year 1849 Rev. Andrew McClelland began holding meetings at Perrysburg, in the school house and at the home of Hamilton Simonton. These meetings resulted in the formation of a Presbyterian church with about eighteen or twenty members, among whom were several members of the Simonton family, John Leach, John Kiplinger and his wife and John McConahy and wife. A frame church was commenced in 1850, but it was not completed until about four years later. Services were held in it, however, before it was finished, the first sermon preached in the building being on the occasion of the funeral of Hamilton Simonton in August, 1852. For several years the congregation enjoyed a reasonable degree of prosperity, but after a time the membership decreased to about a dozen, when meetings were held at irregular intervals and were finally discontinued altogether.

Rev. F. S. McCabe, pastor of the Presbyterian church at Peru, was the first minister of that faith to preach in Butler township. After holding services for some time in a school house in the northwestern part of the township, not far from the Mississinewa river, a society was organized and in 1863 a church building was commenced on land donated by George McKinstry. It was not completed until the following year and was dedicated on September 25, 1864, a minister named Carnahan preaching the dedicatory sermon. This church is known as New Hope church.

A Presbyterian church known as Mount Hope was organized in Washington township shortly after the Civil war and a house of worship was erected on what was known as the White farm. For some time the society was fairly prosperous, but on account of deaths and removals it was disbanded, the few members left uniting with the church at Peru or other convenient places.

Rev. William Armstrong, a missionary of the Muncie presbytery, organized the Presbyterian church at Converse on November 12, 1870, with the following members: J. M. Darby, J. K. Darby, Catharine S. and Flora Darby, J. A. and Cordelia Douglass, A. D. Kimball, Carrie D. Murray, Elizabeth Jones, A. B. Kimball, N. Dangerfield, F. M. Shinn, Elizabeth Platt, David Coppock, Letelia. Summers, James Parker, Lydia J and Henrietta S. Kimball, J. M. Wright and wife, J. A. Phelps, Eunice Hand, A. P. Stout, M. P Keasby, Emma A. Zeek and Jackson Saxon. Services were held for several years in the United Brethren or Christian churches, but in 1893 a modest frame building was erected at the corner of Marion and Washington streets. With some alterations this house is still the home of the congregation.

[Next page, Church History of Miami County Part 2.]

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