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
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
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
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.]