The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 2, Page 5.


Missionaries, Priests and Pastors Brought Spiritual And Hope to Settlers

Spiritual development in Valparaiso and Porter county during a century of depressions and triumphs, of misery and joy, is as a seed grown up -- first the blade, then the stalk and after that the full ear of corn. Pioneers, in all their perennial moods and phases found God the source of hope and inspiration. The unpicturable problems of frontier life were solved by their faith and trust in the great scheme of salvation. And their religious aspirations have found perfect and permanent expression throughout the county and especially in Valparaiso, which is known far and wide as the City of Churches. There are 40 individual houses of worship in the county.

Humble virtues of faithfulness, integrity, patience and industry on the part of a handful of God-fearing men and women, whose long, perilous journeys had brought them over dreary wastes to another wilderness of woods and prairie, formed the structure of the county's religious body. Services in a rudely constructed cabin of unfinished logs, lighted by a flickering home-made tallow candle, to communion with the same God in church edifices which vary in cost from a few thousand dollars to those running into the thousands, marks one phase of the progress of religion in the county.

Missionaries of the Baptist and Methodist churches came to Porter county about the time it was organized, or perhaps a little before, the records of the county clerk's office showing that during the year 1836 marriages were solemnize by at least four ministers. These were Alpheus French and Asahel Neal, Baptists, and Cyrus Spurlock and Stephen Jones, Methodists. It is said that Rev. Asahel Neal organized a congregation in Morgan township in the latter part of 1835 or early in 1836. If so, that was the first church organization in the county, though the report is not well authenticated.

Rev. Alpheus French preached at Blachly's Corners in Union township in the spring of 1836. The meeting was held in a grove, about twenty-five persons being present. This was the first meeting held by a Baptist minister within the confines of the county. On June 10, 1837, Mr. French organized the First Baptist church, with twelve members. On February 8, 1840, the name was changed to the First Baptist Church of Valparaiso. A new building was built and dedicated on March 13, 1853. On November 13, 1881, this building was supplanted by a new home.

In 1835, Rev. Stephen Jones organized the Deep river mission of the Methodist Episcopal church, mission embraced the counties of Lake and Porter. Subsequently the field of labor became known as the Kankakee mission, and still later the Valparaiso circuit. Richard Hargrave was presiding elder at the time the mission was first organized. In 1852 Valparaiso was set as a separate charge and organized into a station. Prior to that, however, Lake county had been cut off and formed into a new charge in the fall of 1844, the Valparaiso circuit from that date included only Porter county.

Rev. W. J. Forbes organized the first class in Valparaiso in 1840. The first Methodist church in the city was organized in 1847 in a small frame building, and the following year work was commenced on the first house of worship. The present church was built in 1886.

For a while after the Deep river mission was organized a few Methodists in the vicinity of the present town of Hebron met at the homes of Simeon Bryant and Absolom Morris. After the school house was built meetings were held there. A regular society was organized in 1837 by Rev. Jacob Colclaster, who was the first minister to extend his labors in that part of the missionary field. In 1840 a protracted meeting lasting nearly two months was held and a large number of members added to the church. In 1844 a log church was built and Rev. Warren Griffith regularly employed as a pastor. Fifteen years later the log building was replaced by a frame structure costing $1,000. A parsonage was built in 1877 and has since been enlarged.

A Methodist church was organized in Morgan township at an early date by four men named White, and a Mr. Cornish. Two Methodist societies were organized in Portage township in 1837, but both died out. A few years before the Civil war a Methodist congregation was formed at Jackson Center. A Methodist society was also established at Kinney's Corners, near Flint Lake.

Methodists formed a church in Chesterton about 1860 or 1861. A church building was built costing $2,000. A Methodist church was formed at Wheeler in an early day, but no steps were taken to build a building until 1914. A Swedish Lutheran church was organized at Chesterton in 1879, with Rev. C. J. Hisson as the first pastor. First trustees were John B. Lundberg, August Melin and August Peterson. From the beginning the church prospered.

A man named Hannan, who represented that branch known as the Associate Reform Presbyterians, was the first to visit Porter county. On July 23, 1838, he organized Bethlehem church of that faith where the town of Hebron now stands. Shortly after the church was organized he left, and Rev. Wilson Blain became pastor. He remained until 1847, after which the church was without a pastor for three years. In 1851 Rev. J. N. Buchanan became pastor. In 1852 a church was built three-fourths of a mile from Hebron, and used until 1879, when a new building was built. The congregation is now known as the United Presbyterian church.

Presbyterians came to Valparaiso during the first three years after settlements were made here, and sermons were preached by some of the early Presbyterian ministers who came to the county. The first church was organized on July 3, 1840, by Rev. James C. Brown. In 1842 a church was erected. Two noted revivals were held in 1847 and 1854. Rev. Brown continued as pastor until the outbreak of the Civil war, when he entered the army as chaplain of the Forty-eighth Indiana Infantry and died at Paducah, Ky., in July 1862. Rev. S. C. Logan and Rev. Robert Beer followed Rev. Brown. During Rev. Beer's ministry a move was made to build a church. It was dedicated March 1, 1865, at a cost of $24,368, and is still being used for worship.

Rev. C. W. Wharton is the present pastor.

Presbyterian churches were organized in Portage township in the fifties, and one at Tassinong, in Morgan township in 1885. On October 29, 1860, an Old Presbyterian church was organized at Hebron. For a time the congregation was connected with the one at Crown Point and later with the one at Tassinong. It is now out of existence.

In June, 1840, a society of the Christian church was formed in Morgan township. A brick church was erected at a cost of $2,000. It is now known as the Adams church. A Christian church was organized at Boone Grove at an early date. It is now a prosperous church, with Rev. W. J. Moore as pastor.

The Christian church in Valparaiso was organized in 1847 by Rev. Peter Russell. A school house on Jefferson street served as the first church home. Later meetings were held in homes. In 1874 a church was built at the corner of Chicago and Franklin. This building was superseded by the present church erected in 1886 under the ministry of Rev. J. H. O. Smith. Rev. C. M. Smail is the present pastor.

In 1888 a Christian church was organized at Kouts. It was dedicated by Rev. J. H. O. Smith, of Valparaiso on Nov. 25, 1888. It is still functioning. A Christian church was organized at Hebron in January, 1870. Lemuel Shortridge was the first pastor. A church was built in 1878 at a cost of $1,100, and remodeled in 1910 at a cost of $7,000. Rev. W. e. Evers was the first pastor. A Christian church has existed in Morgan township for a number of years known as the Adams church.

In 1850 a Reformed Mennonite church was organized in Valparaiso. After holding meetings in private residences for about 20 years, they purchased the old brick school house, where the church still has its home. Although the membership is small, and the congregation is frequently without a regular pastor, meetings are held regularly, all of the forms and ceremonies of their faith being faithfully observed.

Catholicism in Porter county had its start when priests from Notre Dame and other placed visited the few Catholic members residing in the county during the period of from 1840 to 1850. Through the efforts of one of these priests, Rev. Paul Gillen, St. Paul's Catholic church was built. Father Clark was the first priest assigned here after the Rev. J. H. Leurs was made bishop of the northern diocese. When the Pennsylvania railroad was built through here in the fifties it brought a large number of Catholics to Valparaiso. Rev. Michael O'Reilly, who came to Valparaiso during the Civil war and remained for twenty-five years until his death, was a power in the Catholic church. He formed a strong congregation and built the present St. Paul's church and school. When he came here the church was heavily in debt and the members divided. Under his direction the congregation was cemented until it is now one of the strongest in the county.

A Catholic church was formed at Chesterton in 1857 by Father Kilroy. The first resident priest at Chesterton was Rev. John Flynn. A new church was built in 1876 at a cost of $18,000 and in 1882 a residence for the prist was built at a cost of $3,000. Rev. E. F. Eisenhart is the present pastor of the church named St. Patrick's in honor of Ireland's patron saint.

In 1857 Swedish Lutherans about Baillytown, in Westchester township, organized a church under ministry of Rev. A. Andrain. A church building was built in 1863, and later a parsonage and school. A Swedish Lutheran church was organized at Chesterton in 1879 and a church built at a cost of $5,000.

German Lutherans settled in Valparaiso in 1850 but made no effort to build a church until 1862. In that year Rev. Jahn came here from Germany and organized a church, becoming its first pastor. Not long afterward a division occurred, some of the members going to the Reformed church. A church and school were erected at Pink (Chestnut) and Academy streets. In 1880 the Unitarian church at the corner of Washington and Institute streets was purchased. A new church was erected in 1891. Rev. O. H. Schmidt is the present pastor.

Some years ago about 1892 St. John's Evangelical church was organized and the old Methodist church building at Lincoln avenue and Franklin was used for meetings. For some reason the church did not prosper, and since 1912 was without a pastor. The building was recently razed.

In 1880 a German Lutheran church was built at Kouts. Rev. Philip smith was the first pastor. He was succeeded by nRev. Julius Dunsing. The congregation had been holding meetings in the school house since 1873. Rev. H. Hicken has been pastor of the church nearly 30 years.

In 1880 a German Lutheran church known as St. John's Evangelical was organized at Chesterton. A church building was commenced in the fall of 1880, under the ministry of a preacher named Hammon, who was the first pastor, and it was finished in April, 1881. The church numbered but twelve members when it was organized, but by 1880 the membership had reached forty-five. Through the efforts of the members the church debt was paid off. From 1916 to 1921 the congregation was without a pastor and with only an occasional service from an outside pastor. The church was able to continue largely through the efforts of the young people and now it is in a strong and healthy condition. It has a membership of more than one hundred and about that number in the Sunday school. The church property is located in a desirable section of the city and the buildings are surrounded by beautiful grounds. Rev. Andrew Mast is the present pastor.

The Unitarian society of Valparaiso was organized in 1872, and purchased the building of the Reformed church. Rev. Enoch Powell, Rev. Carson and Rev. Parker served as ministers for a few years but the congregation got into financial difficulties and was forced to sell the church property to the Lutherans. After a few years to society gave up the ghost.

"Union Mission church" an organization of somewhat peculiar character, was formed at Hebron in 1877. A church costing $2,000 was erected the next year with Hiram Marsh, William Nethery and B. Blanchard as trustees, and Wm. Fry, James King and L. temple as deacons. Dissentions arose and in April, 1882, some forty members of the old congregation took possession of the property and organized a Congregational church, W. M. Watt and William Fry were elected deacons; James King, J. G. Gibson, James Alyea, A. Blanchard and B. F. Gossett, trustees, and Rev. L. a. Smith was called to the pulpit. The records do not show what became of the organization, but it is no longer in existence.

The Episcopal church had its actual beginning in Valparaiso in the early nineties, though services were held as far back as the sixties. Charles H. Parker, sr., founder of the Parker Paint company, was the leader of the faith in Valparaiso. St. Andrew's mission was established here around about 1900 with Rev. L. W. Applegate as pastor. Previous to this Rev. W. J. Moore, of Momence, Ill., conducted services in private homes. A church building was erected at the corner of Franklin and Erie streets in 1902. Rev. Mr. Hilton is the present priest in charge.

In 1900 a number of Valparaiso people became members of a People's church organized by Dr. H. V. Thomas, of Chicago. Memorial opera house was the place of the meetings held usually on Sunday evenings. Rev. R. A. White, famous Chicago pastor, preached many sermons. The object of the People's church was to unite on a basis of absolute mental liberty, such existing societies and liberal elements as are in sympathy with the movement toward undogmatic religion. Officers of the church were: Dr. A. W. Vincent, president; Mrs. P. L. Sisson, secretary; Miss Lois Jellies, treasurer; E. D. Shedd, S. A. Lewis, James McCrea, Fred Joel, Mrs. Maude Bundy and L. D. Bondy, advisory council. The church is not in existence at the present time. A church of Christ, Scientist, was organized in Valparaiso in 1926. The first reader was Mrs. Marian Bartholomew and with a few years the membership had grown to forty members and had a Sunday school membership of thirty-seven. Five years ago the Sisson property at the corner of Calumet, Institute and Franklin was purchased and a church building erected. Paul E. Marks is the reader at the present time.

A Nazarene church was established in Valparaiso about ten years ago and for a time meetings were held in a tent. Later a church building was built at the corner of Lafayette and Monroe streets. Rev. L. E. Myers is the present pastor.

The Bethlehem Lutheran church at Chesterton was organized in Young's hall, over the Chesterton bank, Feb. 12, 1879, under the leadership of Rev. A. Challman. The church building was erected in 1881. A parsonage was built in 1888. The value of the church property is $70,000. The pastors have served the church as follows: Rev. A. Challman, 1879-1886; A. G. Olsson, 1887-1890; J. B. Bennet, 1889-1891, 1910-1914; O. V. Holmgrain, 1896-1900; George A. Johnson, 1900-1904; Victor Setterdah, 1905-1909; John Torell, 1917-1925; A. J. johnson, 1924-1927, Bertil Edquist, 1930-1936.

Other churches are the Full Gospel Tabernacle, Chesterton, Rev. James Rice, pastor; Crocker Community church, C. H. Grabeman, pastor; Jackson Center church, Mrs. O. V. Hall, pastor, and Liberty Township church and Sunday school, the Augsburg Lutheran church at Porter, Rev. Paul V. Nelson, pastor; the Christian Science Society of Chesterton and Porter; First Evangelical Lutheran church at McCool, J. A. Bescherer, pastor.

Since 1878, there has been an assembly calling themselves Believers, or brethren, and commonly known as Plymouth Brethern, who hold services every Sabbath morning and evening their meeting being held in the third story of the building owned by s. S. Skinner on Main street, in Valparaiso.

An attempt was made to organize a German Episcopal church. This effort was subsequently continued as late as 1865-66, but on the occasion of a visit from Assistant Bishop Talbott, in the winter of 1866-67, for the purpose of organizing the church, he deemed it not advisable to do so.

The Quakers who settled in Jackson township in an early day erected the Quaker schoolhouse, a double hewed-log church.

A Menonite church was organized south of Kouts in 1920 by members of that faith who moved into Porter county and purchased huge farm tracts. The church is very prosperous. Rev. J. D. Birky was the first pastor of the church. He died in 1926. Rev. Aaron Egll is pastor at the present time.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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