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 6.


First Church Was Organized At Hebron; Valparaiso Followers of Faith Formed Church 2 Years Later

Presbyterian missionaries were early in the field of Indiana, and one of the first to visit Porter county was a man named Hannon, who represented that branch known as the Associate Reform Presbyterians. On July 28, 1838, he organized Bethlehem church of that faith where the Town of Hebron now stands. The first members of the congregation were Thomas Dinwiddie, Berkley Oliver, and Samuel Turner, and their wives; John W. and David P. Dinwiddie, Jr., Mary McCarnehan, Margaret A., and Margaret J. Dinwiddie and Susan P. West. Shortly after the church was organized, Mr. Hannon left and Rev. Wilson Blain became pastor. He remained until nabout 1847, and for the next three years the congregation was without a pastor.

In 1851 Rev. J. N. Buchanan became pastor and remained with the church for over thirty years. As the members were not in affluent circumstances, no attempt was made to erect a church. Meetings were held at the residences during the winter seasons, and in warm weather the groves were utilized as places of worship. Mr. Blain urged the members to build a church, even though it should be a humble one, and a log house was erected.

In 1852 a frame house was built three-fourths of a mile south of Hebron, at a cost of $1,200, all of which was paid up before the house was occupied. The house was removed to Hebron in 1864 and there used as a church until 1879, when a larger building was erected, costing $2,500.

This congregation is now known as the United Presbyterian church. At the present time the church has no pastor, its members attending the Valparaiso church. On Sunday, April 10, 1902, the United Presbyterians of northern Indiana met at Hebron, every church in the district being represented. G. T. Gordon was at that time installed as pastor of the Hebron church. Reports from the various congregations showed that during the preceding year more money had been raised by the church for foreign missions and benevolences than ever before. Communion was celebrated at Hebron in the morning and at Leroy in the afternoon.

It is quite probably that some meetings were held by Presbyterians in or about Valparaiso during the first three years after settlements were made here, and that sermons were preached by some early Presbyterian ministers who came to the county. No attempt was made to organize a church, however, until Dec. 4, 1839, when Rev. James C. Brown, a young licentiate preached a sermon in the old court house. He remained in the county, was soon afterward ordained to the ministry, and on July 2, 1840, assisted by Rev. W. K. Marshall, of LaPorte, organized the Valparaiso Presbyterian church.

The charter members of the organization were James and Isabel Blair, Morgan B. Crosby, Henry Batten, Mrs. Elizabeth Marshall, Mrs. Abby Salisbury, Mrs. Bathesheba Hamell, Mrs. Mary E. Brown and Mrs. Nancy buel. The Blairs' daughter, Mrs. Jane Morrison; her daughter, Mrs. Finette Pinney, and granddaughter, Mrs. Myra Clark, were all active members of the church while they lived in Valparaiso. Henry Batten, a Revolutionary soldier, born in 1745, was ninety-five when the church was organized. An old record quaintly remarks that he lived an exemplary life ever afterwards.

At the first meeting James Blair and Morgan Crosby were elected elders and Jeremiah Hamell, trustee and treasurer. Following are the minutes of the first meeting; "Previous notice having been given, Rev. Myers, W. R. Marshall and J. C. Brown, by order of the Presbytery of Logansport, on Friday afternoon, July 3, 1840, proceeded  to organize the Presbyterian church in the town of Valparaiso, Porter county, Indiana. Upon examination they were satisfied that the following persons had been members of the Presbyterian church in other places, James Blair and wife, Isabel, Mrs. Elizabeth Martin, Morgan B. Crosby, Henry Batten, Mrs. Elizabeth Marshall, Mrs. Abby Salisbury, Mrs. Bathesheba Hamell, Mrs. Mary Brown and Mrs. Nancy Buel."

These signifying their desire were constituted the Presbyterian church of Valparaiso, and having proceeded to the election of two ruling elders and trustees, the election gave choice of James Blaire and Morgan Crosby to the office of ruling elders and Jeremiah Hamell to the office of trustee of the church.

The same evening being appointed for the ordination and installation of the elders-elect, after sermon by Marshall, on that evening Morgan Crosby was ordained to the office of ruling elder by prayer and the imposition of hands, James Blair having been heretofore an elder in the Presbyterian church.

The first pastor of the church was Rev. J. C. Brown. The first Sunday school was organized by his wife, Mrs. Mary E. Brown with the help of her brother-in-law, Hugh A. Brown. Mrs. Brown also organized the first missionary society circle. Meetings were held first in the court house, then in a house just west of the Christian hospital.

The first Presbyterian church site was a part of the plot of ground deeded to Porter county by Benjamin and Deida McCarty for a court house in consideration on the town being located on their land. Oct. 1, 1841, Charles E. DeWolfe, county agent of Porter county, sold for thirty dollars Lot 8, block 28, for a church site to William Tainter, David Turner and Joseph Barr, trustees of the Presbyterian church. This lot is occupied now by the Collins and Agar properties, 156 South Franklin avenue.

The edifice which arose on this spot was erected by the combined efforts of the minister and the men of the church. The workers all wore white stiff bosom shirts and their wives brought coffee and doughnuts to refresh them, which were served from the Freeman home, diagonally across the street. Pastor Brown proved himself one of the best workers of the lot. These men had hewn down the forest trees on the Bartholomew farm north of town and squared the timbers there, then hauled them in with ox teams. The cost in money of the lot, home and furnishings was seven hundred and eighty dollars.

The building was a rectagonal frame structure with a square belfry on the middle of the front. Both the windows of the church and belfry were protected by green shutters which looked ornamental in contrast with the white siding.

It had been thought that the intersection of Monroe and Franklin would remain in the center of the town, but as early as 1854, Rev. Brown bought of John N. and Joanna E. Skinner Lot 3, in Block 8, site of the present Beach Plumbing shop, with the idea of moving the church there. July 17, 1857, Mr. and Mrs. Brown deeded the property to the trustees of the Presbyterian church. S. I. Anthony, W. C. Pennock, Jeremiah Pierce, Henry Isham and S. P. Robbins. When the building was moved to the new lot, they added thirty-five feet at the rear of the church proper. A deep platform across the entire front and three broad steps from the street walk gave a dignified approach. Later a room for the primary class was built to the southwest and a lecture room, as it was called, to the southeast. Some far-sighted member planted a row of sugar maples on either side. The sound of birds and bees, their lacy shadows on a warm summer morning made the church a delightful spot for young and old.

Regarding the interior, the seats were arranged in three rows, a double row down the middle and one on either side next to the windows, of which there were eight to the east and eight to the west. In the center of the south end of the building rose the pulpit with steps on each side. Doors on either side led into the primary and lecture rooms. At the north between the two doors was a raise choir loft with steps at either end. The building was heated by four box stoves located near the four corners. The respective wood boxes stood behind each stove. The straight backed pews were cushioned with red upholstering in Rev. Robert Beer's time.

For several years, Rev. Beer planned and prayed for a new church edifice. After the revival conducted by Rev. W. E. Loucks in 1881, funds were raised and the building commenced. Artillus Bartholomew, from whose woods the timbers of the first church had been hewed, started the subscription pledge with $1,000. A few years later his daughter, Mrs. Finette Simons, had built the organ at a cost of $2,500, to which she contributed a majority of the funds. The children of the church made pledges of five dollars or more. Stephen Finney, a young man, clerking in his uncle's store, pledged one hundred dollars. "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also," was exemplified in the lives of many who denied themselves in order to further the building of the present house of worship. The older members who recalled Mr. Brown contributed the funds for his beautiful memorial windows in the north gable. Those who were working heart and soul with Rev. Beer commemorated his labors in the east window.

In his earnest plans Rev. Beer included the idea of a corner lot for the church. Three locations were discussed, the present Smith property on the corner of Washington and Chicago; the lots on which the public library now stands, and the site where the church was finally built. On March 30, 1883, Homer W. and Carrie Porter deeded to A. V. Bartholomew, S. R. Bryant, Culver W. Zorn and A. D. Bartholomew, trustees of the Presbyterian church, the land on which the church stands. Mr. Beer's good taste suggested the Gothic architecture and he insisted on the sloping floor. The Porters were loath to sell and Mr. and Mrs. Beer consented to the church trading in the comfortable and conveniently located parsonage to consummate the deal. The building was dedicated, free of debt, on March 1, 1885. The dedication sermon was preached by Rev. Willis G. Craig, of Northwestern Theological Seminary, Chicago.

John D. Wilson, Valparaiso contractor, who built the Porter county court house, was the builder of the new church. Both buildings were built the same year. While the court house and church were being built the sessions of the court were held in the old Presbyterian church which was moved to the lot now occupied by the Beach plumbing shop. The cost of the building was $34,368.

Much of the religious-social life of the community centered in the manse. Rev. Brown's home on the corner of Jefferson street and the Old Sac Trail, possessed a living room of generous size and was the scene of prayer services, mite societies, missionary meetings, and donation parties. Young folks of the congregation were often married at one of these gatherings. Mark L. DeMotte, local congressman, and foremost citizen in his time, and Miss Lizzie Christy were married by Rev. Brown at a mite society. Mrs. Brown and the ladies of the church served an extra fine supper after the ceremony.

The following from the Valparaiso Republic, edited by R. A. Cameron, as of Feb. 5, 1863, says:

"We are much gratified at the perfect success of the Donation at Rev. Mr. Logan's Tuesday evening last. His house was fairly packed full of his friends. The receipts in money were exceedingly gratifying, amounting to $118 in cash. The affair was highly pleasing and entertaining and so far as we have heard expressed, everyone enjoyed himself amazingly. The viands that were served would highly compliment the best caterer in the land. The music, the groups here and there conversing, some angrily ---?--- in fund, imparted to the scene a high degree of social enjoyment."

The setting for this "social enjoyment" was either the present M. A. McNiece home, corner Institute and Lafayette street, or the home which Mr. Logan built for himself, the present Carr home just south of the new high school.

After Rev. Beer was installed as pastor, the church bought the property at the corner of Erie and Washington streets, the Dr. Evans' home, now owned by C. J. Spindler, for a parsonage, and until the last year of his ministry it was the home of the Beer family. The house had been built by Richard Lytle, father of Don Lytle, who, it is interesting to note, built the present manse.

According to many nothing has ever approached the success of the donation parties held in Mr. and Mrs. Beer's home. The church people of all ages, men, women and children, met together. Young folks got their winter outfits in anticipation of the event. All the good cooks of the congregation furnished their choicest dainties for the supper. To all appearances the donations looked like a combination of Christmas and all the birthday anniversaries in the town. The children were given the study to play in, and all knew that gentle Mrs. Beer would intercede if any of the older folks complained of the noise they made. There were sure that at supper they would be allowed to be three to each step, on the stairway in the hall and would be served with everything the grownups had except coffee. Mrs. Beer was one of the tiniest of women, but her heart took in all the children of the church.

As was said the parsonage was part of the price of the present church lot. Rev. N. S. Wilson occupied first the Arnold property, 306 Michigan, the brick house north Dr. Evans' old home. The Rev. J. B. Fleming family was the first to enjoy the new manse. The records show that Charles W. and Mary C. Dickover deeded the lot in September, 1882, to James McFetrich, William Emery Brown, George Finney, Charles W. Dickover and Nathan L. Agnew, trustees. People on Washington street remember that Mr. Fleming and some of the men of the church successfully transported the coal stove and its glowing fire from the old home to the new. The traditions of friendship, co-operation, and hospitality for the new manse were set up on that day. It has been the home of all the pastors since.

Br. Browns face and name were familiar to all Presbyterian families in Porter county for three generations. After his death at Paducah, Ky., during the Civil war, which serving as chaplain of his regiment, Mrs. Brown returned to their family home on Jefferson street. Copies of an oil portrait of her husband she gave to his people. Those framed pictures on the walls of living rooms reminded fathers and mothers, who told their children that Mr. Brown never allowed Sunday visiting except among one's kin. That Mr. Brown believed one should serve a simple meal on the Sabbath; that Mr. Brown did tolerate the circus and so forth. All these good people endorsed every one of the mandates. His influence was immense to the end of the century, had prepared young men for college, had maintained in his home what might be called a private academy for boys and girls and so has set standards of education as well as or morals and religion for the whole community.

"He was stern but you cannot say too much of his goodness," Mrs. Josephus Skinner exclaimed when asked she remembered of Mr. Brown. "In the morning he preached a great sermon to his people here; immediately after dinner he rode horseback to some group in this or Lake county; at the evening service he seemed almost exhausted and frequently called on my father, Morgan Crosby, to offer the prayer before the sermon. In snowy weather he always saw that the church steps were cleared and the house comfortable."

John Herr was the first chorister. He played the tune on a fiddle to start the singing. When the choir had practiced a new one, Mr. Brown often upset their plans by adding, after reading the lines, please sing Mear, his favorite song.

Mrs. Bathesba Hamell made the bread for the first communion, and for almost ninety years until her granddaughter, Miss May Stickney, went to California, her family prepared the communion loaves.

Rev. S. C. Logan came to Valparaiso with his wife and children in the troubled days of the Civil war. His wifes family were from the South and people suspected him of Southern sympathies. The Misses Sophia and Lily Loring, his wife's sisters, were in Charleston when Fort Sumter was bombarded. He made a perilous journey through the battle lines to bring them home. The following from the dairy of Col. Mark L. DeMotte had the following to say of Rev. Logan:

"I recall many individuals among the order and leading citizens of Valparaiso, but one who most impressed me and many other was our Presbyterian minister, Rev. Samuel A. Logan. Many doubted him and were inclined to assign him to the ranks of the enemy. It was known that his nearest of kin lived in Charleston. He had stood for an hour or more with flushed face, taking no part in the wild scene than to occasionally pound with his cane (the wild scene refers to the discussion on the court house square of the firing on Fort Sumter). In some way, I cannot recall how, he intimated that he would speak. There was a moment of silence and in that moment, in a loud voice, but quivering with emotion, he said in substance: "The dearest of my kin are of the assaulting party in this first battle of the war. May God spare our country from disruption, let the cost be what it may."

He resigned his pastorate in three years, though he remained in Valparaiso five and preached his resignation sermon from the text, Acts 23:31, "Remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears."

Rev. Robert Beer was a friend to anyone in need. This was typical of his life in Valparaiso. Someone was always sending for him and he gave advice, assistance and sympathy to all who entreated him. Often he was seen standing on the corner of Washington and Chicago streets, where their paths divided, in serious conversation over their mutual yearning for the uplift of the people of Valparaiso. He had been educated for the law and took up the burdens of the ministry because he felt a call that could not be resisted to a field where the harvest was great and the labors few. Mr. and Mrs. Beer's final sacrifice for the church was leaving the cheerful parsonage on Washington street for a house considered then almost out of town on East Main street. This was done that the trustees might acquire the lots where the present church edifice stands. In those days men thought it imperative to build the house of God in the center of the community, for everyone in town walked, and many came to morning church, evening church and Sunday school at two o'clock in the afternoon.

Rev. S. N. Wilson, his wife, and six beautiful children were an ideal minister's family. Husband, wife and older children were leaders in the different activities of Sunday school, prayer meeting, missionary meetings and Christian Endeavor, as well as  the regular preaching services. Two of their children, Donald and Allajeanette, were born in Valparaiso. Little Gertrude sickened and died here.

Rev. J. Budman Fleming followed Rev. Wilson. The Flemings were a musical and intellectual family. His ministry continued the background of culture which each pastor's family before them had supplied.

With the new century came Rev. Martin Luther, the first of the modernists. All the other pastors had formed warm friendships with the ministers of the other denominations but Mr. Luther's friendliness extended to every citizen of the town. He counted among his warm friends men in every walk of life.

Rev. Cyrus Boyd Beckus, successor to Rev. Luther also took much interest in local affairs and his wife was easily first lady in any social group. They had one lovely little daughter.

To Dr. Joseph Mercer Gelston the people of the Presbyterian church accorded much the same reverence which they had given Rev. Brown. He had come to Valparaiso from Ann Arbor, Mich., where he had been pastor of a large university congregation. But he and his good wife very quickly established the closest relations with their people. All loved and honored them and profited both mentally and spiritually by knowing these splendid, simple-minded people.

Rev. Robert Dunaway, who succeeded Rev. Gelston, remained out one year in Valparaiso and people were only beginning to get acquainted with the family, when he was called to a larger pastorate in Iowa.

The Whartons, for it is not possible to think of the minister today apart from his family, came to Valparaiso in 1922. In them the church enjoys again the energy and outlook of Mr. and Mrs. Brown, the kindly charity of Mr. and Mrs. Beer, the beautiful home life of the Wilsons, the Flemings, the liberal views and civic spirit of the Gelstons. The church has been greatly blessed in their ministry.

A Presbyterian church was formed in Portage township in the early fifties, and a house was erected by S. P. Robbins in 1852 at a cost of $800, more than three-fourths of which was the first of the Mr. Robbins himself. Some of the early members of the church were S. P. Robbins, Benjamin Stoddard, Russell Dorr and their wives. Daniel Richardson, Francis James, Emily James, a man named Leters and his sister. Rev. James C. Brown was the first preacher. He was followed by a Mr. Humphrey and later a minister named Ogden served as pastor. Services were then held at irregular intervals for awhile by ministers from various churches, after which the congregation was disbanded, the members joining other churches, and the Methodists acquired possession of the house, located about a half mile south of the village of McCool.

In 1885 a Presbyterian church was organized at Tassinong, near the southern border of Morgan township, and a house of worship costing some $800 was erected the same year. Joseph Bartholomew and George Biggart each gave $150 toward the building of the church, and the citizens assisted in its construction with the understanding that other denominations should have the free use of the house at times when the Presbyterians were not occupying it. Rev. James C. Brown was a liberal contributor to the cause, and for some time acted as pastor, holding services in the morning at Valparaiso and in the afternoon at Tassinong. Other ministers who preached in this church were S. C. Logan, Robert Williams, S. R. Baker, Henry Cullom and Frank Ferguson, and two men named Kinney and Moore. Death and removals decimated the congregation until the old church at Tassinong was finally abandoned.

On Oct. 29, 1860, and Old School Presbyterian church was organized at Hebron, with the following member: William Mackey, E. Mackey, Gideon and Jane Brecourt, A. A. Burwell, Rebecca Burwell, Mary E. Hill, Clark L. and Nancy Tannehill, Margaret M. Gill, Carrie M. Wilson, Stella McCollum, Jane Aylesworth and T. C. Sweney. Rev. J. L. Lower was the first pastor, and Amos A. Burwell and William Mackey the first elders. Clark L. Tannehill, T. C. Sweeney and Gideon Brecourt was elected the first board of trustees.

In June, 1873, the congregation bought the old school house and fitted it up for church purposes. For a time the congregation was connected with the one at Crown Point and later with the one Tassinong. About 1876 the membership was somewhere near forty, but five years later it had dwindled to twenty-five.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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