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 8.


Baptists of County Were Off To Early Start; First Meeting In Grove In 1836

The Rev. Alpheus French preached to twenty-five persons in a religious meeting held in a grove at Blachly's Corners, in Union township, in the spring of 1836.

That meeting is credited with being the first held by a Baptist minister within the confines of Porter county. Another not well authenticated report is that Rev. Asabel Neal organized a congregation in Morgan township in the latter part of 1835 or early in 1836. Rev. Neal and Rev. French were Baptist missionaries who with Methodist circuit riders invaded the country in 1835 to spread the gospel among the early settlers.

On June 10, 1837, Rev. French organized the First Baptist church at the home of Morris Witham on Morgan's Prairie, with twelve members, among whom were John and Drusilla Bartholomew, Edmond and Charity Billings, James and Rebecca Witham, John Robinson, Warner and Adelia Pierce. John Robinson and John Bartholomew were first deacons and Jacob C. White, first clerk. On February 8, 1840, the name of the church was changed to the "First Baptist Church of Valparaiso.

For some time the congregation was without a permanent house of worship, the meetings during this period being held in various places. Elder French served as pastor until 1842. He was succeeded by Harlowe S. Orton, who served for about two years. Rev. W. T. Bly was then pastor until 1847, when he was succeeded by Rev. Alexander Nickerson. Under his ministry a church building was erected at a cost of $2,200. It was dedicated on March 13, 1853, and since that time the congregation has had a permanent home, although the old church edifice was supplanted by a new one which was dedicated November 13, 1881. It is located on the northwest corner of Lafayette and Chicago streets and was erected at a cost of $6,100.

In June, 1912, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the church was celebrated with appropriate exercises, meetings be held daily from the 9th to the 14th of the month.

In 1924 the church building was remodeled and enlarged at a cost of $20,000. The building committee consisted of Ross Winship, H. C. Swartout, Arthur Siercks, Lois Pinney, Stella Wade, H. W. Hock, and Edith Pinney. The new building was officially dedicated on February 15, 1925. Rev. W. W. Ayer as pastor at the time of the new building improvements.

Since its organization the church ahs had pastors as follows: Alpheus French, W. T. Bly, Alexander Nickerson, Henry Smith, O. T. Brayton, J. D. Cole, J. M. Maxwell, M. T. Lamb, Otis Saxton, W. W. Caplinger, W. A. Clark, E. S. Riley, C. J. Pope, J. B. Banker, David Heagle, W. E. Randall, W. E. Storey, John L. Boyd, H. B. Benninghoff, S. I. Long, J. A. Knowlton, John W. Newsom, C. G. Roadarmel, C. A. Mitchell, William Ward Ayer, Carl G. Steward, and Rev. Robert L. Ryerse, present pastor.

On April 10, 1858, the Union Center Baptist church in Union township was started by letter granted from the First Baptist Church of Valparaiso, under the supervision of Deacons Blachly, Orrin Peck, and Captain Wood. During the fall of 1875 through the efforts of Elder French, the society receivd a number of additions to its membership.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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