History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana, Volume 2 – Berry Robinson Sulgrove
In a history mainly composed of the incidents that indicate the growth of a community, and the direction and character of it, where few are important enough to require an extended narration, and the remainder afford little material, it is not easy to construct a continuous narrative, or to so connect the unrelated points as to prevent the work taking on the aspect of a pretentious directory. In this case, however, the author presents us an almost perfect history of the town of Indianapolis, including all townships, and Marion County, Indiana. This is volume two out of two.
History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana, Volume 2
Excerpt from the text:
Churches of Indianapolis.
The primitive churches of the city and of the entire West, where there were no rituals or authoritative forms, differed little from each other in public observances or the rites of worship, and a stranger might easily mistake one for the other, as preachers are said to have done sometimes, till the sermon came to enlighten him. It was a rare sermon that did not betray the sectarian cast of the congregation. Now the points of identity or similarity have made a complete revolution. The deferences are more discernible in forms and methods than sermons. It is a rare sermon now that indicates the sectarian attitude or tendency of the church. Forty and fifty years ago it was a rare one that did not. There might be nothing precedent in the seating of the congregation, in the hymns or prayers or attitudes, to distinguish a Methodist from a Baptist meeting, but the sermon would do it. The tendency of the religious feeling of those days was to sects and separations. It magnified differences. It hunted more diligently than intelligently for Scriptural excuses for division. It perverted texts to support creeds and uncharitable criticisms of varying creeds. The best sermon was that which made the best array of plausibilities for sectarian separation. The truest preacher was he who could make most nearly incontestable the saving efficacy of what Baptist A. believed and the futility of what Methodist B. believed. Thus, as related in the general history, came frequent collisions and public debates and acrimonious feelings. The condition of society out of which they grew is hardly conceivable to a community that hears Rev. Myron Reed, of the Presbyterian Church, speak with fraternal warmth of the pious zeal of the Catholic Father Bessonies. It was little less than sinful in early days to commend anything that another church or preacher did. The rigidly righteous took it for a sinful compliance, a giving way to the worldly spirit, a warning of evil, if not worse. The iron fixedness of faith of the Puritans was the dominant characteristic of the religious element of the community. It had its admirable qualities for the generation in which it was active, but it passed away with other conditions of the times, and allowed the approach of the change in which to-day we rarely hear sectarian differences alluded to in the pulpit. The sermon in a Methodist Church might be acceptably preached in any other of the four score of churches of different creeds, and pulpits are exchanged with no disturbance of religious complacency. The changes of material condition are hardly more striking than the changes of moral condition. The log house, little handsomer or handier than the barn in the next field, has given place to stone and brick edifices that are as sightly as costly, the benches or split-bottomed chairs to carved and cushioned pews, the hearty but dissonant singing to the trim accuracy of a paid choir and a professional organist, the cheap exhorter and extempore outgiving to the high-paid pastor and written sermon; but no one of these nor all together are more impressive to the thoughtful mind than the change which has so nearly obliterated the sectarian differences so obtrusive a generation ago. Church members may have grown more worldly-minded, more luxurious, more of the Gallio type, but they have certainly grown more charitable, not so much in the ready bestowal of money as the willing exercise of generous opinion and appreciation, — a far more commendable trait and harder to come by.
In the general history is given a brief sketch of the origin of each of the early churches, their location, and the character of their buildings. It will be unnecessary to repeat these points here, but it may be well to note that but a single church established in the first twenty years of the city’s history remains in its original situation. Rev. Mr. Hyde, in his address at the opening of the new Plymouth Church, said the congregation first worshiped in the Senate chamber of the State-House, then in a hall on South Illinois Street, then in the State-House again, then in the front hall of the first Plymouth Church, now a part of the English “Quadrant,” and added, “I believe this has been the history of all the larger congregations in the city. Of the churches that were here when I came that then thought they were occupying permanent homes, nearly all have moved and enlarged.”
It is true that the first congregations of the larger denominations have moved once, at least, and some oftener. The Baptists, who had the first local habitation here in 1823, in a school-house on the north side of Maryland Street, between Tennessee and Mississippi, nearly opposite the residence of Henry Bradley, one of the leading members, first organized in the school-house on the point of Kentucky Avenue and Illinois Street in 1822. They moved to the southwest corner of Maryland and Meridian Streets in 1829, but not till they had petitioned the Legislature for the donation of a lot for a building site, and failed. The house here was a broad, squatty one-story brick, with a wooden bell-tower against a little frame school-house a hundred feet west. This was replaced a dozen years later by a finer structure on the same site, and it burned one Sunday morning early in January, 1861, and then the church moved to its present site. This made the second removal for the Baptists. The Presbyterians built first, in 1824, on the site of the Exchange Block; moved to the Times office site in 1842, and to its present place in 1866, — two removals for them. The Methodists first had a log house, in 1825, on Maryland Street, a little west of Meridian, on the south side, and kept it till 1829. Then they built their first regular church edifice, and used it till 1846. Then they tore that down and built Wesley Chapel. They sold that in 1869 and built Meridian Church, making the fourth house and second removal. The Christians built their first church in 1835-36, on Kentucky Avenue. They moved to the present site of Central Chapel in 1852, one removal fur them. The Catholics first built in a hackberry-grove on the military ground, near the corner of West and Washington Streets, in 1840. In 1850 St. John’s Church was built, on Georgia Street, and in 1867 the Cathedral replaced it, making two removals for them. The Episcopalians alone of all the leading denominations have never changed. Their first church was on the spot where the present Christ Church stands. Few remains of any of the old churches are visible now. The first Episcopal Church was moved to Georgia Street near the canal, for a colored church, and burned the second or third year. The first Baptist Church on the old site, corner of Maryland and Meridian Streets, was torn down and the second burned down. The first Presbyterian Church — the old frame — was torn down, and so was the brick where the Journal building is. The first Christian Church, a frame, was preserved and is now a tenement-house. The first Methodist (log) Church was torn down. So was the first brick, but Wesley Chapel was changed to the late Sentinel building. Roberts’ Chapel was incorporated in one of Martindale’s blocks. The Fourth Presbyterian Church was put into Baldwin’s Block, and Beecher’s church is the body of Circle Hall. St. John’s Catholic Church was torn away entirely when the Cathedral was built. The first Lutheran Church, 1838, near the southeast corner of Meridian and Ohio Streets, was torn away entirely. It removed to the southwest corner of Alabama and New York Streets, where it remained for many years, and then moved uptown to the corner of Pennsylvania and Walnut Streets.
There are now eighty-eight churches in the city, each, with one or two exceptions, with a building of its own and erected for it. Of these the Methodists, including the German and Colored Conferences, and the Methodist Protestant, have twenty-four; the Presbyterians have fourteen; the Baptist, thirteen; the Catholics, seven; the Christians (formerly better known as ” Disciples,” or ” Campbellites”), six; the Episcopalians, with the Episcopal Reformed, six; the Lutherans, six; the Congregationalists, two; the Hebrews, two; the German Reformed, three; the Evangelical Association, one; the Friends, one; United Presbyterian, one; United Brethren, one; Swedenborgian, one. In 1868, and for some time following, the Unitarians formed an organization here with the Rev. Henry Blanchard as pastor, and used the Academy of Music as a place of worship. But it has been dissolved for ten or twelve years. The Universalists had two churches here for a number of years, but now have none. The first was organized about forty years ago, but soon failed, and was reorganized in 1853, or replaced by an organization of the same views, of which Rev. B. F. Foster, Grand Secretary of the Odd-Fellows, and still the most eminent clergyman of that faith in the State, was the first pastor. In 1860 he was succeeded by Rev. W. C. Brooks for a year; resumed his pastorate for five years more, and was again succeeded, in 1866, by Rev. J. M. Austin, of New York. He resigned in about six months, and Mr. Foster, then State Librarian, resumed his pastoral charge and kept it till his civil office expired in 1869. Since then the church has had no pastor, no settled worship, and never had a building of its own. It used at one time or another the old court-house, the old seminary lecture-room (Mr. Beecher’s first church). College Hall, Temperance Hall (where the News Block is), Masonic Hall, and the hall on the southwest corner of Delaware and Maryland Streets. In 1860 a personal difference in the original Universalist Church caused a secession under the lead of the eminent manufacturer, Mr. John Thomas, and the colony bought a lot and built a house on Michigan Street near Tennessee. Of this Mr. Thomas became the sole owner, and when the church ceased to use it, as it did after the first year, while Rev. C. E. Woodbury and Rev. W. W. Curry (afterwards Secretary of State) were pastors, it was occupied by the Wesley Chapel (Methodist) Church during the time their own Meridian Church was in progress, and later by a division of Strange Chapel (Methodist), under the noted and eloquent J. W. T. McMullen, first colonel of the Fifty-first Indiana Volunteers. It is now occupied by the North Presbyterian (colored) Church. There are ten colored churches in the city, — four Methodist, four Baptist, one Presbyterian, and one Christian.
First Baptist Church. — Although religious services were held in the new settlement ss early as the spring of 1821, and continued occasionally, sometimes in the woods and sometimes in private houses, no church organization was made till the 10th of October, 1822. Then the First Baptist Church was formed. The history of this earliest of Indianapolis churches is told briefly in the old records which may be introduced here as of more interest than any secondhand account could be. The first entry says, ” The Baptists at and near Indianapolis, having removed from various parts of the world, met at the .school-house in Indianapolis (this was the first school-house near the point of junction of Illinois Street and Kentucky Avenue in August, 1822), and after some consultation, adopted the following resolution: Resolved, That we send for help, and meet at Indianapolis on the 20th day of September next for the purpose of establishing a regular Baptist Church at said place. That John W. Reding write letters to Little Flat Rock and Little Cedar Grove Churches for help. That Samuel Mcormack (McCormick) write letters to Lick Creek and Franklin Churches for helps. Then adjourned.”
The next entry reads thus: ” Met according to adjournment; Elder Tyner, from Little Cedar Grove, attended as a help from that church, and after divine service went into business. Letters were received and read from Brothers Benjamin Barns, Jeremiah Johnson, Thomas Carter (the tavern-keeper), Otis Hobart, John Hobart, Theodore V. Denny, John Mcormack (McCormick), Samuel Mcormack, John Thompson, and William Dodd, and sisters Jane Johnson, Nancy Carter, Nancy Thompson, Elizabeth Mcormack, and Polly Carter. Then adjourned until Saturday morning, 10th October.” That day the organization was completed, and the old record tells the event thus: ” Met according to adjournment, and after divine service letters were read from John W. Reding and Hannah Skinner. Brother B. Barns was appointed to speak, and answer for the members; and Brother Tyner went into an examination, and finding the members sound in the faith, pronounced them a regular Baptist Church, and directed them to go into business. Brother Tyner was then chosen moderator, and John W. Reding, clerk. Agreed to be called and known by the name of the First Baptist Church at Indianapolis. Then adjourned till the third Saturday in October, 1822. J. W. Reding, clerk.” There was not much form or ceremony observed in constituting this old church, and a later meeting, in which financial matters were the main subject of consideration, shows that there was as little pretension to worldly wealth among the members. ” At a church meeting held at Indianapolis on the third Saturday of January, 1823, after divine service. Brother B. Barns, moderator, on motion, Brother , J. Thompson was unanimously called to serve this church as a deacon, having previously been ordained. The reference taken up respecting a church fund, the brethren whose names here follows paid Brother J. Thompson twenty-five cents each: H. Bradley, J. W. Reding, S. Mcormack, T. V. Denny, T. Carter, J. , Hobart, D. Wood, J. Thompson. On motion, agreed that Brother B. Barns be sent as a help to constitute a church at White Lick, near the Bluffs of White River, when called on by the brethren at that place. Ordered, that Brothers T. Carter, H. Bradley, and D. Wood be a committee to make arrangements for a place of worship and report to the next meeting. J. W. Reding, clerk.” The next entry says, ” The committee chosen for the purpose of making arrangements for a place of worship, reported that the schoolhouse may be had without interruption.” Whether this school-house was the first one built in the town, as above noted, or another on Maryland Street, north side, west of Tennessee Street, does not appear from the record, but it was probably the latter, and must have stood on or very near the site of Alexander Ralston’s residence. A little single-room hewed log house did stand near that rather pretentious structure for several years after his death. On the third Saturday of June, 1823, a meeting was held at which Mr. Barnes, who had been the leading member of the organization from the start, ” requested and was granted a letter of dismission.” Following this is the statement, ” Agreed, that Brother B. Barns be called to preach to this church once a month until the end of this year, to which Brother Barns agreed.” Thus the First Baptist Church had a complete organization, a place of worship, and a regular, though not frequent preacher in two years after the town was laid out.
As noted above, the church petitioned the Legislature in November, 1824, for a lot to build a house of worship upon, but failed. The order says, ” On motion, agreed that the church petition the present General Assembly for a site to build a meeting-house upon, and that the southeast half of the shaded block 90 be selected, and that Brothers J. Hobart, H. Bradley, and the clerk be appointed a committee to bear the petition Saturday in February.” What is meant by a ” shaded block” can only be conjectured, but it probably referred to a grove that made a pleasant shelter. In the spring of 1825, Major Thomas Chinn, who lived on the north side of Maryland Street, pretty nearly opposite the site of the east end of the Grand Hotel, invited the church to meet at his residence during the summer, and they did. In June, 1825, a lot was purchased for a church building, and measures taken to finish a small frame house upon it for that use, but the matter was put off after an assessment was made on the fifteen adult males of the congregation of forty-eight dollars to pay for the lot, a little over three dollars each. In 1826, Rev. Cornelius Duvall, of Kentucky, was called to the charge of the church, but he never accepted or never acted, and in December, 1826, Rev. Abraham Smock was called for one year, accepted and set to work. During his pastorate the lot on the southwest corner of Meridian and Maryland Streets was purchased, and in 1829 the first Baptist Church building erected, as above related. This was removed fifteen or twenty years afterwards and a handsome church with a fine spire erected, which was burned the first Sunday in 1861, when the present site, on the northwest corner of New York and Pennsylvania Streets, was obtained and built upon.
Rev. Abraham Smock remained pastor till 1830. when he resigned and left the church without a pastor for some years, though several ministers preached statedly, and one. Rev. Byron Lawrence, in 1832 was requested to ” preach as frequently as he can on Lord’s day for six months.” Under the stated arrangement Revs. Jamison Hawkins (grandfather of Nicholas McCarty), Byron Lawrence, and Ezra Fisher preached till February, 1834, when Mr. Fisher was called to be the stated preacher of the church. He retired in the fall or winter of 1834, and Rev. T. C. Townsend was requested to preach till a regular pastor was obtained. Then in July, 1835, came Rev. and Dr. John L. Richmond, who served for six or eight years, and was one of the best known and esteemed clergymen and physicians in the town. He was a good deal of a humorist and one of the most eccentric men both in appearance and conduct who ever lived here, but withal a genuine Christian and a noble man. It was told of him that he once silenced a braggart who was boasting of the fertility of his farm, particularly in pumpkins, by telling him that ” his farm was nothing to one he (the doctor) had seen recently.” ” Why, what could that farm do?” ” The pumpkins grew so thick all over one of the fields that if a man would kick one on one side of the field it would shake those against the fence on the other side.” The laugh of the company at this sally stopped the boaster from repeating his folly. In 1843, Rev. George C. Chandler succeeded Dr. Richmond, who was himself succeeded by Rev. T. R. Cressy in 1847, and he in 1852 by Rev. Sydney Dyer, who attained considerable distinction as a poet, and published a volume of poems about 1856. Rev. J. B. Simmons followed, and remained till 1861. After the burning of the church in that year the congregation worshiped in Masonic Hall till the new edifice was completed. It was begun in 1862. Rev. Henry Day succeeded Mr. Simmons in 1861, and remained till a few years ago. The present pastor is Rev. Henry C. Mabie. The number of members is five hundred and sixty-nine; Sunday-school pupils, about five hundred; value of property, about sixty-five thousand dollars.
South Street Baptist Church: — This was at first a mission church, established by the old First or Home Church, which purchased the lot on the southwest corner of Noble and South Streets about 1867, and built a small but pretty chapel there. In 1869 a number of the members of the parent church, whose places of residence made a church more convenient there than away off at University Square, formed an organization, and with a membership of seventy-six took the mission building as a gift from the old congregation and at once established a flourishing church there. A handsome new building replaced the mission house a few years ago. Pastor, Rev. I. N. Clark. Membership, two hundred and ninety-five; Sunday-school pupils, three hundred and fifty; value of property, about twenty thousand dollars.
Garden Baptist Church. — This also was a mission established in 1866 on Tennessee Street, and then removed to the corner of Washington and Missouri Streets. It finally built its own house on Bright Street. Pastor, Rev. B. F. Patt. Membership, one hundred; Sunday-school pupils, one hundred and fifty; value of property, six thousand dollars.
North Baptist Church. — This, like the other two. was a mission branch of the old First Church, established on the corner of Broadway and Cherry Streets, where it still is. The present pastor is Rev. Daniel D. Read. Membership, one hundred and thirty-one; Sunday-school pupils, one hundred and fifty; value of property, about eight thousand dollars.
Third Baptist Tabernacle, though named in the city directory with a pastor, Rev. Christopher Wilson, and located on Rhode Island Street, does not appear in the official list of the Association.
German Baptist Church. — Pastor, Rev. August Boelter, corner of Davidson and North Streets.
Mount Zion Baptist Church, Second and Lafayette Streets. Pastor, Rev. William Singleton.
New Bethel Baptist Church, Beeler Street. Rev. Jacob R. Raynor, pastor.
Judson Baptist Church, Fletcher Avenue, reported disorganized. These last four churches, like the Tabernacle, do not appear in the authoritative lists of the Association, but do in the directory.