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HE history of the Presbyterian Church in Franklin* dates from the 30th day of November 1824. In what house the little congregation met to engage in public worship on the occasion of the organization is not known, but it is not unfair to presume that it was the old log court house. The record chronicling the organization reads as follows: “Franklin, Johnson County, Indiana, November 30, 1824.—This certifies that after public worship, the following persons, who were members of the Presbyterian Church, came forward and were, by administration of the subscriber, with prayer, constituted a Church of Christ, which was, by agreement, called Franklin: George and Eleanor King, Joseph and Nancy Young and David McCaslin. The members proceeded to choose George King and David McCaslin to the office of ruling elders, who were ordained to that office after a sermon by the Rev. George Bush. The session then received Jane McCaslin a member of the church on examination. (Signed) Rev. John M. Dickey, moderator.”

At this point it may not be improper to speak a word with reference to the ministers who officiated on the occasion. From the internal evidence contained in the record it is apparent that Rev. John M. Dickey preached the organization sermon. The Rev. George Bush, who preached the ordination sermon, was born in Vermont in 1796, was educated at Dartmouth College, and studied theology at Princeton. In 1824, he came to Indianapolis, and remained in this state for nearly five years. He was the author of a number of well-known works, and died about the year 1869. The record shows that Jane McCaslin, who was the wife of David W., was the first member admitted “on profession of faith.” On the 25th of June following, Simon Covert and Mary, his wife, were admitted on “certificates,” and at the same time, their infant daughter, Dorothy Ann, was baptized, the first celebration of this ordinance occurring within the church. In August of 1827, Mrs. Margaret Gilchrist, the wife of Robert Gilchrist, died, hers being the first death of a member of this church.

For many years there were neither pastor nor house of worship. Sometimes meetings were held at Pleasant Hill, now Hopewell, and sometimes the members met at private houses, occasionally in the open woods, but oftener in the old court log-house. Those who ministered to the people then came at the charge of others; Franklin was a missionary station. Of these missionaries, the names of Revs. Isaac Reed, William Duncan, John Moreland, Jeremiah Hill and William Wood, are the most familiar. In 1830, Rev. David Monfort, of the Presbytery of Chillicothe, Ohio, came into the state as a missionary, and was installed pastor of the Franklin Church six months after his coming. Dr. Monfort served the church until 1850, when he was succeeded by Rev. James A. McKee, whose pastorate continued ten years. He was succeeded by Rev. Alexander B. Morey, whose labors continued a little over ten years. Rev. Samuel E. Wishard was the next pastor. His labors began in 1871, and closed in 1877. His successor was Rev. William Torrence, whose pastorate continued about nine years, ending in 1886. Toward the close of the later year, Rev. Ernest McMillen, the present pastor, was installed.

The Church now embraces 646 members, being the second in the state in point of numerical strength. The following named ministers were members of this church prior to licensure, the first two being deceased: Revs. John C. King, Anderson Wallace, Samuel E. Barr, James H. L. Vannuys, Robert M. Overstreet and Sylvester Bergen. The church worshiped in a frame structure until 1852, when a plain, commodious brick building was erected. This was taken down in 1875, and the present church edifice erected on the same site. The present building is of brick and stone, Gothic style, with slate roof, and seats 650 persons, with a lecture room seating 500 adjoining in the rear, and so arranged with sliding doors, that upon occasions the two can be thrown into one large audience chamber. The value of the property is estimated at $30,000. Officers, 1888.—Elders: A. Bergen, R. V. Ditmars, J. R. Covert, W. H. Lagrange, George W. Voris, George W. Demaree, C. H. Voris, I. N. Lagrange, W. B. Ellis. Deacons: W. B. McCollough, J. C. Smith, C. M. Demaree, E. C. Miller, O. C. Dunn, and R. A. Brown. Trustees: John Clark, I. M. Crowell and R. A. Alexander. Congregational Clerk: W. B. McCollough. Treasurer: E. C. Miller. Chorister: C. H. Voris. Organist: Mrs. Julia Voris.

*From Judge Banta’s Semi-Centennial Address.

Transcribed by Cheryl Zufall Parker

Banta, D. D. History of Johnson County, Indiana. Chicago, IL: Brant & Fuller, 1888, pages 837–839.