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Chicago F.A. Battey and Company Publishers 1882

Town of LaGrange
Part 4

By John Paul Jones

Town of LaGrange-(Part 1) First Plat-Early Residents-The County Seat Question-Appearance Of 
The Village Thirty-Eight Years Ago-(Part 2) Former Mercantile Establishments-Gradual Growth 
and Developement-Industrial Enterprises-(Part 3) Secret Societies-Present Business Occupations- 
(Part 4) Outline Sketch of Religious and Educational Interests-Cemetery. 

      In LaGrange, as in all communities, the spiritual welfare of the people was among the first things to be looked after and cared for. The inhabitants of the little hamlet, in its earliest days, were blessed by the presence of the preacher, who held meetings at any convenient place until provision was made for a regular house of worship. The Rev. Thomas B. Connelly, who was a resident of the township, probably preached the first sermon in the town. Revs. James Latty, Abram Rowe, Charles J. Fox and James Roy were also among the early local preachers who labored efficiently among the pioneers of  the place. The Methodist Episcopal was the first church society formed in LaGrange. It was organized, in 1843, by Rev. William J. Forbes,who was the preacher in charge of 
the LaGrange Circuit. It consisted of the following members: James Packer and Esther, his wife, both of whom are living about two miles east of town; Amasa Durand and his wife Hannah, now the wife of Robert McClaskey and residing in LaGrange. Mr. Durand died in 1849. He was the owner of and resided at the time 
of his death on the farm adjoining the original village plat, a part of which is embraced in the Ryason Addition. 
Though a strong man, both mentally and physically, the labor of clearing this farm was the cause of his early demise. Isaac P. Grannis and his wife Rhoda were members. The latter is living in Johnson Township. Mr.Grannis died 
in 1863. George Hopkins and Sarah, his wife, were also members. He died in 1850. Mr. Hopkins usually led 
in the singing in those early days and in fine old Methodist style. His widow, who married Mr. Sanderson, is still living. Mr. Packer was the first class leader. The ministers sent to the place have been as follows: William J. Forbes and J. C. Medsker in 1843, E. Doud, William G. Stonex, Elijah S. Blue, Elihu Anthony, Jesse Sparks, Elijah Lilliston, L. W. Monson, John H. Bruce, Ezra Maynard, John R. Davis, Emanuel Hall, Charles Ketcham, Samuel Lamb, James Beswick, Abijah Marine, John Maffit John Hill, Reuben Tobey, F. T. Simpson, D. P. Hartman, James Johnson, J. M. Mann, E. S. Preston, J. H. Hutchinson, J. W. Welch, Enoch Holdstock, Almon Greenman, Y. B. Merdith, C. E. Disbro, and the present Pastor, B. A. Kemp. This charge was connected with the circuit until 1862, when it became a station under one pastor in charge. The 
presiding Elders officiating here have been: George M. Boyd, 1844; Samuel Brenton, 1848; S. C. Cooper, 1849; Jacob M. Stallard, 1850; H. B. Beers, 1851; Jacob Colclazier, 1853; L. W. Monson, 1857; W. S. Burch, 1861; Thomas Stabler, 1865; H. J. Meck, 1869; O. V. Lemmon, 1873;  A. Greenman, 1877; and M. H. Mendenhall, appointed in 1881. Samuel Brenton, while serving on this district as Presiding Elder, was 
stricken with paralysis, which compelled him to retire from the active work of the ministry. He was subsequently 
appointed by President Taylor Register of the Land Office at Fort Wayne, and was elected three terms to 
Congress from the old Tenth District, and died in Fort Wayne in 1856. Elijak S. Blue was accidentally killed in December, 1845, on his way from an appointment at Wolcottville to his home at Ontario. Having dismounted, and while leading his horse with the halter strap fastened around his wrist, the animal became frightened and ran, 
dragging the preacher after him, striking his head against a wagon in the road, then against the fence. He was 
instantly killed. The church edifice erected by this denomination was completed in 1856, at a cost of about $3,000. 
It has since been improved and a parsonage added, increasing the value of the whole property to about $5,000. 
It is a substantial frame building, with a basement used for prayer and class meetings and as a lecture room. The 
seating capacity is about five hundred. The Sabbath school was organized in 1853. It now numbers twenty-nine officers and teachers and 175 scholars, with an average attendance of 150. The school is in a prosperous condition, under the superintendency of George C. Morgan. There has recently been organized a Sabbath school normal class, under competent instructors, for the purpose of giving particular attention to Biblical study. The membership 
of the church is now about three hundred. 

     The Presbyterian Church was organized in the winter of 1843-44, by the Rev. Benjamin Ogden, of Three Rivers, Mich., and Rev. Bouton, who were appointed as a committee for that purpose by the Presbytery of LaGrange. The original members were Francis M. Price and his wife, Sarah, William S. Boyd, and Sarah, his wife, Robert Cummings, and Harmon B. McCoy. The first Elders were Messrs. Price and Boyd. Of this little communion, Mr. Boyd is the only survivor, and is residing in the town. The Rev. Mr. Ogden served the 
church for a short time, during which Mr.Phillip Toll and his wife, who resided at Fawn River, Mich., a distance 
of about ten miles, united with the church. In June, 1845, the services of Rev. A. D. Whit, who came from the 
State of New York, were secured for one-half of his time-he preaching here and at Fawn River alternately once in two weeks. In October, of the same year, at the request of the church, the Synod of Northern Indiana  transferred its connection from the Presbytery of LaGrange to the Presbytery of Fort Wayne. Rev. Mr. White continued his labors until April, 1848. During his time, fifty-nine members were added to the church, nine by profession of faith, and the others by letters from other churches, they having immigrated to the county and settled here. In June, 1848, 
Rev. A. H. Kerr came as stated supply, and continued his labors until 1852. Up to this time this organization had no church building of their own, but held service, in common with the other denominations represented here, in the court house or school house. Rev. William Cathcart received a call from the Presbytery, and was ordained and installed as pastor in 1854. He was the first regularly installed pastor of this church. On account of  failing health, Mr. Cathcart resigned his charge in the spring of 1864, and was succeeded by Rev. A. D. F. Randolph, who continued until 1869. At the time of  Mr. Cathcart's retirement, the membership was seventy-one. He died at Lima, January 1, 1870. Rev. Thomas E. Hughes, then pastor of the church at Constantine, Mich., received a call and became the settled pastor of this church, and remains as such at the present time. The membership is now 115. 
The present Elders are Matthew McCoy, Ira Barrows, Dr. E. G. White, J. F. Clugston and E. G. Machan. The Sabbath school, under the superintendency of  E. T. Casper, numbers 115 scholars and twenty-one officers and teachers. The present house of worship was erected about 1853, at a cost of about $2,000. Having become 
too small for the increasing congregation, it has been sold, and an eligible site has been purchased on Michigan Street, a short distance northwest of the courthouse, and arrangements have been perfected for the erection of a 
fine brick church building early in the spring of 1882. 

     The Evangelical  Lutheran Church, Mount Zion congregation, was organized  October 12, 1854, by Rev. George Walker, a member of the Wittenburg Synod, and was constituted with the following membership: 
Michael Hoff and his wife, Eliza; Rueben Trexler and his wife; William Sigler and his wife, and Benjamin F. Hills. Mrs.Trexler and Mrs. Hoff  have since died. Mr. Hills soon entered the ministry of the Lutheran Church, and preached for several years at Spencerville, and subsequently removed to Iowa. Mr.Walker was 
succeeded by the Rev. John G. Biddle, and during his pastorate the house of worship now occupied by this society was erected. It is a neat frame structure 32x46 feet, with a seating capacity of about 400. It cost $1,000, 
and is situated in Ellison's addition, in the south part of town. Much of the labor performed in its construction was 
by Rev. Biddle, to whose zeal and untiring efforts is due mainly the success of the enterprise. The members of the church and the citizens generally, contributed liberally toward this object. Mr. Biddle was the first regular pastor 
of this church. He died in Elkhart, Ind., while in charge, and the Rev. A. J. Cromer took his place. Rev. Jabez Shaffer came to the charge in 1875, as pastor, and Rev. A. R. Smith in 1878, who continued one year. Rev. L. S. Keyser was chosen pastor, and commenced his labors in September, 1879. He resigned in 1881, for the purpose of completing his theological course at Wittenburg College, Springfield, Ohio. Though but 
twenty-three years of age, he is a fluent speaker, and bids fair to become an eminent divine. The present pastor, 
the Rev. Levi Rice, entered upon his duties, preaching his first sermon on the Sabbath, October 2, 1881. The membership is 200. The Sabbath school connected with this church, under the superintendency of Elmer R. 
Steele, numbers 104, and is doing a good work. 

     The St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church Society was organized on Easter Monday in the year 1872. The 
first vestry was composed of the following-named persons: Rev. Wellington Forgus, ex officio Chairman; 
Messrs. B. B. Harris, Senior Warden; Adrian D. Brown, Junior Warden; Samuel K. Ruick, Treasurer; 
Charles F. Parry, Clerk. St. John's Chapel was erected in 1873-74, from plans furnished by Rev. Forgus, and under his supervision, and was first opened for service on the 28th day of April, 1874, the Right Rev. Bishop Talbott, of the Diocese of Indiana, assisted by Rev.Wellington Forgus, officiating. Mr. Forgus was the first rector. The parish is now in charge of the Rev. S. C. M. Orpen, with sixteen communicants. The Sabbath school 
is in charge of the pastor, and numbers twenty-five scholars. Ministers of other denominations have from time to 
time preached here, but have not succeeded in effecting permanent organizations. The first burial place for the 
town of LaGrange was on about two acres of ground, including the site of the present school building and 
extending west, which served for that purpose up to about 1863, when removals were made to the present cemetery, which was laid out in 1863, and is a picturesque spot, situated about three-fourths of a mile south of the courthouse, on the road leading to Wolcottville, comprising five acres of ground inclosed by a substantial board 
fence, and covered with a natural growth of fine shade trees, and admirably selected for the purposes to which it is devoted. It is the property of the town corporation, and is controlled by the Town Council, who regulate the sale 
of lots, the proceeds of which are devoted to the purposes of beautifying and keeping the grounds and 
improvements in order. 

Volunteer transcription by Pati Blowers May. Material for transcription gathered by Barbara Henderson. 

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