Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

Bishops of the Diocese of Indiana

Bishop Jackson Kemper was the first bishop of the Episcopal Church to set foot in Indiana, when he arrived there via the Ohio River in 1835. At that time, not a brick, stone, or log had been laid for an Episcopal Church anywhere in the state. Three years later, when the Diocese of Indiana was created, Kemper declined an invitation to become the first bishop. He traveled between Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Minnesota in a missionary capacity until the first formal bishop, George Upfold, was elected as Bishop of Indiana in 1849. Kemper did much to lay the foundation for the Episcopal Church in the state. He visited towns, organized missions, dispatched missionary priests, and founded parishes. His technique involved visiting a town, inquiring about local Episcopalians, and holding services in some public building, hoping to plant the seed for a church through these informal, interpersonal contacts.

George Upfold, when he took charge, found a fledgling diocese that was difficult to administer due to the poor roads and lack of infrastructure. A native of England and a strong proponent of the Oxford Movement, he helped lay the groundwork for the High Church influence that would later come to characterize the liturgical style of the diocese, while Upfold himself was personally a man of simplicity who disliked even flowers in church. "The worship is the adornment," Sarah Pratt recalled him saying, "and I do believe that when this devoutly intense first Bishop of ours entered the chancel in the quiet, simple village church, to meet a happily expectant people, the service was indeed the very essence of worship." Upfold suffered increasing bouts of rheumatoid arthritis that later curtailed his ability to perform his work.

Joseph Cruikshank Talbot was elected Bishop Coadjutor in 1865 and performed all visitation duties for Upfold, succeeding him at the latter's death in 1872. A native Virginian and a man of great energy, Talbot had previously served the Church in the western United States as missionary bishop, where he earned the nickname "Bishop of All Outdoors." He labored to further the work of the Church in Indiana, encouraging the founding of many new missions and making extensive visitations. Sarah Pratt recalled that he "was a portly, impressive personage, emanating well-being and enthusiasm; very agreeable and reflecting in his manner his southern birth and training." Talbot died from the effects of a stroke in 1883.

Talbot was succeeded by the Rev. David Buel Knickerbacker of Minnesota, one of the most gifted men to serve the Church in Indiana. Coming from a privileged background, Knickerbacker worked tirelessly to establish new missions, helping to found a girls school in Indianapolis known as Knickerbacker Hall as well as the Howe Military School in LaGrange County. He crisscrossed the state by rail, stopping in towns and preaching sermons, even where no Episcopal Church yet existed. In order to fund missions, he devised an idea to collect stamps from old letters and sell them to philatelists. When he died in 1894 of pneumonia, his death was widely attributed to overwork.

Knickerbacker's successor, elected the fourth bishop of the Diocese in 1985, was John Hazen White, warden of Seabury Divinity School of Faribault, Minnesota. White proposed the construction of a new cathedral in Indianapolis to honor Bishop Knickerbacker, but his efforts soon placed himself at odds with many church leaders there who were resistant to change. White's caustic speaking style and inability to accept criticism won him few friends. After much disappointment, the General Convention agreed to divide the Diocese of Indiana into two new dioceses: Indianapolis and Michigan City in 1898. White left Indianapolis to take charge of the new Diocese of Michigan City, becoming its first bishop.

Joyce Marks Booth, ed., History of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, 1838-1988 (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1988).

Sarah S. Pratt, Episcopal Bishops in Indiana: A Churchwoman's Retrospect (Indianapolis?: Sarah S. Pratt, 1934).

Jackson Kemper, Missionary Bishop

George Upfold, First Bishop

Joseph Cruikshank Talbot, Second Bishop

David Buel Knickerbacker, Third Bishop