Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

Church of the Holy Trinity, Peru (defunct)

On 2 May 1843, Bishop Jackson Kemper held the first Episcopal service in Peru, the county seat of Miami County. The first Episcopal Church was organized two years later and was named St. James, with the earliest baptismal records dating from August 1845 in Kemper's handwriting. The Rev. H. L. Laird of Logansport assisted with the organization and conducted occasional services. Under the leadership of the Rev. Fortune C. Brown, a High Churchman who arrived in November 1845, the church held regular services above the store rooms of a local building. "He came here an utter stranger," parishioner John Mitchell wrote in 1895, "and by his Christian character exemplified in his daily walk, endeared himself to the citizens. Under his care the church flourished, and numbers of persons who had never witnessed the worship of the Episcopal Church became attached to its services."

Brown began competing with the Presbyterian Church for members, which drew the ire of its pastor, the Rev. Asa Johnson. Complaining in 1846, Johnson wrote of Brown, "He is very bold and arrogant in his claims...He has been round among my members & given them tracts & told them they do not belong to the church." In another report, he said, "The Episcopalians are making great efforts...They are a mischievous people." However, Brown left for New York in 1850, and the church declined, much to Johnson's delight. By 1854, after several attempts by H. J. Rees, a lay reader who was not ordained, and several missionary clergy who spent brief periods in Peru, the congregation was abandoned. No baptisms occurred between December 1854 and October 1860, when Bishop Upfold recorded a single baptism while passing through town. Bishop Upfold appointed the Rev. Joseph Large, formerly of Trinity Fort Wayne and Stockton, California, to be a missionary in Peru in June 1857, but he declined to serve after being called rector of St. John's, Louisville, Kentucky.

In 1870, through the efforts of Bishop Coadjutor Joseph Talbot, services resumed under the leadership of the Rev. Warren N. Dunham in the second floor rooms of a building at the northwest corner of Main and Broadway (the Rev. Edward J. Purdy of Logansport also conducting some services). Within a short time under Dunham's leadership, the congregation grew to 44 members. On December 9 of that year, a newly-reconstituted congregation formed under the name Trinity Episcopal Church, and on 19 September 1871, its leaders laid the cornerstone for a new church, a wood-frame building under a design by C.C. Haight of New York City. In 1872, the congregation dedicated the completed building and its "fine stained glass windows" that were memorials to Bishops Kemper, Upfold, and Brownell. A guild hall, financed by the church women, was completed in 1897 under the leadership of the Rev. Edward Averill. Averill, a strong Anglo-Catholic, introduced vestments at Mass and a vested boys' choir. He left to assume the rectorship of Trinity Fort Wayne in 1904.

Sixteen years later in 1913, the congregation erected a Gothic Revival building of brick designed by William A. Otis of Chicago and located at 34 West Main Street. Leading the drive was the Rev. John Hamilton. During the construction, the town suffered significant spring flooding that greatly impeded the work until its completion in 1914. Cole Porter reputedly sang in the choir of the church, but his involvement is only a matter of tradition and not well documented. Other vaudeville stars reportedly attended the church during the time that Peru served as winter quarters for several circuses. In 1917, the parish received a $6,000 gift for a new parish house. On 6 January 1927, the vestry declared the parish to be free of debt

The congregation thrived for much of the first half of the twentieth century and became one of the most Anglo-Catholic parishes in the diocese. The parish maintained a reserved Blessed Sacrament before the time that it became widespread. It also celebrated weekly Mass. During World War II under the leadership of the Rev. Clarence C. Reimer, the parish established a warrior shrine in honor of the men of the parish serving. The parish was known under the name of Trinity until January 1961, when, at Bishop Mallett's urging, the name was changed to the Church of the Holy Trinity, ostensibly because of too many other churches called Trinity in the diocese.

According to a typescript parish history dated 1961, Holy Trinity's rector ministered to the large Bunker Hill Air Force base north of Peru, as well as to the city of Wabash fifteen miles away that did not have an Episcopal Church. The priests also served Greek and Ukrainian Orthodox churchmen in a spirit of ecumenism, with an icon of the Blessed Virgin hung the sacristy in reminder of that friendship. The church women organized the Circle of the Living Rosary of Our Lady and St. Dominic, which regularly prayed the rosary and hung a large wooden crucifix in the sanctuary. In 1957, the Rev. James Parker arrived from South Carolina, and the anonymous author of 1961 wrote in sanguine terms of the expectation that the parish "looks to a growth unequaled in the spread of the Faith" with a congregation "to whom the Catholic Religion is the very center of their lives."

Parker remained at Peru through 1966, but the expected growth never materialized. The Revs. Lewis Payne and Russell Northway followed as rectors through 1980, after which the parish experienced an economic downturn. The Rev. Richard Kennison led the restoration of the organ in 1986, but there was growing dissatisfaction within the congregation about the direction of the national church.

Holy Trinity's affiliation with the Episcopal Church ceased in the fall of 1990, when it voted to close due to recurring financial problems from withheld pledges. Average Sunday attendance went from 200 in 1959 to just 40 by 1990, and the building was in desperate need of maintenance. Many of its older members, coming from a strong Anglo-Catholic tradition, were upset by the ideological direction of the diocese, particularly with the ordination of women approved by Bishop Francis Gray, and adamantly opposed change.

Later in 1990, the congregation reconstituted itself and voted to join the Anglican Church in North America, a conservative group that opposed women's ordination and other reforms of the late twentieth century and preferred to use the 1928 prayerbook. The building was sold to the new church, and it is now known as the Anglican Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity. Records of this congregation when still affiliated with the Episcopal Church are housed in the diocesan archives.


John Mitchell, "The Episcopal Church, " in John H. Stephens, History of Miami County, Indiana, (1896) pp. 149-154.

Fortune Charles Brown, 1845-1850
Frederick Durbin Harriman, 1851
Henry Cook Stowell, 1854
Warren Nelson Dunham, 1870
Edward James Purdy, 1870
Warren Nelson Dunham, 1870-1873
John Henry Weddell, 1873-1875
Andrew Mackie, 1875-1877
David Lardner Trimble, 1877-1880
William Henry Milnes, 1881
Joseph Edward Martin, 1882-1884
William Black Burk, 1884-1887
Otway Colvin, 1889-1896
Edward Wilson Averill, 1897-1904
Adelbert McGinnis, 1904-1905
Jean Weslau Armstrong, 1905-1907
William Edward Morgan, 1907-1909
John Matthias Hamilton, 1910-1915
James Augustus Baynton, 1916-1918
George Harry Richardson, 1918
Edgar Thomson Pancoast, 1919-1922
Arthur Worger-Slade, 1923-1925
Jesse Raymond Lemert, 1926-1927
Warren C. Cable, 1927-1929
William Edward Hoffenbacher, 1930-1935
Richard Dawson Taylor, 1937-1942
Philip L. Shutt, 1942
Clarence Charles Reimer, 1943-1945
Frank Bozarth, 1946-1947
Daniel J. Welty, 1947-1952
Gail Colyer Brittain, 1952-1957
James Parker, 1957-1966
Lewis A. Payne, 1967-1975
Russell Northway, 1976-1980
Curtis Ross, 1980
George Porthen, 1983
Richard Kennison, 1984-1986
Lloyd W. Holifield, 1986-1990

History of Miami County, Indiana. Chicago: Brant and Fuller, 1887, p. 379.

St. James Episcopal Church, Parish Register, 1844-1860

Trinity Episcopal Church, Peru, Parish Register, 1872-1896

Trinity Episcopal Church, Peru, Parish Register, 1897-1949

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Peru, Parish Register, 1950-1962

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Peru, Parish Register, 1962-1989

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