Rev. Forrest B. B. Johnston, St. Paul's, Gas City and Gethsemane, Marion1 media/Rev Forrest B B Johnston, Gas City663_thumb.jpg 2020-02-17T16:47:57-08:00 John David Beatty 85388be94808daa88b6f1a0c89beb70cd0fac252 32716 2 Rev. Forrest B. B. Johnston, St. Paul's, Gas City and Gethsemane, Marion plain 2020-02-19T04:11:00-08:00 John David Beatty 85388be94808daa88b6f1a0c89beb70cd0fac252
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Gethsemane Episcopal Church, Marion
The first service of the Episcopal Church in Marion occurred when the Rev. Joseph S. Large of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne, visited the town in 1850 and preached in the Presbyterian Church, reporting "a large congregation, responses good and chants well sung." In 1874, the Rev. Thomas R. Austin of St. James Church, Vincennes, preached in the evening at the courthouse and reported seven families. In 1881, the Rev. John Jacob Faude of Plymouth and the Rev. William Wirt Raymond of Goshen both conducted services during the year at the urging of Bishop Talbot.
Little happened for another three years until a group of Episcopalians began holding regular services under Raymond's leadership at the home of John Nelson Turner. On 9 April 1884, the congregants organized Gethsemane as a mission, and the following day Raymond celebrated the Eucharist in Turner's private library. The first baptism occurred in June of that year at the Grant County Courthouse. According to Rolland Whitson's Centennial History of Grant County, Bishop David Knickerbacker chose the name Gethsemane after his former parish in Minnesota. He arrived in Marion on 23 May 1884, and after conducting services in the Christian Church, organized the vestry of the new church, with Frank E. Forster becoming its warden and Fred Wilson helping to organize a Sunday school. A ladies' aid society was organized on 19 November 1884.
Services were held sporadically in the early years without a regular pastor. Raymond, who was still rector at Goshen, had charge of the mission but could only conduct services irregularly. A room was "fitted up for a chapel" in the Webster block on the east side of South Washington Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. On 28 July 1886, the vestry purchased a lot for $1,000 from the Wesleyan Methodist Church that also contained a small frame church building. One writer said it was "of no architecture and little worth." Nearly a year later on 17 July 1887, the Rev. William G. Woolford, a deacon who had served as a missionary at Warsaw and as an assistant in Lima, became the first resident minister. He stayed only two months but baptized eleven. He was followed by the Rev. George Davis Adams, who served from 1887 to 1890. During this period the church received a stone octagonal baptismal font that is till in use.
The discovery of large deposits of natural gas in the area in 1887 led to the rapid economic development of Marion and the influx of new members for the fledgling church, including many English immigrants. On 25 June 1890, the congregation broke ground for a sandstone church building at 9th and Washington streets at a cost of just over $6,000. Its Gothic Revival design by local Marion architect Arthur Labelle included a classic cruciform shape. The vestry had purchased land for the project from the trustees of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. The vestry called its first rector, the Rev. Lewis F. Cole, a Civil War veteran and Maine native, to lead the building project. Cole raised $4,500 in subscriptions for the new building. Bishop Knickerbacker laid the cornerstone on 23 July 1890, and on 4 October 1891, the building was completed. Cole furnished it with pews and other fixtures purchased from a neighboring church, Webster's Chapel. The first service was held on 24 October 1891.
Cole had also given his time as chaplain of the local Soldiers' Home. He remained rector until 1893, when Bishop Knickerbacker named him archdeacon of the diocese. His successor, the Rev. James J. Purcell, arrived in November 1893. During this period, after several large donations from Miss Julia Norton and her brother Arthur, the parish constructed a rectory to house Purcell and his family. This building was poorly constructed and within a decade needed major repairs, which the vestry accomplished with a gift from the estate of Oliver H. P. Carey in 1904. Purcell also assumed charge of neighboring St. Paul's Episcopal Church is Gas City (founded in 1892), dividing his time between the two churches. He was succeeded by the Rev. Edward Pressey from England and later the Rev. George P. Torrence, who became diocesan archdeacon. During his rectorate, the remaining debt was paid off, allowing Bishop White to consecrate the church on 19 July 1902. The vestry decided to purchase a house north of the church property for use as a Parish House with money from the Mary A. Carey Fund. Torrence left for Lafayette in 1910 and was followed by the Rev. Howard Russell White, the son of Bishop White, who served two years until 1912. His successor, the Rev. Forrest B. B. Johnston, led the purchase of a Pilcher pipe organ for the church in 1913 at a cost of $1,800. Johnston also purchased Gethsemane's first Eucharistic vestments in 1927.
Gethsemane's congregation still had no place for hosting parish activities. In 1920, the vestry purchased a lot to the south of the church to build a different parish hall, selling the old rectory to help raise the $5,000 cost. After years of economic austerity resulting from the Great Depression, the town of Marion experienced an economic boom in the 1950s. In 1958, the old hall was demolished and a new one built under a design by Fort Wayne architect Lloyd Larimore that connected to the church. An extensive remodeling of the church took place in 1963 and again in 1994.
Because of its proximity to the Diocese of Indianapolis, Gethsemane was sometimes influenced by that diocese. In the late 1970s, after Bishop Craine had begun ordaining women priests, the Rev. Jacqueline Lantzer came to Gethsemane to preach at the invitation of the rector, the Rev. Bill Murphy. The sermon, according to one source, "wigged out the congregation" and led the parish to vote to officially not recognize the ordination of women. However, little more than two decades later in 1997, the attitude and leadership of the parish had changed sufficiently to call the Rev. Megan Traquair as rector. She had a successful pastorate and many years later was elected bishop of the Diocese of Northern California. The transformation reflected a generational change in leadership that affected changing attitudes in other parishes across the diocese.
In the 1990s and into the 2000s under the leadership of the Rev. James Warnock, Gethsemane began a period of significant outreach to its neighborhood. It purchased and refurbished an old Victorian house near the church. It also launched a program called the Lunch Box on the last two Sundays of each month. Members of the parish prepared meals for the poor in the neighborhood of the church. It also held neighborhood prayer walks and helped endow a children's fund for medical needs.
In 2006, Warnock became interested in reconciliation ministry. He traveled to Syria under the auspices of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to have face-to-face meetings with members of other faiths. The meetings continued the following year in Cyprus. Several parishioners attended conferences in Los Angeles on cultural and racial diversity in 2008 and 2009. Gethsemane began offering seminars on reconciliation in 2008, and the following year Bishop Little asked the parish's reconciliation team to work with clergy in the debate over the issue of same-sex marriage blessings and the Anglican Covenant. Gethsemane is also affiliated with the Community of the Cross of Nails, based in Coventry Cathedral in England which was destroyed during World War II.
William Wirt Raymond, 1885-1886
William Gillis Woolford, 1887
George Davis Adams, 1887-1890
Lewis Frank Cole, 1890-1893
James Johnstone Purcell, 1893-1895
Ernest Albert Pressey, 1896-1899
George Paull Torrence, 1900-1910
Howard Russell White, 1910-1912
Forrest Bowley Breckinridge Johnston, 1913-1931
Henry Lewis Ewan, 1931-1939
Sydney Hugh Croft, 1939-1942
Samuel Hanna Norman Elliott, 1942-1943
William Cockburn Russell Sheridan, 1944-1947
John E. Stevenson, 1947-1949
David Reid, 1949-1956
Robert J. Center, 1956-1963
Thomas Kreider Ray, 1964-1971
Steven Powers, 1972-1975
William McKee Murphy, 1976-1989
Ronny Dower, 1990-1994
Charles Hensel, 1994-1996
Megan McClure Traquair, 1997-2002
James Howard Warnock, 2002-2019
Mindy Bowne Hancock, 2020-
History of Gethsemane Episcopal Church, undated typescript, ca. 1960s.
Matthew Powers, "Gethsemane Episcopal Church," Marion Wiki, http://wikimarion.org/Gethsemane_Episcopal_Church
Rolland Lewis Whitson, Centennial History of Grant County, Indiana, 1812 to 1912 (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1914), 1: 617-618.
Parish Register, 1887-1905
Parish Register (Baptisms, Confirmations, Communicants, Burials), 1905-1958
Marriage Register, 1905-1958
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St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Gas City (defunct)
St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Gas City, Grant County, was founded as an unorganized mission by Welsh immigrants in the fall of 1892 during the natural gas exploration boom in north central Indiana. "People were so sure that the supply of gas was inexhaustible that the street lights burned all day," wrote the editor of a diocesan newsletter. It was a time of wild prosperity and speculation. Many of the mission's earliest members were glass and tinplate workers (the town had fifteen glass factories at one time). J. H. Rogers, superintendent of the Morewood Tin Plate Factory, allowed church members to meet initially in its annealing room, and meetings were also held in the Opera House in Gas City as well as at Ward's Hall and in the Methodist church in nearby Jonesboro.
Charles Maliphant, a native of Llanelle, Wales, and a manager with the Morewood Tin Plate Factory, lent his strong support for the church, which was formally organized as a mission of Gethsemane, Marion, in 1894 under the leadership of missionary the Rev. Daniel J. Davies. Bishop David Buel Knickerbacker laid the cornerstone for a frame church building at West South H Street and Rogers Avenue, a site across from the Waterworks that was readily accessible to people from Jonesboro. Maliphant chose the name for the mission, St. Paul's, after his former parish in Wales. The ground on which the church initially stood was donated by the Gas City Land Company. In 1898, the Morewood Tin Plate Company sold its business to the American Tin Plate Company, and J. H. Rogers, the parish's most active layman and a major contributor, moved away and thereby hindered St. Paul's growth.
When the gas wells in central Indiana dried up, many other industries closed their doors as well. The Rev. Stephen W. Wilson, one of the most active early priests, removed in 1901, but praised the "spirit of harmony" of the mission and commented on how "pleasant and happy" his tenure had been. When the glass factories closed, Gas City became a ghost town in 1902. Archdeacon George Paull Torrence of Gethsemane, Marion, maintained services and sent his assistant, the Rev. William Wirt Raymond, to conduct services in 1903. Raymond wrote in the register, "The singing of the Choir, about 16 voices, chiefly Welsh, at Easter time, was a service of Praise rarely equaled in resonance. Mr. Owen Davies was at the time director of the Choir."
The church continued to struggle with the worsening economy, however. In 1909, Torrence reported that "the Tin Plate Mill is regarded by most people as a thing of the past, and the glass factory is slow in starting..." In May 1911, church leaders decided to move the church to its present location at 121 E. South A Street because of its more central location. Bishop White arrived in the fall to dedicate it.
St. Paul's remained a mission for many years. The Rev. William Sheridan, a future bishop, served the church as well as Gethsemane in Marion from 1944 to 1947 and treasured his time there. In 1947, the church became an independent parish, and the Rev. Gerald Lewis arrived as rector. The congregation persevered through difficult times, and in the 1950s, a considerable amount of repair work occurred, including replacement of the floor.
In 1956, the Rev. Richard A. Curtis arrived, and the congregation began work on a parish hall in 1957, called Norris Hall after Ernest Norris, who donated the funds. Curtis was a native Hoosier, born in Marion, Indiana, and had studied privately for the priesthood under Bishop Mallett. The Rev. Leslie Howell arrived as rector in 1961 and stayed ten years until having to resign for poor health. In 1972, under the leadership of the Rev. Michael Lynch, a Sunday school wing was added, and three years later, the church installed a free-standing altar. In 1978, the Rev. Arnold Hoffman was ordained and made rector, remaining until 1981.
A popular rector was the Rev. Donald Raih, who arrived in 1983. He began an interfaith dialog with members of Grace Lutheran Church the same year. An innovative pastor, he initiated a Faith Alive program in 1985, but in 1986, with parish funds dwindling, Raih began a joint venture of ministry with St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Elwood, serving as rector of both parishes concurrently. Elwood was located in the Diocese of Indianapolis, and he was the only priest in the state whose ministry spanned two dioceses.
With dwindling membership in the twenty-first century, St. Paul's closed its doors for good in 2019.
Parish Register, 1895-2015
Daniel J. Davies, 1895-1897
Thomas George McGonigle, 1897-1898
Stephen Warren Wilson, 1899-1901
Henry Stephen Streeter, 1901-1902
Duncan Convers, 1902
Ernest Douglas Martin, deacon, 1904-1906
George Paull Torrence, 1911
Howard Russell White, 1910-1912
Forrest Bowley Breckinridge Johnston, 1912-1931
Henry Lewis Ewan, 1931-1939
Sydney Hugh Croft, 1939-1942
Samuel Hanna Norman Elliott, 1942-1943
William C. R. Sheridan, 1944-1947
Gerald H. Lewis, 1947-1956
Richard Arthur Curtis, 1956-1960
Leslie C. Howell, 1961-1971
Michael A. Lynch 1971-1977
Arnold Roy Hoffman, 1978-1982
Donald Raih, 1982-1992
Frank H. King, 1993-1997
Judith Culpepper, 2002-2007
Margaret Harker, 2007-2010
Rebecca Ferrell Nickel, 2012
Norman L. Morford, 2013-2015
Rev. Forrest Bowley Breckinridge Johnston
The Rev. Forrest B. B. Johnston was born in Belvidere, Illinois, the son of Oscar and Alwilda Veria (Drummond) Johnston. The father was a mill owner and a native of Sweden. Forrest graduated from Belvidere High School and Nashotah House seminary. He spent a year in Hartland, Wisconsin, and four years in Philadelphia before coming to Marion, Indiana, in 1913, as rector of Gethsemane. He remained there 18 years, dying of cancer on 31 March 1931. He also served as vicar of nearby St. Paul's Church in Gas City. His body was returned to Illinois for burial in Belvidere Cemetery.