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St. Thomas-Santo Tomas Episcopal Church, Plymouth
In October 1856, the Rev. Almon Gregory, rector of St. Paul's, La Porte, arrived in Plymouth and began conducting "house services" as an Episcopal missionary. He led the first service on 19 December 1856, when fourteen people gathered in the Presbyterian Church for a sermon. He promised to return once a fortnight, holding later services at the home of Joseph Westervelt. This first congregation was still not formally organized and had no lay leadership. Bishop George Upfold visited the town in 1858, 1860, and 1861, confirming several persons and encouraging Gregory's efforts. On 23 March 1861, the congregation finally organized officially as St. Thomas Episcopal Church with the election of Gilson L. Cleveland and A. O. Packard as wardens, and Charles Palmer, Thomas McDonald, and John G. Osborne as vestrymen. Other early leaders included Mrs. Sarah Westervelt and John C. Cushman.
During these formative years the congregation gained the support of Henry C. Carter of New York City, who donated a lot on Center Street for the building of a chapel in May 1860. The vestry raised funds to build the small frame church at a cost of $10,000. The first Eucharist was celebrated on 27 June 1860 in the Presbyterian Church; the second was held in November 1860 and the third, the first in the new chapel, was celebrated by Gregory on 3 April 1861. The Rev. Louis Tschiffely arrived in October 1861 and became the parish's first resident priest. Through his efforts, he secured from Henry Carter a donation of the church's first communion set. By 1865, 73 families attended.
The parish struggled to find permanence in the years following the Civil War. Both Episcopal clergy and adequate funding were in short supply. Between 1865 and 1870, the Rev. William Lusk, a Presbyterian minister, supplied the parish and performed baptisms and marriages, but he was not able to celebrate the Eucharist. After his departure the parish called several priests who stayed only for a few years. In 1877 the Rev. John Jacob Faude arrived in Plymouth, and under his able leadership the parish built a rectory at a cost of $3,500 in 1881. For several years Faude conducted services at both Michigan City and Plymouth before resigning the Plymouth charge and moving to Michigan City to become its rector, remaining there until 1890 and returning to Plymouth for a brief stint between 1889 and 1890.
Services continued in the chapel until 1905, when the congregation outgrew it. During the tenure of the Rev. Walter S. Howard (formerly dean of the cathedral at Michigan City), the parish built a new edifice of Indiana limestone designed by local architect Jacob Ness and located on the southern part of the lot at the corner of Adams and Center streets. Bishop White consecrated it on St. Thomas Day, 21 December 1909. A few years later the old church was moved and remodeled into a parish hall. Among the priests who served during these years was the Rev. Benjamin F. P. Ivins, who later became Bishop of Milwaukee.
After World War II, the congregation suffered financially, and the building fell into poor repair. The Rev. William Cordick, who had become rector in 1916, retired in 1940 after a 24-year rectorate. After several pastors served short tenures, Bishop Reginald Mallett ordered the Rev. William Sheridan, then at St. Paul's Gas City, to become rector in 1947. It marked the beginning of a 25-year pastorate, during which the parish grew and gained distinction. The building was extensively restored under his leadership. Sheridan also became chaplain of nearby Culver Military Academy. He remained rector until he was elected bishop in 1972, the first bishop chosen among the priests of the diocese. After his retirement, he returned to Plymouth and became a member of the congregation. In the 1990s under the leadership of the Rev. John Schramm, St. Thomas developed a strong ministry with the local Hispanic community and began offering Spanish-language services. Schramm also led several mission trips to Honduras in the 1990s to build churches and do community work. Later, under the rectorship of the Rev. Thomas Haynes, the parish became known under the dual name of St. Thomas-Santo Tomas to better reflect the diversity of the congregation.
Almon Gregory, 1856-1861
Louis Phillippe Tschiffely, 1861-1865
Richard Leo Ganter, 1865
William Lusk, 1865-1870 (Presbyterian supply)
John Portmess, 1870-1871
Samuel Johnson Yundt, 1872-1873
James N. Hume, 1874-1875
Andrew Mackie, 1876-1877
John Jacob Faude, 1877-1886
Thomas Byron Kemp, 1886-1889
John Jacob Faude, 1889-1890
William Wirt Raymond, 1891-1902
Walter Simon Howard, 1902-1910
Benjamin Franklin Price Ivins, 1910-1913
Samuel Winfield Day, 1913-1916
William John Cordick, 1916-1936
Charles Delano Maddox, 1936-1939
Edward Lemuel Roland - 1939-1941
George G. Shilling, 1941-1943
J. Bradford Pengelly (supply), 1944-1945
James Savoy, 1946-1947
William Cockburn Russell Sheridan, 1947-1972
James Gossett Greer, 1972-1976
Gregory Brian Sims, 1976-1981
John Schramm, 1982-2013
Thomas Erskine Haynes, 2013-2019
Bernadette Hartsough, 2020-
Marshall County Historical Society, History of Marshall County, Indiana (Plymouth: Marshall County Historical Society, 1986), p. 27.
First Book, 1857-1871: Baptisms, Marriages, Burials, Confirmations, Visitations, History, Sponsors
Book 2, 1872-1890, History, Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Burials
Book 3, 1892-1910, Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Burials
Book 4, 1909-1956, Communicants, Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Burials
Book 5 [marked as Book 1], 1956-1977, Communicants, Baptisms, Marriages, Burials, Confirmations, Index
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Christ Episcopal Church, Gary (defunct)
Efforts to establish an Episcopal Church in Gary began in 1907, when Bishop John Hazen White dispatched the Rev. Legh W. Applegate of Valparaiso to do missionary work there. At that time, Gary was newly-founded under the auspices of U.S. Steel, and all property was designated for industrial use. Applegate preached on street corners until H. S. Norton of U. S. Steel agreed to furnish a temporary building at 5th and Adams streets in December 1907. The Episcopalians thus opened the first formal church building in the city. In January 1908, White made his first visitation to Gary and confirmed seven. On 11 November 1908, Christ Church was formally organized. The Commercial Club attended, as did Norton himself, recognizing the civic importance of the event. Applegate made the building available to other community groups, including other churches.
With the church growing, Applegate asked the General Convention for $10,000, but he did not receive it until May 1910. That money allowed the congregation to purchase a lot on the northeast corner of 6th Avenue and Adams Street. The Rev. L. C. Marsh, called as rector in 1911, conducted the first service on the lot in a new frame church designed by L. H. Ellwood and Sons. Marsh was succeeded by Rev. William N. Wyckhoff in July 1912. He was followed by the Rev. Benjamin F. P. Ivins, who had previously been rector of St. Thomas, Plymouth, and served from 1914 to 1916. Ivins established the first weekday school of religion in the country, and in 1925 was elected Bishop of Milwaukee. Rev. W. H. Blake succeeded Ivins in 1916, and he was followed by the Rev. Wilbur Dean Elliott in 1917. During the 1919 steel strike, members of the congregation sided strongly with the corporation, but Elliott defended from the pulpit the right of workers to organize. The Rev. James Foster, Elliott's successor, later wrote that "no attempt was made to put any pressure on the rector," but by 1920 he became so driven by frustration that, "careless in his personal conduct," he resigned.
That same year the vestry called the Rev. James E. Foster, who would serve the church ably until his retirement in 1956. Foster told the vestry that if there was anything in the church they wished to get rid of, they should do it before he arrived. In 1925, under Foster's leadership, the parish received a $40,000 gift from U.S. Steel. A building fund campaign raised an additional $50,000, and a new church in the Gothic style was constructed in 1926. It was an impressive structure, and though not as large as the Methodist or Presbyterian churches, the congregation wielded much local influence. Foster was also instrumental in helping to found St. Augustine's mission in 1927, in part because his own congregation would not allow African Americans to worship there.
During the Depression, the congregation persevered under difficult times. At one time the bank foreclosed on the church, but it was not lost. Foster proved himself as a priest of enormous strength in guiding Christ Church through this era. A quiet, gentle man, he was interested in social justice issues, helped to desegregate the local beaches, and was a close friend of the Rev. Wallace Wells of St. Augustine's, with whom he exchanged pulpits on some Sundays in the summer. When the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death during the McCarthy era, Foster was among the local priests who campaigned for the commutation of the sentence, which was a controversial stance. He also knew grief. In 1944, his son Patrick died after becoming lost in the Colorado mountains in winter. Receiving the news just before the Christmas Eve service, he proceeded to conduct the service and collapsed afterward. An article in the diocesan newsletter noted after his retirement, "His outstanding characteristic is a fierce sense of integrity. He has a passion for intellectual honesty whether the opinions are popular or unpopular. This trait nearly always compels respect. Father Foster is a man of scholarship, one who has a very strong sense of social justice. He is a man of much personal kindness." When he retired after 36 years of service, he was the senior priest in the diocese.
Foster was a close friend of the Hyndman family. When the head of the family died in a mill accident in 1944, a large crowd gathered for the funeral. Bishop Mallett, who was visiting Gary at the time, later remarked to Foster that the funeral must have been for someone important. Foster replied, "Yes, he was important."
Following Foster's retirement, the Rev. James W. Curtis, the curate, was elected rector and enjoyed another long tenure. A native of St. Louis and a graduate of Dartmouth, he had been tutored for the priesthood and was ordained to the ministry by Bishop Whittemore of the Diocese of Western Michigan. As outspoken and passionate as his predecessor, Curtis extended outreach to local Spanish-speaking community members, supported a Cuban refugee program, and worked to develop ecumenical ties with local Catholic, Presbyterian, and evangelical congregations, including the African American community. He was an advocate for the Open Housing Amendment.
The closing of the church, once a vibrant congregation, can be attributed to the changing neighborhood around it and the flight of its white membership to suburban areas that began with the election of Richard Hatcher as mayor in 1968. At one point, the church was burglarized, and many items were stolen. The congregation put up a sign stating jokingly that it was now "Christ Church of the Good Thief." Increasingly, congregants began attending other congregations, such as St. Barnabas and St. Stephen's, which had been seeded by Christ Church members. The last service was held on All Saints Day, 1983, with Bishop Sheridan presiding. The records of the church are preserved in the Archives of the diocese. The exception is the parish register that dates after 1980, which is located at St. Stephen's, Hobart.
Legh Wilson Applegate, 1907-1910
Lindus Cody Marsh, 1911- 1912
William Nehemiah Wyckoff, 1912-1914
Benjamin Franklin Price Ivins, 1914-1916
W. H. Blake, 1916-1917
Wilbur Dean Elliott, 1917-1920
James Edward Foster, 1920-1956
James Wallace Curtis, 1956-1983
James W. Lewis, At Home in the City: The Protestant Experience in Gary, Indiana, 1906-1975 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992), pp. 71-73.
James E. Foster, Christ Church, Gary, Indiana, a Sketch Book of Parish History (Gary: Christ Church, 1940).
Parish Register of Christ Church, Gary, 1908-1928
Parish Register of Christ Church, Gary, 1908-1980
Marriage Register of Christ Church, Gary, 1908-1964
Index of Names
Note that the above parish registers are accessible through Familysearch. A free registration and login is required for access.
Rt. Rev. Benjamin Franklin Price Ivins
The Rt. Rev. Benjamin F. P. Ivins was born in South Bend, Indiana, on 6 October 1884, the son of Elbert Thomas and Lucretia (Hart) Ivins. He marred Sarah Jennie Seeber in 1908, and the following year graduated from Nashotah House seminary. He was ordained a deacon in 1909 and a priest in 1910, the same year he came to Indiana to become rector of St. Thomas Church in Plymouth. He remained there until 1913, and then spent a year as Head of the History Department at Howe School. In 1914 he moved to Gary to become rector of Christ Church, and during his tenure he established the first weekday religious school in the country. Resigning in 1915, he moved to Kalamazoo to become rector of St. Luke's, and also served in World War I. In 1921 he was elected dean and president of Nashotah House, serving there until 1925. That year he was elected Bishop Coadjutor in the Diocese of Milwaukee, succeeded William Walter Webb as bishop in 1933. In this role he was one of the bishops who consecrated Reginald Mallett as Bishop of Northern Indiana in 1944. He remained bishop until his retirement in 1953 and died on 2 December 1962. He was buried at Nashotah House.