Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

Rev. Benjamin Hutchins

Benjamin Hutchins was born in Philadelphia on 23 March 1804, the son of Henry J. Hutchins, a native of Bermuda, and grandson of the Rev. Joseph Hutchins, rector of St. James, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a close friend of Bishop William White. Henry inherited his father's fortune and gave his son Benjamin an excellent education, but over time, an unnatural dependency developed which hindered the younger's desire for self-sufficiency. Benjamin attended the University of Pennsylvania and went to seminary at General Theological Seminary. He did his initial training in western Pennsylvania before Kemper sent him as a missionary in 1838 to Vincennes.While he liked his new station, his parishioners were dissatisfied with his ministry and insecurity and asked him to leave. With his wife Mary and an infant daughter, they finally left Vincennes in the fall of 1838.

Kemper offered Hutchins the opportunity to plant a church in Fort Wayne, and he arrived by stage coach in May with his father. He was very disappointed with the town, believing it had poor prospects for a successful church. After organizing Christ Episcopal Church in the Academy Building on 26 May 1839, he promptly left town and returned to Vincennes, hoping to be reinstated in his former post. His actions greatly disheartened the fledgling congregation, and he returned to Fort Wayne at Bishop Kemper's insistence by mid-summer. In August, the vestry of Christ Church tabled a plan to raise money in support of public worship, and by November, Hutchins offered his resignation. He had lost the support of three of the four vestry, who entered a resolution that "we consider any further effort on our part towards continuing for the present the church here decidedly unavailing from the prejudices that exist against you as an individual, and which we seriously believe, will continue to exist during your residence as a Missionary in this place." Kemper advised him to "be calm and retiring in the pulpit and making parish calls" and advised to give up joking, since it was not understood.

After leaving Fort Wayne, Hutchins found his way to Alton, Illinois, where, with his father sitting on the vestry, he helped found St. John's Church in 1842. In 1857, he lost seven of his eight children to scarlet fever, a blow from which he never fully recovered. In his later years he could often be seen walking the roads, carrying books to shut-ins and calling on the sick. He died in Alton in 1891 at the age of 87.


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