Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

Rev. Stephen Henry Battin

Stephen Henry Battin was born in New York in 1814 and graduated from General Theological Seminary in 1842 at the height of the Oxford Movement. An early call came to the rectorship of Christ Church, Cooperstown, an established parish supported by the author, James Fenimore Cooper. Battin had a strong head for business and kept detailed accounts of his expenditures there, and his business sense may have appealed to Trinity's vestry when they extended a call to him at the end of 1858. Battin had also earned a reputation as a teacher and had conducted a successful parochial school that met daily for four hours for students aged seven to fifteen.

A widower with an unmarried 14-year-old daughter, Kate, Battin arrived in Fort Wayne and almost immediately opened a girl's school in his home with Kate as a co-teacher. The school was opened for four hours a day at a tuition of between $2 and $5 per term. It consisted of both a primary department and a higher education program of English, Latin and French. Musical instruction was also offered, and the afternoons were sometimes spent on field trips touring local factories.

With the chapel and parsonage now finished, if imperfectly constructed, the Ladies Sewing Society of the parish began hosting early public fairs at the local Rockhill House hotel, at which they sold food and a variety of knitted items. Each year the entertainment became increasingly elaborate, and one year a fashion show was conducted, with parishioners wearing various European costumes.

The outbreak of the Civil War divided the Fort Wayne community. Bishop George Upfold forbade any clergy in the diocese from speaking out about slavery from the pulpit in an effort to tamp down the strong feeling of political partisanship. Battin, an abolitionist and temperance advocate, lent his support to the Union cause and offered prayers for the soldiers departing for the front. Also during this period Battin organized Trinity's first choir at a cost of $30, likely an unvested quartet of men and women who were paid to sing professionally each week. The choir came about at a time of increased attention to church music and the appearance of a new hymnal, Hymns Ancient and Modern in 1861, which had a profound change on hymn singing and the proliferation of standard tunes. Kate Battin would often play the organ, but Franklin Randall, a parishioner, complained that her playing sounded like "grinding." Battin also raised funds for domestic missionary work in the West and supported local temperance efforts.

In 1863, when the vestry began making plans to build a new church building, it decided that Battin was not the priest to lead them in this effort. In July, they asked for and received his letter of resignation. He moved from Fort Wayne to Bergen, New Jersey, and later to Jersey City, where he helped build Christ Church using $30,000 of his own money, He died at Jersey City on 23 February 1893.

This page references: