Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Valparaiso

The Episcopal Church in Porter County has its roots in several small earlier congregations established in Valparaiso. On the Feast of the Epiphany 1861, an Episcopal missionary, the Rev. Edward P. Wright, rector of Trinity Michigan City, conducted the town's first Episcopal service in a rented hall. He maintained fortnightly services, and Bishop George Upfold organized this informal group into a congregation on 2 June 1861 as the Church of the Holy Communion. About 40 persons, including six communicants, gathered at these early services. Upfold expressed his hope that a church would take root here and at Warsaw, since both towns were on the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad line.

As the Civil War progressed, the congregation struggled to survive. In 1862, the departure of Wright from his post in Michigan City and the removal of a few key members of the congregation diminished its initial progress. Several deaths and other changes ended the fledgling congregation, and it was formally terminated by the Diocesan Council. Two prominent members, John C. Feebles, an attorney, and John C. Thompson, a merchant, along with their wives, had supported the congregation.

In 1863, a schism occurred among a group of German Lutherans in Valparaiso. Led by their pastor, the Rev. William Jahn, the congregation of more than 400 members left the Lutheran Church and formed German St. John's Episcopal Church, affiliating with the Episcopal Diocese of Indiana. Jahn, a native of Holstein, Germany, held worship services in German for 450 new members (including 230 communicants) in space rented from Valparaiso University. Bishop Upfold ordained him to both the diaconate and priesthood in two separate services in February 1864. The event was so novel that the editors of a national church publication, The Church Monthly, took note. Writing in April 1864, they observed: "Seeking our Communion as a refuge from rationalism and from an earnest conviction of its conformity with Scripture and primitive usage, we trust these new converts to Episcopacy from the land of Luther may be the earnest of a far greater ingathering." They added that the move "cannot fail of awakening a wide interest both in our own Church and in the Lutheran body."

After a momentous and unusual beginning, Jahn went west in September 1864 in order to visit potential donors and obtain funds for a church building. On the way he was shot in a guerilla raid while riding on the Northern Missouri Railroad. Bishop Upfold observed in his Council address in 1865 that the death "has filled my heart with grief and sadness, and with serious apprehension for the success of the enterprise so auspiciously begun..."

Efforts for a church continued in the wake of this tragedy, but Jahn's death had dealt it a severe blow. A new German-speaking missionary from Missouri, the Rev. Ignatius Koch, assumed leadership of German St. John's and reported to the diocesan convention that he had worked with both Lutherans and Episcopalians and had raised $540 for a church. He asked the diocese for $8,000 more to complete a church building. He noted in his report, "I visited all the Germans of Valparaiso and some in the country, introducing myself as their pastor to whose jurisdiction they belong through their Baptism, and invited them kindly to come forward for the union."

The money was not forthcoming, however, and the church failed to grow. Koch left for Pennsylvania, where he died in 1872. Bishop Coadjutor Joseph Talbot visited Valparaiso during the winter of 1866-67 and deemed it inadvisable to reorganize the congregation. By 1867, German St. John's had lost its affiliation with the diocese.

According to parishioner Claribel Dodd Smith, whose family moved from New England to Porter County, Episcopal services were held in private homes in Valparaiso in the 1890s. Whether members from the earlier congregations attended is not clear. Those services conducted in the home of James Wilson included use of a piano box for an altar and a gilded wooden cross. The missionary priest-in-charge at that time, the Irish-born Rev. George Moore of Momence, Illinois, would pick up worshipers in his sleigh for services in winter for services at the home of Mrs. J. Seymour Wilcox. Services were also held in larger venues in the 1890s, including Moltz’s jewelry store across from the Courthouse and at a later period above Wark's Hardware Store, but the congregation remained officially unorganized.

By 1900, this group of Episcopalians had grown, and the Annual Council of the new Diocese of Michigan City granted the congregation mission status under the name of St.  Andrew’s, apparently after St. Andrew's Church in Chicago where two of its prominent members, Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Parker, had been members. A church had the status of mission church if it depended on the diocese for some part of its funding. 

According to a 1912 history of Porter County, Bishop John Hazen White was determined to plant a more permanent church in Valparaiso and enlisted the help of several lay leaders, including Charles H. Parker, J. Seymour Wilcox, A. W. Barnhart, M. A. Snider, J. C. Rock, and others in reorganizing the mission in a rented hall. The Rev. Legh W. Applegate became its first resident priest.

In 1902, under Applegate's leadership, the congregation built a wood frame church at 104 Erie Street in downtown Valparaiso for about $25,000, using a 50-year-old house as the base, which it moved to the site. It was 32 by 64 feet in size with a twelve foot square tower, dedicated on 6 July 1902. A major renovation in 1916 led to the removal of the tower's third story and changing the entrance from Franklin to Erie Street. A stained glass window was placed where the old entrance had been. Miss Kees was the first organist with a choir of 22 people.

Applegate moved on to establish Christ Church in Gary in 1907. A succession of rectors of short tenure followed, none of them staying long enough to strengthen the congregation. The Rev. Walter B. Williamson, who served from 1912 to 1916, added a stucco exterior finish and remodeled the rectory at a cost of $5,000. He also reached out to found a new mission at Hobart. St. Andrew's floundered financially, and in 1917, the Rev. Clinton Cromwell placed the mission under the spiritual care of Bishop White.

During the Great Depression, the task of finding permanent leadership for the mission proved challenging for White's successor, Bishop Campbell Gray. In 1939, a group of monks led by Dom Paul Severance from the Order of St. Benedict arrived from training in England and at Gray's urging, settled in a house in Valparaiso. Gray assigned them to serve St. Andrew’s as well as other parishes, and their work endeared them to the diocese. They left in 1946 when they built their own monastery in Three Rivers, Michigan. The diocese was enriched by having been the first home of the American Anglican Benedictines. During their tenure, the vicarage was renamed St. Gregory's House.

In 1946, the Rev. Samuel H. N. Elliott, a former Army chaplain of the 46th Quartermaster Group, arrived in Valparaiso and questioned why St. Andrew's had remained a mission for 46 years. He began an extensive renovation of the 1902 church, locating eight small stained glass windows being discarded by another church and purchased them for $100 each. Although members of the parish expressed initial dismay at the cost, they managed to raise the money for the installation. Several families contributed funds, as did the local Greek community and a group of local veterans. By 1948, the work had been completed and the windows installed. Elliott and a small group of parishioners did much of the restoration work themselves. The windows were later moved again and installed in the third church building in 2005. In 1950 under Elliott's leadership, the church marked its 50th anniversary, and a large celebration was held on St. Andrew’s Day (November 30).

Elliott and a group of parishioners began the work of establishing a new mission in nearby Hobart, but Elliott gave up those duties in 1948. Humbled by the accomplishment of spearheading a major renovation of St. Andrew's, he invited the diocese to hold its diocesan convention there in 1949, the first time a convention had been held in a mission church. By 1951, Elliott had become ill with alcoholism, and Bishop Mallett removed him from the rectorship. He later became sober and was an active member of the Recovered Alcoholic Clergy Association (RACA, serving a mission church in Salem, Illinois.

The Rev. Forrest B. Clark, a beloved rector of long tenure, arrived in February 1954 as priest-in-charge. A native of Crawford, Texas, he had trained for the priesthood at Seabury-Western and Nashotah House. He was soon after diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to recover his health at the veteran's hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Bishop Mallett arranged for Father Langendorff to take charge of services until Clark could return, but he appears to have been worth the wait. Within two years of his arrival the membership grew 30 percent. Under his leadership the church was able to advance from mission to parish status in 1960 and become self-supporting. The old vicarage was refurbished into classrooms for what was called the Monday School. Clark also led the church in purchasing a property on Bull's Eye Lake Road for a possible future site of the church. Suffering from depression, Clark retired in 1969, but despite ill health, he agreed to serve again as a non-stipendiary priest from 1973 to 1977, seeing the congregation through a difficult time. His widow, Canon Kitty Clark, remained involved with St. Andrew’s many years afterward. In 1980, Bishop Sheridan dedicated the Forrest B. Clark Memorial Center at 104 Erie Street, which provided space for the church school and offices.

The Rev. Colin Mainer succeeded Clark, serving from 1968 to 1973. Mainer, a bachelor, proved unpopular, and some parishioners withdrew their funding for the church in protest to his leadership style. The financial crisis led the church to revert again to mission status, and after several years of difficulty, Bishop William Sheridan removed Mainer as rector, leading to Clark's return as a non-stipendiary supply priest. During this time some much-needed maintenance occurred with the replacement of badly-deteriorated window frames. The roof was replaced, and St. Gregory's House was demolished.

The Rev. Ross Mack succeeded Clark and served from 1977 to 1984. Mack began a long process of repairing old St. Andrew’s and oversaw the building of the attached Parish Center. In 1981, the Forrest B. Clark Center was constructed at a cost of $110,000, and in 1984, the mortgage on the church was burned. Mack resigned in 1984, but he later became a member of the congregation after retirement and continued to serve as a supply priest.

The Rev. Robert Bramlett followed Mack as rector in 1985 and served until 1990. During his tenure the windows underwent further restoration and the undercroft was extensively repaired.

Fr. Patrick Ormos (1991-2007) succeeded Bramlett and led the parish during a period of growth. During his tenure the congregation outgrew the church on Erie Street and moved to a new location on Bullseye Lake Road in 2005. That same year the parish purchased an 1889 Hook & Hastings organ, completely refurbished, that had formerly been installed in a Baptist church in Massachusetts. In 2010, the church called the Rev. Roger Bower as rector, and he served until 2022.

Adapted from St. Andrew's website: https://standrewsvalpo.org/who-we-are/history/

Parish Register 1893-1947
Burials, 1899-2022
Baptisms, 1893-1996


Edward Purdon Wright, 1861-1862
William Jahn, 1864
Ignatius Koch, 1865-1866
George Moore, 1898-1899
Legh Wilson Applegate, 1902-1907
Marshall Mallory Day, 1908-1910
Robert Carpenter Ten Broeck, 1910-1911
Walter Blake Williamson, 1912-1915
Clinton Bradshaw Cromwell, 1916-1920
George Taylor Griffith, 1920-1925
Arthur G. Worger-Slade, 1925-1927
Alexander Eberhardt Pflaum, 1928-1933
Harry Kroll Hemkey, 1933-1935
Dom Paul Severance, 1939-1945
Harold McLemore, 1945-1946
Samuel Hanna Norman Elliott, 1946-1951
Forrest B. Clark, 1954-1969, 1974-1976
John Graham Colin Mainer, 1968-1973
Ross Mack, 1977-1984
Robert G. Bramlett, 1985-1990
C. Patrick Ormos, 1991-2007
Roger Bower, 2010-2022

Adapted from St. Andrew's website https://standrewsvalpo.org/who-we-are/history/

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