Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church, Bristol, Indiana

St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church was founded in 1843 and originally called "St. John's." Its name was changed in the 1960s because there was another St. John's in Elkhart County, and Bishop Klein felt that the two similar names were confusing. St. John's is the only parish in the diocese founded almost entirely through the efforts of a lay woman, Ann Jennette (Burnham) Judson. Such a role for a woman was an unusual occurrence in the 1840s.

Ann Jennette Burnham was born in Auburn, New York, on 29 April 1807, the daughter of Captain John Burnham and wife Barbara (McCarty). Her father had been an officer in the Continental Army who was imprisoned by the British during the war and later became a sea captain. Jennette married Samuel Parsons Judson, a widower, in Batavia on 28 July 1833. Samuel Judson became interested in purchasing land in the West, and in 1834 settled with his wife in Elkhart County, where he laid out the town of Bristol. The couple was active on the Underground Railroad, helping fugitive slaves escape to Michigan. In 1847, a group of slave catchers from Kentucky broke down the front door of their home and seized a fugitive named Thomas Harris. When the Judsons confronted them, they were threatened with guns. The Judsons brought charges, and the men were imprisoned while Harris was freed and made a successful escape. In 1849, Samuel formed the Bristol California Mining and Trading Association and launched an expedition to the gold fields of California, dying en route near Fort Laramie of cholera.

During these years Mrs. Judson was determined to establish an Episcopal Church in Bristol, the first of its kind of any denomination in the town. The congregation was organized on 25 April 1843, and land was purchased under the names of her husband, along with Thomas Wheeler, Henry H. Fowler, and Edward A. Lansing as trustees. Plans were drawn up for a church, and Bishop Jackson Kemper arrived to lay the cornerstone on 29 December 1843. The Rev. Richard S. Adams, missionary at Mishawaka, conducted services every third Sunday beginning in July 1843, but he left in April 1846 and was succeeded by another missionary, the Rev. Benjamin Halsted, formerly of Fort Wayne.

Between 1845 and 1851, members of the congregation constructed the small wood-frame church slowly at what is now 601 East Vistula Street. Construction funds were surprisingly tight, and it took great effort to complete it. Mrs. Judson began reaching out for support and enlisted Bishop Kemper for help. After informing him of the planned organization of the parish in 1843, Kemper replied, "I rejoice at your perseverance and pray that it never flag. The divine Head of the Church, in His own good time, will help those efforts which are put forth to the glory of His Holy name."

Kemper wrote a letter of introduction for the fund raising effort in December 1843, and Albert Royce, a vestryman, managed to raise just $12.25. Undeterred, Mrs. Judson made a personal visit East the following year to meet with friends and solicit additional funds, but the building was still not finished in May 1848, when Kemper managed to conduct a service within its open frame. Mrs. Judson embarked on a second trip, and the bishop wrote her another letter of introduction: "The zeal of this lady for the House of God, and her anxiety to receive for her children and neighbors the sacred privileges of the Sanctuary, deserves the approbation and encouragement of all the well wishers of our beloved Zion." Bishop Samuel McCoskry of Michigan also wrote a letter, saying: "I know of no place in which the Church has greater claims upon Churchmen than at Bristol. There is no place of worship of any kind in it, and the possibility is that if Mrs. Judson is successful in her mission, the larger part of the population will be brought into the Church."

Mrs. Judson wrote later that she visited Buffalo and New York City, as well as other intermediate cities and towns. An unidentified priest, writing in the parish register, noted of Mrs. Judson's efforts: "It was new work to her experience, but, as results will show, not beyond her large and generous capacities. It was a work, too, brought with many disappointments and annoyances and must prove especially so to one of her refined sensibilities; all these things she was willing to endure for His sake, for whose honor and glory she was chiefly anxious to have a temple erected." In 1850, after a third trip east, she brought back $2,222, enough to finish the building and purchase a bell for $180.

Bishop George Upfold consecrated the building on 8 May 1851. The wood-frame building resembled a New England church, with painted wood sides and a simple steeple. St. John's first permanent rector, the Rev. Homer Wheeler, had arrived two years earlier in 1849, and since he had a family, he had insisted that the vestry provide him a parsonage near the church, where a cemetery (or "churchyard") was also located. Land was purchased and eventually a Greek Revival house was erected. Mrs. Judson left town about 1855 and lived for many years in New York. She returned in 1875 to see the church one last time and died a decade later in Chicago in the home of her daughter.

After the vestry bought and sold two different lots for the rectory, they constructed a more permanent building about 1875 during the rectorate of the Rev. Wellington Forgus. A series of rectors, all of relatively short duration, served the parish in the ensuing years until the arrival of the Rev. Henry Streeter and his family in 1907. He had formerly served at Gas City but left because of his growing deafness. He remained at his post as a resident priest for 10 years, and his hearing problems did not hamper his ministry. His family would remain members of the parish. During the 1950s, the Rev. Bruce Mosier served as a part-time priest, moving back and forth between St. James Goshen (where he served as its full-time rector) and Bristol. Mosier was a native of Bristol and had grown up as a member of St. John's.

The Rev. Donald D. Dunn arrived in 1966 and remained five years. An English professor, he taught at Ball State University during the week and conducted services on Sundays. During his successful rectorate, the parish expanded its classroom buildings, the money for which was given as a memorial to the Rev. Henry Streeter. The addition allowed room for a Sunday school that attracted many new families, including some from the Elkhart area. In 1980, during the rectorate of the Rev. John Henry Morgan, a resident priest, the parish was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and received a visit from Bishop Tinsley of Bristol, England.

In 1994, during the rectorate of the Rev. Shelby Scott, the church was renovated and enlarged, changing it in some respects from its original appearance but making it more accommodating for modern liturgy. Scott also led the parish on a mission trip to Honduras, prior to the renovation, where they built a church for a local congregation. In more recent times the parish has been served by two women, the Rev. Carol Fleming and the Rev. Jennifer Coe Fulton.


Richard Samuel Adams, 1843-1846
Benjamin Halsted, 1846-1848
Homer Wheeler, 1849-1853
Albert Bingham, 1855
Almon Gregory, 1858
William Henry Stoy, 1858-1859
Henry M. Thompson, 1859-1862
Joseph Adderly, 1863-1866
Henry M. Thompson, 1867-1871
Wellington Forgus, 1871-1876
Moses Clement Stanley, 1877-1881
Sherwood Rosevelt, 1881-1885
Joseph Gorton Miller, 1885-1888
Franklin White Adams, 1889
Charles Turner, 1889-1892
Sherwood Rosevelt, 1892
Walter Scott, 1894-1900
Addison Alvord Ewing, 1900-1901
Clarence Estelle Brandt, 1901-1907
Henry Stephen Streeter, 1907-1917
Elton Hoyt (deacon), 1919-1920
Edwin Ellsworth Smith, 1920-1921
Walter Jay Lockton, 1921-1933
Lawrence Cecil Ferguson, 1935-1937
Virgil Pierce Stewart, 1937-1939
Harvey Livermore Woolverton, 1939-1941
Dom Leo Kenneth Douglas Patterson, 1941-1945
John Peterson, 1945
Bruce Bickel Mosier, 1945-1948
Charles Ray Boswell, 1950-1951
Bruce Bickel Mosier, 1953-1965
Donald Duane Dunn, 1966-1971
Robert Manning Maxwell, 1971-1973
Hugh Steiner Hostetler (assistant) 1972-1973
Paul Menzies Ross, 1973-1976
William Evans Martin, 1976-1978
Richard Joseph Brown, 1978-1979
John Henry Morgan, 1979-1990
Shelby Hudson Scott, 1990-1996
Timothy Merle Ljunggren, 1997-2004
Richard Wineland, 2005-2010
Carol Fleming, 2011-2014
Jennifer Coe Fulton, 2014-

Ron Kaser, St. John's, Bristol: A Parish History. Bristol, Indiana: Bristol Banner Books, 1989.

Papers and Letters Concerning the Founding of St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church (formerly St. John's Episcopal Church), Bristol, Indiana, 1842-1855, Consisting Chiefly of the Papers of Mrs. Ann Jennette (Burnham) Judson (1807-1885). Fort Wayne: Allen County Public Library, undated. 

Parish Register (History Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Burials), 1843-1966

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