Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana Archives

St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Howe (formerly Lima), and Howe Military School

The Episcopal Church in LaGrange County can trace its origin to 1834, when Bishop Philander Chase, formerly of Ohio and later Bishop of Illinois, visited Lima from his home in Gilead, Michigan. He held services for nine local Episcopalians and preached. Between that time and 1851, no attempt was made to establish a parish, though itinerant Episcopal priests, including the Rev. Henry W. Whitesides, would visit occasionally due to its proximity to the Michigan state line.

A church called St. Mark's was organized formally in the spring of 1851, forming a vestry and inviting the Rev. John O. Barton of Wisconsin to become the first rector. Barton, a Nashotah graduate, held services on the second floor above the Williams store in Lima. In July 1852, the congregation laid the foundation for a simple church edifice using a plan designed by W. R. West, architect of Cincinnati. John Badlam Howe and James Blake Howe, local residents and sons of an English-born Anglican priest in Boston, gave most of the funds for its construction. The new church, a small rectangular wood-framed chapel nicknamed "the little brown church," was located on the south side of Defiance Street. Its length stood parallel to the street and had a steeple with a bell on its east end. The yard surrounding the church was enclosed by a fence, and inside was a crystal chandelier providing light. It included a small organ which James B. Howe played.

After Barton resigned and moved to Lafayette, the Rev. Albert Bingham arrived in May 1853, and two months later the church was consecrated by Bishop Upfold on 28 July 1853, with Barton returning for the service. Bingham left in 1855, and the Rev. Henry C. Stowell arrived for a few months in the spring before returning to New York. Bingham then returned to Lima but died four years later after the church had experienced considerable growth.

Several rectors of short duration followed. The Rev. Wellington Forgus of New Jersey assumed the rectorship in 1868 but moved to St. John's, Bristol, in 1874. His daughter Sally is said to have improved the church's choir during this period. Bishop Talbot ordained two priests, the Rev. F. R. Cummings, a former Presbyterian, and the Rev. Abraham Gorrell, a former Methodist, in 1870. In 1876, the Irish-born Rev. Samuel C. M. Orpen arrived, beginning a period of active ministry. Under his leadership the parish established St. John's Mission in LaGrange, which became a separate parish two years later but eventually folded. One writer recalled that Orpen was "a splendid worker among the young people of the village and made the church with its religious and social activities the very center of the lives of those who were privileged to have a part in it." Orpen built a large Sunday school class, baptized 35 and sponsored 39 confirmations during his rectorate.

In 1883, John Badlam Howe died, leaving $18,000 for a new church in Lima dedicated as a memorial to his family. Orpen led the congregation in raising additional funds and broke ground for a new building in July 1884 on land formerly owned by the Presbyterian Church. The new building was larger and constructed of wood and brick in a cruciform shape. It was consecrated by Bishop David Buel Knickerbacker on 21 May 1885. The LaGrange Standard called it "a substantial brick building, artistic in design and graceful and harmonious in proportions."

Howe had also left money for a church school, leaving thirteen acres and $10,000 toward a school for boys to study for the ministry. The money was left in trust to the Bishop of Indiana until $50,000 could be raised. After Bishop Knickerbacker deliberated, a new school, the Howe Grammar School, opened in September 1884.

Under the Rev. Dr. Charles Nelson Spalding, Orpen's successor, the former brown church on Defiance Street was moved to the campus to serve as a chapel for the boys, while Bishop Knickerbacker acquired additional 30 acres two miles west of the school. Beginning in 1890, the grammar school became Howe Military School, offering drilling, officer training, and military instruction for the boys who attended. By 1894, a former graduate, Warren William Holliday, was made Commandant of Cadets.

On 28 November 1902, school leaders laid the cornerstone of St. James Chapel, designed by architect John Sutcliffe and given in memory of James Blake Howe, John B. Howe's half-brother. It was modeled after the chapel at Magdalene College, Oxford, with ornately carved pews that faced the main aisle. An unsubstantiated tradition holds that a student did much of the carving work in exchange for tuition at the school. The chapel was completed in four stages and included a crypt below for members of the Howe family and future bishops of the diocese. A transept was added in 1909, the Mother Chapel in 1914, and bells in 1915. Stained glass windows with the images of bishops look down at the scene. At the time, most of these figures had blank faces, which were to be painted in when new bishops were elected.

Under the leadership of the Rev. John Heyward McKenzie, who became rector of St. Mark's in 1895, the school grew substantially with an influx of students and the construction of more classroom buildings. McKenzie attempted to hold worship services both at the chapel and at the parish in Lima, but by 1908, the task of maintaining both churches proved impossible. The older church was decommissioned, and all services at St. Mark's were moved to the St. James Chapel on the Howe campus. Indeed, the town of Lima would change its name to Howe in 1910 at the insistence of a railroad line because of confusion with Lima, Ohio. McKenzie died in office in 1920 and was praised as a far-sighted leader.

Howe School continued to grow under McKenzie's successors. The Rev. Charles Herbert Young headed the school from 1920 to 1933. The Rev. Robert J. Murphy arrived in 1934 and held many leadership positions in the diocese. During his tenure in 1955, the chapel was resurfaced with Indiana limestone to bring it into harmony with other campus buildings. In 1960, All Saints Chapel, a separate facility, was constructed on the Howe campus for use by its cadets. Murphy retired in 1968, and several priests followed, including Theodore Sirotko, Richard Curtis, George Minnix, and Philip Morgan.

Howe Military School flourished for more than a century. The bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana served on its board of directors, and the two entities enjoyed a close relationship. However, by the twenty-first century, declining enrollments forced the school to curtail many of its operations. The relationship between the school and the diocese became strained and ended in 2016. Three years later in 2019, the school officially closed its doors. St. Mark's continued to hold services at St. James Chapel on the Howe School campus until 2016. Afterward, the parish moved to a building the parish owned at 709 Third Street in Howe. Built in the 1940s, it had been used formerly as its parish hall. It was remodeled to include both worship and hall space. In its sanctuary, the parish uses the original altar of St. Mark's that had formerly been stored in the crypt of St. James.

Anne Wade Haglind, A History of St. Mark's Parish, Howe, Indiana (undated typescript).

Raymond R. Kelly, Here's Howe: The First 100 years. (Indianapolis: Raymond R. Kelly, 1984).

Karen Yoder, Historic Howe: The Philomaths of Howe, Indiana (Kearney, Nebraska: Morris Publishing, 2014).

St. Mark's, Howe, Marriages, 1896-1912, typescript

Parish Register vol. 1, 1852-1885
Parish Register vol. 2, 1885-1894 (missing)
Parish Register vol. 3, 1895-1913
Parish Register vol. 4, Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Burials, 1895-1912 (duplicate register in later handwriting)
Parish Register vol. 5, 1913-1956
Parish Register vol. 6, 1956-1976
Parish Register vol. 7, 1976-1986
Parish Register vol. 8, 1986-2021

Alternate digital link to all the above records

John Oliver Barton, 1851-1853
Albert Bingham, 1853-1854
Henry Cook Stowell, 1855
Albert Bingham, 1856-1858
William Henry Stoy, 1858-1859
Henry M. Thompson, 1859-1867
Wellington Forgus, 1868-1874
Samuel Campbell Montgomery Orpen, 1876-1885
Charles Nelson Spalding, 1885-1895
John Heyward McKenzie, 1895-1920
Charles Herbert Young, 1920-1933
Kenneth Owen Crosby, 1933-1934
Robert James Murphy, 1934-1968
Theodore Francis Sirotko, 1968-1970
Richard Arthur Curtis, 1971-1974
George Myers Minnix, 1974-1986
Philip Morgan, 1986-2000
David Yaw, 2000-2010
Michael Thomas Fulk, 2010-2015
Rachel N. Evans, 2016
Beverly Collinsworth, 2017-2018
Paul Wheatley, 2019-2021
David Evans, 2022-


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