WESLEY CHAPEL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
The History of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church -- 1837-1987
Wesley Chapel Church was the first place of worship in Eel River Township, Allen County. In the spring of 1837, a group of neighbors realized the need of religious meetings, and met at the home of MR. and MRS. JOHN McKEE. They organized what stands today as the congregation of the Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church. Ten people were present at this meeting. MR. JOHN BENNETT was chosen Class Leader and REV. JAMES ROSS made additional visits. During the winter months, the meetings were held at the JOHN McKEE home, but in the spring they were transferred to the Old Hickory School on the JOHN MAYO farm. In good weather, the meetings were held outside in the grove.
In 1843, a hewn log house was erected opposite the present building and was consecrated as a place of worship. A visiting pastor came on every other Sunday. MR. JOHN McKEE, an ordained minister, was a great help to the church. In the early 60’s, the first organ was purchased even though a number of members opposed it.
The present church building was built in 1865 on ground donated by JOSEPH JOHNSTON. The building measured 40 feet by 60 feet and cost $2,500.00. At that time, there were two entrances and two aisles. The heat was furnished by two large box style stoves that burned wood. There was no vestibule, but two doors, which opened into the main room.
The dedication was February 18, 1866, by REV. S. N. CAMPBELL. REV. D. P. HARTMAN was pastor. S. K. WATERSON and A. W. ROBINSON were stewards and S. K. WATERSON, ISRAEL HOLLOPETER, and HENRY DICE were Class Leaders. Around 1880, S. K. WATERSON, a local minister, assisted the ministers in their work as this was a five-point circuit. Other churches were Huntertown, Wallen, Swan, and Cedar Creek. About 1890 Wesley Chapel was separated from the Huntertown Circuit and was placed on the circuit with Salem and Churubusco. In 1911 the Churubusco Circuit was formed and included Wesley Chapel, Blue River and Charter Oak.
During the years of 1891-92-93, a great revival was conducted by REV. HOLLOPETER. In 1897, the first Ladies Aid Society was organized and lasted only five months.
The church was remodeled in 1900 and 1901 when the two aisles were changed to one. A vestibule and belfry with the first bell was built. The building was rededicated February 17, 1901. The pastor was REV. CHARLES TINKHAM.
A series of meetings for six weeks in 1906-1907 were held by REV. MILLER with 85 accepting Jesus as their Savior.
The Ladies Aid Society was reorganized in 1907, but lasted only three years. In 1914, it was reorganized again and has been working faithfully since that date. In the fall of 1940, it was renamed Woman’s Society of Christian Service, with the uniting of three Methodist denominations. In 1968, when the Methodist Church united with the former E. U. B. Church, the name was again changed to the United Methodist Women.
In the spring of 1927, the church was again remodeled. Under the direction of REV. FRANK YOUNG, a basement was built consisting of three rooms; a kitchen, a dining room, and a furnace room. In 1935 the old plastering was removed and new plastering applied. Electricity was installed in the church in October, 1937.
LIST OF PASTORS
The following list is not complete, but records of the church being lost, it is the best the Historical Committee could do:
1850 REV. JESSE SPARKS
1855 REV. M. M. HAWN
1856-57 REV. JAMES JOHNSTON
1858-59 REV. R. A. NEWTON
1860-61 REV. C. W. LYNCH
1863-64 REV. J. H. SLEAD
1865 REV. E. E. PIERMAN
1879-80 REV. D. P. HARTMAN
1883-84 REV. MR. BICKNEL
1886-87 REV. JAMES GREER
1890 REV. U. A. BRIDGES
1890 REV. DAN MARKLEY
1891-93 REV. BRENTON S. HOLLOPETER
REV. MR. CARTRITE
REV. MR. CARR
REV. B. SAWYER
1894-96 REV. MR. HAINES
1899-1901 REV. CHARLES TINKHAM
1902-05 REV. WILLIAM MURRAY
1906-07 REV. MR. MILLER
1908-1910 REV. RIECELDERFER
1911 REV. BROWN
1914 REV. LORAIN SHELDON
1915 REV. JONES
1916 REV. LYONS
1917-18 REV. FRA. P. JOHNSON
1919 REV. HENRY LACEY
1920 REV. WILLIAM MURR
1921 REV. GEORGE THOMAS
1924 REV. MR. WYANT
1925 REV. CHARLES KENDALL
1926 REV. FRANK YOUNG
1928-29 REV. LORAN COYNER
1930 REV. ORA C. BOGUE
1931-32 REV. ROBERT WAGNER
1933-34 REV. E. J. HULTS
1936 REV. LESTER J. BRUNNER
1937 REV. HAROLD F. BLAKELEY
1938-40 REV. RUSSELL HUMERICKHOUSE
1941 REV. ROY BALLARD
1942 REV. A. E. BURK
1945 REV. GEORGE HOUDT
1946 MRS. BLODGETT
1947 REV. HERMAN SURBER
1948-49 REV. WESLEY BULLIS
1950-52 REV. CHARLES ECHELBARGER
1953 JUNE REV. CHARLES ARMSTRONG
1953 SEPT REV. ERNEST MINEGAR
1956-57 REV. DONALD CLARK
1958-60 REV. JUBAL EVANS
1960-65 REV. KENNETH TOUSLEY
1965-68 REV. CHARLES HILL
1968-72 REV. GILBERT DILLEY
1972-74 REV. HAROLD SCHRAM
1974-75 REV. DAVID SHOEMAKER
1975-77 REV. JAMES RHINE
1977-79 REV. MARILYN BALES
1979-86 REV. JAMES O’DELL
1986 REV. JACK THOMPSON
In October 1937, over two hundred members and friends of Wesley Chapel came to the Homecoming and Centennial Celebration of our pioneer church. DR. M. C. LESTER, Superintendent of Wabash District, was the principal speaker. REV. HAROLD BLAKLEY was the pastor.
As Wesley Chapel Sunday School grew in numbers, our building became inadequate for classrooms. A building committee was appointed in 1952 to make plans and decide how to enlarge the church. After the committee inspected several churches, it was decided to build a balcony. A building fund was started immediately to raise money for this project. The Women’s Society, the Youth Fellowship and various classes, members, and friends contributed to the fund. A total of $4, 105.00 was received. Trees were cut and sawed into lumber. Planning and carpenter work was under the supervision of ALVIN SMITH and the REV. CHARLES ECHELBARGER. Women assisted by varnishing the woodwork. When the work was finished, a balcony, four classrooms, a cloak room, and a storage area had been added. The public address system, electric pump, electric stove and cupboards in the kitchen were added at this time. In 1955, a lighted bulletin board was installed in front of the church. A new roof and exterior painting completed the work at this time.
For a number of years, members felt that our interests were nearer the Fort Wayne District rather than the Wabash District. In July 1956, proceedings were begun, when a survey was taken and approved to ask the conference that we be moved to Fort Wayne District. After much time spent by DR. GREER, the Official Board, and DR. STROH, we were welcomed into the Fort Wayne District and put on a circuit with Robinson Chapel. The minister would live in Robinson Chapel’s parsonage and we would pay $30.00 monthly rent. REV. JUBAL (JUAL) EVANS was appointed pastor in June 1958 and remained the minister until June 1960.
In 1961, a new organ was purchased and in 1963, the W.S.C.S. bought a piano. In January and February 1963, under the direction of REV. KENNETH TOUSLEY we rebuilt the sanctuary, laid new carpeting, and furnished it with new furniture. The cost of this undertaking was about $3,250.00. An addition was added to the northeast side of the church to facilitate the addition of two modern restrooms and a cloak room. The work was begun in May 1964 under the direction of HAROLD MARTIN.
The REV. CHARLES HILL served Wesley Chapel from 1965-1968. Under his leadership the church continued to grow. He remained minister until he was transferred to a church in Fort Wayne.
REV. GILBERT DILLEY was our minister from 1968-1972. Under his leadership, the last addition was made to the church. The addition consisted of four classrooms and a pastor’s study on the ground level plus a basement with a lovely fireplace and stairway to the south exit. The balcony was also remodeled so that we could have a nursery. During Bible School of 1970, the entire church was used.
REV. HAROLD SCHRAM followed as pastor from 1972-1974. He passed away this spring after suffering severe injuries in an automobile accident. DAVID SHOEMAKER was pastor from 1974 for one year. At this time, Wesley Chapel decided to try going to a one church charge. When REV. JAMES RHINE came to minister to us, we needed a home for him. GARY PARKER provided a house for the Rhines, until we purchased a parsonage on Johnson Road in 1976.
REV. MARILYN BALES became our pastor in 1977. It was during this time that we shared our minister with Altarstar United Methodist Church in DeKalb County. We celebrated again when the church building debt was paid and the mortgage was burned.
In 1979, REV. JAMES O’DELL became our pastor and remained with us until 1986 when he retired from the ministry.
Since the parsonage had only two bedrooms, the garage was converted into a lovely bedroom and bath. This left the house without a garage. Under the direction of MAX SMITH, the men of the church built a two and one-half garage and breezeway in 1983-84. New carpet was also installed in the living room.
The debt on the parsonage was completely paid in January of 1987.
Some of the members of this church who entered into full or part-time Christian service are:
LUCY BOJRAB, who married the REV. HERMAN SURBER
RICHARD BOWKER, who served as a pastor from December 1974 until March
1978. He died May 17, 1978
ROSALIE BOWKER, who has been a missionary in South Korea since 1966. She
Teaches organ in a college in Taejon, So. Korea
MAX SMITH, who is a local preacher
LARRY SMITH, who is now visiting pastor here at Wesley Chapel
TODD GROSS, who is an assistant pastor with youth in a church in Knoxville, TN
During the years several large memorials have been given to the church. Some of these have been:
The lighted cross outside the building
The ceiling fans
Tables and chairs in the basement