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 organ

            The lighted cross outside the building

            The ceiling fans

            Tables and chairs in the basement

            The refrigerator/freezer