Houses of WorshipSeptember 6, 2019
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Story by Candy Neal
Photos by Kaiti Sullivan
Dubois County has a long and rich church history. While some are well-known, such as St. Joseph Catholic Church and Shiloh United Methodist Church, there are several lesser-known churches of varying sizes and denominations.
Many of the churches still hold services. But there are a handful that stand and are maintained for historical value. These old-time churches still stand in their glory, reminding passersby of a simpler, more primitive time, when the county and its residents were still forming and shaping Dubois County’s identity.
To get a different kind of glimpse into the county’s rich church history, one could follow the Trail of Faith, a project put together by a Dubois County Leadership Academy group. The Trail of Faith detailed founding information and the location of 19 historic church buildings built prior to 1912, as well as four churches outside the county, listed as honorable mentions. The project, which was done in 2012, included printed maps; although the maps are no longer available, the listing is still on the Dubois County Visitor Center’s website.
And with a little planning and the help of GPS or a road map, anyone can make a weekend out of visiting the different buildings.
Take, for instance, St. James Lutheran Church in Holland.
The original congregation came from the Kingdom of Hanover, Germany, to southern Ohio to the Hanging Rock community, according to Lee Bilderback’s book, “Holland History.” In 1850, five families came to southern Dubois County to purchase land; five more families followed in the spring of 1851. Those remaining in Ohio formed a Lutheran church. The church’s charter members — Henry Lippoldt, Henry Finke, Henry Meyer, Henry Schlotmann and C.H. Henke — moved to Dubois County in the fall of 1851.
“By 1853, ‘der St. Jakobi Gemeinde’ or St. James Congregation, resettled in what became western Cass Township,” Bilderback wrote. The congregation built a log cabin on the banks of Sugar Creek just west of Holland and held its first service on Easter in 1853.
In 1875, the congregation moved to Holland into a new church, which is the current facility at 105 N. Second Ave.
A fairly hidden church building, one that most people don’t know about, is Our Sorrowful Mother of Mt. Calvary in Ferdinand. The stately building sits on a hilltop just south of Monastery Immaculate Conception. It’s not a walk many people make, unless they are experiencing the quiet solitude the area offers.
But the short walk up the hill is worth it. The small chapel with its tall steeple is a very serene sight to behold.
Father Eberhard Stradler oversaw the building of the Chapel of Our Sorrowful Mother, which sits on what was called Mount Calvary. It was constructed in 1877. At the same time, Fr. Eberhard also worked with one of the early prioresses of Monastery Immaculate Conception.
The church is no longer used, and is locked so no one can go inside. But one can peer through the windows and circle the building as part of their meditative stroll. The building is very photographic, especially on a clear sunny day with the blue sky as a backdrop.
Maple Grove United Methodist Church is another church that is no longer used for weekly church services. The church and its campground, at 6685 S. County Road 585 West, Huntingburg, has been owned and maintained by the Huntingburg United Methodist Church since 1969. Now, the Historic Maple Grove Foundation plans to take over the property and revitalize it.
Once the Historic Maple Grove Foundation is ready, the church will donate half of the property — which includes the historic structures — to the foundation, and the foundation will purchase the other half, said Arlene Wagner, a member of the Historic Maple Grove Foundation.
Maple Grove’s first ordained minister, Jacob Trometer, started as a minisonary after coming to Dubois County in 1841, and preached to Germans living in the area just west of Huntingburg, according to George R. Wilson’s history book of Dubois County. Trometer preached “in private houses, even in log huts or barns, as there was no place of public worship,” Wilson wrote. “After a year and a half of hard and earnest labor he was pleased to see his ideas of religion gain favor with the people, and the Lord gave him a goodly number of souls for his hire.”
In 1843, the new congregation bought land to build a church and campground. A log church was dedicated in the fall of 1844, with the campground being added a few years later. “In pioneer days, camp meetings were the great religious occasions of the year,” Wilson wrote.
The campground was part of the camp meeting movement, which actually began in 1799 in Kentucky. People would meet to talk about politics, religion and personal salvation. The camp meeting movement is known to have set the stage for the great American Revival.
The congregation continued to grow, and in 1880, a larger church was built.
The church grounds are used for some activities, like reunions. Although the church is locked, the site is open to people wanting to get a look at the grounds, nearby cemetery and the church itself. The sandstone steps, double doors and straight-back pews inside look as if service will be held on Sunday.
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church still operates today in St. Anthony. The church was conceived for convenience, according to “History of Saint Parish,” written by William Leo Hayden and Thomas Patrick Scharf.
The church was formed in what was originally called St. Joseph. “From this it is deduced that the German Catholics in this vicinity decided that it was too far to go to church in Jasper, Ferdinand or Celestine,” Hayden and Scharf wrote. “So they decided that there were enough Catholics to start a new parish.” Father Joseph Meister, pastor at St. Celestine, oversaw the construction, and took care of the parish as a St. Celestine mission.
The log church was completed in the spring of 1862 and blessed under the patronage of St. Anthony of Padua on Easter Sunday of that year. Fr. Meister organized the church to become its own parish in 1864, and became St. Anthony’s official pastor in the fall of 1864, according to Hayden and Scharf.
“St. Anthony was now a parish in the fullest sense of the word,” they wrote. “It consisted of about forty families drawn from parishes in Jasper, Ferdinand and Celestine.”
In September 1865, Fr. Meister and some of St. Anthony’s church members went to the Dubois County Commissioners and asked that the town’s name be changed from St. Joseph to St. Anthony; their petition was approved.
In 1881, work started on a new stone church. That church was completed and dedicated in September 1885, and consecrated in September 1886. That is the church that stands today.
The Christian Church of Duff, also known as the Church of Christ, organized in 1868. In February 1911, discussions about building a church took place, and donations were requested from those involved. In that year, it was built and furnished.
“The Church of Christ had a stable congregation which meets even today,” Hugo Songer wrote in his 2000 book, “Dufftown.”
“Its members were the bedrock of the community — the ones who cautioned young children who were out too late in the evening that their mamas wanted them. They were staunch supporters of the school, and they in the middle of community events — plays in the Odd Fellows Hall, quilting parties, and shivarees.”
Because of decades of wear and tear, the church building itself is no longer used. But it still stands at the corner of County Road 350 South and Nicholas Street in Duff, still with a Church of Christ sign out front. Church members still meet for services in a nearby home, Songer said last week.
A site listed as an honorable mention — but located in Spencer County — is the Monte Cassino Chapel in St. Meinrad.
The Monte Cassino Shrine was built in 1854 and named after the abbey in Italy founded by St. Benedict. The shrine was used by monks and students of the St. Meinrad Archabbey for recreation and solitude. It was decided that a more permanent shrine for Our Lady of Immaculate Conception was needed, leading to the construction of the current sandstone chapel building. The chapel was dedicated in 1870.
According to the chapel’s history, a smallpox epidemic hit St. Meinrad in 1871. It is believed that a pilgrimage students took to the shrine that January to begin a novena seeking Our Lady’s help stopped the epidemic. As thanks, pilgrimages are made each year around Jan. 13, the final day of the novena.
The Monte Cassino Chapel was restored in 2016 and 2017, and will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2020.
The list of churches and honorable mentions can be found at www.visitduboiscounty.com/plan-your-visit/trail-of-faith. Information about all the churches in the county can be found under the “What To Do: Spiritual” tab on the Visit Dubois County website.
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