A Brief History of Bloomington’s First Methodist Church

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Joseph Tarkington, an early settler in Monroe County, wrote that the first known Methodist meetings in what is now Monroe County were held in 1816.  According to a church history published in 1999 in conjunction with the laying of the cornerstone of the Wesley Wing, the first formal church organization in Bloomington took place in 1818 when meetings were held in the log cabin of Nelson Moore at what is now College Avenue and Seventh Street.meth church

The first Methodist church house was built at Fourth and Madison streets in 1822.  Rev. James Armstrong had intended to build it of logs thinking that it was the best that could be done.  The building was already well under way when Bro. Joshua O. Howe deemed that Methodism deserved a more respectable edifice.  He had the logs removed and a frame church was built in its place, Bro. Howe bearing nearly the entire expense.  That church was heated with a fireplace for several years until a member went to Louisville and saw a stove for the first time.  He purchased one for the church at his own expense and had it installed.

Twenty-one years after the construction of the first church, a second church was constructed in 1843 at southeast corner of Sixth and Morton.  Once again Bro. Howe provided generous financial support.  John Wright, a brick mason and the father of Gov. J. A. Wright, provided some of the labor to complete the two-story, brick structure.  The first floor of the new church was used for a church school and the second floor as a sanctuary.  Members entered the sanctuary from an exterior flight of stairs with separate doors for men and women who were seated separately during church services.

In 1879, church trustees declared the building unsafe for public use.  Lots were subsequently purchased for a new church at the corner of College Avenue and Third Street.   The cornerstone was laid in August 1879.  The much needed building with a seating capacity of more than 600 in the sanctuary was dedicated in August of 1880.  It was an imposing structure with gothic windows and doors.  A steeple tower extended 60 feet above the roof.

As membership continued to grow, so did the need for an even larger structure.  In 1904 plans were underway for a new Methodist church at the corner of Third and College where the Bloomington Convention Center is now located.  This church served the congregation until 1910.  Later it was sold to the Bloomington Armory Association and the sanctuary was converted into a basketball gymnasium.  Some of the stained glass windows were, however, preserved and used in the present church.  The bell went to the Clear Creek Christian Church.

The congregation broke ground for yet a larger church in the spring of 1909 at the corner of Fourth and Washington.  It was dedicated the following year.  At the time it was built, it was considered one of the finest and best-appointed churches in the city, the largest and most thoroughly-equipped Methodist Church.  It contained many modern amenities including electronic devices and a state-of-the-art pipe organ.  The cost of the facility was $101,000.  Most of the money was raised through the subscription of members.  W. N. Showers, B. F. Adams and W. H. Adams subscribed $5,000 each.  Stone for the church was furnished by the Monroe County Oolitic Stone Company.

In 1937, a few days after Easter, this building was gutted by fire.  When the flames died down, only the exterior limestone walls of the church remained.  Even the dome which rose to a height of 116 feet and was supported by a massive steel frame weighing 250 tons could not be saved.  But the spirit of the congregation could not be dampened.

Plans were made immediately to rebuild the church in the same location.  Construction began in October 1937 and the building dedicated in October 1938.  The tower above the church was increased in height to accommodate a bell, and the lighted cross that adorned the church destroyed by fire was once against placed atop the tower.

From that day to this, the Methodist Church at Fourth and Washington has served the community.  Of course, through the years it has been remodeled several times to accommodate an ever-growing membership.  The Wesley Wing, a church addition containing classrooms and office space was dedicated in 1999.


  • Bloomington (IN) Republican, February 18, 1885, p. 2.
  • Bloomington (IN) World, December 7, 1893, p. 10.
  • Bloomington (IN) World, July 4, 1896.
  • Bloomington (IN) Herald Times, May 13, 2009, pp. 6-7.
  • A History of the Buildings Housing the Congregation and Ministries of the First United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Indiana, prepared for the occasion of the Laying of the Cornerstone for the Wesley Wing, November 7, 1999.
  • Smithville News, December 11, 1908.

Destructive Fire in 1838 Renewed Interest in the Formation of a Fire Company

On Monday morning, February 26, [1838], about half past four in the morning, the citizens of Bloomington were roused from their sleep by the ringing of bells and cries of fire.  It was soon ascertained that the fire was in the frame buildings owned by G. R. Johnson and occupied by Mr. Jonathan Legg as a store, Drs. Foster and Ballard as an office and S. T. Hardesty as a tailor shop.  By the time anyone noticed the fire, it had made considerable progress.  The flames spread so rapidly that it was nearly impossible to save anything.  The valuable medical library of Drs. Foster and Ballard was destroyed by fire together with all the account books and notes of the county library, they being in the possession of Dr. Ballard as the treasurer.

A postcard from the early 1900s shows a horse-drawn fire engine on the way to a fire.  Unfortunately, in 1838, a vehicle like this did not exist.

From these buildings the flames spread and destroyed the two-story, log house of Mrs. Batterton located nearby.   The house, nearly 20 years old, was separated by a narrow alley from the large, two-story brick hotel occupied by Mr. John Hyndman.  For a time it seemed likely that the hotel would be destroyed, but through the great exertions of Bloomington citizens, it was prevented from taking fire.

From the nearest estimate that can be made, the following losses were sustained:  Johnson–$5,500; Legg, $2,200; Foster & Ballard, $9,000; Mrs. Batterton, $1,000; Hardesty, $100; and Hunter and Williams, $100.

Previous to this fire, there had been only one other fire of such magnitude during the past 15 years.  At that time, because Bloomington had no fire company, engine, buckets or fire hooks, little could be done except to watch as flames consumed buildings and property.  Soon after the fire there was interest in the formation of a fire company.  With time, however, interest waned and in 1838 Bloomington was in the same predicament.

With the recent destructive fire, interest in a fire company was renewed.  A decision was made to levy a tax on all improved real estate within the limits of the corporation for the purpose of funding a fire company.  Additionally, citizens with considerable capital invested in goods or anything that could be destroyed by fire were encouraged to purchase insurance such as that available from J. B. Barnes of Bloomington, an authorized agent for the Indiana Mutual Fire Insurance Company.

Information for this blog was taken from the March 2, 1838, issue of the Bloomington Post (page 3) available online at https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=BP18380302&e=11-11-1918-12-11-1918–en-20-BDT-1–txt-txIN-war——


Blog post by Randi Richardson

juicy bootsOn May 9, 1883, the Bloomington Progress reported that a car load of old rubber boots had been gathered up over the past year and shipped to eastern cities as they were in great demand by the manufacturers of chewing gum.  The rubber was reportedly melted in large kettles and after being sweetened and scented was made into little cakes prized by Bloomington school girls.  Old rubber was preferred to the new because sweat from the feet made it tender and toothsome.  Shoes and boots worn next to the feet were preferred to those that had been used as overshoes…

This bit of trivia may be one for Ripley’s believe it or not.  However, the first flavored chewing gum was invented in the 1860s by mixing powdered sugar with tolu flavoring.  The first patent on chewing gum was made by a dentist, William Semple, in 1869.

Efforts to verify that old rubber was used to make chewing gun have not been successful and today the opposite is true.  Recycled chewing gum from the streets of Amsterdam is being used to make rubber shoe soles.

Guest Post: Geology Collection

At this year’s Gala, the Collection Manager, Hilary Fleck, was asked to have objects or projects from the Collection that attendees could sponsor to help us further care for the artifacts in our collection. Dr. John Thiel answered this call and fully sponsored two graduate interns to identify, clean, and catalog the geological and fossil specimens in our collection. The following blog post was written by the interns, Kimberly Cook and Emily Thorpe, as a report about their project with our collection.

Who we are

Emily Thorpe and Kimberly Cook are graduate students at Indiana University. Emily studies paleontology and science education and outreach and Kimberly studies biodiversity science. Emily and Kimberly work in IU’s Paleontology Collections housed on campus in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. When the Monroe County History Center (MCHC) discovered a group of previously unknown geologic specimens within their collections, Emily and Kimberly were hired to sort, clean, identify, and catalog the specimens.

What we did

Emily dry cleaning-1
Emily dry cleaning

Sort Specimens

The process began with sorting to reduce redundancy and optimize storage space. Specimens that did not fall within the scope of the collections were set aside for secondary review. Specimens that were more valuable to the collections were retained for cleaning and accessioning. There was a wide selection of geodes, marine fossils, and even the tooth of an unidentified canine!

Clean specimens

After the specimens were sorted, they needed to be prepared for accessioning and storage. First, dust, lint, and dirt were removed from the surfaces with brushes and pliers. Using toothbrushes, the specimens were gently cleaned to remove excess grime in nooks and crannies. This preparation ensures that the catalog numbers can be written cleanly on the specimens and that they are ready for exhibition or outreach events.

Kimberly cleaning
Kimberly cleaning

Assign catalog numbers

Each specimen received a unique numerical identifier. Specimens that were found in the collections together and were either parts of the same rock sample that had broken off, or multiple specimens collected from the same collecting event, received one single number. One record contained over 200 crinoid stem fragments! Using archival-quality paint and pens, each number was painstakingly written on its corresponding specimen so that it will always be linked to its metadata record, even if it were moved from its box, bag, or drawer.

database entry
Database entry

Identify specimens

Once catalog numbers were assigned each specimen was described using accurate geologic nomenclature. Fossils were identified down to the Linnaean taxonomic class level when possible (for example, some coral specimens could be identified as Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Cnidaria, and Class Anthozoa). Without more information about where the specimens were collected, often the age and time period the fossils were from was undeterminable. Many of the specimens are commonly found in Indiana and though collection location data was unavailable, these specimens are indicative of the Indiana region.

Add specimens to database

All of the inherent information that could be determined from the specimens was added to the MCHC’s collections database with their associated catalog numbers. This geologic collection is now organized and primed for the museum’s future use.

writing numbers
Writing numbers

How it benefits the History Center and visitors/students

This project has diversified the scope of the MCHC’s collections and created a unique opportunity to educate visitors about Indiana’s geologic history. Even without knowing where these specimens were collected, conversations with visitors about our state’s geological heritage are still possible through comparisons with similar fossils they might find in their backyards. These conversations can address a variety of topics, from plate tectonics to climate change, and expand the visitor’s imagination even further into the past. MCHC’s collections scope has expanded from hundreds to millions of years, which will allow the Center to tell parts of Indiana’s geologic history that were previously underrepresented within the collections.

One of the drawers neatly organized after the project

The History Center would like to thank Dr. Thiel again for his generous donation. We hope this is the first of many similar projects the History Center can provide in the years to come. 

Baptisms at the Reformed Presbyterian Church: 1838-1859

Blog post by Randi Richardson

The Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, has a number of items relevant to the history of Monroe County.  Among those items is Session Book 2 for the Reformed Presbyterian Congregation at Bloomington.  This book covers the period from 1838 to 1860 and includes a list of baptisms from January 1, 1838.  A digital image of the book is available online at http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15078coll29/id/1549/rec/3.

Bloomington’s Reformed Presbyterian Church, c. 1900,  at Walnut and S. Third.  Courtesy photo IU Archives.

Like other church records, the session book is valuable because it shows church business, church membership, when people joined the church and how; resolution of disputes and actions taken against church members who did not follow church policy.  Some deaths were noted, for example, Dorrance B. Woodburn reportedly departed his life on October 23, 1856, at the age of 70 years, two months and seven days.

As of September 26, 1858, according to information from Session Book 2, the whole number in the congregation was 100.  Baptisms at the church, which were written as a single list in Session Book 2, are noted below and shown in in order of appearance:

  • June 10, 1838—Margaret Small, infant
  • July 8, 1838—Sarah M(illegible) Tate
  • October 1, 1838—Margaret Keeny, infant
  • June 16, 1839—James Hervey Keeny, infant
  • August 25, 1839—Jane Small, infant
  • May 11, 1840—Elizabeth Louise Matilda Wylie, infant
  • May 11, 1840—Joseph Small, infant
  • May 11, 1840—William John Dinsmore, infant
  • May 11, 1840, Thomas Craig Woodburn, infant
  • September 27, 1840—William Wallace Tate, infant
  • May 31, 1841—Elizabeth Jane McQuiston, infant
  • May 31, 1841—Andrew McKinley
  • November 14, 1841—Jane Small, infant
  • February 6, 1842—Sarah Ann Keeny, infant
  • May 2, 1842—Richard Dennis Wylie
  • May 2, 1842—Andrew Dinsmore
  • October 16, 1842—Alexander Cathcart Small
  • February 25, 1844—Amelia Elizabeth Galletly
  • June 23, 1844—Jane Dinsmore
  • September 30, 1844—Martha Jane Blair
  • September 30, 1844—Margaret Wylie
  • September 30, 1844—James Thomas Campbell McKinley
  • May 3, 1846—Euphemia Blair
  • May 3, 1846—Martha Jane Keeny
  • July 19, 1846—Susan Emma Wylie
  • August 30, 1846—Margaret Jane Blair
  • November 8, 1846—Matilda Ann Galletly
  • April 4, 1847—Theophilus Wylie Densmore
  • May 23, 1847—Laura Adelaide Woodburn
  • February 27, 1848—Joseph Stewart Alexander
  • February 27, 1848—Rebecca Wylie Alexander
  • February 27, 1848—Rachel Almira Alexander
  • June 18, 1848—Nancy Jane Small
  • June 18, 1848—Theophilus Morrow Glenn
  • June 18, 1848—Edward Graham Glenn
  • August 20, 1848—Mary Margaret McQuiston
  • August 20, 1848—James Francis Blair
  • May 6, 1849—Walter Emmet Woodburn
  • May 13, 1849—Helen Rosana Stormont
  • August 21, 1849—Samuel Brown Wylie
  • May 12, 1850—Matilda Hannah Dinsmore
  • May 12, 1850—James Niel Blair (Emma Blair’s name is written in a different color ink to the side of James)
  • March 16, 1851—Sarah Adeline Glenn
  • June 15, 1851—William Hill Blair
  • December (no date given), 1851—Elizabeth Amelia Stormont
  • October 11, 1852—Theophilus Andrew Wylie; (No date given, written below Theophilus Wylie)—John Robert Blair
  • April 16, 1855—William Riddel Small
  • April 16, 1855—Ida Lizzie Woodburn
  • April 16, 1855—Franklin Stormont (No date given, written below Franklin Stormont)—Hannah Elizabeth Blair
  • June 15, 1856—William Theodore Blair
  • November 30, 1856—Zenas Leander Stormont
  • June 28, 1857—James Albert Woodburn
  • August 7, 1859—Louisa Margaret Stormont

For more information about Monroe County churches, check out the church files at the Monroe County History Center.

The Family History of Harold Franklin Hayes Revealed through a Naturalization Record

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Original copies of many naturalization records from Indiana are archived at the Indiana Archives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Harold Franklin Hayes was born in Marion County, Indiana, on February 6, 1925, to John Michael and Daisy “Fern” (Baugh) Hayes.  He had an older sister named Rosemary at the time of his birth and would eventually have a younger sister, Hannah. Harold’s paternal grandfather, John Joseph Hayes, was a native of Ireland who, according to various census records, was naturalized about 1893.

Harold, in all probability, knew his grandfather as both families lived in the same community and John didn’t die until Harold was about 17.  On the other hand, Harold came from a broken home.   Sometime between 1930 and 1932, when Harold would have been between 5 and 7, his father disappeared and his mother, Fern, moved in with Earl Webb. The newly joined couple settled in Monroe County where Fern gave birth to three more children with Earl:  Katherine/Kathleen, Robert Earl and Donald Keith.  So it’s quite possible that Fern severed the ties with her first husband’s family when the children he fathered were quite young.

Melissa, a native and resident of Monroe County, is one of Harold’s grandchildren.  After developing a curiosity about her ancestors, she began researching the Hayes family.  When she discovered that her great great grandfather was from Ireland, she added a visit to the country of his birth to her bucket list.  However, she was stymied because Ireland is about the size of Indiana.  If she could only narrow down the location, her visit would be infinitely more meaningful.

Given that a review of census records and vital records did not reveal the birthplace of John Joseph Hayes, Melissa searched for his naturalization record.  The Indiana Archives at Indianapolis has many of the original naturalization records from around the state.  They have been indexed, abstracted and made available online through the Archives.  A naturalization record for John Joseph was located among Marion County Records.

What Melissa discovered is that John Joseph was not naturalized in 1893 as was indicated in census records.  He came to American in 1893 but didn’t declare his intention to become a U. S. citizen until 1917.  The declaration, which was good for seven years, could be used to apply for the Petition of Naturalization and ultimately, upon approval, a Certificate of Naturalization would be issued with the original given to the new citizen and a copy going to the court to prove it was issued.

In 1923, a year before John Joseph’s declaration was due to expire, he filed his Petition for Naturalization in the Marion County, Indiana, Superior Court.  The document provides a lot of information, some not noted in the Declaration document, including the names and dates of birth of his six children.  This additional information made it possible to verify that the John Joseph Hayes who completed the document was one and the same John Joseph Hayes the ancestor of Melissa.

Others, like Melissa, who have an ancestor that immigrated to America and became naturalized or began the naturalization process but did not necessarily complete it, would be wise to seek out any documents related to the process.  Those documents may well include valuable information not available elsewhere.  Look for the documents in places where the immigrant resided.

Seventh Day Adventist Church History: A Bit of a Conundrum

Blog post by Randi Richardson

The Bloomington Seventh Day Adventist Church once stood where this church now stands at 915 W. Howe.  Look closely at the foundation, the cinder blocks at the front of the church look much newer than the rough stones at the rear.  Could these rough stones be the bones of the old church?

The Genealogy Library at the Monroe County History Center has a wonderful collection of files for the various churches in Monroe County.  Although the collection is quite comprehensive, there are several files that contain only a limited amount of information.  One of those files is for the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 301 Matlock Road where services have been held since 1957 or 1958.

Efforts made several years ago to obtain a history of the SDA church, and a list of its early members from the church office, were not successful.  Recently two rather lengthy articles related to the church’s history were discovered among items published in the Bloomington Herald Telephone and archived in the vertical files of the Monroe County Public Library.  The earliest item was dated 1968 and the later one in 1981.    Unfortunately, the two articles are not always in agreement with each other.

According to the 1968 article, there was a small group of SDA believers that settled in Smithville in 1871; according to the 1981 article, the beginning of Seventh Day Adventists in Monroe County was the organization of a church in Unionville in 1885.  Both articles reference the Young family and mention Chase Young specifically.  Chase was reportedly the last child born to Louis/Lewis Young (not mentioned by name in the 1981 article), a charter member of the church, who raised all of this children (either 10 or 20 depending on which article is most credible) in the religion.

In 1968 it was reported that a lady in Ohio received a copy of the SDA church magazine, Review and Herald.  She enjoyed it and sent it on to her unnamed brother, Louis Young, in Indiana.  He, in turn, read the magazine and in 1885 accepted Saturday as the Lord’s Day.  He was the first one in Monroe County to do so.  His son, Chase Young, was still a member of the church when he died in Bloomington in 1965.  (Efforts to corroborate that death with a death or burial record in Monroe County have not been successful.)

Both articles reported that Jacob Butcher on Moore’s Creek was an early convert to the religion.  According to the 1968 article, Jacob was riding along on his horse one day when a piece of paper began flapping against the horse’s leg.  He got off to remove the paper and discovered it was a page from the Review and Herald with an item about keeping the seventh day holy.  After a trip to Battle Creek, Michigan, the church headquarters at the time, to learn more about the SDA doctrine, Jacob and his family became Seventh Day Adventists along with the family of Joseph Wampler, also of Moore’s Creek.  These families from the Smithville area often traveled to Unionville to meet with the church established there.

The Bloomington Seventh Day Adventist Church was organized on November 18, 1916.  Soon afterward Louis M. Walsman was elected church elder and Walter V. Love the church deacon.  The first church building, according to the 1968 article, was a small house at 915 N. (sic) Howe purchased at an unspecified time by the membership and remodeled to suit their purpose.  According to the 1981 article, in 1926 the congregation purchased a lot at 915 W. Howe and constructed a new building first used on August 13, 1927.  The 1929-30 Bloomington City Directory indicates that the Seventh Day Adventist Church and school were, in fact, located on W. Howe and not N. Howe.

Max Taylor, a native of Monroe County born to Forest Edward and Bernice Doris (Kern) Taylor in 1928, grew up on West Second Street in Bloomington near the SDA Church and school on Howe.  Because his mother was a member of the church, he and his siblings attended the school from grades one through nine.  He recalled his memories of the school, located in the basement of the church, in his autobiography titled Many Lives, One Life Span.

In 1956, plans for the construction of the present church building on Matlock Road were initiated.  The church became a reality in February 1957 when the congregation held their first services in the new building, according to the 1968 article, or February 22, 1958, according to the 1981 article.  Since that time a church and church school have been operated continually at that location.

The conflicting history of the Adventist Church illustrates a problem that often confronts genealogists.  When sources don’t agree, what should one believe?  In this situation variations of the story are presented above as well they should be.  The reader is then free to choose one variation or the other or, more ideally do more research to determine the facts that are beyond the scope of this blog.


“Seventh Day Adventist Message Came to Indiana in 1849,” Bloomington (IN) Herald Telephone, September 24, 1968, Vertical Files, Monroe County Public Library.

“Seventh-Day Adventists Mark 65th Anniversary,” Bloomington (IN) Herald Telephone, Saturday, August 15, 1981, Vertical Files, Monroe County Public Library.

Max T. Taylor, M. D. Many Lives, One Life Span (Xlibris Corporation, an online publisher, 2011), pp. 13-27.