Clergy Arrives In The Logansport Settlement
The first Christian service in Logansport was led by a Presbyterian missionary Rev. Martin M. Post. Dr. Post had arrived on Christmas day and on Dec. 31, 1829 he held a prayer meeting in the Seminary building at 4th and Market streets.
|Rev. Martin M. Post|
Building A Church
The First Presbyterian Church met in rooms in Logansport’s downtown. In 1842 the small congregation of about 43 members agreed that they needed their own building. Williamson Wright, son of the Rev. E. W. Wright, donated a lot for the church at Seventh and Spencer Streets, with a couple of restrictions: it was to be a stone church costing at least $3,000, Wright was to be given the first choice of pew and they could use the land “as long as they remained in connection with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America”.
Rodgers and Bemislaffee were the contractors. William Brown & Son agreed to furnish them with goods from their store and take a lien for the contract after the amount raised by the congregation.
Building a $3,000 stone building in 1842 was quite an undertaking. The subscription list, surprisingly, contained 85 names. Some people not on the rolls attended the church and even bought pews. For example, Williamson Wright did not become a member until 1866. Most did not give cash; many donated goods and services.
A drawing of the stone church 1842
By April 1853 the church membership had grown to130 people. The Sunday School roll had 100 names and the average attendance was 80. In 1854 they decided to extend the church 20 feet to the south at a cost of $2,500
William Brown and John W. Wright were given the power to remodel “as they wanted”. “Venetian blinds were installed instead of curtains and the inside of the church was painted oak color.” – February 17, 1854 Democratic Pharos
The 20 feet added to the little stone church brought only temporary relief from the crowded conditions. The basement was redone and used for Sunday School, but by 1871 the sanctuary was also needed for Sunday School students.
In 1877 the First Presbyterian Church announced in the local newspaper that it proposed to expend about "$10,000 in repairing and rebuilding". They moved out of the building for the duration of the work, meeting in private homes and sometimes at Dolan's Opera house.
The completion date was June of 1878 and the cost was about $16,000. But the results were spectacular - a true Gothic Revival structure - with transepts and chancel, two towers and a steeple reaching to the sky. There were buttresses and arched windows; the roof was raised and the ceiling vaulted.
Fire And Rebuilding
In January 1893 a fire started from a gas jet that had been kept burning in the basement under the organ in order to keep the water motor from freezing up. Passers-by reported seeing a glowing light in the building. When the fire department arrived the whole interior was a mass of flames. In an hour and a half fire had totally wrecked the church; the roof falling in at intervals.
Even before the debris was cleared, it was apparent that the stone walls of the 1842 church would remain.
|Logansport artist, Wils Berry's sketch.|
Rebuilding began promptly with John E. and Charles Barnes as general contractors and Dennis Uhl and J. B. Riepinger to install a steam heating system. Meanwhile the congregation accepted an offer of the German Lutheran Church for the use of their church and their school for services and for Sunday School. By fall the congregation was able to occupy their own new building.
|Side view of the 1894 church including new addition in the back.|
Second Fire November 1901
On Sunday night, midnight, November 10, 1901 a fire in the Logan Milling Company on Erie Avenue at the rear of the church spread to the First Church building and virtually destroyed both. (The story was reported in detail in the Logansport Pharos of November 11, 1901.)
Examination of the photos of the church after the 1901 fire showed a two story roofless section at the back of the church, but the tall steeple on the west tower at the front and the walls of the church remained intact even though the entire roof had collapsed.
The dedication ceremony for this next rebuild effort was held November 23, 1902.
Steeple Removed June 13, 1917
After trouble with heavy winds it was finally decided that the pencil point steeple must be removed. Engineer Harry Coleman was given the contract to do so. He sawed it into two sections. The upper section buckled and crashed to the ground, immediately followed by the second section. (Want more? See the Logansport Pharos Reporter, June 13, 1917.)
In the history of this church buildings congregations have made three major additions of education facilities: 1894, the south wing; 1930, adding the upper floor to that wing, and in 1967 the Bigler wing. Paul Bigler, son of Rev. B. B. Bigler, who had served the church from 1905 to 1910, gave the church a deed on a small farm and house, the proceeds to be used for the expansion of Calvary Presbyterian Church only.
The congregation planned for a Christian education addition to include a fellowship hall, church school rooms, choir rooms, kitchen, board room and church school office. They selected Medland and Bowman architectural firm.
Because Paul Bigler of New York City gave a considerable amount for the new fellowship hall, plans were made to call the new hall Bigler Hall in memory of Bigler's parents, the Rev. and Mrs. Barton Bigler.
A stage and folding curtain to divide the room were added. Air conditioning was added in 1991.