A little history of Whitcomb and the church.
By: Joyce A. Borne
EARLY HISTORY: THE TOWN OF UNION / WHITCOMB
In Franklin County, Indiana, a small rural crossroads town began to form during the early 1800’s. The town of Union was platted by Ebenezer Howe, September 14, 1816. Later the town was added to by Samuel Goudie in about 1834 and again in 1850 by Isaac Updike. The Whitcomb Post Office was established June 12, 1846 and closed April 2, 1906 in the town of Union. Because the Post Office was named Whitcomb this soon became the common name for the town of Union. (The United States Post Office Department never allows two Post Offices of the same name in a state, and this accounts for the multiplicity of names enjoyed by various towns in Franklin County----Town of Union--- Post Office name Whitcomb.)
Early in the history of Union/Whitcomb the town had numerous businesses and in the Union Business Directory that accompanies the map of Union in the 1867 Map of Franklin/Fayette/Union Counties there are two General Stores; Blacksmith Shop; Manufacturer of Wagons and Carriages; Carpenter and Joiner; Manufacturer of Draining Tiles; Manufacturer and Dealer in Harness, Saddles, Bridles, Collars, Whips; a Physician (Dr. Daniel B. Linegar); and an owner/breeder of Fine Horses.So as you can see early Union/Whitcomb was an active community. The 1867 map also shows a church—a church that is still located in the same spot as it was in 1867. That church was the Methodist Episcopal Church.
METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: BROOKVILLE CIRCUIT
The following information is from: HISTORY OF FRANKLIN COUNTY INDIANA by Reifel, page 425 (1915).
The Union Church, or Whitcomb, as it is locally known, is located in Brookville township, in the village of Whitcomb. In an old moth-eaten Bible, which still lies on the pulpit, is written some interesting facts which have been given the historian by George S. Golden. The old Bible says the church was built in 1861 and dedicated the same year by the Rev. Dr. John W. Keeley, of Brookville, who was assisted by the Circuit Pastor, Rev. J.W. Winchester. However, meetings had been conducted for three or four years previous to this time in an old log house which served the double purpose of a school building and a house of worship. As soon as the congregation numbered 25 souls the courageous little band decided to build the building just mentioned. Fifteen new members were added to the church in the fall of the year the church was dedicated. The acre of ground on which the church was erected was donated by William Cummins and his wife and some of the forest trees which surrounded the little church in 1861 still lend their grateful shade to the worshipers. The first board of trustees was composed of William Tucker, E.S. Adams, John McCoy, John Greenly, and John S. Kennedy. The trustees in 1915 are Royal Updike, Oliver Miles and George S. Golden.
OVERVIEW OF THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH
Information from church historical records written by Mrs. George Kuehn, Mamie Spenny, and remembrances of the church congregation.
This small rural church in Franklin County was built and dedicated in 1861. The land for the church, approximately one acre, was deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1860. Little was done to the church until 1925. It was as it appears in the above picture. About the only change that occurred was the replacement of the old mourner’s bench with a new chancel rail in 1898.
In 1925 a meeting of all the church members was called and it was voted to remodel the church. The remodeling included the building of the vestibule on the front of the building and the present pulpit area and the Sunday school room (the little room) on the back of the building. In addition, the entire building was raised and a basement was dug and walls laid of cement block.
The newly remodeled church was dedicated on April 11, 1926, with the District Superintendent of the Connersville District, Dr. J.T.Schull conducting the dedication service during the morning worship. There was a basket dinner at the noon hour and in the afternoon service Dr. J.S. Ward of Connersville First Methodist Church was the speaker. At 7:30 that evening, there was an evangelistic service with W.A. Hartsaw, a former pastor, bringing the message. The pastor of the church was Rev. E.A. Gillum.
The following was written by Mrs. George Kuehn: regarding the major remodeling of the church in 1925.
Remodeling has been talked of for some time and on August 16, 1925, a special meeting of all members and those interested in the church was called, and it was decided that something would be done, at which time a discussion followed as to whether we would build a wing or a basement, and I am glad to say that even those who talked and voted for a wing, have proven some of the best help all the way through, showing their willingness to make a success of it.
The trustees of the church at that time, namely Harry Dawson, O.E.Miles, William Golden, Vernon Dorrel, Clifford Roberts, Joe Wilhite and George Wallace, were immediately chosen as the building committee, with Harry Dawson , Chairman; Clifford Roberts, Secretary; and Vernon Dorrel, Treasurer.
Work began almost immediately, the very first being the tearing away of some stones from the foundation to see what was necessary to proceed with the work, and it is believed that O.E. Miles used the “cro-bar” in loosening the first stone to take it away. It might prove of interest to know that a little old horse shoe was found in the old foundation, I suppose having been put there for good luck, the same was replaced in the new foundation.
The work from that time until now has been progressing, sometimes slowly and sometimes faster, most of the committee doing their full share of the work, and many other who were interested in the welfare of the church, doing likewise.
Just what has been done can be seen by most people who knew the church. To the others, the church was raised and the basement built and equipped. The entire new room on the rear and the vestibule on the front, a new floor was laid, new seats, carpet, blinds and paper, and a new furnace installed.
The approximate cost of the building was $7000. The membership at that time was eighty-five. An American flag was presented to the church by members of the D.A.R. of Franklin County.
SIGNIFICANT DATES AND EVENTS OF THE CHURCH AFTER 1926
Church re-roofed, painted on outside, inside sanctuary and pulpit area papered; “little room” and vestibule walls painted --cost $500. Rededication Service held by Rev. J.E. Byrd. Membership at that time: 99.
1943-45 A Service Men’s Record was unveiled in the church by Mrs John Thompson, wife of the minister Rev. John Thompson. The plaque carries all the names of the young men and women from our church and from the community who are serving in the military in the service of our country during World War II (1945).
A committee was appointed to landscape the church yard, which was done under the supervision of Dr. Ward, a specialist from Purdue University. The committee was George Lanning, Martha Borne, and Edna Kuehn. Men and women alike, with tractors, wagons, mowers, scythes, shovels, etc. came for days and worked to get the church yard in condition to landscape: such as cutting weeds, hauling away loads of ashes and trash that had accumulated in the back of the church yard; the toilets were moved to the side of the church yard from the middle of the plot; the ground was cultivated and grass seed sown, the circle drive and parking space was arranged and the landscaping begun. Some of the shrubs were purchased from the nursery and others being home-grown even the small maples and other shrubs were brought in from the woods, namely the Everett Waltz woods.
Rev. R.L. Carlson: minister
Parsonage remodeled at cost of $13,000
Rev. R.O. LaHue: minister
A robed choir was organized by Martha Borne and Lena Klemme.
Methodist Youth Fellowship - M.Y.F. reorganized under leadership of Rev. Paul Mabry. Major project was redecorating the “little room” Sunday school room and making a small Chapel area.
1955 A beautiful new pulpit was given to the church in memory of Dwane Dorrel by the Dorrel family.
1956 Coal furnace converted to oil burner
1959 Mr. & Mrs. Everett Harsh and family presented the church with a new electric organ.
1959-60 New ceiling, lighting, and windows for sanctuary done by Joe Lambert: cost $1861. Additional work done by members included: new wall board applied, walls painted wood work varnished, floors refinished—the altar rail changed, choir seats, piano and oragan rearranged. The MYF purchased new carpet for the main aisle of the church; WSCS purchased carpet for pulpit area; Young Adult Class purchased carpet for the vestibule. Loren Waltz and Quentin Lanning constructed a new altar table and valance. The church purchased new offertory plates, candle sticks, cross, and a new 50 Star American flag and Christian flag. Projects completed in April 1960--- Rededication Service held May 29, 1960: Rev. Tyler, District Superintendent conducted service.
Minister Rev. Wm. Whipple
1960-61 New oil furnace purchased.
Redecoration of kitchen and dining room in basement.
1964 Parsonage completely redecorated.
MYF presents church with Eternal Burning Light above Altar.
1965 New pews purchased and installed: cost $3106.
New pews, altar light dedicated Oct. 21, 1965 at a 2:00 PM program: Rev. Criswell: presiding.
Rev. Hardin, minister.
1966 Church receives Farm Bureau Award for Rural Church Improvement.
Rev. B. Hardin helps in planning and participating in the first County wide Easter Sunrise Service.
1968-69 In 1968 at the General Conference a merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church was approved. In the Indiana Conference of 1969 this merger was completed and the name changed to United Methodist Church.
1969 New hymnals purchased
1970 Outside of church was painted. New siding was put on belfry.
Edna Kuehn presented Babtismal Bowl to the church.
New piano was purchased which replaced piano that had been purchased “second-hand” and used since rededication of church in 1926.
1971 New lighted Bulletin Board in front of church was presenteded by Vernon Dorrel in memory of his wife Opha.
Circle drive and parking area paved. Walk installed from circle drive to front of church.
1972-74 Rest rooms built onto south side of church, Quentin Lanning: $2624.
Heating and plumbing by Everett Harsh: $780
1972 Trees in church yard cut down due to age.
County water line comes to Whitcomb are. Church and parsonage tap onto County water line.
1975 Big locust trees in church yard cut down.
MYF presents church with new candle lighters.
1977 Sound system installed in memory of Merritt Naylor by his wife Betty Naylor and family.
New organ purchased August 21, 1977.
Dedication Service held for sound system and organ: December 1977.
Sanctuary, pulpit/altar area, vestibule painted.
1978-79 Church is covered with white vinyl siding—cost $7300.
1980 Bronze Communion Set presented to church by Mr. & Mrs. Dale Renaker and family in memory of Mrs. Renaker’s mother.
Communion Set dedicated at Christmas Service.
1982 Ceiling fans installed in sanctuary.
1983 Basement remodeled—ceiling lowered, recessed lights installed, paneling put on walls—cost $5300.
1983 New carpet installed in pulpit /altar area, center aisle, and front of sanctuary in memory of Stella Lanning.
Dedication service Oct. 16th by Rev. P. Brenneman.
1985 A large beautiful stain-glass window picturing Christ praying was installed behind the worship /altar area given in memory of Vernon and Opha Dorrel by the Dorrel family.
1986 Baptismal Font given to church in memory of Edna Keuhn by her family.
Two matching flower stands were given in memory of Gaylord and Mary Dorrel by their families.
The Baptismal Font and Flower Stands were made by Loren Waltz, a member of this church. A dedication service was held in October.
1989 New United Methodist Hymnals were purchased
1999 A meeting of the members of the congregation was held and after much discussion, soul-searching, and praying it was decided to sell the parsonage. The parsonage had not been lived in for several years. It was sold in November to a young family: Phil and Paula Balllinger
2000-01 New concrete ramp walk way to front door completed. Concrete walk from front of church to back of church on the west side of building completed. A walk way from circle drive to back door completed.
Electric chair lift installed from back door of church to basement. Electric chair lift to be installed in vestibule to the sanctuary.
Interior of the sanctuary, pulpit / altar/worship area, “little” room and vestibule painted.