FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH. (Prepared by the pastor, Rev. F. B. Cressey, and read at the Semi-Centennial or Jubilee services, October 20, 1874) At the beginning of this sketch it should be stated that a similar work was attempted two years ago by Rev. W. L. Sanders, then pastor of the church. It being quite essential that a history of the church should be read at this time, the present pastor, at the special request of the appropriate committee, has attempted a re-writing of the previous sketch, making such corrections and additions as seemed to be called for.
With these preliminary remarks, the inquiry now is, When was this, the earliest Baptist church in Michigan, organized? The great rallying cry of the hour, " The year of jubilee has come," would indicate that it was- just fifty years ago; but this is a mistake, for in reality we to-day celebrate the fifty-second rather than the fiftieth anniversary of our existence as a church, and as a denomination in this State. Under date of the 9th instant, Mr. Nathan Douglass, of Smyrna, Michigan, an uncle of our sister, Mrs. T. F. Gerls, writes, " I was baptized by the Rev. Elon Galusha, then pastor of the Baptist church in Whitesboro', New York: and remained a member there for eight years. My father's family were very intimate with him during that time. In the fall of 1822 he made a missionary tour to the west, came as far as Pontiac, and constituted the church there. In June, 1823, I visited Pontiac in company with my father, Rev. Caleb Douglass, who preached and broke bread to the church." These statements are in strict accordance with those made by David Benedict in his " History of the Baptists," and also with those of Deacon Elias Comstock, of Owosso, who came to Detroit in May, 1823, and whose father, the Rev. Elkanah Comstock, became the first pastor of Pontiac church in the summer of 1824.
And here it should be recorded that both Elders Galusha and Comstock were sent out, and the latter for some time supported, by the New York Baptist Missionary Society, -that organization to whose generosity so many of our early Baptist churches owe their existence. From a paper of reminiscences furnished by another son of Pontiac's first pastor, Mr. E. B. Comstock, still living in our midst, we learn that at that time (1824) there were but two or three buildings on Woodward avenue, Detroit, north of Jefferson avenue, and that where the post-office now is was then a field of corn.
"The forest was cut back from the river about half a mile, where the wolves each night held their jubilee." Coming on to Pontiac, he found here not more than eight or ten families, two hotels and one store,-the room of the latter being about eighteen by twenty-five feet in size. North of what is now Huron street there was nothing but bushes, save that the land back of the Presbyterian church was occupied by woods. Aside from the improvements made by somebody's bush scythe, the land upon which we now worship, as well as all this side of our chief business street, was very much as the first settler found it.
From a letter written (since the jubilee) by Mrs. Abner Davis, we are able to lift the curtain between ourselves and the past, and behold some of the precise circumstances under which Michigan's first Baptist church was formed. Mrs. Davis says,
"Our farm lay one mile east of where the court-house now stands. We settled there in June, 1822. A few weeks after we moved in we heard there was a meeting appointed two miles south of our house, for the purpose of forming what few Baptists there were into a church, to be recognized as such at some future day. I told my husband I would like to attend the meeting. He thought it a long walk for me, and said he would go with me, for I could not go alone. The first obstacle we met was the Clinton river, there being no bridge. A tree had fallen from a high bank, slanting down across the river. I said I would go back, but he said no, he would help me across. He broke a long stick for a cane, which I took in my right hand, he taking hold of my left, and succeeded in reaching the other end in safety. The first mile there had been a wagon through, --the second there was nothing but blazed trees to guide our steps. The meeting was held in Deacon Gibbs' house, which was a frame building with one room. The outside was covered with wide, rough oak boards, and there was a loose floor, with no fireplace, the cooking being done by the side of a log in the door-yard. In this house the Baptist church was organized. Mr. Douglass opened the meeting. He had a sheet of paper partly written over, which he read.
"It was in the form of Articles of Faith and Covenant, --I think the only ones the church had' for several years. We assented to them, and had our names recorded: David Douglass and wife, Deacon Gibbs and wife, Mrs. William Philips, Mrs. Lemuel Castle, Miss Drusilla Castle, Dr. Ziba Swan, Judah Church, Amos Niles, Mrs. Enoch Hotchkiss, Deacon Orison Allen, and myself. Some weeks after, I don't recollect how many, I heard that Elder Galusha was in the Territory, and would preach at the same place, and recognize us as a church. The little house was filled. I have no recollection of there being much ceremony. The ordinance of the Lord's Supper was not administered at that time."
In addition to the constituent members named by Mrs. Davis, Deacon Comstock gives those of Deacon Allen's wife, Dr. Swan's wife, and Joseph Lee and wife, in all, eighteen. The meetings continued to be held at Deacon Gibbs' house for a year, when they came to the school-house, and then to the court-house at Pontiac, with covenant-meetings at Deacon Allen's. Of the constituent members only one remains connected with us, Mrs. Davis. Occasionally we see her as she visits among, her relatives, where she is spending the latter years of her long, and useful life. All will regret the failing health which prevents her from joining us to-day.
The earliest records of the church having been lost, we are left in perplexing ignorance as to its condition for the first four or five years of its existence.
From the minutes of the first session of the Michigan Baptist association, the first formed in the Territory, which was held June 2 and 3, 1827, we learn that Pontiac church then had thirty-eight members. During the previous year there had been baptized one, received by letter five, dismissed three, and died one. The delegates to the association were Elder E. Comstock, Deacon Shubael Atherton, and Brother Henry Stevens. Three other churches -- Farmington, fourteen members; Stony Creek, forty-six members; and Troy, forty-one members-composed the association. These four churches were represented by a total of fourteen delegates, and Mr. Comstock was the only ordained minister present. There was only one other ordained minister belonging to the association, Elder Moses Clark, of Farmington, but he is marked as absent. In the association were also two licentiates. Lemuel Taylor, of Stony Creek, and John White, of Troy. This association adjourned to meet at "Stony Creek on the first Wednesday in June, 1828, at ten o'clock A.M. Elder E. Comstock to preach the introductory sermon, Elder Henry Davis his substitute."
The earliest records which we have been able to secure bear date "1 Saturday, February 2, 1828." After renewal of covenant, a letter of dismissal was given Sister Harriet Park, formerly Harriet Thomas. As an illustration of the practical piety of those days, Deacon Atherton, and Brothers Lee and Taylor were appointed to assist Sister Church in finding a place for her children. The first of the next month "heard the experience of Mr. John Galloway and his wife Alinda, and received them as candidates for baptism; when baptized to become members of the church." This was for years the peculiar form of record for all members received by baptism.
April 5, Heman Thomas was received for baptism..
Appointed meeting for the 14th inst., "to attend to employing E. Comstock to preach for the ensuing year."
About this time it was unanimously voted to pay the elder for his next year's labor, one hundred dollars; one-third of the amount to be in cash, the rest in produce. At the covenant-meeting of May 3, William Thomas, Willard Thomas, Sally Hotchkiss, and Abina Alward were received for baptism. June 2, a committee was appointed to sit in council with Stony Creek church, --object not stated. Also, there were received for baptism Calvin P. Webster, Elias Comstock (son of the pastor, now of Owosso), and Betsey Weed.
"Appointed a meeting at Auburn on Thursday, 22d, for baptism."
May 31, Lovina Calhoun, Laura Thomas, and Leonard Weed received for baptism.
June 1, Enoch Hotchkiss received for baptism, and Sisters Union Smith and Amelia Mead received by letter.
June 15, "received a request from the Ypsilanti church (which for some time existed as a branch of Pontiac church) to sit in council to give them fellowship as a church." Elder E. Comstock, H. Stevens, and J. Southard, delegates.
July 5, received Sister Betsey Tibbals by letter, from Greece, New York, and received for baptism John H. Morrison. This name, Morrison we all recognize as belonging to our brother who has recently resigned an eight years' pastorate at Holly.
From these extracts it will be seen that the first half of the year 1828 was a time full of growth and encouragement to the then little band. In the spring of 1829 the church began to be much agitated on the subject of Freemasonry. A committee reported "that we entirely disfellowship the institution of Freemasonry." Vote afterwards reconsidered, and matter continued till December, when a stronger resolution of condemnation was passed. Several exclusions resulted.
In March, 1830, the trial of a brother for slandering the pastor was brought to a close by his signing a paper of some length denying the reports he had circulated, which paper was addressed to all the churches of Michigan association, with a request that it be read in their public meetings on the Sabbath.
About this time Elder Comstock was afflicted by the death of a dear daughter, and in the following February he drank that bitter cup which comes through the loss of one's companion in marriage. Not long after the decease of his wife he resigned the pastoral charge of the church, perhaps in September, 1831.
From this time his health gradually declined, and two years afterwards he went to New London, Connecticut, the place of his nativity, with the hope that a change of climate might benefit him. But the Lord's time of reward was near at hand, and on the 13th of May, 1834, our first pastor joined the church triumphant. As soon afterwards as circumstances permitted, appropriate commemorative services were held in Pontiac, and a funeral sermon preached to a crowded assembly. And here we, as a church, may well make pause over the memory of Michigan's first Baptist pastor. His ate was nearly sixty-three years, thirty-two of which were spent in the work of preaching Christ. He met with many trials and during his residence in this then wilderness endured privations which none of us can ever know; but in all these experiences he was constant for the Master. Let the memory of his labors and sterling worth prove an incentive to us who have succeeded him!
Elder Comstock was succeeded in the pastorate by Rev. Aristarchus Willy, who began his labors October 2, 1831, his salary to be "what they pleased to give him." On the second of the following month ten brethren and sisters unitedly asked letters of dismission, that they might organize a Baptist church at the village of Auburn, some four miles distant. Request granted, and church recognized on the 30th prox.; but its formation was evidently a mistake, to say the least. Its existence was very sickly; indeed, it is doubtful whether it ever had a pastor. Elders John Martin and Starkey preached there occasionally, though without being settled as pastors. Elder Martin is now (1874) living at Ovid, while Elder Starkey, father of our sister, Mrs. Mary Pittman, has long since deceased.
Elder S. Goodman also preached for the congregation at various times. A small house of worship was built, which, after standing about two years, was burned. In 1837 it reported to the association a membership of twenty-eight; in 1838 it made no report, and the next year disbanded. In January, 1832, a committee was appointed to consider the wisdom of building a house of worship, to draw plans, make an estimate, and circulate a subscription list. Although the amount pledged reached four thousand dollars, nothing resulted, and the Baptists of Pontiac were compelled to continue worship at the expense of the county.
In November, 1833, Mr. Willy resigned the pastorate, and on the 2d of the next month be was succeeded by Rev. Stephen Goodman. Brother Goodman having spent the closing years of his life in Troy, only seven miles from us, where he died in the summer of 1873, is well remembered. Unusually well versed in the Scriptures, he was enabled to do work in defense of the truth which others are compelled to neglect. His pastorate continued less than two years, and Rev. John Booth succeeded him in May, 1836. Of Mr. Booth we can here say but little, but he is spoken of as one of "Michigan's Baptist backbone pioneers."
As to the condition of the church, the absence of all records. from March 9, 1832, to October 14, 1837, prevents our speaking in detail. The fact, however, that the church was ministered to by such men as Goodman and Booth, induces the conviction that there was then enjoyed at least "a good degree of prosperity." To Rev. S. Chase, of Detroit, we are indebted for the information that Mr. Booth entered the service- of the Michigan State Convention, after its formation, in September, 1836, probably in the winter of 1836-37.
In connection with the ministry of Mr. Booth, it is of great interest to know that in February, 1836, our Brother Chase, just mentioned, was commissioned by the American Baptist Home Mission Society to preach the gospel in Pontiac and vicinity, at a salary of one hundred dollars. By reason of the great obstructions to travel in that early day, be did not reach here until the May following on the first Sabbath in which he preached in the old court-house. He, however remained but inasmuch as the church was negotiating with Elder Booth, of whose coming mention has been made. These facts make Brother Chase's presence with us to-day one of peculiar interest and pleasure.
The next pastor was Rev. Gideon D. Simmons, of Adrian, who began labor October 14, 1837. Immediately after Mr. Simmons' settlement, the most powerful revival ever known in the history of Pontiac swept over the place, blessing all the churches with large and important additions. Not a few of the more prominent citizens were converted. In the Baptist church a meeting of fourteen days was held, a partial result of which was the baptism of thirty persons on the first Sabbath of January, 1838. The covenant-meeting at which these persons were received was held in the academy building, then standing where the old Presbyterian house of worship now is. This building is now occupied by the Catholics. Among the candidates then received were Abner Davis, Francis Darrow, Joseph R. Bowman, and John D. Mills. During this revival our present deacon, O. G. Stewart; was also led to a public profession of faith in Christ.
One of our covenant-meetings about this time was held in the Congregational house of worship, which had been finished nearly four years previously.
At the meeting of the association in the following autumn, the additions by baptism for the year then ending were reported as being sixty-six, and by letter nineteen," bringing the total membership of the church from sixty-three up to one hundred and twenty-three. The revival of 1837-38 evidently brought the church from the weakness of childhood to the strength of maturity.
During this same winter a committee was appointed to visit a sister for not using a letter which had been granted her. A request was also received from another sister, asking a letter, in order to unite with the Presbyterian church. " On consultation, it was granted, showing her moral character."
In February of the same year (1838) the report of a committee appointed to draft Articles of Faith and Practice was accepted, and an additional article annexed declaring the "positive institution of the Lord's Supper." It seems that this same work, in regard to the Articles of Faith, was performed six years before, but the reasons for its being repeated do not appear. And here it may be stated, though in so doing we anticipate a little, that the Articles of Faith again received the special attention of the church in 1854, and were then, together with the Covenant, and certain Rules of Order, printed in small pamphlet form by Phelps & Stevens.
By reason of the increased strength consequent upon the revival of 1837-38, the church determined to arise and build, the society having been through all the previous years of its history without a house of its own.
The following copy of the subscription list will show the energy with which the matter was handled, and also who were the prominent friends of the undertaking. It should be borne in mind, however, that a number contributed whose names do not appear in this connection.
"We, whose names are hereunto subscribed, do promise to pay to the Baptist society of the village of Pontiac the several sums set opposite our respective names, for the purpose of building a meeting-house for said society. Said house to be located in the village of Pontiac:
|Francis Darrow *||$ 200||Randolph Manning *||$ 100|
|O. Allen *||100||Elias Comstock||100|
|A. H. Peck||100||Joseph Lee *||100|
|E. B. Comstock||200||G. O. Whittemore *||100|
|Abner Davis *||200||Moses Fifield *||100|
|Samuel L. Mills||100||Judah Church *||50|
|Daniel LeRoy *||200||I. Paddock *||30|
|S. C. Munson||100||Asahel Fuller, one gray horse||--|
|E. H. Buddington||50||Franklin O. Jones||25|
|Silas White||50||J. R. Bowman||50|
|Orrin Warriner *||20||Henry Butts *||40|
|David I. Prall||15||John P. Le Roy *||25|
|John Southard||100||C. Callon||25|
|B. Eggleston *||25||J. A. Weeks, in glass||5|
|Erastus Francis||15||James Davis||25|
|S. N. Gantt *||55||Joseph Voorheis *||15|
|C. Beardsley||100||George Vowell||10|
|A. Spear *||5||Charles Porter||10|
|A. Lockwood *||5||Dudgeon & Hamlin||5|
|Ira Donelson *||5|
|Rufus Cram *||5||
|H. C. Thurber||5|
|1831-33||Rev. Isaac W. Ruggles,* died 1857||1852-54||Rev. H. A. Read, now of Marshall|
|1833-34||Rev. Robert McEwen||1854-58||Rev. A. H. Fletcher|
|1834-35||Rev. Aaron Williams||1858-64||Rev. G. M. Tuthill, now of Kalamazoo|
|1836-37||Rev. William Page *||1864-68||Rev. A. H. Fletcher (again), now of Portland, Michigan|
|1838-40||Rev. L. P. Bates *||1868-71||Rev. C. C. McIntire, now of Rockport, Massachusetts|
|1841-43||Rev. M. N. Miles, now of Des Moines, Iowa||1872-74||Rev. Simeon O. Allen, now of New York|
|Rev. Matthew Meigs||1874-76||Rev. J. Homer Parker, now of Bay City|
|1843-46||Rev. Nathaniel West, D.D. *||1876-77||Rev. W. H. Utley, present pastor|
|1846-51||Rev. O. D. Hine, now in Connecticut|
|1831||Samuel Bent||1856||Alonzo P. Frost (now in office)|
|1833||Luman Brownson,*||1866||Eli H. Bristol,*|
|1834||Jacob N. Voorheis,*||1866||John P. Wyckoff (now in office)|
|Zephaniah B. Knight|
|1839||John M. Smith,*||1872||Eber L. Taylor|
|1840||Eleazer T. Raymond||Charles Thatcher|
|1841||Gideon O. Whittemore,*||1875||John Hall (now in office)|
|1856||Oliver R. Adams,*||1877||John McCallum, elected, but declined|
|1837-1838||Wm. Barbour||no dates||Andrew Cole|
|1839||Deacon Raymond||1868||Deacon A. P. Frost, served as a volunteer until December|
|1844-1845||Wm. Barbour||no dates||Rev. Mr. McIntire, the pastor|
|1845-1850||H. C. Knight||no dates||John Hall|
|1850-52||A. B. Frost||no dates||Thomas Wyckoff|
|1852-54||Wm. E. Rice||no dates||W. D. King|
|1854-56||Charles C. Waldo||no dates||Mr. Wyckoff|
|1856-60||Judge Van Valkenburgh||no dates||J. J. Green|
|1860-62||Charles Draper||no dates||Florus Barbour, stayed only a short time|
|1863-66||A. P. Frost||1877||Rev. Mr. Utley, the present pastor, still continues to fill the office since January|
|no dates||Charles Hurd|
(Signed) "JOSHUA KNIGHT, Mod.
|(Attest) "CHAS. THORP, Scribe."|
|1837-39||Rev. Algernon S. Hollister||1865-66||Rev. Charles Ritter|
|1839-47||Rev. John A. Wilson||1866-67||Rev. William R. Pickman, now of Baltimore, Md|
|1847-50||Rev. William H. Woodward||1868-69||Rev. William Charles, now of Detroit|
|1850-54||Rev. Oliver Taylor||1869-74||Rev. Joseph R. Anderson, died in Pontiac, May 26, 1874|
|1854-61||Rev. Thomas B. Dooley||1875||Rev. Richard Brass|
|1861-64||Rev. John O'Brien, DD., died in Pontiac, December, 1864|
|1837-41||George P. Williams||1844 to 1866||James Maten|
|1837-40||Richard Windiate||1867 to 1877||Leonard Sprague (except 1870)|
|1841||John Barned||1867 to 1871||James Tregent|
|1842||George Lester||1872 to 1877||J. T. Copeland|
|Benjamin B. Morris||1877||James Tregent|
|1844 to 1870||George Carswell (except '67, '68, and '69)|
|James S. Allen||1841||C. H. Palmer||1861 to 1877, except 1872|
|Alexander Ayres||1837||Calvin C. Parks||1847, 1848, 1849|
|Levi Bacon, Jr.||1864 to 1867||C. J. Petty||1872|
|John Barned||1841||John. Pound||1870 to 1877|
|W. Beckley||1850 to 1853||Joseph E. Sawyer||1872 to 1877|
|Charles J. Birdsell||1837||Leonard Sprague||1846,1847, 1862, 1864 to 1877|
|O. L. Backinstose||1876||H. L. Stevens||1848|
|William Busley||1837 to 1840||Sherman Stevens||1837, 1840, 1842 & 1847|
|George Carswell||1844 to 1870||W. Stickney||1854 to 1857|
|Edward Coates||1867 to 1869||Byron G. Stout||1871, 1872, and 1876, 1877|
|William Coates||1846, 1848, 1849||Charles V. Taylor||1877|
|J. T. Copeland||1853 to 1861, and 1867 to 1876||H. C. Thurber||1867|
|Francis Darrow||1862||Alvin Toms||1857 to 1866|
|Thomas J. Drake||1852 to 1856||James Townsend||1850 to 1853|
|T. A. Flower||1867||A. Treadway||1840|
|Green Freeman||1870||Calvin G. Wheeler||1846|
|John Goodrich||1837||Charles W. Whipple||1840 & 1841|
|N. Harding||1850||A. Whitehead||1842|
|Robert S. Hendlen||1840||Daniel Whitfield||1852 to 1857|
|Amos C. Hubbard||1847, 1848, 1849||James Whitfield||1846|
|James B. Hunt||1837 to 1842, 1844, 1847, 1849, & 1850 to 1853||Walter Whitfield||1848 to 1860|
|Thomas J. Hunt||1844, 1846, 1847||F. A. Williams||1840 to 1842, 1844, 1846, & 1848 to 1853|
|G. K. Johnson||1849, 1850||George P. Williams||1837 to 1841|
|George Lester||1841 and 1844||John P. Wilson||1864 to 1866, and 1873 to 1876|
|John Lewis||1850||William Wilson||1841, 1842, 1846, 1847, 1851 to 1862|
|H. W. Lord||1858 to 1861, & from 1868 to 1877||David Windiate||1837-1840|
|Thomas Mabley||1875 & 1877||David Windiate||1855 to present, except 1863 & 1867|
|James Maten||1844 to 1866,1868, 1869,1873, & 1874||Henry Windiate||1846|
|A. B. Mathews||1844,1847,1848, 1851, 1858, 1859,1861, 1862, & 1864 to 1869||Richard Windiate||1837 to 1842|
|John G. McKinley||1870 to 1875||Henry Woodward||1858 to 1866|
|Benjamin B. Morris||1837 to 1842, 1848, 1849, 1851||W. Worthington||1854 to 1857|
The number of communicants by the last report, for 1876, was one hundred and sixty-four. The church has in connection a flourishing Sunday-school and a mission-school. The' number of officers and teachers in the former is sixteen, and there are one hundred and twenty-five scholars on the rolls. The mission-school is reported in a flourishing condition, with an average attendance of about one hundred. The Sunday-school has a library of three hundred and fifty volumes. This society has a very fine organ, purchased in 1864, at a total cost of three thousand three-hundred and eighty-five dollars and ninety cents. The fine-toned bell was purchased by the female members of the congregation.
Two fine memorial tablets have been erected in the church to Revs. John O'Brien and J. R. Anderson, the former contributed by the ladies. In this connection we may state that Rev. John O'Brien was for many years chaplain to the United States garrison at Mackinaw, and also chaplain of the Tenth Michigan Infantry during the Rebellion. Rev. Thomas B. Dooley was chaplain of the Fourteenth Infantry.
Rev. Mr. Brass, the present rector, performs considerable mission work at Waterford and other points, in addition to his regular duties.
The whole amount raised for church purposes by Zion church for 1876 was two thousand five hundred and thirty-five dollars and fifty-two cents.
ROMAN CATHOLIC. (by Rev. Father L. J. Wicart) Although for more than a century there have been secular and regular priests of various orders residing in Detroit, and, probably, at intervals visiting or passing through Oakland County, the first priest who came here at appointed intervals, so far as known, was a Rev. Mr. Missui, who was at the time assistant parish priest of the Cathedral of St. Anne, in Detroit.
According to the most reliable information he came here once a month; boarded at the "Hodges House" while here, and held meetings in a small house near Huron street, owned by a Mr. or Mrs. Dennis. It appears, however, that his ministration in this part of the country did not last longer than a year, and did not exceed the limits of the village of Pontiac.
The next clergyman that we hear of, after Father Missui, was Father Kelly, who is buried in the cemetery of Dearborn, where he died about 1860-61. Where his residence was is uncertain, nor does it appear that he had any deserving the name. He was most of the time traveling, through three or four counties, on horseback or on foot, appearing occasionally (perhaps twice a year) to baptize, marry, and administer to the most pressing wants of the people, and was off again. While here he made use of the aforesaid room, in which to collect a few Catholics living in this vicinity. He also occasionally visited White Lake, where a colony of Irishmen had settled, lately arrived from the "old country." Through his exertions an old, and perhaps unoccupied building, was secured by this band and converted into a meeting-house, where, upon his visits to White Lake, the people would collect.
The number of members at White Lake at that time was greater than at Pontiac; but being removed from any centre of business, and away from railway communications, the number gradually diminished, and during the building of the Detroit and Milwaukee railway there was quite an increase of Catholics in Pontiac, and it being a growing city, with fine prospects, was chosen as a centre of missions.
The academy building in the place was for sale, and, in order to give a start to the forming mission, the bishop of Detroit, Dr. Lefevere, purchased and dedicated it to Catholic worship, and appointed Rev. Father Wallace first resident clergyman at Pontiac, with jurisdiction over the whole county. While he resided here he attended once a month at White Lake, and occasionally would extend his visits as far as Milford, and also to Holly, into' which places the extension of the new railroad brought a few laborers. This father came here about twenty-three years ago (1853), this being his first mission in the diocese. He resided here ten years, when ill health induced him to revisit Ireland.
After he had been absent about two-months, the people being in need of a resident clergyman, the bishop appointed as his Successor, in March, 1863, the Rev. L. J. Wicart, then assistant priest of the Cathedral of St. Anne, in Detroit, who held his first service here (Pontiac) on the first day of May, 1863, and continued to the spring of 1877, when he was succeeded by Rev. Father Baumgarten, the present incumbent.
Upon Father Wicart's arrival he found the church and a small dwelling both on the same lot, near the "Northern Hotel," in such close juxtaposition that what was said or done in the hotel could be easily heard in the church. This inconvenience --and others not proper to mention, but the natural result of too close proximity to a tavern and a bar-room-- induced him, inasmuch as no lot adjoining the church could be purchased, to remove from the premises.
Accordingly, having purchased other lots, he removed the church to where it is now located, on Saginaw avenue. This clergyman also attended White Lake for a while, as his predecessor had done, but the old building in that place being in a dilapidated condition, and seeing no prospect ahead for the place, —situated as it was in the backwoods, —he took the bold determination to extend his lines to the more distant but better located village of Milford.
After a few years of labor he succeeded in building there —on the highest ground in the village— a beautiful church, whose golden cross overlooks and overshadows the place. The building of the Holly, Wayne and Monroe railway brought into the village increased activity, and new accessions to the church, at the same time making the point easily accessible to the surrounding population. This church, owing to its distance from Pontiac, has divine service at present only once a month.
Probably, however, in the course of time, when laborers in the vineyard of the Lord shall be more numerous, it may become a pastoral residence, and a centre of operations for smaller places along the line of the railway. The number of families worshiping here is about fifty, which are yearly increasing. The number at Pontiac is about seventy-five, all told.
This clergyman, in years past, had also the care of the members in Holly and its neighborhood, which may have numbered about fifteen families; but about 1870 a church was built in Fentonville, Genesee county, which induced him to resign this care to the clergyman of that village, the distance being only six miles.
It may be proper to state in this connection that there is a small charge near Royal Oak, where perhaps twenty-five families from the south part of the county, and the west part of Macomb county, worship occasionally. The building, however, is situated in the county of Oakland, and, consequently, is entitled to notice here, although of itself it is not of much importance. At the present time the two principal places of Catholic worship in the county are Pontiac and Milford, from whence occasional visits are made, to the smaller charges.
How a whole county can be attended and administered to by a single clergyman is a secret known only to the Catholic clergy, who, having no wives or children to provide for, can the better attend and minister unto their people, being enabled to devote their whole time, energy, and attention to the spiritual wants of their flocks, without interference by material or mixed avocations. This is the clue to their success in the midst of a poor, scattered, and sometimes almost wild population in the country and the wilderness. Were they hemmed in as clergymen of other denominations are, by the care and charge of wife and children, they would be obliged to give up traveling at night and being away from home, obliged to relinquish the care and solicitude of minor places, and attend, at the most, only the places of their residence. This is about as much as an ordinary clergyman can or is expected to do; hence any reflecting mind cannot but admire the wisdom of our system of celibacy, which, divesting from all exterior cares of family, fits us so much the better to look after the lost sheep of Israel,—congregate them into a fold, and, when outside the pale of civilization, never to relinquish them or cease ministering to their spiritual wants until, in their turn, they become centres, able to provide for themselves and give assistance to other needy ones.
AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH. The African Methodist Episcopal church was organized in 1861, by the Rev. Augustus R. Green. The principal members were George Newman and wife, Harriet Washington, Henry Parker, Samuel Stevens and wife, John Jones, and others. The first resident minister was Rev. J. Warren, and since have been the following, respectively: John Franklin, J. H. Alexander, J. Bass, J. Mack Smith, A. Johnson, G. Benson, H. H. Wilson, C. Ward, B. Gardens, and the present pastor, Rev. John Ferguson.
A house of worship was purchased for the use of the society in 1872. It is a small frame building, located on the south side of Auburn street, a few rods east of Saginaw street, and has a seating capacity of about one hundred.
The present number of members is thirty-six, which is probably somewhat less than it was a few years ago, on account of the falling off in the number of the colored population in Pontiac.
AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH. This society was organized in 1869 with forty members, principally through the efforts of Rev. David Butler. Some time previous to this the members had purchased a frame building of a colored man named Hunt, and still previous to the purchase the building had been leased for religious purposes. Subsequent to the organization the society purchased the lot where the church now stands, and removed the building thither.
A Sabbath-school was also organized soon after the church, and has been continued to the present time. The present pastor is Rev. David Butler, and there are also four local preachers in the city,-Albert Wilson, Samuel Stevens, — Green, and — Jones. Present membership about thirty. Services are held twice every Sunday.
PROTESTANT METHODISTS. A society of this denomination was organized some fifteen or twenty years since, largely from the ranks of the first Methodist Episcopal church. They have a fine brick church on West Pike street, but at present have no settled pastor. We have been unable to procure any information concerning this society.
Source: History of Oakland County, Michigan by Durant, Samuel W. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & co., 1877.