Emmet County MI
Petoskey, MI (Presbyterian Church) (1907) - Contributed by Paul Petosky
The First Presbyterian Church of Petoskey has a history extending back to the Bear Creek mission, established in 1852.
Soon after that the Presbyterian society was duly organized, and that society reorganized is now the First Presbyterian Church of Petoskey. In June, 1882, Rev. W. S. Potter, pastor of this church, preached a historical sermon, from which and other authorities we give the following sketch of this society.
Rev. George W. Hutchins, formerly pastor of a Congregational Church in southern Michigan, became one of the early residents of Petoskey, and preached most of the time until the fall of 1875. The first services were occasional and held at various places in the little hamlet.
In May, 1875, articles of association were adopted, and arrangements made to proceed at once to build a house of worship. May 11th, the committee met and elected D. R. Joslin, chairman, H. 0. Rose, treasurer, and W. H. Kaye, secretary. It was voted that the trustees should proceed to erect a church on Lot 1, Block 3, of Shaw & McMillan's addition, which lots those gentlemen had offered to donate the society. Rev. John Redpath, who had been located at Cadillac, had come to Petoskey at the request of the proper presbyterial authorities with a view of assuming charge of the interests here. He came regularly commissioned by the Presbyterian Hoard of Home Missions and directed his energies to the building of a church. He labored with tireless zeal collecting funds and directing the important enterprise of church building. During this time Rev. O. W. Hutchins acted as pastor of the society. Mr. Redpath also preached. While the church was in process of construction the congregation worshiped in various hills and other accessible places in the village. Particular mention is made of a temporary, rough board building, situated on Howard Street, immediately in the rear of the building formerly owned by Mrs. Campbell, and now occupied by Mr. Byran, as a clothing store. This rude structure has perhaps the honor of being the first Protestant Church erected in Petoskey. Worship was also held in Loveless Buyney's planing-mill, in McMillan's Hall and in the depot.
The foundation of the building was begun about the 1st of July, 1875. A generous interest was manifested in the enterprise by all the citizens, and money, labor and material were liberally contributed. The corner stone was laid with appropriate ceremonies August 10th.
In the fall of this year, 1875, an effort, led by Rev. G. W. Hutchins, was made to organize a Congregational Church in Petoskey. A ministerial council was held October 28, at which it was decided that such a project was not expedient. Mr. Hutchins was commended to the sympathy of the people to the extent that they should compensate him for services already rendered.
From Rev. Mr. Potter's sketch we now quote as follows: "Early in the winter of 1875 and 187<> the church was sufficiently advanced to admit of services being hold in it. By the summer of 1876 the church was completed, with the exception of some small details, which have since been attended to.
" Wednesday, the 23d of August, 1876, was a memorable day in the calendar of our church. The presbytery of Grand Rapids met according to appointment in the newly finished edifice, and dedicated it to the service of Almighty God.
"It seemed well, and truly a matter of thankfulness that amid the early struggles and privations of the pioneer town the cause of God had not been forgotten. It was most appropriate and blessed that the church spire should rise amid the busy surroundings of the embryo city, pointing men to the heavenly and eternal city.
Very truly did some Petoskey correspondent of the Grand Rapids Eagle over the initials W. A. F., say of the services of that occasion: The solemn and appropriate dedication of their beautiful sanctuary to the true God, on the morning of Wednesday, 23d hist., together with the accompanying services of the evening, was an epoch in the history of Presbyterianism in Petoskey that will prove a greater blessing to them and their children than they can now perhaps realize. This was a truly prophetic utterance.
"The date of the dedication was also the date of the definite reorganization of the church, although practically the Bear River church had been insensibly merged into the First Presbyterian Church of Petoskey the year before. At this time the Rear River or Mission Church contained only twelve members, six whites and six Indians.
"On the evening of the day of dedication, the following persons were received into the church by letter: John Parsons, Dr. J. J. Hood, Mrs. Annie Little and Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Gale, making the whole number seventeen.
"From this it will be seen that our present Presbyterian Church is not a new organization, but a continuation of the former Bear River Mission Church, with a change of name.
"The period between the dedication of the church and the departure of Mr. Redpath in the fall of 1877 was not marked by any very important event. The church found the possession of a pleasant edifice of great advantage. It began to assume a more settled and organized condition. Its progress was assured. The ministrations of the pastor were arduous and faithful, and not without substantial results. It gives me pleasure to be able to speak with great appreciation of the work accomplished by Mr. Redpath for this church and this village. His work was of such a nature as to make itself more and more appreciated as the year* go on. I may also say that to him is chiefly due the erection of no less-than five church edifices in northern Michigan, at the following places, viz.: Cadillac, Boyne Falls, Crofton, Boyne City and Petoskey. "The importance of this branch of church work in a new country cannot be over-estimated.
"In the autumn of 1877 Mr. Redpath felt it to be his duty to accept an offer to preach to the Presbyterian Church at Big Rapids. He now exercises efficient pastoral charge over the churches of Boyne Falls, Boyne City and Westwood.
"In view of the departure of their pastor, the church now invited Rev. John J. Cook, then pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Little Traverse, and now of the Presbyterian Church of Crooked Lake, to serve them as temporary supply. Though zealous and faithful, the duties of his own field and the distance between the two churches he was serving, rendered Mr. Cook's labors very arduous and difficult. From a letter which I received before coming to Michigan, I learned that he longed for the coming of a pastor to the Petoskey church, who should relieve him of a part of his responsibilities. Mr. Cook supplied the pulpit about nine months, closing his labors here on the arrival of the present pastor, June 14, 1878.
The list of members who united prior to June, 1878, is as follows: Mrs. Elizabeth Mennounqot, Mrs. Annie K. Little (now Mrs Thomas Kirkland), Thomas Hastings, Mm. Thomas Hustings, James Finety, Mrs. James Finety, Robert Taylor, Mrs. Robert Taylor, Mrs. Anna E. Smith, David Hastings, Mrs. David Hastings, Miss Allie Cushman, Mrs. Alexander M. Ross, Alexander M. Ross. On the evening of June 20, 1882, the present pastor of the church having preached to this congregation as stated supply for four years, was, in pursuance of a call extended to and accepted by him a short time previous, regularly installed as pastor of this church in accordance with the form of government of the Presbyterian Church, a committee of presbytery had made arrangements for the occasion.
The Rev. J. M. Cross, of Grand Haven, the moderator of the presbytery, presided, and presented the constitutional questions.
The Rev. Herriok Johnson, D.D., L.L.D., of Chicago, preached the sermon from II Timothy, ii, 15, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly divining the word of truth."
The Rev. George Ransom, of Muir, Mich., gave the charge to the pastor, which contained much sound and appropriate advice.
The Rev. Aug. Marsh, of Cadillac, delivered the charge to the people, which was received with great favor.
The Rev. Theo. D. Marsh, synodical missionary, offered the installing prayer.
Other ministers were present, most of whom took part in the services. Among these may be mentioned Rev. John Redpath, of Boyne Falls, Rev. J. J. Cook, of Hinman, Rev. Henry Johnson, of Grand Haven, Rev. D. A. Jewell, of Ionia, and nearly all the pastors of the local churches.
Rev. W. S. Potter, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of
Petoskey, was horn in Oneida County, N. Y., Dec. 30, 1850. His
education was begun in the district school and continued at a select
school, a high school at Verona, a seminary at Whitestown, and a
four years' course at Hamilton College, graduating from the latter
in 1875, at twenty-four years of age. As a student, he attained a
high rank of scholarship and was valedictorian of his class both at
Whitestown and Hamilton. In 1878 he graduated from the Auburn
Theological Seminary, and during the course supplied churches at
Knoxborough, Norwich Corners, and Throopsville. June, 1878, he
came to Petoskey at the request of Dr. Henry Kendall, secretary of
the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions. June 20, 1882, he was
regularly installed as pastor, having previously accepted a call extended to him. July 21, 1875, at Verona, N. Y., he married
Celia E. Case, of that place. They have two children. Mr. Potter's
ministry has been blessed with very gratifying results, and he has
a strong hold upon the affections of the community.