The Early Life of First Presbyterian Church
The building which houses the First Presbyterian Church of Noblesville located at 12th and Conner Streets, has been in existence since 1893. However, the church itself has been around much longer, since its organization on December 20, 1848.
Mr. John T. Carlin, one of the pioneers of our community and one of the founding members of the Presbyterian church of this city, over a century and half ago, would ride to Indianapolis over corduroy roads and bring the supply pastor for the Presbyterian church out here on horseback. The first organized Presbyterian Church in Hamilton County was a few miles east of Noblesville and was known as the Stony Creek Presbyterian Church and Society. The only thing that remains of this church, which was located on Middletown Road, is its peaceful cemetery where several of its past members are laid to rest. The Noblesville church grew out of the Stony Creek church. From its beginning in 1848, when 12 members were listed on the rolls, membership has grown steadily over the years.
The church first held services in a white frame building (pictured above) on the east side of South Catherine Street (now Ninth Street), just north of the present Richwine Apartment building. Then in 1893, the brick building on Conner Street was built.
The church did go through some rough years after 1856. The records are very incomplete after this date and for some years the church was without any pastor. However on June 7, 1867, a re-organization took place and a new breath of life was given to this church. Some time in the early part of 1868 the Rev. John S. Craig, D.D. was called as pastor of this church. “Father Craig’s” life in the church was reported as one of ceaseless giving, since “recorded statistics show that benevolent contributions were very large although Rev. Craig’s salary often amounted to not more than $300 a year.”
There are many interesting stories to tell about the people of this congregaton. There is an account of the church’s first rummage sale. You may think its hard work on a rummage sale, but consider this: “About the first rummage sale held by the women of this Presbyterian church–circa 1915, lasted a week, hours 1:00 to 9:00 p.m. The site was a room on the west side of the square donated by Mrs. Prudence Darrah. Alas, it had no heat, and the weather was cold! Subsequently someone donated a large base burner, Henry Gaeth furnished kindling and blocks from his box factory, and different families brough baskets of coal each day. At dinner time the men joined the “girls” for supper in the room.”
Selling old paper isn’t new either (even in the days before ecology). The woman’s circle of this church made its first money by gathering papers and magazines. Ruth Sowerwine made the rounds, driving a Percheron team and wagon from Mr. Gaeth’s factory. The paper sold at $1.50 per 100; magazines at $1.75 per 100.
Also remembered in this church’s accounts, is life as a child. It is remembered how the younger generation always chose the back seats so they could snicker when something funny happened, and that was every Sunday, according to Louise VanCamp in her remembrances given in an article in 1948 in the Ledger. She recounts how it was great fun for the kids when Will Craig’s hearing aid Whistled or the time Jim Craig came to church barefoot.
Lousie remembered how Alice Christian, Chauncey Craig and she snuck up to the little narrow church window outside of the sanctuary and perched themselves on top of a stepladder where they could eye witness Emma Haworth’s wedding. From their vantage point they could also see the first kiss after the ceremony in the Sunday School room.
Among its members were some of the most prominent business and professional men of our city. One of these men was Will H. Craig, who was once part owner of the Noblesville Tribune (now The Ledger), and the son of Rev. John S. Craig. The Craigs still have descendants who are members of this church and are still serving the community as their ancestors did.
And speaking of the Noblesville Tribune, in 1894, the First Presbyterian Church women went to the Noblesville Tribune offic and took over the writing and publishing of the paper for the Friday, November 29th issue. It seems that they did this to raise money for their women’s association. They said they owned the Tribune for this week and they paid to do so. They published the paper that day which was full of information for people of all walks of life. In their “Fairwell” of this issue, they stated “We are loth to rise from the easy editorial chair and shake the journalistic dust from our feet. Women were born to be ministering angels, not (printer’s) devils. Pandemonium reigns supreme in our households. We must return, build up the waste places, and see how the “new” man likes his new field of labor.”
The present structure of this congregation was dedciated on February 11, 1894. It was built at a cost, including lot, of $15,000. Their first parsonage was purchased at a cost of $8,500. This building also still stands and is now Adriene’s Flowers and Gifts. A Christian Education wing was added to the back of the church in February 1959. The “Craig House”, which originally stood east of the church building, was purchased in July 1981 for classroom and meeting space. The “Craig House” or East House, as the congregation referred to it, was moved across the street March 1988. The new Fellowship Hall was completed in 1989 along with the renovation of the Chrisitan Education wing. The organ that adorns the sanctuary was purchased in 1901, but was completely renovated in 2002-2003 at the same time that the sanctuary renovation took place. The church’s beautiful stain glass windows were renovated in 2004-2005, through a generous bequeath of a former church member couple.
The history continues everyday in our church and our hope is the church remains a vital part of this community for many, many more years to come.