The History of Genesee County, MI
Chapter XXVII
Religious Organizations
Part II

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Clayton



Sometime previous to 1855 St. Michael's roman Catholic church had been completed and occupied its first building in Flint. In 1856 Rev. C. L. Decunick began a pastorate which extended over fifteen years. He was succeeded by Rev. Father Flanigan, who remained for two years. Rev. James Gillespie was installed as pastor in 1873. He organized a school and had as instructors a principal and two assistant teachers and an average attendance of two hundred pupils during the regular term of ten months. A substantial school building of brick was meanwhile erected, at a cost of seven thousand dollars, with rooms in which the various societies of the church held their meetings. The next pastor was Rev. Robert W. Haire, who was installed on August 1, 1875. His administration was successful, his energies being mainly directed to the maintenance of the parochial school, to which he gave much of his time and attention. In 1879 it numbered about three hundred pupils, who were instructed by an efficient corps of teachers. The primary department was under the supervision of Sister Catherine, assisted by three religious, all of the order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, from Monroe, Michigan. Father Haire went to Dakota in 1881 and Father t. J. Murphy was called from Grand haven, Michigan, to the parish in charge of St. Michael's church. On entering upon his work, he found himself without a residence to live in, with a church building falling over his head and everywhere evidences of decay. Under Father Murphy's administration a new parochial residence has been erected; the present large and handsome brick and stone church has been built, at a cost of thirty thousand dollars; a fine hall just north of the church has been built, at a cost of fourteen thousand dollars, to which his congregation and friends have access at all times. It is named the "Father Murphy Hall," and is capable of seating about six hundred persons. As an evidence of Father Murphy's popularity and of the good feeling existing toward him and his society, more than two-thirds of the cost of the hall was donated by non-Catholics of all creeds. The parish school has about two hundred and thirty pupils, taught by the Sisters, and about one thousand persons attend the two masses said in the church each Sunday. Father Murphy is beloved by every one, his charity and generous nature making him easily one of the most popular and public spirited men in Flint.


St. Matthew's parish includes all the territory south and east of Flint river, and has had only one priest since its founding in October, 1911, the Rev. Father Michael J. Comerford. Father Comerford is a Michigan man, educated at the Jesuit College in Detroit and well known for this fine scholarship and broad spirit. The first services of this parish were held in the Davison block, and that same year a tract of land was bought on the east side of Beach street, between Second and Third streets. The new school (mentioned elsewhere) was opened in 1914 in a fine, modern brick building, of which the first floor is used for church services, pending the erection of a church of which the plans are already completed. Owing to the large number of communicants, four masses are said each Sunday. During the illness of Father Comerford, Father Van Antwerp is fulfilling the duties of assistant priest.


Under the leadership of Rev. Father John B. Hewelt, the parish of all saints' church has been doing a great work, the church and school house, side by side, ministering to the needs of about five thousand five hundred souls. A goodly proportion of the foreign population of Flint here receive spiritual counsel. The active work of All saints' church has checked and reduced to a minimum the growth of Socialism in Flint, and foreign agitators of the Industrial Workers of the World coming to urge strikes among the factory workers have been every time thwarted in their plans by the vigilance of the church. Through the efforts of Father Hewelt, two dramatic clubs have been organized, one English, the other in foreign languages; clothing and groceries are distributed among the poorer districts; every Sunday, from four to ten P. M., the parish house is open to hear and adjust cases of disagreement among the parishioners, avoiding, if possible, the courts of law, and the good foreign population of Flint is constantly being instructed in and helped to understand and obey the laws of the country, state, county and municipality in which they live.


St. Paul's Episcopal Church is among the most active churches of central Michigan and its organization was the result of a visit in 1839, of the Rev. Daniel E. Brown, missionary to the Indians, who visited Flint river on a prospecting trip. Nineteen of the early residents of the county associated themselves together for the purpose of starting a church society, and on Christmas day of that year the holy communion was celebrated for the first time in Genesee county by an Episcopalian clergyman.

Notice of the organization was communicated to the bishop and in 1840 the same Daniel E. Brown became the first rector of St. Paul's church. A temporary building has been fitted up for the use of the members, built of rough boards and logs and generally referred to as "The Tabernacle." In 1842, however, a small amount having been raised by subscription among the Episcopalians throughout the county, a building was erected ion the site of what is not the Orpheum theatre in Flint. This was known as the "Old Church," a building "thirty-four feet broad and forty-eight feet long," and in 1843 was consecrated as "St. Paul's Church" by the bishop. During this year the parish purchased a bell, which is still in use, and at a meeting of the vestry in that year it was "Resolved, that the sexton be instructed to ring the bell on Sundays for the benefit of the Presbyterian society (who have no bell) if they request it, when the Episcopal Society has no service."

In 1846 the Rev. Mr. Brown having resigned, the Rev. Charles Reighley took charge of the parish, followed by the Rev. George Swan. Later a call was extended to the Rev. Mr. Birchmore, a scholarly and refined gentleman, who became the rector on Easter Day, 1860. Mr. Birchmore's activity resulted in repairs tot he church and the purchase of a very handsome font, which is till in use. An organ built by the rector at a cost of nine hundred and twenty-five dollars, was also installed and the gallery enlarged. The resignation of Mr. Birchmore was accepted after nearly ten years of service, and in 1869 the Rev. Marcus Lane became rector.

At this time the building of a new church became a recognized necessity, and the winter was spent in hauling stone from the quarries of John Sutton, near Flushing, Mr. Sutton having liberally donated the same provided the parish would "get it out." It required nearly four hundred cords of stone to construct the church, which was erected on the Beecher property at the corner of Saginaw and Third streets. Built in pure English Gothic style, St. Paul's church stands as a monument to the churchmanship and ability of Marcus Lane. A window of great beauty has recently been placed in the south wall of the church as a special memorial to him.

The Rev. William A. Seabrease was the next rector, coming from Mineral Point, Wisconsin, in 1881. During his rectorship the vested choir was introduced and many changes made. Mr. Seabrease resigned in 1888 and the Rev. Ralph E. Macduff accepted the call to the parish, remaining for fifteen years, thus having the longest rectorship in the history of the parish. Mr. Macduff became very prominently identified with the life of the community during his stay in Flint and accomplished much for his church and his city. He resigned in 1902 and went to Jackson, where he remained for a number of years, afterwards devoting himself entirely to literary work. His death occurred in Flint in 1916.

After the resignation of Mr. Macduff the church extended a call to the Rev. E. A. Penick, of Phoenix, Arizona, which he did not accept, although he ministered to the parish until the Rev. W. Dudley Powers, D. D., came in 1903. Doctor Powers remained for ten years, and during his stay the present rectory was build and a number of memorials to the church were received. Doctor Powers, a man of scholarly ability, resigned in 1913, and was followed by the present rector, Rev. John Bradford Pengelly.

Under the rectorship of Mr. Pengelly, St. Paul's church has enjoyed three years of the most active progressiveness. The chapel has been entirely remodeled, and the old rectory, directly adjoining the church, has been town down to make way for a stone parish house to cost on the neighborhood of sixty thousand dollars. This parish house will include, besides club and reading rooms, a large auditorium for public meetings, the St. Paul's Men Club having attained a membership of over three hundred men of all denominations. The different societies of the parish are in excellent condition, the membership being in 1916 about eleven hundred.

The following is a list of the rectors of St. Paul's Church from 1840 to 1916:

Daniel E. Brown

Charles Reighly

John J. Swan

J. W. Birchmore

Marcus Lane

A. W. Seabrease

R. E. Macduff

W. Dudley Powers

H. Bradford Pengelly


This Episcopalian parish was organized as a result of Christ's Mission Sunday school, started toward the close of the rectorship of the Rev. Ralph E. MacDuff, of St. Paul's church, in 1902. The persons most directly interested were Miss Helen Stone, who gave the use of a house for the services, Miss Elizabeth Durand and Stuart Hoyt. In addition tot he Sunday school work, there was regular vesper services each week. In 1907 the Rev. Charles L. Ramsay was appointed priest and in 1910 the present church building was erected. The membership list now numbers two hundred, and the church, located in the newer section of Flint, has an ever-widening sphere of influence. The present rector is Rev. C. E. Bishop.


In 1875 was organized in Flint a society of Seventh-day Adventists, resulting from a series of tent meetings held in and near Flint, by elders Lamson and Jones. The first society comprised forty-six members. In 1877 a church building, of Gothic style, was competed, with sittings for three hundred persons. The membership at present amounts to about one hundred.


The organization of the congregational Church of Flint dates from 1867. Its first membership was composed mainly of those who had been members of others churches of the same order elsewhere in the state, in the Western Reserve (of Ohio), or in the East. Many of these had connected themselves with the First Presbyterian church of Flint, of which the Rev. H. H. Northrup was then the able pastor; but their liberal theology was hardly in accord with the doctrine of the Presbyterians, so in the summer of 1867 they decided that it would be wise to form a congregational church of the New England type.

After a few weeks' reflection and consultation, a meeting was held on the evening of September 18, 1867, at the home of William L. Smith, since then widely known throughout Michigan as one of its leading merchants. The Rev. Frank P. Woodbury, of Meriden, New Hampshire, was invited to preach the following Sunday at Awanaga hall, at which time a Sunday school was formed, with William L. Smith as superintendent. That week Mr. Woodbury was formally made pastor at a yearly salary of twelve hundred dollars. In 1868 a church site was secured at the southeast corner of Saginaw and Second streets. The building was begun in June and finished in November.

Among the donations received from outside sources was that of the Hon. Levi Walker, an elder in the Presbyterian church, who, on the evening before the declination, unsolicited and in the dark, slipped a hundred dollar bill into the hand of the chairman of the building committee and hastily left before the extent of his gift could be known.

Among those following the successful pastorate of Mr. Woodbury was the Rev. Edward Woolsey Bacon, of the celebrated Bacon family of Connecticut and conspicuous for his rare gift of preaching. Many years later, his nephew, the Rev. Theodore D. Bacon, was also pastor of the same church and generally accepted in the State Congregational Association as one of its leading scholars. Upon leaving Flint, he entered the Unitarian denomination, since when he has been pastor of the old North Church of Salem, Massachusetts. The present pastor is Rev. R. C. Hufstader, and the church membership two hundred and ninety-five.

Below are the pastors of the Congregational church who have served from 1867 to 1916:

L. P. Woodbury

B. D. Conkling

E. W. Bacon

Richard Cordley

F. S. Hayden

A. B. Allen

L. B. Platt

Henry Ketchum

A. J. Covell

W. H. Brodhead

H. L. Hoyt

J. G. Haigh

T. D. Bacon

Ernest Evans

R. C. Hufstader


First Church of Christ, Scientific, was organized in Flint in 1900. The services since the date of organization have been held in an auditorium of the Ward building, corner West Second and Saginaw streets, and a readying room adjoining has also be maintained. The church has enjoyed a steady, substantial growth in membership, and in November, 1915, purchased the property at the corner of Harrison and East Court streets, formerly the George W. Buckingham homestead, where a church edifice is being erected.


Flint first became acquainted with the Salvation Army about the year 1884, since which time this organization, with its stirring watchword of "Blood and Fire," has accomplished much toward the betterment of the community. Beginning with a force weal in numbers, but strong in earnestness, they have always occupied a recognized place in the public esteem. The regular membership now, in 1916, numbers over three hundred, with a following of four thousand five hundred. A prominent feature is their band of thirty-five pieces, which was sent by the city of Flint to the International Congress in London in 1914, where it won much praise.

"The Citadel," a fine building of brick and stone, was erected on Beach street, in the heart of flint, mainly through the efforts of Capt. Howard J. Clifford, at that time of the Salvation Army, but now pastor of the Parkland Presbyterian Church. While many citizens contributed toward the citadel, yet the largest single subscription was twenty-five thousand dollars by W. C. Durant. Directly adjoining "The Citadel" is the home of Adjutant May, whose door is open day and night to the call of distress.

Churches belonging to Flint Ministerial Association, 1916:

Church Name



First Baptist Church

Rev. G. C. Crippen


North Baptist Church

George M. Vercoe


Central Christian Church

Rev. J. O. Crawford


Congregational Church

Rev. Robert Cary Hufstader


St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Rev. J. Bradford Pengelly


Christ's Mission

Rev. C. E. Bishop


Fourth Ward Evangelical Church

Rev. C. B. Stroh


Kearsley Park Church

Rev. Frederick Kirn


First Free Methodist Church

Rev. Mr. Porterfield


Second free Methodist Church

Rev. F. J. Calkins


Lutheran Church

Rev. Theodore Andres


Mennonite church

Rev. Mr. Cleine


Court Street Methodist Episcopal

Rev. Howard Field


Garland Street Methodist Episcopal

Rev. G. W. Olmstead


Oak Park Methodist Episcopal

Rev. E. H. Mallinson


Kearsley Street Methodist Episcopal

Rev. C. W. Hill


Riverside Methodist Episcopal

Rev. George Tripp


Lake View Methodist Episcopal

Rev. P. B. Hoyt


Quinn African Methodist Protestant

Rev. John O. Morley


Methodist Protestant Church

Rev. J. H. Cole


First Presbyterian Church

Rev. H. D. Borley


Parkland Presbyterian Church

Rev. Howard J. Clifford


Salvation Army

Adjutant May



Churches not in Ministerial Association:

Apostolic Holiness

1900 Lyman St.

Rev. G. E. Houghton

Homedale Baptist

Corner Jane & Iowa


Hungarian Baptist

Central Ave & Boulevard


Mt. Olive Baptist

Pine St.

Rev. Mr. Dungy

Webster Ave. Baptist

North Saginaw St.


Christian Service

Corner Harrison & Court


Latter-Day Saints

. .

Reorganized-Latter-Day Saints

Newall St.

Rev. R. a. harder

Lutheran, Swedish

Y. M. C. A. Building


Seventh-Day Adventists

Stockton St.

Rev. R. E. Tefft

The different villages throughout Genesee County were likewise vigilant in the early days in the establishing of houses of worship, and with great personal sacrifice they labored to lay the foundation of good society and good government.

The town of Fenton was identified with the organization of religious societies as early as 1840, when the Baptist society was started with a few members, but it soon disbanded, part of the members going to Linden and others to Rose Center, Oakland County. A new society was organized in 1850 by the Rev. A. lamb, of Parshalville, Livingston County, and in 1857 a hall was built for church purposes; the building is still standing. In later years a stone church was erected and since then the membership has increased in a proportionate growth with the town.

The Methodists first completed and dedicated a church in Fenton in 1853, with the Rev. George Brown as pastor. The Presbyterians consecrated a church building in 1858, the society having been formed as early as 1840. St. Jude's Church, Episcopal, was organized in 1850 and the services were then held in a small frame building. A beautiful stone edifice has since been erected, which is one of the most attractive small churches in the county, constructed in the simple Gothic style.

The roman Catholics held services in Fenton in the early days in the homes of the parishioners, but it was not until 1868 that a church and parsonage was erected. The first priest was the Rev. Fr. Thomas Bafter.

Previous to 1840 the Methodists organized a religious society in Flushing, holding their meetings for some time in a school house. Later a church building was erected and the society from its beginning has ever been in a prosperous condition. Among the early pastors who ministered to the needs of the community were several of the pastors who were prominently identified with the Methodist societies in Flint, including Rev. Mr. Bigelow, Mr. Barnes, Rev. Seth Reed, T. J. Joslin and others. In Flushing are now established churches of all denominations.

In Pine Run, Clio, Richfield and Davison, the firs societies to organize were also the Methodists, who established small churches in these villages during the period of 1858-65. For a number of years the societies had no ministers, but were supplied preachers belonging to a circuit, and at other times the services were ready by the members. Later, however, small churches were built and supplied with resident clergymen. The Methodists also established the first church in Goodrich and Otisville, and in Mt. Morris built and dedicated a church as early as 1841.

Among the most beautiful churches in Genesee county is St. Mary's church in Mt. Morris, recently finished at a cost of about forty thousand dollars.

Far back in the early thirties of the last century, when Michigan was yet a territory and the present county of Genesee but forest and swamp, a few Irish settlers formed the nucleus around which St. Mary's congregation at Mt. Morris grew. Separated from an organized parish by many miles of difficult and fatiguing travel--for those were the days of the stage coach and the ox-team--these few families received spiritual attention only at long intervals from missionary priests who were sent from Detroit by Bishops Rese and Lefevre. The aged people of Mt. Morris congregation have many holy reminiscences of the heroic Fathers Kendigen, Cullen and Kilroy, who, in blinding snow and pouring rain, with knapsack strapped over their shoulders, traveled on horseback from Detroit to Sauté Ste. Marie to administer the last sacrament to the dying, and perchance, to gather the scattering families of the community into a log house to assist at the sacrifice of the mass.

The settlers becoming more numerous, a church was built at Flint. To this church the people for miles around were attached. In 1867 the number of families living near Mt. Morris had so increased as to warrant the erection of a church. The permission of Bishop Lefevre was obtained and a frame church built. This church was called St. Mary's and was attached as a mission tot he parish at Flint. In 1870 Bishop Lefevre, recognizing the growth of the mission, decided to elevate it to the dignity of an independent parish. This he did in the fall of 1870 by appointed the Rev. Father M. Canter, who was then assistant priest at Bay city, the first resident pastor. Father Canter remained in charge nearly two years and was succeeded by Father G. M. Girard. Father Girard was pastor nearly six years, and was succeeded by Father E. M. DeKiere. Father DeKiere remained in charge five years. Father D. P. Coyle was the next pastor from 1884 to 1887. To Father Coyle succeeded Father L. J. Van Straelen, who remained in charge over eleven years. Father T. J. Slattery was the next pastor from 1898 to 1900. To Father Slattery succeeded the present pastor. Father T. Luby.

The entire valuation of the property of St. Mary's church, including the parish hall, is over fifty thousand dollars. The church contains, besides its fine altar and organ, several paintings of value. The parish of St. Mary's contains about one thousand and thirty families. The church also has a mission at Birch run, consisting of about seventy-five families, and a church is being completed this year (1916) at a cost of about eighteen thousand dollars. Father Luby also has charge of this mission.

The Rev. Father Thomas Luby is a man of unusual qualifications for his work, having broad views and a strong personality. In Genesee county and in more distant localities, his influence has been beneficent, not only in the work of his parish but in combating the more threatening forms of socialism. As a writer of anti-socialism pamphlets, Father Luby has attracted wide-spread and deserved notice.


History of Genesee County, Michigan, Her People, Industries and Institutions
by Edwin O. Wood, LL.D, President Michigan Historical Commission, 1916

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Deb

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