St. Paul —
St. Paul Christian Church, located at 202 East Harrison Street, will hold its first Community Open House from 2 to 5 p.m., Oct. 20, at the church.
According to promotional materials, the event will include tours of the church and Christian music by St. Paul native Adam Hungate and by Gospel Quartet, The Woodsmen.
The event will also feature an extensive historical photo gallery and little-known information about St. Paul history, including the fact the town once hosted a movie theater and a soda shop.
St. Paul Christian Church Secretary Gladys Pike is coordinating.
“I’ve been a member here 54 years,” she said. “Times have greatly changed in all that time.”
Pike owns all the pictures to be featured in the Oct. 20 event; she inherited them from now-deceased St. Paul native and resident Bob Mitchell.
“Bob was a business owner here in town and a member of the church,” Pike said. “He was also the unofficial town historian for many, many years. He collected these photos for 40 or 50 years; it’s an extensive collection. You might even say these photos are Bob’s legacy; I’ve wanted to share them with the community for a long time.”
Pike stressed that her primary motivation for organizing the Open House is to generate interest in the church. “Our membership isn’t what it used to be,” she said. “It’s the same for small churches everywhere. There was a time when this church and all small-town churches were the social epicenter of every community. We understand that won’t happen again, but we’re still here and we’re still an important, relevant part of this community.”
She continued, “This church and this town grew up together. We think our history — our legacy — is worth preserving, so we’d like to introduce ourselves to anyone who might not know us, maybe generate interest and excitement in our church.”
The town of St. Paul, according to Pike, was originally founded by a man named Jonathan Paul in 1821.
“He started it with a grist mill,” she explained. “When the railroad came through in 1853, they thought ‘St. Paul’ was a better name than ‘Paul Town.’”
St. Paul Christian Church was founded in 1857; its original sanctuary is still used.
“Our church is very old,” Pike said. “The whole building was remodeled in 1925, and the sanctuary’s the only part of the original structure still in use. The other old parts were never torn down, though — just covered over with bricks. Everything else is an addition.”
Pike doesn’t own any pictures dating back to the church’s founding, but she does have several dating to well before the 1925 remodel.
“The oldest pictures in our collection probably date to sometime in the late 19th or early 20th centuries,” she said. “The majority of them date from 1908 and later, with just a few dated before that.”
Pike’s collection includes numerous “horse and buggy” photos, as well as shots of the town’s first mail carriers.
“My son owns Sign Masters here in town,” she said. “He has enlarged about 80 or more of our pictures to poster size; they’ll be prominently featured during the open house.”
For more information on the St. Paul Christian Church’s first Community Open House, call Gladys Pike at 765-525-6231.
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.