Church History

Old Church Before it was moved to Riley Park
Old Church Before it was moved to Riley Park

A view of the church as it used to look, before it was moved to its current location at Riley Park in Greenfield, IN

The first meetings that resulted in the organization of the church at Philadelphia was held about 1835. Some of the persons attending the meeting were Charles Atherton, Sr. and family, WIlliam Brown and family, Mrs. Willett, Johnathon Hornaday and family,Thomas J. Smith and family, Joseph Gray and family and likely others unknown at this time.

The very first church meetings were held in an old log cabin school that stood on the north side of the national road near the east end of town, and later in a frame school house built by James Boyce and Joseph Marshall. Services were also held in the large reception room of Willett’s tavern, on the south side of the national road and at the old Pennsylvania station and freight depot, which burned down about 1878 or 1879.

Among the early ministers were: Revs. Edmondson, J.B. Colclazier, Sutherland, Wm. Anderson, H.Woalert, A.C. Gruber, Wm. Peck, D.H. Guild, E.W. Reinhart, John Heim, J.L. Ramsey, H.H. Compton, S.F. Harter, M.C. Pittenger, and A.S. Luring who served in 1900. The Rev. Abraham Kuntz held a very successful revival in the old school house in the winter of 1854-1855. The present church house (which is in Riley Park) was dedicated by Bishop Ames. At the time it stood about twenty rods south of where the present Philadelphia United Methodist Church now stands. Around the year 1906 the building was moved forward on to a full basement foundation and was remodeled. A Sunday School has been conducted in connection with this church ever since about 1850.

The church belonged to the Greenfield Circuit until 1879 when the Philadelphia Circuit was formed and included Eden, Curry’s Chapel and Sugar Creek. This circuit was under the able pastorate of Harvey Sutherland.

The church and the parsonage to the easts were made more presentable on the outside by putting siding on the church in 1957 and on the parsonage in 1960. A draining ditch was put in from the church basement to the main ditch along the national road to help drain the basement in1959. The cost was $626.00.

The Men’s Club, with the help of church members and several friends of the church, purchased a new baldwin organ to replace the old pump organ which had served from 1890 to this time in 1961. Purchase price was $2,195.00.

In 1965 the old parsonage, east of the church, became an educational unit and a new parsonage was build west of the church. It is a three bedroom brick.

In 1970 the church received a gift from the estate of Lelia Bateman and started a building fund to erect a new church at Philadelphia. On May 20, 1979 ground breaking for the new Educational Building of the church took place. It was completed in June of 1980.

The Hancock County Historical Society raised money to have the old church building moved to Greenfield and set on a basement foundation in back of the old log jail in Riley Park. (For more information on the relocation, click here.) As of this date, 2011 the Philadelphia Methodist church building can be used for special church meetings, weddings, receptions, organizational meetings and it serves to house the Historical Society memorabilia and meetings.

The interior of the new, more modern sanctuary

On April 28, 1985 the new Philadelphia United Methodist Church Educational Building mortgage was burned. Worship services were held in the building and a new sanctuary has been built. Designed by Callahan & Associates, the building uses the stain glass windows of the old church. New pews in the church were provided in honor or memory of family and friends. The mortgage has long been paid off in full.

It is interesting to note that one of the groups to meet in the Old Church in Riley Park started and was to become Park Chapel in Greenfield. Currently (2012) the bell in the old church can’t be used, because water damaged it too much. The Hancock Historical Society is trying to raise $5,000 to reinforce the structure.