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Historical Timeline


The Reverend Barker appeals for funds. Land purchased by Grace Church from George Munro and his wife for $300


Settlement of Jonesville by Beniah Jones.


The First Episcopal Church service held by Rev. Lyster in schoolhouse for a group gathered by a Presbyterian lady (February 7).


26 Episcopalians organized Grace Church at 12' by 16' log cabin schoolhouse (December 17).


Laying of cornerstone of Grace Church by Reverend Luman Foote on plot of 9 by 12 rods.


William Bacon, Senior Warden, reports, "An elegant Gothic edifice is being erected, no debt contracted."


Bishop Samuel McCoskry consecrates the church on November 15th.


The Reverend Robert Elder reports purchase of bell for $350, and sites for pews sold for $3,000, which covered the cost of the edifice. The bell was recast in 1895 at the Troy Foundry


Abraham Lincoln appoints William Walton Murphy Consul General to Frankfurt am Main, Germany, where he served until 1869.


Under the direction of E.W. Howard, the old Johnson Schoolhouse building from Scipio Township on Concord Road is added as Jennie Hawkins Hall.


The Rev. Jack Warner is ordained Deacon by Bishop Emrich, and in 1961, ordained Priest.


The Presbyterian Church was leased the West 15 feet of property for “one dollar and other good and valuable considerations, including the friendship and understanding and cooperation of lessor and lessee forever 100 years.”


Grace Church History

Founded in 1838, amid some of those who witnessed the birth of this country, historic Grace Episcopal Church served the southwest corner of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.  It has a long history of witnessing to townspeople and travelers on US Highway 12, once called the Old Sauk Trail, Chicago Turnpike or Post Road, who may read the following on its National Historic Marker (Michigan Historical Site No. 84):


“William N. Lyster, Irish-born missionary, preached in Jonesville in 1836 and Darius Barker organized the parish in 1838.  A church featuring Classical and Gothic styling was begun in 1844 and consecrated by Bishop Samuel McCoskry in 1848.  Paneling and furniture made from black walnut are still in place.  William Walton Murphy, a founder and vestryman, was Abraham Lincoln's Consul General to the German city of Frankfurt.”


These few words are just an introduction to a drama which binds Grace Church to the history of Hillsdale County, and the fabric of American life which its people helped to weave.

Its pioneer congregation drew around it many important figures of the new State of Michigan.  Its first vestry in 1838 was made up of Jedidiah H. Dorwin, Nicholas Worthington, James Kinman, Henry A. Delevan, Clinton E. Atwater (or Attwater), Robert Alan, James F. Stark, and three others labeled associates: William Walton Murphy, James Bowland, and D.C. Stillwell.  Clinton Atwater was the son of Reuben Atwater (or Attwater), secretary to Michigan’s first Territorial Governor, William Hull.  James Kinman, an attorney, helped plan the City of Hillsdale and was personal friends with the old Indian Chief Baw Beese, as well as a prominent editor of an early Jonesville newspaper.  The other men listed were some of the largest landowners in pioneer Hillsdale County.  Under an 1839 state law, the vestry and parish were reorganized, and on January 28, 1841, the following men were elected to the vestry: Charles Gregory, Senior Warden, William Bettis, Junior Warden, George C. Munro, Robert Alan, Sanford Smith, Charles Powell, Rockwell Manning, Henry A. Delevan, William W. Wood, Elias G. Dilla and William Walton Murphy.

Other early communicants were John T. Blois, publisher of the very first gazette of Michigan; Civil War General Henry Baxter; and gentleman farmer and architect, the Honorable Jonathan B. Graham, member of the Michigan State Legislature in 1845, and of the state’s constitutional convention in 1850.  There was also a War of 1812 Veteran, Oliver Cromwell Pope.


During these infant years of the Parish, much of importance happened in the life of Jonesville, and in the life of the congregation.  The Rev. Darius Barker, a missionary, late of Vermont, newly ordained Episcopal Deacon and former Methodist Minister, held the first church service in Hillsdale’s Howder Tavern, where the Hillsdale fairgrounds is now located, in November 1839.  He preached in nearby points in what is now the Diocese of Western Michigan.  In 1840, the congregation witnessed the sad removal from the area of the Indians from Baw Beese’s tribe, which certainly must have caused at least one member, James Kinman, much pain, as he and the old chief were such good friends.  In 1842, the eighth annual meeting of the Diocese of Michigan was held in Jonesville, and the clergy present included all the pioneers of Michigan, including the American Indian missionary James Selkrig, missionary to the Ottawas....


The History of Hillsdale County, Michigan (1879) by Everts and Abbott in referring to the history of the church building, states that “in August 1844 the foundation and corner stone of a church building were laid on a beautiful plat of ground nine rods by twelve (148.5 feet by 198 feet), being the east end of an oblong square opposite the village park, the Presbyterian House of worship occupying the west end, a plat of equal beauty and dimensions.  The east plat came into possession through the purchase of George C. Munro.”

A document submitted to the Department of Interior, prior to the Grace Church’s registry in that department’s book on the historic areas of the United States, records that two of its pioneer clergy, the Rev. Darius Barker, and the Rev. Luman Foote, both from the state of Vermont, had fathers who served in the American Revolution.  Colonel Rockwell Manning was a member of the Committee of Assent which admitted Michigan to the Union, in what is usually called “The Frostbitten Convention.”  He was an early postmaster in Hillsdale and the first station master of the Lakeshore and Southern Railroad which is one of the historic items on the official seal of the 1969 Hillsdale area Centennial.  One of the streets in Hillsdale bears his name.  The Grace Church communicant took part in the Gold Rush, and died in Stockton, California, in January 1871, aged 80 years….


Charles Gregory was a representative to Michigan’s State Legislature in 1851, and one of the founders of the Republican movement “under the oaks.”  He also served two terms as state legislator from Hillsdale County before moving to Jackson and Newaygo Counties.  Henry Delevan's life is included in the Portrait and Biographical Album of Gratiot County for not only did he figure in Jonesville’s history but also in Alma’s.  Chapman’s BIOGRAPHIES OF HILLSDALE COUNTY PEOPLE lists member John Frisbee as appointed United States Consul at Rio Grande de Sal, Brazil, sometime after 1868 and later U.S. Consul at Rheims, France.


From a booklet written in 1969 by the Rev. Wesley Perschbacher, the following is taken concerning William Walton Murphy:

“Grace Episcopal Church was selected by the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in American history and architecture.  Yet, it is the contributions to our state, nation and world made by its members that gives it true distinction.  We can mention only those of William Walton Murphy, born April 3, 1816, friend of Abraham Lincoln, Zachariah Chandler, Civil War Governor Austin Blair, and of abolitionists Theodore Parker, Frederick Douglas and of the famous Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster.  William Walton Murphy’s father, Seba, was a soldier in the War of 1812, and a Regent of the University of Michigan.  William was called up to help suppress a possible 1837 Canadian invasion.  He came to Jonesville in 1837 and opened the first law office with W.T. Howell.  He founded the Jonesville Telegraph and the bank with E.O. Grosvenor; was elected representative to the Michigan Legislature, and married Ellen Beaumont in 1849, granddaughter of the famous abolitionist Myron Halley.  Together with the Beaumonts and George Munro, he was active in anti-slavery work, bringing Daniel Webster, Wendell Phillips, and other abolitionist speakers to stay at his show place house which was an important link in the Underground Railroad.  His defense of fugitive slaves from border states produced a landmark decision.  The full-page article of his life in the Dictionary of American Biography tells of political activity which resulted in the 1st Republican state convention at Jackson on July 6, 1854, at which he was vice-president. 

In July 1861, President Lincoln appointed him Consul General for the free city of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.  While Consul, he won Baron von Rothschild and the Germans over to the support of the Northern side.  He also opposed the Prussian takeover of their free city of Frankfurt and did so much to preserve the lives and property of the citizens during that critical period, he is still known affectionately there as “Uncle Walt, the Friend of Freedom.” 


In 1869, William Walton Murphy resigned and visited Heidelberg, where he died July 8, 1886.  In his will he remembered Grace Church of which he was still a member, but he modestly requested no monument, and so through the years his grave was lost, and other burials were made in the same place.  It was with the help of the State Department, Dr. Kloster, archivist of the City of Frankfurt am Main, and the staff of the Ev. Erloser Kirche, as it is known in English, that his grave was located in the spa town, Bad Homburg v.d.H., and wreath laying ceremonies were conducted there with the Consul General and citizens of that city which, too, has great love for the “homespun diplomat” from the tiny village of Jonesville, as the chief authority on his life, Dr. Margaret Sterne of Wayne State University, entitled her writings about him.  No picture of him can be found today, although his gift portrait was painted by Germany’s famous Christian Morgenstern, and the black early American painter, Robert Duncanson, who lived at the Murphy home while he painted portraits of the whole family.”


In 1846, a report of William Bacon, Senior Warden, read: “An elegant Gothic edifice is being erected, the exterior of which is nearly completed. No debt contracted.”


Kingsbury Marzolf, AIA, of the Michigan Historical Preservation Council in 1971 described the style of this “one of the oldest frame churches in Michigan” (Michigan Historical Attractions) in almost its virginal form. “Eclectic with obvious features of both Greek (or Classic) and Gothic Revival architecture plus much of the basic scale and proportions of the Renaissance work of architects such as Sir Christopher Wren.”


The Rev. Robert Elder, reporting to the Episcopal Convention in 1847, spoke of the church as follows: “At Jonesville, there is enclosed and painted a very neat Church edifice and the vestry are exerting themselves to complete it as soon as possible.  At the present, and for the winter we have occupied a private room.  For this reason, we have been unable to have the Lord's Supper administered.”


Rev. Elder reported later to the Diocese (in 1849): “Amount paid for church bell weighing 1040 pounds - $350....The sites for the pews were sold for a sufficient sum to cover the whole cost of the edifice which was not far from $3000 (more than $104,000 in today's money).  We are now happy in reporting that the church is entirely completed even to the carpeting of the aisles, chancel, and the vestry room, with an elegant gothic figured carpet; also, a set of lamps for the pulpit, reading desk, and the body of the church.  The church was consecrated on the 15th of November, last (year), since which times our congregations have been very respectable as to numbers and character.  Service has been kept up every Sunday morning and occasionally in the evening, when the health of the clergyman would allow; also the church has been open for Divine Services on all the Grand Festivals and Fasts, and for all those days in passion week....It is to be hoped that in a few years more this parish will be able to sustain a clergyman alone, it is now in connection with the parish in Hillsdale.”

The Jonesville Expositor in December of 1857 reported “a ceremony of masonry” with an advertisement signed by “Brother Munro, Master”, Jessie Button and the Rev. Mr. Smith of the LaFayette #16 F.&A.M. Lodge meeting in Grace Church.


By 1879 Grace Church’s membership had declined to between thirty and forty due to “deaths and removals” – more by the latter than by the former.”  These removals were caused in part by the financial conditions of the day – people settling on America's frontiers, the availability of free land, the growth of the railroad to the west, and the financial panics of 1873 and 1893.  The list of communicants compiled by Levi Corson who returned to minister to the parish in later years reads as one follows down the page: “dead”, “removed”, or “unknown.”  Yet, despite all these ups and downs the church remained open for services.


Part of the decline in membership may have also been due to the creation of the Diocese of Western Michigan out of part of the Diocese of Michigan.  The new Diocese met on the Feast of St. Matthias, February 24, 1875, when the Rev. George D. Gillespie, formerly of Ann Arbor, was consecrated its first Bishop.  Hillsdale County lay on the borderline between the two dioceses, and removals are recorded in both the Hillsdale and Jonesville books to Quincy, Coldwater and Bronson.


In 1878, the officers of the parish were listed as William W. Upham, Senior Warden, James W. Button, Junior Warden, William W. Murphy, Charles Prowdley, Fred C. Barkman, Jonathan B. Graham, James R. Burnett, Lyman S. Wilson and George C. Munn.


Grace Church once again came under the rectors of St. Peter’s Hillsdale, following the death of Rev. Levi Corson on February 26,1884.  He became the second minister to die in Jonesville while active in his duties there.  (The first, the Rev. Robert Elder, had died in Jonesville of dysentery on August 27, 1850).In 1948, Mr. Jack E. Warner came to Grace Church as a lay reader and became the first official resident minister since the 1880s when Bishop Richard Emerich ordained him to the Diaconate in June 1956 and a Priest in September 1961.


It was during this time that a parish hall was added to the church.  This building, formerly the Johnson Schoolhouse in Scipio Township, had once stood on Concord Road.  Tyler G. Pett was ordained Deacon in St. Peter’s Church Hillsdale, on December 21, 1966, and then took charge of the Grace Church under the rectorship of the Rev. Wesley Perschbacher, then the present rector of both churches.


Twice, Grace Church, mother church of St. Peter’s Church in Hillsdale, has rendered service by opening its doors to two congregations: once in 1935 when the fire in the church in Hillsdale made possible joint worship, and again in 1965....

On Sunday, June 11, 1972, with the present Consul General to Frankfurt, Robert H. Harlan, representatives from the German Consulate in Detroit, Dr. Lewis G. VanderVelde of the Historical Commission of Michigan, and the Archdeacon William Logan representing the Diocese of Michigan, the Michigan Historical Commission registered Local Site No. 84 Marker was dedicated during a German-American Freedom Festival.  Grace Church is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

On September 14, 1975, the Retired Rev. H. Coleman McGehee Jr. dedicated the addition to the Hawkins Parish Hall, with its bay window lounge and heated outside ramp for the handicapped, in memory of Orma Chinnock.

The church has remembered the “days of old, the years of ancient times.”  Like the prophet Malachi we say: “This has been a book of remembrance.”  As this historic church faces the future, they trust that more may be written about Grace Church which has stood as a continuous Christian witness from pioneer days to the Bicentennial Year, 1976.

Written by the Rev. Wesley A. Perschbacher with the help of Esther T. (Mrs. Reginald) Angus and Alice Dow

Other Historical Sidelights on Grace Church

The baptismal font was presented in 1850 by Stephen Gregory and was made from sandstone quarried from his own farm.  When fire destroyed the old schoolhouse across from the church, Grace Church was in very grave danger.  The wooden cross surmounting the tower, which had weathered the suns and storms of four score years (80 years), proved a source of trouble, as it burned like a torch.  The fire ran ‘round and ‘round the cross and was difficult to reach with water.  The cross was replaced with a new one a few years later.


from Rev. Alexander leading up to the Centennial celebration (1948)


The cornerstone was laid in 1844 on the site of a former log school at the east end of what is now the village park.  It had once been reserved for the Hillsdale County Courthouse square before the Michigan Legislature moved the county seat to Hillsdale.


Interesting tales concerning the church that became folklore in Jonesville include one about the contractor for the building, who was said to have salvaged enough lumber to build his own commodious house, without the necessity of buying another board. 


Another is about an escaper from the village lock-up who was at large for several days.  When the sexton tried to ring the church bell the rope seemed caught; in the belfry the escaper was found in a nearly starved condition. 


With the exception of the locking doors, formerly on the pews, the interior has been preserved largely as it was in 1844, except that the electric organ has been moved to the balcony in place of an old reed organ that formerly stood in the small chancel.


Jackson Citizen Patriot, Jackson, Michigan, August 1961 article, when Rev. Jack Warner officially took the Pulpit at Grace Church

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