Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church – 1909

Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church Congregation 1909 Indianapolis, Indiana

This is a photograph of the congregation of Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN in 1909, two years after they organized. This photograph is from the personal collection of my cousin Vivian Vaughn McDonald.  My grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage is the third person on the top right. My grandfather, Albert Cleage is next to her.  They wouldn’t be married for two more years. Next to Albert is his brother Jacob and next to him is their brother Henry.  Directly in front of my grandfather Albert is Jacob’s wife, Gertrude.

I was told that my grandfather’s sister Josephine, also a church member, was not there for the photograph, but was home pregnant with Hattie Ruth, the youngest of her five children. Her husband, James Cleage  stands four people to the left of Henry.  James Cleage was from a different branch of Cleages.  In the second row, second from the right, is Henrietta Cleage, oldest daughter of James and Josephine.

In the 1909 Indianapolis City Directory Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church is listed as located in Realty Hall with Rev. David White as Pastor.  I wonder if he is in this photograph and if so, which one he is?

From “History of the American Negro Virginia Edition” published 1921

I finally found a photograph of Rev. David French White! He was older, but I think he is the man in the front row holding two boys on his knees, seventh from the left. What do you think?

The history below was from the Witherspoon web page, however they  have taken the history section down. My grandparents, Albert Cleage and Pearl Reed, are both listed as founders.

On April 30, 1907 the Presbytery of Indiana of the United Presbyterian Church held a called meeting at Realty Hall in response to a petition signed by 31 persons asking to be organized into a United Presbyterian congregation.

Begins With 31 Members

Prof. David Graham of Rushville was moderator and Rev. W. W. McCall of Greensburg was secretary. Other members present were Rev. Fred W. Schmuch of Milroy, Rev. N. B. McClung of Vevay, Rev. Mr. McDill of Madison, and Dr. Cowan of Indianapolis.

The petition was discussed at some length. By unanimous vote an organization was decided upon. The 31 members who signed the petition were as follows: Henry W. Cleage, Mrs. Carrie Perkins, Mrs. Emma Moore, A. T. Roney, Mrs. Cora Donann, Mrs. Cathern Crenshaw, Mrs. Daisy L. Brabham, Albert Cleage, Mrs. Gertrude Cleage, James Myers, Mrs. A. L. McElrath, O. F. Dennis, Mrs. Hattie  Mitchell, H. M. Mitchell, Mrs. Theresa Finley, Othello Finley, Miss Edith Finley, Miss Luell E. Hibbett, Mrs. Mary Peterson, Mrs. Anna Bowman, John T. Fox, Miss Pearl Reed, Thomas H. Bransford, Mrs. O. F. Dennis, Miss Alice Mathews, Miss Hilda Reeder, W. J. Perkins, Henry Moore and H. L. Hummons.

19 thoughts on “Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church – 1909

  1. I’m thrilled to see such a large congregation after just 2 years! From just 31 who signed to organize it…amazing, but probably serving a need that had waited a while. It reminds me that our congregation here in Black Mountain NC started small, then bought a building which comfortably seats around 80 people…and often I think that’s keeping us small. We are packed some Sundays…though on others not so much. (A good thing I’m not one of the deciding people these days) Thanks for telling the history here. I don’t see Rev. White on the list of applicants, so he must have been called after they organized…but it is likely he’s somewhere in the photo! Just wondering which man…

    1. He was called after they organized. He had been the pastor of the United Presbyterian Church in Athens, Tennessee, which is where my Cleages came from and they must have known him. I found a photo of him and have added it above. He was in the group photo, first row 7th from the left.

  2. It’s wonderful the church grew so quickly. Sometimes, though, things can go the other way. I attended a small Presbyterian church with a growing congregation. On special Sundays, in particular, the place was crammed crowded. They eventually built a lovely new church in a different neighborhood a small distance from the original church and for a while the congregation remained steady. But as time went on the congregation that had been growing began to dwindle, and within 25 years the church building had to be rented out to other church congregations to pay the bills. I think they should have stayed and made do in the original building, but you never know how things are going to go.

    1. This church is still alive and active, but not in the old building. They have a new building out further from the city center. As I remember, this whole area was torn down years ago.

  3. I agree with you that Rev. White is down front with the two boys. His hair is parted the same way and his eyes look the same as well. I love your grandmother’s hat — and all the church hats. They appear to be a very determined congregation.

    1. They do look determined!
      Now I’m wondering if I can find out if that his the minister’s wife to his right.

  4. That’s a wonderful photo to preserve for so long. It’s full of character, personality and cultural history, especially knowing your family’s connection. I’m sure you are correct in identifying Pastor White. His expression is the same in both photos. I would be surprised if the woman next to him was not his wife. Formal photos like this were usually very carefully arranged with important folk in the center along with their spouse, parents, and children.

  5. An interesting post. I love that first photo. Yes, I agree that is Rev. David White at the front with the 2 boys. Too many of the same features not to be 🙂

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