Early Religious Organizations of
Berrien County, Michigan

Berrien County, Michigan Gen Web

“It is not wood nor brick that make a church, full of God's love. It is the people within it.”

Page researched & constructed by Deanna West

Listed below are many of the houses of worship that were established in Berrien County in the mid 19th century and the early 20th century. This is not to state all churches that exist in the county, or at one time existed, are on this list. This list reflects many churches that were recognized by histories of the county and newspapers at the time; other houses of worship, such as synagogues, were not instituted in the county until the latter portion of this time period. Some of the churches united with others; while different churches became a part of adjacent communities that practiced the same faith. The shift in modes of transportation made the issue of attendance at particular sermons lessen. This furthered the loss of churches that could no longer support themselves without a dependent community.

We did not discuss many of the churches that came into existence during the early part of the 20th century. Some of those, to give honorable mention to were:
Church of Christ Scientists, Church of God Christian, Rescue Mission, Seventh Day Adventist, Zion Tabernacle, Christian Catholic and the Israelite House of David which was established at Benton Harbor in 1903 and known to locals as The House of David.
There is also a wealth of information available on the Internet about the Carey Mission, and the Israelite House of David, which we did not cover in this listing.

If volunteers would like to submit a synopsis of those houses of worship listed above, we would welcome the participation. We would ask for the time being, to keep any synopsis submitted brief, following the same pattern as seen below. Also, if there is a discrepancy or additional information that someone would like to submit to the site, please by all means contact the site so that we can continue to help create a more accurate picture for any who seek to know their ancestral lineage. Photos are always a cherished commodity and we would love to give space on the site for those who want to share a window into the past.

Advent Christian Church in Buchanan - George Noggle Cottrell helped build in 1866 which was old Greek Revival style. It was located on South Oak Street and later, when the church disbanded in 1920, it became industrial home of Pattern Works. Building was razed in 1957. See photos attached
Advent church    advent church
Photos contributed by: Mark Cottrell

African Methodist Church – St. Joseph was organized and church built in 1871. Later known as the African Methodist Episcopal Church – Originally organized with Elder - Rev. W. T. Langford and six members. Rev. Jason was appointed pastor. The following were charter members: Mr. And Mrs. Steve Busby, John Hart, Bob Cross, Mead Miller, Huston, Lounge and Sharp. In 1888 Rev. C. F. Hill was the pastor. The parsonage was built in 1889 under the direction of Rev. Wm. Collins. In 1898 Rev. Leroy Haywood was pastor.

Baptist Church – Bainbridge – Orgainized in 1869 and in 1871 built a house of worship on land donated by Henry Dukesherer aka Dukescherer – First pastor was W. A. Grimm. - Henry Dukesherer, Frederick Weaver, and Henry Seel were chosen as the first trustees. This was a very small membership.

Baptist Church – Benton Harbor – organized 1868 previously holding meetings in Brown's Chapel at Heath's Corners and then in a brick building later sold to the Evangelical Association. A brick church was erected in Benton Harbor in 1869. Parishioners who gave to this effort were; S. F. Heath, E. St. John, J. P. Threasher. The first pastor was Rev. A. E. Simons and after the church was relocated to Benton Harbor, pastor Rev. H. D. Osborne took the pulpit.

Baptist Church – New Buffalo Township – organized in 1876 by Rev. R. H. Spafford

Baptist Church – Weesaw – It was known as The First Baptist Church of Berrien County - Organized on February 8, 1845 in the local schoolhouse – church built 1854 at Hill's Corners. Members during this early day were J. S. Foot, Clark Boss, John B. Nixon, Morris Frost, Union Pennell, Oliver Spaulding, Adna Hinman, Hiram Wells, Levi Logan, Thomas Freed, Silas Stearns, Julia Foot, Nancy Nixon, S. M. R. Nixon, Catherine Green, Amanda S. Pennell, Joanna Spaulding, Ruth Hinman, Juliet Frost, Sabey Frost, Amy A. Carpenter, Wealthy Wells, Martha Caton, Caroline Logan, Mary Boss, Elizabeth B. Pennell, Zilpah A. Stevens and Sarah Freed. In 1845, John S. Foot was chosen to be deacon. The Church was also known as The Galien Church and in 1876 changed the name to the Baptist Church of Weesaw.

Baptist Church - Union Pier Baptist Church – Chikaming Township - organized in August 7, 1869 The 13 original members are as follows: William Fisher and wife, Mrs. J. A. Wilkinson, G. D. Vandy and wife, Hattie Vandy, Fanny Vandy, W. A. Gowdy and his wife, E. Gowdy, Mrs. John Gowdy along with two others. The Original Reverends were: Samuel Millis, E. L. Mills, J. G. Bostman and Henry Meachin.

Baptist Church – Three Oaks Twp – A church was also formed in Chikaming township but transferred to Three Oaks where a church was built in 1870.

Baptist Church – Berrien Center Free Will Baptist – Berrien Township - organized in 1857 on land purchased from Zera F. Wright and his wife. The Union Church was dedicated on July 4, 1858 and this was one of the religious organizations that met there for worship.

B'nai Israel Synagogue – Probably commenced in the later part of the 19th century in Benton Harbor, before 1902 when cemetery was purchased.

Catholic Church – St. Mary's of Bainbridge Twp. - originally held in private homes and schoolhouses. Priests were sent from St. Joseph to hold services. Then in 1860 there was a membership of 15 families and an actual structure was built. Jacob Herman and Joseph Aner were chosen as the first trustees of the newly built church. The church was enlarged in 1868 as more families joined.

Catholic Church - other than Carey Mission and the other missions, the Catholic Church was the first religious structure built in Berrien County in 1831. Built out of logs it was located near the present site of Bertrand. It was attended by both white and Indian parishioners and Father Badin was the pastor that lead this flock. This was replaced by a brick edifice in 1837.

Catholic Church = St. John's Church, established in 1890 with a beautiful piece of property which consisted of 10 acres and name "Calvary".

Catholic Church -  St. Joseph Catholic Church  of Watervliet - Original church built in 1896 and had been established by Fr.J. Joos.  Watervliet Township.

Catholic Church – New Buffalo Township – organized 1858 and church built. Father Cappon of Niles would be in charge of this church for several years.

Catholic Church – Niles – 1847 a mission church was established by Father Quointel who over saw the building of a frame building for a church. In 1857 Father John Cappon lead the flock, he was from Belgium. He remained until his death in 1892. The corner stone of this group's church was laid in 1866 and completed in 1870. It would be know as St. Mary's.

Catholic Church - in Three Oaks, also known as St. Mary's, laid the corner stone of their church August 17, 1880.

Christian Church – Coloma organized in 1857 – Pastor – Elder B. I. Curtis.

Christian Church – Sodus Township - organized in 1867 and met at the Mt. Pleasant Church led by Elder William Roe of Buchanan. A few of the first Elders were Josephus Fisher and C. R. Hogue.

Christian Church – Hagar Township – organized in 1877 and lead by Rev. Reason Davis.

Church of Christ – originally formed in Benton Township circa 1858 – then moved to Bertrand Township – The church struggled from 1865 to 1868 to get momentum. In 1868 a group gathered and brought a fresh effort, after reorganization there were some 53 members. Meetings were held in the Millburg schoolhouse. Rev. Mr. Hurd was the first minister to preach after the reorganization. A church was built in 1869. Elder J. H. Reese preached from 1874 late in 1876, then Elder J. P. Lucas preached until the early part of 1879.

Church of Christ, Buchanan , 1859 which stood at 111 West Third Street in Buchanan, was built in 1859. Eli Rowe built it as he was a pioneer mill owner in the area. Unfortunately on February 11, 1940, the church burned one hour after church services had been performed. The interior was totally gutted but some quick thinking firemen and neighborhood citizens were able to save some of the pews, hymnals, small furnishings and the piano.

Church of the Disciples – Galien – organized in 1959 by Rev. William M Roe

also organized the Christian Church at Mt. Pleasant in 1867

Church of Later Day Saints – Galien Township - organized by George A. Blakeslee

Although they followed the teachings of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, they were not affiliated with the church in Utah. Church in this area was established – circa 1860.

Congregational Church at Niles – founded in about 1844. However this was not a strong church and ceased to exist after about 40 years. During this period of time, a stronger church for the people of this faith formed in St. Joseph... see next article.

Congregational Church of St. Joseph – following history includes 1854 to 1879
The original council of the Congregational Church met in what was known then as a marble shop and they formed the Congregational church. The following worshipers were the beginning members:
Mr. and Mrs. James B. Sutherland, Dr. and Mrs. David B. Crane, Mr. Samuel Maynard, Mrs. John King, Mrs. Ann Olmstead, Mrs. Fannie Stowe, Isabel Mahue and Mrs. Jane Vanderbeck. Although humble and small with membership in the beginning, through prayer and favor of God the church began to prosper.
In the beginning of the worship services back in 1854, men sat on one side of the church and women on the other and then rejoining one another at the door after services. Eventually this custom would be ceased.
On Sunday, April 29th 1854, after the formation of the church, the sacrament was administered by the Rev. Thomas Jone with Rev. William Osborne assisting. One week after the formation of the church a connection with the Kalamazoo Association with application which was accepted.
August 29, 1858, Rev. Edward Anderson began to preach the word to the congregation. During his labors in assisting the church to grow, the church building was pressed forward to completion. He was officially installed as paster on February 1, 1860 and then dismissed by September 19, 1860.
Rev. Cherry of Dowagiac was the next to lead the flock and he remained for about two years. During the years to follow Rev. George H. Miles filled the void on April 5, 1863. He remained for two revival seasons. Mr. Miles died August 2, 1874.
Then early in 1866, Rev. J. B. Fairbanks of Fox Lake, Wisconsin was asked to visit the church. And on Sunday, June 3rd, 1866 he began his labors. He remained there until July of 1870. At this time the Benton Harbor was forming its own Congregational Church which would also prosper.
In the -1870 period money was coming in better and the church enlarged to handle its ever growing parishioners. When Rev. Fairbanks left in 1870, there was a four month interim where a pastor was needed. Near the end of 1870 Rev. M. M. Colburn was called to fill the pulpit and remained until his death about 1876 q. After his death Rev. John Cunningham was next to lead the flock. Then on January 1st, 1878 Rev. A. S. Wood entered and fulfilled his duties as pater of the church.
At various times in history the following list is a list of Deacons that served the church: (1854-1879)
*Jas. B. Sutherland, F. Pannel, *L. Whitney, E. Knapp, Mr. Burbank, Daniel Cook, A. L. Aldrich, Mr. Richardson, *J. H. Lee, Benjamin Comings, A. E. Brush, *D. J. Wells. (*=Served in 1879 and adjacent years)   During this 25 year period the church received 240 parishioners into its membership.

Congrational Church – Benton Harbor – Organized in 1866 partially due to the over-flow from the St. Joseph church of the came faith. A brick church was erected during 1870 but lightening struck it in June of 1875, almost destroying it. Therefore a smaller structure was built in 1880 and then a larger one later on.

Congregational Church of New Buffalo developed in about 1848 moved from New Buffalo where services were held in Three Oaks.

Congregational Church – Watervliet – Organized in 1853 – Pastor was Rev. W. H. Osborn

Dunkards – The Dunkards = Berrien Township – met in the Eastern part of the township and used the Union church for worship. John Weaver was a part of the religious sect who offered his private home for worship in the early days (1839-39) he was also the man who preached to them. Meetings were held in Berks schoolhouse as well as Oronoko and Wagner Schoolhouses.

Evangelical Ecclesiastical Church – formed in Bainbridge Township in 1856 - The first trustees were: Peter Schmitberger, Philip Butsbach and Henry Seal.

First Baptist Church – St. Joseph, MI – although meetings were held in a private home before this, in January of 1860 (per article in the Herald Press dated January 27, 1960) they were granted lot 384 on what is now Church and Broad streets. This was necessary because the congregation had grown larger then the Franz home could handle. Before the building of the church, Karl and Henry Mollhagen and Emil Mueller met in the Carl Franz home and held Sunday School and church meetings in their jointly-owned home on River Street. In 1859, they persuaded Rev. William E. Grimm to come from their previous home in Milwaukee to preach to them. They would organize themselves and the name was the “First German Baptist Church” later to be the First Baptist Church. The church quickly grew and even though additions were made and gallery added, there was still not enough room. So a second church was built. This occurred under the pastorate of Rev. Andrew A. Freitag a larger brick church was built. Building commenced in 1881 and dedicated February 18, 1882. This second church building stood until 1921 when it caught fire. (More on this in later paragraph.)

During the period of 1885 to 1901, Miss Martha Troeck, a church missionary, was brought in and she started a German school for children, sewing school on Saturdays and a primary department for the Sunday School. He efforts and work were so successful that that in 1901 the church added a new Sunday school addition with a basement, plus a parsonage and barn were also built. By 1908 the membership grew even greater, so a new chapel on Clay Street in Benton Harbor was built. This new group swelled to 112 members and was soon self sustaining so it became known as the Napier Parkview Baptist church. This Church would later form a portion of the Clay Street Baptist Church as the congregations continued to grow.

During the years of World War I the church transitioned from German to English speaking services, which all were not happy about. There are several logistic and adapting to a new country that aided in this transformation. In the middle of all this transition and some parishioners going to the Napier Baptist Church, which still spoke German in its sermons, disaster struck. On October 21, 1921 embers from a burning factory nearby were carried by a high wind and the First Baptist church and church building were burned to the ground. Although the lean war years were at hand with rationing and scarce materials, Max W. Stock, a contractor and member of the church, and Rev. Thomas Stoeri, helped in many of the building issues. On December 21, 1922, just 14 months after the devastating fire, the new church building was dedicated.

Pastor of this church have been:

Rev. William E. Grimm 1859 – 1872
Rev. David Zwink 1872-1878
Rev. Andrew A. Freitag 1878 – 1882
Rev. J. A. Welmer 1882 – 1884
Rev. H. W. Nable 1884 – 1891
Rev. Henry Schultz 1891 – 1900
Rev. Heinrich Schwendener 1900-1903

German Evangelical – New Buffalo Township – Organized in 1858 by Rev. Charles Haas

German Lutheran - Galien Township – no other information available at this time.

Second Baptist Church – Niles, Michigan (African)

From land marker “In 1851 the Reverends J.W. Hackley and D.G. Lett organized the Second Baptist Church under the Anti-Slavery Baptist Association. The first of four churches—a log building—was erected on the southeast corner of Sixth and Ferry streets. In 1872 the building was moved to the northeast corner, where the present church stands. During the construction of the third church in 1950–51 the congregation was renamed the Mount Calvary Baptist Church. In 1971 a new sanctuary was added to the structure.”

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Oronoko township – Do to the large population of Pennsylvania German people moving into the area, there were no less than three churches of this denomination in the township at one time. They were located at Berrien Springs, the Feather settlement and the southwest part of the township.

Evangelical Lutheran Church – organized in the South East Corner of Weesaw township – church built about 1869 Established in Section 25, and held services for people in the surrounding communities of Chikaming, Three Oaks and Weesaw.

Free Will Baptist Church – Hagar – organized about in 1863 but dissolved several years later.

Second Methodist Church (African) – Niles – founded in 1888 pastor was Rev. S. Byrd circa 1906

Lutheran Church organized in Bainbridge in 1851

Original members were David Weber, Daniel Krieger David Sherer

Long Lake Church – Berrien Township - organized in about 1856 and the decided to build a Union church near Long Lake for all denominations. For more on this church go to Google Book Search and put in History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan.

Mennonites – Bainbridge Township – about 1848 at the homes of Martin and David Byers. Martin Byers preached and led this very small group of worshipers.

Methodist Church – St. Joseph – established 1836 and built in 1846

Methodist Church at Millburg in Benton Township. Did not last long.

Methodist Church - Benton Harbor, Michigan -

Founded in September of 1867 when its members first met in homes, halls, theaters and churches, loaned to them when the church was just beginning and twice when the church buildings burned.

Methodist Episcopal Church – Morris Chapel – Benton Township, organized in 1840. Per the History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan. In 1845 Reverend Henry Worthington was preaching the circuit, membership was at 59 and Ludwig Robinson was the class leader. Afterwards, Isaac Schnorf became class leader and remained as such for 31 years. In 1846 a church was built and name Morris Chapel in honor of Bishop . In 1867 a new church was constructed to replace the old one. For more on this church go to Google Book Search and put in History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan.

Methodist Episcopal Society – Another Methodist group worshiped in the North previous to 1864 may have been as early as 1838. For more on this church go to Google Book Search and put in History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan.

Methodist Episcopal Church – Oronoko Township in about 1835 by Rev. Richard Meek and worship was held in a school house until a church was built in 1845 in the Village.

Methodist Episcopal Church – Hagar Township – organized about 1859 – and at times combined services with the Congregationalists.

Methodist Episcopal Church – formed in New Troy – Weesaw twp – before 1840. Rev. William Morley of Portage Prairie preached there on occasion. A church was finally built in 1863.

Methodist Episcopal Church – St.Joseph – organized in 1857 and built in 1859, it burned in 1866. The newspapers of the day describe it as a phoenix rises out of the ashes. The rebuild took three years and the church was refurnished on July, 1869. The church was built in a relief style not popular at the time, on the corner of Main and Broad Street in St. Joseph. Mr. J. C. Stors was the master builder.

The church was completed with a 46 X 75 foot building with a full basement and a steeple that rises to the heavens at 150 feet. The brick work for the church was done by J. B. Garlanger. Rev. J. I Buel was there when construction began. Pastor Rev. J. Jones was there the previous September in 1868 and remained through the church dedication.

Methodist Mission was established in Niles city in 1829 with Rev. Erastus Felton as its leader. He would preach every four weeks at the home of William Justis. Then in 1832 a class was formed in Joshua Comley's house. Thereafter they met in a schoolhouse until 1839 when a church was built. Rev. W. H. Sampson was its first full time pastor.

Methodist Church – New Buffalo was founded in 1847 by Rev. R. Meek of Niles and meetings were held in the schoolhouse.

Methodist Churches of Watervliet village orgainzed

and Coloma orgainzed in 1844. Reverend A. C. Shaw was the pastor for both churches. A church building for worship was built in Watervliet in 1869 and one in Coloma in 1879.

Methodist church – Sodus area was organized in 1877.

Methodist Church – New Buffalo twp. Organized Spring Creek Schoolhouse 1850 and due to the closeness of Three Oaks, this church organized in 1867 and church built there in 1878.

Methodist Episcopal Church – Bainbridge – Est. 1846 – services first held in red Schoolhouse at Spink's Corners.

Methodist Episcopal Church - Sodus - was organized in 1858. Services held in Tabor School House.

Portage Prairie United Methodist Church (marker reads) “Persuaded by reports of good land from the Reverend John Seybert, Bishop for the Ohio Conference, the Jacob and David Rough families came to Portage Prairie from Pennsylvania in the spring of 1849. In 1851 the organized the Zion Evangelical Church. The denomination merged with the United Evangelical Church in 1922 and with the United Brethren Church in 1946. This church was renamed the Portage Prairie United Methodist Church in 1968. “ In Addition to this plaque we should add that Peter Rhodes and J. Steiner were some of its first members. Church is located near Niles, Michigan

“In 1887 the Reverend J.A. Frye sparked a religious revival that inspired the construction of this Gothic Revival church. Embellished with oak details, the church cost $7,200 and was debt-free upon its dedication. Its 100-foot steeple was removed on 1919 due to severe electrical storms. Evangelical pioneers had worshiped in a log schoolhouse until 1859, when they built a yellow brick church. That structure was replaced by the present church.”

Protestant Methodist Church – Org. 1863 – also met at the Red schoolhouse at Spink's Corners in Bainbridge township.

Reformed Church – Three Oaks, Michigan. --- the official date is June 29, 1883 in the township school house north of the village. Before that in the 1860's and 1870's Dutch speaking families of the Reformed faith met in Private homes. Twenty one in total members were received at the 1883 organization meeting. First actual church was built on ½ acre lot donated by Peter Huibregtse, two miles North of Three Oaks and was dedicated on July 22, 1883.

Union church organized 1855 in Sodus Township was first called Church of God and was located
in the northern part of the township. In 1871

Union church established on Niles Road near Long Lake and a building was erected in about 1856.
Using this facility were the Lutherans, United Brethren and the Baptists.

Union church at Spink's Corners – Bainbridge – 3 seperate faiths would use this church. Included were the Protestant Methodists and Methodists Episcopal (mentioned above) and the Baptist church which was organized in 1869.

Union Church – New Buffalo – 1844 by Moses Chamberlain and others. 1848 converted to a Congregational Church – See this church above, located in Three Oaks.

United Brethren Church – Pleasant Hill United Brethren Church – Berrien Township – Organized in 1851 into a congration by: Rev. Samuel Chapman and was attached to the Silver Creek circuit.
For more on this church go to Google Book Search and put in History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan.

United Brethren Church – Bainbridge – organized in 1867 and met in the little brown schoolhouse until a division in differences in 1878. This defecting group built a church south of the schoolhouse in the summer of 1878.

United Brethren – Franklin Chapel – Berrien Township - organized 1854 by Elder Thomas. Before this meetings were held in Franklin schoolhouse. In 1855 a metting house was built.

CHAPEL   chapel

United Brethren – Maple Grove – Berrien Township – organized in 1854 by Thomas J. Babcock in a log schoolhouse in the northern part of the county. Before this meetings were held in the home of David Moore. Henry Rush was the class leader of the first class formed. A church was erected in 1873 and before this meetings were held in the Eau Claire Schoolhouse. For more on this church go to Google Book Search and put in History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan.

United Brethren Church – Berrien Springs founded in 1841 and had some 50 members. Actually organized in 1844 with Thomas L. Wilkinson as a class leader.

United Brethren Church of Benton Harbor – founded about 1862

United Brethren – Buchanan – founded in 1846 and first church built about 1849 – Rev. Joseph Tenel was its first pastor.

United Brethren Church - Sodus, was organized in 1861 and held in Rector shool house until a church was erected in 1869.

United German Evangelical Church – Three Oaks – organized in 1866 and church built in 1877

Universalist Church – Organized 1870 – Benton Harbor – On Pleasant Street near Pipestone.
New church built in 1871

Universalist Church – St. Joseph – organized in 1865 – Trustees were Warren Chapman, James E. Stevens, Samuel G. Langley, and Simeon Wilson. The church never really got going and finally disbanded within a few years.

Presbyterian Church - at Niles was built about 1835. It was a small frame building and could seat about 250 worshipers. Rev. Luther Humphey from Edwardsburg – officiated at the auspicious occasion when the church was first organized in 1834. The first pastor of the newly built church was Alexander P. Brown from Pittsburg. The next church built by this group was in 1850 and in 1871 it was repaired and additions made.


A Twentieth Century History of Berrien County, Michigan; By: Judge Orville W. Coolidge – 1906

History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan; D. W. Ensign & Co., 1880

The Region of Three Oaks – published 1939

Various newspapers and personal stories

Copyrighted Berrien County Genweb

Beverly Edwards & Deanna West