HISTORY OF TUSCOLA COUNTY
HISTORY OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
A brief sketch of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Tuscola County is furnished by Rev. J. O. Bancroft, a pioneer minister, as follows:
"Rev. Mr. Whitwan, a local preacher, a brick mason by trade, then living at Flint, in 1839, preached the first sermon ever preached in the county, at the house of Dennis Harrison, of Tuscola. At this time Larmon Chatfield was presiding elder of Grand River District, in which Tuscola County was embraced. The first class was organized at Tuscola, March 3, 1849, consisting of Lovira Hart, Esther Hart, Leander W. Van Kleeck, Emily Van Kleeck and Mary Hines. It was connected with Saginaw Circuit, Grand River District, Andrew Bell being preacher in charge, and George Bradley presiding elder.
In the spring of 1849 Townsend North settled in Vassar. The itinerant minister soon followed. October 14, 1851, was organized by S. P. Lee, preacher in charge, the first society in Vassar. This class, which afterward disbanded, consisted of L. W. Van Kleeck and wife, who had moved from Tuscola, Ebenezer Morse, Elizabeth and Harriet Gibbs, wives of Sabin and Orin Gibbs. Tuscola Circuit was formed in September, 1853, with Thomas Joslin as preacher in charge. Charles Haines, appointed to Tuscola Circuit in 1854, formed a class of six members at Vassar. Out of this has grown the present church.
" In 1855 Mr. Hutchins was appointed to Tuscola Circuit. He was followed in 1856 by Lewis Mitchell. In 1857 Erastus Klumph was appointed to Tuscola Circuit. As the county was fast being settled, he extended the work and took new appointments in the northern part of the county.
"It being necessary to have an assistant, Daniel Miller, a local preacher of South Flint Circuit, was sent as a supply by Samuel Clement, at that time presiding elder, of Flint District.
"In 1858 E. Klumph was returned with Rufus H. Crane as junior preacher.
"Mr. Klumph was very successful in revival work, and during his administration formed classes at several new points.
At the conference of 1859 the name of the circuit was changed to Tuscola and Watrousville. John O. Bancroft was appointed preaher in charge, and Menzo S. Leet, junior preacher. The circuit at this time embraced all the inhabitants in the county on the north side of Cass River, that part of the town of Tuscola on the south side of the river, the western part of Millington and nearly all of Arbela. The appointments were in the following towns and designated on the church records by the following names: Tuscola, Arbela, Town-line (this was what was called at the time Owlsburg school-house, on the town line between Tuscola and Arbela), Vassar, Watrousville, South Juniata, (at Belknap school-house); North Juniata, (at Allen school-house); Ellington, preaching first at the log house of J. B. McKenney, and afterward at a log school-house near there, and at the Sutton school-house; Almer, at the houses of Benjamin Haymon, Wesley Hess and Jacob Clyne, alternately, until the Clyne school-house was enclosed; North Akron, at the house of David Clark, afterward at the school-house one and a half miles south and west of Unionville; South Akron, at the log cabin of Father Waldo, until the Cook schoolhouse was built; Fair Grove Center, in log school-house; southwest Fair Grove, at Hinson school-house; Southeast Fair Grove, at Moreland school-house; Denmark, at log house of John Nickerson, until there was a board shanty built for a school-house; East Denmark, at Baker school-house; also occasional preaching at other places.
" In 1860, J. O. Bancroft was returned with John Hamilton as junior preacher. During the two years pastorate of 1859 and 1860 there were extensive revivals at Arbela, South Juniata, North Juniata, Denmark, and other places in some measure; 118 persons were received on probation in the church, and twelve Sunday-schools organized.
"At this time ministers had to do much of their traveling on horseback, and Mr. Bancroft could relate many incidents of fording streams and passing through swamps, etc. He relates the following labor performed during his last round on the circuit. Leaving Tuscola, where he resided, Friday morning, he soon met a gentleman who said: "My niece desires you to perform the ceremony at her wedding, at Watrousville, Sunday evening." Mr. B. told him that his Sunday evening appointment was fourteen miles away and he could not promise to be there until 12 o'clock at night. The young lady in question was consulted, and said she had rather wait till 12 o'clock than to be married by a justice of the peace. But to return to the labor; he went from Tuscola to South Akron and preached Friday afternoon. Having an appointment for a two-days meeting at North Akron, he preached Saturday afternoon; Sunday morning held love feast, preached, took several persons into full connection in the church, administered the sacraments of baptism and Lord's Supper, rode six miles to the Almer appointment at Clyne school-house, preached at 2 o'clock, received persons into the church, administered baptism, held class meeting, rode six miles to the Sutton school-house, preached, received members into the church and held class meeting, then started on the fourteen miles ride to the wedding. On approaching the house at about half-past ten, he found the road filled with young people, looking and wondering if the minister would come. So the happy two were made one. At about 12 o'clock supper was served, after which the guests returned to their homes.
He describes a congregation and scene at the Denmark appointment. The congregation consisted of twelve adults, one boy and thirteen babies. While he was preaching one child got down from its mother's lap, went to another child who was sitting in a little chair, and made as though it would kiss it, but instead, bit its nose, and what a time! Soon all was quiet, and the preaching was progressing, when the mother let the child get down again. It repeated the same performance. Also, an instance of coming to a stream which he had never crossed during high water. He dismounted, sent his horse in, and was passing over on some trees, placed into the stream for that purpose. When the horse had reached an island in the middle of the stream, he turned round and made back for the shore. A race ensued. The Reverend gentleman slipped on some poles as he reached the crossing of a bayou and dislocated his shoulder. The horse, running through the woods, scattered the Sunday-school papers as he went. Mr. B. had to walk more than a mile before he could get help to put the joint in place.
At the conferences of 1861 the circuit was divided, and William Birdsall was appointed to Tuscola and John Hamilton to Watrousville. In 1862 C. L. Church was sent to Tuscola and A. Herrick to Watrousville. At the conference of 1863 the name of Tuscola Circuit was changed to Vassar, and J. Horton appointed pastor. In 1864 the two circuits were joined, E. Klumph being preacher.
He was succeeded in 1865 by J. B. Russel. The same year Nathan Pierce was appointed to Millington. At the conference of 1866 the Watrousville and Vassar Circuit was divided and a new circuit formed, called Dayton and Kingston. John Hamilton was appointed to Vassar but did not go. A. J. Van Fleet supplied it. J. B. Russel returned to Watrousville. J. H. McClure went to Millington, W. J. Johnson to Dayton and Kingston. In 1867 the appointments were as follows:
Vassar, J. O. Bancroft; Watrousville, J. H. Caster; Dayton and Kingston, L. L. Houghton; Millington, J. H. McClure.
These appointments for 1868 were unchanged except Millington, to which Mr. Miles was appointed.
1869- Vassar, J. O. Bancroft; Watrousville and Caro, R. C. Lanning; Cass City, J. E. Withey; Unionville, A. Whitcomb; Dayton and Kingston, L. L. Houghton; Millington, Miles.
At the conference in 1870 a new circuit was formed, called Mayville, so at that time seven Methodist Episcopal ministers were appointed to Tuscola County.
And thus the work has progressed, new fields been opened and occupied as development has advanced, until in 1883 there are ten stations and circuits, with an equal number of ministers, and eleven church edifices.
A PIONEER MINISTER.
John Orlando Bancroft was born August 16, 1826, in Fowler Trumbull County, Ohio. He was descended from John Bancroft who came over from London, Eng., on the "James," and after an eight weeks' voyage arrived at Lynn, Mass., June 12, 1632. He is of the eighth generation in this county. His father removed to the territory of Michigan in October, 1831, and settled in the town of Raisin, Lenawee County, two and a half miles from Tecumseh. In December, 1835, he removed to St. Clair County, and settled twelve miles from St. Clair village, where he remained two years, then removed to the town of Bristol, now Almont, Lapeer County. He was married in Marathon, Lapeer County, to Huldah P. Richmond, April 22, 1847. He then settled on some new land, which he had bought, two and a half miles west of Almont. Here he remained clearing up and tilling his farm, teaching school winters, until September, 1853, when he was received into the Michigan Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was appointed to Lexington Circuit.
In 1854 he was appointed to Armada, where he remained two years. In 1856 he went to South Flint, remaining there two years. In 1858 he was sent to Goodrich circuit. In 1859 he was appointed to Tuscola and Watrousville circuit, which then embraced all of Tuscola County on the north side of Cass River, the town of Arbela and part of Millington on the south side. The circuit then consisted of ten towns, with sixteen appointments. His next stations were Brighton two years, Pinckney two years, Holly two years. In 1867 he was returned to Tuscola County and stationed at Vassar, where he remained three years. He removed thence to Clarkston in 1870. In 1872 he was appointed to Oxford, remained there three years. In 1875 he was returned to Tuscola County and stationed at Watrousville. In 1877 he was sent to Hess Street, East Saginaw, and in 1879 to Midland City. At the conference of 1881, after twenty-eight years of labor and toil, he asked and received from the conference a superannuated relation, and settled among his old friends in the village of Vassar, where very soon after he engaged in the furniture and undertaking business.
During Mr. Bancroft's ministry of twenty-eight years he preached at fourteen stations and circuits, received 280 members on church certificate, 1,069 probationers and 637 into full membership from probation, baptized 579 persons, married 215 couples, attended 379 funerals, administered the Lord's Supper 99 times, preached 4,667 times, and during the last twenty years made 5,168 pastoral visits.
Mr. Bancroft's family consists of himself and wife and four children. There are two sons, John R. Bancroft, a hardware merchant at Vassar, and Rev. E. B. Bancroft, a member of the Detroit annual conference, and now stationed at Tawas, Mich.; also two daughters, Sarah H., engaged with her father in the furniture business, and Nellie E., just entering the Sophomore year at the Michigan University. Two daughter have been buried.