Methodism in Northwest Indiana
In the early 1800s, Fort Dearborn (later known as Chicago) was built and settlers began to move into this region. In 1822 the first white man settled in what is now Porter County, but the development of the area did not begin in earnest until a stage line was established by Converse & Reeves in 1833 linking Chicago and Detroit.
In 1835, the LaPorte District of the Methodist Episcopal Conference sent the first missionary minister into Lake and Porter County areas: Mr. Stephen Jones. A circuit at that time consisted of 400 to 500 miles and took six to 12 weeks to complete, depending on travel conditions. Through Mr. Jones’ efforts and the grace of God, the Deep River Mission was organized and grew steadily.
The Origins of First United Methodist Church
By 1836 and in the years that followed, the group of people who would become the First United Methodist Church of Valparaiso worshipped at Gossett’s Mill on the banks of Salt Creek. In 1847, the first church building was constructed. It was a small frame building on the corner of Jefferson and Franklin Streets. After meeting any available place in town for two years, our ancestors had a home of their own.
The small meeting house was soon outgrown, and “the church with a steeple” was completed in 1849. It served the congregation until the “old brick church” was completed in 1886. In 1957 the Education Building (Wesley Hall) was completed. An alley originally separated it from the sanctuary.