History by the late Ruth Anna Young, Former Church Historian
The Blue River Covenant Brethren Church was organized in 1852, with twenty-one members. This was only one of the many churches in Indiana that was organized by Dunkard people who migrated from Ohio. Most of this group came from Montgomery County, near Dayton, Ohio.
Among the first families who located on farms in this vicinity were the Zeiglers, Hyres, Olingers, Rogers, Shoups, Kinzies, and Zumbruns. Christian Kinzie was the first deacon, while Joseph Zeigler and Wesley Hyre were elected to the ministry soon after the church was organized. They met in the homes and barns of the members for twenty years before the first meetinghouse was built in 1872. At this time the Brethren were known as the German Baptist Brethren Church (hence the name on our stained glass window).
An active Sunday School has been maintained since 1887. In 1897, the congregation decided to have an “Evergreen” Sunday School, which would be year-round. The only evening services were Communion (Love Feast), and “protracted meetings” (revival services). In July 1907, the Church Council decided to add Sunday evening services to the schedule.
In March, 1891, work was done on the wall of the old meetinghouse, and in 1895 a new roof was added. In 1896, the stand in front of the meetinghouse was repaired. This stand was erected for the convenience of the women and girls in getting in and out of the buggies.
The congregation was served by the free ministry until 1921. In December, 1921, the church voted in favor of supporting a pastor and procured Samuel J. Burger as its first paid pastor. There was no parsonage, but a home was used about three quarters of a mile southeast of the church building, It was decided to buy land for a parsonage in 1922, but it was not purchased until 1929 for $100.00.
In September 1925, the church obtained the services of Bro. L.U. Kreider. He served as a pastor and elder until 1948, a period of 23 years. The Kreider’s lived four years in a house one-half mile north of the church (on the Denver Ott farm). The house was moved to the land purchased in 1929. It was moved over a period of several days, to the place that it remained until it was torn down after the new parsonage was built in 1967. The road had to be closed while the parsonage set a couple of nights on the road.
The church has always been missionary minded. The work was brought nearer the local church when in 1938, Evelyn Frank of our own group went as a medical missionary to Africa and served there until ill health made it necessary for her to give up her work on the foreign field.
It was not until about 1914 that the Ladies’ Aid was organized. By the consent of the church council in 1913, the women were given permission to hold meetings. It was through the efforts of Mrs. Noah Zumbrun (Delia) that this organization was encouraged and completed.
Blue River in the mid-1930s
The Men’s Work was organized May 5, 1947. Paul Zumbrun was elected president and Noah Shively was elected Secretary-Treasurer. They were active in taking care of the church property and raised sweet corn and helped materially some of the needy families in the church.
The first Daily Vacation Bible School was held in 1951. A program and exhibit followed the two-weeks of school on Sunday night.
In December 1951, church council realized the need for classrooms, rest rooms, changing the main entrance and repairing the bell tower. A remodeling program was completed and was dedicated on May 1, 1955.
In 1974, two acres were purchased from J.D. Egolf for $5,000.00. July 27, 1975, ground breaking services were held for the new church. Dedication Services were held May 16, 1976, and one year later for the south educational wing. Hartman Rice was our pastor during this time of church growth, two building programs, a new parsonage built in 1968, and the new worship and educational facilities.
In November 1990, Craig Alan Myers was called to serve at Blue River. In August 1995, Mark Ray accepted the call as Youth Director, and in 1998 became full-time Youth Pastor. He went to Ireland to serve in 2000. Larry Alan Rice, Jr. began his his work as Associate Pastor for Youth in February 2002 and concluded his service in November 2006.**
In January 2008, Travis E. Hartman accepted the call to serve as part-time Associate Pastor for Youth, and served until 2013.
In 2017, new carpet was installed throughout, and in 2018 a new roof was installed.
On August 22, 2021, Blue River joined the Covenant Brethren Church and affirmed the Covenant Brethren Statement of Faith. This was recognized by the Northern Indiana District Church of the Brethren at the September 17, 2022, District Conference at which Blue River, Bethany, Maple Grove, and West Goshen Congregations were unanimously dismissed from the Church of the Brethren and given a gracious service of blessing.
The congregation received incorporation as a nonprofit religious corporation in the State of Indiana in 2021.
**For further information on Larry Rice, please contact us.