A Brief History of the East Side / Irvington / Southeastern Church of Christ
The Really Early Days (1924-1963)
By Terry J. Gardner
On 10 April 1924 the East Side Church of Christ had its first meeting with 15 members in a rented room on East Washington Street. Many of those who began with the new congregation were transplanted southerners. Elders were appointed almost at once and they were J. C. Hazel, E. E. Ward, W. F. Money and A. L. Russel. The Elders and others with ability did the teaching and preaching. Occasionally a traveling evangelist would visit East Side and he would be invited to preach. The first known occasion of this occurring was William Ellmore who visited Indianapolis in July of 1924. J. W. Vandivier filed this news report:
The writer was with the East Side congregation July 27, and heard a splendid sermon by Bro. Wm. Ellmore, of Covington, Ind. Had a good basket dinner in the park and got a good drenching. We were all “strictly in it.” After dinner all broke for home, but got caught in another rain on the way. Everybody [was] happy however. Bro. Ellmore spoke again in the evening.
The new congregation met on East Washington Street, between Grant and Chester. The first fifteen members were William Money, Mr. and Mrs. Roy Money, Ivy L. Elmore, Rue Elmore, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest E. Krutsinger, Austin Russell, J. C. Hazel, Beatress Hazel, Mollie Jared, Coye Moss, Fay Kranz, Lora Moss and the mother of Coye, Faye and Lora.
East Side enjoyed a slow but steady growth. On 15 August 1925 the band of disciples moved to the Red Men’s Hall located at 3851 East New York Street. The new location was easily accessible by bus and streetcar. The congregation continued to use “local talent” and an occasional traveling evangelist to teach, preach and edify. In June of 1925 E. G. Creacy held a gospel meeting at East Side that resulted in “36 additions.” By 1929, just five years after its beginning the congregation numbered more than one hundred members. The congregation also purchased a “splendid lot” to build their own meeting house. Many southerners continued to move the Indianapolis in search of employment and East Side made it clear that they would “find a hearty welcome at our place!” “There is,” C. G. Vincent wrote, “no North or South, for Christianity knows no geographical lines.”
Clarence Guthrie Vincent was born 10 January 1881 in Oldham County, near Louisville, Kentucky. John T. Hawkins, a Christian Church preacher, immersed eighteen-year-old Vincent into Christ in 1899. Vincent learned the printer’s trade in 1901 entered James A. Harding’s Potter Bible College in Bowling Green, Kentucky where he paid for education by hard labor. Vincent spent five and a half years at Potter and then returned to Louisville where he “took two and a half years’ work in the Southern Baptist Seminary.” Vincent also studied “logic and hermeneutics under” M. C. Kurfees.
Clarence preached his first sermon in 1904 at Fountain Head, Tennessee. Next, C. G. preached for the Cameron Avenue Church in Detroit, Michigan. Vincent married Hannah Klingman (a sister to a number of well known preachers) and in November of 1911 they sailed for Japan where they remained for five years as missionaries.
During the First World War the Vincents spent eight months in welfare work among American soldiers in England and France. C. G. Vincent then was a successful preacher with a number of local congregations including Thayer Street in Akron, Ohio (1926-1929). It was from Akron that the Vincents moved to Indianapolis on May 29, 1929. C. G. Vincent’s first Sunday at East Side was June 2nd and he delivered three sermons to “large audiences,” in spite of the rain. Vincent recorded this impression of the East Side Church writing, “The East Side congregation numbers about one hundred and thirty members, and we believe that they have a mind to work.”
Through the influence of C. G. Vincent, the former missionary to Japan, the East Side congregation began to develop an interest in missions. On 28 July 1929 the East Side congregation hosted Herman J. Fox and his family. Fox spoke at both morning and evening services and told of his eight years as a missionary to Japan. The Fox family was about to return to Japan and the “East Side Church was glad to have fellowship with them and to assure them of [their] abiding interest and … prayers.” Vincent himself often gave his “illustrated lecture” on Japan to congregations in Indiana and Illinois. The purpose these lectures were to secure funding for the Japanese missionaries.
On 13 January 1930, C. G. Vincent looked back on 1929 as a year of “normal growth.” The goal for 1930 was “to do greater things” and Vincent wrote, “It is our aim to grow in grace, knowledge, usefulness, and numbers—in the fear of God and in favor with man.” As 1930 progressed East Side continued it steady growth. In February Vincent wrote, “Three—two by baptism and one by letter. The attendance and interest are good.”
From 5 May 1930 through 22 May 1930 a young Leslie G. Thomas preached the gospel at East Side. Thomas, was the minister of the Lewisburg, Tennessee congregation and they supported him through the meeting. Thomas wrote of the meeting, “Charles W. Jack, of Crawfordsville, Ind., conducted the song service and I did the preaching. At the request of that congregation, my home congregation sent me there, and Brother Jack freely gave of his time and talent.” C. G. Vincent wrote of the brethren in Lewisburg’s willingness to send Leslie Thomas to Indianapolis at their expense that indicated, “a fine and generous spirit” and that he was “very thankful” for this kindness.
Early in the life of the congregation they developed a sense of history. On the second Sunday in April of 1930 special talks were given to review the past and to look toward the future. This date was the sixth anniversary of the congregation’s foundation. J. C. Hazel and Charles Dean gave talks on “The Past and Present.” Russell S. King and C. G. Vincent spoke on “The Future Of Our Work.”
As 1930 turned into 1931 the effects of the Depression became severe. On 3 February 1931 the elders and ministers met to discuss the safest banks into which to deposit the congregations funds. At the time both the Building Fund and Current Fund were deposited in the Forty Second Street State Bank. During the meeting it was agreed to transfer the Building Fund into either the Fletcher American or Indiana National Bank.
C. G. Vincent was another casualty of the Depression. This notice appeared in the 1931 Gospel Advocate:
J. C. Hazel and E. E. Ward, elders of the East Street church of Christ, Indianapolis, Ind., commend Brother and Sister C. G. Vincent to any church in need of their services. Brother Vincent has labored with the church in Indianapolis two years. The church there is small and the business depression has made it impossible for them to adequately support a regular preacher. For this reason Brother Vincent is available for work elsewhere. He should be addressed at 24½ North Chester Avenue, Indianapolis, Ind.
Shortly after the departure of C. G. Vincent, Emmet G. Creacy of Horse Cave was called to Indianapolis for a Gospel Meeting in June of 1931. Creacy reported the results of his evangelistic efforts writing, “thirty-six responses—twenty-one baptized, eight restorations, and seven by statement.” E. G. Creacy’s interest in the young congregation continued and through his influence a young Hugo McCord moved to Indianapolis on 18 March 1934 remaining until 22 November 1936 and doing a good work leading many to Christ including a young Earl Irvin West who at age 23 became the local preacher on 3 October 1943. West would preach for the congregation for ten years.
In 1937 the congregation acquired their first permanent building located on Layman Avenue and the congregation soon changed its name from East Side to Irvington. The first service at Layman Avenue was on 27 June 1937. E. G. Creacy preached the first sermon and the same day took the confession and immersed Mr. & Mrs. Walter E. Henderson. Among the preachers during our history at Irvington were J. E. Alexander (1938-40); C. G. Caldwell, Sr. (1940-43); Earl West (1943-1953); Cecil Willis (1953-1957); Paul V. Dobson (1957-1960); S. P. Lowry (1960-61); and John W. Smith (1962-1963).
Plans for growth and expansion led to our move to the current location where first service took place on 19 April 1964 with Bible School attendance of 286 and with 314 at the morning worship. Today much will be shared about our history from 1964 until now. May we reflect on the past but look by faith into the future.