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Indianapolis Sabbath School Union collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: S2708

Scope and Contents

This collection contains documents ranging from 1823 to 1843 regarding the Indianapolis Sabbath School Union, including the rules of the school, attendance sheets, scholar’s accounts, meeting minutes and reports, correspondence from Rev. George Bush, and other correspondence. The collection also contains documents ranging from 1840 to 1853 regarding the First Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis, including correspondence, certificates of members in good standing, a report of receipts and payments, and citations given to church member to appear before the session of the church to answer the charge of either intemperance or long continued absence from worship.

This collection also contains a number of other documents, including two copies of "Ought Offices of trust and profit to be equally accessible to the Rich and the Poor?", one a first draft and the second dated April 19, 1806 from Geneva [New York?], both copies possibly written by Isaac Coe; an attendance booklet from 1820; a June 14, 1821 letter to Caleb Scudder regarding his certificate of good standing in his previous church in Cincinnati; the August 5, 1822 meeting minutes of the Committee on Selection of the Indianapolis Bible class; a September 23, 1822 letter written to Rev. David C. Proctor at Madison, Indiana from Isaac Coe at Indianapolis; an 1830 annual report of the Marion County Temperance Society; a copy of Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the Establishment of Sunday Schools in Indianapolis, a booklet containing the published report of the anniversary exercises that were held at the Academy of Music in Indianapolis on April 6, 1873; a May 20, 1918 letter written by Sophia P. Sickels and sent to John H. Holliday and clippings of a picture of Dr. W. A. P. Martin and his article, “The Awakening of China” published circa 1905 that were sent with Sickels's letter; the undated constitution of the Seiburn Sunday School Union, Perry Township, Marion County, Indiana; and undated writings about the 4th of July celebration and the protection of the Sabbath.


  • 1806-1918, undated


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts

Historical Note

On April 6, 1823, the first Sunday school was established in Indianapolis, Indiana by Dr. Isaac Coe. For the first three months the school met in Caleb Scudder's cabinet shop, then moved to the First Presbyterian Church. Named the Indianapolis Sabbath School Union and also referred to as the Indianapolis Sabbath School Union Society, the school included students from all denominations as well as non-church members. Students were divided into four classes depending on their proficiency in basic academic skills. They were taught to read from the Bible and memorization was a chief feature of school work. The lack of common school education made it necessary to use a spelling book as preparation for the New Testament. Committing Bible verses to memory and spelling words correctly earned students a reward. In April 1928, the Methodists organized a separate school and the Baptists did likewise in November 1833. As more denominations established their own Sunday schools, the original school became known as the Presbyterian Sabbath School.

On July 5, 1823, the first church in Indianapolis was organized by the Presbyterians in Scudder's cabinet shop with fifteen members. A church edifice was begun in May before the official founding of the church and was completed enough that the new congregation met in the building on Sunday, July 6. Known as the First Presbyterian Church, it was located on the corner of Market and Pennsylvania streets. Rev. Isaac Reed preached a number of times before Rev. David C. Proctor took charge of the congregation. He lasted a year, then Rev. George Bush took over in 1824. Though initially popular with the church members, Rev. Bush's frequent public utterances against the form of government of the Presbyterain Church resulted in his dismissal from his pastorship in the fall of 1828. Over the next decade, several pastors were called to lead the church. Phineas D. Gurley, a new graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, was the longest serving pastor from the church's early days, arriving in Indianapolis in 1840 and serving until 1849.


Information found within collection.

Dalton, William D. "Sunday Schools." The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, edited by David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows, 1312. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Dunn, Jacob Piatt. Greater Indianapolis: The History, the Industries, the Institutions, and the People of a City of Homes, vol I. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1910.

"Honor Founding of First Church: Indianapolis Congregation Organized Ninety Years Ago Today by Presbyterians." Indianapolis Star (IN), July 5, 1913.


0.03 Cubic Feet (3 folders)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from Mrs. Holliday on 1929/08/30 and Evelyn Sickels on 1955/03/14.


No further additions are expected.

Related Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN:

S2200: Marion County Bible Society collection

S2291: Indianapolis Sunday schools anniversary report

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2022/03/21 by Laura Eliason. EAD finding aid created 2022/03/21 by Laura Eliason.
Indianapolis Sabbath School Union collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.