During the late 1800's, there was an active Seventh-day Adventist Church in North Liberty and it was felt there should be a presence in the South Bend area, so tent meetings were held in July and August of 1899. Because of the interest, Elder I. G. Bigelow established a Sabbath School in connection with the tent meetings and the 11 members met in various homes until they rented an upstairs hall at 911 South Michigan Street.
More members were added, including an elderly lady who had been keeping the Sabbath alone for 23 years. On June 30, 1900 Elder R. I. Donnell, President of the Indiana Conference met with the church family and officially organized the South Bend church with eighteen charter members. Elder Bigelow held the first baptism of July 14, 1900 in the Saint Joseph River, adding three more members. The first communion service was conducted on July 21.
Christian education was very important to these members and a church school, which met in various locations including the Dean Building and the Broadway Hall, was in existence by 1917. In March 1921 a committee of five was commissioned to locate a suitable lot for a church and school. A wooded lot in River Park, on Pleasant Street was one choice, however they purchased property at Ewing and Saint Joseph Street where a school was constructed first.
In January 1926, after considering other sites and other church buildings it was decided to build a church on the corner of Ewing and Saint Joseph St. where the school was located, so they moved the school to the next lot east and by fall the students were attending school in the basement of the church and the school building became the parsonage. In December 1926 the first baptism was held in the new church and on January 2, 1927 the church was consecrated - just one year after the building committee was established. The congregation had raised over $19,000.00 during that year and by December 1927 the church was debt free.
The Little Colonial Seventh-day Adventist Church continued to grow. School was held in the basement and on Friday everything was stored and the rooms were ready for Sabbath School classes and eventually two church services were being held each Sabbath morning. In 1955, 8 acres of property on Ironwood, south of Ewing and running west to Hoke Street, was available for $14,400.00. The purchase of the property was authorized in April and in November it was voted to build a school before constructing a church. Plans for the school were approved in February 1956 and it was decided to add the 9th grade. Construction was begun with Oris Kinsey, one of our church members, as the general contractor. Members put many hours of free labor into the building on Sundays and after work during the week. The wooden arches came in by train and were brought to the building site on a borrowed truck. Students moved into the school in the spring of 1957 and the 10th grade was added in the fall. The school was dedicated on November 1, 1958.
The Little Colonial Church was sold in 1960 and once again the students at South Bend Jr. Academy put their books away on Friday, moved their desks up against the wall and the classrooms became Sabbath School rooms and church and adult Sabbath School were held in the gym for four years. On Sunday morning, October 28, 1962 church members and visitors witnessed the groundbreaking for the new church. Once again people volunteered their time to make the church a reality. There were setbacks, especially when during a windstorm the north wall of the sanctuary blew down, but finally on Sabbath, March 21, 1964, the congregation met in the school gymnasium and with the pastor and elders leading the procession to the church, the Sabbath services were completed in the new building. The church was dedicated debt-free on Sabbath, November 19, 1966.
It can be said the entire church and school complex is in existence due to a congregation of loyal, devoted, self sacrificing members who have had dreams and ambitions and given generously of their financial resources and time for the last 100 years.
May we always be faithful.
Compiled by Ardis Meyer