Old Indian Mission Church

This church was born in the hearts of eight people who gathered in the log schoolhouse at Old Mission with missionary Rev. Peter Dougherty on June 3, 1843. The next day twelve Chippewa Indians were added to the membership roll. In 1852, the mission was moved here to Omena and this church building was dedicated on December 26, 1858. The church bell which calls us to worship was made from the English copper pennies given by the Chippewa Indians and moved across the bay with the congregation.

Rev. Peter Dougherty opened the mission school, called the Grove Hill Mission, here in Omena in 1853 to continue his work teaching English, manual training skills, farming, and academic subjects to the Indian children whose families had become citizens. But after the devastating Civil War, support for this mission, which was given by the Presbyterian Board
of Foreign Missions, was cut off in 1868. In 1871, Rev. Dougherty and his family left Omena. At that time, the church became part of the Grand Rapids Presbytery.

In the period of time between 1871 and the mid 1920’s, the church continued with various ministers serving. While at times struggling, the church survived and held a year round Sunday School until about 1957. Around 1928, the decision was made to have a summer church as the Indians, townspeople, resorters and cottagers were all worshipping together.

Given its unique history, which includes a strong lay leadership over the years, the Omena Presbyterian Church has the distinction of being the oldest Protestant Church in the lower peninsula north of Grand Rapids in continuous service in its original denomination. In 2008 we celebrated the 150th year anniversary of the dedication of this historic church building.

With gratitude we remember those who have given so much to keep this church alive.