Clarke Historical Library
Central Michigan University

Finding aid for
Church Family Collection

Finding aid created by
Marian Matyn

Summary Information
Title: Collection,
Creator: Church family.
Inclusive dates: 1862, 2002, and undated
Extent: .75 cubic feet (in 2 boxes)
His papers consist of biographical material on and correspondence of the Church family, especially Ithaca, Michigan, Civil War heroes Nathan and LaFayette Church.

Call number: MSS.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University
250 East Preston Street
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859
Phone: 989-774-3352
Fax: 989-774-2160

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Acc#3116, 67359

Access Restrictions:

Church Family Collection is open for research.


Copyright is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Church Family Collection, Folder # , Box #, Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University


Arrangement is alphabetical, then chronological.



LaFayette Church was born July 16, 1816 in Wayne County (N.Y.), the son of Willard and Sally (Davis) Church of Connecticut. He was the youngest in a family of nine. At age 16, LaFayette started work in Rhode Island. He later moved to Oakland County, Michigan, in 1836. He lived and traveled between Ionia and Clinton counties, Michigan.

In Lyons, Michigan, LaFayette married Sophronia Benjamin (October 26, 1823-December 20, 1911) on January 29, 1840. They lived in Lyons until 1847, in Hillsdale County, Michigan, 1847-1854, and Arcada Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. Together they had ten children: Nathan (1840-1926), S. Cornelia (1842-1878), Frances, also called Frank (1844-1865), Susan (1849- ), Marie E. (1851-1927), Avolin (1853-1916), Julia (1856-1947), Flora or Florence (1859- ), Willard (1861- ), and Frederick (1863-1910).

LaFayette did not have any formal education, yet was served as an ordained Baptist minister. He was selected as the first Baptist minister in Alma, Michigan, and served as pastor, 1862-1867, in between his war service. He owned a large farm, helped found the town of Ithaca, and operated a grist and saw mill, 1857-1863. A Republican, LaFayette served as the first county treasurer, elected in 1856 and 1858. He was also the first treasurer for Arcada Township. In 1855 LaFayette organized the first Sunday school in Gratiot County.

During the Civil War, LaFayette received permission to organize a company, which he did on July 19, 1862 at Detroit. In this unit, Company D, 26th Michigan Infantry, he was commissioned as Captain on July 19, 1862 at Detroit at the age of 46. He was commissioned Chaplain on April 2, 1864 and mustered on August 12, 1864. On June 4, 1865 LaFayette was mustered out at Alexandria, Virginia.

LaFayette died on January 2, 1907 at the age of 91.

Civil War hero Nathan Church, was born on November 22, 1840, the son of LaFayette Church. Until the age of 16, Nathan attended common schools in Hillsdale and Gratiot counties and Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Afterwards, he worked with his father as Assistant County Treasurer and taught two terms of school.

Nathan first enlisted as a Sergeant in Company C, 8th Michigan Infantry on August 12, 1861 at the age of 21. He was mustered on September 23, 1861, but was discharged for disability on January 17, 1862. A year later, Nathan re-enlisted, this time in Company D, 26th Michigan Infantry as a first lieutenant. He was commissioned on September 1, 1862 and mustered fourteen days later. He served as Aide-de-Camp to Brigadier General Slough in 1863. On April 15, 1864, Nathan was commissioned as Captain of Company I, 26th Michigan Infantry. He was mustered on May 20, 1864. During August and September 1864, Nathan served as Assistant Inspector-General of the 1st Brigade. On September 12, 1864, he was commissioned as a Major and mustered on October 1, 1864. Nathan was honored as Brevet Major U.S. Volunteers on July 6, 1864 for gallant service near Petersburg, Virginia, in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 12, 1864, and as Brevet Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Volunteers on April 8, 1865 for conspicuous gallantry and meritorious service while commanding the 26th on March 7, 1865 when Lee surrendered. Nathan was mustered out on October 30, 1865.

On December 25, 1866 he married Mary H. Bills (birth and death dates unknown). Together they had five children: Carrie H. (1868-1931), Leroy B. (1869-1931), twins Clarence N. (1871-1938) and Gaylord P. (1871-1872), and Edgar N. (1874-1907).

After the war, Nathan opened a general store in Ithaca, Gratiot County, Michigan, with Wilbur Nelson, which they operated until 1872. He founded the Gratiot Journal, which he operated from 1866 to 1872. In December 1872, Nathan purchased a sawmill in Arcada Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. He also dealt in real estate. With his wife and father-in-law, Perley Bills, Nathan organized a bank in 1877. The Church, Bills and Companies Bank ran until it failed in 1892.

A Republican, Nathan served as the Ithaca post master for seven years, county clerk for four years, and was regularly nominated for political positions. Nathan also helped organized and was the first president of the Gratiot County Agricultural Society.

Nathan died on December 26, 1926. (This Information is from: Gratiot County MI Portraits and Sketches (1884); Biographical Memoirs of Gratiot County Michigan (1906); Gratiot County Michigan Historical, Biographical and Statistical 1913); Obituaries 1884-1924 ... from the Gratiot County Herald, Compiled 1939, and the family tree information donated in 2002.)

Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection consists mostly of correspondence of the Church family, particularly the men who were Civil War veterans. Miscellaneous accounts, a poem, and correspondence from friends are also included. The 2002 addition to the collection includes typed transcriptions of letters written by Nathan and Lafayette Church on paper and on CD, with a family tree.

Subject Terms

    • Church, LaFayette,--1816-1907.
    • Church, Nathan,--1840-
    • United States. Army. Michigan Infantry Regiment, 26th (1862-1965) Company D.
    • Ithaca (Mich.)--Genealogy.
    • Ithaca (Mich.)--History.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Church Family Collection. [series]:
    Box   1 F   1
    Biographical Materials, 1860s, 1890s
    Box   1 F   2
    Church, Nathan, Photograph (in uniform), [1861-1865]
    Box   1 F   3
    Church Family Correspondence, LaFayette Church to daughter, Frances Church, March 23, 1863-April 21, 1864
    Box   1 F   4
    Church Family Correspondence, LaFayette Church to daughter, Susan Church, February 4, 1863-August 18, 1864
    Box   1 F   5
    Church Family Correspondence, LaFayette Church to daughter, Cornelia “Nelia” Church, January 23, 1863-November 15, 1864
    Box   1 F   6
    Church Family Correspondence, LaFayette Church to wife, Sophronia Church, and family, November 13, 1862-November 19, 1864, and undated
    Box   1 F   7
    Church Family Correspondence, LaFayette Church to wife, Sophronia Church, and family, November 13, 1862-November 19, 1864
    Box   1 F   8
    Church Family Correspondence, Nathan Church to all the family, December 5, 1862
    Box   1 F   9
    Church Family Correspondence, Nathan Church to his father, LaFayette Church, March 20 and 23, 1864
    Box   1 F   10
    Church Family Correspondence, Nathan Church to his sister/s (unnamed), December 11, 1862-September 23, 1864
    Box   1 F   11
    Church Family Correspondence, Nathan Church to his sister, Cornelia Church, January 11, 1863-November 14, 1864
    Box   1 F   12
    Church Family Correspondence, Nathan Church to his sister, Frances E. "Frank" Church, December 28, 1862-April 1, 1864
    Box   1 F   13
    Church Family Correspondence, Nathan Church to his sister, Susan C. Church, February 22, 1863-October 3, 1864
    Box   1 F   14
    LaFayette Church, Clothing Statement, Co. D, 26th Michigan Infantry, September 15, 1862
    Box   1 F   15
    LaFayette Church, Receipts (of or from him), June 19, 1863 and October 3, 1864
    Box   1 F   16
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, Janie [ ] to cousin, Cornelia Church, January 19, [186-, no year]
    Box   1 F   17
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, Entencia C. Howe to Cornelia Church, August 1863, May 27, 1864
    Box   1 F   18
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, W. C. Wheeler to Frances Church, March 24, 1864
    Box   1 F   19
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, [ ] Riftman (sp?) to Frank (Frances) Church, June 22, 1864
    Box   1 F   20
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, J. D. Hastings to Fannie (Frances) Church, April 14, 1863
    Box   1 F   21
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, W. E. Winton to Mrs. LaFayette Church, December 15, 1864
    Box   1 F   22
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, (St. John’s Postmaster) H. S. Gibbons to L. Church's wife [Sophronia Church], January 26, 1863
    Box   1 F   23
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, Julianna Porter to sister, Sophronia Church, [no month] 3, 1864
    Box   1 F   24
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, “Vacation Days,” a poem, to Rev. L. [LaFayette] Church, undated
    Box   1 F   25
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, J. D. Hastings to Brother [LaFayette] Church, February 10, 1863
    Box   1 F   26
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, Albert A. Shaver to the family of L.C. [LaFayette Church], January 11, 1863
    Box   1 F   27
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, Wilbur Nelson to Nathan Church, February 18, 1862 and August 12, 1864
    Box   1 F   28
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, Sarah Eve Beebe to friend, Susan V. Church, April 20-September 6, 1864
    Box   1 F   29
    Miscellaneous Church Family Correspondence, Theodore Nelson to friend, Susan V. Church, March 10, 1863
    Box   1 F   30
    Transcriptions (written) of Church Family Correspondence, 1862-1864
    Box   1 F   31
    Cornelia Church Teaching Certificate, November 7, 1862
    Box   2 F   1
    Addition Acc#67359, Transcriptions of Nathan and LaFayette Church's Correspondence, on paper and CD; and Family Tree, 1862-1864; 2002
    Box   2 F   2
    Addition Acc#73646, Transcriptions of LaFayette Church’s Correspondence to daughter, Cornelia, the April letter mentioning the death of Lincoln and reaction of the troops, and the surrender of Lee, December 5, 1864, April 19, 1865, undated