Saint Paul’s Memorial United Methodist Church is intimately associated with the Studebaker family who used to build wagons and later automobiles of the same name in the city of South Bend, Indiana. Clem Studebaker was born in 1831. Clem and his oldest brother Henry, born in 1826, migrated to South Bend in 1850. The population of South Bend at that time was 1,652. The two young men set up a blacksmith and wagon shop at the southwest corner of what is now Michigan and Jefferson Streets in 1852, capitalized at $68.00 During their first year they made two wagons. This little blacksmith and wagon shop gradually grew into the largest wagon factory in the world.
About the time Studebakers came to South Bend, George Milburn was operating a wagon factory in Mishawaka. Clem Studebaker and George Milburn were both workers in the Methodist Church. It was through this interest that the Studebakers and Milburns became acquainted. George Milburn had a daughter Ann whose first husband died. Clem met her through their common interest in church work, proposed to her, and in due time they were married. Clem and Ann now united their efforts in organizing the Laurel Mission at the corner of Thomas and Laurel Streets. On May 12, 1872, the Mission was opened in an old school house located where the Laurel school building used to stand, with a membership of about seventy. For five years the members laboured faithfully in the enterprise constantly encouraged by the unfolding possibilities of the work they had undertaken. On July 1, 1877 a new constitution was adopted for the Laurel Mission Sunday School which was under the control of the Quarterly Conference, and supported by the First Methodist Episcopal Church.
In the spring of 1880 the first great obstacle was encountered when the board of education refused to grant the Sunday School further permission to hold its meetings in the School House. After much thought and prayer a report was drafted and laid before the Quarterly Conference of the First Methodist Episcopal Church with an earnest appeal for the preservation of the Mission. At this point [late 1881] Clem Studebaker, a member of the Quarterly Conference, arose and stated that his wife had in mind the building of a chapel as a memorial to her deceased father, the Honourable George A. Milburn, and that he would use his influence in locating it so as to meet the need of the Laurel Mission and the community it was endeavouring to serve. Accordingly, during the years of 1882-1883 the Milburn Memorial Chapel was erected at the south east corner of Thomas and McPherson Streets at a cost of $10,000.
By 1899 the congregation had outgrown the Milburn Memorial Chapel. In September 1899, Doctor James G. Campbell was appointed to succeed Rev. Goss. Soon after he began his work the question of the erection of a long desired church building came up again. A site had already been purchased by Ann Studebaker and was being held for future use. The pastor together with Colonel Charles A. Carlisle visited a large number of structures in the United States and finally S. R. Badgely of Cleveland, Ohio was selected as the architect. In April 1900 a proposition was made to the official board by Clem Studebaker whereby he and his family would arrange for the sale of Milburn Chapel and apply the proceeds toward building a new church at the corner of Colfax Ave. and La Porte Ave. The old property was sold to the Hungarian Roman Catholics for $14,000. This later became St. Stephens Catholic Church.
This new church, completely furnished, was to be paid for in its entirety by the Studebaker’s. The architecture of Saint Paul’s is Gothic, which is an expression of new life. This type of architecture is marked by pointed or rounded arches, large spaces filled by lofty windows, and a greater or lesser use of gargoyles. Gothic architecture is noted, too, for its beauty, strength, and freshness.
The corner stone of the new church was laid Sunday afternoon at three o'clock, May 12, 1901. Clem Studebaker himself held the trowel and laid the stone. Doctor Campbell, the pastor, made the address. Shortly after this event Mr. and Mrs. Studebaker departed for Europe in the hope of effecting an improvement in the health of Mr. Studebaker. While abroad, they spent much time visiting famed churches and obtaining numerous suggestions for the new structure at home. Among these visits was a trip to Bavaria to view the widely known art glass works of Mayer and Company at Munich. While in Munich they saw an art glass representation of Saint Paul preaching from Mars Hill in Athens. The beauty of this glass work so impressed Mr. and Mrs. Studebaker that they wrote home offering to install an art glass window in the new church duplicating this view of Saint Paul at Mars Hill. They suggested that the name of the church be changed to Saint Paul's Methodist Memorial Church. The official board gladly accepted these suggestions, and the window was installed at a cost of $40,000. Mr. Studebaker and his servant Tom are pictured among the characters in the window.
On November 27, 1901 Clem Studebaker died and supervision of the construction of this new church edifice was left to others. The new edifice was completed under the direction of Ann Studebaker and family, and given to the Methodist Episcopal Church as a Memorial to the life and character of one who had been associated with every phase of history connected with the society organized in Milburn Memorial Chapel. This new church building contained thirty-six rooms and was admirably adapted to every phase of church and Sunday School work. The total cost was $150,000. Mrs. Studebaker at her death in July 1916, left an endowment of $50,000 to Saint Paul's Church. The income from this endowment is used for building repairs and maintenance.
Tippecanoe Place is Clem and Anne Studebaker’s home. As the premiere landmark in the heart of South Bend's historic district, Tippecanoe Place inspires reminiscence of the charm and grace of yesteryear. The gracious spirit of the past still thrives in the mansion's 40 rooms with their wealth of fine antiques, 20 breathtaking fireplaces, and hand-crafted woods. (Taken from their website)
A tour that includes St. Paul’s and Studebaker National Museum and ends with lunch or dinner at Tippecanoe Place is a perfect way to learn all about this dynamic family who came to South Bend with very little and through hard work and faith became a very influential family. A truly inspiring story.
The Studebaker National Museum’s collection traces its roots back to the late 1880’s when Clement Studebaker purchased the Lafayette and Lincoln carriages. Today, The Studebaker National Museum’s collection boasts over 120 vehicles, with approximately 70 on display at one time. Most of the vehicles are owned by the City of South Bend and The Studebaker National Museum, with a few being on loan from other museums and private individuals. (Taken from their website)
It’s a wonderful tour to look at the Studebaker’s life long dream that started with carriages and wagons and grew into a car company that put South Bend on the map.