Indiana’s Father of Churches was loved by his church flocks

Well, this was different – I began researching a fellow I thought was interesting (George W. Cook) but while checking him out, I happened upon today’s subject, William T. (family trees on Ancestry say Thomas but I never found any proof to that) Warbinton.  Mainly he went by Rev. William T. Warbinton or Will to his old local friends.

Born right here in Montgomery County most say in Crawfordsville, but his birth was on his parents’ government land which was three and a half miles south of the city and above Whitesville.  His father and mother, James and Jane Gillespie Warbinton were married in Butler County, Ohio on what I vision as a lovely May Day in 1816. 

Their first of seven children, Joseph H was born in Ohio in 1820 and he has a wonderful story of his own.  He and his wife Magdaline Baird had one child live to adulthood who went to Oklahoma early on, but this couple loved our county and remained here, living with Ezekiel Elliott and caring for him although they weren’t young themselves.  Ezekiel passed away March 25th (1895) and Joseph helped his wife with the arrangements, fixings and such, then died in the middle of the night peacefully. Two old buds gone but not forgotten.

The second of the Warbintons was Margaret Ann also born in Ohio and married Ira Hunt from that same Ohio area.  They were farmers in Walnut Township, had five children, one named James Allen Warbinton Hunt and I’ve always thought her father’s middle name was likely Allen but never found proof of that, either.

George Gillespie Warbinton was born in 1824 in Ohio as well, married had four fine children and a sad very sad ending. A couple of years before he passed, he fell and drastically hurt his back and could do hardly anything afterwards.  The pain was unbelievably bad.  Sadly, one day he was missing and had thrown himself in the well relieving the pain but giving so much guilt and pain to his family.

Maude Elizabeth “Jane” (born 20 Oct 1826 here) married Dr. Ira Teal Brown and in his biography it noted he was exceedingly happy in his domestic ties – they had three children grown when she passed away from a stroke (August 1890) on a trip from their home in Ripley Township going in to Crawfordsville.

Although our subject is next, I’ll briefly tell you about John Allen Warbinton; he married Eliza Ward in 1865 and they were parents of eight children.  The lot of ‘em moved to Oswego, Kansas (where for many years he was superintendent of their poor farm) in 1881 and he passed away there, a well loved citizen in August of 1915.

Seems they were pretty lucky with their family, yet sadly, one they lost young – Samuel born in June of 1836 passed away 9 May 1837. 

So, meet William T!  Born April 7, in 1829, he received the regular schooling for the time, married and became a farmer.  End of story.  NOT!  He first married Mary E. Davenport from Fountain County on November 14, 1850.  They were in the 1860 census he as a farmer with $4,000 worth of property and two sons, James A and Joseph M.  However in 1870 it was only he and the two boys.  First, I thought it wasn’t him since he was a farmer not a minister and why would he go over to Fountain to grab a wife?  But, it was indeed as I finally found what happened to Mary and why she wasn’t with him and the boys.  She passed away at the young age of 25 years 2 months and 14 days on 28 April 1869.  I would guess it was due to difficulty in childbirth as they had a child on the 5th of March but the daughter also named Mary passed in October.  Somewhere in that time frame, he attended Wabash College and was not one of the younger students for sure. 

By the 1880 census he was married again (to Orfy Booher on October 4, 1870).  They had no children.  She was quite a bit younger than him born Nov 15, 1851; however, they seemed rather happy and she was an exceptional helpmate in their various churches that he was involved with.  They were in Covington, Ohio when she passed away in late 1889.  He returned her back home again in Darlington, Indiana where she (and he would later join her) was buried in the IOOF cemetery.

Conveniently, he was first given the Christian Church in Darlington where he was extremely loved and later visited there often.  The salary there began with $50 a year and he was raised $50 each year for a job well-done, but when he got to $450 (one source said $600) he said, “Hey, stop, this is enough!”  Loved that! 

In many of his church affiliations, he believed they needed a new church up to par with kitchen facilities, a good heating system…  Darlington was one; Wingate another; Thorntown; New Salem; Hagerstown.  In fact, he became known as the “Indiana Father of Churches.”  Then as you know, he was in Covington where his congregation grew multifold and they built a $20,000 church.  Later he went to Muncie, Indiana then Troy, Ohio.  Most of his time was spent in Hagerstown where his enthusiasm and leadership created the very first Christian Church there!  He was so dearly loved not only by his own church group but by everyone in the community.  It wasn’t just his charges that he was involved in for he was on the General Missionary Board a dozen years, a publication board (large church publishing company at Dayton); and helped advance Merom College (22 years). 

In 1891, Rev. Warbinton married Ada Harrod (daughter of quite an active minister as well and who advanced to national head of the Woman’s Home Mission Board and other church affiliations) who was 30 years younger but made an exceptional wife for Rev. Will. 

In his career, he added over 3500 members to his congregations, preached over 2500 funeral sermons. built many churches and tallied an unbelievable amount of friends.  In 1901, he had a stroke and his photo and articles went out all over the state including one local source (CWJ 20 Dec 1901).  He almost immediately retired at this point; however, he still did marriages, funerals and an occasional sermon or other special happenings for some years, but his final call came on January the 19th in 1913.  He left Ada, who lived many years more, never away from her church work, and three grandchildren from those two sons.  A large crowd gave him a goodbye in Hagerstown and an equal group met him at Darlington.  He had planned his own funeral – Rev “Love” appropriately conducting the service and where Rev. William T. Warbinton had erected his tombstone and planned his own funeral.  Bless ya’ Will T for being such a wonderful person and awesome subject for this article!

Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County. You can reach her at Karen@