By Terri Horvath
Presumed the oldest religious structure in Hamilton County, White Chapel Church was completed in 1853. Located at its current address on east 116th Street, White Chapel was originally associated with the community of Mattsville, which was annexed by Carmel decades ago.
Records show that the acquisition grew from a desire by Methodist officials to find a home for the circuit-riding preacher Jacob White. Peter Wise, a farmer, decided to donate part of his acreage for the cause. At the time, prairieland surrounded the area. He donated the land with the agreement that the ground be used only for a church. One of his motivations may have been to preserve the family cemetery, which is adjacent to the church. Some of the gravestones date back to the early 1800s.
The tiny structure remained recognizable throughout the years, even with the additions of pillars, a belfry, portico, steeple and an expanded parking lot.
The original promise of preserving the land for religious purposes was also maintained. In 1962, the church became nondenominational. Attendance was light at times. Plus, the church had to close occasionally while the congregation waited for the right pastor to fill a vacancy.
White Chapel’s history includes its effect on people. One example is the following.
In 1980 a stranger stole an antique clock from the church. The man hoped to sell it for booze. After spending eight years in jail for an unrelated charge, he felt he had undergone a religious conversion. In 1992, he returned to White Chapel Church to confess his theft. Eventually he paid for a new $630 clock for the church.