The Presbyterian Sunday School of Alpena, Michigan

Post-1890 Presbyterian Sunday School of Alpena Library Card issued to Mrs. Polson

Post-1890 Presbyterian Sunday School of Alpena Library Card (front)
Post-1890 Presbyterian Sunday School of Alpena Library Card (back)

The United Presbyterian Church of Alpena, Michigan

The congregation of the United Presbyterian Church of Alpena organized in 1884 when the Detroit Presbytery of the United Presbyterian Church of North America reported that a “special mission” had been established in Alpena.  The first worship service took place on July 20, 1884. A new church building opened on Washington Avenue in 1885.

New article from the Alpena Argus (Alpena, Michigan), Wednesday, January 14, 1885, Page 3, announcing the opening of the
new United Presbyterian Church on Washington Avenue in Alpena

Rev. Thomas Middlemis

Rev. Thomas Middlemis was born in Belfast, Ireland on December 28, 1839. According to Thom’s Almanac and Official Directory for the United Kingdom of 1859, he was associated with the Ballibay Presbytery of Castleblayney. On August 7, 1866, he married Jeannie Coulter who ten months later on June 3, 1867 at Killycard Cottage in Castleblayney, Ireland. In 1871, Rev. Middlemis immigrated to the United States. He married Jane Burns (born 1842-1926) April 25, 1872. They had three children, George Ross (1883–1949), Alice Maud (1875–1904), and Thomas, Jr. (1875–1928). The Middlemis family lived at 114 E. Maple in Alpena Michigan until his death from heart failure due to pneumonia on January 19, 1903. Rev. Middlemis, Jane Burns, Alice Maud and Thomas, Jr. are buried in the Evergreen Cemetary in Alpena, Michigan.

Obituary announcing the death of Jeannie Coulter.
The Belfast Newsletter (Belfast, Ireland), June 6, 1867, Page 2
Business college advertisement in the Alpena Argus (Alpena, Michigan), Wednesday, October 25, 1893, page 3
Obituary announcing the death of Rev. Middlemis
Rev. Thomas Middlemis obituary published in the Christian Work and Evangelist, January 31, 1903, Page 189

Alpena, Michigan

Downtown Alpena, 1884. 2nd Avenue, looking North from Washington Avenue.
Photo credit: Public domain photo from the Besser Museum of Northeast Michigan

Located in the northeast region along the shores of Lake Huron, Alpena was originally part of Anomickee County founded in 1840 (which was changed to Alpena in 1843). Alpena became officially incorporated on March 29, 1871.

Alpena is a pseudo-Native American word with an approximate translation of “a good partridge country.”

The Fires of Alpena

Most of Alpena was destroyed in the Great Michigan Fire of 1871, a series of simultaneous forest fires that burned 1.5 million acres and caused hundreds of deaths. Less than one year later, on July 12, 1872, another fire destroyed 15 acres of homes and businesses. The damages amounted to at least $250,000 (equal to nearly $6M in 2022), at least three people were killed, and hundreds were left homeless. Alpena was again hit by a disastrous fire on July 11, 1888.

Details of the Alpena Fire of July 1872.
The TimeHerald (Port Huron, Michigan), Monday, July 15, 1872, page 4
The Alpena Fire of 1888.
The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan), Thursday, July 12,1888, Page 2

As of 2000, there were approximately 10,000 full-time year-round residents in Alpena. The summer months bring an influx of tourists to enjoy the otherwise sparsely populated Northeast Michigan (lower peninsula).

Noted Alpenians

Leon Czolgosz (1873-1901), anarchist and assassin of 25th U. S. President William F. McKinley; William Comstock (1877-1949), 33rd governor of Michigan; Betty Mahmoody (b. 1945), author of Not Without My Daughter; and Blaise Ilsley (b. 1964), pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.

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