Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, February 21, 2016, pg. 9
In April one of Albion’s ethnic churches will be celebrating its 100th anniversary--a true milestone worthy of mention. In 1904, the Albion Malleable Iron Company began recruiting numerous workers from what was then Czarist Russia to work at the Malleable. The majority of these persons were from White Russia (Belarus). Over the next ten years, around 1,000 "aliens" as they were called back then (which includes the families) came to make Albion their new home.
The people settled on the "west end" of Albion and lived in company housing supplied by the Malleable, in what became known as the "Foreign Settlement." Mrs. Helen Egnatuk served as a liaison and coordinator of the foreign settlement to the Malleable. These immigrants were mainly of the Orthodox faith, and until 1915 a priest was sent to Albion once a month to attend to the spiritual needs of these people. In 1915 it was decided to erect a local church structure.
The church priest assigned to Albion, Rev. I. Salko of Detroit, led a local building committee consisting of [spelled as printed in the Albion Evening Recorder May 1, 1916; you can figure some of them out…]: Harry Parchotik [Handricks], Andrey Denisiuk, Steve Benichuk, Oebopr Demochuk, Mike Dubina, Mobevr Nesncz, P. Onewoc, Thikoroin Tydobokr, Gregori Dubowik, and Epolit Horoschko.
The double-lot land for the church on the northeast corner of Austin Avenue and State St. was donated by the Pinecrest Realty Company (developers Homer Blair, Arza McCutcheon, and Frank Culver). Mr. Parker also helped by donating a cement sidewalk, and purchased an 800 lb. church bell for $500 which is interestingly inscribed "The Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, Albion, Michigan 1907." Workers and equipment from the Albion Malleable Iron Company were used to install the bell in the cupola. The contractor was the O. J. Teller Construction Company of Albion. The entire structure cost about $5,000, with interior equipment costing several hundred dollars more.
Rapid construction commenced. The Albion Recorder reported on June 22, 1916: "The new Russian Orthodox Church in this city, which is practically completed…will receive the financial aid of the people of the city through a campaign which will be started tomorrow." A community-wide fundraising drive led by Harry Beebe Parker, vice-president of the Albion Malleable Iron Company, netted the additional funds needed to completely pay for the project. The article continued, "Quite an amount remains to be raised before the church, which is about finished except for its interior details, can be wholly paid for and the church organization can commence its real work." The arrival of the elaborate altar which was constructed in Detroit was delayed, and so the finishing touches on the interior were not completed until Fall, 1916.
The Recorder also announced the appointment of Rev. M. Vishegorodzeff as the new priest, and stated: "He held Sabbath services in the church for the first time last Sunday, and nearly one hundred were present…A short meeting was also held the preceding Saturday night." That would make the date of the first service inside of the building Sunday, June 18, 1916, with the short meeting date of Saturday, June 17.
A dedication ceremony was held on Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1916. One hundred years later in 2016, this church is still going strong, and its appeal has attracted a new generation of members and attendees from southern mid-Michigan.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a portion of the classic panoramic photograph of the laying of the cornerstone of the church, April 30, 1916. Notice the large crowd of over 500 persons attending this event. In my 2009 book "Albion in Review," page 37, I featured a portion of this photograph (not shown here) featuring the "company housing" which stood across the street along Austin Avenue.
This cornerstone ceremony featured a 40-voice choir, and there was much singing and prayer at the event. The cornerstone laying ceremony included Rev. Salko pouring oil and wine upon the stone’s resting place. Inside the stone was placed a copy of the Albion Evening Recorder, a list of members of the church and the building committee, and statements by the contractor and Rev. Salko.
Congratulations and a hearty "well done" to Rev. Fr. Joshua Frigerio and the congregation of the Holy Ascension of Christ Orthodox Church at 810 Austin Avenue on your upcoming 100th anniversary!
Panoramic photograph of the Russian Orthodox Church ground breaking April 30, 1916
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic