Baptists and the American Civil War: October 30, 1865

Civil War States MapMany Union soldiers and officers are yet serving on active duty. Today Nathan Church from Michigan, of a Baptist family and the son of a Baptist minister, musters out of the service.

“Civil War hero Nathan Church, was born on November 22, 1840, the son of LaFayette Church. Until the age of 16, Nathan attended common schools in Hillsdale and Gratiot counties and Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Afterwards, he worked with his father as Assistant County Treasurer and taught two terms of school.

Nathan first enlisted as a Sergeant in Company C, 8th Michigan Infantry on August 12, 1861 at the age of 21. He was mustered on September 23, 1861, but was discharged for disability on January 17, 1862. A year later, Nathan re-enlisted, this time in Company D, 26th Michigan Infantry as a first lieutenant. He was commissioned on September 1, 1862 and mustered fourteen days later. He served as Aide-de-Camp to Brigadier General Slough in 1863. On April 15, 1864, Nathan was commissioned as Captain of Company I, 26th Michigan Infantry. He was mustered on May 20, 1864. During August and September 1864, Nathan served as Assistant Inspector-General of the 1st Brigade. On September 12, 1864, he was commissioned as a Major and mustered on October 1, 1864. Nathan was honored as Brevet Major U.S. Volunteers on July 6, 1864 for gallant service near Petersburg, Virginia, in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 12, 1864, and as Brevet Lieutenant Colonel U.S. Volunteers on April 8, 1865 for conspicuous gallantry and meritorious service while commanding the 26th on March 7, 1865 when Lee surrendered. Nathan was mustered out on October 30, 1865.

On December 25, 1866 he married Mary H. Bills (birth and death dates unknown). Together they had five children: Carrie H. (1868-1931), Leroy B. (1869-1931), twins Clarence N. (1871-1938) and Gaylord P. (1871-1872), and Edgar N. (1874-1907).

After the war, Nathan opened a general store in Ithaca, Gratiot County, Michigan, with Wilbur Nelson, which they operated until 1872. He founded the Gratiot Journal, which he operated from 1866 to 1872. In December 1872, Nathan purchased a sawmill in Arcada Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. He also dealt in real estate. With his wife and father-in-law, Perley Bills, Nathan organized a bank in 1877. The Church, Bills and Companies Bank ran until it failed in 1892.

A Republican, Nathan served as the Ithaca post master for seven years, county clerk for four years, and was regularly nominated for political positions. Nathan also helped organized and was the first president of the Gratiot County Agricultural Society.

Nathan died on December 26, 1926.”

Source: Marian Matyn, creator, “Finding Aid,” Church Family Collection, Clarke Historical Society, Central Michigan University (link)