Skip to main content

Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan records

Identifier: MSS-031

Scope and Contents note

The records of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan consist of materials that document the history of Diocese. The collection is contained within 20 cubic foot sized boxes, three smaller boxes, and one drawer in oversized item storage. The collection is organized into eight record series: Diocesan Conventions, Diocesan Women’s Groups, Executive Affairs of the Diocese, General Committees, Correspondence, History of the Church, Publications, and Audio/Visual/Photographic. The collection documents the affairs of the Diocese since its founding. Major events, theological movements, and historical people, are documented as well as everyday sermons and correspondence, annual events, miscellaneous church members, and general maintenance of the Diocese.

Of particular note is the complete set of Annual Diocesan Convention catalogs (1893 - 1990) and a complete set of reports by the Women’s Auxiliary and Episcopal Church Women (1897 – 1980). The collection includes compiled histories and publications done by members of the Diocese. The correspondence, annual reports, publications, and records of administrative committees chronicle the changes within the Diocese as well as Diocesan reactions to events in the state, country, and world.

Series Descriptions

Record Series I. Diocesan Convention, 1893-2009. 2 Cubic Feet (117 folders). Arranged chronologically. The Annual Diocesan Convention records document the proceedings and include information on special conventions and annual reports from early women’s groups. The series includes pamphlets, agendas, and notes from the Annual Diocesan Conventions, special conventions, and early meetings of diocesan women’s groups.

Record Series II. Diocesan Women’s Groups, 1925-1980. 1 Cubic Foot (59 folders). Arranged alphabetically by group, and then chronologically. The Diocesan Women’s Groups records document the proceedings of the annual Women’s Auxiliary Meetings and the annual meetings of the Episcopal Church Women. This record series also includes reports from special meetings, directories, correspondence, note books, the Episcopal Church Women constitution and by-laws, correspondence, and minute books.

Record Series III. Executive Affairs of the Diocese, 1896-1982. 4 Cubic Feet (256 folders). Divided into subseries: General, Properties, Personnel, Executive Hearings, Trust Association/Standing Committee/House of Bishops, and arranged chronologically. The record series contains manuals, constitutions, Diocesan seals, real estate papers on 54 properties of the Diocese, notes and correspondence relating to personnel searches, personnel files, election papers, ordination and consecration records, Letters of Dismissory, Letters of Resignation, Consent for Remarriage, baptism records, ministry notices, minutes of the Finance Committee, Trust Association papers, Trust Fund papers, Diocesan Council minutes, Bishop and Council meeting minutes, Standing Committee papers, Executive Council papers, and House of Bishops papers. The Executive Affairs of the Diocese records are divided into five subseries: General, Properties, Personnel, Executive Hearings, and Trust Association/Standing Committee/House of Bishops. The General subseries contains information on the establishment of the Diocese’s constitutions and canons and Bishop’s symbols and council. The Properties subseries documents the acquisition and establishment of the various churches and church properties within the diocese. The Personnel subseries documents various personnel searches, elections and ordinations, and employment terms. It also contains personal files on several Bishops and Clergy. (Some of the Personnel files are restricted, for information on which files are accessible, see University Archivist.) The Executive Hearings subseries documents sensitive decisions of the Diocese like the Ablewhite embezzlement case (some embezzlement files are restricted, see University Archivist), consent for remarriage, official letters and decrees of the Bishop, and confirmation records. The Trust Association/Standing Committee/House of Bishops subseries documents trust funds, financial committees, as well as governing committees of the Diocese.

Record Series IV. General Committees, n.d. 1.5 Cubic Feet (96 folders). Arranged by committee type and alphabetically. The record series contains annual church reports and notes from commissions, committees, conferences, conventions, departments, associations, and lay groups. The General Clubs and Committees record series documents special interest groups in the Diocese. These groups cover topics like the armed forces, college campuses, Easter celebrations, Christian social groups, alcoholism, Native Americans, missions, and youth ministries.

Record Series V. Correspondence, 1941-1995. 2.5 Cubic Feet (68 folders). Divided into subseries: Bishops, and Significant Persons. The record series contains the correspondence of William A. Dimmick, Samuel J. Wylie, George Rhys Selway, Herman page, Herbert A. Wilson, Herman Riddle Page, Thomas Ray, Ben Edward Helmer, Albert E. Miller, Thomas Lippart, and various clergy from Iron Mountain, Iron River, Ironwood, L’Anse, Little Lake, Mackinac Island, Manistique, Marquette, Menominee, Munising, Nahma, Newberry, Ishpeming, and Negaunee. The Correspondence record series is divided into two subseries: Bishops, and Significant Persons. Of particular interest in the Bishop’s correspondence are the letters between Bishop Herman Page and his son, Reverend Herman Page, correspondence about the Sanguine/Seafarer Project at KI Sawyer, the consecration of women, correspondence with John X. Jamrich and Walter Gries of NMU, correspondence with and about Henry Ford and Princess Ileana of Romania, and correspondence with the Liquor Control Commission about liquor laws that pertain to the church. The Significant Persons correspondence documents various clergy from churches in the Diocese as well as the correspondence of Albert E. Miller, Chancellor and Treasurer for the Diocese.

Record Series VI. History of the Church, 1860-1996. 1 Cubic Foot (30 folders). Arranged alphabetically. This record series contains historical sketches, compiled histories, record books, local and regional histories, centennial papers, and personal historical accounts. The History of the Church record series documents the project to research and write a history of the Diocese in celebration of its centennial. The record series contains drafts and manuscripts of historical reports and sketches done by various members of the Diocese, including Gershom Mott Williams, Harold E. Wagner, and Thomas Lippart. It also contains personal testimony by significant players in the history of the church, such as Herman Page and his ancestors.

Record Series VII. Publications, 1942-2009. 3 Cubic Feet (22 folders). Divided into subseries: Pamphlets and Newsletters, and Hiawathaland. This record series contains Hiawathaland monthly editions (1952-current), newsletters, reports, bulletins, directories, correspondence, event flyers and pamphlets, The Living Church, and The Episcopalian. The first subseries contains various publications of the church like the Diocesan Press Service, Ecumenical Bulletin, The Episcopalian, The Living Church, and various pamphlets from events and services in the Diocese. The second subseries contains the Hiawathaland newspapers from 1952 on.

Record Series VIII. Audio/Visual/Photographic, 1949-2001. 6 Cubic Feet (176 folders) Divided into subseries: Photograph Collection, Slide Collection, Audio Cassette Collection, and VHS Collection. This record series contains documentation of conventions and conferences, ministry and lay groups, youth groups, churches, services and ceremonies, retreats, church camp, events, and clergy. This series contains photographs, slides, audio cassettes, VHS tapes, and one audio reel. Of particular interest are the stereo slides, which produce 3D images, and the extensive material covering Diocesan Conventions, Church Camp, and Church Retreats.


  • 1894 - 1994
  • Majority of material found within 1940 - 1994


Conditions Governing Access note

Fourteen folders relating to reverend, bishop, and diocese materials are permanently closed to the public. The folder on Bishop Herman R. Page will be open for research in 2024. All other materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use Note

Permission to publish material from the records of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan must be obtained from the University Archivist. Some of the files in this collection are restricted, and those files are labeled restricted in the collection inventory. Requests for restricted information must be approved by the University Archivist and the current Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan. The University Archivist may be reached by phone at 906-227-1046, or e-mail, The University Archivist may also be reached in room 126 of the Learning Resource Center, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI.

Historical Note

In 1854, construction began on the first two churches of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan. They were located in Houghton, Michigan, and Ontonagon, Michigan, and were established to accommodate the sudden influx of immigrants searching for jobs in the region’s copper mines.

In 1836, the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan expanded its territory to include Michigan’s newly acquired Upper Peninsula. In 1891, the Upper Peninsula was designated as an archdeaconry, and Gershom Mott Williams was named as the new Archdeacon. In 1895, the archdeaconry became the Episcopal Diocese of Marquette with Archdeacon Williams consecrated as the first Bishop.

Bishop Williams died in 1918 of influenza. The congregation elected Robert Leroy Harris as Bishop and he presided over the Diocese until his health declined and he resigned in 1929. Hayward Ablewhite was elected as his successor, and led the diocese through the Great Depression until he was indicted in a defalcation and embezzlement case in 1939. The case led to the establishment of the Trust Association, which presided over the financial affairs of the Diocese. During Ablewhite’s tenure, the Diocese was renamed the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan. In 1939, Bishop Herman Page was elected as Bishop of the diocese, and presided until his death in 1941. With the help of Henry Ford, Bishop Page set about rebuilding the finances of the Diocese. After his death, his son, Herman Riddle Page, succeeded him. The younger Bishop Page continued his father’s work and established the Page Conference Center in Little Lake as part of his campaign for a stronger youth program. Page also consecrated the first Vestry Woman in Michigan, Anne Frazier.

Following Bishop Page’s retirement in 1964, George Rhys Selway was elected the new Bishop of the Diocese. He began to implement new procedures which stressed the dispersal of more leadership responsibilities to lay people, paving the way for the implementation of the Mutual Ministry model used today. Bishop Page retired in 1971 and passed leadership of the Diocese to the new Bishop, Samuel J. Wylie. Only two years after his ordination, Wylie unexpectedly died and was replaced by William A. Dimmick in 1975. Bishop Dimmick ordained the first woman priest, Catherine Scott and prompted the spread of new prayer book revisions throughout the Diocese. He resigned in 1982 and Thomas Ray succeeded Dimmick as Bishop the following year. Bishop Ray made major revision to the Diocese Constitutions and Canons, and officially established the Mutual Ministries model. He retired in 1999, and the Diocese elected James A. Kelsey. Kelsey worked to refine the Mutual Ministry model until his death in a car accident in 2007. The Diocese elected the current Bishop Rayford J. Ray in 2007.

Source: Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan. "Centennial History."


24 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Custodial History Note

The Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan donated the organization’s archival records to the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives in 1997. Working with the late Lois Prusak and former Bishop Ray, University Archivist Marcus Robyns completed a donor agreement and accessioned the records on December 3. Archives Student Assistant Jaime Ganzel processed the collection and completed the finding aid in 2012.

Related Archival Materials Note

For more information, check the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church records, the St. Stephen’s Church records, and “Through the Years” 1834-1988: a history of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. Also, see “Churches--Methodist Episcopal, Marquette,” “Churches--Episcopalian Diocese of Northern Michigan - List of Bishops,” “Churches--Episcopalian Diocese of Northern Michigan,” “Churches--Episcopal, Marquette,” and “Publications--Episcopal Journal” in the Archivist File. Related photos may be obtained in the Photographic File titled “Churches – Grace Episcopal Church – Menominee (contains pictures of Reverend vanMoort).”

Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan records
Student Archivist Jaime Ganzel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives Repository

Harden Learning Resources Center 126
1401 Presque Isle Ave
Marquette 49855 United States
906-227-1333 (Fax)


This collection guide includes collections from member organizations of UPLINK (the Upper Peninsula Digital Network) as well as the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives. UPLINK collections document the history of the Upper Peninsula broadly, while the Central UP & NMU Archives focuses on such topics as Northern Michigan University history, the local iron mining industry, and the politics, economics, religion, environment, and culture of the Central Upper Peninsula region.

These finding aids will give you an overview of the contents and context of each collection. Finding aids only exist for collections that each organization has shared with UPLINK or (in the case of the NMU Archives) for processed collections. For a more comprehensive list of collections that might help with your research, please contact the relevant heritage organization(s) directly.

Northern Michigan University
1401 Presque Isle Ave. • Marquette, MI 49855-5301 • 906–227–1000
© 2018 by the NMU Board of Trustees. NMU is an equal opportunity institution.