John Bruce was a native of Scotland, and also a soldier at Waterloo. He moved to Holland as a young man, and there he married.
On June 6, 1846, John, his wife Grada H., and their family left for America, landing at Boston. They then traveled by rail, the canal and steamboat, and after two months of a tedious, tiresome journey came to Milwaukee, Wis. They settled and stayed in Milwaukee for a while until moving to Sheboygan County, where John died. The children of John and Grada were John, Garrett, Delia, William, James, Berend and Henry.
John, the eldest son, attended Professor Buck's Collegiate Institute in Milwaukee for two years with a view of entering the ministry. He then traveled to Rochester, New York, to study at the Rochester University and Seminary for four years, taking a theological course. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1854. He served as pastor of Baptist churches in southern Wisconsin and in northern Illinois.
In January 1853, he married Caroline Hart of Rochester. To this union were born six children: Charles, William, Nellie, Jennie, Effie and Annie.
Due to poor health Rev. Bruce gave up pastoral work and moved to Lake County, Ind., in the spring of 1865, settling in Ross Township, where he farmed and preached.
Outdoor farm work improved his health and he became busy preaching on Sunday at Merrillville, Hobart, Blachley Corner and many other places that had no regular preaching.
In the summer of 1867 he was called by the Baptist Church of Lowell to become their pastor, and preached there for ten years, and for about two years he was pastor at the Crown Point Baptist Church. His pastorate in Lowell was at the corner of Mill and Main Sts. in the early church built in 1857 and torn down in 1905.
The following was taken from an early 'Lowell Tribune' edition: "In August 1867, the church called Elder John Bruce to the pastorate of the church, to preach every alternate Lord's Day. Elder Bruce held pastorates in the Baptist denomination in Wisconsin and Illinois. On account of impaired health he came to Lake County and engaged in a small way in farming. His health having improved, he accepted the call. For ten years he held this relation, but like others, had to raise most of his salary by manual labor and could therefore only devote a part of the time to the ministry of the church. He resigned at the end of his ten years' ministry."
Rev. Bruce purchased what was called the Oliver Fuller farm, a mile west of Lowell, and moved there with his family in the spring of 1875. He donated land for what was called the Bruce School on the northeast corner of what is now Parrish Ave. and State Road 2.
Rev. Bruce's grandson and namesake, John Bruce of the Oak Grove area, told us that he attended his first year of schooling at the Bruce Schoolhouse in 1906, when Rena Dahl was the teacher. In later years Vernal Kelsey Shurte was the traveling music teacher, coming about once a week. He also remembers that the County Superintendent of Schools, Frank Heighway of Crown Point, would come quite often to see how everything was going at the school. After his first grade at Bruce School, the school was abandoned, and the fifteen or twenty children were driven in a horse drawn 'school bus' to Lake Prairie School.
When we asked grandson John Bruce where he went to high school, he replied that he went two years at the old school on Main St. in Lowell, and one day all the students moved to the high school on Oakley Ave. (which is now a part of Lowell Middle School) each carrying their books an supplies.
It seems that the Bruce Schoolhouse was vacant for some years, and was then moved into Lowell by Howard Slocum. It is now a residence on North Liberty Street in Lowell.
In October 1871, at the age of 39, Caroline Bruce died, leaving Rev. Bruce with six children. In June 1872, he married Charlotte Phelps Himebaugh. She died in 1912.
Some of the following dates and names were taken from a large old Bible originally belonging to Rev. Bruce and now under the care of Delpha Sisson Bruce, the wife of grandson John. The Bible is dated 1855 and was printed in Philadelphia, Pa.
Charles H. Bruce, the eldest son of Rev. John and Caroline Hart Bruce, was born in 1854, and lived in Arapahoe, Neb.
William, the second son, born in 1857 and died in 1949, lived in the Lowell area. He first married Edna Nichols, and their children were Carrie, who married Russell Lomax, and Bert Bruce, who married Esther Taylor. After Edna's death, William married Bertha Caroline Rudolph, and their children were Maebelle, who married Richard Phillips; John Rudolph, who married Delpha Sisson; Garold Bruce, who first married Norma Parker and after her death married Esther Taylor Bruce; and the youngest, Dale Bruce, who married Florence Borger and after her death married Thelma ?.
Nellie, the oldest daughter of Rev. John and Caroline Bruce, was born in 1859 and married Paul Hathaway. This writer remembers their home and fine garden at the southeast corner of Castle and Main Sts. in Lowell.
Jennie, the next oldest daughter, was born in 1861 and lived in the Lowell area, but later lived in Nebraska, where she died in 1894.
Effie, another daughter, was born in 1868 and married Emory Hathaway, a brother to Paul. Effie died in 1938.
Annie, born in 1869, was the youngest in the family of Rev. John and Caroline Bruce. She lived in Boise City, Idaho, and lived to the old age of 106.
Rev. John Bruce died in 1914 at the age of 90. The following is a quote for his obituary: "He was a man that was loved by everyone. He spent nearly seventy years of his life in the ministry. It can be truthfully said that the world is better that he lived in it. Always cheerful, he was ready to help those who were in sorrow and needed sympathy." Almost all of his pallbearers were well-known early settlers of the area: P.M. McNay, E.J. Pixley, Albert Foster, Jerome Dinwiddie, C.E. Nichols and F.E. Nelson.
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