|Elevation||571 ft (174 m)|
|GNIS feature ID||432479|
China is an unincorporated community in Shelby Township, Jefferson County, Indiana. It spans Shelby and Madison Townships and was for years largely defined by the existence of a general store in Madison Township and the former St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Shelby township. Razor's Fork runs between the two sections. Indiana State Road 62 runs parallel to Razor's Fork in Madison Township, and then crosses the stream and heads north to Canaan.
The origin of the name is not known. In her history of St. Anthony's Church, area resident Elma Schafer related a story, which she said was confirmed by Catholic priests, that China stemmed from the name of Father Munnschina, a priest. In the late 1960s, Mrs. Frances Ringwald, whose daughter Edith and son William "Bud" Thomas, operated the China store, said she was told that the site had mulberry trees, which suggested silk, which suggested China.
However, China post office opened on January 30, 1833 and closed on November 29, 1838, years before the arrival of the German Catholics who founded St. Anthony's and who were served by Munnschina. The first China postmaster was Moses Wilder, a Presbyterian minister who had arrived in nearby Madison by 1830, as an agent of the American Tract Society.
Wilder may have been associated with the Center or Central (Presbyterian records use both names) Presbyterian Church, which was founded by February 4, 1833 when deeds from two families transferred land to church trustees. The site was on the east side of the West Fork of the Indian-Kentuck creek and on the north side of Dry Fork at their meeting. Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. showed 36 communicants in 1834. Minutes are unclear as to whether it lasted to 1852 since in 1851 and 1852, the church issued no record and prior member records were reiterated.
A paper mill, which operated as the China Paper mill, was located near the church site. It may have been founded by Samuel Demaree who died in 1826. A local history indicates two of his sons-in-law, James Hamilton and Henry Jackman. They sold the property to Demaree's grandsons, William U. and Samuel B. Demaree, with the 1850 U.S. Census of Manufacturers listing W&S Demaree as a paper maker. They sold the mill property to Henry James on June 4, 1855 and he sold it back to the Demarees in 1860, with the mill's engine sold off.
After German Catholics began arriving in the mid-1840s, St. Anthony's was founded. In his history, William J. Kremer says that the first Mass was read on St. Anthony's Day, June 13, 1849, in a brick house the farm home of Hans Weber. The farm house was destroyed by a tornado in 1974. Land for the church building was sold to the Bishop of Vincennes on April 15, 1851. Records of the Diocese of Indianapolis show that a log church was erected in 1861 on the south section of the present building with the sandstone church building, that is still standing, constructed in 1869. The church operated until 1993, when it was made part of the combined Prince of Peace Parish. It is now owned by a Catholic retreat, which offers masses and which also operates a religious store in the garage of the former China store.
China sits on the western side of Razor's Fork, a small stream, just before it enters the West Fork of the Indian-Kentuck Creek.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- "China, Indiana". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 2009-10-10.
Baker, J. David, The Postal History of Indiana, 1976, Philatelic Bibliophile, P.O. Box 213971, Louisville, Ky. 1976.
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Minutes for 1833 and 1834, 1836-1852. Google Books.
Kremer, William J. The History of St. Anthony's Church at China, Indiana, 1849-1959.
Schafer, Elma. History of St. Anthony's Catholic Church and Community, China, Indiana 1849-1993. Formatted by Don Wood, Madison, Ind. 1993.
Week, Lyman Horace. A History of Paper-manufacturing in the United States, 1690–1916 The Lockwood trade journal company. New York 1916. (Google Books)