The first sermon preached in Orion was the funeral sermon for Porter C. Hammond. He passed away at the age of eighteen in 1908. The service was held at the Congregational Church, which is today the village police station on the corner of Broadway and Church Street. Elder N. F. Eddy preached and was assisted by both the Baptist and Methodist ministers. About two years later, Julia Hammond moved to the village of Orion from Detroit to care for her father and mother. A small Sunday school class was held at her parent’s home each Sunday. The scholars consisted of Fern Taylor, Clarence Taylor, Dorothy Campbell, Gretchen Campbell, and Taylor Cole. The Detroit branch supplied Julia with material. About six months later, Julia’s mother became ill and the classes were given up. During this short time Sister Hike volunteered to teach the lessons in her own home. Soon Julia was able to resume teaching. In the earliest years of the Sunday school program, Julia Hammond taught the younger children and Willard Smith taught the older pupils. Sunday school continued to be held at Sister Hike’s house after the church met in the rented Grange Hall on the corner of Broadway and Shadbolt Street.
The first prayer service was held on July 10, 1912 at the home of Sister Hike. There were four in attendance, Dur Taylor and his wife Mary, Sister Hike and Julia Hammond. The group continued to meet in various homes. According to Julia Hammond, services were sometimes held in Dur Taylor’s house and a few times at the home of Julia Hammond’s mother. The group also met in the Congregational Church that summer. Julia Hammond wrote that Sister J.P. Atkinson and later her husband attended prayer services. During one service he gave a testimony that “if faithful, a branch would be raised up and many would unite with the church.” Hammond remembered the encouragement it gave the few in number “and the work seemed almost too great for us to accomplish.”
Broadway and Shadbolt Church
Soon the small group wanted a better place to worship in, but was hesitant about renting a hall. In the fall of 1912, the Reorganized Latter Day Saints discussed renting the Grange Hall on the corner of Broadway and Shadbolt Street, but the church members waited to rent the building because the group was small. On September 20 Dur Taylor heard a rumor that the hall might be rented as a recreational room for the boys and young men of the community. Taylor informed Julia Hammond to hurry to Mr. Hoffman and secure the building by paying the rent for a six month period. Half a year’s rent was twenty-two dollars. According to Julia Hammond, Mr. Hoffman informed the Reorganized Latter Day Saints that they could rent the building for as long as they wished.
The first service at the hall was held on Sunday, September 29, 1912. Elder Willard Smith preached the first sermon in Orion’s new chapel and he continued with an evening service. It was not for another four years that the group was formally organized.
On August 1, 1916 at the District Conference in Detroit, ten church members from Orion asked to organize a branch. It was voted and carried. On August 16, 1916 the Orion branch was organized by Apostle J. F. Curtis. Also at the conference, Dur Taylor was ordained an Elder and designated the first pastor of the Orion congregation. Frank Davis was also called to the office of Priest. Another distinction of the District Conference was Orion’s first baby blessing. Olga Davis brought her ten day old baby, Gelda Shirley Davis, to be blessed. There were originally two priesthood members at Orion, Taylor and Davis. There were ten original charter members: Dur Taylor, Frank Davis, Olga Davis, Julia Hammond, Lillian Forbes, Clarence Taylor, George Hugill, Josephine Jewell, Louis Oliver, and Orville Howard.
Beginning in the fall of 1912, church members rented the Grange Hall building at the corner of North Broadway and Shadbolt. On June 10, 1919, the building was purchased for $1200.00. Membership at that time had increased to forty-one. The hall on North Broadway and Shadbolt Streets was a narrow, tall two story building. The chapel was downstairs with a kitchen behind it. Upstairs was a large room for Sunday school and midweek ham dinners. The chapel’s wood floor was painted grey. The pulpit sat on a platform one step high, the platform was also painted grey. A pump organ was purchased in October 1917, and the church also had a piano. A chalkboard hung on the front wall. The chalk board was used for writing hymn numbers to allow the congregation to follow the order of the service. In the 1930s and 1940s public school was taught in the upstairs due to the overcrowded school building.
The first recorded baptism by the church in Orion was of Orville Howard on May 16, 1914. This took place in a section of Paint Creek that ran through Dur Taylor’s farm along Orion Road. Elder Walter Bennett baptized Howard, and Dur Taylor confirmed him in the Taylor house the same afternoon. The second baptism occurred that fall, on September 27, when George Hugill was baptized into the church by Elder J.A. Grant. Many baptisms occurred at the Taylor farm. At the end of December 1914, Olga Davis and Louise Oliver were both baptized by Willard Smith and confirmed at the home of Dur Taylor. The first baptisms after the congregation was formally established were of Alexander Campbell and his wife Magdalene and two daughters Dorothy and Gretchen.
When the church met at the corner of North Broadway and Shadbolt Street, baptisms were commonly held in Lake Orion at the end of Flint Street where there was a set of steps leading down to the water. Commonly the baptisms were held during the Sunday school hour. Also, there was also a tradition of performing baptisms on Children’s Day. After the blessings were performed in the water, members would walk back to the church building and resume the preaching service.
Flint Street Church
In 1946 the building at the corner of North Broadway and Shadbolt Street was sold. The congregation had outgrown the facilities. In December 1945, branch treasurer George Hugill was asked to purchase the O’Neal property on East Flint Street for $1,600.
The Township Hall on South Broadway was rented temporary while work began on a permanent building on Flint Street. Church members met on Sundays for worship in the Township Hall, and prayer service was held in various homes. For three years the congregation met in the Township Hall.
The cornerstone for the new church at 531 Flint Street was laid on September 26, 1948. Elder J. J. Ledsworth preached the 11 a.m. service at the Township Hall. The cornerstone ceremony began at 3 p.m. Dur Taylor and village president Brant Stanaback laid the cornerstone. About 150 people attended the special ceremony.
The official opening of the new building occurred on May 15, 1949. All day service began at 9:00 a.m. with a ribbon cutting at the door by Dur Taylor and Elizabeth Pincomb, two of the oldest members of the congregation. About 125 people attended the 11 a.m. sacrament service performed by District President L.O. Brockway. At 3:00 p.m., 300 people heard Apostle Arthur Oakman. In the evening service at 8 p.m., a twenty member choir from the Pontiac congregation performed. Luther S. Troyer spoke to begin a week long series in the evenings.
Today’s fellowship hall was the original building erected in 1949. On the sixth anniversary of the cornerstone laying, the building was formally dedicated. The congregation waited until the $7,000 debt was completely paid to officially dedicate the new building. The morning began with a prayer service at 9 a.m. This was followed by Sunday school. The all day services held on September 26, 1954 featured President F. Henry Edwards. The member of the First Presidency quorum offered a sermon during the 11 a.m. service. At 3 p.m. the service of dedication began. Detroit Stake President W. Blair McClain and Stake Bishop O’ Kenneth Bryn spoke at the afternoon dedication. Mrs. Elmer Erickson gave a short history of the Lake Orion congregation. She mentioned how the branch had grown from four members at the first prayer meeting in July 1912, to more than 150 current members. Two hundred people attended the special service to hear the president of the world church. The Lake Orion Review reported that President F. Henry Edwards challenged the Saints at Lake Orion, “that they were there to offer the church to God and only after doing that could they feel that He would give it back to them to use and enjoy for the future benefit of the congregation.”
Addition to Flint Street Church
Soon the congregation had outgrown the new chapel on Flint Street. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new addition took place on November 8, 1959. About a week after the groundbreaking for the addition, complications were discovered. There was difficulty encountered when the contractors struck water and quicksand while excavating for the basement. Stake leadership met in Lake Orion and prayed over the problem, and a solution was soon discovered.
On March 12, 1961, the building was completed. Three hundred and twenty-five people gathered for the formal opening ceremony. Apostle D.O. Chesworth gave a sermon and prayer of consecration. This new addition tripled the floor space. The church publication, Saints’ Herald declared the new building was “one of the very fine church plants in the Great Lakes Mission.”
Lake Orion also has a unique tradition that began many generations ago. On the communion service after a baptism, the newest member of the church is served communion first. The tradition was well established by the time it was first recorded in January 1959. Another tradition occurs during the offertory. A large jar is placed in front of the pulpit and children receive loose change to deposit in the jar. The money was designated for the children. Each year the loose change was counted and divided among the children of the congregation that went to a church camp over the summer. The donations helped pay the large expense for the children to attend Blue Water campground.
The Lake Orion congregation was blessed with a special congregational blessing on February 22, 2004 and again on October 27, 2013.