Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

January 4, 1915 marked a rather dark day for Winona Lake. It was on that day that the Winona Assembly passed into the hands of receivership. Bankruptcy proceedings were forced upon the Assembly by a group of creditors who wished to force the sale of Winona properties in order to receive a part of what was due them. In April 1915 the Winona property was valued at $100,598, which was about one-ninth of its total indebtedness.

Winona has passed through several severe financial crises, but probably this one experienced thirty-seven years ago was its worst. Strange as it may seem this financial crisis really was brought on by the automobile. Many of the stockholders in the Winona Assembly were also stockholders in a separate corporation, the Winona Interurban Railway. This latter corporation operated interurban service between Goshen and Peru via Warsaw and street car service between Warsaw and Winona Lake. With the coming of the automobile and its increased use, the interurban began to be a losing proposition. Many of the Winona directors were counting on their dividends from the interurban stock to not only yield them some interest on their investment but also to provide a fine revenue for Winona Assembly.

As the Winona directors had about a million and a half invested in the Interurban, the railway company was practically a subsidiary of the Assembly. The failure of the Winona Interurban Railway to come up to financial expectations precipitated the financial crisis of 1915.

The creditors who insisted on a cash settlement were paid off, receiving about nine per cent of their claims. Many of the creditors stayed by the organization and became stockholders in a new corporation known as the Winona Assembly and Bible Conference. Under its new charter the Assembly could not go in debt and could not declare dividends. Any earnings above expenses had to be used for improvements or educational work. The new organization washed its hands of all subsidiary organizations.

Sol. C. Dickey, founder of Winona and the target of the attack of the creditors committee, weathered the storm and continued on as the general secretary of the Assembly. William Jennings Bryan, candidate for President of the United States three different times, was president of Winona Assembly during this period of its history.

Warsaw Times-Union Sat. January 3, 1953