In the early 19th century Methodism was not practice west of Sault Ste. Marie. In 1832 Shaw-wun-dais (“sultry heat”) better known as John Sunday a Native American from Canada who become a missionary headed west to Kewawenon (Keweenaw Bay). He settled in the town of Zeba northeast of L’Anse. There he erected a log house to educate other natives about Christianity and the Methodism.

John Sunday was a member of the Mississauga Tribe from central upper Canada. He was ordained in 1836 as a minister of the Methodist Church. Him and his wife Mary lost 10 children during the course of their married. He stated that the gospel helped him through these tragedies. In his later years he still talked to his people about “how wonderfully he had been led into the way of the kingdom.” He died in 1875 at the age of 80 in Alderville, Ontario.

Reverend John Clark arrived in 1833 and continued the mission work started by John Sunday.

Conflicting Stories

This is where there are some conflicting reports. The Historical marker speaks of Reverend John Clark has having built a school and mission house. The L’Anse United Methodist Church website states that Rev. Daniel Chandler arrived in 1834 and stayed for two years. That he was appointed the Superintendent of Lake Superior Missions in 1834 and that he was instrumental in the building of the mission house and church school during his stay.

Houses were also constructed along the lake shore during this time for the local natives. By 1845, the membership of the mission was predominately Native American. There were 58 Native Americans and 4 white members

In 1850 a second church was built and dedicated by John H. Pitezel who served the mission 1844-47. In 1880 the mission began holding annual camp meetings attracting a large number of Native Americans from all over. At a cost of $1400 a third church was constructed in 1888 and was funded by donations from non-church members. This last church remains on the site and an outdoor chapel was added in 1924.

It is now known as the Zeba United Indian Methodist Church. It has been in operation since 182 and is one of the oldest and most successful integrations of Christian and Native American religious traditions.

The mission was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1979

Historical Marker

Zeba Indian United Methodist Church

Zeba Indian United Methodist ChurchIndustry and Invention (1875-1915) – Registered in 1979 and erected in 1979 – ID #L638A

Located on Peter Marksman Road, L’Anse – Lat: 46.80255600 / Long: -88.41453500

Early Methodist missionaries came to Kewawenon from Sault Sainte Marie by canoe, often a two week trip. Among them was John Sunday, a Chippewa, who arrived in 1832 to educate and Christianize his fellow Indians. John Clark came two years later and erected a school and mission house. By 1845 this mission consisted of a farm and a church with fifty-eight Indian and four white members. A second church, erected in 1850, was dedicated by John H. Pitezel, who served here from 1844 to 1847.

Indians from far and near came here to attend the annual camp meetings which began in 1880. The present frame church, known now as the Zeba Indian Mission Church, was erected in 1888. Completely covered with hand made wooden shingles, this structure has changed little since its construction. The Methodist minister of L’Anse serves the congregation. The Zeba Indian United Methodist Church, the successor of the 1832 Kewawenon mission, is an area landmark.

Learn more about the rich history of the Western Upper Peninsula.