By Mrs. Mary A. Johns
Copied May 29, 2002 from the original dated August 24, 1930
For the contents of this paper I have been assisted by the members of the church and community; by some old records, and by Miss Mary Henry and Mrs. Clara Whiting. I have only assembled the parts.
MRS. MARY A. JOHNS.
August 24, 1930.
In 1819, when the first settlers came here, Center Township was a densely wooded tract of land. The region around here was inviting to these pioneers because they believed that on the high ground was a more healthful place to live than on the lower ground around the streams. Gradually they came and began the difficult task of clearing the ground for cultivation.
It was not until 1833 that a sufficient number of pioneers had settled here, that it became necessary to build a school house, which was completed in 1834. The building of this school house was the beginning of community interest as each patron shared in the work. It was only a small building, about 18x20 feet; it contained one six-paned window set high in the end. It was built in the woods near the old trail that later became the Petersburg Road opposite the house in which R. R. Henry lives today.
In 1836 the land was bought from the government for $1.25 per acre by George Bond McCutchan who very shortly after transferred it to his brother, Samuel McCutchan. Again a community meeting was held, at which it was decided to build a new log school house. In 1837 a more commodious school house was built nearly on the spot where Dr. Clippinger's house stands today. It was to this building that the circuit came.
Previous to this time non-sectarian meetings were held in the homes of the pioneers; to these meetings came a few Episcopalians,, a few Baptists, some Presbyterians, and a few Methodists. Harmony was the essential thing necessary for organization and to preserve this, the preacher was forewarned as to the character of his audience, lest he give offense.
In 1818 a circuit was formed in Southwestern Indiana extending from Patoka to the Ohio River and eastward to the falls of the Ohio; a distance of approximately 400 miles. At points along this route where towns were likely to spring up, stations were established. At this time Hugh McGary was struggling to found his little town of Evansville; although not a churchman, his commercial eye saw the value of establishing a permanent station here. He opened his double log warehouse for the use of the regular appointed circuit rider of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Records show that the assessment for the upkeep of the gospel for the Evansville station was $2.25 per year, about one-thirtieth of the salary of the Circuit Rider, which was $60 per year.
John Shrader was the man who on December 12, 1819, preached in McGary's warehouse and here formulated a plan for the work. Shrader was a cultivated, capable man, having none of the uncouth ways of the early pioneers. It was he who placed Methodism on a firm basis.
Before a society was formed the circuit rider came to the homes of the settlers. The homes most often visited were those of Chas. McJohnston, Sr., Levi Igleheart, Mark Wheeler, John Erskine, Sr. The preacher came on Saturday night usually after having traveled six weeks to get there. Two services were held on the Sabbath, morning and afternoon. The living room was cleared, beds were removed and slabs were brought in and set up for seats. The people who assembled here had traveled from five to eight miles on horseback, in wagons, and on foot. They brought cold lunches with them that were supplemented by cooking done the day before by the entertainer.
The first Society was formed about 1840; it belonged to the Cynthiana Circuit, and the parsonage was located there. The first preacher to hold services here was Thomas G. Beharrell, a cultured, scholarly man, of pleasing personality. From that time on until a church was built, regular services were held every two weeks in the log school house; on the intervening Sabbath, one of the several local preachers took charge of the services. These preachers were Wm. Atchison, Joseph Wheeler, Robert Parrett, and Wm. Ingle, each faithfully served his turn.
Between 1845 and 1847 there was much discussion as to ways and means of building a church. Nineteen years before this Chas. McJohnston, Sr., had left, by will, $300.00 for the purpose of building a church. Finally, his son was appointed to select a site for a church. To him, on August 12, 1845, Samuel and Margaret Moffett deeded about one-half acre of land to be used for a burying ground. Consideration, $3.00. Adjoining this land on the west, February 11, 1846, Samuel and Nancy McCutchan deeded to Charles McJohnston a half acre, more or less, to be used for a building site for a church. Consideration, $1.00. (Deed recorded February 11, 1847).
Timber for the frame-work was donated and obtained near at hand. White pine for the weather- boarding and seats, together with the inside furnishing and equipment was paid for out of the McJohnston donation. Every man who owned a hammer came and helped to build the church. Not one dollar was spent for carpenter work.
This church faced the west; its double door led into a large room, the seating capacity of which was about equal to the main room of this present building. It had four large windows, of twenty panes each, on either side that gave ample light.
In 1844 a man died at the home of Samuel McCutchan. At that time there was no graveyard here. The man was buried in a fence corner south of McCutchan's home and near the Petersburg road. The man's relatives were notified but as they lived in New York, the distance was too great for them to make a change.
This pioneer funeral perhaps helped to start the movement for a church and graveyard. This new church was dedicated as a union church by Robert Parrett, an Englishman, who had been educated and trained for living under the church of England, but on coming to America, his liberal views became more fixed and led to his participation in the advancement of the tenants of the Methodist faith.
In the fall of 1850 the Blue Grass circuit was separated from the Cynthiana circuit. Then the circuit included Locust Creek, Cypress, Barker's, Blue Grass, and this charge. In 1865 the first two were dropped; later, Barker's was dropped and Noble's and Centenary were added.
The first minister sent to this circuit was the Rev. Myers, but as there was no parsonage to accommodate his family, he refused to remain. Wm. Atchison, Henry Wheeler, Sr., and Edwin McJohnston, all local preachers, kept up the regular services until conference met. Then Wm. Hensley was sent and became the first preacher. He probably lived for a part of the time with the McJohnston family. Rev. Curran followed, he and his family lived at the residence of Andrew Brodie (now the home of Mr. Micheal Seib) for about one year while the parsonage was building. It was necessary at that time to hitch up a four-horse team to a wagon to convey the preacher and the Brodie family to the frame church, and at that, the men had to walk and push to get the wagon up the Moffett hill.
In 1852 a three-roomed parsonage was built; in 1859 three more rooms were added because Rev. Levi Johnson's family could not be accommodated in so small a house. In this form the house remained until the present new parsonage was built in 1906.
With the building of the church and parsonage regular services were assured. The local ministers, Edwin McJohnston and Wm. Ingle, filled the vacant Sabbath. Rev. Ingle was the last local man to serve. The congregation felt that something was due him for his faithful work. A donation of $40.00 was given him, which he returned to the ladies of the church to be used for repairs.
Class meetings were held in the absence of ministers. The main leaders were Wm. Crisp, James Moffet, Sr., and Patrick Keegan. Each one taking part brought his own Bible. Hymn books were scarce, too. The leader read a line, the congregation sang. A second line was read and sung. In case the leader was not a singer, some one in the audience was called on to pitch the tune. Quite frequently it was pitched out of tune. The younger and more progressive members wanted a surer guide. After much scheming a new organ was placed in the church, January 19, 1868. The organ came amid a storm of opposition and grave predictions that the younger members were on the straight road to perdition.
The families living here who were most influential at this time were the Erskines, Moffett, McJohaston, Keegan, Atchison, Rucker, Brodie, Headen, McCutchan, Inwood, Berridge, and Davidson.
The ministers who preached in the old church from one to three years were Rev. Myers, Stephan Ravenscroft, Simon Herr, John Clippinger, Wm. Meginnis, Byram Carter, and T. C. Danks, the last minister to preach in the old frame church.
After thirty-three years of service the old frame church was torn down to make way for a new brick. The two remaining McJohnston heirs, Charles McJohnston and Mrs. James Moffet, Sr., deeded the church site to Andrew Brodie, James Erskine, Sr., Wm. Bohannon, and James Inwood, the newly appointed trustees of the church to be known as the McJohnston M. E. church.
THE OLD CHURCH
Close to the road it stood, among the trees,
The old bare church, with windows small and high,
And open doors that gave, on meeting day,
A welcome to the careless passer by.
Its straight, uncushioned seats, how hard they seemed,
What penance-doing form they always wore,
To little heads that could not reach the text,
And little feet that could not reach the floor.
What wonder that we hailed, with strong delight,
The buzzing wasp, slow sailing down the aisle,
Or, sunk in sin, beguiled the constant fly
From weary heads, to make our neighbor smile.
How softly from the churchyard came the breeze
That stirred the cedar boughs with scented wings,
And gently fanned the sleeper's heated brow,
Or fluttered Grandma Barlow's bonnet strings!
With half-shut eyes, across the pulpit bent,
The preacher droned in soothing tones about
Some theme that, like the narrow windows high,
Took in the sky, but left terrestrials out.
Good, worthy man, his work on earth is done.
His place is lost, the old church passed away,
And with them, when they went, there must have gone
That sweet, bright calm, my, childhood's Sabbath day.
ALBION FELLOWS BACON
The minister referred to was Rev. Wm. Ingle.
Reprinted from "Song Ye Same" by permission of author.
In 1879 Mrs. Atchison, a leading church member, died. In her will she bequeathed $500.00 to be used in building a new church. Her sister, Mrs. James Moffett, gave $500.00. This started the movement for a new church and through the soliciting of the minister, T. C. Danks, James Inwood, Mrs. James Inwood, and Miss Annie Headen Sufficient funds were guaranteed to warrant the beginning of the work.
The first brick was laid on Monday, April 12, 1880. The church was completed about seven and a half months later.
Before the church was finished work was halted in August to hold the funeral of Mrs. James Inwood who had worked so faithfully and beyond her strength in the interest of the church. The text of the sermon preached was, "She hath done what she could." In September work was again halted to hold the funeral of Rev. David Mordon.
The church was dedicated November 28, 1880, by Rev. Joseph Wood, assisted by Rev. Harned, John Webb, and T. C. Danks. The entire debt of the church was pledged that day. Mrs. James Moffett, St., gave the Bible now on the pulpit.
When the date for dedication was set the trustees thought the church would be finished, but something unforeseen prevented. As Rev. Wood could not change his date, the church was dedicated before completion.
The marriage of William Erskine and Frances McJohnston was solemnized in the middle of December and not until the following week were the class- room doors hung and all work finished.
Much work on the church was donated, many persons volunteered a certain number of days work and then added many extra days. Mrs. Fellows boarded the masons as her contributions toward the church. The probable cost in the aggregate was about $10,000.
T. C. Danks continued one more year as minister and then was followed by the following ministers: Edward Hawes, John Tansy, Robert Baldwin, S. W. McNaughton, Nicholas Boring, A. A. Godby, S. S. Penrod, J. E. Fischer, H. N. King, Grant Ferguson, E. A. Robertson, M. E. Baker, J. 0. Powell, L. H. Ice, W. W. Simons, 0. E. Killion, C. A. Shake who served the longest period from 1919-1928 and the present minister, W. A. Hartsaw.
The first Sabbath School was organized in 1842 by Wm. Atchison who was the teacher in the log school house at that time. At the close of school he invited his pupils to come back the following Sabbath to organize a Sabbath School. They did and elected him Superintendent. He was followed by Thomas Headen, Sr., Dr. Rucker, who was also a physician in the neighborhood, Levi Erskine, Sr., R. P. Hooker, and Andrew Brodie, who served twenty-three years in the frame church and ten years in the new brick church. He was succeeded by R. R. Henry, who served thirteen years, then Asa Erskine, Mrs. A. A. Godby, D. M. Dieg, Mrs. Henry Harrison, W. W. Clippinger, Mrs. Asa Erskine, Miss Clara Hornby, Elnora Swope, Mrs. Isabel Whitehead, Albert George, Jason McCutchan, Shirley Morgan, and Edna McCutchan. Two of the most outstanding members of the Sabbath School are R. R. Henry and Mrs. Nettie Patterson who has taught a class about twenty-five years.
In 1891 the Epworth League was organized. Rev. N. E. Boring was the pastor in charge at that time. He was assisted in the organization by Rev. C. E. Bacon, pastor of the Trinity Church of Evansville. The League has ever since been known as the C. E. Bacon Chapter No. 6770. The pastors who have served our church since that time are Alexander Godby, S. S. Penrod, J. E. Fischer, H. N. King, Grant Ferguson, E. A. Robertson, M. E. Baker, J. 0. Powell, L. H. Ice, W. W. Simmons, 0. E. Killion, and C. A. Shake, each one of whom has given time and effort to this branch of the church. The League was a band of earnest Christian young men and women of the church and neighborhood banded together for the advancement of the social and religious life of the community. For a period of about twelve years after its organization the League was one of the strongest and most progressive rural Leagues in the district and compared favorably with any League in city or town.
When first organized the departments in the League were
- Christian work.
- Mercy and Help.
- Literary work.
In the Christian work the main thing was the weekly devotional meetings held each Sabbath morning and conducted for the most part by a member of the League. This League had a unique record in the department of Mercy and Help. There were no poor people within our bounds who needed assistance. Other chapters in the city made much of this department helping the needy. At the district meetings this League had nothing to report in this department and became known as the League that could find no poor people.
The League conducted a reading circle for a time; subscribed for large numbers of the "Epworth Herald"; bought six dozen new song books.
The League maintained a lecture course for quite a number of years. This is an unparalleled record for a rural community. Some of the Lecturers were Bishop Quayle of Kansas City who was here twice; E. P. Brown of Indianapolis, known as Ram's Horn Brown; Hon. Charles Denby of international fame; Dr. Halstead; Dr. Talbott; some of the best local speakers of the day; talented musicians and readers. Usually there were five numbers on the course, one of them was local talent, usually a concert.
The old League records show that the League paid for other necessary needs of the church as, $150.00 for interior decoration of the church, $10.00 for pastor's salary, $6.00 for janitor's salary, various sums were paid for lamps and oil. Money was furnished to send delegates to the League conventions.
The original members who made these things possible Were E. E. Linxweiler, Ella McCutchan, Mary Henry, Wm. Erskine, Nellie Hornby, Sallie Clippinger, Asa Erskine, Walter Moffett, Edward Inwood, Lora Patterson, Ella Clippinger, Mary H. Erskine, James Erskine, Jr., Isis Otto, Mrs. Asa Erskine, Warren Clippinger, Joe Erskine, Ella Copeland, Harry McCutchan, Hugh Henry, Charlie Clippinger, Percy Moffett, Gertrude Skeels, Margaret Henry, Elmer Irwin, Joseph Stearn, Levi Erskine, Jr., James F. Ensle, W. F. Clippinger, Nellie McCutchan, Arthur Inwood.
After a lapse of three years the League was reorganized in 1907 with eighteen members and continued until about 1929 when it was again discontinued.
In June of 1883 a wonderful revival was held in this church. Rev. Tansy was pastor at that time. It was through the influence of Rev. Tansy and the trustees that Rev. Thomas Harrison of Boston was brought here. Although it was harvest time, so great was the interest that each night the house was filled. People came from neighboring communities, within a radius of six or seven miles. At the end of five weeks Rev. Harrison closed the meetings because he had an appointment to conduct another in a northern city.
Foot Note: There were from 250 to 300 converts. Rev. Harrison was paid $100.00 per week for his services. Mr. James Erskine entertained the minister while he was here.
Fifteen marriages have been solemnized in this church since 1880. They are Wm. Erskine and Frances McJohnston, Barrett Minton and Kate McJohnston, R. R. Henry and Sarah McCutchan, Ella Jones and Addison McCutchan, Albert Knowles and Daisy Balsdon, Jacob Patterson and Nettie Inwood, Antony Huffman and Nan Hornby, Oliver Morton Davis and May L. McJohnston, Jacob Schmidt and Carrie Boeke, Dr. Clippinger and Mary H. Erskine, Asa Erskine and Annie Perry, J. F. Ensle and Ella Clippinger, Clint Williams and Nannie Boring, James Riggs and Kathryn Swope, Alvin Junker and Garnet Cooper. In our cemetery there are buried the following ministers and their wives; Rev. and Mrs. J. H. Clippinger, Rev. and Mrs. David Morden, Rev. and Mrs. Hargrave, Rev. and Mrs. Edwin McJohnston, Rev. and Mrs. Atchison, Rev. H. S. Headen, and Mrs. Herr.
The following young women of our neighborhood have married ministers: Mary Erskine married Rev. Albion Fellows; Maria McJohnston married Rev. Harned; Eliza Atchison married Willis Webb; Jennie Henry married H. S. Headen; Martha Erskine married W. P. Hargrave.
The following young men have gone from here to preach: H. S. Headen, H. C. Clippinger, Arthur Riggs, and Shirley Morgan is studying for the ministry.
One of the strongest organizations and no doubt the most helpful financially, is the Ladies' Aid. This society was organized by Rev.- J. E. Fischer, January, 1901, at the home of Mrs. Andrew Perry. The first officers were Mrs. Fisher, President; Mrs. Andrew Perry, Vice-President; Mrs. Annie Erskine, Secretary, and Mrs. Fletcher Moffett, Treasurer. There were thirteen charter members, only four of whom are living: Mrs. Charles McCutchan, Mrs. Homer Webb, Mrs. Wilson Moffett, and Mrs. R. R. Henry.
The object of this organization as set forth in its constitution was two-fold: first, to cultivate sociability in the neighborhood, and aid in a financial way the interests of the church, both of which have never been lost sight of.
The monthly meetings were ever pleasant social gatherings where neighbors and friends met, chatted, and visited while they worked. It is at these meetings that those who came to establish new homes in the community were welcomed and soon made to feel at home and one of the community by taking part in the society's activities.
The first work engaged in was that of making carpet rags. This was done until there was no longer any demand for rags. Then they began piecing and quilting quilts. The number of quilts made and quilted has nearly reached the two-hundredth mark.
By this work and serving of Thanksgiving dinners, the society has brought into its treasury more than five thousand dollars which it has very cheerfully and generously used in mercy and help work, repairing and improvement of the church and parsonage, besides meeting the deficits of any and all pecuniary demands made upon the church. The society today has a membership of forty-seven and going strong.
Father Time has turned the pages of his recording book fifty times since the first brick of this church was laid. To commemorate this anniversary a committee of church members planned a Homecoming for former pastors, church members, and those who had attended Sabbath School here.
August 24, 1930, was the day set for this renewal of old friendships. About four hundred came to the meeting. The program for the morning was as follows:
Hymn 78 - Holy, Holy, Holy"
Prayer - Rev. L. H. Ice
Anthem: "God So Loved the World - Moore
Solo: "The Living God - Geoffry O'Hara Grace McCutchan
Sermon - Rev. C. A. Shake
Hymn 507 - Come My Soul Thy Suit Prepare"
At the close of the service everybody went to the school house where a bountiful dinner was served. Everyone enjoyed the dinner, but far more did each enjoy the hearty handshake of a long absent friend.
After dinner the people returned to the church for the concluding service. The following program was rendered:
Hymn - "0 For a Thousand Tongues to Sing"
Prayer - Rev. W. R. Ashby
Anthem: "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" Shelley
Address - Dr. W. C. Patrick
Anthem: "Peace I Leave With You" - Roberts
Address - Rev. L. H. Ice
Hymn - Faith of Our Fathers"
The Church History was then read followed by the reading of letters from absentees by Mrs. Thomas McCutchan. Rev. Hartsaw asked those to stand who had been present at the dedication. Twelve persons responded. The Doxology was then sung after which Rev. E. A. Boston pronounced the Benediction.
At the close of the service the people passed out on the church lawn. Some hurriedly and regretfully said "Good-bye" and departed to catch a train, while others lingered to chat a while, loathe to end a perfect day.