CHAPTER XIX
THE PRINCIPAL CHURCH ORGANIZATIONS

Methodist Churches.-In 1885 Rev. M. S. Heavenridge, then pastor in charge of the Methodist church at Sullivan, prepared an historical paper which reviewed the work and growth of the Methodist church in this county from the beginning of the century. This paper, which was published in the Democrat of August 18th, is the basis for the following account.

Up to 1818 the country all along the line of the E. & T. H. Railroad, from Vincennes to Terre Haute, was almost an unbroken wilderness. Among the families then settled here were some Methodists, most of whom had been converted in the great revivals in Kentucky and Tennessee. and who were formed into circuits which were visited at great intervals. Peter Cartwright, the famous itinerant evangelist, had organized the Vincennes circuit in 1808, which in 1811 extended from the Ohio river north as far as there was any white population on the Wabash. In 1821 the Vincennes circuit was divided, and the newly formed Honey Creek circuit embraced all the country on the Wabash from Terre Haute to the Knox county line. The appointments in this circuit in 1825 were-Carlisle, Johnsons', Robbins', Walls', Weir's, Wilkins', Merom, Bonds', and Graham's, in Sullivan county, and Jackson Jr., Jackson Sr., Rays' and Barns', in Vigo county.

At the session of the Missouri conference in 1821, Samuel Hamilton was appointed presiding elder for Indiana, and David P. Chamberlain was sent to the Honey Creek circuit, being succeeded in the fall of 1822 by Hackaliah Verdenbergh, who remained one year. In 1823 William Beauchamp was appointed presiding elder and Samuel Hull preacher in charge. At the quarterly meeting of April 17, 1824, at Jonathan Graham's, a committee consisting of Joe A I. Baker, John Jean, Bailey Johnston, Jonathan Webb and Meshack Hunt was appointed to meet the trustees of the Carlisle meeting house for the purpose of making a purchase there if possible. In October, 1824, William Beauchamp died at Paoli, and James Armstrong succeeded him. Charles Holliday was appointed presiding elder in 1825, and Richard Hargraves preacher in charge. About this time the Honey Creek circuit was again merged with the Vincennes circuit. The total amounts paid by the different classes in this year was $34.37 1/2, the salary of the presiding elder for the year was $50 and $5 house rent. Stephen R. Beggs was the next preacher in charge and S. C. Cooper assistant preacher. In 1827 John Miller and Ashael Risley were appointed to the circuit.

In 1828, on the division of the Vincennes circuit, the Carlisle circuit was formed. In 1829 William H. Smith and Boyd Phelps were named as preachers in charge, with twelve local preachers-Samuel Hull, John S. Cartwright, James Holmes, Thomas Springer, Owen Creasy, Daniel T. Pinkston, Joseph Joslin, Joshua Walls, Jesse Graham, Martin Hale, Wiley Wood, and Benjamin Bushnel. As exhorters were named, James F. Harney, Nathan Hinkle, Robert H. Springer, William Medarious, Garrett Davis, William Gill.

In 1830 Richard Hargraves and Daniel M. Murphy were preachers in charge, succeeded in the fall of 1831 by Enoch G. Wood and William Taylor. The following winter was one of great severity. Presiding Elder Lock, while returning' home, found the Wabash gorged with ice, and after waiting two or three days he and a companion resolved to break a channel for the ferry boat. When near the opposite shore Lock lost his balance and fell into the water, but recovered himself and about sunset succeeded in reaching shore. After riding ten miles to the nearest house, he arrived speechless and frozen to the saddle. He was cared for by the family, but continued his journey in a few days. The exposure laid the foundation for consumption, from which disease he died July 15, 1834.

James Thompson was presiding elder and William Smith preacher in charge of the Carlisle circuit in 1832. For the following seven years there are no records, except that in 1835 Rev. A. Wood was presiding elder of the Vincennes district and in 1837 was succeeded by John Miller.

In 1840 the New Lebanon circuit was organized, with H. S. Talbott presiding elder, and S. H. Rogers preacher. The pastor labored faithfully till September 3, 1841, when he was laid to rest in the Burnett graveyard.

In 1847 (?) a committee (J. R. Williams, Solomon Walls and John Mahan) reported that the cost of a house of worship for Sullivan would be $380, and plans were then made for a frame building, 35 by 40 feet, with 12 foot story, and J. Earnhart, J. R. Williams and Solomon Walls appointed building committee. The lot west of the court house, about the middle of the block, was chosen as the site. The first class in the vicinity of Sullivan was called Gilkerson's and met at his house about a mile west of the court-house square on the Merom road. It is first mentioned in the minutes April 17, 1830. The class moved to town when the church was built.

At the conference held at New Lebanon August 17. 1850, the Sullivan circuit was constituted, on the report of a committee consisting of J. Pinkston, J. Peters, Anthony Mason, J. Earnhart and E. W. Burgess. The New Lebanon circuit was to contain the charges of New Lebanon, East Chapel, Providence, Merom and D. Pinkston's. Sullivan, Mt. Tabor, Pierce's, Weir's, Ebenezer, Bethel and Fairbanks constituted the Sullivan circuit.

Sullivan Methodist Church.

On the west side of the public square of Sullivan a frame church was constructed in the year 1846 for the religious home of the Methodists. A peculiar interest attaches to this building, not only because it was the first church edifice in Sullivan, but also because of the pious men whose zeal and efforts made the structure possible. It is said that some of the earliest Methodists who came to this part of the county contributed the timbers which went into the building and helped in the raising of the framework and the nailing on of the boards and finishing the interior and exterior, while the pastor of the flock at that time, Rev. James R. Williams, led on the workmen, himself handling a saw and hammer when occasion required. Some of these church builders were Jordan Peter, Solomon Walls, M. E. Chace, Reuben Crapo, and others, who hewed out the timbers, whipsawed the boards and worked with right good will for several months in constructing a place where worship might be conducted elsewhere than in the county seminary and private houses, where the good Methodist folks had congregated up to that time. The membership of the society in that year was only twenty-five, but with the building of the church an increasing number came into the habit of regarding with affection the church home on the square and assembling there on days of worship. During the eighties the membership rolls contained over three hundred, and the Sunday school, which had been started with six white and two colored scholars, being the first class for Bible instruction in the town, had likewise grown in numbers and influence.

The old frame church was occupied a little more than ten years. In 1858-59, under the labors of William H. Cornelius, a brick church was built on the site of the present church. A parsonage was erected in 1880, while J. A. Ward was pastor. On May 19, 1889, the last service was held in the old church, plans having been made for the building of a new church to cost over $12,000. In July the old building was wrecked, and the contract for the new was let to J. F. Hoke at $12,073. September 2d, the corner-stone was laid, and in August, 1890, the present church edifice was dedicated by Dr. Earl Cranston. The Epworth League of this church was organized February 24, 1891.

Carlisle Methodist Church.

If we except the movements and labors of the early French Catholic missionaries within the territory now comprised in Sullivan county, the first preacher of the gospel whose record can be found affecting this region was a Methodist. It is said that Rev. Joel Collins came among the few settlers living about the blockhouses near Carlisle in 1806, and his voice was often lifted up in exhortation and in blessing the labors of this people dwelling on the edge of civilization. As a minister he was quite remarkable for his frontiersman hardiness and bravery. He was expert with the rifle, and a very practical Christian. It was his son, Madison Collins, who was severely wounded in the Indian massacre where Dudley Mack lost his life, and it would not have been strange if the old pioneer minister allowed himself a feeling of vengeance against the savages who had almost taken away one of his family.

For many years, until well within the memory of people now in middle age, there stood on one of the streets of Carlisle a building which in later years was much dilapidated and was used as a cooper's shop. When first built it had served a very different purpose, and the voices of the workmen and the sounds of the shop were like a material echo of the hymns of praise and thanksgiving and prayerful worship of the pioneers who years before had assembled in this building. The old cooper shop was the first church building in Carlisle and the county, built in 1818 by the Methodists, but used at various times by many sects and for various purposes. It was a landmark in the town for two generations. Men and women were christened under its roof, were married there, and at death were taken there for the last rites. It was not till 1874 that the congregation left the old home for a new and larger church, but even after that for years the memories of many of the worshipers would often recall the scenes that were associated with the little old building that still stood near the new one. The new church was dedicated in October, 1874, the president of Asbury University (DePauw) being the principal speaker. M. S. Heavenridge was pastor in charge.

New Lebanon Methodists.

New Lebanon was one of the principal strongholds of Methodist doctrine and influence in western Indiana during the last century. It was the scene of camp meetings that attracted worshipers from far and near, and many of the older residents of the county remember how they traveled by wagon over the roads that centered at the New Lebanon camp ground, where the tents were spread and for a week or more the Methodists and their friends participated in the now old-fashioned custom of worship and social commingling amid the pleasant surroundings of outdoor existence, and usually following the harvests when people had their crops garnered and were in a particularly grateful mood.

The pioneer settlers on Gill prairie were only little behind the people about Carlisle in organizing for Methodist worship. The house of William Burnett was, so far as known, the first place of worship for the Methodists of Gill prairie. Rev. John Schrader had begun preaching here in 1813, and soon after a class was formed consisting of the following: William and Mary Burnett, William and Anna Gill, James Black and wife, Berry and Elizabeth Taylor, Deborah Graham, Catherine Strain and Patsy Hollenbach. In 1814 James McCord succeeded Rev. Schrader and continued preaching at Burnett's, but after three years the class was broken up by the removal of its members. William Burnett removed to the vicinity of the present town of New Lebanon, and again his house became a place of worship. Here, about 1816, James McCord formed a class of four members-William and Mary Burnett and Berry and Elizabeth Taylor-but the following year ten new members were added-Henry South, Charlotte South, Christian Canary, Nancy Canary, John South, Jane South, William South, Margaret South, David Howard and Sarah Howard.

In 1818 occurred the first recorded camp meeting held on the Mt. Zion camp ground. This was called the "bark camp meeting." called so on account of the material used for tents. Many conversions resulted from this meeting, so that the Burnett home was too small, and the congregation then built, on the camp ground, a hewed log church, the logs being covered with oak boards, and named it the Mt. Zion church. This was the scene of many revivals and was the center of worship for this community until 1830, when a frame church was built at New Lebanon at a cost of about one thousand dollars. This church continued in use until 1871, when the floor gave way. The brick church was then built, at a cost of about $6,000, being at the time the finest church building in the county. It is said the bishops presided at the dedication of both the old frame and the new brick church.

East Chapel, a part of the New Lebanon circuit, was one of the early churches of Gill township. The first church was built there in 1861, at a cost of three hundred dollars, and on December 18, 1892, this congregation dedicated a new church.

Merom was a station in the Honey Creek circuit in 1821, but 110 data have been found relating to the church during its early years. In 1837 the congregation built a house of worship at a cost of six hundred dollars. During the present century the Methodists at Merom have attained considerable strength as an organization, and in 190S the society erected a new brick church at a cost of $4,500. The church was dedicated 011 Sunday, July 5th.

The Providence church in Turman township, about six miles west of Sullivan, originated about the middle of the last century and was formerly a part of the New Lebanon circuit. The church building, which was erected at a cost of $1,200 in 1872, was destroyed by fire in January, 1886, during the progress of revival meetings.

Rose Chapel, supplied from the Merom church, was dedicated in June, 1892.

In May, 1893, the Methodists at Fairbanks dedicated a frame church building.

Presbyterian Churches.

Besides the Methodists, another little congregation worshiped in the Methodist church building at Carlisle. William and Mary McCrary, James, Mary and Martha Watson, Rachel Porter, Mary Gould, Lydia Silliman, and Ann Broady were a little band of the Presbyterian faith who were organized into a society on January 31, 1819, by a missionary named Fowler. For the first few years, only at intervals, a Presbyterian preacher came to Carlisle, an occasion that was marked by a full assemblage not only of members of this faith but of other denominations. On the first Sunday in June, 1841, a church building was dedicated to the home of the Presbyterians, and in 1877 a much larger and handsomer church was erected, being dedicated in October of that year.

Sullivan Presbyterian Church.

The old Methodist church on the public square in Sullivan was a center of early religious activities, apart from those of the particular denomination to which it belonged. Baptists and Presbyterians worshiped within these hospitable walls. This church, the court house and private homes were for some years the abiding place of the early Presbyterians of Sullivan. Sixteen members of that faith were organized in the Methodist building on August 31, 1857, into a society. Just before the war they subscribed $1,700 for the building of a church. The contract was made by the committee with the builders, when the outbreak of the war caused the committee to endeavor to annul the contract, but without success and the building proceeded, and by unusual self-denial on the part of the members the obligations were faithfully met right in the midst of the crucial events of the war.

An issue of the Democrat in March, 1864, states that some members of the church favored the sale of the building for schoolhouse purposes in order to discharge the obligations which still rested on the congregation. There was at that time little prospect of securing a minister acceptable to all, and the life of the organization seemed about to expire. A few weeks later, however, it was reported that the Presbyterians had secured the services of Rev. P. B. Cook as pastor, and services were to be held every Sunday. An interesting feature of the service, given prominence in the newspaper, was that the services would be accompanied by melodeon and choir, the melodeon being understood to be the gift of James Kelley.

The dedication of the church occurred in August, 1866, the principal sermon being delivered by Rev. Mr. Smith of Vincennes. A small subscription was taken, sufficient to pay off the indebtedness. For several years previously the building, though occupied, was unfinished.

In August, 1907, just fifty years after the organization of the church, the last service was held in the old building, and preparations made to erect a modern religious edifice. The last meeting in the old church was made notable by an address from Rev. Montgomery, one of the early ministers of the congregation, who gave a historical account of the church, and paid a tribute to the personnel of officials and influential members, and recalled with special affection and praise the leadership of such men as Murray Briggs, Dr. Thompson, Harvey Wilson, Mr. Hutchinson, Lafayette Stewart, all of whom were identified with the early growth of the church. Mention was also made of George Goodwin, who had been a member of the church forty years and who at this time was elder. The church membership in the preceding fifty years had fluctuated between seven and two hundred.

The actual work of construction 011 the new church was not begun until the summer of 1908. The new church is built of brick and Bedford stone, on a modern plan of church architecture, and with seating capacity in the auditorium for five hundred. On August 20, 1908, the corner-stone was laid with ceremonies, among which the principal address was by Judge G. W. Buff.

Sullivan Christian Church.

Only the oldest men and women recall the little frame building that half a century ago stood on Section street, with its cupola and small bell whose ringing at intervals called together the Disciples of Christ or Christians, as they are best known. As it originally stood, the church was built about 1849, and about five years later an addition of fifteen feet gave a more commodious interior, and at this time also the cupola and bell were added to give distinction to the house of worship. (The first Christian church building, after being abandoned as a church, was used as a carpenter shop, and until finally it was cut up into several sections, becoming wood-house, stable, etc., and thus passed into oblivion. It originally stood two squares north of Washington street on Section.) The society that found its first home in this building had its inception sometime in the thirties, when Joseph W. Wolfe and A. P. Law were both ordained ministers of this denomination in Sullivan county. The organization was a growing one, so that in 1866 what was then deemed a large brick church, 50 by 75 feet, and with considerable pretensions to architectural dignity, was constructed at a cost of $8,000, being dedicated in May, 1866, by Elder Black of Putnam county. A larger bell from its cupola summoned the people to worship, and the prosperity of the church went on without serious interruption. This was the parent church of several smaller Christian churches in the county.

A parsonage was built at a cost of about $1,200 in 1889, being formally opened July 25th, while Rev. Ireland was pastor.

Other Christian Churchcs.

At his death on May 7, 1890, James J. Snider, a resident of the county, left his estate to be divided, on the death of his wife, among three churches of the Christian denomination. The will was finally pronounced valid, and in 1902 steps were taken to carry out its provisions. The property consisted of 320 acres of land and about $5,000 of personal property, one-half of which was to go to Providence church at Paxton, and the other half to be divided equally between the churches at Carlisle and Sullivan. The real estate was not to be divided or sold, but to be managed entirely by trustees, and the income used for the support of pastors, repair of buildings, etc. The personal property was to be converted into government or real estate securities, the income only to be available for current use. In 1903 the first distribution was made, and a total of nearly five thousand dollars was divided among the three churches.

One of the former local preachers of the Christian church in this county was Rev. A. Ward, who died September 22, 1884, in his 67th year. He had been a minister in the church for thirty-five years, twenty years in this county, and had received four thousand into the church.

The labors of Joseph W. Wolfe were identified in several ways with pioneer history of Sullivan county. Before he was public official he was a minister and elder of the Christian church, and in this way was connected with several of the early societies of that denomination. At Carlisle he was one of the two elders who organized the church on October 5, 1866, and was the first pastor of the charter membership of forty-four. The frame church built in 1868 cost five thousand dollars, and the organization was one of the flourishing religious societies of the southern part of Sullivan county.

Baptists.

Many will recall the kindly and venerable Rev. William Stansil, the octogenarian Baptist minister, who, having founded the Baptist church on a permanent basis in Sullivan and led it for many years, later spent his old age in retirement in this county. He was one of the pioneer ministers of his denomination in the Wabash valley, and in this shared some honors with the veteran missionary Isaac McCoy, whose name is so closely identified with the early history of the Baptist church in Indiana. During the early fifties he lived in Knox county, and passed up and down the valley to perform his labors. A periodical journey took him through Sullivan, and he used to stop there and preach in the Methodist church to the small group of Baptists who lived in the town and neighborhood. Finally on April 23, 1853 (see below), the Baptist church of Sullivan was constituted with a membership of sixteen, and Rev. Stansil then took up his residence at Sullivan and continued to serve the church as pastor for ten consecutive years, and after a brief interval for four more years. The house of worship on Jackson street, used for many years by this church, was begun about 1854.

Sunday, May 15, 1904, the Sullivan Baptist church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. The records previous to 1885 having been destroved, the members of the church were not agreed as to the exact date of the organization, the majority asserting 1854 to be the proper date, while others fixed the time in 1853. At this celebration some of the original members were recalled, among them being Rev. Stansil, Robert L. Griffith, Mildred J. Griffith, Thomas Black, Stephen Ballard, Willoughby Nichols, Surrell Nichols, J. H. Reed, Zerelda Reed. Mrs. Griffith was the only surviving member at the time of the anniversary.

The church enjoyed quiet prosperity until the pastorate of Rev. Robert Taylor, about 1877, when dissensions arose which threatened the existence of the church for many years. The troubles culminated during the pastorate of D. B. Miller, who was an energetic pastor, secured manv accessions to the membership, repaired the old building (in 1885), but at the close of his term the church was barely kept together. In the early nineties it was determined to reorganize. The old church building was sold, the membership roll revised, and services were begun in the court house. Rev. Henry Bailey was called to the pastorate, and from that time the church progressed with new life and harmony. On June 5, 1895, the corner-stone of a new church was laid, and the building completed the same year. After two years Mr. Bailey resigned, but under the successive pastorates of J. B. Thomas and U. M. McGuire (who came in 1899) the church continued to grow and prosper.

The Fairbanks Baptist church was organized in 1828 at the home of James Drake. In January, 1906, the church dedicated a new frame building, costing $2,200. William Stansil and Abram Starks were the ministers who took charge of the organization of this church, and the first church was erected the same year. The old building was replaced with a new in 1871, and when this was decided to be inadequate and in need of repairs a few years ago, the congregation undertook the remodeling, but the building collapsed during the work, and plans were at once made to erect an entirely new house of worship. The money was all raised before the day of dedication.

Catholics.

The five or six Catholic families who resided in Sullivan during the sixties were organized into a church by Father McCarty, a missionary, and through donations that came mostly from sources outside of this church, a frame structure was built near the railroad depot in 1867-68. The furnishings were very meager, and it was not until several years later that seats were placed in the church. This was a mission church and was attended by a priest from Terre Haute. In the issue of the Democrat for April 26, 1866, it is stated that Mrs. Dufficy had given two lots as a site for the proposed church, and the progress of this denomination is further indicated in the issue of August, 1867, which reported that the necessary money had been secured and that the contract had been awarded to William Greenlee for the construction of the building west of the depot in Gray, Watson and Bloom's addition. In June, 1906, was reported the sale of this old building, the original Catholic church, to the denomination of Holiness Christian for the sum of $800. The old building, after the Catholics erected their new church, was used for a schoolhouse for a time.

U. B. Church.

In February, 1894, the United Brethren organized a church at Sullivan with nineteen members. A few weeks later they purchased the old Baptist church building on East Jackson street, and installed Sarah B. Whistler as first regular pastor. The church was repaired and formally dedicated in August, 1894.

The United Brethren church east of Sullivan was dedicated by Bishop Castle, May 31, 1896.

One of the diligent and gifted ministers who performed the arduous work of the profession during, the early half of the century was Elder John S. Howard, who died at Thurston, Ohio, December 6, 1890. Born in Wilson county, Tennessee, August 20, 1807, he first came to Sullivan to live in 1854 and was here continuously until about seven years before his death. He had been ordained at Russelville, Illinois, in 1846 by Elders Joseph W. Wolfe and B. W. Fields, and was thus introduced to the services of a long and active ministry. He preached over large territories in eastern and southeastern Illinois and southwestern Indiana, and was welcomed along the Wabash valley in many communities. He had a delightful voice and a genius for singing added to his power as a preacher. His daughter, Mrs. Mose Wilkey, lived in Sullivan, and he was buried from the Christian church here.

The following church statistics is from the statistician's report for 1883 (the latest at hand). There have been many additions to all of the items, no doubt, but the relative strength would probably be near the same:

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