THE OLDEST CHURCH IN WARREN COUNTY.
The first organized church in this county was near what is called " Sugar-Tree Grove," in Hale township. It was called the " Associate Presbyterian Church of Henderson; " the latter name from its supposed proximity to the Henderson river, seven miles distant.
Some persons of this denomination, il seems, had settled in this vicinity as early as 1828, from Ohio. Earlier still, persons of the same chnrch connection had settled in the southern part of this State, and in Missouri. From some of those in the latter State, a petition for supply of gospel ordinances was sent to the Associate Synod at its meeting in May, 1825. The result was, that the Synod resolved to occupy the States of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. From this time forward, missionaries were appointed to labor a part of each year in each of these States.
In 1830, Rev. James McCarrel was appointed to what was then called the Western Mission, and in November of that year he organized Henderson congregation. This took place at the house of John Caldwell.
The names of twenty-five persons are recorded, who were received as members at the organization, and are as follows : Adam Ritchie, John Ritchie, Elizabeth Ritchie, Abigail Ritchie, Martha Ritchie, Jane Campbell, John Maley, John Kendall, Elizabeth Kendall, Samuel Gib son, Elizabeth Gibson, James Junkin, Sarah Junkin. Martha Junkin, Ann Junkin, William Gibson, Matthew Ritchie, Caroline Ritchie, Adam Ritchie, Sen., John Ritchie, Jr., Sarah Junkin, David Findley, Jane Findley, Margaret Temple and John W. Caldwell. Not one of these is now a member of this church—only five are living—and these at, or near, Monmouth.
The first elders were : Adam Ritchie and John Caldwell. The first pastor was Rev. James C. Bruce, from Ohio, who first began to receive support from the congregation Oct. 15, 1832, though he had preached here for some time previous as a missionary. He was installed pastor May 11, 1833, by Rev. Samuel Ingalls and Adam Ritchie, elder, who were appointed for that purpose by the Presbytery of Miami, Ohio, to which this church then belonged. This pastorate continued until Oct. 25, 1847, after which the church was without a pastor for two years. On the 25th of Oct., 1849. Rev. John Scott, D. D., was installed pastor, and continued until 1868. The leading public event which occurred during this long pastorate, was the union of the Associate Reformed and Associate churches of the United States, forming the United Presbyterian Church. The union was consummated by the synods representing these churches at Pittsburgh, Pa., May 26, 1858, and afterward unanimously approved by this congregation.
Sometime in the autumn of 1868, a call was made out for T. G. Morrow, then a licentiate, and his ordination and installation as pastor took place in April, 1869. This pastorate continued for three years. In the fall of 1873, Rev. David A. Wallace, D. D., president of Monmouth College, became pastor, and continued until failing health from many laborious duties compelled him to resign in January, 1876. The present pastor is Rev. David McDill, D. D., professor in Monmouth College.
The first house of worship in this county was built by this congregation in 1832. It was made of logs, and was 24 by 30 feet. It was used for worship until 1839, when it was far too small to accommodate the congregation. Some persons often came as far as twenty miles to attend church.
In 1837 a move was made to build a large brick church, near the first. The brick were made upon the ground near by, and heavy foundation walls of stone, three feet thick, were laid, upon which arose the spacious edifice 50 by 64 feet—a wonder for those days—which cost over $4.000. This house, too, was often filled to overflowing in those early days. It was used for worship for thirty-five years—from 1839 to 1874. The present neat and elegant structure, 40 by 60 feet, built in 1874, stands near a beautiful grove, and is hardly surpassed in its attractiveness by any edifice in the county. It cost, including fixtures and furnace, $4,252, and is all paid.
The present membership of this church is 120, and the congregation is in a prosperous condition. This church has received,"since its organization, about 700 members. Many have taken certificates to aid in the formation of other churches. As an outgrowth from this "oldest church in the county," and from Cedar Creek church, there are at the present time nine United Presbyterian churches, with about 2,000 members.
The Cedar Creek church, in Snmner township, was organized July 4, 1835, as Associate Reformed, by Rev. Dr. Blakie, now of Boston, Mass. It was first called by the very appropriate name, " Sharon Church," and was the first of this denomination in this county, and probably for many contiguous counties in this region.
The following names are found upon the oldest record as the persons constituting the church at the time organized : John Giles, ruling elder ; James Giles, John P. Giles, Hugh Martin. Prudence Giles. Nancy Giles, Susannah Giles, Margaret Giles, Mary L. Giles, Susan Giles, Jane Giles, John Williamson, James Campbell, Mary Findley, James Findley, Xancy Robinson, George Jay and Mary A. Jay—eighteen in all. Dr. Blakie had been sent out as a missionary of the church into the new settlements of the West, and when he found a few who had been members of churches where they had previously lived, he gathered them into a church.
Prior to his coming, Rev. John Wallace, also a missionary, from Monroe county, Ya., had preached several times at the houses of some of the settlers, and was employed by the congregation, after the organization, as stated supply for a portion of his time from 1835 to 1840. The first elders were J. C. McCrery, Win. Walker and Maj. John Brown. Rev. James C. Porter came here in 1840. and was the first pastor—installed in 1841, and continued until near the time of his death, which occurred Nov. 15. 1863. It was during this pastorate that the membership largely increased. Also, in 185S, this church joined in the union and thus became United Presbyterian.
Rev. John A. Reynolds began his work in this church in August, 1863, and remained pastor until July, 1872, nine years.
The present pastor is Rev. J. M. Atchison, who commenced his labors here Dec. 1,1872.
This congregation has built three houses of worship. The first was of logs, built in 1836, and stood about two miles northeast from Little York. This was occupied until 1845, when a larger and better edifice was needed, and a frame structure was erected near the first, and was occupied as a house of worship over twenty years. The present commodious house was built in 1866, cost about $4,000, and stands in a beautiful grove, three miles northeast from Little York. This congregation also own a pleasant parsonage, situated one mile north of the church. Not one of the original members is now connected with this congregation; only two are known to be living— Mrs. Wallace, widow of Rev. John Wallace, and Mrs. Jamison, now in Florida.
The present membership is 140. The total contributions for last year, as reported, for all church purposes were about $2,500, averaging nearly twenty dollars per member, showing a very generous liberality. This congregation is in a growing and prosperous condition, has a flourishing Sabbath-school, averaging 110, Superintendent Zenas Hogue, and a large weekly district prayer meeting, well attended by old and young.