Some Clay County Churches
Bee Ridge church was the first religious society in the north end of the county, organized in the year 1833, at Elder Lewis FORTNER‘s house. Having no house of worship, meetings were held from house to house among the membership. At some time the following year (1834) Elders FORTNER, CROSSLEY and SCROGANS emigrated westward; Elder William YOCUM followed in their footsteps, holding meetings at the respective residences, preaching the word and exhorting the brethren. Within the three years following, Elders Jonathan MURPHY and William WYATT came too. Having then held a series of meetings, Francis B. YOCUM and Alexander CABBAGE were ordained. Four years from the time of organization, in 1837, it was decided to build a house of worship. The chosen location was an unbroken forest. A day was set to meet and commence work; Elder William YOCUM hewed the first log, as he did most of them. The plans for the house included a chimney in the north end, a stove in the middle. The carpenter work was done by Jonathan MURPHY, Solomon MYERS and Berryman JAMES, and the plan for the seating drafted by George W. JAMES. Just before the building of this church, the society was reorganized by Elders William YOCUM, Jonathan MURPHY, Alexander CABBAGE, and William WYATT. Elders CABBAGE and F. B. YOCUM were, in the main, instrumental in keeping the church together from this time on, often visited and assisted by Brothers KEE, DAVIS, DULY, McKINNEY, and David HAYES. Later on came Elders CARNEY, PHILLIPS, and AKERS. Other church members were Orpha CABBAGE, Mary JAMES, and Campbell GIPSON
The cemetery was opened in the same year that the church was built. The timber was cut and the ground cleared up by Levi STEWART, Beverly BALDWIN, Arnold CABBAGE, George W. JAMES, Samuel M. STEWART and William Y. DOWNING, who also dug the first grave, in which was buried one of Elder Jonathan MURPHY’s children.
Mrs. Susan AKERS DOWNING and John S. DOWNING were then but small children. The data from which this brief account of the settlement of Bee Ridge, the organization and building of the original church has been written were communicated to the writer by George W. JAMES (deceased) twenty years ago. This church, as claimed by its founders and patrons, was the first and oldest in the county. Undoubtedly it was the oldest in the north part of the county. George W. JAMES gave 1837 as the date of its building and dedication, but John S. DOWNING gives the time as 1835.
Beech Grove Church, a Universalist church in Dick Johnson Township, near the Warren D. WOLFE homestead, on land belonging to Joseph CARTER, on the LEACHMAN gravel road, built in 1890, dedicated on the 26th day of October, the only church of this denomination in the county. It was so named, in common with the district school having the same location, from the growth of native beech timber thereabout.
Briley Chapel, a United Brethren church in Lewis Township, at the crossing of the old Terre Haute-Louisville and the Middlebury-Centerville roads, built in 1887 and dedicated on the 20th day of November, services by Rev. L. S. CHITTENDEN, assisted by Rev. William R. MUNCIE, the pastor. This society, known as the “Kiser Class,” was organized on the 25th of July 1885, and at a meeting held on the 7th day of August 1886, when Alfred SHIDLER was pastor. The building committee consisted of Elisha POWELL – chairman, John BOLINGER – treasurer, and John KELLUM – secretary.
A Christian church on the gravel road, between Ashboro and Saline City, was built in the years 1899 and 1900 and dedicated on the 6th day of August of the latter year. This society, before building a home of its own, used to worship in the EVAN’s schoolhouse.
Canaan, a Methodist Episcopal church in Van Buren Township, on the Putnam County line, near the Vandalia Railroad, originally built and dedicated in the year 1858, as remembered by residents of the neighborhood, then rebuilt and rededicated about tens years ago, on the William GIRTON place.
Fatch Chapel, an M. E. church in Sugar Ridge Township, on the Snake Road, half way between Bowling Green and Saline City, built in 1892 and dedicated on the 7th day of August, sermon by W. R. HALSTEAD, so named because located on the corner of the FATCH lands. A Sunday school was organized here soon after the dedication of the house and maintained regularly, of which William MURBARGER was chosen superintendent, in which position he continued to serve faithfully and unremittingly until the time of his sickness and death, in 1899.