Clay County Rural Churches
Asbury, a Methodist Episcopal church in Jackson township, on the Brazil-Hoosierville Road, near the SIMONSON place, built in 1871-2, dedicated on the 11th day of August of the latter year, named for Francis ASBURY, the first M. E. bishop ordained in America; sermon by President McNUTT, of the State University.
Bellaire, a Christian church near the site of the old town of Bellaire, a little distance south of the former James KENDALL place, across the road from the school-house known by the same name, built and dedicated late in the sixties or in 1870, as given from recollection by several of the membership who participated in providing the means and constructing the house.
Berea, a Christian church in Posey township, one mile south of Brazil waterworks, built in 1889, and dedicated on the 18th day of November of the same year. The society was organized at the WOOLS schoolhouse, January 24, 1892.
Clay Prairie, a Methodist Episcopal church in Posey township, on the Upper Bloomington road, four miles directly south of the Brazil waterworks, built in 1906, was dedicated March 3, 1907, services by Rev. L. F. DIMMIT, of Greencastle. The cost of this building was $2,000, of, which it was necessary to raise $639, at time of dedication, to liquidate balances, the contributions amounting to $1,044.44.
Connely Chapel, a United Brethren church on Eel River, near the E. & I. R. R. crossing, just west of the station, built and dedicated in 1889, as nearly as remembered, so named in honor of William A. CONNELY, who appropriated the ground and contributed liberally to the general fund. Prior to the building of this house the society previously organized at this point had worshiped at the schoolhouse standing by the roadside, near the station. Within the winter of 1888-9, George CONGER and James HOSEA, two local revivalists, held a protracted meeting at this school-house, which resulted in one hundred and twenty-five converts, fifty-eight of whom were afterward baptized in Eel River in one day. From the impetus given the cause, as the sequel to this meeting, the church was built the succeeding year.
Center Church, began as a small congregation that met for about eight years in the home of Robert BENNETT. By 1858 they moved their meetings to the Center School House to accommodate a larger congregation. In 1865 the Center Church was built one and one half miles northeast of Cory. A Sunday School was organized in 1878. After the railroad through Cory was completed and it became a thriving community, a frame church building was constructed in Cory on the present site in 1879 and remodeled completely in 1908. The first parsonage was built in 1880 and the present one in 1956. The church became United Methodist in 1968.
Deeter’s, a Christian church in Perry township, on the Lower Bloomington Road, two miles west of Ashboro, built in 1878, by William DEETER and R. E. S. SWARTZ, and dedicated the same year, probably.
Eel River, a Predestinarian, or Primitive Baptist church, in Cass Township. This congregation, organized before the county was organized, built a log church house on the west side of the Eel River on the KIDD Farm. The second house of worship was a frame structure built on the Sam STIGLER farm in 1860. Services were held here on the fourth Sunday each month and in May and August special celebrations were held with overflow crowds attending. The last services were held in 1920. The building collapsed in 1968.
Eel River Valley, a Winebrennarian church, or Church of God, in Eel River bottom, on the Brunswick-Howesville Road, near “Valley Farm,” built and dedicated in the year 1902, as nearly as remembered.
Epworth, a M. E. church in Brazil Township, on the northwest corner of MORGAN’s Crossing.
Fairview, a Christian church in Dick Johnson township, on the LEACHMAN gravel road, one half mile north of the Washington schoolhouse, near the residence of William L. NICOSON, built in 1882 and dedicated January 7, 1883. Previous to the building of this house the church organization had met for worship at the Washington schoolhouse. At the time of dedication the membership numbered seventy-five.
Fairview, a Winebrennarian church in Lewis Township, between Coffee and Eel River, built in 1869 and dedicated as a Presbyterian church, which, at a later day, was transferred to the Winebrennarians. This house was built, largely, by the WOODROWS, soon after their locating on Eel River.
Liechty’s, a church of the Evangelical Association, in Harrison Township, so named from its location on the premises of John LIECHTY, a pioneer German, who was a member and supporter of the society. This house is said to have been built and dedicated in 1862.
Little Flock, a Primitive or Predestinarian Baptist church in Lewis Township, on the Thomas CRIST land, three-fourths of a mile west of the old J. T. LISTON crossing, the original log house built about 1850; the present frame house about twenty years ago.
Maple Grove, a Brethren church in Sugar Ridge Township, on the gravel road from the Old Feeder Dam north to Ashboro, on the MACE place, built in the years 1904-1905, and dedicated on the 25th day of June of the latter year, by Rev. D. D. CULLER, of Mt. Morris, Illinois. This is the only church building maintained by this denomination (usually known as the Tunkers or Dunkards) within the territory of Clay County. Rev. D. D. CULLER, who has won position and prominence in the ministerial circles and counsels of this church body, is the youngest son of farmer David CULLER, who lived many years and died at the family homestead at the Denmark crossing.
Mt. Calvary, a M. E. church in Perry Township, near the VAN CLEVE place. The first church meetings were held in 1860 in the COBLE orchard west of Art. The present church building was started in 1860 four and one half miles northeast of Cory. The work was halted by the enlistment for the Civil War, but was resumed ten years later in 1870. The building was completed in 1880 and a church school was organized in 1887. The church was remodeled in 1939 and 1959 and became the United Methodist Church in 1968.
Mt. Lebanon, a United Brethren church in Van Buren Township, on the B. F. CASTEEL place, at the crossroads a little distance east of the site of the town of Benwood, built at the time of the Civil War. The, contract was let and construction begun in 1861, the house enclosed and floored, when the contractors enlisted and went into the Army. The congregation met for worship in the unfinished house until the fall of 1863, when it was completed. The present house, on the same ground, was built in 1887, and dedicated on the 18th day of December.
A Methodist Episcopal church was built near the George BUELL place, in Washington Township, east of Bowling Green, close to the Owen County line, in 1869, dedicated by Bishop BOWMAN, October 31 of the same year.
A Missionary Baptist church was built on the Dempey SEYBOLD place, in the extreme north part of Dick Johnson Township, in 1897, by Thomas E. HAYS, contractor.
Mt. Zion, a United Brethren church in Harrison Township, on the former John MOYER place, on the old Bowling Green-Middlebury Road, two miles northeast of Clay City, built in 1866 and dedicated in the latter part of the year, by Elder ELWELL, as remembered.
This society, known as the “Kauble Class,” had previously worshiped in an old log dwelling house on the MOYER place. On the 17th day of February 1866, a board of trustees was appointed and instructed to proceed to build.
New Hope, a Missionary Baptist church in Harrison Township, on the macadamized road from Clay City to Brunswick, two and a half miles south of Middlebury, built in 1892 and dedicated on the 4th of September of the same year, so named for the reason that the membership of this church at the time of its institution had previously been a part of the Good Hope flock at Middlebury.
Oak Grove, a M. B. church in Lewis Township, on the county line road, three-fourths of a mile north of Jasonville, built in 1850, the society organized by John EDMONSON, who was the first pastor.
Otterbein, a United Brethren church on the county line, three miles south of Bowling Green, standing on the Owen County side, so named in memory and honor of P. W. OTTERBEIN, the founder of this denomination, named in this connection for the reason that the congregation here is composed of Clay as well as of Owen County people.
Oxford, a M. E. church, a mile or more north of the city of Brazil, at the point of North Forest Avenue crossing Otter Creek.
Peniel, a M. E. church in Dick Johnson Township, a half-mile south of Bee Ridge Church and cemetery, built in 1892 and dedicated on the 3rd day of July of the same year. The name of this church is a selection from Bible terminology, taken from the account given in the 32nd chapter of Genesis of the change of Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning the place of meeting God face to face. It is usually spoken with the accent on the first syllable, which should rest on the second.
Pleasant Run, a Missionary Baptist church, a mile and a half south of Cory, built in 1870-71, first occupied in the month of May of the latter year, when Rev. Samuel SLAVENS preached jointly the funeral sermon of George and Latham HUFF, so named from location, standing near the course of a small rippling branch of Eel River bearing this name.
A Primitive or Predestinarian Baptist church in the south part of Posey Township, on the Lower Bloomington Road, formerly at Cloverland, then moved and located at this point.
Rock Run, a church in the north part of Dick Johnson Township, built in 1871 and dedicated on the last Sunday of the year.
St. John’s, a German Lutheran church in Posey Township, two miles southeast of Staunton, built in 1871 and dedicated on the 15th day of October.
St. John’s, a United Church of Christ in Jackson Township, was organized in 1864 and their first church was built in 1865. The church was remodeled in 1889 and the present church (1969) was built in 1921. A new parsonage was built and dedicated in 1948. St. John’s Church is yoked with the Clay Prairie Church.
St. Peter’s, a German Reformed church in Harrison Township, on the former BOTTRON place, on the border of Owen County, three miles northeast of Clay City, built and dedicated in the year 1874. The parsonage maintained in connection with this church was wholly destroyed by fire on the 20th of November 1908, which was rebuilt and reoccupied before the close of the winter.
Sharon, a M. E. church in Dick Johnson Township.
Stwalley’s Chapel, n M. E. church at Bellaire, east side, built in 1881-82, dedicated on the 28th day of May of the latter year, named in honor of Isaac STWALLEY, deceased, who was a liberal patron and supporter of the church.
Union, a United Brethren Church in Jackson Township, near Hoosierville, on the Brazil-Poland gravel Road, was originally organized and built in a log church house in 1840. A frame building was built in 1855 with an addition and bell tower added shortly thereafter. In 1923 the present brick structure was built. The Women’s Missionary Association was organized in 1937. In 1968 this congregation was a part of the merger in the United Methodist Church.
Union, a Christian church in the southwest part of Lewis Township, originally a hewn-log house, built in 1855, but more recently a frame of modern construction. John NEAL was the pioneer pastor of this church.
Wilson’s, a Free Will Baptist church in Lewis Township, on the James WILSON place, a mile and a half northwest of Howesville, built in 1903 and dedicated on the 10th day of August of the same year.
Zion Newlite, A Sunday School was organized and met in the Goosenibble School House in 1880. A church was organized in 1881 and a church house was built in 1892, about five miles southeast of Cory. In 1920 the church building was moved to the GUMMERE Zion Cemetery and in 1931 the church became the Congregation Christian Church. The church building was remodeled in 1940. It later became the United Church of Christ.
Zion, a German Reformed church in Cass Township, is located near Poland. This was one of the earliest church societies organized in the county, at first holding meetings at the homes of 13 families until the building of a log school-house in 1842, which was occupied for worship two years, when, in 1844, the first church was built, a log building 24×30 feet, at a cost of $25.00. Ten years later a frame was built, of which the cornerstone was laid on the 18th day of April 1854. This house was 45 x 30 x 15, erected at a cost of $925. Thirty-five years later, in 1889, was built the present brick, 66 x 42 feet, at a cost of $6,000. The first regular pastor of Zion was Rev. ZUMPE, who was called to the position September 13, 1840, who remained in charge for the period of ten years, then, after an interval of two years, again resumed pastoral charge, remaining with the society for the period of fourteen years, making a total of twenty-four years. He was succeeded on retirement in the summer of 1866 by Rev. JOERRIS, who continued with the church eighteen years, until 1884. When Rev. GECKELER became pastor for four years, from December 14, 1884, to August 27, 1888, succeeded by William GRETHER, who was in charge until 1894, who was followed by H. H. KATTMAN, for eleven and a half years, from January, 1895, to the summer of 1906, since which time the pastor has been C. H. RIEDESEL. Lightning struck and the church burned in 1936. The cornerstone was laid in 1938 for the present building.
Other Clay County Church Information:
A Christian church, named “Lodi,” perhaps, was for a time maintained on the James M. HALBERT place, in the north part of Dick Johnson Township, of which we have no details at command.
The same is true of two churches in Jackson Township—the pioneer Poplar Chapel of the U. B. denomination, and that of the Evangelical Association, in the neighborhood of the CARRITHERS place, near the east side of the township; and, probably, equally true of Washington Township. As a reminiscence, the writer (William TRAVIS) dates his first attendance at church service in Clay County back to the 24th day of June 1855, held in a pioneer log house east of Bowling Green, in the KINCAID neighborhood, north side of the road, on which occasion the services were conducted by Dillon BRIDGES, father of ex-County Clerk Dillon W. BRIDGES, and Samuel HOLLINGSWORTH. This may have been a church, a schoolhouse, or an abandoned residence building.
In the southeast part of Washington Township, in the McGREW, or MARTIN, neighborhood, probably on the HALTOM place, was also a primitive United Brethren church, as remembered, which may have given place to a new building and be still maintained.
In the early summer of 1859 a call was issued by George BENTZ, Benedict LEHMAN and Philip RINEHART for a meeting to be held the first Sunday in June, at the home of the first named, in Harrison Township, to organize a Lutheran church society.
Elisha ADAMSON organized a M. E. church society, at Middlebury, in the summer of 1859.
The Seventh Day Adventists have held tent meetings at Bowling Green, Cory, Clay City, and Middlebury. The LANE brothers preached at Bowling Green in the summer of 1873, and Rev. THOMPSON, at Clay City and Middlebury, in the months of July and August 1907. The meetings at Cory were held in the month of August 1882.
The Presbyterian church, on South Franklin Street, Brazil, was destroyed by fire on the 8th day of January, 1871; the Christian church, on North Washington, on the 5th day of February, 1905. Both were burned on Sunday.
The thirty-second annual meeting of the Lower Wabash Conference of the United Brethren church, for the year, 1889, was held at Clay City, beginning on the 25th day of September and continuing five days. On this occasion Miss Alva BUTTON was licensed to preach, the first woman upon whom this privilege was ever conferred by this church.
Rev. B. F. FOSTER, Rev. M. G. LEE, Rev. H. E. POPE, and Rev. J. C. PITRAT preached occasionally at Bowling Green.
Within the period of forty years past the following ministers of the Universalist faith have preached at Brazil: W. W. CURRY, B. F. FOSTER, D. R. BIDDLECOME, T. J. VATER, Thomas ABBOTT, W. Y. EMMET, Samuel BINUS, Daniel ROSE, Henry JEWELL, C. L. HASKELL, Miss Prudy LE CLERC. The Rev. Marion CROSLEY once held a series of meetings at Mount Olivet. The following have preached at Beech Grove, either occasionally or as regular pastors: F. T. LATHE, Charles F. BUSHNELL, H. C. BECKETT, Ira B. GRANDY, J. B. FOSHER, John K. DILLON, Dennis MORRISON, M. L. POPE, who had previously preached at Ashboro, delivered the funeral sermon of James Thornton MOSS in the month of August, 1896. Some of these had previously been teachers and ministers of the Partialist faith, which they renounced to espouse that of the Universalist.
In 1833 in Poland, Indiana, a group of persons formed a Methodist Class, and by 1851 it was a preaching point on the Bowling Green charge. In 1873 a church house was built and dedicated, and the congregation was active until it was dissolved in 1923. The building was sold in 1925 to the Zion Evangelical and Reform Women’s Society for a community building and later as a house of worship following the fire in the Zion Church in 1936. The building was demolished in the 1940’s to make room for a firehouse, which was erected in the 1950’s.
A Presbyterian congregation was organized in 1866, meeting in homes and later holding services in the Methodist Church. They built the present building in 1869 on grounds donated by Henry SCHULTZ. In 1893 a vestibule and belfry were added, and in 1894 a parsonage was constructed across the road. The final services were held in the church in 1929, and the building was turned over to the cemetery trustees for memorial services. In 1938 it became the Poland Chapel, and in 1966 the building was restored and dedicated as the Poland Historical Chapel as part of the Centennial year celebrations. Community Christmas and Easter Services are held there each year.
On the Clay-Sullivan County line, a mile and a half northwest of the present town of Coalmont was a United Brethren church, built about the time of the Civil war, which was nicknamed “Squat,” for which scarcely any other name was ever heard. For reasons, which do not now appear, the ranks of the congregation, which worshiped here became so depleted that this house fell into disuse and after the period of perhaps the third of a century was sold. It was built of first-class poplar lumber, most of which was used in the construction of the COCHRAN store building at Coalmont. The long benches, or seats, served the purpose of cornice and finishing lumber for several residence buildings of the town.
The above information about Clay County Churches was gleaned from two sources: The 1909 History of Clay County by Travis and a pamphlet entitled “The Church Then and Now of Central Clay County Church Community 1829-1969. For more information about these and other early churches, check these two sources at the Clay County Genealogy Library.