JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP CHURCH HISTORY
Bethsaida Christian Church
The Bethsaida congregation is an offshoot from the Bethel Church and was organized as early as the year 1840. According to the best information obtainable, a few members who belonged to Bethel met at the dwellings of William Boyles and William Winters to worship and to attend to the ordinances of the Lord's house, Obadiah Winters acting as Elder; this was perhaps as early as the year 1832. About eight years later, they united in their efforts in the construction of a hewed log building, 22x26 feet in size, which was used as a place of worship for twenty seven or twenty eight years. At the building of the house, the organization was more permanently effected and Thomas Winters was chosen as Elder. During the early history of the church, the brethren were visited by Elders Abraham Kern and Elijah Reagan, who preached at intervals for a number of years.
The members who went into the original organization were nearly all dead or moved away by the middle 1880's. The following is a list of the charter members as given by one who became identified with the church about the time the house was erected: Obadiah Winters, Hannah Winters, Thomas Winters, Elizabeth Winters, William Boyles, Hannah Boyles, William Winters, Elijah Reagan, Sarah Reagan, Robert Middleton, Anna Middleton, Abijah Hubbell, Mrs. Hubbell, Aaron Hubbell, Rebecca Hubbell, Joshua Duncan, Charlotte Duncan, Jesse Reagan, Phoebe Reagan, Oliver Hubbell, Delila Hubbell, Charles Middleton and Mary Middleton.
Obadiah and Thomas Winters served as Elders until their death which occurred in the years 1875 and 1876 respectively. The 1884 eldership was three in number: Andrew J. Tipton, ordained in 1868; David H. Reagan, ordained in 1870 and Jonas M. Fulke, ordained in 1877. A new frame house of worship was erected in the year 1868. It stands in the western part of the township on the farm originally owned by Caira Boyles and represents a capital of about $1400.
The first house stood on the same land also, but its cost was not learned. The church was in good condition in the year 1884 and the membership numbered 106, about two thirds of whom are females. The congregation meets regular on the first day of the week for social services. The majority of the preachers mentioned in the history of Bethel Church have preached for this society. Sunday school is maintained through the greater part of the year, with an average attendance of about forty scholars.
Pleasant Bethel Protestant Methodist Church
In the year 1846, Rev. William Evans commenced holding meetings among the settlements in the southeastern part of the township and some time during that year organized a society of the Protestant Methodist Church, which took upon itself the name of Pleasant Bethel. The organization was effected at what was known as the Dickson Schoolhouse, and at the first meeting thirteen persons were enrolled as members, among whom were: James Gardner and wife, William F. Williams and wife, Robert McConnell and wife, Amos Dickson and wife, __ Whitman and wife, Mrs Dickson and Fenton Dean and wife. From 1846 to 1849, the congregation met for worship in the schoolhouse, and during that period many converts were added to the church, and it early became an energetic and aggressive organization. In 1849, a house of worship constructed of split logs was built on land of James Gardner. It was a comfortable structure, 36x40 feet in size and was in use until 1875, at which time it was fired by an incendiary and completely destroyed. Four years later, a new temple of worship more in keeping with the growing congregation was erected at a cost of $1500. It is a frame building, well finished and furnished and contains the neatest and most commodious audience room in the township. At the organization, the society was attached to the Greenbriar Circuit, at that time under the ministerial charge of Rev Barnett, who preached for the congregation one year; the next pastor was Rev. Peter Clinger after whom came the following ministers in the order named: Revs. Stevens, Smith, Brinton, Dean, Collins, Taylor, Carmeans, Perry, Duckworth, Baker, James, Hughes, Moles, Fisher, Flood, Stockinger, Lineberry, Clark and Robinson. The minister in 1884 was Rev. Callahan. The society is one of the most prominent in the Worthington Circuit and had a membership of 154 in the middle 1880's. The church officials then were: Solomon Williams, Conference Steward; Frank Fulke, Recording Steward; William Heaton, Frank Dyar, Elmer Norris, Amos Heaton, and Walter Williams, Stewards; Hiram Jean, Leonard Weatherwax and Thomas Dyar, Trustees; William G. Dean and Louisa Heaton, Class Leaders.
The church supported a flourishing Sunday school which boasted an average attendance of 100 scholars.
Jefferson Baptist Church
On the 23rd day of July, 1848, a Baptist Church was organized at the Grim Schoolhouse in the western part of the township, with five original members who names were as follows: William Pugh, Margaret Pugh, Jacob White, Mary Moody, and Eliza Moody. The organization was brought about by the labors of Rev. B.D.C. Herring, who conducted a series of meetings during the progress of which several persons additional to those named connected themselves with the congregation, which took upon itself the name of Jefferson Baptist Church.
Among the early members were: Henry Grim, Sylvanus Haviland, Mary Haviland, Stephen Haviland, John Livingston, Allen Price, Jane Grim, William Haviland, David Moody, Elender Swift, Abigail Haviland, Elizabeth Arthur, Mary Brush, Wells Ward, Patience Ward, Jeremiah Spurlin, Edward Morris, Susan Morris, Hannah Toliver, Rebecca Gilbert, Susan Mitchell, Malinda Ward, Mary Crous, Nicholas Scott, Nancy Williams, Sarah Toliver, Susan Toliver, John Crous, Malinda Bolick, Sarah Ward, William Williams, Mary Morris, Sarah Morris, Anna Williams, Cynthia Ward, Phebe J. Moody, Alma Moody, Catherine Grim, Jeremiah White, Sarah White, Zachariah Catton, Rhoda Rinehart, John Harstine, Margaret Harstine, Susan Nicholson, Frederick Everhart and Matilda Everhart.
The Grim Schoolhouse was used by the society as a meeting place until the year 1860, at which time an eligible building site a short distance north of Coal City was donated by Henry Grim and a substantial frame edifice erected thereon, at an outlay of about $1000. This building has been repaired at different times since, and at the present time is a very comfortable meeting place capable of seating 275 or 300 persons.
The following pastors have had charge of the church: Revs. B.D.C. Herring, Wilson Trent, A.B. Robinson, W.L. Bicknell, Jacob Cornelius, Ambrose Hanna, J.M. Turner, and R. Moon, the last named pastor was in charge as late as 1884.
During the 1884 term there are on the records the names of sixty members in good standing, a number considerably smaller then formerly, owing chiefly to death and removals. The last officers elected were: G.W. Buckalew and Jonas Neihart, Trustees; G.W. Buckalew and J.L. Fetro, Deacons. S.G. Fetro is Superintendent of the Sunday school which has an average attendance of about seventy scholars.
Oak Grove Methodist Episcopal Church
This is an old organization which meets for worship in a house situated on the line dividing Owen and Greene Counties, a part of the building being in each county. Their first house of worship was a log structure erected many years ago and used until the present edifice was built. No facts concerning this society were learned, save that it has continuously maintained services and is one of the prominent religious organizations of the country.
The Coal City Methodist Episcopal Church
This church was organized in 1880 with a small membership. Two years later, a good frame house of worship was built in the southeast part of the village, and cost the sum of $800. The organization is in a very weak condition at present time, numbering only about ten to twelve members. It is a point on the Lancaster Circuit and is ministered by Rev. Mr. Wilson.
The Church of God
This was called Salem and was situated in the southwestern portion of the township, it was organized by Rev. Samuel Miller about the year 1872 at the residence of Conrad Bricker. The original membership consisted of about fifteen persons. Services were held at private residences for a few months and later at the Old Bethsaida meeting house, which the society purchased and repaired. The house moved about one half mile east of the place where it originally stood and served as a meeting place as long as the organization had an existence. Samuel Miller preached about four years and was succeeded by Alexander Miller, the length of whose pastorate was not learned. The last minister was Rev. Elias Love, with whose pastorate terminated the existence of the organization.
The Seventh Day Adventists
They have a society at Coal City which meets for worship in the Methodist Church. It was organized in the year 1882 by Rev. Mr. Lane with nine or ten members, a number which has not visibly increased since then. The preacher since the organization has been the Rev. Mr. Overholser.
Methodist Episcopal Church
In about the year 1858, a class of the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized at the village of Stockton, and maintained until 1876, at which time the organization was abandoned. The society had a good membership for a number of years and met in a warehouse which was purchased and remodeled for a place of worship.
In addition to the organizations mentioned, the United Brethren have a society at Daggett's Station, which meets for worship in a beautiful little temple erected in the year 1883. The church is still in its infancy but promises to become an aggressive society. The pastor in charge is Rev. L. Brandenburg.