Montgomery Township Church History
Bethany Presbyterian Church
The Bethany Presbyterian Church is the oldest religious organization in the township and one of the oldest in the county. From records of the organization, the following sketch can be compiled.
On the 20th day of March 1820, Rev. Issac Reed met several people living near the central part of the township at the residence of Ninian Steele, and organized a society which took upon itself the name Bethany Presbyterian Church. The names of those who went into the original organization are given as follows: Ninian Steele, Jane Steele, John Mitchell, Mary Ann Mitchell, John Hudson, John Martin and William Hudson. Rev. Issac Reed was chosen pastor and the little society thus planted in the wilderness was placed under the charge of the Louisville Presbytery.
From the organization until the year 1823 the society increased to twenty five members, and increased to 40 by 1824. Among the early members can be named the following: Samuel Alexander, Hester Evans, Samuel N. Evans, Margaret Ball, John Holme, Ann Young, Martha Doughty, Martha M. Young and Rebecca Mitchell. Later were added John M. Young, John Craddock, Sally Craddock, George Couchman, John Johnston, Mary Killough, Nancy Killough, Margaret Killough, Sarah Hudson, Susan Evans, Thomas Hudson, Margaret Hudson, John Lockridge, Margery Lockridge, Samuel Fain, William Willoughby, Hannah Willoughby, Margaret Fain and Martha M. Wright.
In the year 1825, the membership remained at forty. Three years later there was a slight falling off and the membership only reported to be twenty eight. In 1833, the records shows the names of forty five persons belonging and one year later fifty two names were reported. At one time the organization became very strong, but owing to deaths and removals, the membership has constantly decreased until in the mid 1880's there were only about forty communicants.
The second pastor was Rev. Jeremiah Hill, after whom came Ransom Hawley, James Shields, Theophilus Lowry, Rev. Cole and T.S. Milligan. The last named man served as pastor for twenty five consecutive years. He was a pious Man of God and did much for the cause of Christianity in this part of the country. He died in the year 1876. The next pastor was Rev James Omelvena, then came Rev. J.K. Sammis, who was succeeded by the Rev. Stinson.
For several years after the organization, meetings were held at the residence of Mr. Steele and in groves when the weather would permit. A house of worship was afterward erected on land owned by Thomas Surber. It was a large hewed log structure capable of seating 250 persons and furnished with a capacious fireplace, which occupied the greater part of one end of the building. The house stood upon the spot where it was erected about four years, at the end of which time it was torn down and moved about two miles further west and rebuilt on the land of Ninian Steele where it remained. It served as a meeting place until the year 1873 at which time a neat frame building was erected on the land of James M. Hill, at the cost of $1500. The church officials in 1884 were: James M. Hill and Albert B. Milligan, Elders. The latter is also a Superintendent of the Sunday school which has an average attendance of about forty scholars.
Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church
This church is an old organization which dates its origin from about the year 1827 or 1828. The earliest meetings were held at the swellings of James Steele and Jonathan Payne, both of whom were prominent members and did much toward establishing the church upon the permanent basis which it has sustained. As the early records of the church were not accessible few facts concerning the organization were available.
Among the early members were James Steele and wife, Isaac Barnes and wife, Jonathan Payne and wife, Benjamin Freeman and wife, with the children of their respective families. Rev. Eli Farmer was one of the first preachers. John Strange and Daniel Anderson preached at an early day also and later came Dr. Tolbert and Rev. Smith ministered to the little society when it consisted of but a few scattering members. The celebrated Lorenzo Dow paid several visits to the church during the early days of its history and conducted revival meetings which were occasions of great interest throughout the entire county.
The house in which the congregation worshiped in the mid 1880's was erected in the year 1869 on land donated by Harvey Steele. It is a substantial frame edifice and cost about $1,100. The church has always been aggressive and was in good condition in the late 1880's, with communicants containing many of the leading citizens of the country.
In the year 1843, the Christians or Disciples organized a society near the village of Santa Fe, and erected a house of worship some time later which stood where the Methodist building stood in 1884. Elder Perry Blankenship was the chief mover in the organization and preached for the society at intervals for several years. The organization was abandoned some time prior to 1860 and the house sold to the Protestant Methodist who maintained a society for about fifteen years at the end of which time their organization was also abandoned. The house was finally purchased by a farmer and removed from the village.
Mill Creek Missionary Baptist Church of Santa Fe
This church was organized prior to 1850 by Elders James Beaman and John Mugg. Two years after the organization, the house of worship, which was standing in 1884, was erected at the cost of about $700. Elder Beaman was the first pastor, in which capacity he served a number of years. He was succeeded by Elder Wilson Trent, after whom came several others whose names were not learned. The last pastor was Rev. Jesse Buchanan, since whose administration there has been no regular preaching. The membership in the mid 1880's was fifty.
Santa Fe Methodist Episcopal Church
This church dates its history from about the year 1861, since which time it has been one of the leading organizations of the township. The first house of worship was a small frame building and stood in the south part of the village. It was used until the year 1877, at which time, a neat frame edifice was built which served until 1884. This latter building stood in the eastern part of the village and represented a value of about $1,100.