Churches of Madison County

(Friends, I recently came upon a history of our community written in 1915, and was fascinated in particular with the information provided about churches. I’m going to share it in its original format, spelling, etc. Gail Baker)


Supervising Editor

With Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens and Genealogical Records of Many of the Old Families

B. F. Bowen & Company, Inc.


There is no more potent factor in the life of any community than the church, and the influence of an active religious denomination is measured by the wholesome spirit which may be found in the community. More than a hundred years have elapsed since the first settlers of Madison county made their permanent homes here, and with- in that time many churches have arisen in the county. Many of them have long since closed their careers, but the good which they accomplished still remains. There are those who maintain that the people of today are not as religious as were the pioneers of the state, but things religious are not to be measured by human standards. The mere fact that there are fewer churches in Madison county today than there were fifty years ago does not argue that the people are any the less religious; neither does it imply that the life of the people is of a lower standard than it was in the “good old days.”

Churches may come and churches may go, but a better civilization is not gauged by the mere number of churches. Many factors have entered into the disappearance of the rural church, and not the least of these is the shifting of population from the country to the towns and villages. For this same reason there are hundreds and even thousands of public schools throughout Ohio which have been discontinued within the past twenty-five years. Many a neighborhood which had from fifty to seventy-five school children half a century ago cannot even support a school with the minimum number required by the law at the present time. This ever-increasing drift from rural to urban centers affects not only the church and school, but life along all lines.

Nor does it mean, in any sense of the word that the people are becoming less religious because of fewer churches, or more ignorant because of the abandonment of so many rural schools.

There can be no question that Madison county has passed through a marked religious change during the past three-quarters of a century, nor can it be denied that things might be better. Yet it must be admitted that the people of the county are living today much closer to the Ten Commandments than ever before. History reveals that the forefathers were not always as good as they have been pictured; could we of today see them in their daily life we should be surprised at some of the things they did. The great majority of them drank — and drank whisky ; they were very profane; they were prone to fight; they grafted in public affairs, just as has been done since; they had many shortcomings which we have not been accustomed to associate ith them. Yet, they were religious — though the preacher often worked his sermon out with the aid of a whisky flask. In those cold churches of the twenties and thirties the bottle was called upon to supply the heat denied by the fireplace or rude stove. It was the way people lived in those days; in their point of view a bottle of whisky was as essential to the farmer on harvest day as the bottle of machine-oil is today.

Under truly pioneer conditions did our forefathers live for many years, and to see them file to church on Sunday morning in the thirties, one would certainly think so. The historians of the Central West often find where the congregations were mostly barefooted. Some wore moccasins, some buckskin breeches and hunting shirts, with ’coon, fox or ’possum-skin caps on their heads. Many of the caps were ornamented with fox tails. According to the custom of the period, the men sat on the left side of the centre aisle and the women on the right. Husbands and wives and sweethearts went to and from church together, but sat apart during the services, lest their attention be distracted from the preacher’s sermon. Then the women used to sing treble, and one would hear a woman's voice away above that of the congregation. They thought it was fine, but, under it lie new way, the men sing the tenor. The hymns were “lined out,” as it was then called. Two lines would be given out by the minister or clerk, then sung by the congregation; then two more lines would be read and sung, and so on to the end of the psalm or hymn.


The forefathers in Madison county did not worship in beautiful churches, but gathered in their own homes, in school buildings, in groves when the weather permitted, and even in barns. They neither grumbled nor complained, but were joyful and happy in the position in which Providence had seen fit to place them. Their services were very irregular; they had no Sabbath schools and no musical instruments. Without any of the modern attractions which are now deemed a necessary part of the church, they worshipped in a quiet, simple and unostentatious manner. Often weeks must pass without a regular minister, and then some pioneer would conduct the services; if not iu an orthodox manner, yet with true Christian spirit, which, no doubt, found favor with the Giver of all good things. In these humble meetings — and often the little band did not number over a dozen — they thanked God for what He had vouchsafed them and asked Him to continue His blessings toward them. And who is there to say that they did not do all they could to advance the cause on earth of the Kingdom of Heaven?

As one writer puts it. what is wanted is “a religion that softens the step and tunes the voice to melody and fills the eye with sunshine and checks the impatient exclamation and harsh rebuke. A religion that is polite, deferential to superiors, courteous to inferiors, and considerate to friends; a religion that goes into the family and keeps the husband from being cross when the dinner is late and the wife from fretting when he tracks the floor with his muddy boots, and makes him mindful of the scraper and the door-mat; keeps the mother patient when the baby is cross and amuses the children as well as instructs them; cares for the servants, besides paying them promptly; projects the honeymoon into the harvest moon; makes a happy home like the Easter fig tree, bearing in its bosom at once the beauty of the ripened fruit; a religion that shall interpose between the ruts, gullies and rocks of the highway of life and the sensitive souls that are traveling over them.” And who shall say that the simple faith of its forefathers was not as potent in bringing all that about as the religion preached today.

The Methodists and Baptists were the first to establish churches in Madison county, and they were closely followed by a number of other denominations. The Presbyterians and Christians were early in the field and by the middle of the century more than fifty churches were scattered throughout the county. The Protestants had the field to themselves until about 1850, when the first Catholic church was organized, and since that year the Catholics have steadily grown in power and influence. But whether Protestants or Catholics, the influence of the church is always exerted in behalf of cleaner living and for a higher conception of the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God.


The Methodist Episcopal church of London was established shortly after the town was laid out. in either 1813 or 1814. The society worshipped in private residences, and belonged to a large circuit, which in 1819 had twenty-four preaching places. Its first church was erected on a lot at the corner of Walnut and Fifth streets, purchased from Patrick McLeue fpr eleven dollars. Its officials were William Erwin, Jonathan Minshall, John McDonald, William Warner, Sr., William G. Pritchard, Robert Warner, David Watson, James Greenley and Amos G. Thompson. This was a log meetinghouse with puncheon floors and seats of split rails and was the first church structure in London. For twenty years this humble building served the congregation. Then two lots were secured on the southwest corner of Second and Oak streets, where they built a new church about the year 1S40 — a frame structure some sixty feet square, with a gallery and two upstairs class rooms. A small brick parsonage stood on the west side of the church. The congregation worshipped there another twenty years, when this building was removed to make way for a brick building, forty feet wide, ninety feet long, with a tower seventy-two feet high. It faced Oak street and its site is now occupied by the corner residence. This church was begun in 1859 under the pastorate of Rev. Samuel Tippett, and was dedicated on February 25, 1860, by Bishop D. W. Clark, under the pastorate of Rev. Levi Hall and his colleague, Rev. A. M. Alexander. The former but recently passed away at his home in Minneapolis while a son of the latter is now a resident of London. This church cost seventy-five hundred dollars, of which one thousand six hundred was raised at the dedication.

In September following, London was made a half station, having as its only other appointment little Kingsley chapel, three miles west of town, which has since gone out of existence. It stood on the farm of Joseph Warner and was named for Bishop Kingsley.

In 1862-3 a new brick parsonage was built, which still stands as the residence of the late Dr. W. H. Christopher. It was begun by Rev. J. M. Jameson, and was first occupied by Rev. Levi Cunningham. In 1S66, Mrs. Eliza Chrisman donated seven thousand dollars for a chapel at the rear of the church, which was dedicated by Bishop Clark on Christmas day. This building is now a double residence structure facing Second street.

By 1868 this church had grown strong enough to entertain the conference, which was presided over by Bishop Kingsley. Rev. H. K. Foster was then pastor, serving three years. He was followed in 1869 by Rev. C. D. Battelle, who also remained three years, the full limit.

The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of this church was organized in 1871. Rev. I. F. King succeeded Mr. Battelle, staying one year, and then was made a presiding elder. Rev. T. H.- Monroe came next, remaining three years, during which time the great revival under the evangelists, Mr. and Mrs. Frame, occurred. In the fall of 1875, Rev. J. '1'. Miller became pastor, remaining three years. He was followed by Rev. J. C. Jackson, Sr., who came from Bigelow chapel, Portsmouth, and remained three years. The next pastor was Rev. J. W. Peters, who also came from Bigelow, Portsmouth, and remained three years. In 18S1 this church again entertained the conference, under Bishop Andrews. Rev. T. R. Taylor as the next pastor for three years. Rev. J. W. Dillon followed him, staying four years, as the pastoral term had then been lengthened to five years. In the fall of 1S90, Rev. W. L. Slutz became pastor, coming from Bigelow, Portsmouth, and staying five years, during which time the old church and parsonage were sold, and the present edifice erected, costing about forty-five thousand dollars. It was dedicated on' November 18, 1894. by Bisbop Joyce.

A house which stood on the lot of the present church was removed to a lot donated by Mr. Jereia Sweatland, on Elm street, and remodeled for a parsonage, June 17, 1894. Mrs. Slutz died in this parsonage, and on September 21, following. Rev. Mr. Slutz’s two daughters and his sister-in-law were killed by a passenger train. He was followed by Rev. B. I,. McElroy, from Bigelow, Portsmouth, where he had succeeded Rev. Mr. Slutz. The next autumn. 1896, this church again entertained the conference. Remaining but one year, Rev. Mr. McElroy transferred to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and was followed by Rev. A. H. Norcross, who stayed three years. Rev. Franklin McElfresh became his successor, also remaining three years. Rev. IVY. Murdoch next came as pastor, but after six months was claimed by death. Rev. ,T. II. Gardner filled out the unexpired year, as a supply, and Rev. T. G. Dickinson was appointed pastor in the fall of 1903, remaining four years. He was succeeded by Rev. F. M. Evans, who remained two years, and was followed by Rev. John C. Jackson, coming from Bigelow, Portsmouth, who served five years and was followed by Rev. C. B. Pyle, the present pastor. Under the pastorate of Rev. John C. Jackson, the church was renovated at a cost of over ten thousand dollars. Its present membership is about six hundred and fifty, with a Sunday school of seven hundred and forty-six, in which is a men’s Bible class that has averaged over one hundred and ten for the past year, with a member-' ship of over three hundred, and also a woman’s Bible class with an enrollment of about one hundred.

It is impossible to give the present membership by name in this brief sketch.
Among those who were prominent in early years, and many of whose families are still represented here are the Warners, the Watsons, the Farrars, the Minshalls, the Gosslees. the Dungans, Dunkin (David), the Boyds, the Joneses, the Morgans, the Chenoweths, the Clirismaiis, the Clarks, the Slagles, the Adairs, the Lotspeiches, the Lohrs and the Phifers. The officiary today is as follow: Trustees, J. B. Van Wagener, R. W. Boyd, J. A. Long, Miss Minnie Cheseldine, F. C. Bostwick, J. P. Skinner, William Cryder ; stewards, C. W. Farrar, G. F. Dodds, W. T. Booth, O. E. Duff, H. H. Johnstin, H. Hathaway, L. C. Houston. T. H. Orcutt, W. E. Lukens, J. J. Yeariau, S. L. Turner, E. P. Fisher, J. W. Hume, J. H. Asher, M. L. Bryan, S. S. Van Cleave; Sunday school superintendent, Chauneey T. Jones; president Ladies' Aid Society, Mrs. C. E. Gain; president Ep-worth League, Glenna West.