The Alexandria Baptist Church, very fittingly celebrated and observed its 100th anniversary Saturday and Sunday. It was a happy and long to be remembered event for all who attended the exercises. The program was as follows:
Saturday, April 23rd 8 P. M. Devotional by Rev. F. C. Kreager, former pastor. Solo Ruth Eloise Sanford Address, "The Victorious Church" by Rev. D. F. Rittenhouse D. D., of Columbus. Song, "The Golden Choir" by the Young People's Choir. Fraternal Greetings Rev. J. S. Ricketts, Pastor M. E. Church. Benediction by Pastor.
Sunday, April 24th, 10:30 A. M. Devotional by Pastor. Violin Solo Russell Tower of Newark. Address, "Boyhood Recollections, by Osman C. Hooper, Columbus. Solo, "Open the Gates" Mrs. T. Jennie Tower of Newark. Sermon, "The Worth of Life" by Rev. A. A. Nellis, Supt. of Ohio Baptist Convention. Dinner, High School Building.
1:30 P. M. Song Service. "Church History" by Deacon Walter A. Castle. Reminiscent Period led by Deacon Reuben Tyler, assisted by Dr. Laycock and others. Solo Mrs. Endora Blackburn Address Dr. Bunyan Spencer, former pastor, now acting president of Denison University. Address, "What Next?" Rev. R. W. Edmondson, present pastor. Closing Hymn, "Faith of Our Fathers." Benediction Rev. Ricketts
The address of Dr. Rittenhouse and the dinner were two star events but the entire program was highly entertaining and enjoyable. The Church History by Walter Castle is worthy of preservation. It is here printed:
On the fly leaf of a yellowed old book, you will find these words: "The Records of the Baptist Church of Christ in St. Albans, constituted on the 14th day of April 1824." This church was organized in Jonathan Atwood's barn on the farm now owned by Lee Williams, (the older ones will remember it better as the Wm. Green farm), one half mile east of Alexandria. It was afterwards known as the Granville and St. Albans
Baptist Church, being composed of members from both townships. The meetings were held sometimes in Granville, sometimes at the cabin home of one of the members in St. Albans. But on account of the inconvenience of attending church in Granville, the members from St. Albans, eleven in all, asked for and received letters of dismission in order to form a separate church in St. Albans. The eleven members were: Levi Nichols, Thomas Spellman, Joseph Barnes, Sanford Castle, Rhode Burnet, Betsy Nichols, Polly Plielps, Maria Barnes, Polly Drake, Mary Atwood, Bethia Castle. A council met April 24, 1827 in Helen Rose's barn near the brick school house which stood at Scott's Corners one mile south of Alexandria, and these eleven with three others, viz., David Adams, Elias and Phebe Willison, who brought letters from the Monroe Church, became the constituent members of the St. Albans Baptist Church. The council contained such men as Elder Drake, Elder Sedgwick, Elder Hanover and Elder Wildman, besides a number of prominent laymen from Granville, Harlem, Berkshire and Monroe. Immediately after the constitution of the new church, a church meeting was held and four members were received for baptism, and on the following morning, Sunday, four more were received, all of whom were baptised after a sermon by Elder Sedgwick. In the afternoon another sermon was preached by Elder Drake, after which he gave the right hand of fellowship to the new members.
You must remember that up to April 24, 1827, there had been only one church known as the Granville and St. Albans Baptist Church of Christ; now two separate churches are organized so it was necessary to make a fair distribution of the property held since 1819 by the ons church. In the old minute book you will find this entry, which gives a complete list of all the property owned by the church up to this time. This is the entry:
"Voted that the church property be divided as follows, viz.: Granville to have Benedicts History, two volumes; the Church Book of Record and two cups; St. Albans the tankard and two cups."
The first pastor of the little church in St. Albans was Elder Daniel Wildman. Elder Wildman was a native of Connecticut. He was one of those versatile persons who combined the useful avocations of preacher, veterinary surgeon and horse trader of the David Harum type. In the Stewards Record of Denison University, (the college then conducted a farm) under date of April 18, 1835, you will find this entry: "Exchanged horses with Daniel Wildman and paid him $10.00 difference," followed a little later by the curt item: "Pd. D. Wildman for attending lame horse,
50c." Among the men who acted as shepherds for the little flock may be mentioned, Wildman, Drake, Darrow, Owens, and the two Goings, Dr. Jonathan Going and his brother, Ezra Going. For some years the meetings were held alternately at the log school house which stood near where the residence of Horace Parsons now stands, and at the brick schoolhouse on the Worthington road, one mile south of Alexandria.
The schoolhouse soon became too small to accommodate the audience and the church resolved to build a larger house, on, or near the town plot of Alexandria. Encouraged by Professor Drury of Granville College who had now become pastor, a larger, more central, but flimsy building was erected in 1834 near where the present brick building now stands. This house was enclosed, and seated with slabs from the saw-mill, holes being bored and legs inserted to support them. It was never plastered and had no way of warming.
Here let me introduce to you old mother Atwood. She comes down the isle with a muff in one hand and in the other a small box covered with perforated tin. What can she have in the little box? Surely not her Bible and hymn book. I will tell you. The small box is called a foot stove and is filled with live coals from the fireplace. By putting her hands in the muff and placing her feet on the stove, she manages to keep comfortable while the rest shivered with the cold. Mother Atwood kept what was called a Baptist Ministers' hotel, at which the tired minister was always sure of a hearty welcome and a food night's rest.
The first meeting house soon needed repairs. In fact it was such a flimsy building that the church members were afraid to worship in it for fear a sudden gust of wind would overthrow it and crush them. On circulating a subscription paper to raise money for the repair of the building, less than one hundred dollars was obtained. Asa Gurney and Oren Bryant then took the matter in hind and in two days secured pledges for fourteen hundred dollars for building a new church building. Thus it became evident that a new and much better structure could be built, rather than repair the old one. The first building built in 1834 was ordered sold in 1838 and the proceeds invested in free seats for the new building. The first structure was abandoned after a life of four years and died a natural death as a part of Mr. Buxton's barn on the farm directly across the street from the present church building.
On the 25th of March 1839, a contract for building the new house, (the melancholy ruins behind the present brick church are the remains of the house of which we are now speaking,) was made with Suel Wilson and
Silas Burnett, the consideration being six hundred dollars; one hundred dollars down, one hundred when the house was enclosed, two hundred in September and two hundred January first, 1840. They were not able however to complete the building all at once; the basement was plastered and seated and became the home of the church, for four years. The church after many attempts, usually resulting in failure, finally completed the building in 1845, where the Association met at Alexandria. The church bell was secured, I presume at that time. There is no record of any formal dedication though people who lived twenty years ago had a distinct recollection of the occurrence, differing only as to who preached the sermon.
I have heard my father relate that a sad accident happened at the raising of the church building. Two young men, Mr. Tyler and Mr. Winegarner, (Mr. Tyler was the uncle of our Mr. Rueben Tyler,) were crushed by a falling beam. Though in neither case did the accident prove fatal, yet their cries of agony resounded in his ears for many years, especially where a church raising was talked of. As the second building was to be so much larger and heavier his boyish fears (he was then a lad of ten), had accordingly magnified the number of accidents that would happen, and counted up the probable number of deaths. As the day of the raising approached, his fears became more intense, and finally culminated in the refusal of the pet fowl, the lord of the barnyard to waken them at four o'clock on the morning of the raising, as usual. This was considered by the children a dire omen of evil, portending calamity at the raising. Grandmother when appealed to for an explanation with, a smiling countenance, bade them hurry up and finish the chores, lest they be late at the raising. At the appointed hour they were all at the church, the men to raise the frame, the women to prepare the dinner, the boys to run errands and the girls to look on at a safe distance. The work progressed famously during the forenoon; every brace exactly fitted its intended position, none too long, none too short. Every tenon fitted its mortise. Twelve o'clock came and they adjourned for dinner, then the mystery of the morning, the failure of the rooster to crow, was fully explained, for from the basement of a neighboring house that was used as a kitchen, came up chicken roasted, chicken fried, chicken boiled, chicken in all the forms which only woman can invent! The mothers to spare the children's tender feelings, (God bless the mother how silently they steal away our anxious fears and bid our little griefs in their own sorrows), the mother had quietly slaughtered the pet rooster and cooked him for the raising. By
the time dinner was over father's faith in evil omens, along with his appetite, had completely vanished and he bade the pet rooster farewell in these words:
"Farewell my noble Chanticleer, Tho now perchance we miss thee here We know that in the time to come An honored sire's most noble son With lordly step shall grace the lawn And herald forth the coming dawn."
At six o'clock the last timber was in position in the belfry and a shout of joy went up from every heart to God for his protecting care through the day.
I think few persons of this generation have any just conception of the amount of personal sacrifice endured and hard labor performed in building so good a house at such a time. Like the ancient horse shoe which had to be wrougbt out at the anvil by the hammer of the blacksmith, so the church house must be fashioned from the green trees of the forest by the use of the axe, the saw and the plane, without the aid of modern machinery or a supply of ready made material. They had little money to contribute, so subscription must be paid in hard labor, each one doing what he could do best.
Enos and Levi Nichols laid the foundation walls; Asa and John Gurney furnished the black walnut for the siding, shingles and inside work; Freeman Curtis made the sash and doors; Orrin Bryant and John Gurney did the plastering; Augustus Castle and Charles Stewart furnished the timber for the frame. But it is useless to mention names; each one did all he could and every one did something. Home demands were pressing and the subject the most frequently discussed was, how to furnish food and clothes for the numerous households and at the same time build a church house and support the needy minister. The few dollars that made their way into the family treasury were sacredly kept to pay the pastor's salary or purchase scanty supplies for the new church.
Those were busy days; the hum of the spindle and the noise of the shuttle were heard in every log cabin, and skillful hands were busy fashioning the woven texture into roomy and comfortable garments for the numerous families. In the forest, too, the woodman's ax and the consuming flame must precede the advent of the plow, 'ere the soil could give promise of an abundant harvest and a plentiful supply of food. That was an age of true heroes and many were the victories they achieved.
They slew the monarchs of the forest and fashioned them into a temple of the living God. They conquered the enemies of the cross and brought them into the fold of Christ.
They subdued the stubborn soil and
brot [sic] joy and plenty to the land. Their feet have left no bloody stains, Their hands no cruel gaping wounds; True heroes of the Prince of Peace, With wreathes of fragrant laurel crowned.
Among the many devoted Christians of that age, is to be remembered that patriarch, Grandfather Levi Nichols. His close walk with God and purity of life made very impressive those words of Christ: "the pure in heart shall see God." When one listened to his low, modest but earnest voice in prayer, one could but think he was in the very presence of God and talking to Him face to face. How very different from those noisy declamations to which we are sometimes compelled to listen, ostensibly directed to the throne, but really intended for the ears of the audience, in which God is told what He is, or ought to be, and incidentally given some bits of advice about the management of the affairs of this world.
That noble band of workers has long since gone to rest, but their memory still lingers in the hearts of those who knew of their heroic deeds.
They are sleeping, all are sleeping, In that city of the dead; And the angel bands are keeping Vigils 'round about their bed. Naught shall wake their silent slumber, Or disturb their hallowed rest, 'Till by angel bands they're summoned, To the mansions of the blest.
The old church book is a veritable curiosity shop and records many curios and amusing things. Many of the entries sound as familiar as if they were taken from the last church meeting:
For example, March 30, 1840, "The church and society met agreeable to previous notice given by posting up three written notifications, at three different public places in the township." At this meeting voted that "Maholm Holden and Esq. Smith be a committee to raise one hundred dollars to pay debts."
The report of Asa Gurney, the treasurer, as presented to the church at a meeting on April 20, 1841, is surely a model of briefness and conciseness. I give it verbatim:
"Debts due the society $296
Debts which the society owe $414"
The treasurer's report was accepted without discussion. In view of the fact that they were handsomely in debt, I suppose they felt nothing more need be said. The money raised by the church seems to have been put into the hands of a Mr. Dibble, probably a store keeper, certainly not a member of the church, and the church account often showed the return of small amounts to the church treasurer on account of its being
counterfeit. In one account in 1840 showing payments for labor on the new church, it recorded that "Mr. Dibble returned $5.00 on Morris Canal Banking Co. - counterfeit. Mr. Trevitt returned $5.00 counterfeit on the same bank. Mr. Eastman returned $4.00 and W. M. Munsell returned $8.00 counterfeit, all on the Morris Canal Banking Co.
In 1840 a bill was passed through the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, formally incorporating the "First Baptist Church of St. Albans in the county of Licking." March 30 1841, the society met and had their first meeting after their formal incorporation. Rev. Ezra Going was pastor and the following members are listed as being present:
"Asa Gurney, Esq. Smith, Augustus Castle, Mrs. Cook, Mrs. Davis. Mrs. Moss, Samuel Schuyler, Thomas Spellman, George Spellman, - Hildreth, David Tharp, Enos Nichols, Levi Nichols, Chas. Stewart, Levi Nichols, Jr., Truman Curtis, James Stewart, Maholm Holden, John Gurney, Orren Bryant, John A. Holden, and S. T. Burnett. (Where were the sisters, I wonder?) At this meeting a code of by laws was adopted, officers elected, their duties and the limits of their powers defined. Of the code of by laws this was the first: "Resolved: That all persons who shall contribute annually for the support of preaching shall be admitted as members by vote of the society and be entitled to all its privileges." I wonder if that has ever been amended or repealed?
The church seems to have had a general supervision of the private affairs of all its members. It was always in a church squabble. Brother A__ had stepped on the corner of Bro. B__'s feelings. They had been somewhat lacerated by the contact and a committee must be appointed to patch them up. Bro. C__ had stayed at home from church meetings on several occasions to help his wife wash, and must be called to an account. Bro. D__ and wife had been absent from church for several Sabbaths attending a sick baby and must be summoned before the church to explain their conduct. My father remembered a famous church trial quarrel between husband and wife in which the principal accusation of the husband was, that his wife wanted him to put on a clean shirt every morning. He remembered too, that noted evangelist, Rev. J. L. Moore, the man without a nose. Tradition says that the Lord called him to preach the gospel but being proud and handsome he refused until he fell into the fire and burned off his nose and the fingers of his left hand, after which he did valiant service for his Master. A wax nose replaced the original one.
I cannot leave this period of our history without repeating the story of the old bell. A subscription of
seventy-five dollars had been secured for purchasing a church bell. With this money in his pocket and a box of lunch in his hand, John Gurney started on foot for Cincinnati, to purchase a bell. He soon fell in with a mover's wagon bound for Iowa and putting his lunch on the wagon John followed on foot. He stayed the first night with Elder Eldredge at Columbus; the second with Elder Gorman at West Jefferson; and staying each successive night with good Baptist families, or at hospitable farm houses. Arriving at Cincinnati, he enjoyed the hospitality of an old pastor, Prof. Drury, during a two weeks' stay, during which he became posted as to the proper composition of bell metal. A contract was made for a bell, but when it was cast, John's critical ear detected the dull thud of lead instead of the clear and merry ring of silver. It did not suit Mr. Gurney. It was broken up and again cast into the furnace with a part on it Indian tin, a composition metal containing more silver, and lo! there came out a bell, clear and musical in tone just suited to the wants of the little church at Alexandria. John again filled his lunch box, and made his way home in a way similar to that adopted in going to Cincinnati. In due time the bell arrived, hauled on the very same wagon which carried John's lunch box down. The cost of the bell was $355.00. The weight of the bell complete with its hangings, was 1200 pounds.
Long live the memory of Johnney and the old pioneers, and of the must leave its breezy abode in the belfry of the old church. I am glad it has a more comfortable home in the new. Long may its pure clear, musical tones speak to us of John Gurney and the old pioneers and of the Christ they loved so well.
To one who holds in childish memory a picture of the old church in its prime, tenanted with faces long since gone "to that mysterious bourne from which no traveler e'er returns," there cannot but come a feeling of regret that it has been abandoned. Yet one can see no incongruity in making it, once a temple of the living God, into a comfortable shelter for humble beasts, when we remember it was, in turn, a building made for humble beasts, whose walls first echoed to the cries of our infant Lord. Those walls of wood and stone have witnessed the march of heroic and historic characters, Wildman, Drake, Darrow, Owens, Pratt, the two Goings, Ezra and his most illustrious brother, Jonathan and many others. The list of those wbo served in the old building closes I believe with Dr. Spencer. Within those walls Salmon P. Chase, later Chief Justice of the U. S., once lectured. Once a summer school was conducted in the basement by B. F. Harmon, who afterward became a
Baptist minister. One of his pupils afterwards became a noted lawyer and judge. Another was an honored and useful professor in a western college for forty years; and the teacher's little boy, Judson Harmon, became Attorney-General of the U. S. and later Governor of Ohio.
History from whatever point you may view it divides itself into three grand divisions: ancient, middle and modern. I have tried to make interesting to you the ancient history of the church. The middle, is represented by two wonderful revivals and by two men. The first of these revivals occured in 1867 while Elder Simeon Siegfried was pastor. In his own handwriting he records that, "In January and February labored in union meetings with the two other churches." (The meetings lasted for seven weeks and were held week about in each of the three churches of the village.)" Twenty-one were added among them the three sons of the pastor were led down into the water in the presence of an aged grand-father, himself a minister for more than forty years." The second great religious awakening came in 1886 under the leadership of Evangelist A. L. Jordan. This was a marvelous period of growth for the church. Those who were added to the church were just coming into their full powers of manhood and womenhood. You will remember the names: E. T. Rugg, C. D. Buxton, R. F. Tyler, Phoeba Tyler, Geo. M. Van Ness, H. J. Carter, Carrie Carpenter, Lida Stimson, May Lewis Wilcox, Mrs. P. P. Gurney, May Thomas Smoots, Henry Hubbard, Elnathan Carpenter, Austin Stimson, Kate Reese and John Reese.
The two men of whom I think, were Daniel Lewis who joined the church by baptism in 1864, and Edward Jones who was received by letter in 1866. Mr. Lewis and Mr. Jones were ordained as deacons in 1867 and served at the Lord's table from that time 'till their death. Both were men of deep spiritual experience and sincere religious lives. They never failed in their leadership of the church. Both were mentally alert, and took an active and intelligent part in their community and times. Long may their memory remain with us as a blessing to those who remain.
The modern period of church history dates from the building in which we are today. In the early fall of 1897, the church under the leadership of Bunyan Spencer, decided to erect a new building. R. F. Tyler, C. B. Buxton, J. T. Reese and L. C. Laycock were appointed to solicit subscriptions, the terms of which were that the total subscribed by June 1, 1898 must equal $6000.00 or the subscriptions were void. So successful were they however that by June 1st, the sum subscribed equaled $6104.00. Brothers Spencer,
Van Ness and Mears, were appointed a committee to secure plans; Foster M. Jones, G. M. Van Ness and L. C. Laycock a building committee. In August 1898, the first ground was broken for the basement. During the fall of 1898 the foundation was laid. The brick work, begun in April was completed in July 1899. The carpenter work was completed in November, 1899, fourteen months after the first ground was broken. By shrewd purchasing of materials, by discounting all bills, and by the use of lajge amounts of donated labor, the total cost was kept down to $6700.00. At the time of the completion of the building, a debt of $600.00 was reported. By January 1, 1900, the date of the dedication of the building, this debt had been cut down to $130.00. At the time of the dedication, a subscription was taken, which in a few minutes amounted to $250.00. So the church was dedicated free of debt!
Times were far different at the time of the building of the present structure, than they were at the time of the building of the frame structure it replaced. People had more substance, and there were stocks of ready prepared material upon which to draw. Yet no one would say for an instant that the money contributed was given in a less sacrificial spirit, than was that given for the first two buildings. So, too, the time and effort given by those yet living and by those who have gone, was just as truly their hearts offering to God, as was that of pastors and forefathers sixty years ago.
A hundred years! Who can measure with their mind's eye the events of a hundred years? What marvelous events has this church of ours witnessed in its hundred years of life! Its span of life reaches from the time when man's most rapid this time when wonderful inventions mode of transport was a horse, to carry us over land and sea, and man flies on the wings of the wind itself. It reaches from the time when man's most rapid means of sending news was by means of a courier, with saddle bags tied behind him, to this time when spoken thought is flashed to the unttermost parts of the earth with ten thousand times the speed of the wind.
The church has been served by a long list of worthy men, most of whom have passed to their reward. It is impossible to make a complete list as I have written record for only part of the last one hundred years. The clerk's books are missing from 1868 to 1890. I will give as complete a list as possible filling in the spaces from the memory of the older members and will give the approximate year where they began their service.
The first Baptist preacher in St. Albans was Elder George Evans of
Massachusetts, who began preaching in 1820. The list of Pastors runs:
Elder Wildman, 1827; Elder Drake, 1829; Elder Darrow, 1829; Elder Drake, 1830, recalled; Elder Darrow, 1831, recalled; Prof. Drury, 1834. During Prof. Darrow's pastorate, the subject of "Anti Slavery" was broached. At a church meeting a resolution was voted "that we will not bring the subject of Abolition into our covenant meeting it being a mere matter of opinion." Brother Nichols reported that they had a very lively meeting, almost knocking the end out of the meeting house. The list continues: Elder Owens, 1837; Elder Roberts, 1837; Elder Phillips, 1838; Elder Freeman, 1839; Dr. Jonathan Going, 1339; Elder Ezra Going, 1840; Elder Phillips, 1842, recalled; Elder Roberts, 1842, recalled; Elder G. W. Lewis, 1843; Elder T. G. Lamb, 1843-1848; Prof. John Pratt, 1849; Elder David Adams, 1850; Elder William Northrup, 1851; Elder Roberts, 1852, recalled third time; Elder T. G. Lamb, 1853-1857, recalled, making a total of pastorate of almost ten years; Prof. John Downer, 1857; Elder F. Stanley, 1863; Rev. Simeon Siegfried 1865.
Simeon Siegfried was a remarkable man. During his pastorate, the church had a wonderful growth spiritually. After his resignation, however the church's strength ebbed terribly, due I suppose, to conditions following the Civil War. There was a long period of "supplies" broken only by two pastorates, viz., Rev. J. W. Osborne, 1875; Rev. A. W. Yale, 1882.
About 1884, the church employed as pastor, a student from Granville, named P. W. Longfellow, who did a wonderful work. He built up the church spiritually and laid the ground work for a wonderful revival service, conducted by A. L. Jordan of which we have already spoken. The list of pastors then continues:
Rev. A. M. Nixon, 1887; Rev. Adam Faucett, 1888; Rev. F. N. Crandall, 1891, died on the field of service; Rev. Bunyan Spencer, 1894; Rev. F. C. Redfern, 1902; Rev. C. F. Schnneider, 1905; Rev. J. J. Kelt, 1908; Rev. L. S. Colbarn, 1912; Rev. F. L. Taylor, 1915; Rev. M. R. Sheldon, 1917; Rev. F. C. Kreager, 1920; Rev. R. W. Edmondson, 1927.
In closing this hasty view of the history of our church, may I propose to you this sentiment?
The beauty of glassware grows greater each year; So do paintings and ivories, rare, The value of laces is cherished more dear; The longer and longer they wear. Oh! the days of the past have all faded away; Old faces give places to new; But the soul that has walked with the Lord day by day, Won't that soul grow more beautiful too? The pearl of great price that you value so much That nothing from you would it part, Depends for its worth, I am told, on the touch Of the warmth of the wearer's own heart; Oh! the soul that clings tight to that great Heart above, Daily its strength to renew, The soul that banks in the warmth of His love, Won't that soul grow more beautiful too?
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