A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE
SCIPIO PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, SCIPIO, INDIANA 1832 -
Contributed to Jennings County Indiana GenWeb
Project by Melissa Reuss
Note: The following history, with a slight
addition, was prepared by Elder Ben M. Hall, for more than forty years an elder
in the Scipio Church, and was read by him at the afternoon session of the
Centennial Celebration, August 7, 1933.
hundred years ago, in the year 1832, the State of Indiana was yet in its
infancy. There was not a railroad in the state, and the public highways were
merly trails through the wilderness, marked out, and distinguished by blazing
the bark of the trees along thier route with an ax. Travel on these trails was
largely on foot or on horseback, though, where the trail was cut out broader and
the ground not too rough, crude and heavy pioneer wagons were used for carrying
families and freight.
At that time, Jennings County
was entering upon its second decade of her history, and the little village of
Scipio was just eleven months old. Our forefathers of those days were very
pious, strict in attendance upon church services and in the observance of the
Sabbath. There were small bands of different denominations, holding services
either in private homes or in school houses, where these had already been
Missionaries were sent from time to time into
this community; and at a meeting held in a grove near Scipio, on August 4th,
1832, after a sermon by the Rev. John N. Parsons, it was resolved, in compliance
with the wishes of a number of the citizens, to organize a Presbyterian Church,
and all desiring to be connected with such church, were requested to retire to a
nearby school house. At that time, ten persons who had been members of the
church in other communities, made known their wish to unite themselves in the
formation of the new church. These persons were: Nicholas Amick (Emig), Sally
Amick, William Clapp, Polly Clapp, Tobias May, Catherine May, Millie May,
Solomon May, Lucretia May and Barbara Nelson.
Vernon Presbyterian Church had been asked to assist in the organization of this
new church, and the Session of that church met with the persons named, and after
conversation with them, formally approved of their reception in the Presbyterian
body, and thus formally constituted the new church. The day following, August
5th, this group met and elected elders, thus completing the organization and
Nicholas Amick, Tobias May and William Clapp were chosen the first members of
the Session. On this occasion they sat down for the first time as a church to
partake of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
newly elected elders were ordained and installed on the 24th day of the
following September, and William Clapp whas chosen clerk of the session. On this
same date the congregation voted to choose a name for the church, and that of
Bethel (Bethel meaning "House of God") was selected. The name of the
organization as it was first enrolled by the Salem (later Madison) Presbytery,
however, was Sand Creek (that of a neighboring stream). for we read in the
minutes of that body, under date of "Pisgah Church, Tuesday October 2nd,
1832". "Mr Parsons reported that since the last meeting he had formed a
church within the bounds of Prebytery the Sand Creek Church, and he requested
that the same be taken under the care of Presbytery. Resolved that said request
be granted. Mr. Clapp, an elder from said church, appeared and took his
seat." There appears to be no action of the Presbytery ratifying the
selection of the name Bethel by the congregation, so far as the minutes of that
body are recorded, but the name must have been approved and used, for in the
minutes of the year 1837, it appears that the Rev. Daniel Lattimore was the
minister of the Bethel, Graham and Vernon churches. This name
"Bethel" continued in use as the official name of the organization
till the year 1923, when, at the request of the congregation, the name was
changed to the Scipio Presbyterian Church by formal action of the Presbytery of
New Albany (the successor of the Presbyteries of Salem and Madison). This
change of name was adopted in order to avoid confusion with numerous other
"Bethel" churches in the same part of the state.
congregation erected for its first edifice a "good-sized log building" (another
account published in the pastorate of Rev. T. N. Todd, atates that the first
church building was of "frame") in a lot adjoining, and just a few feet nothwest
of the present church site. This building was also used as the villiage
A Sunday-school was organized, which met
only during the warmer months. Usually when people went to Sunday-school they
took their dinners with them, and remained for the day. Few evening services
were held in those days, but when they were, the building was lighted by torches
or tallow candles.
In the course of five years the
little church had just doubled its membership, but after that the growth was
much more rapid. At the end of twenty years the church reported a membership of
one hundred, and that within that time two hundred and fifty persons in all
ahd been received into the church.
The Rev. John N.
Parsons continued to minister to the church till 1836, at which time the Rev.
Daniel Lattimore became the minister, and continued in that capacity till the
time of his death, in 1856 - a period of twenty years, constituting the longest
pastorate in the history of the church.
On March 21,
1845, the congregation elected its first deacons and trustees, three of each
being chosen. The election was for life, or an indeterminate period. The deacons
chosen were: David Hammant (Hammond?), John Moffat, and Obed Amick: the
trustees: Solomon May, William Tharp and Peter Clapp.
Under the direction of the church officers, the original building was sold to a
United Brethern organization; and in 1852 a new, frame building was erected on
the site of the present building, on ground given for the purpose by William
Clapp, one of the founders and first elders of the church. The timber for the
building of the new church was sawn in the local sawmill by Peter Clapp, one of
the church officers. The builder in charge of the work was Mr. James Goodnow, a
contractor of Madison, Indiana. At that time the new building was said to be the
largest best church edifice in the whole region, which speaks volumes for the
interest, enterprise and consecration of our forefathers. The site selected for
the building was a most beautiful one, the highest point near, and overlooking a
broad panorama of God's grandure.
Presbyter has met
twice in the Scipio church, once in March, 1853 just following the completion of
the new (second) building, and again forty-eight years later, in
By the year 1915 the large frame building of
1852 had become worn and in need of repair because of age and use, and it was
felt, too that it was inadequate for the most efficient church work. So, in the
summer of this year it was decided by the congregation to remodel and modernize
the building. Accordingly a contract was entered into for this work with Joseph
Miller, of North Vernon.
On August 15, 1915, an
all-day, farwell meeting was held in the old building; and the work of
remodeling was immediately begun, and carried to completion during the remaining
months of the year. The alterations involved the raising of the old building
from its foundations, the excavation of the ground underneath, to provide a full
basement, the building of new foundations and walls for the basement, the
dividing of the old main auditorium, with construction of class-rooms, the
removal of the old spire and the building of a tower at the entrance corner of
the building, the stuccoing of the outside walls, the refinishing and
refurbishing of the interior, and the installation of a modern heating plant.
The building as thus added to and remodeled was, to all intents and purposes, a
new building, handsome in appearance and well-suited to the needs of the church
work. This work was accomplished by the loyal efforts of the congregation, and
under the efficient ministerial leadership of the Rev. D. W
This building, of which the congregation was so
justly proud, and for which they had so unselfishly sacrificed, was rededicated
to the service of God, on January 23, 1916, the dedicatory sermon being preached
by the Rev. John Glenn, a former misister of the church. The congregation
enjoyed the use of this more modern and commodious edifice for less than
five years; for, on the evening of November 13, 1920, between the hours of 6 and
8 o'clock it was completely destroyed by fire, supposed to have been started
from the over-heated furnace, which had been fired to begin the heating of the
building for the services the following day.
of this building was a severe blow to the church financially, as they had made
great sacrifices in order to make possible the dedication of the building
free from all debt, a purpose in which they had succeeded; and because
the insurance on the building wa not nearly sufficient, at the then prevailing
high cost of both materials and labor, to replace it with a new one of equal
size and convenience. Yet, with characteristic courage and purpose, the little
flock determined to carry on, and began to lay plans for a new church home. In
the meantime, while way and means for the securing of a new edifice were being
devised and executed, the congregation worshipped for two and a half years in
temporary quaters, most of this time in a vacant storeroom which was rented for
Finally, the financial arrangements
having been completed, with the aid of a loan from the Board of Church Erection,
without interest and to be paid in annual installments, a contract was
let, to the same builder who had remodeled the previous building, to erect
on the same site a brick veneer structure which is the fourth and present
building, still, as we hope, a true Bethel. This contract was let May 3,
1922, and the building was completed during the summer that followed. On
September 30, 1923, the new edifice was dedicated to the glory of God and
the service of men, the dedicatory sermon being preached by the Rev. Fred W.
Backemeyer, D.D., at that time the Executive Secretary of the Synod of
Indiana. It was a time of great rejoicing for the little flock, which had been
depleted by the death or removal of former members. Many former members who had
removed to other parts of the state or nation, returned to share in the
rejoicing, and to experience the hospitality for which the community has always
had a well-deserved reputation. A partial record of the attendance on the
day of dedication has been preserved in a circuit photograph which was made
following the bountiful repast served by the ladies of the
Sons and daughters of this church have,
through the years, gone out to make their homes in other communitiies, far
and near. and have become workers and officers in churches where they have
made their new homes. Thus the church has not only enrighed the life of Scipio
and its immediate environs, but has sent out streams of blessings to many
other communities. An unusually large number of the children of this church have
chosen the teaching profession, and have become prominent as educational
leaders. Others have made worthy contributions to scientific and industrial
advancement. In times of national and world crisis, the actal and former
membership of this church have stood bravely and contended strenuously for the
right, as God gave them to see the right, and some have sealed their loyalty
thereto by their own life's blood.
So far as available
records show, only one of the former members of the Scipio church, entered the
Gospel Ministry, vis. Thomas J. May, a grandson of Tobias and Catherine
May, two of the charter members of the church. After serving as a soldier in the
Civil War (in the 12th and 68th regiments of Indiana volunteers) from 1861
- 1864, he pursued his studies for the ministry, at Hartsville Academy, Hanover
College and Union Seminary, New York, graduating from the latter institution in
1877. He served churches in New York City, Washington Territory, Missouri,
Kansas and California, being honorably retired in the last named state in
From the founding of the Scipio church up
to the present, it has been served statedly by twenty-eight different ministers,
and has had a total of twenty-eight ruling elders. Of the latter it has occured
twice that father and son were holding the office at the same time: Tobias
May and his son, Solomon; and William Clapp and his son, Peter. For a
considerable period all four of these elders served together, and during a part
of that time they were the only officers of
On the death of Obed Amick, in 1888,
the church was again without deacons and trustees, and the whole administration
of its affairs was in the hands of the Session. In 1891, deacons and
trustees were again chosen, and since that time there has always been a full
quota of officers.
The Sessional records from the
founding of the church till 1897, were entered in the same volume, which was
closed that year, and a second book, known as Volume II, was opened. This volume
contained the records from 1897 to 1914, at which time the volume now in use was
opened. Volumes I and II were lost in the fire that consumed the residence of
Elder Ben M. Hall, who were wintering in the South. This was a great loss to the
church, and explains the lack of many interesting details concerning the church
in this historical sketch.
During the century of the
church's history, there have been received into its communion eight hundred and
fifty (850) persons. The largest membership on the roll at any one time, as
reported to Presbytery, was in the year 1875, when the figure given was one
hundred and sixty-six (166). In more recent years the number has been depleted
by the cityward movement of population and the relatively smaller opportunities
of the region for ambitious youth. Those who remain, however, are carrying on
with purpose and courage. Their number, as reported to Presbytery, is fifty-five
In point of length of membership,
the record is held by the late Margaret Amick, whose connection with the
church covered a period of fifty-six (56) years. At present there are four
persons whose length of membership extends beyond sixty (60) years. They
are: Mrs. Rose Amick, Elder Charles D. Butler, Mrs. Mary Thompson
(nee' Amick) and Mrs. Lola Hall (nee' May), wife of Elder Hall, who holds the
record in length of service in the Session of the
To complete this sketch, it remains only to
append a list of the names of the ministers, elders, deacons and trustees who
have served this church during this first hundred years of its history. They
have been as follows:
MINISTERS: John N.
Parsons, 1832-1836; Daniel Lattimore, 1836-1857 (during the later years of
his ministry the "installed pastor", and the only one the church has ever
had); Charles Lee, some months of 1857; James Mitchell
1857-?; R. F. Taylor, ?-1861; R. F. Paterson, 1861-1864; C. K.
Thompson, 1865-1868; James Gilchrest, 1869-1873; B. F. Wood,
1873-1875; S. J. Bronson, 1875-1877; __? __? McKinney,
1878-1880; J. S. Walker, 1880-1884; Ambrose A. Dunn,
1885-1887; Geo. O. Nichols, summers of 1887 and 1888; J.
A. Pollock, 1890-1891; Jeremiah Oldfather, 1892-1898; T. N. Todd,
1899-1904; Walter Waltman, 1905-1906; Arthur J. Marbet, summer of 1807; W.
F. Hunt, 1907-1909; Howard Phillips, summer of 1909; John Glenn,
1909-1911; E. W. Ledwick, 1912-1914; D. W. Cole, 1914-1923; W.
Luther Robb, 1924-1926; J. M. Mckinney, 1926-1927; D. B. Brush,
1927-1928; A. R. Miles, 1929-.
first elected for life, but since 1891, when the "rotary system" was
adopted by the congregation, and and the other officers have been chosen for a
term of three years) Nicholas Amick; William Clapp; Tobias May; Solomon
May; Peter Clapp; Jonathan May; Ezequiel Davidson; Alexander Williamson; Joel
Amick; John R. Thompson; John I. Bain; Jeremiah May; James H. Amick;
Saffrel E. May; Elijah Covert; Benjamin M. Hall; (at present the oldest
living elder in point of years of service); Dr. Phillips; J. Pink Amick;
William B. Stites; Earnest Amick; William Hutchings, Jr.; Cleve Boyd; George W.
B. McConnell; Edgar M. Thompson; John E. Amick; William M. Shields; Charles D.
Butler; Robert Sutherland.
Hamment; John Moffatt; Obed Amick; Daniel Hutchings; Thomas Johnson; Thomas
Green; Clarence Wilkerson; Clifford Whitcomb; Claude Clapp; Frank McConnell;
Eldridge Wiggs; Robert Amick; DEACONESSES: Mrs. Effie Green; Mrs. Ella
TRUSTEES: Peter Clapp; Solomon May;
William Tharp; Charles D. Butler; George E. Amick; William Hutchings, Sr.; David
Spears; Glen Milholland.
If, as has been well said, an
institution is but the lengthened shadow of man, the Scipio Presbyterian Church
is the embodyment and extension of those old North Carolina pioneers who came to
this region, then an almost an unbroken forest wilderness, to hew out for
themselves and their posterity a larger place and greater opportunities, and in
its accomplishment gave first place to the cultivation and propagation of "life
more abundant". "Others have labored, and we have entered into their
labors." Shall not we, too, carry on worthily?
Written and read by Elder Albert L. Hulse at the 125th Anniversary Service
held on August 25, 1957
Elders from 1933 to 1957 were as follows;
E. E. Amick, B. M. Hall, George W. B. McConnell, Herman Sanders, Charles D.
Butler, E. V. Lodwick, W. A. Hutchings, Claude Clapp, Ayers Doughty, R. G.
Present elders are: Albert Hulse, Wallace H.
Hines, T. J. Grizzard, John H. McConnell, J. Frank McConnell and Ohmer
Fleming. Elder E. E. Amick has the longest term as Elder and Clerk of
The following Deacons served from 1931 to 1957: Robert
Amick, Effie Green, Ella Amick, Archie Emly, Charles T. Butler, Grace
Hulse, Mrs. W. A. Hutchings, John H. McConnell, Bertha Hall, Mrs. C. H.
Sanders, Clark Fitzpatrick, Flossie Smith, Alfred R. Dean, Omer Fleming, W. H.
Hines, T. J. Grizzard, Mildred Miller, Joseph Buckley, Clara Hulse, John R.
Ritz, Paul McGovern, Ester Helt, Sam Emly, and Grace Helt. These last six
persons are presently in office.
Trustees now in office are: Sam
Emly, J. F. McConnell, C. C. Miller and E. E. Amick.
Pastors who have
served the church from 1936 to 1957 were as follows: Rev. Robert Lodwick,
Holland B. Armstrong, M. H. Kennedy, Albert L. Tull, Arthur C. Tennies and
Edward A. Black. Assistant pastors were: Rolland Kenedy, John Tomlinson,
Ralph J. Hawley, Troy Huggins, Mr. Hunter, James Rankin and Dr. Frank K.
In December, 1945 the church graciously turned
over their building to the Scipio School officials for school use following a
fire which completely destroyed the school building.
The school remained in operation in the church until
In 1948 the church was completely redecorated
with generous contributions of money given by C. Bruce McConnell of
Indianapolis. He also contributed towards the purchase of the electric organ
which was installed in May. 1949.
There are three
living members who have been members for 66 years - since November 12,
1891. They are: Misses Blanche Amick and Grace Hulse and Mr. Ernest
E. Amick. Mr. Amick has held offices continuously for 51 years of his 66
years of membership. Forty-six of these were as Elder and Clerk of the Session,
three as deacon and two as trustee.
Mrs. Ethel Meyers
served as Christian Education Director in 1947 and 1948 and Miss Mildred Brown
served in that capacity from 1949 until her resignation in 1952 when she went
into the field of foriegn missions in Japan.
this period of time a meeting of the New Albany Presbytery was held in our
church. The Presbyterial also met here a couple of
The program of the church is going forward at
the present time with Church School, Morning Worship Services and Youth
Group Meetings on each Sunday. There is also a Women's Society of some thirty
members who carry on the current work of the chruch, plus a strong missionary
program. The church also holds a Daily Vacation Bible School each year
during the early summer.
The present church membership
of the Scipio Presbyterian Church stands at ninety (90). August 22,
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