HISTORY OF MT. LEBANON CHURCH
By Marvin P. Beatty
This little country church is located about two miles Southwest of French Lick, Indiana, on State Road 56. My Grandmother, Mother, Aunts and Uncles all attended this church as did I when I was a youngster. This is where I first attended Sunday school with Miss Claire Kearby as my teacher and my Uncle Silas Decker as the Sunday school Superintendent. He first held this position at the age of sixteen years. He also established a first at the old French lick High School when he preached his own Baccalaureate sermon to his own classmates of the 1926 class. Miss Claire Kearby still lives next door to the church.
Silas joined the United Brethern Church and was assigned to a small church in Freetown, Indiana. He continued with his education and before he was finished, he had accumulated one Bachelor's Degree, three Doctorates and one Ph.D. In 1936, he joined the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps and when he retired twenty-nine years later, he had risen in rank to a Colonel.
My Mother first started attending this little church in 1909 when Brother McMichael was the preacher. She attended this church now and then for the rest of her life. Some of my peers that I remember in Sunday School were the Morgan brothers, Dale and Marvin; Robert, Mildred, and Farwell Burton; Desco Curtis and his sister, Barnefta; the Cox sisters, June and Bernice; Mary Helen Bartel and her brother; John Ivan and Ross Kearby; the Pitcher sisters, Pauline, Alta and Margie; Mildred and Wayne Wininger and many others whom I have forgotten.
The church first got its start in 1840 when the Rev. Mr. Johnson established a Mission Church known as the Scarieft Ridge class of the Methodist Church. This first church was in an old pioneer schoolhouse known as the Scarieft Ridge Schoolhouse. This building was a rather large structure with an old time fireplace in one end for heating purposes. Later a box stove was used to heat the room. The seats were made from split logs with wooden pegs for legs.
Some of the early members of this church were William and Samuel Scarleft and their wives, Isaac Damewood, Mr. and Mrs. William Wineinger, Harrison Hankins and others whose names we do not know. In 1850, the church became a part of the Haysville Methodist Circuit with the parsonage in Haysville. In 1852 the membership decided to join with the Methodist of French Lick and build a church for both congregations. They were combined until a fire destroyed their church sometime in the late 1860's. When this happened the Scarleft Ridge people moved back into the old schoolhouse where they first started.
It was soon apparent however that they could not stay there for long because the old building was crumbling apart. They contracted with a carpenter named George Beswick to build a new church. He did not live in the community and he immediately moved into the old schoolhouse where he intended to stay until the new church was built. This angered the congregation so much because that was still their only place of worship. They canceled the contract.
A young Civil War veteran, Ross Grigsby, decided that they could build their own church and he presented his plan to the preacher, the Rev. Alec Charnes, who supported the undertaking with much enthusiasm. The two then contacted all the members, described their plan and the membership resolved wholeheartedly to undertake the building of a new church on their own. The young Mr. Grigsby made the rounds of the congregation in order to determine just what each person would give towards the building of a new church. The response was overwhelming. This was in July of 1874.
Hiram Roach donated one acre of land on which to put the building, Trees were donated for framing timbers and lumber, a man by the name of Wagoner, who owned a sawmill, promised to donate the sawing of the lumber, Will Charnes and Lige Brandenburg felled the first tree; a large Poplar given by Henry Burton, Brown Moore took his oxen, Walter Moore sent a driver with another oxen team, and they hauled the logs to the sawmill. Eleanor Kearby, a widow, gave ten pounds of nails; William Charnes donated ten days work. Some others who lent a helping hand were Will Hoggaft, Harris Charnes, Lew and George Wininger, Billy Scarleft, (who was Claire Kearby's great grandfather), the Kearbys and many more. The ladies did their bit to assist in the work by providing plenty of food for the workers.
The new church building was completed by the fall of 1874. The building faced due East but later when a basement was added and the building remodeled, it was turned to the North, facing State Highway 56. In June 1875, the Rev. Alec Charnes, who was at the time the minister at Plainville in Daviess County, was invited to preach the dedicatory sermon and name the new church. This he did and called it Mt. Lebanon, which means, "Here rests my peace." The cost of the building was six hundred dollars.
Samuel Kearby (Claire's grandfather) was the Sunday School superintendent and the singing leader. He led the congregation in singing by using a tuning fork! For many years the church was part of the French Lick Circuit along with Moores Ridge, Cuzco, Hillham, and Crystal, with a rented parsonage at Crystal.
In 1915, twenty acres of land next to the church was purchased from the Doak family and their house became the new parsonage. This was done so that the minister might be able to supplement his income by farming a little or raising chickens and keeping a cow or two. I recall Brother Propheter taking advantage of all these things. Rev. Joseph Flanagan was the first minister to take advantage of this new arrangement. Several years later when the duties of the minister demanded more of his time, most of the land was sold.
In 1968, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren merged to form the United Methodist Church. In the early 1970's Mt. Lebanon became a part of the Springs Valley-Mt. Lebanon Charge with the parsonage in French Lick. The Mt. Lebanon Church is still a very strong arm of the Methodist Church and they enjoy a large Sunday School. In fact, my cousin Susie Wagoner told me one Sunday morning there were so many people in the building that Dale Morgan became worried for fear the floor night cave in!
In the early days of the church, people walked sometimes for miles, often over roads almost impassable; or by horseback, in oxcarts, in road wagons drawn by horses or cattle, to attend the church services. I remember my Grandpa Stoner hitching up the two seater buggy to haul us all to church. I can also recall keeping warm in cold weather with a large warm blanket wrapped around us. I don't ever remember seeing my Grandpa in church but he was always there to pick us up when services were over. He hitched up the buggy although he had a Model T Ford in the shed.
The old church has seen many changes since it was built in 1874. From oil lamps on the walls, coal-fired stoves, pump organ, and hand fans to electricity, gas furnace, piano, padded pews, carpeting, and air conditioning. Some families that I remember attending this little church were the; Kearbys, Winingers, Stoners, Deckers, Pitchers, Morgans, Pruefts, Kirklands, Burtons, Mynafts, Coxs', Bartels, Gehms, and many others whom I have forgotten.
This old church produced many Christian men who entered the ministry. I have mentioned my Uncle, Silas Decker; previously, others were John H. Charnes, William Garreft Morgan, Earl Jones, and Michael Hendrix. No doubt, there are others.
I think I should describe an event that I remember taking place in the old church. It happened during Brother Propheter's term of office so it was sometime between 1929 and 1934. I was present for an evening service in the church along with Grandma Stoner and my Aunts, Jessie and Louise Stoner. Brother Propheter was a rather large man with a deep, loud voice. After he started his sermon, some boys in the back of the church began to make a little noise. The preacher warned them to be quite so he could continue with his talk. They kept up the noise making so that it was difficult for him to speak. Finally, he had had enough. He bounded off the pulpit with one jump and headed for the rear of the church. On his way, he stopped at the stove and picked up a big stick of wood. Before he reached the back of the church, the boys were long gone. I have no doubt that he would have used the club had the boys stayed put. My Aunt Jessie told me that they were Hillham boys. For a long time I thought those Hillham boys were a tough lot.
The church also has a large cemetery across the road on the West Side of the French Lick Hotel Golf Course. It is well taken care of and is still being used. Many members of my family lie in this graveyard. They sat aside a large portion of the property for the Negro population of the Valley.
I would like to thank Mrs. W.G. Morgan and Lee Harmon for most of the information contained in this article. It was taken from a brief history of the church, which was written in 1948. Two of my cousins still attend this house of worship, Susie [Mynaft] Wagoner and Loftie [Mynaft] Johnson. In fact, Susie has served as her Sunday School Class Teacher. My first Sunday School Teacher, Miss Claire Kearby also attends the church on a regular basis.
Ministers who have served as Pastors of the Mt. Lebanon Church
|Charles Pinnick||1890-1893||John Shaw||1915-1916|
|J.N. Blue||1895||J.R. Flanigan||1916-1919|
|George Winn||1896||John Seitz||1919-1920|
|John Sidebottom||1897||Elmer McKinney||1920-1921|
|S.A. Morrow||1898-1899||Robert Starr||1921-1922|
|Tolman Ragsdale||1899-1901||Noble C. Pheiffer||1922-1924|
|F.A. Heuring||1902-1903||Curtis Rice||1924-1927|
|C.P. Zenor||1903-1904||C.E. Wagoner||1927-1929|
|Charles Dobson||1904-1905||H.J. Propheter||1929-1934|
|Archibald Erickson||1905-1906||Omar Fletcher||1934-1935|
|George Stiles||1907-1908||Floyd J. Crocker||1935-1939|
|Wilson McMichael||1908-1910||Earl Denny||1939-1941|
|Edward l. Moore||1910-1913||John Wheary||1941-1943|
|W.H. Mintor||1913-1915||Clarence Buehler||1943-1944|
|John Shaw||1915-1916||David Frazier||1944-1945|
|J.R. Flanigan||1916-1919||Gilbert Curry||1946|
|John Seitz||1919-1920||H.R. Hamm||1946-1947|
|Elmer McKinney||1920-1921||Ralph Cunningham||1947-1948|
|Robert Starr||1921-1922||Vernon Flicknor||1948-1951|
|Noble C. Pheiffer||1922-1924||William Luttrell||1951-1952|
|Curtis Rice||1924-1927||Claude Ragsdale||1952-1955|
|C.E. Wagoner||1927-1929||Stanley Palicki||1955-1957|
|H.J. Propheter||1929-1934||Alvin Mattox||1957-1958|
|Omar Fletcher||1934-1935||Russell VanSciver||1958-1960|
|Floyd J. Crocker||1935-1939||Lloyd Wright||1960-1963|
|Earl Denny||1939-1941||Herbert Mather||1960-1963|
|John Wheary||1941-1943||Robert Mather||1963-1965|
|Charles Pinnick||1890-1893||Robert Chance||1963-1965|
|J.N. Blue||1895||Herbert Mather||1985-1966|
|George Winn||1896||William Whipple||1965-1966|
|John Sidebottom||1897||Glen McGuire||1966-1968|
|S.A. Morrow||1898-1899||Merger with Springs Valley||1968-1972|
|Tolman Ragsdale||1899-1901||Harold Claycamp||1972|
|F.A. Heuring||1902-1903||John S. Hoadley||1972-1974|
|C.P. Zenor||1903-1904||William Patterson||1974-1979|
|Charles Dobson||1904-1905||Robert F. Barger||1979-1984|
|Archibald Erickson||1905-1906||Lance Marchall||1984-1985|
|George Stiles||1907-1908||Richard Rheads||1985-1988|
|Wilson McMichael||1908-1910||Robert McCracken||1988-1991|
|Edward l. Moore||1910-1913||Earl Robbins||1991|