"Taterbug" Church

Page Two, Vevay Reveille-Enterprise, 1945 No. 43
By Effa M. Danner

Transcribed by Pat Asher, March 2013

Newspaper Article
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"Taterbug" or Zion United Brethren church on Indian Creek has the distinction of being the only church in the state with a humorous nickname. There are variious accounts of how this very peculiar event happened, but none the less the title of "Taterbug" is firmly established by almost a century of use and the dedication title of Zion is almost lost in the minds of the community.

There it stands, "Taterbug" church and "Taterbug" school house, both ---led of field stone now gray and weather beaten with age.

The walls of Zion were laid up almost two feet thick by a stone mason ----- Jackson, and all around "neath' the friendly shadow of Zion is the quiet resting place of its first communicants who loved its service of praise to the Most High.

From its elevation on the hill side it overlooks Indian Creek as it wends it willow bordered way to the Ohio river glistening in the sunlight in the distance, a beautiful landscape.

"Taterbug" school house near the church is much older and long served as a community center before the church was builded. Philip
Romerill donated the land for both building. He came over from the Isle of Jersey and there were other members who were original emigrants from France and Scotland which no doubt accounts for their sense of humor.

The century old road past both building is now used as a detour, expecially at Ohio river flood seasons, running from State Highway No. 129 to Indiana State Highway No. 56 about one and a half mile across. It is a tradition that Edward Eggleston's mother, mary Jane Craig, was an early teacher at "Taterbug" school her early home being about two miles below here. It is now, September 20, 1945 advertised as "Taterbug" school house for sale with its one acre of land as part of the estate of Jesse Bayne.

Well to do farm-homes are scattered along the road and the people are educated and highly respected citizens making this sobriquet "Taterbug" which has become attached to their church and entire locality all the more amazing.

Some time ago a high dignitary of the United Brethren Conference came to Vevay to visit Zion and inquiring the way to Zion he was very much surprised that no one knew of such a church. After naming some of the prominent members some one said, "Oh! that is Taterbug church two miles below here." The learned divine was grievously offended at what he considered a disrespectful term applied to the house of the Lord until the age old story was related to him.

 In the 90's there was an old man, John Hochat, who attended the Vevay m. E. church and at the experience meetings I have often heard him tell of how in his youth the power of God came down upon the people of "Taterbug" and filled their souls with holy fire from on high and they fell prostrated before him.

It was at this time or earlier of which he spoke that the pastor of Zion was holding a very successful revival and the people fell prostrated at the altar, that old Ned Ridgeway, a notorious half crazy wag attended the meeting regularly.  The preacher of the services and thinking to help him find the way of life eternal asked Ned what he thought of the conversion of so many souls.

The hard shelled Colorado potato bug was then a new insect in the midwest and its first onslaught caused great distress among the farmers, who would strike the plant with a stick and knock the bugs into a pan where they would rattle like shot and then burn them.

So old Ned replied, "Well sir, they look jist like taterbugs rattling into the pan." This appealed to the people's sense of humor and they called each other Taterbugs just for fun. Soon outsiders took up the joke and that generation passed, its origin almost forgotten, yet far and near everyone knew of "Taterbug" church.

Another version is that a preacher thought to apply the new pest as an illustration in his sermon, remarked, "that the people should flock to church like potato bugs flocked into the potato patch." And again, "that the church should be like potato bugs and leave no one unconverted."

The potato bug of the preacher and the taterbug in the vernacular of the wag is quite different phrases of speech, but it is taterbug by which they are known that being one of those peculiar incidents that makes truth more fascinating than fiction.

And again, some tell that Rev. Samuel Pavy was responsible for the title for in criticizing the congregation for its levity he concluded his discourse with "even so I would rather be a taterbug in heaven than a tumble bug in hell," without realizing that pithy expression would only add to their levity as the tun continued and grew apace until "Taterbug" has become the established fact, [unreadable], in the minds of the people. Then comes the United States Rural Mail Route surveyor and lists 'Taterbug" Hill on the official mail map of the United States.

The Indianapolis Star rt Gravure section carried a picture of "Taterbug" church by Frank M. Hohenberger. The picture is preserved by the William Henry Smith Memorial Library at Indianapolis.

September 20, 1943, The Reveille-Enterprise carried three notices in regard to this property. "Vevvay U. B. Church, David A. Owen, Pastor. Regular service at Zion next Sunday afternoon at 2:30"

Notice--a call to help clean the ?????? ???? at Zion ????? [unreadable]

Notice-- The sale of "Taterbug" school house, etc. Joshua Poore, executor. James S. Wright, attorney.

Thus it is that the ridiculous tradition of "Taterbug" fastened itself upon the humorous sense of a community and passes down the corridor of time into a permanent place in our county church history.

Reference -- The Watchword for U. B. Youth, Nov. 1, 1925. Picture of u. B. church and schools, etc., by Editor Shope. Vevay library. Folk tradition.

The last chapter of this unique history is the sale of Taterbug school house. The school records show it to be the Romerill school, named for Philip Romerill from the Isle of Jersey, and located about 500 yards from the church. This school was discontinued several years ago and the children sent by bus to Vevay.

September 20, 1945 this property was advertised for auction sale on the premises as a part of Jesse Baynes estate as "Tater Bug" school house and one acre of land more or less, by Joshua Poore, executor of will. Sale to be held at 1:00 p.m. o'clock, September 29, 1945.

It was sold to Tom Romerill for $350.00. He is a lineal descendant of Philip, who in his application for naturalization papers in the Switzerland county courts made the following statement:

"I was born July 5, 1786 [?] on the Isle of Jersey, Parish of St. Lawrence which is part of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under King William IV, King of Great Britain. Sailed from the port of St. Peters, Island of Guernsey to America, May 1816, arrived in New York, 14th day of July, 1816 and came to Switzerland county, Indiana, 1816. He desires to become a citizen of the United States of America."

So now this property is again owned by the original family who patented the land from the Government in 1816 one hundred and twenty-nine years ago as shown in the Land Tract Book. Are not these truths stranger than fiction.