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Indiana Baptist History

1798-1908 by William Taylor Stott

Long Run Association
(Counties of Switzerland, Jefferson, Ripley and Ohio)

 

This association was constituted at Mount Zion church, Switzerland county, in 1850.  The Rev. John Graham was chosen moderator, and the Rev. J.D. Griffith, clerk; five churches went into the organization, and their total membership was 228. At the tenth anniversary there were twelve churches and a membership of 867; the oldest church in the body was Center Square, 1810; it was oldest Baptist, if not the oldest Prodestant church, in Switzerland county. Elder Jesse Vawter was its first pastor. The ordained ministers of the Association at this time were Elder Jesse Vawter, the Revs. J.D. Griffith, E. Roberts, John Pavey, Robert Stevenson, E.S. Riley and B.C.S Carter. At the twentieth anniversary there were thirteen churches and 927 members, and ordained ministers, besides some of those already named, were the Revs. W.S. Keene, S. Ward, W.H.H. Gleason and J. Stephenson.

As the churches of this Association are mostly in counties bordering on Kentucky the question would naturally arise as to what was their attitude towards the Union during the Civil war. The ringing resolutions passed at some of the sessions in those times are sufficient answer. At the session in 1865 the following were the resolutions passed:

"That the leaders of the present inhuman rebellion should meet with no more sympathy from christians and civilized men, unless they repent, than did Satan from Jehovah when he rebelled against heaven; that treason is treason; loyalty and disloyalty are now the only issues before the American people; and they who do not heartily sustain the Government in its efforts to subdue the rebellion are esteemed by us as being in league with the southern confederacy, and as being personal enemies, enemies to our children, to their country and to God."

"That our warmest sympathy is extended to the brave patriot soldier now in the field or hospital, and that we will aid him in his sickness and that it is the duty of every christian to help his (the soldier's) family at home."

These resolutions certainly smack of the same spirit that characterized the Baptists in every great struggle that our country has made for justice and freedom, from the days of the Revolution to the present.

That the Association was in full sympathy with missions is seen in the fact that a Domestic mission Board was formed in 1851, and that a collection was taken for the American Baptist Home Mission Society, the year following. Long Run and Brushy Fork churches led in the number of members till 1868 when Switzerland church (Vevay) reported the largest number, 155, and has kept the lead from that time to this, with the exception of two years when Spring Branch had the largest number, 290, and one year Brushy Fork had a larger number by one. According to the Indiana Baptist Annual for 1906 the Association had seventeen churches and a membership of 1752; the benevolences of the year were $836.09, including "other benevolences" The largest contribution was by Vevay ($321.78) and the next by Olive Branch ($73.40).

Many of the ministers of this Association have come to have more than a local reputation for ability and usefulness. The Rev. A. Ogle, the present superintendent of State Missions, the Clevenger brothers, two of them pastors in the state and the other in the east, the Rev. T. Warn Beagle, for many years the successful pastor at Vevay, the Rev. E. Kirtley, the talented young pastor at Vevay, but cut down in the midst of large promise, the Rev. E. S. Riley, who has had long service in Indiana and was many years in Kansas, the Rev. W.E. Morris, the energetic and affectionate pastor many years at Vevay, and latterly the Secretary of the Board of Franklin college, the Rev. A. O. Protsman, the pastor at Hope, and others equally worthy of mention.

Among the laymen of the Association who gave evidence of ability and friendliness is Deacon U. P. Schenck of Vevay church. He was a successful business man, and as earnest in the Lord's business as in his own. He indeed was a pillar in his church, and was in sympathy with all the enterprises of his denomination. His home, a beautiful residence over-looking the Ohio river, was always the home of the ministers and brethren who visited Vevay; he was possibly more interested in higher education than in any other of our Baptist enterprises; he was for many years a member of the Board of Directors of Franklin College, was a liberal contributor to its funds, and sent most if not all of his children to the college for their education.

Of the two ministers who more than any others were regarded as "fathers" in the Association is, first the Rev. J. D. Griffith. He was born in Switzerland county in 1823, and always lived in that county. In his boyhood the county was quite a wilderness; wild game abounded, the sickle was the instrument for reaping the grain, as the flair was the instrument for threshing it; while the grinding was done on horse mills. He did not have many opportunities for education, but he prepared himself for teaching followed that calling for ten years. He joined the Long Run Baptist church in his eighteenth year and was a member there till his death. He was ordained in 1846, and was constantly preaching, even during the time he was superintending the work on his farm, and while he served his county as clerk. He was a doughty champion of the doctrines and believed as a Baptist, and in at least one instance he was drawn into a debate with a paedobaptist minister as to the authority for infant baptism. His children rise up to call his memory blessed, for he inspired them with the purpose of preparing for places of large influence; on son is superintendent of an institution for the blind, another is in the medical department of the Government at Washington, another is superintendent of city schools, and still another has served in the State Senate, and is now a member of the United States Congress. Brother Griffith was twenty-three times Moderator of his Association. He was called to his eternal reward in 1905.

Another of these "fathers" was the Rev. Robert Stevenson, who was born in Kilmornock, a town of Ayershire, Scotland, in 1815. In 1828 he accompanied his father to America and they settled in Jefferson county, Indiana. He was so eager for information that he read extensively in the hours following the days work. His father hoped and expected that the son would become a strong and respected member of the Scotch Presbyterian church, but his reading had led him to doubt some of the teachings of that body, and finally led him to join the Baptist church in that community - Brushy Fork. His Baptist brethren at once recognized his abilities and inclinations and accordingly ordained him to the ministry, in 1843. He soon became a recognized power in the pulpit; he read many books, but the Bible most of all. It is said that he wrote the entire Bible, and the New Testament more than once. He had all the strength of conviction and force of expression that are characteristic of his nationality. The doctrines of the sovereignty of God had no more able defender than he was, in all southern Indiana-nor in the State. Those who differed from him as to the fundamental doctrines of the Baptists, found they might well think twice before undertaking to refute him. He seemed inclined to serve country churches rather than those in the city, doubtless owning to the fact that he had become accustomed to rural ways - felt more sure at home; it was not because he was not a prince of pulpit orators. He died in 1896.

Few Associations have sent more students to Franklin College than has Long Run; the college catalogues bear testimony to the many young men and young women who came from that section of the state; as the Schencks, the Craigs, the Griffiths, the Hattons, the Shaddays, the Gibbses, the Ogles, the Crafts, the Wards, the Henrys, the Jaynes, the Kinnetts, the Clevengers, the Crandells, the Matthewses and the Protsmans.