The History of the Sugar Creek Church of Christ
It is with some doubt and hesitancy that I attempt today to set forth in this paper the history of the Sugar Creek Church of Christ due to the fact that nearly one hundred years have elapsed since it had its beginnings, and inasmuch as no complete record was attempted thru thee years to keep a written account of the evens and activities of the church. It is very evident therefore, that many things have been forgotten, and furthermore, the ones that did remember the earlier events have passed on to their reward. However, there are quite a number of very important and interesting things we can relate which we believe for the most part to be true.
The original church house was a log structure erected on a piece of ground deeded by Thomas D. Corneal to Tarlton Taylor and Denton Howard, the church trustees, on May 30, 1853. Seventeen years later, in the year 1870, March 11, Daniel K. Hon deeded another piece of ground lying adjacent to the first lot on the hill slope, while the first was in the low ground next to the creek, to William Taylor and B. F. Howard - then being the trustees, for the sum of $40.00. On this was built as a frame structure which served as a meeting place until it was torn down this last summer and the materials being used so far as suitable, in the erection of this building we are dedicating today [December 4, 1949].
It is believed that Peter Hon, father of Daniel K. Hon, who was a preacher of some note, was the first preacher and probably was very largely responsible for the establishment of the local congregation here. His home was in Nicholas county and it is said that he would ride thru on horse back making the horse swim the streams of water and rivers over which he had to pass, and of course, there were few if any bridges at the time. A few of the earlier preachers I have heard spoken of, some of which I remember, are: John Rodgers, Bro. Elliott, Pascal Duncan, J. K. P. South, Tiller, and probably some others whose names are forgotten. Other preachers that I have known and heard preach down thru the years I will mention later. The Charter Members of the church were: Tarlton Taylor and wife [Elizabeth K. Wood], William Coons and Wife [Luzetta Hon], Solomon Hostetler and wife [Polly Hon], Daniel K. Hon and wife [Margaret Coons], and it is probable that some of the Spencer [not true] and Howard [unlikely] families as well as some others were among the first numbers. One thing that Sugar Creek Church was particularly blessed with in its early days was its leadership, especially in its devotional part of its worship. Uncle Dan Hon was a capable song leader and at times taught singing school, thus preparing the membership for good singing for which they were noted; and I unhesitatingly say that the ones who contend that instrumental music is necessary for good singing, should have heard the singing at Sugar Creek in those days. Even if it might be hard to prove that it was wrong to use the instrument, they certainly did not need it there then. [Sugar Creek Church didn't believe in the use of any musical instruments, including piano and organ, in their worship].
It would be beyond human power and thought to measure the influence of this church, not that we think it greater than other congregations, but because of nearly one hundred years of unbroken church life, there are influences and consequences that have been felt perhaps even to different lands. I like to think of Old Sugar Creek Church as my church home. In boyhood days, it was not only a place for me to go, but it was there without addition or subtraction to the Word of God; giving Bible names to Bible things; endeavoring so far as possible to be apostolic in name and practice. I had a vision of the ministry and some how, some way, I was led to believe that the greatest work and calling in all the world was the preaching of the word and I have never changed my mind on this.
There are a few interesting events I witnessed in the old church building I wish to mention. The first one, when I was rather a small boy, was a school play, directed and planned by Miss Florence Roberts who at that time was teaching the public school, which building was located across the creek and a little below the D. K. Hon homestead. The play, as I recall it now, was rather an elaborate affair with most of the children and older pupils having parts and in those days the school was crowded with possibly forty or fifty in attendance. Thus it was rather an unusual event and there was a large crowd at the church house to see the play.
Another event which was unusual for Sugar Creek was what might be called a lecture by D. K. Hon. He had been sight-seeing on a trip to California and had brought back with him species of trees, fruits, vegetables and shells which he had gathered on his journey. So he made it known that he would describe his trip and show these species at the church house and a big country crowd enjoyed his lecture.
One more event which I wish to relate, as it made a deep impression on a country boy's mind like my own, was a stereopticon lecture and special singing by a very noted man by the name of C. C. Cline from Cincinnati. I do not remember much about the pictures but I do remember his beautiful singing voice. It had a deep ringing melody such as I had never heard before and very few times since. As I recall, he was considered one of the great singers of his time. "Where is My Wandering Boy Tonight?" is one of the songs I think he sang.
Now returning to the preachers that have labored at Sugar Creek church, they are as follows: Mevers, Prunty, Nutter, Alford, Jones, Cooper, Greer, Chambers, Kranz, Shanks, Fox, Buck, Jorgenson, March, Barr, Settles, Taylor, Hottell, Runner, Johnson, Broaddus, Brothers, Sanders, S. M. Benard, Hudsbeth, See Brothers, Preston, Overman, and Paul Knecht. The evangelists that have held meetings, I remember a few of them of course, many of the regular preachers named above held revivals and some of them held more than one. But the visiting evangelists that never held pastorates at the church are: W. T. Brooks from Ledoga, Indiana; Jesse Caldwell from Owenton; D. H. Friend from Louisville, Ky.; and H. N. Rutherford from Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida. This last can be verified about Rutherford, I think for this reason - that he held pastorates in these three states and about all of our revivals for the last thirty odd years have been conducted by him, which shows the high esteem and faith the church membership has in him, as well as the big job he had in trying to keep the church going. These meetings have all be characterized by capable, sound and gospel preaching, and I am not aiming in any sense to exalt one preacher about another; however, there is one of these preachers, and his meeting, that stands out more vividly in my mind than the others. This is the meeting that Jesse Caldwell conducted. I believe that Pack Duncan was the regular preacher then - I was about 15 years of age, which perhaps accounts for the impression it made on me. I remember what impressed me so much was Caldwell's burning enthusiasm. He would walk up and down the aisle and preach. - in fact he would seem to preach all over the house. I somehow would have trouble staying in my seat - the hair would seem to stand up on my head and tears would fill my eyes as he would reason of Righteousness, Temperance, and Judgment to come. And it must have had a similar effect on others for there were 68 additions to the church. Bro. Rutherford perhaps can tell you the numbers of additions he has had here thru the years - I do not know. One of the most vital things about the church, aside from its own membership and growth, is its missionary work. This, the church has tried to keep in mind and offerings have been taken and sent to independent missionaries in many mission fields. Another phase of missionary work is the preachers sent out and encouraged from the home church. I have been unable to determine just how many boys from the Sugar Creek church have become preachers - I am taking a chance on being correct in mentioning just a few: J. J. Taylor and his brother J. Murray; Jasper Grubb; and perhaps Jim Ridgers and Pack Duncan. A for myself, whatever I am and what little I have accomplished, I am glad to acknowledge much credit is due to the home church.
Another phase of missionary activity is the establishment, help and encouragement to other churches. This, I fear, us one of the weaknesses of Sugar Creek Church. So far as I know only one church is a direct offspring and that is the Glencoe Church; and like most other offspring has considered the parent "Old Fogy" and "behind the times." Maybe this is so, but I am afraid that to be more than Pentecost and more up to date than the Apostles' teaching, is casting reflection upon the Lord and His Church. I have wondered if some sectarian church had been established here, wearing a sectarian name, what name we would be wearing today. I am not referring to the Glencoe church in any way as there are many conscientious good people there who are a little more modern perhaps. And I am not contending that we are perfect here.
I will attempt now to mention the family names of the members of the church throughout the years. In the nature of things, it will not be expected that I will be able to recall all the names, and furthermore one name will have to suffice for several different families of the same name. So I hope no one will feel slighted or hurt if their particular name is not mentioned: Hostetler, Spencer, Hon, Coon, Ayers, Reed, Sleet, Grubbs, Hendren, Rodgers, Marksberry, Clifton, Story, Smith, Sisson, Clayton, Duncan, Wallick, Tilley, Carlton, Peak, Courtney, Edwards, Scroggins, Ward, Burkes, Brashears, Gross, Lindsay, Stephenson, Green, Howard, Webber, See, Combs, Connley, Hemingway, and Miskell.
As time brings so many changes and even buildings get old, especially if extreme care is not taken to prevent decay and wreckage caused by storms and weathering of time, through the long years of nearly a century; thus it was that our church building became very unsuitable for our meeting place and inasmuch as it was located off a road and a creek always had to be crossed, it became more and more apparent that something very definite and worthwhile had to be done. I have heard the question asked many times why the old church house was ever built in such an out-of-the-way place. The answer to this question is very evident, I think, when one considers the conditions and circumstances that prevailed at that time.
In the first place the roads then were not much more than bypaths and trails blazed out by the early settlers, and one of these, which perhaps was the most frequently traveled was by the old church; because it was the main road then from Sugar Creek to Glencoe. And, furthermore, it was as convenient a place for the members then as could be found perhaps, and also it is not always possible to secure the ground just at the point where you wish to do the building. Again, no one, of course, know where the permanent roads would finally be built.
After many suggestions at different times, it was finally decided to have an all day meeting and make some definite arrangements as to the course to pursue. This meeting was held on the fourth of July, 1948, I think. Bros. Rutherford and Marsh were present, I believe. A fair representation of the membership were present and a majority of the ones present voted to tear down the old building and build a new one out by the highway. Some pledges were made that day, but perhaps the most effective and encouraging offer and pledge, in due time, was made by Sister Ella Story, stating that they would contribute a building place here where this new building is standing today. It is to be noted that with much enthusiasm and unexpected concern and help, the old building was taken down and this one almost completed within the span of approximately six months. The work being done by the membership largely and inasmuch as they had their own affairs and home work to do, it is apparent that not much grass has been growing under their feet. It all goes to show that much can be done when people have a mind to go to work.
While I am not trying to make any excuses or apologies for my shortcomings, yet I feel that some explanation should be made concerning my attitude toward this work. As it is common knowledge that the church has for several years been in a very feeble condition, numerically, spiritually, and most every way, the only worthwhile interest being shown just thru revival meetings, except by just a very few faithful ones. It made a new building proposition look very hazardous to me. And also because of the sacredness of the old church building and its surroundings, Sister Pearl Hendrix, myself, and a few others felt that repairing the old building was the wise and safe thing to do. Maybe this was pure selfishness on our part and also for the lack of vision and concern for the future welfare of the church. However, what has been done is done and it appears now that our views and misgivings were unfounded and is directed. So acknowledging mistakes, we want to fall in line and be a help, not a hindrance to the new and promising work.
As we try to look into the future, we hope that our visions will not be in vain and that our dreams will be such that the Lord will be pleased to bless and help us make them come true. And may this house by the side of the road ever be a benediction to the people around about and as a sign post to the passerby, pointing to the lamb of God, who taketh away the sine of the world.
I. E. Stephenson
Acknowledgments: To Sister Althea Hon - to Brother Robert Grubbs - to Sister Maggie Grubbs and a few others, I express my thanks for some assistance they rendered me in the preparation of this sketch.
by Rev. I. E. Stephenson, delivered on the occasion of the dedication of
the new building December 4, 1949.