History of the Butler Christian Church
Prior to the year of 1885 Mr. C.B. Peoples' father bought land on which the original Christian Church of Butler was erected from Mr. Williams, father of Mrs. A.J. Grant who died a member of the Christian Church in 1958. Mr. C.B. Peoples is now a present member of the Butler Church. In 1885 the Butler Christian Church was built on the street now called Peoples Street and was dedicated on December 27, a Sunday of that year. The church had a large belfry which joined the three other churches in the community in a chorus of bells every Sunday morning. Inside the ceiling was of cathedral type design with imprinted plaster. Three large crystal chandeliers hung from the arch of the middle of the ceiling. There was no baptistry, being typical of the early churches but the congregation was only a short distance from the Licking River which borders still one side of Butler, and all baptisms were held in the river, even in cold weather. The frame church building seated the greatest number of people in Butler. Volunteer labor kept the building painted and in good repair. One of the first ministers of the church was James K. Polk South who felt that music had no place in the church. Consequently only after he had left did the organist, Mrs. Peoples, the mother of C.B. Peoples, play their first musical instrument, a pump organ. There was no piano in the church until 1920. Mrs. Florence Ducker became the organist following Mrs. Peoples. Mrs. Ducker is a present active member of the church and still plays the piano for Sunday School services.
In 1924 the issue of needed Sunday School classrooms became the most important consideration of the congregation. The original church lacked individual rooms and there was investigation toward purchasing a large house to answer the problem. Interest centered upon the Hegermeyer property. Mr. Hegermeyer was a very early settler who owned the flour and lumber mill down on the river bank. On August 8, 1924, a committee was appointed by the board composed of Ira E. Yelton, C.B. Peoples, and W.J. Newkirk to learn the "rock bottom" price of the Hegermeyer property as quickly as possible with the provision that two members of the committee could act independently of the third member in acquiring the property. Later a meeting was held in the Butler Deposit Bank and the purchasing committee was instructed to pay sixty-five hundred dollars for the Hegermeyer property to be used as the Butler Christian Church. November 13, 1924, a plan to remove the partitions on the main floor to make an auditorium was adopted by the church board. The stairway was moved to open into a vestibule at the front of the church. At this particular time the church did not have a called preacher and was entertaining Brother Hardigree on Sundays, paying ten dollars each Sunday.
A second meeting was held in the Deposit Bank for the purpose of selling the parsonage belonging to the old church building and the income to be applied to the purchasing amount of the new property. The amount was $1390.83.
Shortly after the congregation had moved into the new church the young people asked permission to build a tennis court in the rear of the building, offering to pay for it themselves but the board refused the request.
In July, 1929, Mr. Ira E. Yelton presented to the Sunday School session on a Sunday morning the canceled note of the mortgage on the property, with the whole debt paid.
In 1955 an electric organ was purchased and placed in the chancel of the auditorium, which was situated at the south end of the room. In 1957 the auditorium was remodeled and the chancel was moved to the west end of the room, allowing for an extra Sunday School room. That same year matching candle holders and cross for the communion table were donated by Minnie Lois Robb and her sister in memory of their parents Mr. and Mrs. Julius Sargent.
Among the first ministers to serve the Butler Christian Church were: James K. Polk South, Brother Barnes, George P. Tauber, Cecil Armstrong and Brother Hardigree. Before the year of 1907 J.P. Wilkenson served as pastor. The following persons served at the designated time: C.C. Wilson 1911, G.W. McCash 1916, Irvin T. Green 1917, S.W. Allen 1919, S.R. Hawkins 1920, C.W. Diehl 1921, Charles C. Thompson 1922, R.H. Carter 1926, R.H. Saunders 1934, J.C. Darnell 1936, P.M. Runner 1937, J.P. Miller 1941, A.T. Stanley 1944, Cleo Purvis 1946, Woodrow S. Jones 1947, Merle Sherman 1953, Melvin Garritson 1955, Don Anderson 1956, Don Lanier 1957, John R. Browning 1958.
Since the writing of this brief history, the Butler Christian Church built and dedicated a new sanctuary on the Hegemeyer property which adjoins a Fellowship Hall built several years earlier.
The Fellowship Hall is a rectangular, one story structure built on concrete slab, and contains the hall itself, a kitchen, two bathrooms, a study and a lounge. It was built in 1958 under the leadership of John Browning, then the minister of the church. There is no direct access between the Hegemeyer home and the Fellowship Hall, yet this was not felt to be a disadvantage since the congregation now had its first Fellowship Hall where social gatherings could now take place. Until 1971, it sat next to the Hegemeyer home and met the needs of the congregation.
It was through a bequest that the congregation was able to complete the church plant. In 1969 Mr. Harry K. Taylor willed the church $21,000.00 of his estate. $1,800.00 of this was used to supply new furnaces for the Hegemeyer home with the intent that they b e used for a new sanctuary. The majority of the people of the Butler congregation had decided to erect a new building for some time. The money was now available and it was decided that a questionnaire be sent to each member of the congregation to see if he agreed that a new structure should be built. The majority decided in favor of building. Plans were made for the demolition of the Hegemeyer home and work was begun to remove the house on October 15, 1971. By October 30, the property had been cleared and workmen began excavating for the new sanctuary in early November. During the next nine months services were held in the Fellowship Hall. During this time the faithful few who attended the services were referred to, by several of the members, as the "Dirty Dozen." Certainly, attendance was sparse and caused some discouragement. However, since the completion of the new sanctuary, attendance has increased.
The move into the new sanctuary was made in August of 1972 and dedicated on August 27 of that year. Those participating in dedication were Roy T. Bentley, minister, Charles V. Moreland, Chairman of the Board, Fred Hafer, elder and Carl Flock, Associate General Minister of the Christian Church in Kentucky, who gave the dedicatory address.
Much work on the new building was supplied by church members skilled in construction, among them, Duncan Cooper, carpenter, Robert Norton, construction worker and James Yelton, construction worker. Many other members of the congregation volunteered their time and assisted with such chores as painting and varnishing. The contractor for the job was Hubert Cooper whose brother, Duncan Cooper, a member of the congregation, drew the plans for the building.
The new building contains a sanctuary with a tongue and groove ceiling resting on laminated wood beams. It also has a baptistry, the first one the church has had since it was formed. A nursery, coat room, foyer and two dressing rooms comprise the remainder of the first floor.
The building was erected parallel to the existing Fellowship Hall and is linked by a gallery or hallway which runs lengthwise between the two structures. From this hallway, steps lead down to a full basement under the new building. Three classrooms, a furnace room, two bathrooms and a large recreation room are located in the basement.
The building is brick veneer over concrete block with a poured concrete foundation. The first floor of the building is composed of a series of per-stressed, per-tensioned concrete beams alleviating the necessity for floor supports in the basement.
The cost of construction was $38,000.00. However, this figure does not reflect the actual cost since much labor was donated or supplied by people who accepted a reduced wage. The actual cost is estimated at $42,000.00. The remainder of the $21,000.00 left to the church was applied to the debt, and with other donations, the church debt at the time of dedication was approximately $14,000.00.
It is interesting to note that the first person to be baptized in the new sanctuary was Mrs. Carrie Thornton. Since the church did not have a baptistry until the new building was completed, she is the first to be baptized in a building called the Butler Christian Church. In the past, new members were baptized at the neighboring Flour Creek Christian Church or in the Licking River. It should also be noted that the first couple married in the new building were Mr. Paul Askin and Miss Judy Varner.
The church plant is now not only adequate for the needs of the congregation, but is the most attractive church building in Butler.
by John R. Browning.
This work is from the Bosworth Memorial Library at the Lexington Theological Seminary and is used here through their kind cooperation.