Alaska Christian Church Holds Many Memories
The Alaska Christian Church is often listed among the churches of Owen county. The present structure stands just across the border line in that county, about 1/4 mile west of Lewisville.
However, since most of the congregation live in Morgan county and the church has always carried on most of their cooperative activities with the Morgan county churches, the Disciples of Christ Yearbook, generally lists the church among those of Morgan County.
The Alaska Christian Chruch, originally known as the old Liberty Church of God, was organized June 23, 1836 by Elder Street Cox, Benjamin Edwards, Daniel Y. Smith, and others making a membership of 25. T.S. Allee, who wrote the centennial history of the church is responsible for the above statement. This information was secured from the church's oldest record that dates back to the year 1858, when the original record was revised for the first time. The original has been lost.
O.P. Butterfield, a grandson of John Reeves, reported in a letter that he had learned from reliable authority that it was soon after the organization was perfected in 1836 that the congregation built a small frame meeting house one half mile north of Alaska, near the old cemetery. Mrs Allee spoke of the first church as a long building. The first building was abandoned about the year 1864, when a more elaborate church was erected in the little town of Alaska. The motive for the new building was to provide ample space for the fast growing membership, which in the early forties numbered over 200.
The building erected in Alaska was rather large and quite tall. It had an unusually tall belfry and cupola which proved its own undoing in a few years, for a storm partly wrecked it and then it was pronounced unsafe after only about 20 years of service.
A new location was selected this time, one fourth mile east of Alaska, midway between that town and Lewisville. On this spot a brick structure was erected in 1884. It was not dedicated until three years later on October 16, 1887 by Frank Treat of Martinsville. For some reason or other a $500 debt continued on its books.
It seems that the old Liberty Church in the early days was the strongest Christian Church in Morgan county. Thirteen couty Christian churches reported at Gosport in a Fifth District Meeting on May 19-21, 1853. Liberty Church reports the largest membership (150), twice the size of the county seat church at Martinsville.
Some members came a distance of nine miles to church on horseback and in buggies. The influence of this preaching center was doubtless due to the fact that the church had a number of outstanding leaders such as John Brown, D.V. Smith, S.W. Young, P.M. Blankenship and others.
However, this large congregation soon began to break up into smaller congregations. The first came about 1859, when 21 members from the Alaska Church along with 10 other people organized the Olive Christian Chruch. The old Alaska constitution was used in the establishment of the new organizations.
In those days, the church would tolerate no moral delinquency among its members. The favorite way of dealing with offenders was that of the church's withdrawing from their fellowship. The meetings of inquest, attended by the whole membership were held on Saturday. Generally the accused was required to attend and answer for himself before the assembled group. The minutes of these meetings were entered on the record book.
We find one instance where a member was accused of "giving his property in to the accessor wrong". Thomas Allee says that at one time some of the ruling elders became so zealous in their efforts of purging that they "unchurched" one individual who had never been a member in the first place!
We have also discovered among the minutes a new method of excluding immoral church members. It might well be called the petition method. The following tells the story:
Saturday, 26th day of March 1861
(The following was to be read without comment)
We do acknowledge that the scriptures do teach Christians to abstain from corrupt and wicked company. We admit that those characters : (insert offenders names) should be abstained from and in the future we will try to avoid the company of such characters when known.
The above was signed by a number of persons normally.
A.T. Groot in his history of this church states:
"A careful check of the records from the beginnings reveal that on 38 separate occasions persons (from 1-4 at a time) were dropped from church membership by official action. A total of 63 people were put out for offenses ranging from "profane swearing" to graver issues. Only 16 of this number were ever reported to the fellowship of the church according to the records."
Every church has its stormy period. The clouds descended on the Alaska congregation in the 1890's. It was about that time that the organ was introduced in the worship service of the church, creating a controversy. Another controversial issue was the presence of women teachers in Sunday School......