Martinsville Daily Reporter June 4, 1966
Written by Myrtle Ratts and others
Given to me by Carl Lockhart
The congregation was formally organized Sunday, September 11, 1859 with 31 charter members. They were: Ephraim Ratts, Henry Ratts, Jr, Sarah Ratts, Mary A. Ratts, John Shuler, Sarah Shuler, James Shuler, Charlton Shuler, Phoebe Shuler, William Warthen, William J. Warthen, James Warthen, Ira B. Warthen, Linny Warthen, Sarah Warthen, Susan Warthen, William Denny, Nany J. Denny, Serelda Denny, Elizabeth L. Denny, Mary Denny, Leonard Hedrick, John Hedrick, Mary Hedrick, Katherine Hedrick, Absolem Hanes, George Hanes, Katherine Hanes, David B. Dow, and Louise J. Letterman.
On Friday evening before the 5th Sunday in October, a several days' meeting was commenced and conducted by Brothers Wilhite, Brown, Blankenship and Pruitt, when ten more members were added to the church. The sermons brought in by interested preaching elders were occasional and the warmly clad pioneers trudged through snow, mud and mire to listen to them as they were delivered by preachers who reached the place by traveling on horseback over dirt and corduroy roads, but roads for which they were truly thankful.
Brothers Watson, Kennedy, Butterfield, Smith and Bill Runyan held revivals that brought in more additions. An evangelist working through the state in various places, known to the community as "the traveling preacher" helped in some of the revivals.
Ephraim Ratts Sr. deeded a plot of land to the trustees and their successors on which to build a Christian church and establish a burying ground.
A log church for which work and material were donated was erected. The furnishings were provided mainly in view for service.
The benches were made of split logs, wooden pegs for legs and without backs. A large stone fireplace furnished their heat and its glow helped the candles to light their room.
For years before this church was built, these people met in their homes and a log school house, where they had Bible study, prayer, social or testimonial meetings and for preaching. At the same time they taught they rudiments of music as a part of their educational program. The singing schools were carried on for several years. They knew and used the rudiments of vocal music. In some of the homes they engaged in friendly scriptual discussions and at times entered into organized debates. They usually conducted their own religious meetings and depended upon a chance preaching elder or elders to bring them an occasional sermon.
These meetings constituted the binding thread of life for the community. At this time Ashland township was yet a part of Ray township.
Leaving church the congregation went down the road south for a few rods then going through the forest on horseback, in wagons and walking they came to their place for baptisms in Burkhart Creek near the William Shuler residence.
In 1880, the log church was torn away and the brick one begun in its place. A brick school house being built across the road north of the church at the same time was finished and used by the congregation for services and funerals until the church which was under construction for 3 years was completed in the spring of 1812.
Jesse Lambert laid the brick which was made at the kilns in the neighborhood. John Glover and Kindred Shuler did the woodwork. Henry Ratts, son of Ephraim Ratts hewed the large beams and other did volunteer work.
Many good revivals were held but during the 1880's Eli Pruitt held some almost unrivaled revivals.
During the 1890's and early 1900's many changes were made in the furnishings and repairs of the church. Chairs replaced benches, the first and only clock before the electric clock was placed on the wall, the first organ was bought new and placed in the church. The use of an organ in the church being contrary to the belief and desire of a small faction its admission was strongly contested. Anxious to have the organ, some of the young people continued to solicit from house to house until the price was collected. A trustee gladly accepted $75 and purchased the organ. Many other changes and additions were made but the most expedient repair job for the preservation of the building and for safety was that of binding the upper part by irons rods to hold it in contact. This repair serving for more the 50 years proved its worth.
In July 1898, 39 years after the organization only 16 years after the building of the new brick church, members instituted a homecoming. This homecoming served its purpose as a reunion for more then half a century.
In May of 1960 when the church fund had reached $10,000 and the old structure had been razed, excavation was started for a new church.
With the cooperation, physically, spiritually and financially of members, former members and many interested persons both resident and non resident and steered by an appointed building committee a new and beautiful edifice was completed in early fall at the cost of $12,518.21. Pews for the entire church and furnishings for the sanctuary were purchased by individuals and groups (and donated) as memorial tributes to loved ones at a cost of $2000.30. During the construction of our new building services for the congregation were held in the former Wakeland School building.
On December 13, 1960 a consultation meeting was held with a representative from the Christian Theological Seminary, Butler University and a church unity plan was recommended by Vinton Bradshaw, Director of church relations. On the basis of this council and advice, a meeting of official representatives of our local and sister church of Paragon was held January 3, 1961. Thus the "Paragon-Olive" Pastoral Unity was organized pending approval of both congregations.