SAMARIA BAPTIST CHURCH
One of the Oldest in the County
Samaria Baptist Church was organized on Saturday, August 15, 1828 in the home of Levi and Miriah Walters about 3/4 miles north of the present site of Paragon. Three men and four women of Little Mount Church in northern Wayne township, Owen county comprised the charter membership of the new fellowship. On the two days that followed, this group met "at White River at the mouth of Burkhart Creek: and "at the crossing of the Big Indian Creek" according to the church minutes and at these places recieved and baptized 10 additional members. Throughout the years the number of members has increased, more than 700 names are listed on the records and 50 pastors have ministered to Samaria Church. A complete record in five volumes of the business meetings of the church has been preserved during the 136 years history of the church.
The first church clerk, John Durham, served for nine years. He kept the records from 1829-1838 and recopied verbatim in his own handwriting these nine years of records into a larger book to turn over to his successor. His original copy has been placed on display in Morgan County Shadow Box in the Governors Room of the Indiana State Museum. In May of 1965, this little book was awarded a blue ribbon when historical art objects were judged by a committee with Superintendent of Public Instruction William E. Wilson as chairman.
The first pastor for 11 consecutive years of Samaria Baptist Church was Rev. Benjamin Arnold, who was ordained by Little Mount Church, Little Mount Church building was torn down in 1937 and some of the materials were used in remodeling Samaria Church building.
At the time of its organization in 1829 and a few years thereafter the infant church met in the homes of its members, by various watersides, and at the Gibbons Schoolhouse. About 1835 a log meetinghouse was built and later moved to the present church property which was deeded to Samaria Church by David and Hannah Gibbons on July 28, 1835. In September of the same year, David Gibbons was buried in the portion of this property to be used for Samaria Church "with the exception of a reserve on the south end" of a specified tract " for the benefit of a neighborhood school and burying grounds forever" in the words of the original deed, which Samaria still has in its proud possession.
The log meeting house was replaced by the present building in 1860. It was one of the earliest frame buildings to be built in the area and was made of local timbers. This one room structure was enlarged and remodeled in 1937. The 100th anniversary was observed with an all day meeting in 1960. This building has survived three major wars and has undergone many changes as shown by the types of lighting used. In March 1885, kerosene lamps were purchased; on October 10, 1915, the ladies aid was authorized to dispose of the old lamps and a carbide lighting system was installed. This system was replaced in 1941, when electricity was brought into the community, with electric wiring from funds of the ladies aid treasury.
Many great revivals have been held through the years. In December, 1923, the largest on record added 38 members to the church. This group was baptized the following summer in Porter's Cave Branch. Porter's Cave Park joins the church property on the west.The park managers cooperate with the church in an outdoor sunrise service each Easter since 1958. Indiana Youth Temperance Council camping at the park each year, use the church for some of their programs.
In 1965, Samaria had 70 members, about 1/4 of whom are non resident. Vacation bible school is held each summer; Sunday school meets each Sunday and church services are conducted on alternate Sundays. The ladies aid meets monthly.
The above was written originally by Blanche Burnett, Samaria Church Historian