In the year 1814 the Rev. Alexander PORTER, with a number of the members of his Church, emigrated from South Carolina, and settled in the south-west corner of Preble County, Ohio, where they formed the congregation and built the church of Hopewell. After this period Mr. PORTER, occasionally visited and preached at Hamilton, sometimes in the building then occupied as a courthouse, and sometimes, when the weather was peasant, in a grove of woods near the intersection of Second and Dayton Streets.
In the year 1815, or a short time previous, a Church of the Associated Reformed denomination was regularly organized at Hamilton, and in the year 1817 the Rev. David MACDILL was settled over the congregation, then consisting of about twenty-seven members, and regularly ordained as their pastor, in which capacity he continued to officiate until 1848. Until the year 1839 he preached two-thirds of his time at Hamilton, the other one-third of his time to the congregation of Concord, on Seven-Mile Creek.
The number of members belonging to the Church at Hamilton, in 1844, was about eighty-four. They paid their pastor a salary of from four hundred and fifty dollars, or ranging between that sum and five hundred dollars per year, not being every year exactly the same, which was raised by subscription from the members.
In the year 1828, when the Associate reformed congregation, in connection with the Presbyterian congregation, sold their house and lot at the west end of the Hamilton Basin, as previously related, the Associated Reformed congregation purchased inlot No. 81, near the bank of the Miami River, on the corner of Basin and Water Streets, in Hamilton, for the sum of one hundred dollars, on which they erected a brick church in the same year, though the building was not ready for occupancy until the Spring of 1829. The house was erected by Samuel GRAY, then of Rossville, and was forty-eight feet long by forty-four feet wide, and sixteen feet high from the foundation to the cornice. On the west end of the church next the river was a cupola, executed in a neat style, corresponding with the dimensions of the building, in which was hung a fine-toned bell.
The interior of the church was finished in a plain but neat manner. The pulpit was on the west end of the building, which has two doors, one each side of the pulpit, entering from Water Street, on the west. There were also two doors on the east end of the building, corresponding with the doors on the west, with two aisles, or passages, running the whole length of the building, from the western to the eastern doors. The interior was divided into fifty-six pews, in which five hundred persons may be comfortably seated. The building was erected with strict regard to economy, costing only one thousand and fifty dollars, exclusive of the pews and some further expense in finishing the interior of the building.
The building presented a very good appearance, especially from the west side of the river. The principal objection was that it was not high enough for elegance.
In course of time a new building was required, and another was consequently erected in 1852. It cost six thousand six hundred dollars, and an additional lot cost four hundred dollars. The committee put under contract several other improvements, such as paving the gutters and sidewalks, and a large iron gate, with posts and steps of Dayton stone, at a cost of four hundred and eleven dollars, making the entire cost of the building, lots and improvements, seven thousand four hundred and eleven dollars.
The following have been the elders of the Associated Reformed Church and the United Presbyterian since its beginning, so far as can now be told: William CALDWELL, James BROWN, Robert GREY, John BECKETT, John McCRACKEN, John LATIA, James SCOTT, Alexander YOUNG, Samuel GREY, Robert CALDWELL, William TAYLOR, John McDONALD, David CRAWFORD, James GIFFEN, William E. BROWN, George R. CALDWELL, R. C. STEWART, Robert SCOTT, John McKEE, D. W. McCLUNG, Robert BECKETT, James McKINNEY.
The members at the organization, or soon after, were William CALDWELL, Mary CALDWELL, James BROWN, Robert GRAY and wife, Nathan CALDWELL, John CALDWELL, Grizelle CALDWELL, John LATIA and wife, Samuel GRAY and wife, William TAYLOR and wife, Robert LITTLE and wife, Robert Tweedy and wife, John McCRACKEN and wife, John BECKETT and wife, Joseph McMAKEN and wife, James SCOTT and wife, Robert SCOTT and wife, Wm. ROBERTSON and wife, John NELSON and wife, James BELL and wife, James LESTER and wife, John SMILEY and wife, John HALL and wife, Robert HALL, Hannah HALL, Mrs. MILLIKIN, Mrs. ANDREW, Mrs. EWING, Nancy SUTHERLAND, James RAMSEY and wife, Robert LYTLE and wife, Margaret BLAIR, Ann DOUGLASS, Sarah BLACKBURN, Rachel LINTNER, John BAIN and wife, Hannah McBRIDE, Nancy KING, Elizabeth LANE, Matthew WINTON, Mary GRAY, Alexander YOUNG and wife.
On the retiring of Dr. MacDILL, he was succeeded by the Rev. William DAVIDSON, who remained here until Februay, 1874, when he resigned his charge, dying July 21, 1875. The Church had been most fortunate in these two pastors, who had preached the Word here for fifty-seven years in succession, and it had grown strong and useful. During his term as a pastor, the Church, then the Associate Reformed, became know as the United Presbyterian. The Associate Reformed Church, with half a dozen other smaller sects was an offshoot of Scotch Presbyterianism, and the United Presbyterian Church was the union of these various forms of North British Calvinism under one fold. This happened on the 26th of May, 1858.
The Rev. Alexander W. CLOKEY was the next pastor. He was a son of Doctor Joseph CLOKEY, moderator of the General Assembly of 1860. He was born in 1842, in Jefferson County, Ohio and was graduated at Wittenburg College in 1864, studying theology at Xenia. He was stated supply at Indianapolis in 1867 and 1868, and pastor at Aledo, Illinois, from 1869 to 872. He came here in 1874 and stayed till 1876.
His successor was the Rev. John W. BAIN, an able and eloquent divine. He was born near South Hanover, Indiana, 1833 and entered Hanover College in 1850. After a time he went South, traveled and taught two years and spent one year at Davidson College, North Carolina. He returned North and graduated at Westminster College, Pennsylvania, in 1858. From that place he went to Xenia, Ohio, where he studied theology. His first charge was in Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania. He gave his services for some time to the Christian Commission, then engaged in raising money for the soldiers, and in the Winter of 1863 and 1864 spent a while with the commission in the field on the Rapidan. He was then three years at a mission station in Chicago, and came to Hamilton in 1877. In this new field he was well thought of. His discourses were well reasoned and well expressed, and he had the faculty of language. The Church throve under his charge. He left here in March, 1882, to become pastor of the Alexander Presbyterian Church, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He was succeeded by the Rev. Elihu C. SIMPSON, who was born August 6, 1849, at Morning Sun, Preble County, and lately has been pastor of a Church in Richmond, Indiana.
Among the early teachers was Mr. B. F. RALEIGH. He was a native of New York State, but came West before 1830, and located in Hamilton. He married Miss Maria HOLMES, and resided here until 1853, then removing to Highland County. He died in Wilmington, Ohio in 1866. Many are still living in Hamilton who remember him as their preceptor. He left a wife and four worthy and intelligent sons to mourn his loss.
Mr. RALEIGH was a man of culture and had the control of our best educational interests in Hamilton for a period of years, and was also county surveyor from 1842 to 1849. His remains were brought to the old home and interred in Greenwood Cemetery, November 6, 1866.
Captain William ROBISON, once county commissioner, was born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, where he was married, and soon after removed to Rockbridge County, Virginia, where James, their oldest child, was born in 1795. In 1805 Mr. ROBISON, with his family came to this county, bought a farm, and settled on it, near Collinsville. At the beginning of the war of 1812 he raised a company of riflemen, who called themselves the Bald Hornets, and went out with Colonel John MILLS. At the siege of Fort Meigs Captain ROBISON, for his heroism and faithful discharge of his duty was promoted to the office of brigade inspector. He was county commissioner in 1809 and afterwards. He was commonly known in this neighborhood as Major ROBISON, but it is not now known from what he derived this title. He was a big, jovial man, everywhere well liked. He was the father of ten children, four boys and six girls, nine of who grew up to be men and women, and three of whom are now living. He died when about fifty-five years of age, and was buried at the frame church in Collinsville.