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Baptist Church at Lebanon (1798-1836)


Transcription contributed by Arne H Trelvik 27 Jul 2003

The History of Warren County Ohio
Part IV Township Histories
Turtle Creek Township
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)


In the year 1797, a number of members were dismissed from the Baptist Church at Columbia, who settled at Clear Creek, organized a church there and built a meeting house a little north of the present site of Ridgeville, Warren County. This was the fourth Baptist Church organized in the Northwest Territory. For a short time, Elder James Sutton served this church as pastor. He was followed by Elder Daniel Clark, under whose pastorate, in 1798, a branch was organized at Turtle Creek, about one mile east of Lebanon. The ground upon which the old meeting house of this people stood, now in the midst of a large field is marked by a mound of stones. This old church was built of logs, and was occupied for awhile before the floors were laid, the sleepers being used as seats. The leading members of the Turtle Creek Church were Matthias Corwin, father of Gov. Corwin, his two brothers, Ichabod and Joseph, Judge Francis Dunlevy, Col. Lewis Drake, Peter Drake, John Osborn and Peter Yauger, all of the immediate vicinity of Lebanon, but there were a few members of the Bedle Station vicinity and other neighborhoods. In 1803, the church reported fifty-three members.

The Turtle Creek Church became an independent body in 1802, its first minutes being as follows: “The first meeting of Turtle Creek Church, after being constituted on Saturday before the second Sabbath in December, 1802, and after prayer we proceeded to business. First, agreed to and did call Brother Daniel Clark (who being formerly pastor at Clear Creek Church) to the pastoral care of the church. Second, agreed to continue Brother Matthias Corwin (who being Deacon in the Clear Creek Church) Deacon in this church, and both complied. Third, resolved that meetings be held here on the same stated seasons as before our separation from Clear Creek, viz., on the Saturday before the second Sabbath in each month and the Sabbath following.”

Elder Clark continued with the church as pastor until the year 1830, although he remained in connection with the church until his death. In the old burying-ground in Lebanon, a small monument was erected over his grave by the church, from an inscription upon which it appears that he died December 11, 1834, aged ninety years. The fact is also stated that he was the first pastor ordained in the limits of Ohio. Elder Clark lived at a considerable distance from the place of worship, and, not being in firm health and withal, being well along in years, in March, 1815, the church called Elder Stephen Gard as an assistant pastor, to spend one quarter of his time with it, and, in February, 1819, Elder Gard having removed, Elders Wilson Thompson and Hezekiah Stites were invited as assistants to Elder Clark to labor one-fourth of their time. This invitation was declined by Elder Stites, but upon its renewal in December, 1820, was accepted. There is no record as to how long Elder Stites continued with the church, but it was presumably for a short time. Wilson Thompson, however, continued with the church as assistant pastor until November, 1824, when he was called to the pastorate, and remained in this relation until November, 1834.

In the early history of the church, its discipline was rigid. A failure to attend the regular meetings of the church was immediately noticed, the reasons asked, and advice given. Here is one of the minutes of date December, 1809,. as illustrative of the esteem in which the church held its appointments:

Resolved, That the male members who do not attend church meetings in future, shall give a reason fro their non-attendance to the church, or be dealt with as disorderly members.

In May, 1810, seventeen members were dismissed “that they might form a separate church.” The minutes give no further light, but our information is that this is the church called “Bethel” near Fort Ancient. This church has now its connection with the Anti-Mission Association.

Some of the earlier minutes of the church read a little quaint, and we find that even then the subject of the singing gave them not a little difficulty, for instance: June, 1813, we read, “the propriety of singing without giving out the hymn was taken into consideration and agreed to by a majority of the church.” In August of the same year, “it was agreed to by the church that singing once on each day of worship, be performed by reading the hymn.” While again of date of January, 1814, we read, “it was proposed and carried that singing in future be performed by reading the line constantly.” This would indicate that the fathers found the matter of singing none the easiest to manage.

Under date of July, 1822, it is recorded:
Resolved, That Bro. Ezra Hicks be one of the clerks with Bro. Crane, in raising the tune in public worship.

In 1811, the Turtle Creek Church built a substantial brick meeting-house on what is now known as the old Baptist Graveyard. This was the first church built in Lebanon. It stood until about the year 1860, when it was taken down

and the West Baptist Church erected near the same place. After the removal of the church to the town, it was known as the “Baptist Church at Lebanon.”

In the early days of the church, the sermons were long, and two sermons were frequently preached at one meeting. In 1827, the first extensive revival occurred; seventy-two were added by baptism and about twenty by letter.

At first, we find no reference to money in any of the minutes of the church, and it is not until October, 1805, that this is mentioned, when occurs this: “The Deacons shall pursue such measures as they shall think proper for collecting money to discharge the necessary expenses of the church.” There was then no stated salary, the minister receiving in money, but more largely in the product of the soil, that which the individual members of the church were pleased to give him. It was not until October, 1827, that a salary is mentioned, when “Wilson Thompson’s salary was fixed at $500.”

There is no reference in the minutes of the church to a Sunday school, but it is said that a Sunday school was organized about 1827, and continued in existence until the division of the church.

According to A. H. Dunlevy’s “History of the Miami Baptist Association,” the Baptist Church at Lebanon successfully withstood the great storm known as the New-Light Revival in the early years of this century. While all the members of the Turtle Creek Presbyterian Church, with two or three exceptions, were carried off by that excitement, not a single member of the Baptist Church was affected by it. So of Shakerism; it took away no members of the Baptist Church. But there were trials for this church. About 1824, some trouble was created by two polemic works by Wilson Thompson, then pastor of the Lebanon Baptist Church, entitled respectively, “Simple Truth” and “Triumph of Truth.”

About 1834, an irreconcilable difference of opinion was found to exist in the Miami Baptist Association and in the Lebanon Church concerning certain benevolent institutions and societies. The chief cause of difference was the subject of missions. The difference culminated in 1836, when both the association and the church at Lebanon divided, and the divisions have since been known as Old School and New School Baptists. The following preamble and resolution adopted by a vote of forty years and twenty-one nays, at a meeting of the Miami Baptist Association, held in the Lebanon Church in 1835, explain the cause of division. The resolution was warmly debated from 10 o’clock A. M. until near sundown:

Whereas, There is a great excitement and division of sentiment in the Baptist denomination relative to the benevolent institutions of the day (so-called), such as Sunday Schools, Bible, Missionary, Tract and Temperance Societies, therefore
Resolved, That this Association regards those said societies and institutions as having no authority, foundation or support in the Sacred Scriptures, but we regard them as having their origin in and belonging to the world, and as such we have no fellowship for them as being of a religious character.
Amendment – But do not herby declare non-fellowship with those brethren and churches who now advocate them.

The unhappy condition of the Lebanon Church, brought about by the controversy on missionary efforts, is well shown in the following extract from a diary of a Baptist sister, long since deceased, whose sympathies were with the mission side:
“After Brother Wilson Thompson left us, in 1834, we were without a pastor, and the brethren so divided on the subject of missions that it appeared impossible to get a preacher that all could hear with any tolerable degree of satisfaction. We were supplied a part of the time by Brother D. Bryant, Brother Moore and some others – a part of the church professing at the same

time that they could not hear them. This to us, who loved them as the servants of Jesus, was distressing beyond what I can describe. Our old brethren would not commune with us – and let us know that they did not fellowship with us – because we believed in missionary efforts. Brother Lyon visited us several times in 1835, and was received more generally than some of the rest; but, on the whole, we struggled along in a very poor way, having but little preaching, and when we met together feeling a kind of disagreeable jealousy and no additions to us. But the Lord, who is rich in mercy, hath not left us in that deplorable situation. In September, 1835, Brother John Blodgett came among us and I believe he came in the fullness of the Gospel of Christ and God owned his ministry, and in the spring of 1836, he was permitted by the grace of God to immerse ten willing converts in the name of Jesus. But yet all this did not appear to lessen the uneasiness of our brethren, but they said they could not live with us.”

The division of the Lebanon Church dates from 1836. The church separated amicably, and appointed a committee to agree on equitable terms of a division of property. The separation must have been a happy relief to both sides. Forty-two members went with the mission party and organized the East Baptist Church, and sixty-one of the anti-mission party retained the old meeting-house and assumed the name of the West Baptist Church.

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This page created 27 Jul 2003 and last updated 20 March, 2011
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