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First Presbyterian Church of Lebanon


Contributor::

Transcription contributed by Arne H Trelvik

Sources:
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)

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First Presbyterian Church of Lebanon. – The records of the first fourteen years of this church having been consumed by fire, there are left only a few brief fragments of papers, together with what can be gathered from the recollections of the oldest citizens to supply the defect. From such sources we learn that the church was originally organized upon the ruins of the Turtle Creek Church, located about one mile south of Union Village, and the Bethany Church located a few miles east of the site of Lebanon. Both of these churches were swept out by the Presbyterian denomination by what was known as the great New-Light Revival, which commenced in Kentucky in the year 1800, but which began to develop its distinctive features in this neighborhood in 1802. About the year 1805, the Lebanon Church was organized by the members left from the wreck of Turtle Creek and Bethany Churches and by colonists from the First Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati, together with a few from other churches. Who was the minister upon the occasion is not now definitely known – most likely it was either Rev. James Kemper or Rev. James Hoge. Rev. Archibald Steel was the first minister in charge of the congregation. From time to time there was a temporary session elected or appointed, which kept no record of its proceedings. On the 3d day of December, 1807, the congregation met and elected Jonathan Tichenor, Abner Smith, James Gallaher and Silas Hurin, Ruling Elders. Messrs. Hurin and Gallaher were ordained by Rev. James Kemper in the summer of 1808, Mr. Tichenor having been previously ordained in the First Church of Cincinnati, serving afterward in the Turtle Creek Church; Mr. Smith had been ordained some years before in New Jersey.

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The first sessional record was made October 22, 1808; there were then forty-six members scattered over a tract of country now occupied by five or six Presbyterian Churches. The fist original sessional records now in existence begin with the date of September 23, 1814. The earliest date at which the society is named in the county official records is September 7, 1806, when Jonathan Tichenor and Abner Smith received a deed from John Shaw for one acre of ground now known as the old Presbyterian Graveyard at Lebanon, the deed reciting that the conveyance was “for the only proper use of the Lebanon Presbyterian congregation forever.”

The first place of worship of the society was the old court house on Broadway. As late as April 3, 1817, the Miami Presbytery met in this court house, and David Monfort delivered his popular sermon before being licensed to preach, as the record says, “by candle-light.” Some of the early communion meetings of the society were held in a beautiful grove which stood near the intersection of Main and High Streets. Several ministers were sometimes present at the communion meetings and services were held on several days preceding the Sunday on which the sacrament was administered. One of the earliest records of the session of the church is as follows:

“Thursday, October 13, 1814 – The session of Lebanon Church met agreeably to appointment. Present, Rev. William Grey, Moderator; Jonathan Tichenor, Daniel Skinner and Silas Hurin, Elders. Silas Hurin was appointed to make application to the County Commissioners for the use of the court house for public worship for one-half of the time for one year. Agreed by the session that the attention of the congregation be called on Saturday before sacrament relative to the subject of building a meeting-house in this place.”

The first meeting-house erected by the society was a commodious brick edifice and was completed about 1817. Capt. John Tharp, a member of the church, was most active and efficient in the work of soliciting subscriptions and overseeing the building of the church. notwithstanding his age, he traveled over the whole town and surrounding country, and with great energy and perseverance procured the means for erecting the building. In soliciting subscriptions, he gave assurances that the seats in the new church would be free to all; but a few years after its completion, the church resolved to sell the pews in order to raise money to support the society. The resolution was carried against the strenuous opposition of Capt. Tharp. When the pews were sold, he refused to purchase one and also resolved not to be deprived of his right to a seat. He was a large and fleshy man and brought his large arm-chair into the church, placed it in an aisle and there sat during public service. He made no other opposition to the measure, but his course proved effectual. The plan of selling pews was abandoned and has never been again attempted in any church in Lebanon from that day to this, but in all the places of worship the seats have been free.

The first church served the purposes of the congregation for about forty years. The present beautiful church edifice of the society was dedicated February 11, 1859, with a sermon by Rev. Thomas E. Thomas, D. D.

The most memorable event in the history of this church was the trial for heresy of one of its most talented pastors, Rev. Simeon Brown, in the winter of 1855-56. The trial was held in the church at Lebanon before the Miami Presbytery, and awakened very considerable excitement, not only in the Presbyterian Church, but in the community at large. The charge was unsoundness in the faith, chiefly in relation to atonement. In the specifications under the charge concerning the atonement, Mr. Brown was accused of denying the doctrine of a limited atonement. Among the expressions cited in support of the charge were: “That Christ died as much for one man as for another;” “all

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may be delivered;” “after this full atonement is made, it must be legally granted unto all men before any can be required to believe on pain of damnation;” ”the atonement rendered the salvation of every sinner alike possible,” and “Christ gave His life for the world, and it is absurd to limit the word world to the elect.”

The Presbytery found the accused guilty on this charge. Mr. Brown afterward wrote: “I maintained that our Lord Jesus Christ is a Savior provided for and sincerely offered in the Gospel to all who hear it, but the Presbytery held that He is provided for the elect only.” There were charges of error on other points of atonement, but these either were not sustained or only sustained in part. The last of the charges was: “With an indulgence in his writings and public teachings, in novel unprofitable and dangerous speculations on many points.” This charge was divided and the Presbytery found the accused guilty of “indulging in novel and unprofitable speculations,” but the word dangerous as applied to these speculations was not sustained.

In the minute adopted by the Presbytery in the case, great dissatisfaction was expressed with some of the doctrines preached and some of the phraseology used by Mr. Brown, and he was solemnly admonished in future to abstain from using such language and introducing such sentiments as the Presbytery had just decided to be injudicious and not in accordance with the standards of the church. Mr. Brown refused to comply with the admonition and gave notice of an appeal to the Synod. He was finally suspended by the Presbytery from the ministry, and became a minister of the Congregational Church. It is but justice to the Presbyterian Church at large to say in this connection, that at the time of this trial, the Miami Presbytery had fallen under the control of ministers who were incapable of a large and liberal construction of church standards, but always placed the narrowest and most literal interpretation on every article of their creed. Whatever their merits may have been, they were the men under whose leadership a church was least likely to be improved. Probably at no subsequent period would a minister have been condemned on such charges as were preferred against Mr. Brown.

The trail of Mr. Brown was continued through three sessions of the Presbytery in December, 1855, and January, 1856, and occupied eight days in all. In the argument, the prosecution occupied over ten hours and the accused over eleven. The sympathy of the public, as is usual in such cases, was chiefly with the accused. The members of the Lebanon Presbyterian Church were almost all on the side of their pastor, but when Mr. Brown determined to separate from the Presbyterian Church without waiting for an appeal to the Synod, only a minority of his congregation followed him. This trial for heresy led to the formation of the Lebanon Congregational Church.

The congregation has owned a parsonage since February 18, 1845. The ministers who have served the congregation as pastor or stated supply are as follows:

Rev. Archibald Steel, from 1806 to 1808; Rev. William Robinson, from 1810 to 1814; Rev. William Gray, from 1814 to 1829; Rev. Daniel V. McLean, from 1830 to 1832; Rev. Simeon Crane, from 1832 to 1836; Rev. Addison Coffee, from September, 1837, to January, 1840; Rev. Samuel Newell, from March, 1841 to January, 1853; Rev. Robert T. Drake, from August, 1853, to August, 1854; Rev. Simeon Brown, from January, 1855, to January, 1857; Rev. W. W. Colmery, from October, 1857, to March, 1866; Rev. John Haight, from October 1, 1866, to September, 1871; Rev. David Clark, from March 20, 1872 to January 3, 1876; Rev. L. H. Long, from July 16, 1876, to 1882.

The following are the names of the Ruling Elders from the organization until 1869:

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Jonathan Tichenor, elected December 3, 1807; Abner Smith, elected December 3, 1807; James Gallaher, ordained 1808; Silas Hurin, ordained 1808; John Parkinson, ordained August 11, 1815; Daniel Skinner, ordained April 12, 1816; Abraham VanVleet, ordained October 25, 1818; Jeremiah Smith, ordained October 25, 1818; Daniel Voorhis, ordained October 25, 1818; William Lawry, ordained May 19, 1826; Joseph J. Johnson, ordained May 19, 1826; David Dunham, ordained May 19, 1826; John Meloy, ordained May 17, 1833; Charles Cowan, ordained May 17, 1833; James M. Fisher, ordained June 14, 1841; James K. Hurin, ordained January 10, 1849; Edmund B. Monroe, ordained January 10, 1849; Joseph Anderson, ordained September 9, 1855; John M. Hathaway, ordained September 8, 1855; George W. Frost, ordained April 3, 1859; William B. Irwin, installed April 3, 1859; James M. Smith, ordained February 13, 1863; Ichabod F. Anderson, ordained November 15, 1863; William Tait, installed May 9, 1869; Edward J. Tichenor, ordained May 9, 1869.

In 1875, the membership was 210.


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This page created 6 Sep 2003 and last updated 15 September, 2009
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