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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Jonathan Tichenor: A Presbyterian Pioneer

Dallas Bogan on 28 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 307
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Jonathan Tichenor's name goes down in history as one of the founders of the first Presbyterian Churches in the Miami Valley. He was born in Essex County, New Jersey, in 1741. He lived for a brief period in Kentucky and he later immigrated to the Ohio Valley about 1786. He next located on the north side of the Ohio in or near Columbia, the oldest town between the Miami's, now a part of Cincinnati. In about 1796 or '97, he moved to Turtlecreek and bought a tract of 120 acres lying north of the former Shaker Hill schoolhouse. He received a deed April 21, 1802, the purchase price being $360, or $3.00 per acre. His son, David, also bought land in the same section: 160 acres at the purchase price of $400, or $2.50 per acre.
Jonathan Tichenor, Daniel Reeder, Jacob Reeder, Joseph Reeder, Annie Reeder, Samuel Sering, Sarah Sering and Isaac Morris, on October 16, 1790, joined in an effort to establish a Presbyterian Church in the settlements of Columbia and Cincinnati. This was the first such effort to organize a Presbyterian Church between the Miami's.
Rev. James Kemper, a pioneer minister, recorded that he formed an unorganized church of six males and two females at Columbia and Cincinnati. The church served as one for the two places. He says he was ordained its pastor in 1792, even though the organization was not completed; the reasoning being "that they thought the number of male members was too small to select a promising session." The church membership progressed very slowly. There were only nineteen adult members recorded on the 5th of September 1793. Out of this number they unanimously elected five ruling Elders and two Deacons. The names of the five Elders first elected in the Miami Valley were: Jonathan Tichenor, Moses Miller, Joseph Reeder, Daniel Reeder and David Reeder.
In the forming of the church, Rev. Kemper wrote:
"I had a few objections from the beginning tho I past them over. The chief of these was, they were formed on a written agreement only expressing the name of a church and church government, in a compendious way, without any reference made in it to the confession of faith, and I think without the members having a sufficient knowledge of that book."
With Wayne's Treaty of Peace in 1795, many families moved from the early settlements of Columbia and Cincinnati up the Miami Valley and began to establish their own settlements. Five of the aforementioned names followed this trend, thus settling in Turtlecreek on the west side of Lebanon. Their names were: Jonathan Tichenor, Moses Miller, Isaac Morris, Samuel Sering, and one of the Reeders.
The Turtlecreek Presbyterian Church was formed one mile south of Union Village. It was the first of the denomination in Warren County and soon became the strongest in the Miami Valley; Jonathan Tichenor being was one of its Elders. In 1799, Rev. James Kemper became the pastor of the Turtlecreek and the Dick's Creek churches. He purchased a farm at Turtlecreek, but he remained on it only one year.
Rev. Richard McNemar, of Kentucky, visited the Turtlecreek Church in November 1799 and preached. Of this milestone he wrote: "On this occasion I found a large and respectable congregation; had an interview with their pastor, James Kemper, at the house of Jonathan Tichenor, one of the Elders, where I had an evening meeting and we lodged together. Kemper was about to move his family from the vicinity of Cincinnati and take charge of the Turtlecreek congregation."
Richard McNemar moved his family, in the spring of 1802, to Turtlecreek, purchased a farm and was settled as pastor of the church. His eloquence as a preacher in the great Kentucky Revival had preceded him. He brought to the Turtlecreek Church his methods and principles of the revivalists later to become the Newlights.
The Kentucky Revival had disturbed nearly all the Presbyterian churches in the Miami Country. It seemed that McNemar's entire congregation followed him into Newlightism. Tichenor was one of the elders at Turtlecreek to object to McNemar's philosophies. He did not go the way of the Newlights.
In the spring of 1805, one year after the organization of the Turtlecreek Newlight Church, McNemar converted to the Shaker religion. He took with him a large part of his congregation, including three of his elders, Samuel Sering, Francis Beedle, and Malcolm Worley. Shakerism claimed four Presbyterian preachers from Ohio and Kentucky, which were involved in the Kentucky Revival.
The organization of the Lebanon Presbyterian Church was about 1805. Its members consisted of the Turtlecreek Church west, and the Bethany Church east of town. Both were disrupted by the Newlight revival. A deed dated September 7, 1806, from John Shaw to Jonathan Tichenor and Abner Smith, places the first Presbyterian Church one mile west of town. The consideration for the land was recorded at $40.00, "for the only proper use of the Lebanon Presbyterian congregation forever."
This acre became the Presbyterian Graveyard in which are buried Jonathan Tichenor and Abner Smith. The first session of the church was not selected until December 3, 1807, when Jonathan Tichenor, Abner Smith, James Gallagher and Silas Hurin were chosen ruling Elders. On October 22, 1808, there were 46 members.
Jonathan Tichenor's accomplishments in the Presbyterian Church were to be praised. He was one of eight persons to sign the first agreement for the organization of a Presbyterian Church in the Miami Country, the church for Columbia and Cincinnati. He was elected as one of the first Elders of the church. He was later elected the ruling Elder at Turtlecreek, the first church of the denomination in Warren County. He, almost alone, defied the teachings and doctrines of the Kentucky Revival preached by Richard McNemar, which tended to destroy the church and leave in its place the first Society of Shakers in the western country.
Judge Francis Dunlevy said that Tichenor was one of the best men he ever knew. He settled more cases of disagreement between his neighbors than the courts of the County. One such case was that while plowing one day he was told that a member of the church, living east of Lebanon, was about to be converted to Newlightism. Dropping his working apparatus, he rushed to the man and persisted that he remain in the church.
Jonathan Tichenor resided on his farm west of Lebanon until his death in 1815. His son, David, left no children. Five of his children survived him: Daniel, Aaron, Catherine, Hannah and Susannah.

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