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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Fellowship Church Celebrating 170 Years In County

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 7 September 2004
Source:
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan
[also see Fellowship Cemetery tombstone photos]

Warren County has many fine old churches within its boundaries, some of which seem to be hidden away from the population flow. One of these churches is located at 4031 Columbia Road in Union Township. It was built in 1826, and on July 2nd of the same year, it was dedicated with Rev. Elias Vickers preaching the first sermon. It is the Fellowship Church, which lies about five miles southwest of Lebanon, a short distance from the Little Miami River.
Marilyn Taylor made mention of this church to the writer some time back, and within a short time a fine history was furnished from which I shall now draw. I wish to thank all those involved for gathering this material.
In 1825, a party of five persons, Rebecca Sargeant, Anna Spencer, John Hall, Andres Lytle and Borbone Runyan organized to form the Fellowship Christian Church.
The lot, comprised of one and one-quarter acres, was bought for $25 from David Fox for purposes of the erection of a church and the establishment of a cemetery. The Fellowship pioneer cemetery has burials as early as 1799.
According to an old diary, Robert Shurts and a Mr. Murphy planted the pine trees on the plot on April 17, 1879.
The church was understood by many pioneers to be a free denominational church, thus the name Fellowship. However, since the Christians had been involved in it's founding, the fellowship consented to it being deeded to trustees of the Christian Church establishment.
American religions began to develop in the early part of the Nineteenth Century, namely, the Baptist, Methodists and Presbyterians. These religious establishments were called the Christian Church, the name meaning only that the members were Christians.
The Cane Ridge revival in Paris, Kentucky, in 1801, was led by the famous circuit rider, Richard McNemar. Many area locals traveled to hear this great evangelist preach. He proclaimed that the will of God was made manifest to each individual who sought after it by an inward light, thus, the name "New Lights."
In the spring of 1802, McNemar took charge of the Turtle Creek Church, located three miles west of Lebanon. The original settlers near the Fellowship Christian Church were only five miles from McNemar's church and, without a doubt, many heard his preaching's.
Elder Richard Simonton most likely attended the sizable congregation of McNemar's church. He professed the Christian religion while quite young, and was ordained a minister at the Bethany Church in Turtlecreek Twp. on October 18, 1821, just a short time after its inception.
He was soon chosen pastor of several churches, one of which was the Fellowship Christian Church. He served in this capacity from 1825 until 1845. He and his family are buried in the graveyard near the southwest corner of the church.
McNemar's work in Warren County yielded the Bethany Church (1821), South Lebanon (1828), and Fellowship. As a direct result of the great revival in Kentucky, and McNemar's involvement, the Christian Church conference was framed in 1804.
The writer was given an architectural description of the church. It is described as simplified Greek revival with a Roman arch entry. The original structure measures 52 1/2 ft. deep and 40 ft. wide. It has eight twelve-pane double hung windows with limestone lintels and sills and a gabled roof.
The front doors are wood with Victorian detailed moldings. The entrance is decorated with an archivolt brick arch above the doors and brick corner pilasters with brick capitals. The chimneys are brick.
An addition was added in 1855 to the original brick structure. Services were continued the following year. William Bunnell was in charge of the construction; he died in 1856 and was buried in the graveyard. The addition was named "The Bunnell Improvement" in his honor.
In 1871, the two entrance doors on the east side were closed and, as a substitution, a set of double doors was installed in the front; these are still in use. Also, a platform was made, the walls frescoed, and the aisles were changed.
The church became incorporated under the name Fellowship Christian Church in 1875.
In 1886, through the will of Firman Sutton, the church was deeded a ten acre tract of land with a small frame house upon it. It was located about one-half mile south of the property. Rental proceeds were to go for the support of the church.
Because of lack of attendance, church services were discontinued in 1902 or 1903, it being placed on the inactive list of churches within the conference.
It had been closed for about three years when the official board sent Rev. B.F. Vaughan to inspect the building and give a report. His findings were that the roof leaked, the plaster was damaged, the walls molded, and the carpet was rotting on the floor.
A decision to sell the property by the Conference was protested by the old family members. Letters were passed amongst the neighbors and interested persons regarding community support.
Rev. R.S Hageman, a Methodist minister and a resident of the community for many years, who had always been a proponent of the Fellowship church, traveled thoughout the area and raised the funds for remodeling the structure. Consequently, it was put in good repair inside and outside, and was saved for future worshippers.
In 1965, a sizeable addition of 20 1/2 ft. by 26 ft. was built that included two new Sunday school rooms, rest rooms, kitchen, basement and furnace. The addition was correlated to fit the physical structure of the old church.
The church bell was purchased in 1908 from the C.S. Bell Co. of Hillsboro, Ohio. The bell and tower were both installed simultaneously with no delay to church or Sunday school services.
Still going strong, the old church continues to be a mighty beacon of light, not only to the community, but also to the county.


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This page created 7 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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