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  Sharon 
 

First Baptist Church

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The Baptist Church of Sharon is one of the pioneer churches of the Shenango Valley. Its origin may be traced to the efforts of Rev. David Phillips of Peter’s Creek, who came to this community in 1802, and finding in the sparsely settled country a few Baptists, concluded to preach to them, and finally organized a church. On the 29th of April, 1804, the organization formally occurred, Rev. Philips being aided in his work by S. David and B. Smith, Jr. Nineteen members were enrolled, embracing thirteen who had been identified with the church elsewhere, and six who had recently been baptized.   The following are their names: John and James Morford and their wives, Henry and Catherine Hoagland, Isaiah and Sarah Jones, Charles and Fanny Reno, Thomas and Charles Rigdon, Christopher North, John Gravat, Adamson Bentley, Mary Bentley, Drusilla Budd, Elizabeth and Susannah Bentley. Of those John Morford and Henry Hoagland were chosen deacons. The 29th of April was an important day to this congregation, and to the surrounding country for many miles. It was made memorable by the fact that on every anniversary occasion special services were held, commencing on Friday and continuing until the following Monday. These convocations were modern Pentecosts, that attracted saint and sinner from far and near. They were religiously what a full grown agricultural fair is to the people of the county to-day [1888], a general turnout of the people of all ages, sexes and conditions.  

A pastor was at length needed. Negotiations were made to secure the services of Rev. Thomas Jones, a resident of New Jersey, from which some of the members came. Money having been raised to defray his traveling expenses hither, an ox team was started after him, Adamson Bentley being given the post of honor of commanding the expedition. The journey, a distance of some 400 miles, was at length made, and the preacher and his family were successfully landed at their rustic western home, which was a log cabin on the farm now [1888] owned by Robert Luse. This occurred in 1805.  

For a time services were held in houses, barns and groves. At length, in 1807, the necessity of a regular place of worship was felt. William Budd donated a lot large enough for the church and grave-yard. A log meeting house, 20x30, was erected upon it, the site being nearly the same as that occupied by the old frame meeting house recently removed. Its equipment simple, as were the habits and customs of the people of those days. It served well, however, the wants of those early Christians. It was the first and only house of worship in what was subsequently called Sharon. The same year (1807) a branch of the Sharon Church was organized in West Salem Township, Rev. Jones preaching for it likewise. The relationship between these two continued uninterrupted until 1826. In 1811 Mr. Jones resigned his pastorate and went to Wooster, Ohio, where be died.  

The second pastor was Rev. Joshua Woodworth, who remained through the trying period of the second war with Great Britain [War of 1812], his labors ceasing in 1816, following his work is a series of uncertain pastorates, the dates being lost.  The workmen were Samuel McMillen, Sidney Rigdon and G. W. McCleery.  Sidney Rigdon subsequently became an apostle of Mormonism, and, in 1846-47, after the death of Joe Smith and the ensuing advancement of Brigham Young to the presidency of the Mormon Church, enlisted the co-operation of a number of men and women in an effort to establish a Mormon colony near Greencastle, Franklin Co., Penn. After the expenditure of many

Thousands of dollars and some two years of time, the enterprise proved abortive. Mr. McCleery, the father of Joseph McCleery, at present [1888] a resident of Sharon, joined the members who seceded in 1828, and became known subsequently as a Disciple. The records show the membership of the church to be as follows:

In 1820, 52; in 1823, 69, and in 1825, 75. In 1825 Rev. Henry Frasure was called to the pastorate, and remained until 1829. During a his term new trial came upon the Baptists. Many of its members became converts to the doctrines of Campbell. This ferment culminated in the going out of a sufficient number to organize a congregation in the latter part of June, 1828, the particulars of which are found in the sketch of the Christian Church of Sharon. The church property, however, was kept by the Baptists, they having retained a majority of the voting members. After Mr. Frasure’s efforts  Revs. Woodworth, of Ohio, and Stoughton, of Muddy Creek, paid the congregation visits. In 1834 Rev. Jacob Morris was employed as pastor, and continued in that capacity until 1837. He was followed, in the latter year, by Rev. David Thomas, who continued one year. In June, 1840, Dr. John Winter began his pastoral work. The church entered upon a new era. Dividing his time between Sharon and Warren, Ohio, he infused new life into the struggling membership. Forty-five were baptized, and former

members were reclaimed, and the first Sunday-school was established. On the 31st of March 1843, the congregation was regularly incorporated as “The Regular Baptist Church of the Borough of Sharon.” Its first board of trustees included Edward S. Budd, Elam Bentley, John Hazen, Conrad G. Carver and Thomas Clark.  

The old log meeting-house being too small, it was decided to erect a frame one. The result was the old structure, till recently standing on the hill, 40x50.  While it was in process of erection the congregation worshiped in the house of the Protestant Methodists. This privilege was cut short, however, by the fact that the practice of the Baptists on the subject of baptism and close communion gave offense to the owners of the church, who closed their doors upon them. In 1844 Dr. Winter resigned, and devoted his whole time to Warren. Rev. W. B. Barns was pastor from 1844 to 1847. He was succeeded by Rev. Thomas W. Greer in October, 1847, who continued until June, 1851, when he resigned. During his pastorate a Ladies Missionary Society, the first of its kind, was organized. During the same time an academy was established, and a two-story brick building was erected. In 1849 William Budd, who had given the site  the church, and liberal contributions for the church and the bell, was called away. His memory has always been revered by the congregation. Changes now were quite frequent. Rev. William Storrs was pastor, under trying difficulties, during 1851-52. A vacancy occurred until May, 1853, when Rev. S. H. Ruple became pastor, and continued until 1855. During his stay the church divided, one portion conducting a Sunday-school in a rented room. and church services in their own houses, while the congregation proper worshiped in the church. In 1856 Rev. A. G. Kirk, the next pastor, drew up agreement and secured a partial reconciliation between the two factions, thirty-six returning to their allegiance. Rev. M. C. Hendron preached from September, 1856, to September, 1857. Rev. J. Moses was a supply until February, 1859, when Rev. John Parker began his labors, which continued 1863. During this period the membership increased from eighty-four to 122. The intense feeling resulting from the War of the Rebellion divided the congregation. Rev. Dinemore ministered to one faction in the church, and Revs. Winter and Parker to another in a rented church. Reorganization followed with the close of the war, and Dr. Winter again became pastor in March, 1866. He began to collect funds for refitting the church, and secured $1,066 with which the house renewed its primitive attractiveness, and was dedicated a second time at the June meeting, 1866. He resigned in March, 1867. At the close of his pastorate the membership was eighty-seven. Rev. J. Stratton was pastor from April, 1867, to April, 1869. Rev. David Williams was pastor the succeeding year. He was followed by Rev. Jesse Williams, who continued from April, 1870, to the day of his death, in the ensuing August. Rev. J. T. Griffith was here a few months; Rev. C. H. Harvey from April, 1871, to 1873; Rev. A. Wilson for about two years; Rev. J. B. Solomon from October, 1875, to 1879. During his period the dead were removed from the old grave-yard to Oakwood Cemetery. In April, 1880, Rev. E. L Wells began his work, and remained two years.

On the 2nd of July, 1882, the present pastor, Rev. H. C. Hall, began his pastoral labors, and was regularly ordained the 3d of August following. At the beginning of his pastorate a site was selected and steps were taken to erect a new church edifice. The building committee was Rev. H. C. Hall, J. Hunter, Malin Ewing and Robert Luse. In April, 1883, J. L. Weaver took the contract for erecting the new brick edifice, at a cost of $11,600. Completed and furnished the expense amounted to about $15,000. The structure was dedicated June 28, 1884, Rev. H. I. King, of Cleveland, preaching morning and Rev. J. W. Gordon, of Buffalo, the evening discourse.  The sum of $2,700 was raised to liquidate the indebtedness on the house. In 1886 a neat parsonage, just west of the church, was erected at a cost of about $2,000.

History of Mercer County, 1888, pages 382-384.

 

 

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