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Hamilton Township Churches
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The History of Warren County, Ohio

The Churches



Transcription contributed by Arne H Trelvik 28 June, 2003


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

Bethel Presbyterian Bethel Temperance Society Hill Neighborhood Methodists Hopkinsville Presbyterian Maineville Free Will Baptist Maineville Methodist Episcopal Zoar Methodist Episcopal


The Churches

The forms of religion that prevailed largely among the early settlers, were Presbyterian and Methodist. The former had its center in the southern part of the township, among the settlers from Pennsylvania. The latter had two strongholds within the township, one at Zoar, and the other in the Hill settlement, in the southwestern part of the township.



This was the pioneer Methodist organization in the township. The Mountses and Ludlums were prominent among the early, active and influential members. The first church building was a log one, and stood on the same spot where the present one now stands, and was built about the year 1820. Previous to this time, class-meetings were held at private houses, and the Methodists and Presbyterians united in occasional services at Mounts’ Station. The church continued to enjoy a good degree of prosperity, and in 1837 the log building was replaced by the present one. In the winter of 1843-44, a most remarkable revival took place in this church. The meetings were under the administration of Rev. Smith and Fife, two ministers possessing unrivaled powers as revivalists. The religious excitement attending these meetings was very great and more than two hundred were converted. This period marked the time of the church’s greatest prosperity at Zoar. The establishment of an organization at Maineville, a few years later, gradually drew the interest in that direction, and the members are now comparatively few.

I have already stated that the Methodists had, at an early day, another stronghold in the township, in the Hill neighborhood. At a very early date, several families of Hills – all relatives – settled in this locality. They were earnest and active Methodists, and noted for their wonderful powers of spiritual song. They proceeded at once to organized class meetings, going from house to house, and engaging in exhortation, song and praise to God. Some years later, this point became a regular preaching place on the Circuit, and for many years the old log schoolhouse, a few hundred yards west of the Hill Graveyard was used for public worship. The walls of this primitive building often resounded to the fiery eloquence and pleadings of many of the grand old preaches of early days; many were the revivals that took place within its portals; many weary and troubled souls found rest and quiet around it rude alters; but time has wrought great changes. The old building long since (1854) yielding to the force of the storm king, and the material of which it was built, became scattered far and wide. The congregations that were wont to assemble there have, too, like the building, yielded to the process of disintegration; some have moved away, some have sought other places to worship, while many, very many, have crossed the river, we trust, to enter into that House not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens, whose builder and maker is God.


The first regular church organization of the Methodists at this place was in 1842, the Dudleys and Tufts, taking a prominent part in the movement. Previous to this time, they had class-meetings and religious gatherings at private houses, and occasional preaching. At the time of the organization, they had no church building, but the Baptist brethren kindly allowed them the use of their house until they could erect one of their own. The new organization at once enjoyed a season of great prosperity. Revival meetings were held under the leadership of Smith, Fife and others, and large accessions were made to the church. In 1844, they erected a commodious brick building of their own. The church has continued with varied success to the present time. It is the only Methodist organization, with the exception of Zoar, in the township. The total number of members now is about one hundred. The Rev. Baughman, Rev. Bishop Soule, Rev. George Maley and Rev. James B. Finley preached here at different times. This society supports a flourishing Sabbath school.


This church was organized by Elder Moses Dudley, Henry Greely and others as early as 1822 or 1823. It was called Salt Spring Church. For a

number of years they worshiped in a schoolhouse east of Maineville, and not far from the Maineville Graveyard. About 1830, they built the present brick building. For a number of years this society enjoyed a good degree of success; but of late years, the membership has from various causes diminished. However, it still supports a regular minister, and a good class of Sabbath school scholars, and is in a quiet way doing much good.

Elder Moses Dudley was the first pastor of this church. Among those who preached from the pulpit in early times may be mentioned the names of Marcus Kilburn, Black Isaac, Richard Simonton and John Dudley, the latter a New- Light.


Information concerning the early organization and progress of this church, is of a very meager character, owing to the fact that the minute-book was lost by burning some few years ago. The society was organized as a branch of the Sycamore Associate Reformed Church, on the west side of the Little Miami. Rev. David McDill is believed to have been the first preacher; he probably preached at Hopkinsville occasionally, as early as 1820. The church was organized soon after this. About 1827, William Hopkins was elected a Ruling Elder. The ministers who have served the congregation are as follows: Rev. John Graham, Rev. Peter Monfort, Rev. Henry Allen, Rev. Robert K. Campbell from 1856 to 1866, Rev. H. Y. Leiper 1868 to 1869, Rev. James H. Elliot 1870 to 1880. Rev. S. A. Buck is the present pastor. The present number of members is about twenty-six. A good and efficient Sabbath school has been kept up for many years.


This was the first religious organization in the township, and the varied relations of this church to the people in general have been so widespread and long continued, and its influence in giving character to society so potent for good, that its history is so interwoven with the history of the township, as to be inseparable. In view of these well-known facts, the writer feels that in giving a somewhat detailed history of the church, no apology is due.

About the close of the last century, Samuel Walker, of Franklin County, Penn., purchased (as already stated in the account of the early settlement of the township) a large tract of land in the southern part of the township, upon which, not long after, four of his children, viz., Esther Spence, Margaret Spence, Samuel Walker and Sarah Martin, settled for the purpose of making homes for themselves and their children. These families brought with them the seeds of Presbyterianism, which, with many discouragements, prayers and self denials, they planted in the wilds of what was then known as the Miami country.

These, in connection with a few other families, formed the nucleus out of which was organized the Bethel Church. These fathers and mothers underwent many hardships in their efforts to give to their children the religious institutions which they now enjoy, but they met their trials with patience and courage, toiled in hope, prayed in faith, and their labors were blessed. The church was not organized for about twelve years after the first settlement of these pioneer families. During this time, they enjoyed occasional preaching by several faithful ministers. The Rev. Robert B. Dobbins, a member of the Presbytery of Washington, which was then a part of the Synod of Kentucky, and located chiefly between the Scioto and the Miamis, visited the Bethel neighborhood about twice a year, preaching and administering the ordinance of baptism to the children of such as held certificates of standing in the churches from which they had removed. Other ministers also occasionally preached in

the neighborhood, both before and after the organization of the church, among whom may be mentioned, Revs. Nicholas Petinger, Father Boyd, Crothers, Monfort, Reuben Frame, James and William Dickey. At last the long desired time arrived when a church was to be organized, and this little band were to be gathered in closer union, and strengthened by the bands of outward ecclesiastical organization.

On the 9th day of September, 1814, the Rev. Robert B. Dobbins preached, and after the sermon proceeded to organize the church in the usual way. The minutes which record the matter read thus: “The congregation of Bethel (after sermon) proceeded to the election of Ruling Elders. The votes were cast up, and it appeared that Colen Spence and Robert Shields were duly elected.” On the next day these two brethren were solemnly set apart to the office to which they had been chosen by the congregation, and immediately thereafter held a meeting at which ten persons were received into the church - Rev. R. B. Dobbins, Moderator – eight upon certificate, and two upon examination. Their names were as follows: Isaac Spence and Esther his wife, Martha Shields, Margaret Spence, James Anderson and Martha his wife, William Wasson and Agnes his wife; and on examination, William Spence and Rebecca his wife. This little band constituted Bethel Church at its organization sixty-seven years ago. These brethren who were elected to the eldership served the church faithfully during the remainder of their lives, often riding on horseback forty and fifty miles to attend the meeting of Presbytery.

The little church for several years had no house of worship, but held their meetings, in the winter season, in a log schoolhouse near the present Bethel Graveyard, and in the summer season in the groves. To them, the groves were indeed God’s first temples. It might be pleasant to linger among these memories of the past, and notice every feature in the growth of the church, but space will not admit of it. We pass over several years, burdened, doubtless, with many trials of faith, and come to the year 1823. This year marked an epoch in the history of the church. In this year, it was determined to erect a house in which to worship God. It was not a costly structure, but answered its end, and was adapted if not to the wants, at least to the circumstances of those concerned. It was built of logs, hewn from the forests in the immediate vicinity. The seats were made mostly of puncheons, and of course without any backs. In the center of the room was a capacious hearth, but no Chimney; none needed, for on the hearth was built a fire of charcoal, which made no smoke, and the materials of which could also be drawn from the near forest. The building stood near where the parsonage now stands. The church continued to grow in numbers each year marking new accessions.

The people worshiped in this house till the year 1839. Up to this time the minutes of the session record a great number of judicial cases. This is owing largely, no doubt, to the condition and habits of society at that time. The most frequent charge is “the too free use of spirituous liquors.” In these early days the baleful influence of intemperance was felt in every relation of life, not only in the evils of intoxication, but in the kindred evils which always accompany it. It is not to be wondered at that the church session experienced great difficulties in this direction, when we reflect that whisky was a principal guest at every gathering, and had a place upon every side-board. But happily, as the preaching of the word and the means of grace increased, we find the evils of intemperance abating from the church. On the Sabbath when there was no preaching, religious services were held under direction of the session, which were called Society meetings, at which some one was appointed to read a sermon from some approved author, prayers were made and hymns sung. Thus the little band struggled along through the darkness and discouragements

incidental to all churches at an early day. Goshen was also a preaching place in connection with Bethel Church, and continued this relation until 1833, when a petition was presented asking for the organization of a church in that place. The records show that at this time the session was composed of the following members: Rev. S. G. Gaines, Moderator, Z. Owen, J. Oliver, R. B. McKinnie, T. Dickey, S. W. Spence, Geo. Shields, Rob’t Shields, Wm. Thacker, J. B. Spence and Benjamin Erwin. The session met May 30th, 1833, at which quite a number received their certificates with a view of uniting with the Goshen organization, and the little church of Bethel, never too strong, became two bands. This church was not discouraged, however, and in the year 1839 undertook the work of building a new house of worship of more substantial character and better adapted to their wants. The log building was 24x36 feet, the one proposed was to be of brick, 40x50 feet, and was in due time completed.

We copy from the report of the treasurer the names of those contributing to the building fund, varying in amount from $1 to $85. James Walker, George Shields, Benj. Erwin, R. Dobbin Shields, William Schuyler, Samuel B. Walker, John Shields, Samuel W. Spence, John McClave, William Ramsey, Elis McKinney, Bennet Simonton, Joseph Clinton, William Newel, James Hall, John Abernathy, John Spence, Sr., Thomas Monce, Andrew Newel, David Morgan, Thomas Dickey, Robert Shields, James B. Spence, William Shields, John Gillis, Joseph Gillis, A. J. Walker, William Coburn, Andrew W. Spence, William B. Spence, Daniel Quinby, Mrs. Janetta Eveland, Peter Eveland, Francis Hopkinson, Estate of William Spence, Dec., Isaac Spence, Sr., James Spence, Peter Schuyler, James Martin, William Swank, John Spence, Sr., Isaac Spence, Jr., and Colon Spence.

From about 1832 until 1842 (as nearly as can be learned from the records) the church was supplied in connection with Goshen by Rev. L. G. Gaines, who was known as a pioneer church builder, he being instrumental in the erection of a number of church buildings. His immediate successor was the Rev. A. H. Rodgers, whose name appears first on the minutes of session of May 28, 1842; he continued to serve the church until December 3, 1843, when his name disappears and is followed by the Rev. S. J. Miller, who preached until 1847. For the next two years, we find the names of Edward Kemper and Slack as supplies. These were followed by Rev. P. Rees, who supplied the church from February 1849, until September 1850, when the Rev. James Connelly took charge of the church and continued to serve until 1852; he was succeeded by Rev. James Doe, who preached for the churches of Bethel and Goshen (as his predecessors had done) until the latter part of 1853. Two other ministers’ names appear from this date to 1856, viz., Revs. McCombes and Caldwell. The records do not show whether they were regular supplies or preached only occasionally, probably the latter.

In the year 1856 an important action was taken by the congregation, the first of the kind of which there seems to be any record in the minutes of the session. That action was embodied in the following resolution by the congregation:
Resolved, That we now proceed to elect a pastor.

A vote was then taken and the result was that Rev. J. M. Drake was unanimously chosen. This pastorate continued through two years, when the church again fell back into the stated supply system and employed the Rev. D. Kingery, who we believe was the first minister that was employed for all his time at this place. Rev. Kingery continued to serve the church until the autumn of 1860, when he was succeeded by Rev. I. J. Cushman, whose pastorate continued for more than twenty years, and was only terminated by his death, which occurred in August, 1881. Of this long and faithful pastorate,

much of interest might be said, suffice here to say that in Mr. Cushman’s death the whole community recognized the loss of an able minister and an upright and consistent Christian in every relation of life. January 1, 1882, the Rev. George M. Maxwell accepted the pastorate of the church and began his labors.

As Early as 1867, it became apparent that it would soon be necessary to rebuild the church. About this time, Prof. James E. Murdoch, whose benevolence and generosity are widely known, made a proposition to the church, that if they would rebuild he would raise and contribute a sum equal to half the cost of rebuilding. This proposition was accepted April 14, 1870, committees were appointed to solicit subscriptions; building committees were also appointed; subscriptions were secured from the congregation and community to the amount of about $2,525. This, with Prof. Murdoch’s generous proposal, made a building fund of $5,000. Nothing more was done, however, until April 15, 1872, when the building committee were directed to proceed with their work. On the first Monday in May, the work of removing the old building was begun, and in the fall of the same year the new house was completed. The cost of the building, exclusive of the material of the old one, was $4,518.56, and included the same, $5,178.

Within its walls were gathered, on the 2d day of December, 1880, a large assemblage of the people; the occasion was the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Rev. I. J. Cushman’s pastorate. The old and the young were there. Those that still walked in the ways of the world, as well as the professed followers of Christ, were there, the former drawn thither by their admiration and profound respect for him who in his every day contact with the world, followed faithfully that line of conduct which he so ably and earnestly advocated in the pulpit, the latter by those mysterious chords of love and confidence that bind God’s followers to a faithful leader.

The Ministerial Association of Cincinnati delegated a committee to attend the services, consisting of Rev. J. G. Monfort, D. D., Thomas H. Skinner, D. D., Edward Cooper, D. D., L. F. Walker, W. H. James, Thomas Courtleyou and J. P. E. Kumler, D. D. The church was filled to its upmost capacity. After a half hour spent in devotional exercises, Mr. Cushman was called on, and gave a review of his twenty years’ work. He was followed by Rev. William B. Spence, of Sidney, who spoke of pioneer life in this section of the Little Miami Valley, and recalled many incidents connected with the early history of this church, near which he was born in 1804. This closed the morning exercises, and after partaking of a banquet served in the parsonage, the audience returned to the church, where the afternoon exercises were begun by Rev. Thomas Courtleyou, Mrs. Cushman’s pastor before her marriage. He was followed by Mrs. Horace Clinton, a sister of Rev. Mr. Walker, in an eloquent and touching address to the pastor, on behalf of the congregation. This address was followed by the presentation of the “Eagles.” This was an unique and most touching ceremony, in which each year was represented by a Sabbath school scholar. This band of children, twenty in number, came forward in procession and successively repeated an appropriate verse prepared for the occasion, each in turn presenting a golden coin to the pastor. At the conclusion of this touching ceremony, congratulatory letters were read, presents tendered, and some short speeches made by brother ministers present. The audience then sang the hymn, “Blessed be the tie that Bind,” and were dismissed, thus closing an eventful day in the history of Bethel Church.

Members Received into the Church, 1814 – 1850. – 1814, James Smith and Agnes, his wife, 1815, Hannah Walker, Samuel Stewart, Mary Sewel; 1816, Margaret Spence, Isabella Spence, Hannah Spence; 1817, Alex. Hall; 1822,

Sarah Anderson, William Mitchell, Samuel Spence; 1824, John Anderson; 1825, Mrs. Elsie C. Roat, Margaret Roat; 1826, Mrs. Mary Burton, Joseph Owen, Annie Patten, William Spence, Thomas Dickey and Isabella, his wife, John Spence, William Thatcher and Hester, his wife; 1827, William Shields, Jacob Morris, Mrs. Polly Soule, James Spence, Susannah Morris, Annie Haywood, Phoebe Clinton, Hannah Shields, Elsa McKinney, Hester Eveland, Joseph Wallis, Mrs. Rebecca Spence; 1828, John Oliver and Margaret, his wife, Miss Mary Munce, Mrs. Sarah Spence, John O. Thacker, Andrew W. Spence, Samuel W. Spence, Andrew Spence, Jr., James Walker, Mary Shields, Eleanor Clinton, Judith Anderson, Sarah Anderson, Permelia Snell, Jane Spence, Esther Spence, Ann Spence, Bulah Thacker, Eliza Paxton, Elizabeth Dunlap, James Dunlap, Joseph Dunlap, Lewis Atkinson, Isabella Martin, Daniel Barber, Jane Cox, Thomas Spence, George Shields, John Shields, Lucinda Shields, Elizabeth Kelley, Samuel Walker, Jr., Joseph Anderson, Elizabeth Burton, Catherine Burton, Jacob Schuyler and Margaret, his wife, Elenor Cummins, Jane Ann Cummins, Mary Wene, Mary Ann Gillis, Joseph Branch, Samuel B. Walker, John Walker, Isabella Hall, Jane Liggett, David Shields; 1828, Patience Barber, Martha Clinton, Margret Dickey, Benjamin Thacker, George Constable, Charles Leeper, Tabitha Drake, Rebecca Barker, John Dunlap, William Roat, Charles Cummins, William Cummins, Elizabeth Cummins, Nancy Kelley, Elizabeth Wene, Girty Schuyler, Hester Thacker, Elenor Simonton, Jane McKinney, Susannah Oliver, Ann Wene, Eliza Mullen, Jenetta Frybarger; 1829, Mrs. Ruth Burrows, Mrs. Elizabeth Higgins, Annie Munce, Mrs. Benjamin Erwin, William Spence, Jr., William Frybarger.

May 29, 1830, the church of Union having by consent, united with Bethel Church, the following enrolled themselves as members, viz.: Harman Eveland, Jenneta, his wife, Mrs. Sarah Orr, Mrs. Martha Paxton, Mrs. Elenor Leeper. In this same year a camp-meeting was held at Montgomery, lasting from August 27 to August 31, inclusive, at which the following persons were received into the communion of the church, viz.: Catharine Brunson, Thomas Brunson, David Cummins, Deborah Foster, Elizabeth Parker, Jessie Wood, Elizabeth Wood, Andrew J. Walker, Hester Haywood, Margaret Heaton, Phoebe Heaton, Lydia Haywood, Joseph A. Shields, Caleb Oliver; 1830 Sarah Munce, Margaret Oliver Margaret Coburn, Nancy Cox, Catharine Spence; 1831, Mary Ann Nickles, Anna Garrison, Jonas Garrison and Elizabeth, his wife, Miss Rachel Phillips; 1832, John Spence; 1833, Abraham Wilson, Margaret S. Frame, David Biggs, Elizabeth Scott, Jane Scott, Richard McKinney and Lydia, his wife, Mrs. Martha Boyd; 1834, Andrew Campbell, Rebecca Gordon, Joseph Rapp and Margaret Rapp; 1835, Mrs. Martha Irwin, Carrie A. Westerfield, George Rapp, William Scott, Maria Oliver, Mary Scott, Margaret Gaines, Dr. Hiram Cox and Margaret, his wife, Caroline Spence, Isaac Westerfield, Hannah Oliver, Margaret Dickey, Agnes Campbell; 1836, Mrs. Mary Marsh, Mrs. Elizabeth Cook, Mrs. Eliza Spence, from Middle Spring, Penn.; 1837, Agnes Lowry, Maria Fold, James Hindman and Mary, his wife; Samuel Anderson, Katherine Quimby, Mrs. Mary Felter, Mrs. Martha Boyd; 1838, Preston Bishop and Hannah, his wife, Fannie Stephens, Adaline Stephens, William Schuyler and Christina, his wife; 1842, Ruanza Phillips, Elizabeth Anderson, Mariah Millspaugh, Rachel Burton, Elenor Morris, William Coburn, Leah Walker; 1843, Dgnira Johnson, Jane Walker, Elizabeth Clinton, Nancy Newel, Lewis Ellston; 1845, Cassander Wene, Louis A. Miles, Sarah Miles, Joana Spence; 1846, Eliza Phillips; 1849, Elenor Walker, William H. Walker, Mary Jane Shields, Mary Spence, Ezra A. Butler; 1850, Rachel Shields.

Names of Elders: Colon Spence, Robert Shields, Joseph Owens, William Spence, Thomas Dickey, John Oliver, George Shields, R. B. McKinney, Samuel

W. Spence, J. B. Spence, B. Erwin, William Thacker, William Swank, James Walker, Samuel Spence, Dr. N. W. Bishop, Alexander Robb, Daniel Shields. The present incumbents are A. J. Walker, William Swank, Dr. N. W. Bishop and Samuel Spence.

Death of Members as copied from Records. – Isaac Spence, January 24, 1820; Margaret Anderson, October 15, 1829; Jane Shields, September 7 1821; James Anderson, May 5, 1825; Sarah Anderson, May, 1827; John Anderson, September 14, 1827; Upheny Munce, July 16, 1830; Mary Munce, July 17, 1830; Esther Spence, October 17, 1830; Joseph Anderson, May 13, 1831; Mrs. Annie Spence, July 13, 1831; Harman Eveland, August 17, 1831; Isaac Clinton, January 13, 1832; Margaret Spence, February 12, 1832; Katherine Thacker, September 7, 1833; Martha Paxton, March 10, 1835; Rhoda Martin, August 13, 1835; Colon Spence, June 13, 1836; William Spence, 1837; William Newel, December 20, 1840; Mary Burton, August 7, 1840; Mary Wene, April, 1840; Sarah Martin, May 3, 1841; Eliza McKinney, August 9, 1841; Jacob Schuyler, May 10, 1841; Katherine Spence, November 20, 1842; Sarah Spence, January 15, 1843; James Smith, 1844; Margaret Schuyler, April 10, 1844; John Ross, August 20, 1844; Samuel B. Walker, December 6, 1845; Elenor Simonton, October 8, 1848; Thomas Spence, March 6, 1849; Hannah Walker, February 14, 1851; Samuel S. Shields, 1852; Agnes Smith, April 12, 1854; Thomas Dickey, May 14, 1856; Isabella Walker, September 25, 1857; Martha Shields, November 19, 1863; Isabella Dickey, November 1, 1864; James Martin, March 12, 1864; Hester Ann Walker, December 24, 1864; Martha Clinton, April 7, 1865; Mary Ann Gillis, December, 1866; Esther Spence, March 12, 1866; Andrew Spence, 1866; Alexander Gaines Walker, killed at battle of Murfreesboro, December 31, 1862; Minerva Shields, January 24, 1867; Francis M. Swank, August, 1869; John Quincy Spence, October 17, 1868; Hannah Spence, June 8, 1871; Rachel Burton, 1871; Caroline Swank, March 23, 1871; James Caldwell, August 9, 1871; Aaron Schuyler, December, 1872; Ruanza Spence, June 8, 1873; William H. Walker, June 2, 1873; James Walker, July 15, 1879; Eliza H. Spence, July, 1880; Jane Spence, February 20, 1880; George Shields, July 26, 1880.

The above is only a very limited list of the dead, but is all that could be gathered from the church records.


The use of intoxicating drink was a besetting sin among the pioneer settlers. Its evil effects were felt in almost every household. Was there to be a wood-chopping or a log-rolling, and we might add with truth, a church building to be raised, whisky was regarded as one of the essential aids to a proper performance of the work. No farmer thought of commencing his harvest, without first securing a liberal supply of liquor. Thomas Dickey, than a young man, was one of the first to awaken to a knowledge of the moral degradation being fastened upon the community by its use. About the year 1825, young Dickey, in connection with James Walker, William Shields, and Andrew Spence, organized the “Bethel Temperance Society.” A constitution was drafted and necessary by-laws were adopted. Thomas Dickey was chosen President. Accessions were rapidly made, and in a short time the society numbered one hundred members. It is a remarkable fact that among all these members, but a single violation of the pledge occurred. The influence of this society for good was incalculable. It banished whisky from the social gatherings, from the harvest field, from the log-rolling and other similar gatherings. The society preserved its organization for many years and finally died out, not because the temperance spirit was less dominant, but because the work was completed in the neighborhood. There was no longer any foe to fight.

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