Religious History

The Churches:

In point of numbers the churches of the county stand in the order in which they are named: Church of Christ, Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian, United Presbyterian, Friends, Catholic, Christian Union, Wesleyans, and Adventists. It is not expected to give any of the doctrine, the faith or the practices of the various organizations, hence none who reads this chapter will be disappointed to find no allusion to the peculiar features which distinguish them. Each order has its distinctive plea, and advances that plea as the reason for recognition. Its growth and advance depend mainly upon the persistence with which the plea is punished. One remarkable feature of the establishment of a religious order was the resemblance to the peculiar faith, which the adherents soon acquired. Their personal appearance, expression and ordinary manners indicate the influence of their faith upon their hearts. Not to personal appearances alone do we look for distinction, but there is a dress canon that marks the society as readily as circumcision distinguished the Jew. Some orders hold to the prescribed “Cut to the coat” to the regulation “Width of the hat brim” to the facial adornments in matter of “cut of whiskers” and to proscription upon the texture of the cloth out of which garments are made. These all found their way into the organization of Rush County, but are gradually falling back among the relics of the age when steam and electricity did as they pleased so far as man's power and knowledge were concerned. It is a matter of actual observation that in very many cases the personal appearance of the individuals betrays his faith. In my nineteen years ministry in the county I have noted this fact and by that very resemblance have many times been enabled to locate both pastor and parishioner. It has been said that the minister gives color and complexion to society by his method of preaching, his habits and manner of life. This is largely true. The male members of the pioneer church shaved just like the preacher, tipped their hats, learned to wink, point the finger, squint the same eye in exactly the same unexceptionable style, all this and more, unwittingly of course, but nevertheless they did. A real verification of the laconism “like priest like people” Following these prefatory thoughts the history proper begins, according to the order above, with

The Church of Christ:

This order stands among the pioneers of religious training in the county, and has made rapid advances. In point of numbers it leads any other religious order in the county. There is a slight difference of opinion as to the first society established. The precedence has heretofore been given to Little Flat Rock, but this is not allowed to remain undisputed. There is strong evidence, and with a fair show of exactness, that the year prior to the organization at Little Flat Rock, a church was organized in the private residence of John MORRIS, about a mile south and west of Fayetteville. The now venerable Professor Ryland T. BROWN, of Indianapolis, presided at this meeting, and “Aunt Neppy SUMMERS, now of Greensburg, a most reliable pioneer and devoted Christian, together with I.B. LONG, are the witnesses in behalf of the MORRIS organization. It was not long after the organization until they carried the society to Fayetteville, and it became the nucleus of the present organization at that place. As a general thing church records are so poorly kept that it is out of the question to get the exact facts of any organization. We have, for the most part, to depend upon the memory of the “oldest inhabitant” which, to say the least, is a bad tablet from which to read important records. Whether the organization in the household of the pioneer, Morris, or the one at Little Flat Rock, can claim the honor of first existence, is not so vital an element in a history like this, since it is not the fact of beginning so much as the fact of development that is important. The Flat Rock has precedence so far as continuity of place is concerned. It began in 1827, under the inspiration of Elder John P. THOMPSON, who, having formed the Flat Rock Association of the Baptist Church, when he was brought into the light of the teaching of the Scriptures, as urged by Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, B.W. Stone, and others, himself turned to that faith of the Church of Christ, and carried his recently constituted Flat Rock Association with him and organized them anew upon the Bible and the Bible alone as the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. This motto became the battle cry, and indeed is the “shibboleth” of this religious order to day. Their ritual, their discipline, their faith, and their order of worship must be read first from the teaching and practice of the apostles before they will be adopted as authoritative in church government. The work so well begun by Elder Thompson was greatly aided by that wonderfully fearless and aggressive pioneer, John O. Kane, who came to the county in 1832. He labored several years in building up the work and his success was marked at every point of contact. From its small beginning it now stands first in point of numbers and wealth and wields an influence that must be felt by all who come under the light of its teaching. As a church, it is strongly missionary, both home and foreign, being inspired by the great commission “Go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” By a united effort of the churches of the county it formed cooperation with the congregations of the Church of Christ of Fayette County, and employed an Evangelist who spent his entire time among the weaker places. This effort alone resulted in an increase of the membership of the county, of more than 150, besides this, the regular church work increased equally by as many more. There are now fourteen local organizations situated as follows: Raleigh, Center, Carthage (colored), Hannegan, Plum Creek, Fairview, Ben Davis, Rushville, Arlington, Manilla and Homer, Big Flat Rock (Littles), Milroy, and Little Flat Rock. These local organizations support preaching, each one-fourth, one-half, three-fourths or all the time, and in the absence of the minister the local talent is always sufficient to instruct and entertain the body. Nearly every congregation has its Sunday school and all the legitimate means for the edification of the body are resorted to and exercised with an intelligent and a commendable zeal. This church in its various organization enjoyed the faithful labors in the early days of its history in the county, of such men as William McPherson, Arthur Miller, John Walker, James Smith, A. Banks, G.C. McDuffer, Ruben Garret, James Conner (still living and at work), Jacob Daubenspeck (now near ninety years old and yet able to teach), and others. The living representatives of the pulpit in the county are J.W. Conner, E. Scofield, W.S. Campbell, J.E. Taylor, J. Daubenspeck, P. Weaver (colored), and the writer. The church also enjoys the visiting ministry of E.S. Frazee, William Mullendore, W.S. Tingley, and the county Evangelist, A.W. Conner. If there have been omissions, it is an oversight, but it is through that this is the past and present pulpit of the Church of Christ of Rush County.

Methodist Episcopal

The honor of the pioneer work in religious teaching in the county lies between this order of worshipers and the Regular Baptists. It cannot be definitely ascertained which denomination has the precedence in regard to this matter. As early as 1821 James Havens preached this faith in the southern part of the county, and at nearly the same period John Linville organized a class in the southeast corner. They mention among their early laborers in the county, R. Beggs, James Havens, Joseph Tarkington, William Evans, John Strange, A. Cummins, Allen Wyley, Calvin A. Ruter, B.F. Griffiths, G.K. Hester and others who were indefatigable in their labors to establish the cause. Perhaps the best known at least the name of widest repute in this county, as well as in other portions of the State, is James Havens. It can be said truthfully that he was a wonderful man, and the name Methodist Episcopal Church is Eastern Indiana is not complete nor fully honored when unaccompanied by that of this remarkable man. His strong and vigorous constitution, his profound mental organization and unlimited energy, coupled with an almost unparalleled religious zeal, made him an emphatic “planter and waterer” of the young church for which he expended his very best energies. Under such enthusiastic tutorage this church has grown to gigantic proportions and stands not lower than second in point of numbers in the county; and as to zeal it may be ranked as first, None but those who were in the forefront on the battle in the pioneer days known of the hardships, the trials, the privations and sacrifices that had to be undergone and were made by the sturdy frontiersman. The planting of the religious germ in the beginning of the settlement of this county was not done by the smooth traveling by rail or the easy transportation in the buggy over nicely graveled roads, nor was the germ imbedded in the hearts of the people from nicely carpeted pulpits out of gold-clasped Bibles, resting upon velvet-upholstered stands. The temples of nature God's first temples were the meeting places of these bold, brave, God-loving people; the canopy their covering; the trees their shelter and rude steps of poles and desks of slabs their pulpit, from which came the intonations of voices tuned to the melody of grace divine, out-gushing from hearts touched by the sweet peace of a devoted innocence, giving to God all praise for his mercy and goodness to his creatures. This church has some thirteen local organizations, with as many houses, situated as follows; Carthage, Walker's, Sharon, Ball's Chapel, Arlington, Rushville, Raleigh, Falmouth, Glenwood, Milroy, Manilla, Goddard's and Ebenezer; also a point or two where work is done, but as yet no local organization. Each congregation has semi-monthly preaching, except where there is a settled pastor. The work of the church manifests itself through its Sunday Schools and other aids, which it has called to its support. The church is thoroughly missionary in spirit and is usually first to reach a new point and plant its doctrines. From reports furnished me I infer that the annual increase of membership for the county is from 100 to 200.


In point of numbers the Baptist stands third. They established themselves here in a very early period of the county's history, almost if not quite simultaneous with the Methodists. As early as 1821 there was an organization of this people known as the Flat Rock Church. John P. Thompson, who figures in the foregoing pages of this chapter, was the founder of that church, and made monthly visits to them. This church established itself in Rushville in 1822, and has the honor of locating the first religious organization in the beautiful capital of Rush County. Elder Thompson was a bold, brave defender of his faith, and was strictly conscientious in all his convections. He was neither dogmatic nor dictatorial, but a learner from the Great Master, hence an humble man. As fast as he learned he appropriated, and when he was convinced that much of the doctrine he had formerly advocated was unscriptural he with about sixty of his former parishioners, abandoned the faith of their fathers and merged the Flat Rock Association into the Church of Christ. There were several organizations of this people at this early date, and nearly every organization had a local preacher. These were greatly aided by Wilson Thompson, John Sparks and George Harlan from Fayette County. The bravest, most fearless, and at the same time, most aggressive of these was Wilson Thompson. He was certainly the most zealous, and at once the most deeply wedded to the Baptist faith of any of his co-laborers. He never lost an opportunity to enter the field of discussion wherein were assailed any of his theological tenets. Of the several orders of the Baptists there are now in the county five local congregations. Two in Center, one in Walker, one in Noble, and one in Washington. The split in the Regular Baptist Church in Rush County took place in August 1845, on the ground where the new church house erected by the Christian Church near Raleigh, now stands. There was at that time a meetinghouse, known as the “Zion Church,” and belonged to the Whitewater Association, standing on this side. The controversy, which ended in division, began at the East Fork Church. Elder Sparks began to advocate conditional salvation and Elder Hatfield, a local preacher for that congregation, opposed with such offensive criticism as to cause Elder Sparks to prefer charges against him which resulted in the withdrawal of fellowship from Hatfield. Mr. Hatfield appealed to the Whitewater Association for redress and the hearing took place at the Zion Church on the date as above stated. Wilson Thompson defended Hatfield, and David Drummonds supported the church in its action in excluding Hatfield from its fellowship. The ground upon which the house stood belonged to Mrs. Nancy Cook, and she was appealed to as to which party should have possession. She decided in favor of Elder Thompson, whereupon, Elder Sparks called upon his friends to know how many would follow him to a grove about one mile south. The trial was had on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday much the larger part went with Elder Sparks to the grove. The rights of property was finally tested in the civil courts, and by a kind of compromise measure or conciliatory, or whatever it may be called, East Fork was given to the Spark's party and Zion to the Thompson. The membership of all the orders of the Baptist in the county is not very large, and their annual increase is small. They have never been a missionary people, nor do they believe in the Sunday school, and for this reason have not grown rapidly. Very few of their ministers, if any, are salaried, as the early teaching of the order was adverse to a paid ministry.


This order made its first efforts in Rushville, in January 1, 1825, and was then organized there by Dr. J.F. Crowe. It had at the beginning twenty- eight members. Its growth was much advanced by the effective labors of J.H. Stewart, Mw. Sickles, J.S. Weaver, Thomas Barr, D.M. Stewart, H.H. Cambern, Robert Sutton, John Wiseman, and others. There are now three separate organizations in the county. They have never been a very aggressive people, and this fact may account for their not having increased in numbers to a greater extent. Being among the first to plant their faith in the county, they have become identified with all the county's interests. Their discipline is, as a general thing, precise and regular, and for this reason, there are but few communicants who ever abandon the faith when once fully indoctrinated. There are a few local organizations, which have been abandoned, but their membership adhere to the teaching and the supervision of the Presbytery. Among the pioneer preachers of this order, one now remains as a tower still, though chiefly in memory. I refer to the venerable D.M. Stewart. No Minister is Rush County has done more work than he, nor has had a greater interest in the moral and religious growth of society. He has been identified with nearly every measure, which looked to the elevation and the protection of society, and for the last fifty years his name has been a household word in the county, and especially in the Presbyterian families. Chiefly to him is due the growth and perpetuation of his church in the county of his adoption, and his memory alone is a strength that will carry the church along for years to come.

There is a small band at Homer, and a lively remains of a former organization known as Beech Grove, just east of Arlington. The remnant of this band is now at work at Arlington, and has the efficient services of J.D. Thomas, who by a co-operative action of the White Water Presbytery, supplies the weaker points administers to destitute places. Under is effective efforts the Homer church and Arlington band have been greatly strengthened and considerably augmented. Besides these points, Mr. Thomas labors at various schoolhouses, and is succeeding in calling the attention of a great many to the doctrines and practices of the church. There is growing a deeper missionary spirit, and with its enlarged views and broader catholicity, it is making itself felt to a far greater extent. The old Calvinistic ideas that once characterized the initial principles as fundamental facts upon which the superstructure of Presbyterianism was erected, are being either displaced by a broader sentiment of a universal brotherhood, or are gradually being ignored as having belonged especially to a day when light was less diversified throughout the religious horizon. Certain it is that the church of to day has fewer restrictions and is characterized by a latitudinarianism indicative of a desire for deeper and wider fraternization.

United Presbyterian

This religious body established itself at Milroy about the year 1830, and has at the present time four assemblies in the county, namely, Milroy, Richland, Shiloh, and Rushville. There is also a small band at Glenwood. The most earnest and devoted laborers, and to whom the success of the church is mainly due were: John N. Presley, J.F. Hutchison, S.M. Baily, and N.C. McDill. Two of these still minister to the church in the county. Mr. McDill has labored ardently many years for the church at Richland and has been identified with its working and interests for nearly his entire life. In fact, his efforts have achieved the success, if they were not instrumental, in establishing the church. Besides this, he has largely aided the work throughout the county and else ware. The organization of a congregation of this faith was effective in Rushville in 1879 under the labors of J.F. Hutchison, and numbers now about 55. The most prominent ministers who served this congregation or assembly are, A.P. Hutchison, S.R. Frazier, and the present well-beloved pastor, N.L. Heidger. The order has a house for each assembly in which to worship, and is extremely zealous and devoted to all the principles, which give it distinction from other religious orders. One of its most striking features is its close adherence to the primitive custom psalm singing. These is an assiduity in this that amounts to almost dogmatism. Yet this good people would part with their lives sooner than yield up this fundamental factor of their public worship. They truly are a devoted people, and to this fact as much as to any other, perhaps may be attributed the reason for the fastening of the attention of the people to the claims which they urge as a reason for recognition. Among their membership are found some of the most intelligent professional men of the county, and men zealous for every public improvement. In every vicinity where they are established, their leading men are public spirited and usually take the advance steps toward measures considered beneficial to the general public. They are a missionary and a Sunday school people, yet not characterized by an aggressiveness that would assure rapid growth.


In an early day of the organization of the county, there was a settlement of North Carolinians formed west of Carthage. This settlement was composed mostly of Friends. There being a goodly number of them they soon formed themselves into a society and built a comfortable log meeting house, which has long since been displaced by an imposing and substantial brick edifice now known as Walnut Ridge. This organizing of this society dates back as far as 1821 or 1822, and was composed mostly of two families the Hills from North Carolina, and the Binfords from Virginia. From these sprang three organizations, two in Rush, and one in Hancock, just west of Walnut Ridge. In 1840, the monthly meeting of Walnut Ridge, organized the band at Carthage, William Binford, who was their leading pioneer preacher, and his memory is greatly revered by the society today. He was truly a devoted man and with the piety of the great founder of the Society of Friends, George Fox, he was well calculated not only to plant but to perpetuate the work so royally begun. They have a beautiful and substantial brick house at Carthage, also a neat and commodious new frame building, two and one half miles northwest of Manilla. They number between 500 and 600 in the county, and have as spiritual advisers, David Marshall, Elwood Scott, K. Miles, and R. M. Hare. They pay no salary to their ministers, but those who give the greater portion of their time to the ministry are comfortably supported by liberal donations. They are great educators and take the lead usually in public enterprises, which they consider essential to the good of the community. You never see a poor Friend. They are all good livers because they help those of their order. By industry, economy and close attention to business they have succeeded in amassing large wealth and in this particular command, in proportion to numbers, greater wealth than all the other orders of the county combined. When you strike the hand of a Friend you strike the hand of an honest man, but one, too, that wants its own even to a penny. The worship of the society has undergone material change in the last few years. Singing and public prayer were unknown in their devotion until recently. Their worship was an impressive silence until some member was moved, by an impression of duty, to arise and speak, and the speaking was, as a general thing, very brief. None but the old societies still adhere to the time honored custom of the days of “Lang Syne”


The first successful effort to establish a Catholic Church in Rush County was in 1853. Henry Peters, a minister of that church stationed at Connersville, began monthly teachings at private houses in Rushville in that year. He succeeded in building up an organization and four years later they built their first house for worship. In 1867, they built a larger and more substantial house, and now have a private school building attached, and the order is enjoying equal prosperity with any of the churches of the communicants live quite remote from the church, yet at nearly all stated meetings or regular sessions they go, it matters not what the surroundings or the state of the weather. Zeal of this kind bearing on the proper lever would move the world. The church has had as teachers, T.J. McMullen, Rev. Mr. Adams, E.J. Spelman, and the present pastor Rev. Mr. Mackey. It is in a season of prosperity and enjoys the assistance of some of the best social workers in the county. The large majority of the members are of Irish descent, yet there are several German Catholics living in the southwestern part of the county. These, I believe go to Shelbyville to worship. No order of religionists anywhere has greater veneration for the doctrine that distinguishes it, or the forms of worship, which characterizes it, than do the Catholics. In this they are worthy of praise. What we profess to love that we ought to honor and give the deepest devotion.


There is a small organization of this branch of Methodism on Little Blue River, three and one half miles southwest of Arlington. The organization has existed some thirty years and has a comfortable place to worship. They are served mostly by local talent, but for the last two or three years have had monthly visits from Mr. Spond, of Jay County. The membership the most part is active and energetic and like the regular Methodists are full of zeal in all their religious devotions. They are a Sunday school people and believe in missionary work and are laboring to extend their influence as far as their financial ability will admit. They have not made the progress that the Methodist Episcopal has, presumably because they are less aggressive. It requires great push and persistence, to plant a religious doctrine, especially when that doctrine may be an openly controverter one.

Christian Union

During the war of the rebellion there arose an antagonism between partisan members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which resulted in a division upon matters political. So strong did the antagonism become that there ceased to be fraternization between the opposing elements, and the spirit became permanent. Notwithstanding this separation the part that pulled off held strictly to the doctrine of the church whence they came further than to discountenance anything like political or partisan reference to governmental policy from the pulpit. When they went out and reorganized, or rather established a new order upon old tenets, they tool to themselves a new name Christians Union. In 1868, I.H. Rector came to Rush County and began to present the claim of this new order, near Homer, and succeeded in establishing a church on the farm of Mr. Sells. They have a neat and comfortable house erected at the point where the organization was effected, and a membership of ninety. The leading ministers of this church are F. Price, S. Watts, H. Ellis, and O.H. P. Abbott, who now ministers to them. They pay $250 for ministerial services for one-fourth time. They number among their membership the leading citizens of the community the most active members of society, and feel that they have done no wrong in divorcing themselves politically ostracized. While, as they considered, they could not live without religious influence and devotion to God, they could live without the protection and guidance of that body which constantly ignored them because of their political views. There is but the one organization of this order in the county so far as known to the writer. Doubtless they would have largely increased had it not been that at the close of the war the ministry whose offensiveness had driven so many away from their fellowship, ceased to bar the door against those of opposite political faith, and many who had gone out returned, and others who thought seriously of going out remained. It is not probable that this order will ever branch out much in this county since its doctrine and practice are so nearly the exact counterpart of the church whence they came out that separate organization are not only useless but wholly indistinctive.

More on early churchs.

Submitted by: Lora Addison Radiches
History of Rush County Indiana 1888
Brant & Fuller Chicago

Deb Murray