History of Lexington Presbyterian Church


 The first portion of the following history was written in 1976 by the late Mary Wilson (1910-1985).  She was a faithful member who devoted her service to the Lord by serving here as a Sunday School teacher for many years.  We are truly indebted to her for recording our earliest history.  Additional church history since 1976 has been added by the late Marian Middleton (1918-2006) and Cory Walker(Elder).  

 

At the beginning of the eighteenth century we find the pioneers living along the east coast in America but still seeking adventures, new farming land and freedom of religion.

The earliest Presbyterians of Scott County came chiefly from North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. There were two main routes traveled by the immigrants coming to the West. They either came down the Ohio River from Pennsylvania in flatboats or they came overland through the famed Cumberland Gap and over the Wilderness Road through Kentucky.  

In 1817, a group of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian families came down the Ohio River to the sites now called Madison and New London, Indiana.  Here, they disembarked and made their way into the deep forest wilderness.  They settled in groups and built log cabin homes and a building they could use for a school and church.

One of these groups of Scotch-Irish people settled about thirteen miles west of Madison and three miles east of Lexington and named the place Greenbrier.

Missionaries and ministers followed these early pioneers into their new settlements. To the Greenbrier settlement came Rev. Orin Fowler in the summer of 1818. The record shows that he preached on a Saturday to a "large and solemn group of people" and after his sermon they decided to form a Presbyterian Church. Alexander McNutt, William Wilson and Solomon Davis were elected elders. The next day, on the Sabbath, Mr. Fowler preached again to a large congregation and baptized eight children. There were twenty members of the Church:

Alexander McNutt and his wife Margaret, Robert Woodburn, William Wilson and his wife Margaret, Margaret Patterson, Solomon Davis and his wife Mary, Mary Robinson, Jacob Hollenback and his wife Eleanor, Fannie Terril, William Boles and his wife Jane, Nancy Roe, David Walker and his wife Jane, Susannah Arbuckle, Fedrick Sipes, and Mary Davis.

Having organized the church, Rev. Orin Fowler went by horseback through the dense forest trail to Vincennes where he arrived by November 30, 1818.

The church had no regular minister until the next year. On February 27, 1819, the members of the Pisgah Church (at New Washington), with Rev. Samuel Shannon presiding, extended a call to Rev. John M. Dickey to be their pastor. On March 6, 1819, Alex Walker, John Henderson and John Rodgers of Pisgah met with Lexington Greenbrier church officers and out of this meeting came a call to Mr. Dickey to give two-thirds of his time to these two churches and the other third to Graham Fork Church. They promised him a salary of ninety dollars annually.

By August of 1819, the second meeting of Louisville Presbytery was held at Lexington for the purpose of installing Rev. John M. Dickey as pastor of the three churches. The sermon was preached by Dr. Isaac Reed who had been appointed for this service at the Spring meeting of the Presbytery.  

Rev. John M. Dickey was the first Presbyterian minister to settle in the State of Indiana, and his installation at Lexington was the first installation of a Presbyterian minister as pastor of an Indiana church.

For several years, church services were held in the log school building at Greenbrier settlement.  In August of 1838, William Wilson and his wife donated a lot from their farm for a new church building and cemetery. The lot was measured in "poles" 5 1/2 yards or 16 1/2 feet.  The lot was three quarters of an acre at the northwest corner of the farm: 6 poles north and south, 20 poles east and west.  Part of the lot was marked off for a cemetery and ten feet was allowed for the Madison road.  Large limestone rocks broken by hand were laid on this lot for the foundation of a church.  One man in the community, James Wilson (born on July 15, 1781 in Ohio) died on December 7, 1838, before the church foundation was completed.  He was the first and last person buried in the Greenbrier Cemetery.  No marker was placed on his grave but a wild cherry tree came up at the head of the grave in the 1870's and was still standing in 1976.


The foundation of the church was laid but the church was never built on the lot. A split divided the people. One group of the pioneers wanted to use the old Scotch rules for Presbyterian churches. Another wanted to have a free church which followed American rules.

There was also a difference of opinion about the location of the church. Several families were living in Lexington or a mile south of the town. Their only way of getting to church was to walk or ride horseback through the trails and over mud roads. This group wanted the church moved from Greenbrier to a more central location in the town of Lexington.

Another group, referred to as "Seceders" in the community, wanted a church building about three-fourths of a mile east of Lexington where the road divided between one branch up a creek (Hardy Mill Road) and the other to Madison. There is no record that a lot was ever secured for a church at this location. In an old session book there is record of one meeting of this group which says that they met on September 28, 1843, at the home of W G. Glendy in the neighborhood of Lexington, with James Henderson who had been appointed by the Indiana Presbytery to preach there.

At that time the congregation was organized with the following members:

Alexander Clegg, Sarah Glendy, Robert Butt, Hannah Clegg, Mary Patterson, Nancy Butt, Andrew Robb, Elizabeth Langbran, James Clegg, Jane Robb, James Robb, Elizabeth Clegg, Cornelia Wilson, Peter Bohart, James Langbran.

These were admitted to membership on the basis of James Henderson' s knowledge that they had been in regular standing in other congregations (Carmel and Clark) under his charge. Three members: William Wilson, Margaret Clegg and Nancy Clegg, were received on examination and profession of faith.

After the sermon Peter Bohart and William Glendy were elected and ordained as elders. Nothing further is known of this congregation except as individuals are mentioned in the family history handed down in the Glendy and Wilson families. Some of them moved their membership to Mt. Carmel Church in Jefferson County, a few miles southeast of Hanover. A small number came into the Lexington Church, while others moved to the Bethlehem community on the Ohio River.

While these "Seceders" were trying to organize a new church, the elders and the minister, John M. Dickey of the Greenbrier congregation, were planning a new Presbyterian Church in the town of Lexington.

There is some mystery in the early records of the church property. An old deed record in the Courthouse in Scottsburg states that Nehemiah Hunt of Campbell County, Kentucky, on August 23, 1820, sold the northwest half of Lot 90 in Lexington to Alexander McNutt, Robert Woodburn and Mr. Robinson, trustees of the Presbyterian Church. Another record shows that this same lot was sold on February 1, 1845, to Julian Hunt, by James Middleton, Thomas B. Wilson and John Shearer, trustees of the Presbyterian Church. It will remain a mystery why this lot was purchased at such an early date and held for so long without a church being built on it.

In 1838 the trustees of the church, William Wilson, Samuel Hamacher and Matthew Henning, bought three-fourths of an acre on Lot 41 to build a Presbyterian church. This is the lot on which the present building stands.  

The large limestone rocks were moved from the lot in the Greenbrier community to the new lot in Lexington and laid the second time for a Presbyterian church. On the day that work started, a log rolling with a basket dinner was held on the church lot. John Hall, Sr., the main carpenter, was injured at the log rolling and died a few weeks later. He did not live to see the building completed.

The church was a frame building with weather boarding on the outside painted white. The belfry was built on the top of a little porch that extended about eight feet in front of the church. The bell was rung from the outside. The interior of the church was plastered and papered. Green blinds hung at the windows. Five large pillar posts from the floor to the ceiling supported the roof. The chimney for the wood stove was built at the west end. Oil lamps were used for lights. Very straight-backed seats were placed in the auditorium for the congregation to sit on. A black settee for the minister was on a small platform back of the pulpit. An organ stood in the front of the auditorium.

The church was completed in 1844. There is no record of a dedication service.

In 1883 Rev. Frank Gilchrist came to the Lexington Church. After a few months work the session sent him to Nabb, Indiana, in Clark County, to establish a preaching point. He held services frequently in the Clark County schoolhouse until George Ernest came on the field the same year and held a series of protracted meetings. At this time several people wanted to unite and organize a church at Nabb. This was done on December 5, 1885.

Mr. William Gray came forward with the first offering--a gift of a lot on which the building stands today. The deed was made August 19, 1885. The church was completed June 18, 1887, with twenty-one charter members. Nabb Church was a branch of the Lexington Church for eighteen years. On October 16, 1905, it became an independent church. 35 members were transferred from the Lexington to the Nabb Church.

The Lexington church building was remodeled in 1902. A large platform with new pulpit chairs and new pews were added. Two circular rooms were built at the back of the church and the porch on the front was torn away and the bell placed on top of the church. The large pillar posts were taken out of the auditorium.

The Dedication of the
Presbyterian Church
May 25, 1902*

l. Hymn, "Will You Meet Me"
2. Prayer, Rev. Alford.
3. Quartette.
4. Scripture lesson , Rev. Alford.
5. Anthem, the choir.
6. Offertory for the building fund.
7. Sermon, the pastor.
8. History of our church, Elder Sam Middleton.
9. Statement of Repairing Done, Mr. James Hall.
10. Acceptance thereof by Church.
11. Transference of keys of the Church.
12. Dedication - 
      (a) Lord's Prayer in concert.
      (b) Scripture selections.
      (c) Dedication, the church standing.
      (d) Dedicatory prayer.
      (e) Doxology, long meter.
13. Benediction - Rev. Alford.


*Printed in the LEXINGTON ARGUS newspaper, Lexington, May 22, 1902

 

By 1935, four Sunday School rooms, a kitchen and basement were added to the building. At the same time an oil furnace was installed replacing the stoves.

A Bible School was established in 1922 for the first time in the Lexington Church. In its third year the attendance record was 97.34%. It was a surprise to the church when it was notified by the Synod of Indiana that it would receive two silk flags, Christian and American, from the Synod for having had the highest percentage of attendance in the Synod. In the forty years since then, the Bible School has continued to be a success in the Lexington Church.

In 1952 the children of Mr. and Mrs. O. R. Lowry donated a new outside bulletin board to the church in memory of their parents.

THE MANSE

On December 3, 1866, the trustees of the church purchased Lot 29 on the corner of Mulberry and Walnut Streets in Lexington from James Middleton and his sister Nancy Henning for the sum of $500.00. No one now is sure whether the brick home on this corner was built before or after the church purchased the lot. The two-story brick building was the manse for 86 years, until 1952 when it was sold to Frank and Freda Hounshell for a private home.

In 1952 when James Huff was pastor, a new modern manse of seven rooms was built in the vacant lot between the church and the old manse.  Pastor Huff and Mrs. Huff moved into the manse on October 15, 1952.  

 June 27, 1994 : the old church after a rainstorm

 June 27, 1994 : the old church after a rainstorm

 

The historic church with it’s distinct Presbyterian architecture stood for 152 years as a testament of the hard work and dedication of those early founders until July 1, 1996. At about 1:00 o’clock that morning during a horrific thunderstorm, the church was struck by lightning. Despite the heroic efforts of several area fire departments, the familiar Scott County countryside landmark and almost everything inside was destroyed. Members of the congregation that were alerted about the fire gathered at the home of member Florence Miller, whose house stood immediately south of the church, as they witnessed the events unfold throughout the morning until daybreak. The heat from the fire was so intense that it completely melted the vinyl siding on the south side of the Manse and warped the vinyl siding on the north side of Ms. Miller's house.

Vowing not to allow the complete destruction of the physical church keep them from their faith, the congregation elected the Rebuilding Committee on August 4, 1996. They were Chairman James Kleopfer, Vice-Chairman Gary Renschler, Pastor Sara Hodsden (Ex Officio), Treasurer Pauline Kleopfer, Dwight Chamberlin, Bonnie Clapp, Dorsie Hayes, Lincoln Taylor, and Cory Walker.  Over the next several months, the committee held meetings in the Manse and at Englishton Park to discuss a great deal of issues such as if to rebuild and if so, when and where to rebuild, the size and layout of the new church. It took very little time for the Rebuilding Committee to decide to rebuild on the original site as quickly as possible.  After much thought and prayer, each member submitted their ideal plans for the layout of the new church to the architect, Lee Wade of Madison. Wade took ideas from each member and formulated a design for the new church.  The blueprints were then submitted to the committee on October 30, 1996. After a few minor changes, the blueprints were then accepted and then sent to Lincoln Taylor and his company, LATCO Construction, for consideration of a bid. The church was extremely blessed to have such a qualified contractor in it's own congregation who also was serving as Elder and Trustee!

One of the major changes to the new church building was to make the church compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) despite the fact that churches were exempt from following.  In the old church, the fellowship hall was in the basement making it virtually inaccessible to anyone who was physically challenged.  In the new church, it was placed on ground level outside of the sanctuary allowing everyone the ability to attend functions.  Also, by moving the fellowship hall upstairs, it provided more room for seating.  James Middleton was a great benefactor to the church rebuilding fund and it was decided to name the new fellowship hall the James and Opal Middleton Fellowship Hall.  The basement was kept for safety reasons, such as in case of a tornado, and it was converted into a recreational room for children.  Another major change to the new church was relocating the main door from the front of the building to the south side.  To get to the classrooms or the basement in the old church required walking through the sanctuary.  By moving the main door to the side reduced foot traffic through the sanctuary saving wear and tear on the sanctuary carpeting. 

During the time of the church rebuilding, worship services were held a few blocks north at Englishton Park at the Roe-Seal Retirement Home in the Townsend Room.  Sadly though, the retirement home closed in January of 1997.  Worship services were then moved down the hallway to Mueller Hall for more space.

The ground breaking ceremony for the new church building was held on November 24, 1996 at the original site of the church on Mulberry Street. Amidst the rubble that still remained, the congregation blessed the site and took turns breaking ground with shovels. Work soon began in late December and from there, the community eagerly watched the progress over the next seven months as the church took shape. One of the defining moments of the rebuilding process came on June 24, 1997 at the steeple raising ceremony . Members of the congregation wrote their names on the inside of the steeple prior to it being hoisted on top of the church and anchored to the roof as several Louisville television crews and newspaper reporters recorded the event. Also on the same day of the steeple raising ceremony, members of the congregation wrote their favorite Bible verse on the concrete floor in the sanctuary prior to the carpeting and pew installation so that they would literally “be standing on the word of God.”

The church was outfitted with items from several Presbyterian churches.  Pews were donated from the Colonial Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas.  The six Italian stained glass windows came from the Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis which was closing to merge with another church.  The pulpit chairs came from the New Market Presbyterian Church a few miles south in Clark County which had closed in the 1970's.  Members of the congregation purchased the hymnals in honor or memory of a loved one and a sticker was placed on the inside cover marking each one.  Other items throughout the church were either donated or purchased with monies raised through various fundraisers held throughout the year.  A list of all the donated items are kept in the church.  

On Sunday, July 27, 1997 the congregation held the first worship service in the new church building. To some area residents, it was a surprise to have the building replaced just a year and 26 days after the disaster, however, the congregation and Rebuilding Committee were determined that with God’s will, nothing would stand in the way of worshiping in a permanent building on the original site.

The Building Dedication was held a few months later on October 5. Representatives from Presbyterian churches as well as other denominations from all over the state were present. The Rebuilding Committee members considered their work complete at the conclusion of the service.

On March 9, 1998, the Rebuilding Committee approved plans to build a shelter house with a garage and storage room at the west end of the lot behind the Manse. Lincoln Taylor and his construction company LATCO were awarded the bid to build and by July 7th, the shelter house and garage was considered completed.

Our Bicentennial will be held in 2018.  We are actively planning for a large celebration that year to celebrate all of God's blessings he has given us and all of the hard work and dedication our former members and pastors have given to help to keep this church going for 200 years! We hope that you will join us and become a part of our rich history!

Pastors of The Lexington Presbyterian Church

Ordination date in parenthesis

1. Orin Fowler 1818 Nov., 1818 (formed church)

2. John M. Dickey 1819 (1st installed pastor)

3. James Blythe 1838

4. James McKee 1840

5. J. Mitchell 1849

6. David Reid 1860

7. J.B. Garritt 1863

8. Scott 1865

9. Thomas Whallon 1866

10. J.A. Campell 1872

11. F.M. Gilchrist 1883

12. James Broady 1892

13. D.B. Whimster 1902

14. W.D. Malcom 1905

15. J.M. Oldfather 1909

16. Cravens 1910

17. W.C. d'Olive 1915 (became a missionary in China)

18. McKimon 1916

19. Alonzo Yates 1920

20. F.C. Gleason (9-13-09) 7-30-22 to 3-8-25

21. Fredrick Schumk (10-1-25) to 11-3-28

22. H.A. Melville to 1930 student

23. David Davies 1930 to 1933 student

24. Theodore M. Greenhoe 1934 to 1937 student

25. Charles M. Filer 4-1-37 to 4-1-40

26. William Stephenson 5-12-40 to 4-27-41 student

27. Robert Wilson 6-8-41 to 5-12-44 student

28. Arnold Schaap 1944 student

29. Donald Morse 5-15-46 to 9-1-49 student

30. Robert Richter 9-15-49 to 1950 student

31. James Huff 11-25-51 to 7-19-53 student

32. Charles R. Ford 7-19-53 to 7-20-56 student

33. George Barker 8-10-53 to 7-26-59

34. Bryan Tanzy 8-10-59 to 12-28-60 student

35. David H. Parks 1-15-61 to 6-14-62 student

36. George W. Witmer 9-23-62 to 1963 student

37. Charles H. Moffett (5-10-36) 5-14-64 to 6-29-69

38. William H. Heilman 3-8-70 to 8-15-73 (1/4 time here, ¾ at Scottsburg)

39. James Legget 6-14-70 to 5-16-71 student

40. Gary Weaver 5-23-71 to 5-3-72 student

41. Tom Harp 5-28-72 to 5-13-73 student

42. David R. Flucke 12-1-73 to 3-31-74 temporary supply

        (3-24-74) 3-31-74 to 7-18-80

43. William V. Hale 6-28-81 to 8-8-83

44. John H. Ballard 11-20-83 to 4-14-84 temporary supply

        (4-14-84) 4-15-84 to 4-30-93 stated supply

45. Richard D. Rife 11-2-93 to 8-27-95 temporary supply

46. Sara M. (Bontempo) Hodsden 7-15-96 to 7-1-99 temporary supply

47. Deanna W. Jobst (6-10-93) 7-15-99 to 7-20-2005 stated supply 

48. Duane Aelick 11-13-2005 to 7-5-2009 regular pulpit supply

49. Aaron J. Flucke  7-12-2009 to 8-29-10 (regular pulpit supply)
                                      October 9, 2011 to present (called and installed)