All are invited to join us in worship, 10:30 am Sundays
212 W. Jefferson St.
New Carlisle, OH 45344
Rev. Shelley Wiley, PhD
The history of Honey Creek Presbyterian Church is rich and vibrant, celebrating over 200 years of service to the Miami Valley region of Southwest Ohio.
Honey Creek Presbyterian Church has experienced, survived, and ministered to so many of the challenges that have faced Presbyterians in Ohio since 1804. Honey Creek's history is laced with courageous men and women of faith who have had the vision to carry on God's work in face of obstacles of all sorts - plagues, wars, depression, and, yes, prosperous times too. They were flesh and blood saints, whose stories have much to offer today's Christians of hope, faith, and encouragement for tomorrow. This story is intended to help us see from whence we have come, to know who we are, and to inspire us as we carry on the mission of the people of God in this place.
Honey Creek's story takes shape at the time of the opening of the Northwest Territory in 1787. Over the Blue Ridge Mountains and north of the Ohio River, there was fertile, well-drained land, covered with beech and sugar maple forests, slumbering away with only occasional hunting Indians to disturb it. It lay there for the industrious, but poor Scots-Irish and German pioneers to discover. John Paul was one of the first of these to live in the beautiful Honey Creek area, coming perhaps as early as 1790. After the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 removed the Indian threat, and after the 1200 Northwest Territory Act reduced the price of land; other settlers poured into the virgin forests of Western Ohio. Preachers "followed close behind the first settlers and shared their fields, rifles in hand, and fought the Indians laboriously. They exhorted no less earnestly in the bare meetinghouses on Sunday because their hands were roughened with guiding the plow and wielding the axe on weekdays. They did not believe that being called to preach absolved them from earning their living by the sweat of their brows," said Teddy Roosevelt.
Among the earliest Presbyterian preachers in the Miami Valley, two stand out. John Thompson was called the Miami Joshua because he led God's people across so many rivers. When an July 13, 1800, he preached the first sermon heard in Bethel Township, Thompson used the text "For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together." (Matt 24:27). The first Presbyterian preacher to settle in the area was William Robinson, who by 1804 lived three miles east of Dayton on the Mad River, where he ran a sawmill.
Presbyterians began worshipping together on Honey Creek in the isolated cabin of Captain Samuel and Agnes Black at the north edge of Bethel Township. The entrance gate to the family cemetery can still be seen along State Route 235. Among those first Presbyterian families to settle in Bethel and Pike Townships were the Abner Kelly's, John Ainsworth, Adam McPherson Sr., Hugh Wallace, John Steele, the Mitchell's, the Staffers, Samuel McKinney, John Clingan, and William Robinson's brother Joseph. In 1804, William Robinson formally organized them as a congregation, with the assistance of James Welsh, Stated Supply of Dayton. The congregation built a log church on a hilltop south of York, the infant community that later became New Carlisle. Robinson and Welsh supplied the church with occasional preaching until 1811 and ordained John H. Crawford, Adam McPherson Sr., and Joseph Robinson as the first elders of the congregation.
In the records of Miami Presbytery, itself organized in 1810, we find a new gentleman appointed in 1811 to supply Honey Creek. Archibald Steele, who may have preached at Honey Creek before this date, was the son of schoolteacher and Honey Creek elder John Steele. Although Archibald had settled in 1807 on the Valley Pike near Medway to operate a gristmill, he hungered to share his love for the Word of God. He was a licentiate or licensed preacher, one who had satisfactorily completed most of the requirements for ordination.
Although Robinson and Welsh continued to preside over the sacraments at Honey Creek, Archibald Steele became their supply and that of Springfield while he finished his theological studies.
The congregation needed a strong leader to weather the emotional religious wave that spread out after the Cane Ridge, Kentucky, camp meetings of 1801. In 18O5 the raucous and confusing explosion of religious spirit called the "New Light" reached York. Judge David Cory of New Carlisle remembered the New Light leaders who came to York, including David Worley, pastor of Beulah Presbyterian Church in Montgomery County, and David Purviance. While Worley's emotional preaching led the Beulah Presbyterians to leave the denomination, Archibald Steele's sure hand held Honey Creek firmly in the denomination.
While the congregation yearned for a full-time pastor to protect their members from the siren call of the sentimental New Lights or Cumberlands, there were physical dangers facing them. They began with the strangest winter ever recorded. From December 1811 to February 18l2, the ground was shaken with rumbles and trembling by what is now known as the New Madrid earthquake. Then war, already underway, was declared 1 June 1812 against Great Britain, which threatened to unleash Shawnee Indians against the fragile settlements of Ohio. Governor Meigs called out the militia in May. The lst Ohio Regiment under Colonel McArthur was stationed near by at Urbana, and General Hull encamped in June at Fort McArthur an the Mad River in Hardin County. Strings of militiamen and wagon trains of supplies moved north toward Detroit. Soon Hull committed the ultimate folly of panicking and surrendering the only major defense force between the settlers and the enemy. Fear of renewed Indian attacks swept the forests.
The settlers of Honey Creek rose to defend their new homes. Samuel Black raised two companies of militia. Among those members of the congregation who served were the sergeants Samuel McKinney and Thomas Stafford and privates John and Stewart Forgy, John and Samuel McPherson, Archibald Mitchell, and John Wallace. John Paul and Hugh Wallace served in other companies as did Andrew, James, and John Black. Finally with American victories in the spring and summer of 1813, Ohio farms were again secure.
Swelling the membership rolls of Honey Creek,recent immigrants also helped build the community, which changed its name to Monroe in 1812. New communicants John and Mary Wallace Hay opened a well-respected hotel. Shartle opened a gristmill known as the Woodbury Mill. Other new families included the Stackstills, Forgys. After the death of John Steele, elected to the eldership to represent these "young men" the congregation. In fact, in the Session Clerk Forgy comments that he represented the Presbytery a year before he was ordained. The delay in Forgy's ordination was typical of the frustrations of pioneer churches - there just simply weren't enough ordained clergy to go around to officiate.
Honey Creek elders certainly knew the answer to that problem. In 1812 the congregation asked Miami Presbytery to ordain Archibald Steele. They continued to press their request until the Presbytery agreed in 1815 to meet at Springfield to hear his trials, including a sermon on this passage "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk upright., (Psalm 84:11). On June 22, 1815, an anxious crowd of supporters met in the log schoolhouse to hear Steele defend his knowledge of the Gospel, Latin, Greek, Philosophy and Theology. The successful candidate was ordained immediately at the conclusion of the examination.
On Christmas Day 1816, a joyous event took place at Honey Creek, one which encouraged the Session to begin record keeping. On that day Steele baptized approximately 83 children and 1 adult, including the children of William Black, Hannah Paul Porter, John and Margaret Forgy, Mary and James Forgy, Margaret and Stewart Forgy, Charity and William Holmes, Samuel and Sarah McKinney, Elizabeth and Archibald Steele, Jane and John McPherson, Elizabeth and Samuel McPherson, Mary and Joseph Stafford, Charity and John Kelly, Abner and Jane Kelly, George Brien, Elizabeth and John Low, Fanny and Ezekiel Paramer, Susan Clingan, and John and Margaret Wallace. No wonder the congregation needed a new record book! The following spring they also chose two additional elders, Samuel McKinney and Ezekiel Paramer, to assist in shepherding the flock.
After his ordination, Steele took on new responsibilities. In addition to supplying Springfield Church part-time, he was asked by the Presbytery to preach occasionally at Bath. He was named a trustee of the infant Miami University in April 1818. When a branch of the American Bible Society was formed in August 1822 in Springfield to help distribute Gospels, Steele was given the honor of opening the meeting and was subsequently elected President of the Clark County Bible Society. Honey Creek elder Isaac Teller was elected Corresponding Secretary at the same meeting.
The community of Monroe was maturing. Town fathers wanted a new image and proposed changing the name to Pierceville in January 1828; this name was unsuccessful, for others preferred the current name of New Carlisle, which has graced the town since March 1820. The congregation wanted something better as well. After James Wallace deeded land to the congregation on 19 May 1829, it began construction of a brick building under the watchful eye of Captain John McPherson. John Forgy remedied the lack of a fireplace, by hauling a cast iron stove from Cincinnati. Now families would not have to carry to church foot warmers filled with dangerous glowing embers, which scarcely sufficed during the three-hour long sermon.
At last a well-established congregation with property to maintain, Honey Creek created a Board of Trustees in 1835 to handle its financial affairs. The first trustees chosen included Adam McPherson Jr. and James S. Stafford, plus Smith and Brown Brandon, and C. W. Phillips. To ease the burden of travelling, Steele built a house among his congregation on the northwest corner of Church and Jefferson Streets. It still stands, a tribute to the carpentry skills of our forbears. Nonetheless in September 1821, Steele's health broke down. Although he recovered that time, it was another indicator of the roughness of life on the frontier. His wife Elizabeth was less fortunate; in November 1827, she was buried on the hill by the log cabin church in which she had long worshipped. The strain of travel and the loss of his beloved Elizabeth continued to tell on Archibald Steele. By May 1830, he was so ill he could not moderate the Session; at one point the Session met in his room at John Paul's residence where he was being nursed. He died in April 1831 at the age of fifty-nine. His grieving friends in the Miami Presbytery wrote: "while they entertain no doubt, but that this beloved Brother has been called from his labours to the enjoyment of a glorious rest and a rich reward, yet they feel that they must sustain a serious loss in being deprived of his fatherly counsel..."
TIME OF CONFLICT - TIME OF CALM
The period of American history between the close of the War of 1812 and the Civil War has been called the period of Revivalism and Social Reform. It was a time when American Protestants, especially Presbyterians, sought to improve the world around them. They felt it was God's direct command, part of the six Great Ends of the Church, to remedy the wrongs about them. Conversely, the church said that the great evils of society were divine punishments for failing to act. Needless to say, Protestants and Presbyterians were not always as united on which courses of action to pursue as they were on the need to act. The minister who succeeded Archibald Steele would have to guide Honey Creek through a time of questioning, action, and conflict.
For a year after Steele's death, the congregation received occasional supplies, including John Smallwood Weaver and William Gray. While pastor at Lebanon for fifteen years, Gray had written the first antislavery statement of the Presbytery, slavery being one of those moral issues with which the church was deeply concerned. During the summer of 1831, he performed several weddings at Honey Creek for young members. Gray officially became Honey Creek's pastor in May 1832.
This was just in time to face a biblical plague. The Asiatic cholera reached out its long arm of death to the North American continent late in 1831. It touched Cincinnati in late September 1832, where 423 individuals are known to have died. A Presbyterian minister and university professor, John Witherspoon Scott, told the students at Miami that it was God's punishment for permitting slavery. Melinda, Honey Creek's first black member, received in 1824, might have agreed. For William Gray and his wife, the plague was simply exhausting, as they toiled among the people of New Carlisle, visiting the sick and burying the dead. Fortunately the cholera disappeared after the summer of 1833, not to return for sixteen years.
It was a volatile time for the little church. On the one hand forty-one new members were received in October 1931. But the Session was in turmoil. Elder Isaac Teller Senior was accused of fraud. When he was later restored and given a certificate of good standing to join another church, elder John H. Crawford withdrew from the Session. Shortly after that Joel Forgy, Adam McPherson Jr., and James S. Stafford were elected to replace them. Joel's standing in the community was shown by his election as township treasurer, and he succeeded his father as Clerk of Session in 1833. Gray obviously preferred new members to quarrelling sessions, so he held a camp meeting and received another large communicants' class in August 1832.
The 1830's were years for Honey Creek of conflicting values, which brought into question prevailing standards of social and worship behavior. For example, after the denomination began its crusade against intemperance in 1827, Honey Creek members in good standing found their reputations questioned because of their drinking habits. The young people of Honey Creek questioned the dirge-like Psalms that were sung in worship; they preferred the livelier hymns sung across the street at the Baptist Church. Surprisingly enough, the Baptists felt threatened when their members wanted a Sunday School and a mission emphasis such as were found in the Presbyterian Church!
Mission was exciting because one of Honey Creek's own members went overseas during the 1830's. Joseph Porter, a son of Hannah Paul and grandson of John Paul, first educated himself as a teacher. In 1836 as he was about to be ordained to the ministry, he was called by the American Board of Foreign Missions to travel with his wife to the Mission Church in Lodiana [now Ludhiana] in the Punjab. This area, deep in the foothills of the Himalayas near the point at which India, Pakistan, and China come together, was a stressful climate for North Americans. Mrs. Porter died there in March 1942. Joseph continued to minister through his work at the English school for at least another decade under the auspices of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions.
In 1804 all of the evangelical churches faced a shortage of ministerial candidates on the Western frontier. It made sense when the Presbyterians and Congregationalists made a compact to avoid competition on the frontier in placing churches. Similarly, scarce resources made it good stewardship to cooperate in nonsectarian bible, home and foreign mission societies. Presbyterians gladly participated in such compacts and in the ecumenical Western Missionary Society and American Board of Foreign Missions.
With the extension of the National Road to Vandalia, Illinois, the frontier moved west. North-south communications were greatly enhanced with the completion of the Miami-Erie Canal. The Presbyterian Church felt the change too. When Washington Presbytery organized Honey Creek Church in 18O4, it was the only presbytery for all of western Ohio. Now in 1836, its successor Miami Presbytery itself had been divided into Cincinnati, Oxford, Sidney, and Miami Presbyteries. Even so Miami had eighteen resident minister members, compared to five in the much larger area of 1820. Churches like Honey Creek no longer had to share pastors with neighboring communities.
Since those ministerial shortages of 1800 had been overcome, the differences between the denominations became more obvious. Conservative Presbyterians like Joshua Wilson of Cincinnati First and George Junkin, then of Newton Presbytery and soon-to-be President of Miami University, wanted to reestablish purity in the mission field by creating Presbyterian boards of mission and examining ministerial candidates coming from Congregational backgrounds with more care. Moreover Presbyterians in the north and east, where the Congregationalist influence was stronger, were becoming outspoken against slavery; they were disturbing the peace and unity of the church with their demands for discipline of slaveholders. In 1837 the General Assembly, did establish its own Mission Boards and cast off synods and presbyteries that "would not go along with a purge of Congregationalists and supporters of nonsectarian societies. Local presbyteries asked ministers under their jurisdiction to take a loyalty, oath denouncing their more tolerant brethren.
William Gray of the Honey Creek Session refused to go along. They were not pleased that Miami Presbytery had questioned Joseph Porter's acceptance of a call from the nonsectarian American Board of Foreign Mission. Gray dissented from a resolution passed by the Miami Presbytery, characterizing those of Congregational views as "a deeply rooted and widespread schism, which has marred the purity and peace of our beloved Zion and threatened its destruction."
Threats of excommunication made no impact on Honey Creek. When Miami Presbytery sent Rev. James Barnes, Rev. Robert G. Linn, and elder William King to investigate that refusal in November 1838, they found Session members Joel and John D. Forgy and Adam McPherson Jr. endorsed the tolerant view, called the New School. The men of the congregation voted to follow their elders. After hearing these comments, the Presbytery committee solemnly read Honey Creek out of the denomination.
On Christmas Day 1838, Barnes and Linn returned to Honey Creek to organize a Honey Creek Old School Church. A tiny nearby congregation of Mad River having been dissolved and its members, including Caroline and elder William McKeig, received into the new Old School congregation, elders were elected. McKeig and Lemuel Sanderson were installed as the Old School Session. The Old School was joined by the following members of the majority New School congregation: Mr. and Mrs. Smith W. Brandon; Susan Clark; James and John A. Forgy; David, Ellen, Jacob Sr., Mary and William Kinnart; Lydia and Samuel Matthews; Elizabeth and Jane McPherson, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Morrison; James, Louisa, and Sarah Neely; Mr. and Mrs. John Paul; Archibald Paul; Mary Porter; Mrs. Lemuel Sanderson; Mr. and Mrs. John Stoutemire; Jane Swagert; and Ellen Taylor on January 6, 1839.
The majority sided with the New School and took the name of New Carlisle First Presbyterian Church (N.S.) Judge John H. Crawford, who had declined for several years to act as a ruling elder, was invited to resume his duties as a member of Session of the New School and did so. The congregation joined the Dayton New School Presbytery.
At the annual congregational meeting in March 1839, both sides attempted to be rational. While acknowledging the fact of the schism, they agreed to work out competing claims to avoid depriving anyone of the Stated Preaching of the Gospel. The New School proceeded to elect as its officers: President Judge Crawford, Secretary John D. Forgy, and Treasurer Joseph Muzzy. Other members of the trustees included Joel Forgy, Archibald Mitchell, James S. Stafford, Jacob Sailor, and Thomas McClure. The Old School elected its own board, which joined the New School in conference and agreed on a plan to share equally the use of the building and the expense of sexton, furnishing of wood, candles, and all contingencies. The boards concluded with an admonition that each side be "very guarded about wounding the feelings of the other."
For almost two years, neither side was strong enough to call a pastor. Relations, if strained, were maintained. But soon after E. Roger Johnson was invited in February l84l to preach to the New School, it voted to end the alternating arrangement. Since the Old School had broken its promise by attempting to hold its own worship services during the time allocated to the New School, the New School trustees sent George Brandon, an Old School official, the following message: "You are therefore hereby notified that you cannot be permitted to occupy [the sanctuary] any longer as a separate worshipping assembly after this month; and that any attempt on your part to control said property against its officers and a majority of the congregation will be treated as illegal."
Soon afterward the Old School group accepted a $400 settlement to relinquish all claims to the church on Jefferson Street. It moved quickly to reestablish itself as a congregation. John Paul offered a lot on North Main, where the Old School built a meetinghouse. In November 1842 the Old School hosted a meeting of the Miami Presbytery, which granted it half of the services of Rev. Noah Bishop, son of the former president of Miami University. Bishop also served the Muddy Run congregation in Enon half time until April le45 when the latter called for all of Bishop's services. For the following year, a Rev. 0. Smith and Rev. Alexander Gulick occasionally supplied the Old School pulpit.
In October 1846 the Old School congregation presented a half time call to licentiate Patterson Reese. Reese was a graduate of Kenyon College and Western Theological Seminary. On November 11, l846, he was examined on the assigned text (Luke 24:26). He was sustained and ordained the following day. To help support his call, the Miami Presbytery appropriated $50 from the Home Mission Fund. The other half of his time was devoted to the Bath church. The Old School's only installed pastor, he resigned in October 1848 when the congregation failed to pay him.
The following spring Honey Creek O.S. and Bath presented petitions for shared services of Edward Wright and for $50 each in aid from the funds of the Board of Home Missions. Wright was a native of New York City who had studied at Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained by New York Presbytery in l836. He served as Stated Supply at Honey Creek and Bath for two years before moving to Clifton as a teacher. His departure signified the effective end of the Old School congregation, for it had begun with only thirty-five members in l839 and peaked in 1845 with forty-six.
In April l85l Phineas Gurley (pastor of Dayton First), Noah Bishop (Muddy Run), and elder James M. Fisher (Lebanon) were sent by Miami Presbytery to ascertain the health of the Old School congregation. They found a barely viable congregation of thirty-eight members and dwindling, for which nothing could be done. The congregation was formally dissolved in 1860. Two years later the Presbytery sold its lots to David Garver, a member of the New School group, for $475. The proceeds were forwarded to the Board of Domestic Missions for general missionary work in Minnesota. The property eventually came into the hands of the Brethren denomination, which continues to worship there.
The New School branch were well satisfied with their student pastor E. Roger Johnson; they told him in April 1842, that "having good hopes from our past experience of your labors that your ministrations in the gospel will be profitable to our spiritual interests, [we] do earnestly call and desire you to undertake the pastoral office in said congregation." The ordination service for E. Roger Johnson conducted by Dayton Presbytery on May 25, 1842, was a splendid occasion. Dr. Lyman Beecher, President of Lane Seminary, preached while Rev. J. S. Cleaveland and J. Colton wrote an original hymn for the occasion. Its majestic lines struck a responsive chord in the congregation, who recorded them for posterity:
"To teach thy people and to guide,
Johnson was an unusually well qualified man for the pulpit. Twenty-eight years old when he was ordained, he was a graduate of Bowdoin College and Lane Seminary. A close friend of Dr. Beecher, he shared Beecher's interest in education. Although he turned down requests from Centre College to accept the chair of Language (Greek), Johnson used his training to instruct younger scholars at the Linden Hill Academy, located next to his home. He preferred the life of the shepherd to that of the scribe and wished to live in the community in which his wife, Julia A. Colton, had grown up. Still, because Johnson knew how to draft a clear statement of position, Dayton Presbytery called upon him and Franklin Putnam, the pastor of Dayton Third Street, when in April 1857 it needed someone to draft a report on the slavery issue. Johnson and Putnam advised adopting the position of the General Assembly. They recommended that "persons known to hold slaves for profit or speculation should be treated as offenders by their respective Sessions and Presbyteries and be dealt with according to the word of God and rules of the Presbyterian Church."
This New School branch was thriving. In 1842 it included 80 members, of whom 80 had been received since the break. This was only seven fewer than the combined church had before the schism. It moved joyfully into its new presbytery affiliation with Dayton Presbytery and hosted an impressive throng in 1843 when the New School Synod of Cincinnati met in Honey Creek's recently remodeled sanctuary. Professor Calvin Stowe, husband of Harriet Beecher, preached the opening while Dr. Lyman Beecher closed the session by imploring his audience to seek the education of all in order that the means of grace be enjoyed by all.
Improvements were made both physical and spiritual in the worship of the congregation. Since the congregation elected four choristers in 1844: John D. Forgy, Joel Forgy, James S. Stafford, and Garret Perrine, perhaps the young people's quest of the 1830's for better music finally prevailed. The church itself was modernized in March 1842 by removing the side galleries and lowering the pulpit. In 1849 the roof was repaired and a bell tower was added under the direction of Joel Forgy, Thomas J. McClure, and Jackson Crawford. McClure also served as sexton for the congregation. In 1856 the congregation turned over control of the graveyard to the New Carlisle Cemetery Association, which offered to provide a much needed new fence.
Although the congregation remained steady, even growing in membership, its financial base was not strong. In many congregations, that difficulty would have led to a sorrowful parting of the ways of congregation and pastor, but there was a genuine love between Johnson and the Honey Creek Church that bound them together. Fortunately assistance came from the Presbytery, which had pleas from several scattered groups for the organization of new congregations. In 1845 the Presbytery agreed to assume responsibility for half of Johnson's time and salary; in return he would be a home missionary for them. He supplied Sinking Creek, east of Springfield, for a year before taking a sabbatical from June 1847 to March 1848. He also supplied Addison, Nashville, and Yellow Springs and organized Tipp City in 1855.
Johnson's ministry was bearing fruit all over. The Osborn (now Fairborn) group, which Johnson had occasionally supplied, was organized in l86O as a separate congregation, to which Honey Creek set off seven members and elders George L. Massey and Felix Wise. Osborn subscribed $50 to Johnson's salary while Tippecanoe generously raised $100. In view of such liberality, the New Carlisle trustees, including Dr. Benjamin Neff, Garret Perrine, William R. Forgy, and others ordered $100 to be added to his salary. His colleagues in Dayton Presbytery honored him with selection as their ministerial delegate to the 1852 General Assembly in Washington D.C. Elder Joel Forgy was also sent.
Who were the members of the church in 1861? The Clerk did an amusing statistical analysis, which found the little congregation had swelled to 109 members. Eighteen were teachers in the public schools. Thirty-five were male members, of whom 21 were married and 14 were young men. There were 74 female members, of whom 49 were married. There were 60 seniors and 40 juniors. Finally certain names were popular, for the Clerk noted that there were 10 Mary's, 9 Elizabeth's, and 7 John's.
These members led the community. John N. Stockstill had returned to the community with a newly minted M.D. from the Medical College of Ohio in 1842 and married member Juliet Hay. President Buchanan named Thomas Wise as postmaster. The Timmons, Stafford, and Taylor families founded the first bank in the community, the Bank of North America, in 1852. Local physician Benjamin Neff was a state legislator for Bethel Township as well as a Honey Creek trustee.
Membership in the church was a prized status, a treasure greatly to be desired. Although making a public profession of faith was an awesome step for some, closing life without it was even more terrifying. When Lizzie Steele, daughter of Archibald and Harriet Steele, was prevented by a putrid sore throat from professing her faith in front of the whole congregation, the Session responded to her plea. It sent a delegation to her bedchamber, where Johnson, in response to her request, baptized her on profession of her faith and recognized her as a member of the church. The scriptures were read and prayer was offered in connection with the administration of baptism. "At the early hour of dawn of the succeeding day, her spirit was released to go and dwell with the Saviour and four sisters who had died of the same disease."
There was a somber note in the death in 1857 of longtime elder Joel Forgy. The Session book testifies to his "blameless life of integrity, his intelligence in doctrine, his sobriety and gentleness and his steadfastness as an Elder in the Church of Christ." His death reminded the congregation that several of the elders had grown old in the faith. When an "unusually large number of the members of the church and supporters of the congregation were present, it was determined to elect by ballot" the following as new Session members: William R. Forgy, Felix Wise, Charles Black, and George L. Massey. It was noted that the ordination of Felix Wise had to be postponed for six months due to his illness. Life was much more fragile 150 years ago.
Life was ephemeral for pastors too. The Session minutes in December 1862 lamented the death of their beloved minister Roger Johnson, "who departed this life on the 6th day of September in the 49th year of his age and the 21st of his ministry, having been the faithful pastor of this congregation for the space of 20 years." Dayton Presbytery added, "a ripe scholar, an ardent Biblical student, a good and earnest preacher, an acceptable and highly useful pastor of a church for more than twenty years, whose soul was in full harmony with the great commission." Johnson's death marked the end of an era for Honey Creek.
MATURITY AND MISSION
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Honey Creek Church was no longer tested by great controversies in the church or the stresses of frontier living. Instead it came to terms with its role in the community and the world. It sought to help its members live a Christian life and reach out to those beyond its doors. In this time period, the Session's role in disciplining members within the congregation and the women's organizations' role in ministering beyond the local congregation were keys.
About the time of Johnson's death, the son of one of Dayton Presbytery's ministers was ordained in the Second Presbyterian Church of Newark, Ohio. On 28 September 1862, that young man, Rev. William Lusk Jr., first moderated the Session of Honey Creek. Elder James Stafford presented a request to Presbytery in December that Lusk should preach every Sunday at Honey Creek and alternate Sunday evenings at Tippecanoe and Osborn. A formal call was extended to him at the annual congregational meeting on March 5, 1864. Despite the orderly beginning, this was not to be a harmonious pastorate such as Johnson's had been.
During the 1860's it was customary for congregations to pay their pastor only once a year. Throughout the year the minister would run up bills at local businesses, which would be paid off in the spring at the annual congregational settlement time. While no formal pledge cards were filled out, there were trustees who bound themselves to collect the funds to pay whatever financial commitments the congregation had made. In le63 the congregation had had to pay off debts to the estate of Roger Johnson and was not quick to settle with Lusk. Rather than accepting the call of the congregation, Lusk decamped to Indiana, leaving a mountain of unpaid bills behind him - $70 to John F. Johnson's livery stable, $25 to Johnston and Moorehead's store; $40 to Archibald W. Steele for board; $22 to Elizabeth Mitchell for board, and a loan of $15 from trustee Benjamin Neff.
The congregation was furious at his denials of indebtedness. The Presbytery accused him of bad debts, lying in financial transactions and social conduct unbecoming a minister. Although Lusk consented to a trial by Presbytery, he wrote that it would be of little use, for he had joined the Protestant Episcopal Church and was no longer a member of Dayton Presbytery. The Presbytery washed its hands of him, reporting him to be filled with the most unchristian spirit and blackguardism. Lusk, by the way, served forty-three additional blameless years as a rector in the Episcopal denomination.
In the forefront of many hearts were other young men who departed New Carlisle in the 1860's, for the Civil War conflict was a patriotic crusade for the congregation that had stood behind its antislavery pastors. Several members proudly volunteered: Christian H. Blocher enlisted at Dayton in 1861; he was promoted to corporal for his valor at Shiloh. Henry Clay Hay enlisted at the first call in the Ist Kentucky Volunteers, whom he served as regimental wagonmaster. Future elder John V. Perrine enlisted with Hay; he was wounded at Shiloh and captured at McMinnville, TN. Another future elder, Samuel W. Helvie, enlisted at Piqua and was promoted to corporal for good service; he spent several months in the hospital with typhoid pneumonia. Robert C. Courter enlisted in New Carlisle in January 1862 in the 71st Ohio Volunteers and later in the 16th Ohio Independent Battery. He spent four months in Vicksburg in the hospital. Philip Hysner was another early volunteer in the 16th Ohio. J. S. Forgy, J. T. Forgy, and Thomas J. Miranda also enlisted. All of them returned safely to New Carlisle and the church they loved.
After the stormy biennium with Lusk, the Honey Creek Session welcomed Rev. Benjamin Graves to the pulpit. Graves was a seasoned minister, who had recently resigned after fifteen years at Blue Ball. He was assisted by a Xenia Theological Seminary student, George Arnot Beattie, who had a special interest in member Lida M. Smith, to whom he was soon married by Osborn pastor, Rev. James T. Pollock. After two years at the United Presbyterian Seminary, Beattie completed his studies at Princeton in 1868. He returned on as many occasions as possible to Honey Creek until he could be offered a call and be ordained in May 1869. At that time, Graves moved to Hamilton Presbytery.
During the time Ben Graves and George Beattie served the congregation, there was a flurry of construction. Because the new pastor was so recently married, the congregation purchased a manse for Lida and George. The first parsonage cost only $1,050. How housing prices have changed! Since membership had increased, changes in the meeting house were needed too. In March 1865 a committee of Garrett Perrine, Charles Black, Benjamin, F. Jacobs, Alexander Dille, and others proposed removing the tower and gallery. The plan added fifteen feet to the north end of the sanctuary; it included a new gallery and belfry. New seats and pulpit would make worship more comfortable while wallpaper or fresco would grace the walls in a less rustic way.
After Beattie resigned in order to take a church in Muncie, the congregation in March 1873 asked T. Charles Thomas, pastor at South Charleston, to supply them. During this time there was a small tempest in a teapot about the placement of the choir. Dr. Caitlin, the choir director, was very cooperative and willing to move wherever the choir was desired, but he must have been frustrated by a Session that could not decide whether the choir should be seated in the gallery, or the seats to the left or to the right of the pulpit. Questions such as the choir placement came up because Thomas was a firm believer in Presbyterian orderliness. It showed in his leadership of the Session in disciplining wayward members, for it was then customary for sessions to give guidance to their members in their private lives. Thus the Session under his direction appointed committees to visit J. with reference to his absence from worship and his habits of drinking intoxicating liquors.
The Session also called upon M. and A. to discuss their unchristian conduct and on J.S., who was accused of carrying unlawful weapons in God's house. The Session even sent a delegation the home of the mother of J.S. to convey to her the "earnest heart-felt sympathy of the Session in her affliction concerning her son." Thomas went too far when Trustee Joel N. Forgy was charged with fighting with his brother and disturbing the unity of the church by campaigning for a victorious slate of church officers which included Joel himself. Joel presented the Session with written statements from his brother, brother's wife and two other persons to refute the fighting charge. Thomas denied him permission to use the statements as evidence. When Joel protested, the Session overruled the moderator and acquitted Forgy on that charge. Joel was however convicted on the other charges and suspended for three months. Soon afterward in the fall of 1875, Thomas left to take a pastorate at Pleasant Ridge. At the verynext Session meeting, the elders voted to visit both Joel and M. to tell them their suspensions were now removed and that it was the cordial wish of the Session that they resume their former activities in the church.
The next minister, Gilbert Hair, was a native of Washington, Pennsylvania. He was unique among Honey Creek pastors in that he studied theology privately as a student of a master preacher rather than attending a theological seminary. During the Civil War, he left the Franklin pulpit to serve as a chaplain with the Christian Commission, a relief organization sponsored by the YMCA. While with the Christian Commission, he had received six hundred soldiers into the Church in the span of twelve weeks.
From the moment he arrived in Honey Creek in December 1875, it was obvious that evangelism was Hair's favorite activity. During the weeks around Christmas 1875, he led revivals at Honey Creek that aroused a deep religious awakening and brought large numbers into the warm sanctuary. Twenty-four new members made the life-changing decision to join the church. Among them was William Russell, who lay ill at the residence of Dr. John Stockstill. On January 7, 1876, the Session met at the doctor's home to hear Russell's profession of faith. Four days after his baptism, he died at peace.
While Hair served Honey Creek, he presided over the most dramatic Session discipline case to face the church, one which had all the elements of a soap opera. A former resident of the community, a woman not affiliated with church, returned to New Carlisle, calling herself Mrs. Rose." The church-going folk of the town regarded Mrs. Rose as a scandalous lady since she drank whiskey, played cards, and was publicly seen in the company of men. On one occasion she was observed on a train to Toledo playing cards and drinking with a younger man and Mrs. G., a member of the church. Subsequently several gentlemen who worked at the New Carlisle livery stable, reported to the Session that Mrs. Rose and Mrs. G. had been riding around in a carriage late one evening, accompanied by married men, one of whom was also a member of the church. Mrs. G., it was claimed, had invited them all into her home.
When the Session investigated, it found another side to the story. The livery workers admitted sneaking down dark alleys to follow the carriage. The workers also admitted grudges against the married gentleman. The spouses of both Mrs. G. and Mr. X. claimed their spouses were home (alone with them) all evening; Mrs. Rose's brother swore she was just in town to visit her relations and had done so in a perfectly respectable manner. While it was the most titillating gossip, the scandal could not be shown to the Session to be anything more. Mrs. Rose left town, and Mr. X. and Mrs. G. remained members in good standing.
At Christmas time 1878, the congregation received a new pastor, this time an Indiana native moving back east. Coming to New Carlisle from Portland, Indiana, Harlan Page Cory was a Lane Theological Seminary graduate of 1877. He praised the women who "kept alive" the missionary society, which is mentioned in a Dayton Presbytery report of April 1877. This early society sent supplies to the frontier state of Wisconsin. In fact the women seem to have overdone themselves in their support of Presbyterian Church in Wisconsin, for in December 1890 Alice and Harlan Cory were dismissed to Florence, Wisconsin.
After a year of "deplorable inactivity and spiritual dearth in our congregation" while we searched for a pastor, the congregation was served by two pastors who rejuvenated the leadership. The congregation reached out to our northern neighbor for the first of these Rev. William J.Smyth, who was a resident of Uxbridge, Ontario. Dayton Presbytery received him on "probation" since he was educated abroad, but all was found to be in order in April 1882. In September 1883, Alexander Wilson Clokey began moderating the Session. Having been educated in the Miami Valley, first at Wittenburg University and then at Xenia Theological Seminary, he had served United Presbyterian congregations in the area and then Troy before coming to New Carlisle. These two brought a welcome infusion of enthusiasm and new leadership. Minni Hamlet replaced Fannie Mitchell as organist. Three additional elders were elected in 1884: Cornelius Forgy, John V. Perrine, and Samuel W. Helvie. A successful revival was held, which ended in twenty-six new members being received from the Sunday School, raising the membership to 148 in April 1885.
In the bustling New Carlisle community, church families played an active role. Pike Township Trustee John A. Black and wife Mary J. ran a feed and saw mill. Cornelius S. Forgy, E. T. Weakley, Samuel Hamlet, Isaac Miranda, Dr. Benjamin Neff, and others organized the New Carlisle Bank in 1883. Forgy was its first president and Charles H. Neff was its first cashier. Minerva Saylor was one of the owners. The town's physicians J. Homer Cook and John Stockstill joined the church in 1883. Philip Hysner, Thomas Miranda, 0. B. Kinert, and John 0. Sheets were officers of the GAR post, which was named for deceased member of the church Clay Hay.
The congregation had been so well satisfied with a local product as pastor that in the fall of 1886 it issued its next call to a gentleman born in Xenia and again educated at Wittenburg University. William Fishnell Gowdy had attended both Princeton and Lane Theological Seminaries, graduating from Lane in 1883. His brother George was the pastor of the Carlisle New Jersey Presbyterian Church.
At New Carlisle, William preached against moral laxity - against Sabbath breaking, card-playing, and dancing, and in favor of temperance. When the local newspaper ridiculed the pastor, the congregation stood four-square behind him. The Session, led by S. McKinney Stafford, issued a statement that, "Whereas, exceptions have been taken by our local paper to the position of our church as expressed by our pastor upon the Sabbath question and card-playing," we "kindly declare our emphatic disapproval of the course pursued by our paper in some of its criticism, that we most heartily endorse the utterances of our pastor upon these topics, and that we sustain him in all his endeavors to declare the whole truth upon these questions."
The moral crusade attracted new faces to the church, which added twenty-eight new members in Gowdy's first six months. Attendance at Sunday School and prayer meeting rose significantly. Gowdy turned the church over with his energy. He added a young men's Sunday School class of over twenty, which he taught personally. Monthly concerts for mission were held regularly, enabling the Women's Missionary Society to give $50 to each of the missionary boards. The youth were not forgotten either, for Gowdy organized a young people's literary society on the lines of the Chatauqua Spare Minute Course in l888.
After the resignation of Gowdy in the summer of 1890, there was a brief pastorate by Edgar Keyes. This was cut short by ill health, which forced Keyes to resign at the end of August 189l. A long, pleasant pastoral relationship followed with the succeeding minister, Addison Chapin. He was called to the pulpit in November 1891,and formally installed in the warmer days of June 1892. Chapin was an Indiana native and graduate of Lane Theological Seminary.
Under Chapin's leadership, Gowdy's moral crusade continued. To counteract what the Session called "the allurements of the world," particularly dancing, which might keep some from seeing the attractions of the cross, the Christian Endeavor Society was formed. We started meeting in 1892 with fifteen members "most of them feeling very weak and trembling. We now number 45 active and 18 associate members," said the 1894 Annual Report.
While the pastor and Session usually receive the lion's share of attention because they supervised worship and education, the role of the women was equally important. In the Honey Creek congregation, it was the responsibility of the women to ensure that the church was heated, furnished, repaired, and improved, that the grounds and the streets in front of it were kept up, and that the manse was equally well maintained. The organization charged with this responsibility was the Ladies Aid [for the Local Church] Society
Without pledges or their own wages upon which to depend, the women succeeded in maintaining the facilities. Maggie J. Smith led the Society in its efforts to raise funds for repairs, improvements, and even for the salary of the organist. The women met monthly sewing gingham bonnets and quilts for sale. In addition they provided the elements for the sacraments, including making the communion wine from scratch. (Sugar for communion wine cost 31 cents, the grapes were donated.) The ladies quietly gathered through their socials, sewing projects, and craft sales two-thirds as much as the trustees collected in their pledges.
Chapin and the Session paid tribute to the ladies for sustaining the congregation through the years. "The women may well carry off the highest honors for faithful, successful work in the interest of the local church and in work outside our own bounds," said the Annual Report in 1892. It pointed out that the women had a missionary society, young ladies board, Ladies Aid Society, women's exchange, and supported Home Mission, Foreign Mission, and Freedmen's Boards of the denomination. The ladies, led by officers Mrs. R. Seal, Rachel Berryhill, Eva Johnson, and Maggie Smith, repainted the manse, built a grape arbor, and purchased a new carpet for the church in just that one year.
After the deaths of faithful leaders Rachel Berryhill and William Robinson Forgy in 1894, the congregation renewed its leadership. The Ladies Aid Society elected Mrs. Johnson, Cliffie Trostel, Persis Chapin, and Anna Gilbert as new officers in April 1897. The Session was increased with the election of Charles Maguire and Homer Cool,.
In 1898 New Carlisle languished in the last throes of the depression resulting from the Panic of 1893. It manifested itself in the congregation in a decline in new members and contributions. After the Session pointed out "the inability of the officers having charge of the financial affairs of the church to secure an adequate salary for the pastor." Chapin resigned to be effective at Thanksgiving. Since the congregation was reluctant to permit this step by the well-liked pastor, the vote was two to one against accepting the resignation. The Session and the pastor recognized that the call would eventually have to be dissolved, but wisely chose to postpone the break. Chapin's resignation was finally accepted by the congregation in April 1899. Although G. Walter Kling then took over the preaching, it appears that the still popular Chapin may have continued to moderate the Session through the summer because Kling had not yet been ordained.
It was a harsh winter for New Carlisle. Death struck the Ladies Aid Society, which had only a dozen members, three times in six months. Among the unexpected losses was Persis Chapin. "One of our brightest lights has gone out ... It is the crushed grape that gives out the blood red wine, it is the suffering soul that breathes the sweet melodies" wrote the women on February 14, 1900. In addition the Presbytery reprimanded the congregation for its failure to raise its pledges for its pastors. Finally to add injury to insult, Mr. Doyle's runaway horse broke the church's street lamp. Despite death, debt, and destruction, Walter Kling accepted the call of the congregation and was ordained to the pulpit in April 1900. After Kling resigned in October 1901, his place was immediately filled by Rev. Ernest J. Wright. A graduate of the College of Wooster and Auburn Theological Seminary, he and his wife Susan had spent four years in Sturgis, South Dakota, before coming to New Carlisle. He introduced a series of Sunday afternoon lessons for children focusing on preparation for membership. The Ladies Aid Society expanded their activities to monthly socials, an Easter market, and spelling matches. They used their new funds to refurbish the sanctuary with fresh paint, varnish and carpet. The furnace was repaired and a telephone placed in the parsonage, which was also painted. The church library was restocked with up to date texts. The women's missionary societies raised for mission double the contribution of the congregation as a whole. When the Session called a meeting in September 1903 to consider increasing the pastor's salary, it was surprised to discover that a considerable minority preferred to ask presbytery to change the pastor. Wright immediately resigned.
His successor, W. C. Kendall, found the life of the pastorate too much to cope with; he took to alcohol in solace. Said the Session record, "his ministry ended abruptly and disastrously." The presbytery responded quickly to a congregation in need, sending New Carlisle an older, experienced pastor, Jonathan Woods. He had begun his career as a chaplain in the U.S. Army in the Civil War before moving to Urbana.
On the third of November 1904, the congregation celebrated its centenary with Session members S. McKinney Stafford and Homer Cook presiding. Former pastors Addison Chapin, T. Charles Thomas, and William Gowdy participated in the festivities. George Beattie, Harlan Cory, Alexander Clokey, and Ernest Wright sent letters of congratulations. Reminiscences were provided by John Perrine, Charles Black, Isaac Freeman, James Perrine, Mrs. Johnson, and Juliet Stockstill. Histories of the congregation by E. Roger Johnson and Addison Chapin were read. The choir and congregation sang "Blest Be The Tie That Binds."
SECOND CENTURY OF SERVICE
The second century of ministry of Honey Creek began with a struggle for independence from outside aid. The lessons of the Depression were beneficial: the congregation discovered in its own members the talents, the vision, and the will to stand alone as a congregation in mission. The congregation multiplied its ministries both among and beyond its own walls.
When Woods retired in February 1911, a series of short pastorates followed. In 1912-1913 Rev. John Glenn served as Stated Supply. This Glenn was no astronaut or senator, but he performed a more valuable task for the congregation by leading a communicants' class for young people, which resulted in the reception of fourteen young people in March 1912. Dr. Robert A. Watson preached to the congregation in 1914, but the harsh Ohio climate was injurious to his wife's health. The Watsons removed to Asheville, North Carolina, in December. During the interim, the lay leadership took charge of the congregation. The young men's Sunday School class increased its efforts and expanded its number to more than thirty. The women were not to be put to shame and followed suit. They were assisted by a theological student at Xenia Seminary, Harry Framer Smith, who began preaching twice each Sabbath in January 1915.
Even without a full-time pastor to guide them, the congregation continued to look for opportunities to minister. As the women replaced the church gasoline lights with electric ones in February 1915, they inquired of the Women's Missionary Board whether there might be a rural mission church that could use the old, but well-maintained, lamps. Through the Board, the women sent the oil lamps to Rev Miller of Blackville, South Carolina. The Missionary society in fact exceeded all previous years in its contributions in 1915 while the Ladies Aid Society won the gratitude of future pastors' wives by arranging for the extension of city water to the parsonage.
Women had always played an active role in the affairs of the congregation, except in the official meetings and in the offices of the congregation. When in December 1908, Maggie Smith and Anna Black reported to the annual meeting of the congregation for the Ladies Aid Society and Missionary Society, they gave the first reports by women to a meeting of the full congregation. Then, three years before the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote, Honey Creek Church elected its first woman officer. At a meeting of the congregation on January 28, 1917, Homer Cook and J. Edward Johnson nominated Ella Gilbert as Financial Secretary. The acting secretary of the congregation, Robert F.Stafford, was instructed by the forty or fifty members present to cast a unanimous ballot for Miss Gilbert. One might say it required an act of God to stop the ladies; the only recorded instance of them being thwarted was in June 1910, when their fund-raising progressive dinner was blocked by a disastrous fire that swept the community. Fortunately the church was not involved directly.
The men were equally active. George W. Trostel was elected president of the Trustees, ably assisted by treasurer Charles F. Maguire. Trostel oversaw the repair of the stained glass windows while Mr. and Mrs. Charles Black provided a new pulpit Bible. S. McKinney Stafford, first ordained as an elder in 1869, continued as Clerk of Session, a post he had held since 187O.
The storms of the winter of 1917-1918 were brutally cold, and disease took its toll on those already faced with a scarcity of coal. Nearby ministers were able to provide only occasional supply during the winter of 1910. In fact services were interrupted completely for four weeks because of influenza. It is quite possible that Lenna Varetta Johnson and John Quincy Smith were among its victims, dying in January and February 1918, respectively. Even the Christmas communion was frustrated. The winter evangelism series was cancelled because fuel could not be obtained, complicated by the illness of the expected evangelist. Because of the intense freeze the ladies cancelled their January meeting and used the Red Cross rooms in the Weakley building in February because coal was available for war relief work.
Although the news from Europe appeared grim in May, 1918, this was a false portent. The Americans were arriving in force and would relieve the French along the Marne. Just so, the hard winter in New Carlisle was a false harbinger, for spring brought welcome relief to the Honey Creek congregation. No matter that the Sunday School reported that the men's class had ceased to exist, the Session was about to greet Rev. Charles E. Tedford, who accepted the congregation's call on 26 May 1918. Tedford came from Maryville, Tennessee, one of the Appalachian Mountain strongholds that had stayed with the Northern church when the PCUS split off. Later he had served churches in Greenville and Huntsville, Ohio.
Under Tedford's leadership, the congregation put its house in order. Already in 1917 the congregation had accepted an offer to sell the lot behind the parsonage. The hitching yard, officially 66 feet of the south side of lot #111, was sold and the proceeds were used for maintenance. The building committee consisting of C. Wilson, George Trostel, Walter Freeman, Rosena Goodall and Minerva Muff, added an annex in 1921 at a cost of $3,500. It became the parlor at the rear of the church.
Dr. Tedford encouraged the congregation to expand their vision of ministry. Cliffie Trostel, Mary Deaton, and Rosena Goodall oversaw the collection efforts, both of funds and goods, for a needy, non-church family in the community. Dr. Tedford pointed out there were more distant problems as well; he reminded the ladies of the difficulties facing Indians and Negroes in our society. It was his opinion that the white man had been very unfair to both, an advanced opinion for 1920. Laura Smith reported to the 1922 Congregational Meeting that the Sunday School had raised funds for Near East relief and corresponded with Margaret Wilson, a missionary to Persia from Dayton Presbytery. The Home Mission Society provided linens for the Temple Hill Hospital in Chefoo, China. The mission interests of the congregation covered the globe.
Three brief pastorates followed. Rev. Harlan J. Manley came to Honey Creek from Reily Church in Preble County at the end of 1923 and remained until April 1925. Late 1925-1927 found Rev. Benjamin Harrop in the pulpit. Although Harrop was born in Staley Bridge, England, he had been educated at the College of Wooster. In 1927 four new elders were elected, T. Edgar Stackstill, George W. Trostel, John E. Johnson, and Charles F. Maguire. The following spring, the congregation extended a call to Rev. Lyle D. Stone.
In 1930 the congregation faced hard choices. The effects of the stock market crash in New York City slowly but surely touched the economy of central Ohio with a cold hand. Several prominent members like Ella Gilbert, S. McKinney Stafford, Mary Black, and Maggie Smith had died. "A number of our members have moved away and some have been removed by death..." and the financial burden on the rest was enormous, commented the Session. Having made a decision to use its funds to plant new churches, the Presbytery Home Mission Fund called upon existing congregations to be self-supporting. Stone called a congregational meeting on 14 August to explain the possibility of merging with the Osborn Church, which was still suffering from its relocation due to the erection of the flood control dams. The two congregations would split a pastor's salary and time, but all organizations would remain independent of each other. Upon a motion by Charles Maguire and John E. Johnson, the congregation approved this new venture.
The first joint pastor was John Henry Bergen, a twentieth-century pastor, born in this century in Franklin Indiana. He was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and was just returning from a Fellowship in New Testament Literature at the University of Edinburgh when he received the call in March 1931. He had little time to spend in his New Carlisle study, for he reported at his first annual meeting that he had preached 100 sermons, given 39 talks outside of services, attended 101 meetings, made 138 trips to Osborn, 393 pastoral calls, preached 4 funerals and solemnized 1 marriage.
During the 1930's the congregation continued to be innovative and outward looking. Upon the suggestion of Trostel, Osborn and New Carlisle began an annual joint Sunday School picnic in 1932. The Ladies Aid Society began sewing regularly for the Red Cross. The Missionary Society continued to raise funds for overseas. Honey Creek joined in New Carlisle union Thanksgiving services. The first vacation church school for the community was held in 1936, using the local school building for the large numbers of children. Although no one was immune to the financial strictures of the Depression, the congregation raised funds for flood relief in 1937 and supported the mission boards of the denomination. The women collected boxes of clothing for and sent presents to Presbyterian home missions at Caney Creek, Kentucky.
In March 1938 a new pastor, Clifford J. Leach, came from Chicago. One of Leach's first tasks was to create a board of deacons to assist at morning worship in ushering, taking up collections, and promoting missionary work. The first board elected consisted of W. H. Freeman, Guy Larason, Lester C. Weinland, and Kenneth E. Meredith. The Session adopted a system of three-year terms and rotation for elders beginning in June 1938. Other innovations involved the young people, including the organization of a junior choir and the first Mother-Daughter banquet, held in May 1940.
In 1944 Hugh Ivan Evans, pastor at Dayton Westminster, spoke to the congregation. After pointing out the steady growth in church membership, he suggested on behalf of Dayton Presbytery that Osborn and New Carlisle each have full-time pastors again. So it happened that the congregation prepared for the ordination of Arnold Kuhl as Honey Creek's own pastor in May 1945. In June 1949 Kuhl resigned to accept a call to St. Clairsville, Ohio.
The succeeding pulpit committee, including Kathryn Smith, Janet Horrocks, and Yvonne Lowers, recommended Rev. Malcolm Thompson. He arrived early in the fall 1949. During his pastorate, the congregation bustled with activity. The Westminster Fellowship, Mariner's Club, Men's and Women's Associations, and deacons kept the church building lighted and busy. The congregation collected funds for flood relief in Missouri and Kansas, for Korea, and the College of Wooster. The church contributed to the drive to eliminate polio, the scourge of the early 1950's. Women folded bandages for the Cancer Society and packed boxes for Caney Creek. The Junior Choir, directed by Ruth Yoesting, serenaded friends at the Clark County Home and Dorothy Love. The Junior Sunday School collected funds for a new church at Foulassi in the Cameroun. Thompson was elected President of the New Carlisle Council of Churches and Secretary of the Synod of Ohio Commission on Town and Country Churches.
Following Thompson's resignation in January 1954, the congregation extended a call to J. Elliot Pierce Morrison. Morrison enjoyed working with youth and volunteered each summer to be a counselor at Presbytery Junior Camp, usually held at St. Edmunds. Some outreach was just plain fun, like the food concession operated at the Clark County fair in 1958. Another pleasurable activity was shuffleboard in the church basement started by the Junior High Youth group.
The Session voted to participate in the Refugee Resettlement program. Through the efforts of Honey Creek members headed by Elder Lowers, Theodor Albu and his wife were brought to the United States in the fall of 1956. They were assisted in their new country until they became self-supporting.
The talents of Honey Creek were recognized throughout the presbytery. Mary Armstrong was elected District President of the Dayton Presbyterial in October 1956. In January 1958, the congregation elected her as their first female elder; Imogene Havill and Mildred Weinland were elected the first female deacons at the same meeting. In December 1959 the new Miami Presbytery chose elder Paul Hockman to represent them at General Assembly, followed up by electing him as Moderator of Presbytery on January 12, 1960.
In 1957 the congregation established a Building and Improvement Planning Committee to consider the structural needs of the congregation. Despite remodeling to add classrooms and modernizing the heating plant and kitchen, the building was still bursting at the seams. Pastor Fred Gnatuk reported that the average church school attendance was 126. Deacon A. J. Cook, Chairperson of the Building and Improvement Committee, presented plans for- expansion. Early in 1963 the manse was demolished to make way for a Christian Education building. On May 12 ground was broken with the assistance of former pastor Arnold Kuhl; church school classes moved into their new facilities the following Sprinq. New hymn books donated by the Barry and Sara Blacklidge family made worship a joyful occasion. The final phase was the purchase of the property of Samantha Stafford at 210 South Adams Street for the purpose of creating off the street parking.
The building finished, Gnatuk resigned in April 1966. He accepted a call to Fayette City, Pennsylvania. Rev. Gavin S. Reilly filled the pulpit as interim supply. On August 27, 1967, the congregation unanimously approved the recommendation of the Pulpit Nominating Committee to call the Reverend Joseph Edward Quinn Jr. as pastor.
Joe Quinn has led the congregation in new directions. Since the rapid postwar population growth was leveling off, it was time to improve on what facilities existed rather than continuing to expand. The first to feel this shift was the sanctuary building. In 1971 extensive renovations were put underway. The pews were refinished, new carpet was laid, fresh paint was applied. Everything was contributed by the congregation. Pew cushions, new paraments, and a new Allen organ enhanced the beauty of worship. Repairs to the roof and bell tower ensured that the building, which has since been placed on the historical register of the Presbyterian Historical Association, would survive to be enjoyed by future generations. With the help of volunteers, the Trustees completed the third floor of the Christian Education building, creating new classrooms and laying carpet. Later projects included re-landscaping the courtyard, erecting a permanent outdoor bulletin board, completely tearing out and remodeling the kitchen, and enhancing the beauty of the Memorial Room.
The congregation reclaimed its pioneer heritage on its 175th anniversary in 1979 by voting to change the name from First Presbyterian Church of New Carlisle back to the Honey Creek United Presbyterian Church. Just as the pioneer congregation had found operating with a single board of officers to be an efficient practice, the members of 1977 voted to adopt a unicameral system of church government in January 1978. Another early heritage, beginning in 1815 with John Forgy, was active involvement in the life of the broader church. Under Joe Quinn's leadership, numerous members of Honey Creek have served on Presbytery committees, including elders Gerry Cummins and Beverly Quinn, who was elected Moderator of Miami Presbytery in 1980.
However appropriately proud the congregation is of its past, it is now looking to serve God's people of today. The ramp which enables access to our sanctuary by those with mobility problems is an example. When one of the daughters of Rich and Helen Culpepper was confined to a wheelchair following an accident, it became apparent that there was no means for her to enter the church. While the congregation considered ways of making the facilities more accessible, Rich was stricken with cancer. The family donated funds in his memory for the construction of a ramp. Helen Culpepper went on to new avenues of ministry too; she used her skills as a teacher at an Indian school in Tohatchie, New Mexico.
When Joe Quinn arrived in 1967, Honey Creek's new Christian Education facility was largely dark and silent during the week. On the suggestion of elder Andy Shaffer, the Bethel Churches United were invited to meet here. Soon an alcoholic member of the congregation mentioned to Joe Quinn the need of Alcoholics Anonymous for space. Now both AA and AL-ANON meet here, along with additional AA study groups. Those changes led to the formation of the Bethel Churches United Food Pantry, that was housed in the facility until 2009. Along the way, the Women's Association added a Clothes Closet across the hall from the food pantry, so that people could find clothes for their families. The Clothes Closet was the last ministry to leave the building, joining the Food Pantry in a new facility on East Pike Street. Honey Creek continues to be active in Bethel Churches United through those ministries, the annual CROP Walk for Hunger, and other events. Just as it ministered to the cholera victims of 1932, Honey Creek Church continues to meet the needs of the community, living out the commands of Matthew 25. Rev. Quinn died in March 2000, having served Honey Creek for nearly thirty-three years; the longest tenure of any pastor. The congregation recognized his unfailing leadership by dedicating one of the church's stained glass windows in his honor.
Rev. Denise Wright Ingram was called by the congregation in October 2000, blazing a new trail as the first woman pastor to serve the church. Under Rev. Ingram's leadership the congregation undertook a mission study, and learned that a need in the community was for ministry to the growing Hispanic community. After-school tutoring lead to monthly worship in Spanish, and to participation in the Presbytery's multicultural ministry. With the assistance of Presbytery staff member Rev. Jayne Ruiz, the Hispanic ministry grew for a while to be a weekly service, though when Rev. Ruiz moved, the worship service ended. The congregation tried many new ideas, such as a Saturday night worship service, and a summer program for local children, as ways to reach out to the local community. Rev. Ingram left the church in August of 2008.
Dr. Shelley Wiley was hired by the session in November of 2008 to be the pastor in a 2/3 time position. She brings with her years of experience as a Presbyterian minister and professor of Religious Studies and Philosophies at several colleges, and a love for and commitment to a ministry in Haiti. The congregation got involved within her first year by helping to sponsor an eight day tour of the Resurrection Dance Theater of Haiti, a dance troupe of children and young men that supports the St. Joseph Family in Haiti. They participated in New Carlisle's Heritage of Flight parade, and performed in the Fellowship Hall to a packed audience. After the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the congregation immediately sought ways to respond, and sent money and needed items to Haiti. Under her leadership, Honey Creek Presbyterian Church is looking for ways to grow in faith.
The church on Jefferson Street is not just bricks. it is a house whose mortar is glued in place by the spirits of John Forgy, who brought the first stove in his wagon from Columbus; of Dr. Black, who donated $60 to mission every year throughout the Depression; of Martha Helvie, who made communion wine; and of Roger Johnson, who devoted countless hours to riding a circuit rather than take an easy professorship because he loved Honey Creek. It is a house built on the love of McKinney Stafford, who served as Clerk for fifty years; of Ella Gilbert, who faithfully maintained the financial records; and of Ruth Yoesting, who directed its choirs. The gleaming woodwork reflects the care of Thomas McClure and Jacob Garver, who served as sexton, and Tillie Stafford, who lovingly polished the communion service for thirty years. The walls echo the stories of Joseph Porter the congregation's first missionary, and of Mary Wells, Commissioned Church Worker.
From Rev. Steele, who traveled Clark County to spread the Gospel, to Dr. Wiley, the congregation has been blessed in its pastors. Honey Creek is a church filled with memories as sweet to the ear as its name. "I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord".