County of Jefferson, this meant the loss of Monroe Township west of
Michigan Road (known then as Hwy 29, now S.R. 421) and a few sections on the
northwest corner of Madison Township. More profoundly and personally affected
were the residents of Monroe Township. To them, this meant the sudden loss of
their homes and farms; some families having had roots in this area since around
1813. Not only did these people have to endure watching their communities
dissolve, but many were left to face an uncertain future.
Jefferson County from March 11, 1941 to August 29, 1941---Adams, Fred T. - Adams, Lina - Adams Louise - Adam, Mary -Anderson, James W. - Andress, A.M. - Andress, Perry E. - Augustine, Joe - Barker, James W. - Barber, Fred G. - Bare, Carl and America - Barton, Clarence - Bayless, George W. - Bayless, Kathryn - Bayne, Stephen W. - Bear, Charles - Bear, Earl - Bear, James Madison - Bear, Lew and Hulda - Beard, Martha - Benefiel, W.S. - Bendy, Roy and Mary - Bentz, Jacob - Boggs, W.A. - Bosaw, Lillian Heitz - Bowman, Edith J. - Brinson, W.C. - Brinson, W.T. - Brown, Clarence - Brown, Emory - Brown, Martin - Bruner, W.T. and Florence - Buchanan, Harry - Buchanan, Mary - Burch, Elizabeth - Burton, Thomas - Busse, John A. - Campbell, William E. - Carson, Cordelia - Cassidy, Bernard - Chadwell, Turner - Chambers, Clara - Chambers, Dan - Chambers, George R. -Chambers, Mary - Chatham, Thomas - Colen, Catherine - Commiskey, F.E. - Commiskey, John - Commiskey, John H. - Conway, Benjamin - Cope, Alpha - Copeland, Graham - Copeland, Herbert - Copeland, Rebecca - Cotton, Theo and Lida - Custer, Lester W. - Custer, Lillard, trustee - Danner, John and Alta - Daugherty, William - Davis, Elizabeth - Day Walter - Demaree, Calvin W. - Demaree, Lewis - Demaree, Ross - Denny, Charles - Denny, Harriett - Dierkes, Hubert - Dilk, Clemens - Dirk, Earl - Donaldson, J.L. - Elliott, Charles McKinley - Elliott, James A. - Facemire, Frank - Facemire, Lester - Ferguson, Hattie and Silas - Fewell, Charles - Francisco, Mary - Garlinghouse, Fred - Geisler, Charles Lowell - Geisler, Frank A. - Geisler, Freddie - Gelvin, W.J. - Gilles, Clemens E. - Giltner, Sheila - Graham Co., Thomas - Gray, Harvey - Gray, Ida B. - Gray, Pearl M. - Gurley, Charles - Hammel, Minnie - Hand, John A. - Harlow, Louis - Harrell, Joseph W. - Harsin, George - Harsin, Shirley - Hearne, James - Hearne, Mary - Heath, J. Fred - Heath, Jas. Fred - Heck, Richard - Heitz, Ed. J. and Dora - Higbie, John L. - Higgins, William - Hill, Sam - Hinton, Linton S. - Housefield, Arthur - Housefield, John B. - Housefield, Nancy - Humphrey, W.H. - Irwin, A.E. - Irwin, Stephen E. - Irwin, Vawter - Jines, Jas. - Jines, Newton - Johnson, Clyde - Jones, Charles A. - Griffin, William and Dorothy - Grimstead, James H. - Groat, Daniel - Hall, Francis H. - Hallert, Arthur - Hannah, William - Hardesty, Sylvanias - Hare, Mollie - Hastings, James and Wilma - Haus, Herbert - Heid, Edward and Pearl - Hoillett, Arthur - Huelsom, Emil - Jackson, James and Pearl - Jester, Arlie and Dorothy - Jackson, James and Pearl - Jester, Arlie and Dorothy - Johnson, Edith - Hordan, Edgar - Ketier, L.M. - Koelmed, Doris - Kowalsky, Idadore - Leahigh, Anna - Lewis, Ruth A. - Linge, Inez - Losey, Ida M. - Lowe, Nora - McCracken, Carl and Mildred - McDonald, Kate - Manning, Forrest - Mathews, Emerson and Mary J. - Mathews, Rachel (heirs), Chas and Mary Mathews; Lon and Grace Mathews - Melson, Vanessa - Mitcham, Clyde M. - Mitcham, Guy O. - Morgan, Edward - Morris, James W. - Ogden, Mabel - O'Hare, Mollie - Otter Creek Cemetery - Perkins, Ora and Edith - Pfister, Harry - Rosebrock, Geo. and Mary - Sammons, Alice - Schonfield, Dallas - Schonfelt, William - Shelton, Simeon - Speer, Willard and Nettie - Startk, Edison - Stearn, Clara - Stout, Clarimore W. - Stout, Gilbert - Stout, Lawrence - Stout, Robert and Cleo - Sullivan, Ernest - Sullivan, J. Franklin & Bessie - Sullivan, John J. - Sullivan Sam - Taylor, Edgar - Walker, John S. - Weed, Challis - Welch, William J. - Wyne, Elden and Nellie.
LIBERTY CHRISTIAN CHURCH
For those who attended the Liberty Christian Church, they found hope in the fact that their church set along the eastern edge of the proving ground. They attempted to save their church by requesting permission from the government to have it moved to the opposite side of Michigan Road, outside of the Proving Ground zone.
Charles E. Heberhart, who was director of the Jefferson County Historical Society in 1941, wrote the following before the final decision was made to allow the Liberty Christian Church to be moved off the Jefferson Proving Ground and onto safe ground.
Jefferson Proving Ground Records
Churches Division Liberty Christian Church - Monroe Township, Jefferson County.
Location - Section 23, Township 5
North, Range 10 East.
Founded - 1817.
Founders - John McClung and Beverly Vawter.
First Church built 1817; second church of frame including log body of fir.
Church closed - April 1941.
Cause of closing - Absorbed in Jefferson Proving Ground.
Last Major service - March 2 1941.
Membership at closing - 213.
Pastor at founding - Rev. John H. McClung.
Pastor at closing - Rev. Robert Fuller.
Dispostion of congregation after
closing - North Madison, Indian Kentuck and Madison Christian churches for those
remaining in county.
Church records (where placed) - With Mrs. Dawson Smith, Route 5, Madison.
Sources of church history - Church records, Vawter and Irwin family records.
History of Christian church Cauble; "The Vawter Family," by Bicknell; Louis Van Buren, Dawson Smith and Mrs. Dawson Smith, clerk of the church.
(Church had no cemetery)
Liberty Christian church
of Monroe township Jefferson county ranked at the top in longevity among the
county's churches. In historical importance it probably was second only to Mount
Pleasant Baptist church (first called Crooked Creek church) founded by Elder
Jesse Vawter in 1807.
Embraced in the walls of Liberty Christian church are timbers from the 1817 church. The building now stands just behind the fence of the Jefferson Proving ground on the Michigan road (higway 29) [now S.R. 421]. It will be inaccessible to church goers or the public but the surviving members of the congregation in Jefferson county are assured that it will be preserved and protected by the government.
All attempts to obtain consent to remove the building out of the proving ground to land 300 feet or so to the east side of Michigan road failed, the government refusing to give up the building. This despite the fact that Christopher B. Coleman, director of the State Historical Library and of the Indiana State Historical Society, approved the building as an historical object in the name of the society and gave of his time and support to a resolution passed by both the Indiana senate and house urging the government to permit the removal of the building to permit its continuing operation as a house of worship and as a historical monument. Mr. Coleman acted in response to the request of Vawter Irwin, deacon of the church, representing the church committee consisting of County Commissioners Dawson Smith and Louis Van Buren, elders of the church, and Charles E. Heberhart, director of the Jefferson County Historical society, Mr. Irwin being the third member of the committee.
The congregation in April appointed a committee to draft a letter of thanks to Mr. Coleman for his personal interest in his behalf and for the recognition given by the society through him of the historical importance of the church.
A letter from Henry L. Stimson, secretary of war to Senator Frederick Van Nuys, on April 5, 1941, terminated all hope of transfering the building from the proving grounds. Omitting the salutation, the letter reads as follows:
'Reference is made to your letter of March 7 enclosing a communication and resolution from Mr. Christopher B. Coleman, secretary of the Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, Indiana, relative to the preservation of the Liberty Christian church, located within the Jefferson Proving Ground area.
'In this regard you are advised that if the congregation desire to purchase the building and entail the expense of moving this building, they may communicate with the construction quartermaster in charge of the Jefferson Proving Ground project.
'The file of this office indicates that the option to purchase the land on which this church is located was accepted on March 5 1941 and the option contract contains no provision to the effect the congregation reserved the church building from the sale. This fact is mentioned in connection with the request that this building be donated to them. Since the church building is now the property of the United States government, it cannot be disposed of gratuitously.
'It is hoped that this information will be helpful to you.
Henry L. Stimson,
Secretary of War'
Soon after this letter Mr. Heberhart
received assurance from Mr. Charles Armitage, public relations man or Col. De R.
Cabell, commanding officer of the proving ground, that the building would not be
destroyed and the congregation abandoned its fight for the building. The letter
to Senator Van Nuys from Mr. Stimson had been sent to Mr. Coleman by the senator
and by Mr. Coleman forwarded to Mr. Heberhart. It accompanies this sketch.
Liberty church owes its origin to the adventurous John McClung, a preacher of the New Light church. He came into Jefferson county in 1812 at a time when the rush of settlement had outrun the supply of preachers. Inbued with missionary zeal he first gave his attention to the area on Big Creek, around Kent. There he organized the White River church in 1813.
Four years later, in 1817, the area about 8 miles north of Madison, where along the Graham road, already quite a highway, the need for a church had been suggested. Michigan road which was then only a bit more than a trail, was about a mile west of Graham road, and the Graham road had two links with the Michigan road in less than a mile.
It was at a point near the northern of these links that McClung, Beverly Vawter and others decided a church should be erected. There was an additional reason. There was a superb grove of beech trees. Here the church was erected, title to the land however not being received until March 19 1845 when the deed was presented to the church by the heirs of Love H. Jameison [sic Jamison or Jameson].
Three names precious to members of the Christian church in Indiana are associated with this Liberty church. They represent all that is fine courageous and devoted in the pioneer preacher. They were almost unique among those early frontier exponents of the Bible in that they loved and respected but never feared, that they brought the gospel of kindness and forebearance where so many of their contemporaries had only hell-fire, brimstone and lasting damnation to offer.
McClung's history fills pages in the early records, so does Jamieson's while Beverly Vawter was a fitting member of the great triumverat Vawter was the direct convert of Mc Clung. From the early Vawter family, Beverly being the son of Philemon Vawter, brother of Jesse Vawter, the first important settler in Madison, his role in county development was necessarily a large one.
McClung and Beverly Vawter met and liked each other in the days of McClung's activities in Kent. When the question of a church in Monroe township was considered the two at once cooperated. Beverly first had to be baptized into the New Light church.
The story of that baptism is a classic. The rite is said to have taken below the hill in the Indian-Kentuck creek, just below in fact, the farm where lives his grandson Vawter Irwin. It was a bitter cold day and the earnest few who attended the ceremony, it is said, stood on the bank wrapping their shawls and garments close around them against the biting wind.
Mrs. Vawter had decided to be baptized with her husband and the couple both went down to the water and in together. When they came out they were dripping and, according to the records, 'their clothing froze on them as they were rushed to the nearest house' to dry out.
This was the beginning of big things. The church building early enrolled many of the up and coming farmers of the neighborhood. Among these early members of the church were the Wagners, the Hands, the Irwin[s], the Jamesons, the Wises the Miles, Buchanans.
It was while serving this church as its first deacon that in 1819, 'after much wrestling with the spirit' he asked to be and was ordained a preacher.
Nothing in his ministerial life, he said afterward, gave him as much joy as the baptism of Love H. Jameson. Love's later performances as a preacher had their fruition in the guidance of both McClung and of Vawter, it being McClung who advised Jameson to enter the ministry when Jameson was only a boy of ten years.
Here must be mentioned the role the land surrounding the church played in its rise to local eminence. On this acreage not only was the church erected but a half acre was allotted for a school building, while the splendid beech grove in which they stood became as Liberty Grove the rallying place for more than 100 years for political campaigns; the scene of great revival gatherings and in its 1st 25 years the magnet for thousands of surviving pioneers and their descendants in old settler reunions.
While the loss of the church building will be greatly felt by the congregation it is as nothing to the passing of the grove to the rest of the county. In its heyday as many as 8,000 persons have gathered at one time under the magnificent beech trees. Senators, evangelists, heads of great fraternities and just the neighborhood farmer have spoken from its platform. The roll of those who led in early campmeetings in southern Indian[a] is embraced in the records of the program at this grove.
About 1828 Beverly Vawter became converted to the Cambellite faith and found immediate happiness, it is said, in instant acceptance of the new doctrine by his neighbors. So strong was he as an influence that in 1828 at the Edinburg conference, he was able to take the leadership of the score of churches represented at the meeting, some Baptist some Dunkard and others New Light bringing about a union which they called the Christian church.
In these days confusion and mounting expenses, with the question of raising the salary of the preacher not the least of the problems of the religious-minded, it is interesting to look back to the way these early preachers met that question. The records show that for many years no pay was received by Beverly Vawter for his services, he maintaining himself by operating a carding machine.
It is remarkable the strong men that have come out of Liberty church in politics and affairs. From Liberty church came Jesse Custer, early school trustee; State Senator Herbert Copeland, County Commissioners Dawson Smith and Louis Van Buren and others.
The last major service, held March 2 1941 was a deeply moving occasion. The fate of the church had not yet been decided and the members although going through the form of services were still hopeful. At these services Mr. Heberhart presented the program suggested by Michael E. Garber, owner and publisher of the Madison Courier, to save the church building by an appeal to Washington after obtaining the endorsement of the state historical society, which plan was later enlarged upon by Mr. Coleman and Vawter Irwin by a direct aid of the state legislature of Indiana as described earlier in this sketch.
The last regular services, March 2, also was marked by the last gathering in that house of worship by scores of members of the congregation who in the following week scattered to other counties as the government took over their homes in the proving ground area, so, in many instances the occasion was not only farewell to the church but to friends, relatives and homes. In the audience that day were descendants of Beverly Vawter, kinsmen of Love H. Jameson and others whose lines ran back to the original founders.
It was noted that the Sunday school this last day had within three of its full enrollment. The following is a synopsis of services that day and some statistics:
Sunday school enrollment 70, present 67,
proceeding Sunday 21.
Offering- $3.59; preceding Sunday, $1.65.
Favorite hymns sung at church service- "What a Friend," "Near the Cross," "Trust and Obey " and "Olive's Brow."
Sermon by Rev. Robert Fuller at morning service- Luke 22, 32, 36, 37 and 38.
Sermon at evening service by Rev. Fuller- Acts: 20, the title being "Comending You to God."
The burden of Rev. Fuller's morning sermon was 'Fear.' He spoke of the conquest of fear and cited the fear among Christ's followers when the risen Christ walked among them. 'I doubt if the Master should return today he could bring peace to everyone,' Rev. Fuller said. 'Peace only to those who had come to know him.'
The entire congregation, which filled the church, took part in the final communion which was marked with great solemnity and moving prayers by Elders Louis Van Buren and Dawson Smith. The morning service concluded with prayer by Rev. Fuller, his closing words being, 'As we part may it be for a closer walk with Thee.'
The church organization at its close consisted of the following:
Pastor - Rev. Robert Fuller.
Elders - J. Louis Van Buren, Dawson Smith.
Trustees - John B. Housefield, Dawson Smith and David Spurgin.
Deacons - Vawter Irwin, Harvey Denny, Fred Geisler, W.R. Day, John Waters, Charles Bentley, Joseph Harrell and Harry Lindsay.
Treasurer - George Smart.
Clerk - Mrs. Dawson Smith.
Church Bible school officers:
Superintendent - Dawson Smith.
Assistant Superintendent - J. Louis Van Buren.
Secretary - Chloris Custer.
Assistant secretary - Russell Smart.
Pianist - Mildred Williams.
Teachers - Beginners, Mrs. Sophia Housefield; juniors, Mrs. Lorraine Harsin Smith; young people, Mrs. Evelyn Irwin; young people, No. 2, Mrs. Anna Denny; adults, Mrs. Myrtle Wright Smith.
Members of the church at the time the church was taken over by the government for the proving ground, were:
Mrs. Mat Adams, Willard Adams, Louis Adams, Paul Adams, Grover Adams, Leslie Adams, Velma Adams, Ruth Anderson.
Fred Barber, Emma Barber, Norval Barber, Celile Barber, Mrs. Mary Bentley, Charles Bentley, Mary Risk Bentley, Mrs. Opal Bentley, Raymond Bovard, Nellie Schoolcraft Bovard, Earl Brinson, Curtis Brinson, Lorraine Denny Brinson, Mrs. John Buchanan, Morris Buchanan, Mrs. Mildred Buchanan, Mildred Geisler Bush, Emory Brown, Mrs. Ida Brown, Elvin Brown, Mrs. Erdine Brown, Robinus Brown.
John Commiskey, Emma Kohl Commiskey, Ernie Commiskey, Edward Copeland, Mrs. Irene Custer Copeland, Dan Copeland, Herbert Copeland, George Copeland, Allen Copeland, Wallace Copeland, Paul Copeland, Nelson Copeland, Bertha Custer, Leonard Chadwell, Earl Chadwell, Mrs. Mildred Day Chadwell, Mrs. Cordelia Kohl Carson, Miss Chloris Custer, Benjamin Conway, Mrs. Benjamin Conway, Theodore Cotton, Mrs. Lydia B. Cotton.
Mrs. Aldean Custer Dilk, Harvey Denny, Mrs. Anna Smart Denny, Melvin Denny, Forrest Denny, Lawrence Denny, Mrs. Nellie Chadwell Denny, Walter R. Day, Mrs. Mary Day, Miss Evelyn Day, Miss Norma Day, Louis Demaree, Mrs. Rosetta Demaree, Gordon Dowty, Mrs. Elizabeth Rose Demaree, Mrs. Hattie Williams Denny.
Cyrus East, Mrs. Cyrus East, Kenneth Earl, Mrs. Edra Brown Earl, Charles Ebble, Mrs. Charles Ebble, Vernon Etherton.
Mrs. Louise Housefield Farrell.
Mrs. Lorene Geisler Gable, Mrs. Martha Geisler, Freddie Geisler, Mrs. Helen Day Geisler, Raymond Geisler, Eleanor Geisler, Dale Geisler, Mrs. Lucy Risk Geisler, Mrs. Mildred Risk Green.
John Hand, Mrs. Vessie Hand, Shirley Harsin, Agnes Smart Harsin, Leroy Harsin, Nancy Housefield, John B. Housefield, Mrs. Sophia Housefield, Louis Housefield, Arthur Housefield, Mrs. Lulie Housefield, Clarence Housefield, Mrs. Norma Housefield, Jesse Housefield, Mrs. Nettis Housefield, Joseph Harrell, Mrs. Oda Harrell, Mrs. Jane Hyatt, Miss Alta Harrell, Miss Mary Harrell, Charles Hyatt, Ora Hyatt, Margaret Jane Hyatt, Jesse Higbie, May Higbie, Manor Higbie, Neil Higbie, Mack Higbie, Mrs. Mack Higbie, Herbert Housefield, Harold Housefield, Mrs. Ethel Sellick Housefield, Mary Hendrickson, Marcelle Hendrickson, Benice Hendrickson, Norma Hendrickson.
Mrs. Anna Irwin, Vawter Irwin, Mrs. Evelyn Brown, Richard Irwin, Ruth Irwin.
Mrs. Pearl Jackson, William Jenkins.
Mrs. Edith Waters Kidwell, Rufus Kirk, Mrs. Rufus Kirk, Edward Kohl.
Virginia May Lawrence, John Thomas Lawrence, Earl Lee, Ralph Lee, Mrs. Bessie Adams Lee, Hary Lindsay, Mrs. Stella Lindsay, Raymond Lindsay, Helen Lindsay, John Loh, George Lyons, Sr., Mrs. George Lyons, Sr.
Clarence Marshall, Miss Allie Martin, Arnold Miller, Gerald Miller, Harold Martin, Miss Eloise Martin, Miss Dorothy Miles, Alberta Moreland, Mrs. Ed Moreland.
Mrs. John Emma Paugh, Frank Paugh, Mrs. Allie Paugh, Wilson Paugh, Mrs. Alice Paugh, Robert Pendleton, Mrs. Robert Pendleton, Miss Cynthia Pendleton, Leo Pendleton, Laura Pendleton, Carroll Phillips.
Helen Smart Rose.
Daniel Schoolcraft, Mrs. Mary Schoolcraft, Benjamin Schoolcraft, Mrs. Fay Schoolcraft, Ralph Schoolcraft, George Schwartz, Jr., Michael C. Schwartz, Mrs. Florence Schwartz, Ralph Schwartz, Freda Jenkins Schwartz, Dave Spurgin, Mrs. Etta Spurgin, Ray Spurgin, Mrs. Ray Spurgin, Dawson Smith, Mrs. Myrtie E. Smith, George Smart, Mrs. Mary Smart, Vera Smart, Fern May Smart, Wilson Smart, Marshall Smith, Mrs. Lorraine Harsin Smith.
Elizabeth Vawter, J. Louis Van Buren, Otto Van Buren, Owen Vestal, Grace Vestal, Byron Vestal.
Leanna Moreland Whitham, Marion Wilkins, John Waters, Griffin Waters, Kenneth Williams, Anna Schoolcraft Williams, Alton Williams, Melvin Williams, Miss Mildred Williams, Mrs. Mary E. Wright, Miss Gracie Wright, Verle Waltz.
John Yost, Mrs. Rosetta Kohl Yost.
This church has no cemetery, but ancestors of many of these members of the congregation were buried in the Baxter, Smart and Bayless cemeteries.
(Note- Early books of Liberty church have disappeared in the last quarter of a century. A centennial history is a much sought record).
By Charles E. Heberhart.
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