Church History of Hedrick Church of God Abrahamic Faith

Author: Kent A. Bolin, Church Secretary

Hedrick Church of God Abrahamic Faith

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Author Note

This is the history of the Hedrick Church of God Abrahamic Faith, 942 South Adams Street, Williamsport, Indiana 47993 as taken from the combined histories found in the church’s historical documents, Restitution Herald, Members Oral histories, and local public records.

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Indiana Church of God Background History

The first organized Church of God in Indiana was Old Union nine miles northeast of Indianapolis. An attempt toward a semi-General Conference was made at Old Union in 1858. The Ohio State Conference was first organized in October 29, 1857. (Stilson, 2011). Their purpose— “That we should, when there are three or more believers in a place, organize ourselves under the name of Church of God, recognizing no other name for ourselves than Christians, and none other for the Church but the Church of God.”

The General Conference met August 29, 1910 in Waterloo, Iowa where they adopted 16 articles of faith. In Indiana, the churches had been cooperating in a more or less way. On September 10, 1886, a statewide meeting was called at Argos and a fully organized Conference came into being.

The only church that belongs to the conference that still exists is North Salem of Plymouth. Later, Burr Oak (Burr Oak), Hillisburg (Hillisburg), Hedrick Church of God (Hedrick), Lafayette, Community Bible Fellowship (Culver); Knightstown Family Fellowship (Knightstown) and South Bend (Hope Chapel and Morning Star) joined the conference. The following churches are now a part of the Indiana (Church of God) State Conference: Country Chapel (Michigantown), Family Bible Church of God (Granger), Hedrick Church of God (Hedrick), Maple Grove Community (Kokomo), New Covenant Bible (Indianapolis), North Salem (Plymouth), and Timberland Bible Church (South Bend).

The Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith has its headquarters in McDonough, Georgia, and was formerly located in Oregon, Illinois. The General Conference and the Atlanta Bible College are together with the College beginning in 1939. (Taylor, 2004).

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Hedrick Church of God History

At an early date, when there were few homes on the prairie lands of Warren County, Indiana, people of the community began holding services in the large, new barn of “Uncle Davey” Evans. This was an exceptionally large barn and a particularly good one for that time. Homes were small and did not have ample room for the meetings. In the autumn of 1853, Reverend Shortridge began preaching the doctrine of the soul’s sleeping, or the unconscious state of the dead to this group of scattered membership an opportunity to hear preaching without going so far back into Williamsport or West Lebanon.

This scattered membership decided to form the Pleasant View Church. The first record of organized effort is dated, February 11, 1854. This is believed to be the oldest church of organization in Jordan Township of Warren County. The church was an outgrowth of personal discussion when local believers mingled with neighboring folks at a country crossroads post office. This location was at the time called Gas Corner. Later, a church building was erected at Pleasant View, one mile north and two miles east of Hedrick, Indiana. The deed for this land is dated October 25, 1875. Across the road from the church building was a blacksmith shop where mail was brought from West Lebanon once or twice a week by someone of the neighborhood, and the men gathered there to get their mail and to tell and to hear the news; hence the name Gas Corner. The building at Gas Corner was dedicated in August 1872, by Reverend H. V. Reed of Chicago, IL, Brothers Halstead, Winslow, Wagoner, Stephenson, and Hatch assisting. One of the pledges made when the house was built was that when not in use by its own people, it should be open to other denominations, so that it has witnessed nearly all kinds of preaching by nearly every grade of preacher. It stands as a good example of the way in which faith in the home must inevitably overflow to the community. (B. F. Bowen & Co., 1913), (Slater, 1976).

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The elected Elders were David Evans, John Millhollin and James Smith. The deacons were Milford Pugh and Samuel B. Mathis. The members totaled 30 (just about what our attendance is now). Their purpose was to carry out the great commission of the Savior as recorded in Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Luke 24 with Baptism to be by immersion. In 1870 (some records show 1875) the church was called the “Church of God, or Soul Sleepers.” The building was used part time by the Christian Church for Sunday School.

After Reverend Shortridge, the first preacher, for the Church of God, he was followed by Reverends Shockey, Nathan Hornady, Sr. and Nathan Hornady, Jr., Blaine, W. L. Chase, Dr. Knight, Dr. Weston Moyer, and Z. Campbell. Also, others were faithful as visiting or paid pastors, including R. V. Lyon, J. M. Stephenson, Hatch, Wagner, Reed, Winslow, and Halstead, who in time were succeeded by L. E. Connor, Joseph Williams, S. J. Lindsay, Brother and Sister Robinson, Maple, Chase, Austin, Zilmer and Reverend Woodward and wife. (Stilson, 2011). In all there have been held there but three conferences, the first at the schoolhouse; the second, October 1875, which was a regular state meeting. In August 1893, the state conference was invited to meet here in Warren county and hold its session at Pleasant View church, and they accepted. There were present many from other states, including some from Chicago. The Argos delegation being the largest.

On April 22, 1922, a cyclone destroyed Hedrick and the two churches at Pleasant View at the time Pastor D. E. Van Vactor was pastoring. Neither one was rebuilt at the Corner. The Church of God built in Hedrick and the Christian Church built in Pence, which no longer exists. In the interim the congregation held church in the Mud Corner school building and, later, in the Hedrick school for 27 years. During this time J. H. Anderson was pastor, although not living in the area. The church owes a tribute to him for holding them together during trying years and for adding many to their membership during years without a building. The congregation was not regularly active, and Sunday School was kept alive through the efforts of Mary Flint, Etta Hurley, and Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Smith. (Evans, Millhollin, & Smith, 1854).

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After the death of pastor Anderson, the congregation was pastored by Brown, Weldon McCoy, James W. Watkins, Sidney Magaw and Warren Sorenson. As a result of the faithfulness of a few families, who held fast to their beliefs and could not permit the Work to die. During the pastorate of James Watkins, and with him as chairman, a business meeting was held in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Monte Doty and plans were made to buy lots in Hedrick and build a church building there, on June 1948, lots were purchased for $75.00. The old lot at Pleasant View was sold and the first sod was turned on June 2, 1949, and the building was in progress while Sydney Magaw was pastor. Warren Sorenson pastored at the time of completion because Pastor Sydney Magaw was killed in an automobile accident. April 17, 1951, just twenty-nine years, to the day, after the cyclone, a business meeting was held in the church building to make plans for Dedication Day. The church was dedicated on May 13, 1951. Warren Sorenson was the master of ceremonies and James Watkins gave the dedication message.

Mrs. Netti Evans (widow of Williamsport banker Cyrus Evans) was the treasurer of the building fund and made the building possible by her financial support. At her suggestion, other members and friends of the church paid what they could, and she supplied the balance. On September 30, 1951, Mrs. Evans reported that the building, furniture, fixtures, etc., were all free from indebtedness, and that she saw no further need of the office of treasurer of the building fund. At her request, her resignation from the office was accepted. “We rejoice that the goal has been attained. We have every faith that the community will accept this church most favorably” said Pastor James M. Watkins during the service of dedication.

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This same year (1951) Warren Sorenson resigned as pastor and was followed by Darrell Maddock, Curtis Simpson, James M. Watkins (for the 2nd time), Larry (Betty) Townsend 1965-68, James (Charlene) Graham1969-71, Wally (Peggy) Winner 1972-76, Tim (Sandy) New 1976- 81, Edward (Violet) Goit 1981-86, Dennis (Mary) Cheatwood 1988-90, Earl (Dee) Poland 1992-95, C. Joseph (Karla) Astolfi 1998-2014, and David (Wanda) Cheatwood 2014-present. A Social and Educational Building was built in 1962. The building was contracted by Leonard Ducker and members of the congregation wired, insulated, and paneled the interior. In 1974 and 1975, during the pastorate of Wally Winner, an addition of two classrooms, two restrooms (our “outhouse” could not accommodate the people for state conferences and youth retreats) and a pastor’s study. (Taylor, 2004).

In September 1979, a new garage was put on the lot for the parsonage, during the pastorate of Tim New. In 1986 a pastor study/library and storage room were added to the Social and Educational building during the pastorate of Ed Goit. In 2004 the parsonage was sold to Earl Poland.

Baptisms for the church were held in the Jordan Creek southwest of West Lebanon, regardless of the weather (at a baptism in the winter, ice had to be cut for the pastor and the one being baptized). Later the congregation used the baptistery of the Christian churches of Williamsport and West Lebanon, and the Brown’s swimming pool across the street from the church. In the 1980’s a baptistery was installed in the church.

Our church has had its periods of success and depressions, especially during the 1880’s, when there were no regular services held. But it survived and at last accounts had a membership of more than seventy, though by removals and deaths, the church does not now enjoy that number of members. Our church has gone through the scathing fires of early day criticism and has been in the thickest of the fight for truth, but we have never wavered, even when the membership was small, and no services were held regularly. Clinging fast to the foundation principles of the truth, as they saw it, they have sent forth many noble, sturdy characters into distant parts of the country.

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The Hedrick Church of God has been most generous in giving to missionaries, the needy, the community (with monetary donations and time to such projects as Habitat for Humanity and providing an annual community picnic), visitations to local nursing homes and at Veteran Hospital/Nursing Home, and students attending the Church of God Bible College/Atlanta Bible College. The membership of the Hedrick Church of God established a scholarship fund for the Bible College/Atlanta Bible College in 1983 sent Steve Taylor and Marylin (Taylor) Morrison.

This is the only church of this denomination within Warren county. The following are the words written by Pastor James M. Watkins, Editor of May 22, 1951, The Restitution Herald about the Hedrick Church of God:

“The faithfulness of a few families who refused to permit this work to die is being amply rewarded. We know of no community where hospitality is more genuine or Christian fellowship more pleasant. The early ministers who visited this community found great pleasure in spending long evenings discussing the Bible with members in their homes…These evenings must be recognized as a very vital contribution to the faith that has continued to endure in a few homes through years of spiritual disadvantages. They are the foundation stones on which family, faith and the present church have been built. To those who have faithfully made their way to the local school in fair weather and foul to teach their classes, large or small, and have worked to bring this new church into being, we owe a debt of gratitude. It is not always easy to keep faithful to our Sunday School work when so often only a few shows enough interest to come. May the Lord bless them as their labor unfolds in further success.” (Watkins, The Restitution Herald Editorial, 1951).

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B. F. Bowen & Co. (1913). Church of God. (I. Thomas A. Clifton of Covington, Ed.) Past and Present of Fountain & Warren Counties, Indiana. Retrieved February 17, 2020

Clifton, T. A. (1913). Past and Present of Fountain and Warren Counties Indiana. (T. A. Clifton, Ed.) Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America: B. F. Bowen & Co. Retrieved July 1, 2020

Evans, D. D., Millhollin, J., & Smith, J. W. (1854). Hedrick Church of God Abrahamic Faith Original Church Record. (H. C. Bengr, W. Pugh, & S. B. Mathis, Eds.) Hedrick, Indiana, United States of America: Hedrick Church of God Abrahamic Faith. Retrieved 7 1, 2020

Slater, B. (1976). 1976 History of the Hedrick Church of God. Hedrick Church of God Abrahamic Faith. Hedrick: Hedrick Church of God Abrahamic Faith. Retrieved July 1, 2020

Stilson, J. T. (2011). Biographical Encyclopedia: Chronicling the History of the Church of God Abrahamic Faith 19th & 20th Centuries (One ed., Vol. One). (G. Demmitt, A. F. Rankin, K. H. Ross, J. T. Stilson, & J. Winner, Eds.) Stillmand Valley, Illinois, United State of America: Word Edge. doi:BX6183.B56 2011

Taylor, F. (2004, November 13). Elder. 150th Anniversary of the Hedrick Church of God Abrahamic Faith, One. (K. A. Bolin, Interviewer, & K. A. Bolin, Editor) Hedrick, Indiana, United States of America: Taylor, Frank. Retrieved July 1, 2020, from www.hedrickchurchofgod.org

Watkins, J. M. (1951, May 22). Another New Church. (J. M. Watkins, Ed.) The Restitution Herald, 40(33), pp. Cover, 1, 4. Retrieved July 1, 2020

Watkins, J. M. (1951, May 22). The Restitution Herald Editorial. (P. C. Johnson, Associate Editor, & J. M. Watkins, Editor, Eds.) The Restitution Herald, 40(33). Retrieved February 17, 2020

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Photo of our 150th anniversary celebration held 2004