(by Don Meador, The Citizen-Times, August 20, 2007)
For 200 years worshippers---sometimes few in number, other times enough to fill the house---have journeyed to a small church nestled in a Norman Rockwell setting in western Allen County. This past Sunday, Stony Point United Methodist Church celebrated their rich and proud two-century heritage as members—past and present---welcomed family and friends to recall days gone bye and look to the future.
Like counterpart Methodist churches at Buck Creek and Concord, Stony Point’s roots extend to the childhood years of Kentucky statehood----to a time before Allen County was an organized county. The countryside was wilderness, broken only by trails blazed by pioneers looking to settle new ground.
Alexander and Lydia Mayhew was a young Virginian couple looking to do just that. Now, a fading marker stands a few feet from the present church. Erected by fourth and fifth generation descendants, one can read the young couple’s story.
“In memory of Alexander Mayhew and his wife Lydia reared in VA.”, the stone reads. “Immigrated with three other brothers and settled in Allen Co. KY. Became owners of many acres of land giving these grounds for church and cemetery purposes. Also the founder of this church. They were born in Virginia about 1777 and died near here about 1855.”
Early history from the Mayhew family records explain that the Mayhews’ arrived in present day western Allen County in 1804 or 1805, settling near the present church. The area was near a town called New Roe.
“New Roe was a thriving community at one time,” explained Harris Overholt, Allen County Historical Society member and historian for Sunday’s celebration. . “Stony Points was in the suburbs of New Roe. New Roe was even considered for the county seat at one time.”
As the Mayhew’s were settling and starting their life of farming, Methodist circuit riding preachers were making their rounds in this part of Kentucky. Churches had been established a few miles to the east---Buck Creek and Concord---which no doubt help prompt the Mayhew’s to donate land for a church closer to their new home.
Today, as one looks through the old part of the church cemetery, one finds names and dates of persons extended back into the 1800’s. Patricia Mayhew Vincent, a descendent of the Mayhew settlers, speculates that the names one find in the old cemetery represent pioneering families as well.
“Families traveled together 200 years ago,” Vincent said. “If you look at the names in the cemetery here, names like the Cline’s and the Willoughby’s, and some of the names on the older stones, these people may have come together.”
shared Sunday that church and history records show that early Stony
Point workers and leaders included Alexandra Mayhew, Samuel Ellis,
Alex Dinwiddle, and James and Nancy Mayhew. Early preachers included James
Quinn, Charles Halliday, Allen Parker, Richard Pope, Daniel Copewell and Edmond
Stony Point grew as a Methodist church, a church made from logs in its’ early days. Information published in the Allen County News in 1949---part of a series of articles
on churches in the county---recorded that by 1840, church membership had
later, Civil War broke out, leaving Kentucky
at a border states
between the pro-slavery Confederate south and anti-slavery Union north. As
families chose which side to support in the war Methodist churches also faced
the question of slavery. As a result, Stony Point
would be split by the issue.
“In some Methodist church, people worshiped within the same structure,” Overholt explained. “For instance, at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church, the southern Methodists worshiped in the afternoon and the Northern Methodists worshiped in the morning. Here at Stony Point, the northern element went to meeting at Pleasant Ridge, just over the hill while the southern element met here.”
Following the war, Stony Point’s membership and attendance remained study with history records showing that meetings at the church would sometimes attract large crowds. In The Heavens Are Weeping: The Diaries of George
Richard Browder, 1852-1886 , a book written by former Western Kentucky University History Professor Richard L. Troutman, Stony Point and Allen County are mentioned. Browder—a former Methodist minister who preached throughout southern Kentucky----recorded extensive details of his journeys as a minister. Browder’s writings offers unique inside into the history of Stony Point. Overholt noted an entry dated May 19, 1877.
“It said, New Roe circuit—with New Roe role spelled Neu Row---large audience at Stony Point,” Overholt cited. “I had unusual liberty at preaching of Saul’s conversion. There was an uproar of praise and thanksgiving. Many wept aloud and some shouted before the sermon was ended.”
The diaries also
included more reflection on the church and the paying of the pastor.
“The people were wonderfully demonstrated in their religious emotion and cordial in their hospitality.” Overholt shared. “But they have a poor ideal of obligation to support their pastor.”
Another entry in Browder’s diaries gives a glimpse into what coming to Stony Point---on horse back---was like on a summer’s day in 1879.
“It was a muddy ride to Stony Point, congregation not large on account of rain,” Overholt pointed out, also noting that, despite the rain of the day, it was a dry time. “Fiancés very low, crops poor due to drought, corn almost a failure, no tobacco planted.”
By the early 20th
century, Stony Point Methodist Church
occupied a prominent place in the landscape of western Allen County.
The church was a part of a circuit of churches, a circuit that grew to 11
churches at one point. Still, preaching and meetings were held on regular
basics. The original log church was replaced with a second log structure before
a third frame type building was erected.
In addition, a
school was started in a separate building near the present site of the church.
As was a tradition in the first half of the 20th century, church and schools went hand in hand—especially during times of revival.
“School was held in a building up past the cemetery,” recalled church member Edwin Mayhew.”We would walk down here to church in a line. They would have revival everyday at 11:00 a.m.”
Mayhew also remembered
the times when the church house was filled.
“The old church used to be filled with people looking in the windows,” Mayhew recalled. “You used to have a big crowd here.”
The third church
stood at the site until August 21, 1942. That night, for an unknown reason,
fire swept through the frame structure destroying the building. Church members
did not lose heart but resolved to rebuild. Almost a year to the date---August
20th, 1943---the fourth church building was dedicated.
shared from the Allen County News article of 1949---an article which offered
the reader a glimpse of the church in the mid 20th century. Deacons and trustees included Lee Gaines, Dale Mayhew, Oscar Mayhew, Luther Hinton, and Ben Chaney. The article described the church----white plastered walls, hardwood floors, Venetian blinds---and note “it also has been wired for electricity,”
Today, the church floor is carpeted, stained glass windows have been installed, a heating and air unit pumps air through the structure. Additions have included rest rooms, class rooms and a fellowship area. The church also has a water fountain—much different that the days of yesteryear.
“I remember a bucket of water being in the corner,” noted former church supertindent Lewis Gaines, “If you wanted a drink of water, you went back to the bucket. Everybody drink from that same bucket.”
church walls, the area has changing in the past 100 years as well. The nearby
school closed and was torn down. At some point, the cemetery beside the
church apparently filled up, prompting
land to be secured across the road for the new cemetery, a cemetery in use
today. As for the old cemetery, the oldest grave markers have disappeared
leaving behind some older grave markers and tombstones. .
“When I was a child, I can remember seeing a bunch of flat stones,” Vincent recalled. “The cemetery as far as I know is full of people but the stones that had nothing written on them yet. I believe, were grave markers were moved cause they did not have a name on it.”
served the church in the past 100 years include J. H. Richardson, G.Y. Wilson,
H. W. Keen, E.L. Willingham, L.U. Sullivan, John Miller, W.H. Russell, A.N.
Yancy, W.L.Lee, E.C. Cole, J.H. Elprey, Robert Hurst, Wallace Herald, Walter
Jones, Reid Thompson, Earl Moody, A.N. Harriman,
Harold Sharver, Hobart Lyles, Leonard Fleenor, Wallace McGee, Truman Arterburn,
Roy Mayhew, Stanley Shaw, Joseph Harmon, Roby McPeak, T.C. Moresman, James
Goodin, John L/ Holcomb, Bobby Hendrix and Mary Lou Caswell. Today, Bro. George
Quiensberry is in his 11th year as Pastor.
Rev. Caswell recalled fond memories during her brief time at Stony Point during the mid 1990’s.
“The people were really sweet but we just had such a few,” Caswell said. “The people we had loved the Lord. That was the biggest thing.”
It was at that point that consideration was given to closing the doors to the church. However, long-time members insisted the church remain open even thought it was operated as a mission for a brief time in the mid 1990’s. Then, in 1997, Bro. George Quiensberry accepted the call to the church.
“When we first came to Stony Point the church did not have much,” Bro. Queinsberry said. “Since then, we had the addition of several families, a major building renovation with out going into debt, more pubic awareness of the church and most of all the deeper commitment in the lives of others.”
George’s wife, Shirley, recalls attendance each Sunday of only “three or four people”. Now membership is up to about 50 members with an average of at 30 for Sunday services. Members and church attendees include individuals from in the community as well as some who travel from Franklin to attend services.
Different ministries have been started and continue to grow as the church moves into a third century of service. Strengths include children’s programs highlighted recently by the largest Vacation Bible School in anyone’s recollection.
“I have seen kids grow in faith and spiritually mainly because we are involved with them and care about what happens to them.,” youth director Misty Hollars explained, adding that the church has grown through participation in community based programs. . “We were one of the first churches to sign up for the Faith Collation and was awarded a drug and tobacco prevention grant. The church used this funding for our children. We have a big belief in helping others. Even as small as we are, we were able to assemble two teams for the Bowl for Kids Sake event held in March, and were able to raise a significant amount of money for the organization.”
Another area of growth is being seen in the women’s ministry. The interest and growth has propelled Stony Point’s United Methodist Women’s group to one of the most active in the Bowling Green district. The Women’s Group is very active in mission work with projects including making teddy bears, gowns for babies, assembling medical and school kits for mission needs around the world.
“Currently, we have 14 active members,” Shirley Quiensberry added. “We are a diamond unit, and a six-star unit. For such a small church that is very significant and says a lot for our members.”
During Sunday’s special celebration, Bowling Green District Supertindent Mike Powers praised the congregation for their commitment to serving the Lord for such a long time.
“For 200 years this church has been founded on strong Biblical principals” Powers said. “That fact and their commitment now is what will sustain them into the future as it has in the past. This church has done a lot of things well over the years even when it has gotten down to few. Now, they are growing and have a vision for the future.”
For Bro. Queinsberry, he’s excited about the work God is doing through Stony Point and looks forward to what lies ahead. He points out that already, he’s been blessed with many wonderful memories and looks forward to new faces coming in the weeks and months ahead.
“I am proud that God has allowed me to have the best ministry of my preaching history at Stony Point.” Quiensberry added. “We love our members but we also love our visitors, we welcome anyone to our services”
being made each week as new families come to the church in the curve.
“We love this little church,” noted Jackie DeMarches. “We come to worship Jesus Christ our Savior and we love all of our brothers and sisters here that truly love the Lord”
Kristie Scherer adds that she feels Stony Point
is a place that adheres to the Methodist belief in open doors, open hearts and
. “I have heard several people talk about going to churches and not feeling welcomed, but I have never heard anyone speak badly of Stony Point and I have been a member almost two years now,” Scherer stated. “As a matter of fact some of the visitors I have spoken with have stated just the opposite saying that Stony Point was one of the friendliest churches they have attended,”
Stony Point Methodist Church
members now look to the future. Ironically, three days before the celebration,
a standing room only crowd filled the adjacent Stony Point fire department to
discuss what the future holds for the Franklin
Road as growth and development comes to western Allen County.
For the folks at Stony Point, hope is that the
small church organized 200 years in the past will remain an active part of the
community for future generations of faithful believers.
(NOTE…..Mrs. Kristie Scherer submitted information for this article as well. She did some of the research)