History

Bethany Christian Church still sits on the same little knoll where it was first established in 1838.   Earliest documentation dates November 13, 1838.

According to Miss Myrtie McNeely the first church was a log cabin that was used as a Union church and schoolhouse. The benches were hewn logs.  A fireplace sat at one end and a pulpit on the other.  Visiting preachers of different denominations alternated Sundays to deliver a message.  Matthew Webber was the first minister.  People were baptized in the Wolf River.  

An engraved plaque to the cemetery entrance says the cemetery was founded in 1847 on property given by William Hamner.  A document signed by Hamer dates July 13, 1849 but the land was already being used for burials and religious teachings before then. It was a community cemetery until 1872 at which time it became a grave yard for church members.

It wasn’t until 1872 the church actually owned title to the land.  William Hamner’s son, James, sold the ten acres to the church for ninety dollars.  This contract was signed September 29, 1871 and finalized January 1, 1872. Dr. Jane Hooker explains in Neighbor’s Along the Wolf, at William Hamner’s death (1851) his youngest son, James, was a minor and could not hold land.  After his father’s will was probated February 26, 1869, James, and wife, Mary Hooker Hamner, sold the cemetery and church property, ten acres, to the church.

The first log church building was bought by Mr. J. J. Wiseman in 1891 and moved.  A new white clapboard building was erected on the same site.  It was heated by a pot-bellied stove.  Members became mostly Christian affiliated and in 1893 the church became officially Bethany Christian Church, part of the Disciples of Christ.  The first Sunday school was organized in 1898 and the first Vacation Bible School in 1941. 

Lord’s Acre Day was established by Dr. Sydney Carnes in 1948.  Probably all of the member’s occupations were farm related.  Farmers were unable to cover bills or make donations until after crops were harvested, which led to the Lord’s Acre Day program.  Pledges were made from crops harvested on an acre of land that was set aside as the “Lord’s Ace”. Others may have promised money made from eggs laid on Sundays, or any livestock born on Sundays, etc.  The first Lord’s Acre Day offerings was made in 1849.  This program is still active today although no longer farm related, it is more of a tradition.      

In 1950 a fellowship hall was added and shortly thereafter two new restrooms. 

In 1963 the white clapboard building was torn down and a new brick one erected.  Pastor J.T. Moore gave the last sermon and Ron Savage and Etta Ruth Bryan were the last to marry in the old white church. 

Groundbreaking for the new brick church building occurred April 18, 1963. The new building included a baptistery, so the river and lake baptisms became a thing of the past.  

The church received its charter on September 16, 1974.  Its purpose “to win people to faith in Jesus Christ; to commit them actively to the church; to help them grow in grace and knowledge of Christ that increasingly they may understand to do his will; to work for the unity of all Christians and with them engage in the sermon task of establishing the Kingdom of God.”  

A new educational building with classrooms, fellowship hall, kitchen and restrooms was added in 1978.  Beautiful stained glass windows added to the worship sanctuary in 1981, paid for by various families of the church.  

Several modifications have been made to the building to keep it updated and pristine, such as adding a steeple, tan siding, handicap parking, drop off area with overhead canopy and landscaping.

The church is still a small church, having the same goals it had in years past, surrounded by the beauty of nature.  If you have not visited, we welcome you to do so.  

Darlene Hooker Sawyer

 

http://www.oldbethanycemetery.org/