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Palmyra Church of Christ to celebrate 150 years

Palmyra Church of Christ to celebrate 150 years Palmyra Church of Christ to celebrate 150 years

(The following information was provided by Janet Love Davis from historical documents.)

For several years prior to 1871, members of the Lord’s Church from Palmyra and surrounding communities met in various homes with others of “like precious faith.” In 1871, these members of the Church of Christ agreed to unite with members of the United Brethren Church, not in worship, but to purchase a vacant meeting house in Palmyra owned by the Presbyterian church for $300 (the United Brethren contributed $200 while the Church of Christ put in $100). The building stood on the current site of the United Methodist church. The deed was to be in the U.B. church’s name but a covenant gave both groups equal use of the building as well as equal share of upkeep expenses.

This agreement was followed until the Church of Christ had grown in numbers to erect a house of worship of its own.
A suitable lot, the site of its current building, was located one block south of U.S. 150 along S.R. 135 (Greene Street) and a meeting, with 90 members present, was called on June 3, 1871, to consider this purchase through Thomas Hise. The Palmyra Church of Christ was then formally organized with William Watts, Milton Martin, Anderson Sears, William Worley and John Durnil elected as trustees and building committee.

At the next meeting, on June 17, 1871, Enos Turner was chosen president and Thomas W. Hise secretary. William H. Frantz made a motion, which passed, that two men be chosen as elders and two men as deacons. James G. Brown’s motion to approve Hise and Anderson Sears as elders and James Coleman and John Durnil as deacons also passed. It was decided the trustees should complete plans for a new 36-by-50-foot building, which was to have two front doors, one for women to enter and one for the men, as was the common practice in that era.

All members offered their assistance in the construction of the building. Framing timber was furnished by those members who had timber. The building was not completed until February of 1873. On Feb. 11, 1873, two additional deacons, Ichabod Turley and William Denton, were appointed and Brown named as the third elder.

All records were written in non-fading royal purple ink; the original ledger book still exists.

Others who have served as elders include Andrew Sappenfield, Charles P. Bush, T.J. Martin, Walter D. Baker, L.L. Coleman, Herman D. Coleman, William H. Coleman, Jessie O. Smith, Tuck Lindsey, Clarence Love, Logan Baker, Len Funk, Leon Meriwether and Merrill (Buddy) Love. Men who have served or are serving as deacons are Samuel Nail, A.E. Sappenfield, Ferdinand Hendrich, Frank Winniger, Jonathon G. Boston, W.B. Collins, Otto Worley, B. Britton Boston, Logan Baker, Herbert Marvin, Marvin Sappenfield, Edward Weilbaker, William Mousty, Lowell Smith, Loren Voyles, Len Funk, Leon Merriwether, Paul Raake, Jerry Love, Mark Wright and Merrill (Buddy) Love.

The newly-constructed building was an edifice for the town and soon became a local landmark. The iron bell in the belfry was one of the largest in the area and could be heard for miles around announcing services of worship and tolling for the dead. For many years, in the early to mid-1900s, Raymond Purlee rang the bell each Sunday morning. This original bell was mounted in the church’s front yard for the 125th anniversary celebration and Purlee was again able to ring it a few times.

In 1947, the church volunteered the use of its one-bay garage for the Palmyra Volunteer Fire Dept.’s first fire station. Several of the church’s members served as charter members of the fire department, including Jarold Love, John Coleman, Tom Woodruff and Orval Haub.

The first record of a series of meetings at Palmyra was in November of 1877 by a blind preacher named Brother Morton. The second protracted meeting was in August of 1896 by Brother Elmore. In 1905, James M. Briggs had a series of meetings. From that time on through the 1950s, annual meetings were conducted by various ministers, including A.P. Smith, D.A. Sommers, J.C. Roady, Ben Taylor, Winford Claibourne and Bob Williams. In recent years, there have been shorter meetings by Ralph Burris, Gary Knuckles, Dayton Keesee, Ryan Scherer (also served as youth minister for three years) and others. In the last 20 years, local congregations joined Palmyra for progressive annual meetings in addition to quarterly pulpit swaps with Martinsburg, Fredericksburg, Kansas, Big Springs, Corydon, Paoli and Crossroads.

In 1959, C.H. Woodroof became the church’s first full-time minister; he served until 1960. William Curry came in 1961 and worked in Palmyra for seven years. Vernon and Vera Hinton worked from 1971 to 1974 and also filled in part time between his stints at Corydon and Martinsburg. Lewis Kash and wife Sarah served from 1977 to 1986 followed by Charles Crouch and wife Mildred from 1986 to 1988, Rick Walker, wife Paula and family from 1988 to 1990, Steve Rogers and family from 1990 to 1993 and Alton Norman and wife Sharyn from 1993 to 2007. Robert Curry returned home to Palmyra in 2007 with Dorothy and family and stayed until 2014. Our present minister, Greg Circle, and his family arrived in 2016.

Other preachers filled in through the years, including Arvil, Edward, Randy and Terry Weilbaker, George McAgree, Gene Miller, Raymond Liibka, Howard Burris, Alan Rudolph and several local young men.

In the early 1990s, there were approximately 250 members. Numbers diminished somewhat when a Fredericksburg congregation, followed by a Corydon Church of Christ, was established.

In 1951, a remodeling program added six classrooms, a partial basement, rest rooms, a baptistry and changing room. Wednesday night Bible study began on a regular basis in 1959.

In 1984, when needed repairs proved to be too extensive and expensive, plans were made to tear down the 113-year-old structure. During the interim period, Sunday morning services were at the Blue River Services facility and Sunday evening services and Wednesday night Bible studies were in members’ homes or members were encouraged to visit sister congregations as Palmyra was without a full-time minister.

The new red brick building was completed in the fall of 1985. It was fully air-conditioned, which meant the traditional “church fans” were no longer necessary.

Activities for the 150th celebration on Sunday, Aug. 29, will include Bible classes and a showing of a history video at 9:15 a.m. followed by worship at 10 with special guest speaker Robert Curry. A catered meal on the church grounds will take place from noon to 1:30. Congregation singing will be at 2 p.m. followed by another showing of the history video at 3, sharing of memories and stories at 4 and an evening devotional service by Greg Circle at 4:30.

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