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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

" If Church Pews Could Talk" Spice Valley Church 200 years young or old 1822-2022

MITCHELL - JUNE 4, 2022 - " Oh how I Love to go Back to the Church in the Vale no place is so dear to my childhood as that little white church in the vale" the chorus to that old hymn "Church in the Wildwood" could describe the Spice Valley Church.

If the church pews could talk wonder what would be said about what took place in this small country church 200 years and counting?

The little church in Lawrence County is very historical in nature. Let's go back in time and relive some of the history of the 200-year-old church that withstood the test of time.

The original Spice Valley Baptist Church sat just south of the current church

Spice Valley Baptist Church sits west of Mitchell, Indiana and formed just six years after Indiana became a state.

Taken from the history of the church from 1822-1949 here is a brief history of the Spice Valley Baptist.

Previous to 1815 the white man had not settled to this part of Lawrence County. Only a short time before the power of the great Indian Chief Tecumseh been broken. The first settlers had many hardships to endure without contending with hostile Indians. Perhaps, if in a small way, we could grasp something of their terrible hardships, we can better appreciate what they did for us.

The small amount of food they could bring from the Carolina's was soon eaten and they had to depend upon the forest for food. Often their domestic stock would die of starvation before feed could be raised. In addition, sickness, and death were common from chills, malaria, and fever.

Money was practically non-existent and could be obtained by sale of furs and what they could get from the wilderness and haul by ox teams to New Albany to sell.

Spice Valley Baptist Church Rally Day September 26, 1949

To face life under these hardships in the the summer of 1815 came Samuel G. Hoskins and Lewis Phillips who built cabins on Rocklick, Northeast of where Mitchell now stands.

They did not spend the winter here, but in the Spring of 1816 they returned their families and others who settled in neighborhoods. Some included, William Maxwell, Williams Baldwin, Charles Toliver, two families by the name of Conley, William Edwards, and Neddy Edwards. In the next few years came the Millers, Tirey's, Burtons, Fulton's, Cleavlands, and Isom's.

Practically all of these people had been Baptists in their homeland and their seal to ward the church worship of God soon prompted them to organize a church.

Spice Valley Church was organized on June 1, 1822, by Abram Mitchell and William Noblitt. The church went into the Whiter River Association in August 1822 and remained until 1835 when it withdrew on account of a split over missions. It then went into the Bloomington Association and left that and joined the Bedford Association in August 1843 and remained until 1875 when it united with organization of Orleans Association. The church entertained the Bloomington Association in 1840 and the Bedford Association in 1852 and 1870.

The church did not escape the heated discussions and arguments that came during the early 1830s over giving to missions. The Hardshell Baptists and Anti-Mission group by refusal to support missions caused dissension in nearly all the Baptist Churches.

The first Sunday School was organized by Deacon Marvin Cleavland and served as Supt. for nine years. There were several pastors and deacons who served over the years.

The grounds owned by the church consisting of little more than 6 acres. There was a small cemetery just south were the old church use to stand. The old log church served not only as a place of worship but occasionally sheltered immigrant family until they could build a cabin home.

One of the earliest schools was held in the old log church. In 1835, Phillip Ballard was conducting a subscription school in 1835 when it burned. A new building of brick was built in 1837, with the brick being made and burned on the southwest side of the church.

On the night of January 18,1887 during a revival, the church burned yet again, and the meeting continued in the schoolhouse, which was located on the property being owned by Alpha Brown and family. In a meeting the following month it was decided to rebuild the church. The dedication was held in May 1888.

Other church organizations during the first sixty years Spice Valley helped organize other churches which included Beaver Creek, Rock Lick, The Cross Roads Church, Freedom, Canton, Mitchell, Mt. Horeb, Liberty, Mt. Pleasant, Millersburg, Mt. Moriah, and Lost River.

Like most churches Spice Valley had difficulty with discipline among members. And churches were very strict then, and up to 1881 the church excluded 184 members.

Evangelistis held many services over the years, which some services where held on the White River to receive new members. In April of 1842 the church held a foot washing at the May meeting.

In the month of December. 1841 it was decided to observe the first Monday in January 1842 as a day of fasting and prayer. The church never called a pastor without first observing a day of fasting and prayer for Divine guidance in the selection.

If evening services were held the time would be announced as "early Candle lighting," The only lights they had were tallow candles. There were no chairs and few hymnals and no chairs. The minister would line the songs to sung.

Saturday's Celebration included

On Saturday, Spice Valley Church members celebrated the milestone as many who celebrated the 175th Anniversary did not know whether they would be able to make it to the 200th.

Lois Terrell

" I remember my first Sunday School teacher; the classes were held in the sanctuary with various classes held in various corners of the church. The church had three rows of pews. Back then you behaved, and everyone was there. But I just loved going to Sunday School there. My Sunday School teacher was Shep Merry. He was a man of small stature who had a white beard but came across young people and loved the children. I like to think he was someone close to Jesus," Lois Terrell.

Lois met her late husband, Burl Terrell who died last September. These are some of the many memories that those attended reminisced about their life experiences at the church.

Rita Brown has attended Spice Valley Baptist ever since she was born except for a few years ago, when several of us went a different direction and when her and her husband lived in Germany. " This church is just home, and part of my life,"

Thelma Brown

Thelma Brown is 96 years old and is one of the oldest members of the church always thinks about the stoves that were on both sides of the church to keep them warm during the winter months. " They would hear the coal being put in as the preacher was trying to preach but made a lot of noise," said Brown. " We raised our children here, my late husband was married for 75 years who passes away three years ago,"

Joan Tirey Reynolds has been playing the piano several years at Spice Valley Baptist Church

Averta Hart's 1st husband Edgar E. Connell served as one of the youngest deacons of the church, and many said he could preach a sermon on the ready if needed to.

These are just a few of the many stories shared on Saturday. The church's vacation bible schools, Christmas programs, Sunday School, and revivals were just some of the many things that made Spice Valley special to those who attended the church over the years.

Many have gone on to eternity that lie within the nearby grave yard.

Standing on the Promises

The day was filled with music, hymn singing, group photo and local singing groups which included Mark Vice, Bluegrass Express, Carl Pfaff, and Monte Tirey.

The church has withstood the test of time and still going strong despite many of the challenges one could only imagine for a small rural church.

Pastor Roger Allen read the passage of scripture from Psalms 100.

" Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness, come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

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Located at 1416 James Avenue Bedford, Indiana

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