The Old Brick Church
Elijah Fields had the honor of being the pastor of Clay Chapel
class in the conference year 1832-3. As soon as the charter was granted, the
work of planning to build the new church was begun. Early in the spring of 1833,
the organization under the new charter was made, and preliminary steps were taken
to erect the new church, or as called in those days and until quite recently,
the “ chapel.”
As nearly as can be ascertained the trustees were James Riggs,
Phillip Cubbage, Samuel Patterson and Henry Kinder.
The site chosen was at a point located about one-fourth
of a mile in the rear of the present home of Mr. Jacob Riggs.
It was built of bricks, which were burned by Phillip Cubbage.
The money to erect it was raised by subscription, the principal portion of
which was subscribed by the immortal nine—the charter members. However,
several others rendered very material assistance, among whom were the following:
Melvin Lowery, father of Mrs. Amanda Cole and Mrs. Gatewood,
of Gallipolis. He afterward became a member, and proved a very helpful one
to the little struggling band. He was born on Tygerts Creek, Ky. He resided
for a time in the old brick home still standing near the home of Mr. E.J.
Riggs. While living there he run the ferry for many years. He afterwards
bought where Mr. W.F. Cole now lives, and built the house in which the latter
now dwells. His wife was “Aunt” Harty Cole, a sister of Mr. W.F.
Cole’s father. He was for many years Justice of the Peace, and for
some time a class leader in the church, and wielded a large influence in
both civil and religious affairs. He finally sold out and removed to Gallipolis,
where he died, and was buried in Gallipolis cemetery.
Nehemiah Davis, grandfather of Q.A. Davis, while he was
not a member, was kindly disposed toward the young class, perhaps because
his wife and daughters were members, and so he lent a helping hand. The “Squire” as
he was called, never became a member, but withal was a man of many good traits.
William Goolden was another outsider, as non-members of
the church are often called, who would not sit idly by when a good work was
goings on which promised so much to his community, so his help was generously
offered and kindly received. He was the father of Thos. Goolden. now of Chambersburg.
The building was a queer affair. It was forty feet in
length, eighteen in width and nine feet to the ceiling. A huge fireplace
was erected in each end, but that in the west end being of pour draft, the
opening was closed up soon and a huge box-shaped stove furnished heat for
that end of the long room. The door was a double one, and was on the north
side, while opposite to it was the pulpit. The walls were unplastered
unpapered. The roof was made of lap shingles.
This building served a double purpose; beings used as both
a place of worship and a schoolhouse. It was a custom for each family to haul
one cord of four-foot wood for use of both church and school. The teacher’s
often boarded round, that is, they spent a portion of their evenings at the homes
of the various pupils, their meals and lodging being free.
Among those who “wielded the birch in the Old Brick,” were:
Mr. Jackson Smith, now a merchant on the Mercerville turnpike; Mr. James Flack,
father of Mrs. Wallace Thornily; Miss Elizabeth Cubbage, sister of Mrs. Mary
Pierce, Mr. Wm. Goolden, preciously mentioned and Mr. Charles Ferguson, who afterward
became a noted preacher of the M. E. church.
Many stories are told of the school experiences in this old
building. Some of these are given.
Marion Fickle was a mischievous urchin who caused the strict
masters of that early day fully as much trouble as many of our later boys do
their teachers. When forbearance had ceased to be a virtue, the teacher, Mr.
Ferguson in this instance, would seize him by the collar with one hand, push
the boy before him to the farther end of the room, wheel him round, then grab
him with the other hand and push on a trot to the opposite and, and so on, until
they had gone the rounds fully half a dozen times, when he would seize the now
affrighted and tired boy, lift him from the floor and set him on the mantel were
he would leave the unhappy fellow to study and to meditate upon the folly of
bad conduct, his short limbs meanwhile dangling from his five foot perch.
The same teacher punished Reuben Hay for whispering by making
him take a stick in his mouth like a horse takes a bridle-bit, and then compelled
the luckless fellows to crawl upon his hands and knees under the seat where he
remained for an indefinite length of time.
Elizabeth Guthrie, now Mrs. Jacob Riggs and Mary Cubbage,
now Mrs. Pierce, sat near each other. One day the latter was at a loss for the
answer to a certain Question, and keeping her eye upon her own book, she whispered
loud enough to be heard by the former but not by the teachers requesting that
an answer be given. Her friend ever ready then as now to lend helping hand, made
reply in the same manner. All went well until it came to the recitation, when
the same question was put by the teacher to Miss Mary, who very readily gave
the answer furnished by her friend at the seat. To her surprise the teacher said
in his gruff way, “That’s not right.” without a thought of
what a dire disaster she was about to bring upon her companion, Miss Mary answered: “Yes
it is, for Lib said so.” The secret was out, and “Lib” was
marched over to the boy’s side of the house and made to stand, for what
seemed to the culprit a long time, upon a pile of extra benches used for church
services but stacked up during school hours in that end of the room.
“ Mr. Ferguson was a very strict teacher,” said
and informant, “but he was a good man, and may be he had to be rough in
order to govern us in those days.
Mr. Ferguson became a member
of the Cincinnati conference, and occupied some of its best pulpits. Here is
an anecdote appearing in a late issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer, which
shows that he had occasion to use his muscular power as a preacher, and
turned it to good account:
“A young man was disturbing the religious meeting in
spite of repeated appeals on the part of the preacher, Charles Ferguson. At length,
when patience ceased to be a virtue, Mr. Ferguson, who powerful in his arms as
well as his lungs, seized the disturber by his collar and the seat of his pants,
and tossing him out of the door exclaimed: “ I may not be able to work
miracles, but I can cast out devi1s.”
Mrs. Wallace Thorniley furnishes me with the following facts
in her father’s life:
J. M. Flack was born in Westmoreland County, Pa., August 29,
1804, where he received his education. In 1836 he came to Gallia County, Ohio
where he spent the remainder of his life, dying there on March 8, 1865.
Older persons tell me that he taught school in Washington
County, 0hio, and in Tyler County, W. V. He taught four winters the old brick
church, and two in the old town house, Clay Township. His first school in the
old brick church was in 1836 and the others were in the three succeeding winters.
His wages while teaching there was $60 per term or winter.
In Addition to his schoolwork he served the public as Clerk
of Courts in Westmoreland County, Pa., and for about eighteen years a Justice
of the Peace in Gallia County. He was married in Tyler County, W. V., to Nancy
Cochran, January 19, 1832. She was born there October 22, 1807, and died in Gallia
County, December 24, 1881.
The old building continued to be used for both church and
school purposes until 1856, when a new frame church buildings was erected on
the site where the present house stands. It was then rented to Andrew Woods,
the father of Mr. L. B. Woods, of Wellston, who occupied it as a dwelling. After
being used in that way for about two years, it suddenly caught fire one Sunday
morning while the family was at church. Although the fire was discovered before
it had gained much headway, it was beyond control by time the people ran over
from the services, and all that could be done was to save as much of its contents
as they possibly could. Part was gotten out and the rest perished in the flames.
The old walls were finally thrown down and the brick used for various purposes,
and all that now remains to mark the place where the structure stood, are a few
pieces of the bricks which grow smaller each time the plowman turns them over.
But the boys and girls taught therein the great principles of right-living by
earnest itinerants, and guided in search of knowledge by the old time teachers,
went out and blessed the world. Until the fires of daily toil had burned out
their earthly structures, and now their dust rests in the silent cities of the
dead, except a few who linger a little longer upon the shores of time ere they
forever bid farewell to the scenes of their life-conquests and go up to possess
the goodly land promised to all who endure onto the end.
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