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Greenfield Township Churches History
from Williams History of Huron County, Ohio




The first religious meeting in the township was held at the cabin of Erastus Smith, on the first Sabbath in the spring of 1815, on which occasion the Rev. Green Parker, from near Milan, officiated. A church Organization was not effected until the year 1822. July 3, of that year, the First Congregational church of Greenfield was formed, the Revs. Lot B. Sullivan and Alvin Coe, missionaries, officiating in its organization. The following named persons were the constituent members: Matthew McKelvey, Nancy McKelvey, Luther Ashley, Eunice Ashley, Seba Mather, Cynthia Mather, Olive Mather, 1st, Olive Mather, 2d, Mary Halliday, Polly Ashley, Lydia Spencer, Sally Coe.

Matthew McKelvey was chosen church clerk, and Hugh A. Campbell was appointed deacon. April 18, 1825. The first pastor of the church was Rev. Enoch Conger, who began his labors in 1824, and officiated one-third of the time for two years. Since Mr. Conger, Revs. J. H. Russ, E. P. Salmon, A. Blanchard, J. B. Parlin, Francis Child, Enos Wood, Abram C. Dubois, A. K. Barr, C. W. Clapp, R. S. Lockwood, and others, have officiated as pastors. The present membership is eighty-three. Elias Easter is clerk of the church, and Levi Platt and James Campbell, deacons. The church is at present without a pastor.

THE FREEWILL BAPTIST CHURCH


was formed at the house of Epenetus Starr, January 24, 1829, and consisted of the followiug members, to wit: Elder John Wheeler, Christian Wheeler, Seth C. Parker, Benjamin E. Parker, Mary Wheeler, Ann White and Sally Ashley. The next day Jane Parker was baptized and united with the church. Elder John Wheeler was the first pastor. The church building at the center was erected in 1843, costing something over a thousand dollars. Elder Cyrus Colton, from Lorain county, preached the dedication sermon. On the organization of societies of this denomination in Peru and New Haven, the membership, which was then quite large, numbering ninety-one in 1841, was thereby much reduced. Under the pastorship of Rev. B. E. Baker, who began his labors in 1867, much dissatisfaction existed, and a division of the church resulted. The church is now weak, having a membership of only twenty-two, and is without a preacher. The only preaching now enjoyed by the churches of Greenfield is supplied by the Rev. Mr. Palmer, of Centerton, a Methodist Episcopal clergyman, who officiates at the center on the Sabbath, once in two weeks. The two churches unite in their Sabbath school, which is in a flourishing condition. Mrs. Nathan Beers, Jr., is superintendent.

The first school was taught by Miss Annie Mather, in the little log school house on the hill, south of Hiram Smith's, in the summer of 1816. Miss Mather became the wife of David Hinman, who was one of the early sheriffs of Huron county. The following winter the school was kept by a man by the name of Davis, whose given name cannot now be recalled. Miss Abby Harris taught the second summer.

A school house was erected at the center of town soon after, the first school in which was taught by Levi Platt, in the winter of 1818-19.

INDIAN SCHOOL AND MISSIONARY EFFORTS

Rev. Alvin Coe emigrated from Massachusetts to Ohio some time prior to the war of 1812, and remained in Huron or Vermillion until its close. He then removed to Vernon, Trumbull county, where he subsequently married a daughter of General Smith. He entered the ministry, and was licensed by the Presbytery of Grand river in the latter part of the year 1816, and soon after removed to Greenfield, ·fixing his residence at the center. He was commissioned a missionary by the Connecticut Missionary Society, and commenced itinerating among the churches, traveling throughout this and adjoining counties in the prosecution of his work. He frequently came in contact with the Indians, whose benighted condition enlisted his sympathies, and he conceived a scheme for civilizing and christianizing them.

To this end he established, in the year 1818, a school at Greenfield center, for the education of Indian boys. He built a house for the purpose, a short distance north of the center, on the west side of the road, and collected about twenty-five or thirty boys, of the Wyandotte and other tribes then in this region, whom he taught, fed, and clothed at his own expense, with such contributions, mainly of provisions, as the presentation of his work prompted his many friends to give. In the spring of 1820, finding the enterprise pecuniarily burdensome, he appealed to the presbytery of Portage, which embraced his field of labor, for a recommendation of his work to the churches for aid in sustaining it, and invited the presbytery, then in session at Lyme, to visit the school, that its members might satisfy themselves as to the success of his experiment. The visit was not made, but the presbytery endowed the philanthropic enterprise, and heartily recommended it to the churches under its charge. Several years after, when the Western Missionary Society established a mission near Perrysburg, on the Maumee, Mr. Coe transferred his school to that point, and carried it on a short time, when it passed under the care of the American Board.

Mr. Coe then began his missionary labors among the various Indian tribes, and spent several years among those on the Upper Mississippi. When he left Greenfield, his wife returned to Vernon, where her parents still lived, and Mr. Coe enjoyed but little of her society, so constantly was he engaged in his chosen work. His sympathy for the condition of the Indians, and his desire for their amelioration amounted almost to a monomania. It is said that during his labors among them he adopted, to some extent, their customs and conditions of living. He would deny himself the common necessities of life to relieve their wants.

He once had occasion, while residing in the Lake Superior region, to go from a mission to a military station which ordinarily required a journey of about three days. He started with a supply of food, but divided it among some destitute Indians whom he met on the way. He was longer on the journey than he expected to be, and became greatly exhausted before reaching his destination. Knowing the Indians' habit of subsisting on the bark of trees to appease hunger, he tried the plan and ate the bark of the oak, which nearly cost him his life. When he reached the military post, he was in a condition of great distress, and it was some time before he fully recovered from the effects of his imprudence.

The Indians became greatly attached to him, and regarded him with veneration. He exercised a potent influence for good over them during his association with them, but his mission was unsuccessful in accomplishing any permanent good. While in charge of the school in this township, the father of one of his pupils came from Sandusky to visit the school. Before returning, he called at the house of Alden Pierce, who was operating a small distillery in the neighborhood. The Indian was offered a glass of whisky, but he refused it at first, saying: "Pappoose say Mr. Coe tell him good Injun no drink whisky, he go up good place. Bad Injun drink whisky, he go down bad place; big burn." And then looking wistfully at the liquor, added, "Jnjun-don't-know. May be," (moving the cup slowly to his lips) "Mr. Coe, he lie."

Mr. Coe was finally prevailed upon to accept the charge of a church in Trumbull county, but consented only on the condition that he be allowed to make an annual visit to the Indians.

A temperance society called "Steuben Division Sons of Temperance" was organized at the center in November, 1878, with about forty members, and continues in existence.

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