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A gripping story of the Brethren in Christ movement in Adair CO, KY

First Brethren in Christ Church in Kentucky at Fairview
By Jason Harmon
Photos accompany this story
I have always been very inquisitive to my family and distant "cousins" about our shared families' places of worship in Adair County and our deep sense of faith and service to God. The Brethren in Christ movement in the county has always piqued my interests and I often pondered who started the congregations in the county. I had mentioned the various B.I.C. Chapels in the county to various family members and they all seemed to mention the same man, Bro. Albert H. Engle.

Ironically, Brethren in Christ Church in Adair County began in Taylor County

The origins of the Brethren in Christ Church in Adair County ironically began next door in Taylor County. According to Albert Engle's autobiography, There were areas of Kentucky without full gospel preaching. Walter Reighard of Ohio visited Taylor County in 1918 and upon his return he told that there was some very gospel-poor areas in adjoining Adair County that was in need of ministering.

During the Summer of 1919, Rev. M. L. Dohner, his wife, and helpers arrived in the Garlin Community to conduct the first Brethren in Christ tent meeting in Adair County. Word spread quickly that a great revival was taking place on Route 206. The evangelist's wife reported that the attendance for the last Sunday meeting was near 1,000 people. People were coming from neighboring counties to hear "something new".

In 1923, Walter Reighard was appointed pastor

More tent meetings followed every summer for the next few years with ministers traveling from Ohio. In 1923, Walter Reighard was appointed pastor and had regular services at the school houses in Garlin and Pleasant Grove. Brother Reighard was reassigned to work in Canada in 1925 and the church resumed the routine of visiting Ohio evangelists.

The church following began to decline over the next few years without a resident pastor or place of worship the movement was on the verge of collapse. This would have been the fate of the church until Pastor Albert H. Engle arrived.

Albert Engle was a well-educated man

The very modest appearance of the Old Bloomington Chapel/School on Snake Creek Road gives some false impressions. A person would wrongfully assume that it's founding father was probably a farmer first and a lay-minister second. In reality, Albert Engle was a well educated man originally from Ohio, a grade school student in Colorado, he graduated junior college in 1923 and received his A.B. Degree from Marion College in Indiana in 1925.

After the first phases of formal education, Mr. Engle joined the faculty at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. In July 1925, Albert married the school nurse of Messiah College, Margie Kipe.

Albert and Margie continued their work at Messiah College and sought guidance from God on their future. While serving in tent meetings in Virginia, they both sensed a compatibility with southerners.

During this time the Lord had spoken to them both about ministering in Kentucky which was without a resident pastor. In 1927 their assignment to work in Kentucky was confirmed by the Home Mission Board. The young couple left Pennsylvania in July. Destination? . . . Garlin, Kentucky.

Bro. Engle bought house and one acre of ground in Garlin for $750

Bro. Engle secured a house and one acre of ground in Garlin for $750. The only problem was, he only had a few hundred dollars. He then sought the help of future friend Mr. Flowers of the Bank of Columbia.

Mr. Flowers and Mr. Engle came to an understanding that the money would be given for the home by the bank and repaid by Albert and the Mission Board. The parsonage was purchased in a pitiful state. The home sat on low pillars of stone, no sub-floor, no porch or basement and rats ran between the siding and ceiling boards.

Over the years the home would be given a drastic facelift, two porches were added, a garage, a basement, bedrooms were added and a cistern for rainwater. They now had a roof over their heads and they were eager to begin the rejuvenation of the church.

Services started at the Concord School House and Disappointment School House

The Engle's reconnected with the remaining ladies of the church that had still been conducting Sunday Schools and prayer meetings. Two of the ladies were Sister Allison and Sister Ballou.

They began scheduling services at the Concord School House and The Disappointment School House. Regular Services were also conducted at Free Union Church and the Garlin School House.

The audience was slowly beginning to re-emerge and by 1928 another regular schedule of services was planned in a store house near the Grassy Springs School.

The Engle's were becoming a household name in their section of the county. They were very busy with tent meetings, church services, home missions and Sister Engle was using her nursing abilities to tend to the sick and feeble.

In 1929, Bloomington chosen as better location for new congregation

By 1929, the ministry was beginning to flourish again. Brother Engle decided to discontinue the services in the Free Union area because the Baptists were already active in that area. A tent meeting at Bloomington gathered a large attendance and he decided this was a better location to continue the gospel.

Bro. Engle now enlisted help from evangelists in Ohio to help with the services and his cousin, William Engle, would assume the responsibilities of the Bloomington Services.

Services were also being conducted on the opposite side of Green River on Robinson's Ridge.

Fairview would become the first Brethren in Christ Church in the State

In 1932 two prominent non-Christian men of the community paid a visit to the Engle home in their log hauling truck. They asked if the community would build a church and wanted to dedicate it to the Brethren in Christ Church if he would accept it.

After a meeting with the community and some financial support in the north, it was agreed that this would be the first Brethren in Christ Church in the state of Kentucky.

The church was called Fairview. The oak flooring in the chapel was purchased at $2.50 a hundred feet, most of the labor was donated from men of the community. The church had a seating capacity of 450 and was packed many nights. Many transferrals occurred in the church during the next five years.

The regular preaching services were at Pleasant Grove, Bloomington, Grassy Springs, Goodin's Crossroads and Vester. The women of the church were vital in these days. One member of the congregation remarked that one of the ladies was a better preacher than Brother Engle was.

In 1937 the General Conference officially recognized the three main centers of the Brethren in Christ work in Adair County. Home Mission Board assignments were made as follows: at Garlin, the Engles and Imogene Snyder; at Home, Evangel S. Paul George and wife and Anna Mae Stauffer; at Fairview, Hershey Gramm and wife, and Ellen Kanode and Sara Brubaker. All the foundations were now laid for a permanent home for the Brethren in Christ Church in Adair County.

Last of Bro. Engle era churches

The construction for the last of the churches that Bro. Engle was involved with was in 1941. This is probably the prettiest of the chapels that was erected. The church is located about one mile from Garlin where the first tent meeting was held about 23 years earlier. The cash cost of the church was $2,574.54, of which 20% was donated by local people, the remainder came from friends in the church at-large, especially Ohio Bishop O.B. Ulery of Springfield, Ohio, who officiated in the dedication on September 6, 1942.

In 1944 Albert Engle was called back to Pennsylvania and obtained his masters degree. He again served with the faculty at Messiah College from 1944-1962 in various roles of leadership. After the death of his wife he felt moved to revisit Adair County in about 1977. He stayed at the home of Elmer and Lottie Goodin for about a week. He did some preaching in the churches he had help found and some hospital visits.

A bittersweet reunion for Bro. Engle

It was a bittersweet reunion and Garlin barely resembled the community he knew over 30 years ago. He was pleased that God had blessed the people of HWY 206 with beautiful homes, productive farms and finer things, but urged people to not take the gifts of God for granted. Brother Albert H. Engle passed away in 1983 at the age of 86 and was reunited with his wife, family and friends in heaven.

Albert Engle gives several testimonies of faith in his autobiography. He speaks by name of the people of the people that helped build up the church and bring it to where it is today. This is the most interesting to me that he speaks of a middle aged man who was a lost soul. I think I know exactly who he is speaking of; do you readers? The memory is as follows:
" A certain man past middle age was notoriously wicked and had killed more than one person. He came to a meeting where I was serving evangelist. He came to the altar weeping. I was sure that he believed I knew something about his record. I endeavored to be fair with him without offending him. He told me he would do anything possible to make things right with anyone he had wronged. I believe he found assurance of his pardon and peace with God. Others who were present agreed. But he did not go far enough the old nature cleansed out. Later, after a man insulted his daughter, he carried a gun with him to kill this man, and he did. He was imprisoned. But being old and frail, he was released-to go home and die, I suppose. I visited him and urged the importance of forgiving those who wrong us. He declared that he knew he was going to hell and that he hated the man he killed and was hoping to get even with him if he met him in hell."
"Saved to Serve in Kentucky and Elsewhere" by Albert Engle is a cherished book

I strongly recommend people who love the rich Burton history or just the histories of the 206 and surrounding communities to read, "Saved to Serve in Kentucky and Elsewhere" by Albert Engle. The book has been out of print for quite some time. I know several people that own the book in Adair County and they cherish it.

If you would like to read the book and cannot find it, please contact me and I would be happy to loan it to you.

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This story was posted on 2006-01-30 06:49:36
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Brethren in Christ in Adair CO, KY: One time meeting place off Snake Creek RD

2006-01-30 - Off Snake Creek Road, Adair County, KY - Photo Jason Harmon. Regular Brethren in Christ Services were held here off Snake Creek Road. This is the Church and School that my grandparents attended in the 1930's. Early teachers were Mrs. Frances Denton and Mr. Mont Bigg. The earliest memories of church service members were Fannie Willis, Julia Corbin, and Bet Burton. Missionaries of the church were Imogene Snyder and Elizabeth Hess. Longtime and instumental members of the church are Edith Burton-Simpson, Versie Foster-Streeval and Christine Burton-Willis. - JASON HARMON
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Brethren in Christ in Adair CO, KY: New Bloomington Chapel Church

2006-01-30 - Bloomington, Adair CO, KY - Photo Jason Harmon. This is the new Bloomington Chapel Church, on Bloomington Chapel Road, Bloomington near Christine, KY.
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