Henry County IAGenWeb
Oakland Mills Community Church
From Mt. Pleasant News; April 22, 1955
The Oakland Mills Community church now rests on a firmer foundation that provides for a basement. It was moved a short distance north from the former location. Some of the stones of the former foundation are shown in front of the church and timbers used in moving are stacked nearby.
COMMUNITY CHURCH TAKES ON NEW LIFE
INTEREST INCREASES; CHURCH IMPROVED
One country church, the Oakland Mills Community church, is making a great
comeback when so many other rural churches are losing their congregations and
closing their doors. About ten years ago the attendance at the Oakland Mills
church had slumped to three and there were no church services.
Easter Sunday's attendance at the community church, which claims no denomination was tangible evidence of the faith and almost miraculous accomplishments that have come about solely through volunteer work. There were 61 out to Sunday School Easter morning which was considerably more than the average crowd of 45, and about 25 worshippers were present for church services. Church crowds today vary somewhat from Sunday to Sunday, with between 20 and 25 attending, but pride really shines forth when the young members speak of their Young Peoples meetings which draw an average attendance of 20 teen-agers.
About five years ago the loyal followers who had always been faithful in church attendance, bolstered by the interest of a group of young married couples in the community, started working to retain their church.
The Oakland Mills Ladies Aid under the direction of Mrs. James Sampson, president of the group, started the plans for the clean-up and face-lifting job of the church in 1950. They made it a community project and the man came to cut brush, paint and do the general repairs while the women did the cleaning and furnished the noon meal.
In five years' time they have given the church a new coat of paint, a new roof, newly papered the interior, placed a new picture in the pulpit, purchased both a Christian and an American flag, new hymnals, new widow curtains, new carpeting and now they are in the process of constructing a new basement.
The basement was dug last fall and the church just recently was moved northward on the opening, still facing south in the same direction. This week the members of the congregation are pouring the floor and very soon the members hope to be using the new space for much needed Sunday School rooms and a social center for the community. As it is, six Sunday School classes are now meeting in one room.
One might ask how do so few good people accomplish so much and the answer probably would be through faith, enthusiasm, generous giving and willing work.
About five years ago the congregation rented a God's Acre and the men of the community farmed the land. This coming year they are "going one better" by renting a complete farm. From time to time they hold bazaars and personal donations have been made. The men also have contributed their services in wood chopping bees for one another. Everything though has been entirely freewill.
Sunday, September 7, 1952 is a date that will long be remembered by the
congregation of the Oakland Mills community church for that was the date of
their first real Homecoming reunion since the organization was formed in 1896.
Seventy-four were present for Sunday School that day and a near capacity crowd
attended worship services. At noon all joined in a cooperative cafeteria dinner.
Albert Stiefel, church worker for forty years, welcomed the group. Frank Roberts, son of W.W. Roberts, the first pastor who was instrumental in helping build the church, gave the response.
A history of the church was compiled and read by Mrs. Helen Virden. These notes were taken directly from the history:
This is the creed of the Oakland Mills church set out in the first articles of Incorporation filed in 1895 and still used as creed today.
The object of this corporation is not to form a denomination or a sect but to associate ourselves together as an interdenominational or union church for the worship and service of God, the conversion of sinners, the entire consecration and sanctification of believers and the cooperative obedience to the commands of Christ and instruction of the Apostles which are contained in the Scriptures which are our only rule of faith and practice and belief in Christ and obedience to the word of God being our test of fellowship.
According to the Articles of Incorporation these people signatory, evidently were the ones who assumed leadership in organizing the church: N.W. Hockett, Warren Freeman, Jno. P. Stringer, Nathaniel Hobbs and W.W. Roberts.
Mrs. Virden continued:
From the earliest days of history peoples have been grouped together for the worship and service of God.
Such a large group on the last part of the preceding century decided to organize a church at Oakland Mills, then a thriving town with Woolen and Flour Mills as their principal industry.
Those remembering and records substantiate that W.W. Roberts did most of the "carpentry" work on the new church. Aided by volunteer labor this was largely a community effort.
Donation for that original church ranged from 25c to $100.00 and included gifts of a cord of wood and a quarter of beef. From the records it would seem that Josie Armstrong did much of the soliciting of funds as the names were divided among the congregation and "Josie's List" is a matter of record.
The total cost of the structure was $500.44 for materials and labor. The lumber materials were purchased from Ketchum Mills and totaled $335.00 which included a 5% discount for cash.
W.W. Roberts whose responsibility seemed to be directing the volunteer labor and
carpentry labor of his own, totaled $60.14 computed at 1.75 per day. Mr. Roberts
made a donation of $25.00 which brought the actual building cost down to $35.14.
The first paint materials cost $31.02 and the only paid labor was $2.00. The plastering labor also is listed at $2.00 and the hardware items purchased from Dallner and Niece and the nails from Dickey at the Oakland Mills Store, at $17.00. A spruce beam was listed at $1.40.
The first church was dedicated in 1899 and the services were in charge of Brother Sneed who charged $5.00 for his services.
In 1907 the trustees were Addison Miller, Millicent McNeely, and E.E. Whaley. These trustees granted permission for the use of the Church by the Methodist Episcopal Church, but later was re-incorporated as the Oakland Mills Community Church.
The membership has fluctuated through the years from as little as four to as many as 80. On homecoming day every chair is usually taken and folding chairs are brought in to accommodate the crowd.
The first outside social activity of the church was given in 1923 when the first Sunday School Social was held at the home of Warren Freemen. This was planned by Roy Philpott.
There always has been a community tree, a Christmas program and treats for the children. On Easter there is a traditional Sunrise Service followed by a breakfast served in the church.
The list of contributors to the first church were: Nathan Hockett, Warren Freeman, W.W. Roberts, John P. Stringer and the following from Josie's List (Josie Armstrong evidently did most of the actual soliciting) - Susan Blythe, William Oldt, Will Hutton, George Meneeley, Will Munger, R.R. Fisher, Sisters Emma and Ella Perrine, Bud Glover, Al Walker, Albert and Jason Cornick, J.I. McClure, Lydia Short, William Harshbarger, Lafayette Housel known as Lafe, John Hannah, David McDowell, David Miller, Lew Clase, Mrs. John Oldt, Brother James Upton, W.R. Long, Sister Joseph McDowell, and Charlotte Faulkner.
Al Frazier, John Hobbs, E.B. Scott, Maude Milliner, Arlo Armstrong, Sister Corbitt, Susie Underhill, Sister Sampson, J. Spraker, Maggie Laird, Ben and Mrs. Bousman, Elmer Richmond, R.R. Fisher, J.W. Hinkson, James Smith, Mary Wright, Miss M.J. Lazenby, Will Brownell, and Sister Abbie Hockett.
A second Homecoming in 1953 and a third in 1954, the latter drawing a crowd of
156 to answer roll call, have been held.
In 1954 a large group of young people decided to hold regular meetings with Lawrence Cash as their sponsor. Now they meet each Thursday for study and a social evening.
The Junior Choir
is a cooperative effort directed by Mrs. Richard Oldt and Mrs. Lee Sampson who
share the piano duties and choir direction. Eight little girls ranging in ages
from 8 to 12 sing in the choir: Sharon Oldt, Karole Scarff, Retha Cash, Beth
Ford, Linda Simmons, Janice Stiefel, Rozalee Freeman and Lana Gray. They sing
special numbers frequently.
Everyone in the community is invited to the once-a-month socials whether they are members of the church or not. To this group, the Ladies Aid, and the kindergarten the new basement will be a godsend.
Ministers of every denomination have served the Oakland Mills church. Four college men shared the preaching last year and this year Ralph Peters of Smyrna, Del., and Bob McNeil of Wellman are serving the church on a full time basis. They deserve much credit for the increased interest and membership.
The Freemans, first Warren, then
his son Harry and his wife Ethel, have served the church for more than a third
of a century. Mrs. Freeman was Sunday School superintendent when the first
reunion was held. Five generations of the Freeman family have attended the
church and four generations of the Sampsons, Oldts, Wrights and Blythes.
Albert Stiefel and Orsen Milner served the church as superintendents of the Sunday School and as trustees for many years. Richard Oldt is the present superintendent. The three trustees are Richard Oldt, Lawrence Cash and Lee Sampson. Mrs. Warren Stiefel is secretary and treasurer of both the Sunday School and church.
Mrs. Lee Sampson nicely sums up the position the Oakland Mills church now holds after its five year period of worthy accomplishments:
"It is an example of what can be done for a country church if the people will take hold of them. We have some good sermons, good Sunday school lessons and good sociability."
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