The first comers to the newly inhabited areas of Johnson County included preachers and clergymen, who provided the necessary religious functions in the new settlements. According to D.D. Banta‘s 1888 “Historical Sketch of Johnson County,” the first congregations of the southern area of the county were Baptist. A broad belt through the middle region, including Franklin, was Presbyterian, with the Methodists in the Northwest quarter. That’s not to say that these were strict boundaries, but just a generalized view.
The image of the pioneer, alone in the wilderness is actually not an accurate one. Hard labors were shared, men working side by side, families joining forces to complete the tasks of house raising, corn-planting and harvesting. Books and newspapers were a rarity, so a favorite pastime was the gathering of neighbors for conversation. When a preacher came to the vicinity, word was sent out to gather at a settler’s cabin. The preachers were circuit riders, usually on horseback. They carried a Bible and hymnbook, performed baptisms and marriages while in the areas of the more remote cabins. When congregations outgrew their meeting spaces, churches were built or public spaces like a schoolhouse were used for worshipping.
A list of these early organized churches in Johnson County were named in Banta’s book, and then were transcribed in 2008 for Roots Web. A little light research showed that more than a few of the churches mentioned in 1888 were still holding services in 2016. The list below is not complete, but highlights churches from all parts of Johnson County organized by the first inhabitants to the county. The date the church was organized does not mean the church services were held in their current locations. Often church buildings were erected years after organizing, and some of the churches listed are in modern structures.
Franklin First Presbyterian Church organized Nov. 30, 1824.
Mt Auburn Church, White River Township, organized in 1826.
Providence Christian Church (originally named Disciples of Christ at Rock Lick), Union Township, first religious meeting in Union Township in the winter of 1827.
First Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Franklin, organized in July 1828.
Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Franklin Township, organized in 1831.
First Baptist Church of Franklin Indiana, Franklin, organized in 1832.
Second Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Franklin, organized in about 1834.
Honey Creek Church, United Methodist Church, White River Township, organized in 1835.
Whiteland Methodist Episcopal Church, Pleasant Township, organized in 1835.
Shiloh Community Church, (formally known as Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian), Needham Township, organized in 1835.
Lick Spring Baptist Church (now known as Day Spring Baptist Church), Nineveh Township, organized in 1836.
Trafalgar Christian Church, Hensley Township, organized in 1848.
Union Church of Disciples of Christ, Nineveh Township, organized in 1853.
Amity Baptist Church, Blue River Township, organized April in 1858.
First Christian Church of Bargersville, Union Township, organized in 1861.
African Methodist Episcopal Church, Franklin, organized in 1868.
Mt Carmel Christian Church, Trafalgar, Hensley Township, organized in March 1870.
Rocklane Christian Church, Clark Township, organized in 1849.
Mount Pleasant Christian Church, White River Township, organized in April 1884.
Church histories are an often used in a genealogical research because names of the earliest members are listed. For more historical information about Johnson County, refer to these links:
History of Johnson County, Indiana/by Elba L. Branigin (1913)
Historical Sketch of Johnson County, Indiana/by D. D. Banta
Pam Caito is the assistant to both the Historical Room and Marketing and Communications Department. She believes history connects the past and the present to give us a feeling of being at home. There are places and activities right here in Johnson County that help us to step back in time for relaxed, off the grid adventures. Email Pam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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