Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Notes From My Knapsack 3-13-05
By Jeff Gill

Calvinists from Wales, landless Anglican prone to the Arminian heresy (said the Calvinists), German Dunkards and Congregational New Englanders – religious refugees, sectarian churches, and pilgrim colonists are not just the story of the settling of the East Coast of North America.
We know the legends of Plymouth Rock (Myles Standish and John Alden) and the Hudson Valley (Rip VanWinkle and Sleepy Hollow) or even Revolutionary Piedmonters (Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox) from the far edge of America, but what about our story? The narrative of Licking County and her European pioneers is all too little known, but with dramatic characters and startling scenes all its own.
John Jones, Elias Ratliff, Lucius Mower, or Billy Dragoo deserve to be known to a wider audience in this area, and the religious underpinnings of migrant bands ending up along Raccoon Creek are vital to understanding their story.
Dick Shiels may not get to Billy Dragoo, but he will talk this Tuesday about how churches and colonists created the core of Licking County in the Granville area in the early 1800’s. Dick is a popular teacher of history at OSU-Newark both of events long ago and far away, as well as the history just at our feet.
7:30 pm on March 15 at the Granville Inn is your chance to come hear about the creation of a tale that is not only still being re-told, but re-edited as well!
Quite a few congregations in Licking County are celebrating their bicentennials over the next few years: White Chapel United Methodist Church off Hog Run west of Rt. 13, Licking Baptist Church on Beaver Run Road near Hebron, and both First Presbyterians in Newark and Granville. A number of sesqui’s are coming up, too: Perryton’s Church of Christ, Johnstown Baptist Church, Croton and Hebron United Methodist Churches soon and Denison University this next year. Please send me news of any anniversary events you know about, and what will be a public portion of the commemorations.
Most of our local school systems didn’t come into being as organized entities until after 1838 with state legislation helping put the pieces together, and many (like Newark’s) didn’t get going until 1850 or so. Civic affairs were in log structures and based on infrequent meetings until about the same time.
Church buildings and the congregational life in them was often the only structure outside of family life for much of the early history in Ohio, as in most of this country. It can be fairly assumed that the structures of church life also shaped the still developing social and cultural life around them, simply by being first and in having a shape and solidity to copy.
Were all our pioneer forebearers active and faithful members of the churches they attended? A close reading of history says they were individually less so than you might think, but that same careful observation shows how unique and idiosyncratic elements of the denominations found on the frontier created much of the foundation for civil government. I’m looking forward to hearing Dick Shiels trace the marks of these formative influences on the community we continue to build.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; if you have a story to add to the files of historic Licking County or for tomorrow’s tale, e-mail disciple@voyager.net.

No comments:

Post a Comment