History of the Pleasant Hill Methodist Church

Pleasant Hill Church is (1953) located on County Road #73, six miles west of Freeport in Section 10, Washington Township, Guernsey County, Ohio. The location of Pleasant Hill Methodist Church is in the northeast corner of Washington Township, Guernsey County, Ohio. This township, being the northeast township of said county, places the church almost in the corner of said county, not far from where Guernsey and Tuscarawas corners; and one half mile west of the Harrison County line, on the north side of the Freeport and Birmingham road, and about midway between the two places. This was one of the first roads laid out in the county, and was the great thoroughfare east to the Ohio River; Cadiz being one of its principal points.

The country laying around this old landmark is undulating and generally fertile; it is well watered, and calculated for either agricultural or grazing purposes.

We have not the means at hand to say just when and where the first permanent settlements were made in this immediate neighborhood. Probably they do not date back farther than 1815.

Permanent settlements had been made on the Muskingum, Tuscarawas, and White Woman’s Rivers, (1)White Woman’s River (or Creek), one of the main branches of the Muskingum River. It is formed by the confluence of Mohican and Owl creeks, in the western parts of Coshocton County, runs east by south 16 miles, receiving in its progress Killbuck Creek from the north, and forms its confluence with the Tuscarawas branch at the town of Coshocton (Ref: page 176 in John Kilbourn’s Ohio Gazetteer, Albany, N. Y., 1817). while the territory embracing our state formed a part of the Northwestern Territory. But at the time Ohio was admitted into the Union as a State, this whole section of country was only known to daring scouts and hunters who often shot the poor Indian in wanton cruelty, with as little apparent concern as though they had been the common game of the forest.

This whole country continued to be an undisputed hunting ground for many years after Ohio became a State. Most of the names of these scouts have been forgotten. James Perdue, Jacob Dumond, and Henry Johnson, are a few of the names which now occur to my mind. But this state of affairs soon gave way before advancing civilization.

About the year 1813, the land began to be entered from the government; and by the year 1820, all the land embraced in the four adjoining settlements had been taken up, mostly in small tracts for settlement. In those days, different settlements were known by names given to their designated boundaries; the four settlements referred to were Sugar Creek, a small stream southwest of the church, which flows in the same direction until it empties its waters into Wills Creek. It received its name from the great amount of sugar maple that grew on its bottoms, from which the settlers manufactured a great amount of maple sugar, which was their chief article of commerce.

Crab Orchard is a small stream southeast of the church that flows east until it empties its waters into Still Water. It received its name from the great number of crab apple trees found on its margin.

Atkinson is a small stream having its source west of the church; it derived its name from one Jonathan Atkinson who lived on its bank in an early day. The upper portion of this stream formed the boundary line between two of these settlements, Boot Ridge on the east and Moccasin on the west side of the stream. These settlements in early times were clannish, and feuds between the clans were of frequent occurrence, especially at corn huskings, log rollings, and raisings, when the clans would be brought together (for they always responded to the call of a common necessity). The prowess of these clans was frequently exerted to an exciting extent. For a man to be outlifted at a hand spike by one of a different clan not only brought disgrace upon himself but upon his settlement. This disgrace could only be avenged by some of his comrades outlifting the victor, and if such a one could not be found, the victor bore away the honors, which was shared by his entire clan. Foot racing, wrestling, and other games were shared in, in like manner, but particularly was this true with Moccasin and Boot Ridge.

The feud between these settlements had its origin for a different reason; the settlers on the west side spent much of their time in hunting and trapping; they all wore moccasins made of buckskin; hence the origin of the name. Unfortunately for the settlement on the east side, there came a man from the east who was the sole possessor of a pair of boots; his name was Brown. He built a cabin and took up his residence and was for the time a citizen of the place. This created envy among the other clans, and especially among that of the moccasineers, who looked upon Brown with his cowskin boots as an unworthy personage, and one who was introducing a dangerous custom and establishing a ruinous precedent. They had nothing against Brown’s moral character, for he was a gentleman, but his boots made him an aristocrat, and the settlers who tolerated a pair of boots in their community were to be treated without consideration, and the Ridge was to be stigmatized with the epithet of Boot Ridge.

So deep-seated was this feud that few of the Boot Ridgers would even bury their dead in the Engle burial ground, which was the first regularly laid out cemetery in the country, lest Moccasin clay would contaminate the dust of their dead. But notwithstanding these little differences, the different tribes and clans would always respond to a common good like true and noble pioneers.


To take them as a whole there were no better bone and sinew walked the planet than were our Pioneer Fathers. They were brave, hardy, generous, and hospitable to a fault. They were young, daring, and ambitious, capable of enduring great hardships and suffering great privations; no wonder that before such men the forests gave way to cultivated fields. May wreaths of honor ever crown the brow of their remembrance.


Our Pioneer Fathers and mothers were religiously inclined, many of them having left in the East altars where they had in infancy been given to God in the holy ordinance of baptism. Here in the West they found no temples but the leafy forest; no altars but the rude family altar found in their humble cabins. But around many of these were their God both privately and publicly acknowledged; and when the missionaries came to the settlements these cabins were opened for the preaching of the word, and many souls were converted, and others were strengthened and made happy.

The Methodist Episcopal Church organized societies on Sugar Creek and a promising one in the Levi Engle neighborhood, where they hewed the timber for a new frame church but the church never materialized and the organization went down.

The United Brethren in Christ first occupied the immediate neighborhood south and west of the church and organized the first society about the year 1826. For a number of years, they held their meetings in private houses. Jessie Wilson, Nathaniel Smith, and Samuel Bishop’s houses were prominent places. Sewell Briggs, Alexander Biddle, and Samuel Lord (commonly called Little Sam Lord) were also involved. Chestnut Hill, which now stands about one mile southwest, is the outgrowth of this organization. Nathaniel Smith, Jr. was a member of this organization and was perhaps the first ordained minister ever sent from this neighborhood. He afterwards arose to some distinction in that Church.

Organization of the Methodist Protestant Church

This grand old church was first organized under the Conventional Articles of November, 1828 which met in Baltimore. It is therefore older than its Constitution.

The Rev. Wm. B. Evans, a talented local minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church and a resident of Eastern Ohio, attended that Convention. But for so doing he was unceremoniously expelled from the Old Church. He immediately entered into the new organization, and in February 1829, he organized the M.P. Church (2)The M. P. Church: the Methodist Protestant Church. in Mount Pleasant, Jefferson County. In the same month, he organized other societies at Harrisville and Georgetown and called it Georgetown Circuit. The Circuit soon became so large that he called to his assistance Rev. George Waddle and John Wilson, who commenced preaching in the neighborhood.

In October 1829, Rev. Asa Shinn called upon all the Reformers west of the Allegheny Mountains to meet for organization in the City of Cincinnati. The Convention met according to call on the 15th of said month and organized under the Conventional Articles the Ohio Conference, embracing all the territory between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River. This conference stationed twenty-two ministers; three of them were placed on Georgetown Circuit namely, Wm. B. Evans, Sup., John Wilson, and George Waddle, assistants. It was during this conference year that Pleasant Hill Congregation was organized. The first partial organization was made in the fall of 1829 in John Ripley’s house but was perfected in the log schoolhouse which stood at a spring ¼ of a mile northwest of the church where they continued to worship until they built the church where it now [1888] stands, in 1834.

The Site Selected

There appears to have been no jarring element in the selection of a site on which to build. A central location and a road to get to it were all that was required. The Freeport and Birmingham road, running east and west, had been surveyed, which cut the territory occupied by the congregation into about equal parts. This was originally a State road, running by the way of Freeport and Cadiz to the Ohio River. The course of this road has been so changed from time to time that its original track has been almost obliterated. For instance, going west from the point where Pleasant Hill now stands, it made a short elbow and ran southwest for about sixty or seventy rods, right by the door of the widow Donaway’s house and on the spot now occupied by David T. Owens, to the brow of the ridge where stood an old barn; thence north of west, where it came within six or eight rods of striking the section corners just one-half mile west of the church, where it crossed a township road, which intersected with the Coshocton road at a point where Chestnut Hill now stands; running north along the section line to Specks’ mill on Atkinson Creek, and from thence to West Chester. From this point, it bore to the southwest and crossed the Coshocton road, where the residence of John Dugan now stands.

The Freeport road running east and west divided the congregation into parts very nearly equal. There was therefore no difference of opinion on what road it should be built. But there were three points on this road recommended:

  1. The Coshocton crossing
  2. The Chester crossing
  3. A point about sixty or seventy rods east of the present site, on the south side of the road.

The headquarters of the United Brethren in Christ were then at the residence of Nathaniel Smith, who owned the farm on which Chestnut Hill Church now stands, and the residence of Samuel Bishop, who held a lease of forty acres in the southwest corner of William Boyer’s farm. The United Brethren in Christ made a proposition to build a partnership church in which both congregations were to have equal rights at the Coshocton Crossroads; and for this purpose, they promised to deliver the logs on the ground, which was then partly prepared on the farm of Smith. This proposition was, however, soon abandoned, but the site was still held in prospect and was the preference of Nicodemus Brown and Peter Brumley.

At first, Basil Longsworth and William Hastings favored the Chester crossing, on a strip of land lying on the north side of the Freeport road, and between it and the south line of the Hastings farm, which is the northeast corner of the farm now owned by John Dugan. But at a meeting of the congregation held at the residence of the Widow Donaway in the early part of the year 1834, the most eastern point was unanimously accepted.

The point, as heretofore stated, was on the south side of the road, and about sixty or seventy rods east of the present site on the farm of William Boyer, who donated one acre of ground for church and cemetery purposes. The ground was staked off, and the size of the house determined, and its foundation laid off; and the work of getting out timber for the new edifice was being pushed forward with much vigor when…

A Dream Was The Cause of Changing The Location

At Donaway’s elbow (by which name it was then known), on a spot between the road and where the church now stands, there had stood an ancient double chestnut tree, united at the root, then separated and diverged one from the other. Some tempest had uprooted this monster tree, perhaps long before any white settlement had been made in the neighborhood. There appears to have been something about this tree that almost led to superstition. The boys avoided it, and it was known for miles around as the old chestnut at Donaway’s elbow.

On the night of the meeting at Donaway’s at which the site had been selected, Lewis Davidson, William Rankin, Harry Been, and two others whose names we are not in possession of, on returning home and in passing this tree (for the huge root was by the wayside) heard strange voices coming apparently from between the trunks of this tree; but as it was overgrown with a dense growth of underwood and grapevines, they could see nothing.

A few evenings after this, the venerable Father Ripley, father of Brother John Ripley, had a dream, but the old saint thought it was a vision. He saw a great company in regular procession, clad in glorious attire that to him was indescribable. They were led by one with an angelic appearance, with a miter upon his brow studded with brilliants which he declared resembled grains of lightning. In his left hand, he held a golden harp; in his right, a measuring stick.

“My first inclination,” said he, “was to follow them, but I was reminded of my age. I then thought of my son, John, and then I thought I was at his house, but how I got there I cannot tell. I thought it was night and the stars were shining most beautifully. I thought that John’s family, like myself, had been awakened by the songs and prayers of those in the procession; they were all standing on the porch overlooking the little valley just below; and when they came up, I said, ‘John, follow this people, I am old;’ he did and was made glorious like as the others. I did not join them but still I thought I was with them.

They went up the valley and then turned south, went up the hill, and marched right between the trunks of the old chestnut tree; there was then a bright amber light around them, and I could hear suppressed voices, and then the sound of a hearty ‘amen,’ the light vanished, and I awoke and I was home on my bed.”

Father Ripley was a grand good old man; he lived and died in the Methodist Episcopal Church, but his heart was in the Reform movement, though he never joined it, he said he was too old. He told his dream as though it had been a vision. The congregation received it as an omen, and built the church on that very spot.

The First Church

Pleasant Hill Methodist Church, 1953
Pleasant Hill Methodist Church, 1953

This noble old church was built of hewed logs. They were cut 25 and 36 feet long. They were cut and dressed by voluntary labor; in fact, the entire building was put up in the same way. There was no money expended except for nails and glass; for there was but little money to be had. In those days, every man was his own mechanic. The building was covered with lap shingles, and the gables were weather-boarded. The ends of the logs were sawed off level with the walls making square corners. The cracks were well chunked with pieces of timber and then well daubed inside and out with lime mortar. The room was about twelve feet from floor to ceiling, with two small windows on either side, and in the north end by the pulpit, just under the ceiling, was another.

The floor of the pulpit was raised about three feet from the main one, and was reached by four steps from the men’s side of the house. When once in the pulpit, the preacher had no access to the dear sisters, nor the dear sisters to him. In the pulpit was a board fastened to the logs, which made a seat sufficient for three divines if they were not too large. And when once seated and the entrance door closed, they were lost to the world. In the center of the front of the pulpit was a half circle; in this the preacher stood when preaching, and on the top of this breastwork was nailed a board about ten inches wide on which lay the Bible and Hymn Book. The breastwork was built so it would come up to a common man’s armpits, but there was nothing but the head of a short man that could be seen when preaching. To obviate this, they made a stool for the accommodation of this class of preachers on which they might stand.

The church had but a center aisle and in it stood a stove. The seats were made of heavy slabs, with the edges dressed as smoothly as an ax would make them, with two holes bored in each end and long pegs fastened therein; these were called legs, but they were all destitute of backs. The house was lit up by seven candles, two on each side of the house and one on each side of the door and one on the pulpit. There were also pins driven in the logs on the men’s side for them to hang their hats. Men and women were not permitted to sit together, it was considered a breach of etiquette that could not be tolerated; even the bride and groom were separated. The ladies took the east side and the gentlemen the west side of the house.

See: Records of Pleasant Hill Methodist Church, 1829-1894


Hastings, William B., Copy of a record book of the Pleasant Hill Methodist Church in Washington Township, Guernsey County, Ohio, Lima, Ohio : Longsworth, 1953.


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