Obannon Creek/Stonelick Church

Donated by Merle C Rummel with help from Bill Dunning and Laura Watkin. You can view the rest of Merle's collection at Brethren Life

The Obannon Creek/Stonelick Church was the first German Baptist Brethren ("Dunker", now -Church of the Brethren) congregation north of the Ohio River, founded 1795, and is probably our oldest existing church west of the Appalachians. Originally it was called: Obannon Baptist Church, since this was before the 1830 decision by Annual Meeting of: "German Baptist Brethren". As these ancestors planned their western move, the Obannon Church frequently became a destination goal. From Pennsylvania, Maryland and Northern Virginia, they traveled the Braddock and Forbes roads to Pittsburg, where they floated down the Ohio River to Kentucky and Ohio. From the lower Valley of Virginia and North Carolina, they followed the Kanawha Trace through the Mountains to Charleston, where they built flatboats and came down the Kanawha River to the Ohio to Cincinnati. Most stopped upriver at Bullskin Landing, to the Indian Roads that went north, and up them to the Obannon settlement. [While others from North Carolina and Tennessee followed Daniel Boone's Wilderness road (George and Isreal Boone were Brethren ministers) through the Cumberland Gap into Kaintuck, only very few of these came to Ohio.]

There were three early Dunker settlements in Clermont County, Ohio. The earliest was Obannon Creek on the Warren County line, off the Little Miami River, where the Bowmans and Millers were original settlers. The Bowmans lived north in Warren Co. Two of these earliest Millers, David and Daniel, lived south of Goshen, at the corner of Goshen Road and the Woodville Pike (Daniel was the first local minister installed at the Obannon Church). Both brothers had to move north to the Dayton area. This was the Virginia Military District, the lands were given as payment to Revolutionary Veterans, sales of these lands in the East pushed the original settlers from their homesteads (soon after 1800).

These families were settled on the far frontier. This was Indian Country and white settlers were not safe. The Dunkers built homesteads here before most other settlers arrived. The friendly relationship developed by these Brethren with the Indians of the Pennsylvania frontier in Morrison's Cove, Brothers Valley and on the Juniata River carried to this settlement on Obannon Creek. These Dunkers bought their land from the local Indians. The first known Brethren family to come here was Jacob and Elizabeth Aukerman, in 1789 they stopped near the Lunken Airport at the Mouth of the Little Miami River, but soon they moved up to the Obannon. They moved on to Montgomery County where Jacob died, their son: John, was the first settler at Gratis OH, on the Twin Creek, in 1804.

The Virginia Bounty Lands brought many new Dunker families to Clermont Co. These were Brethren who had been able to obtained Bounty rights. One group of families settled on farmland near Bullskin Landing (far southeastern tip of Clermont Co below Felicity), and another group of families came to the Ten Mile Creek (western Clermont Co from New Richmond to Amelia). Many Dunker families stopped only shortly on the Bullskin or the Obannon until they could move north into the Dayton area and Indiana Territory. The Indian Trace from Bullskin Landing to Old Town (Old Chillicothe) and on to Fort Detroit, later the Old Xenia Road (just east of the Stonelick Church, east edge of Edenton), was a migration path to the east of Dayton: to Beaver Creek, Donnel's Creek and New Carlisle Churches. A branch off the Trace at Williamsburg swung farther west, through the Obannon community and Goshen OH, to Lebanon, to the ford of the Great Miami River at Franklin. It was a migration path to the west side of Dayton: to the Bear Creek, Wolf Creek, Stillwell and Twin Creek Churches. The early Dunkers were farmers: Clermont County soil was heavy clay, there were much better farmlands north.

Catherine Bollender, a sister to the minister Stephen Bollender, was married to Christian Waldschmidt, who founded New Germany, now Camp Dennison on the Little Miami River near Milford, in 1796 -early Pietist meetings were held there, probably by Brethren ministers from the Obannon, though they soon became Methodist. The Dunkers mostly spoke German, the Methodists spoke English, both groups were from the Pietist movement.

The Bullskin Settlement (southeast of Felicity, and over into Brown Co) included: Philip Shenkle and Stephen Bollender -ministers, the Miller brothers -Jacob, John L, Abraham, and David (possibly Martin, also); the Moyer brothers -Abraham, Jacob, John, George and Philip; John Hoover and his children -David, Emanuel, Joel, John R, and Elizabeth; Elder Abraham Houser, with his sons -Christopher, David, and Isaac; Jacob Ulrey; Jacob Huffer, John Rohrer and Conrad and Leonard Metzgar. The Shenkles, Bollenders, Millers and Moyers came from Centre Co PA (the Brush and Penn Valleys). Abraham Houser, the Hoovers, Ulreys, Rohrers, and Metzgars came from Frederick and Washington Counties MD, some stopping first on the Kentucky River near Lexington. The original log church (Olive Branch, c1820) was on the Hoover farm. All three original preachers died before 1830, the congregation became part of the sweeping Great Revival, with pietist "Brethren Association" ties, in the dispute of the 1820s with the eastern and anabaptist oriented Annual Meeting, they converted to New Light Christian. Many moved to Brethren Association communities in Indiana, and became Disciples of Christ.

The Ten Mile Creek Settlement consisted of Elder Joseph Garber (wife Catherine Leedy) and the Bechtelsheimer brothers: John, Samuel, Jacob, Nathaniel and Enos (sons of Jonathan, of Franklin Co VA, certainly grandsons of Elder Johann Bechtelsheimer of the Amwell Church in New Jersey. Descendents spell their name variously: Beckelhymer, Pickleheimer, B'heimer, etc). Philip Stoner of Maryland (?Pipe Creek Church, Frederick Co) married Plantina (dau of Jacob Stutzman of N Carolina) and came with his family: Philip, John, Abraham, Anna, Elizabeth. The Custer brothers: John, Paul, Emanuel, Michael; came from Germantown PA, via Carolina and Kentucky. David Colglazier lived upriver at Point Pleasant, coming from Pennsylvania and Virginia to Kentucky. Elder Joseph Garber held to the Revival/Disciples concepts and this congregation was lost in the 1820s dispute, although Joseph Garber himself moved to Shelby Co OH and founded the Brethren community there.

The Obannon Church, named for the creek, was established by an Elder David Stouder in 1795. No record of him has been found, unless he is the David Stover of Limestone KY (Maysville) in 1800. Early Brethren met in the homes of members, rotating to the various parts of the settlement according to size of home for meeting and responsibility of the member family

John Bowman, a deacon, moved westward with the migrations of the frontier. He came from Frederick Co MD to the Conococheague (Hagarstown MD). He was in Huntingdon Co PA about 1785 (old “Morrison’s Cove” on the Juniata River) and by 1796 he was in the Obannon Settlement, living in Warren Co with his son David and family. David was called to the ministry in the Obannon Church in 1798. Soon after 1800 the Bowmans moved to Montgomery Co, the Bear Creek Congregation. The reported finding of abandoned farms with bearing apple trees, by the “earliest settlers” in Warren Co OH (1805) would likely have been their homesteads. Since Standard Apple trees take about 15 years to come to bearing, this would place the arrival of some of the family about 1790. Deacon John Bowman moved to the Nettle Creek Church, Hagerstown IN, with his son Benjamin, about 1822.

Daniel and David Miller settled early on the Obannon, south of Goshen. The other children of Philip Jacob Miller moved across the Ohio River from Campbell Co KY after their father died. They had come from the Conococheague via Bedford Co PA (Morrison's Cove or Brothers Valley). Philip had purchased 2000 acres on the Warren/Clermont Co line north of Goshen (extending to Cozadale). Some of the Miller families remained here (Abraham Miller, the Snells, Maugans, Cramers, and Sniders), some moved on to Montgomery Co (Daniel and David, about 1805) and others moved on from there to Elkhart Co IN (Daniel Ulrich and Daniel Cripe); [Goshen IN was named for Goshen OH -almost certainly by Elder Daniel Cripe]. Daniel Miller, son of Stephen, married and was a minister here before he left for the Upper Twin Church in Preble Co OH, where he became presiding Elder. John Custer and son-in-law, John Kessler, with Abraham Miller and possibly others, moved to Mill Creek valley in Hamilton Co, somewhere near Sharonville, there meetings were held. These meetings were Brethren Pietist, flavored strongly with the Brethren Pietist belief in Eternal Restoration (Universalism), a trend especially found in the Carolinas; the congregation was lost in the dispute of the 1820s.

Elder John Garver was ordained 1771 at Stony Creek, Brothers Valley PA. He was from the Beaver Dam Church in Frederick Co MD, his father was Elder John Garber, who moved to the Flat Rock Church in the Valley of Virginia, his mother was Barbara Miller. In 1785 he moved to Kentucky, then came to the Obannon, where he was a first minister. In 1805 he moved up the Little Miami River to Champaigne Co OH, Donnel's Creek Church, as founding Elder. His grandson records that he held to the Carolina church Pietist beliefs in Eternal Restoration.

The established church on Obannon Creek attracted many early Dunker families to Ohio. Jacob Moyer (now the Myers family) of Centre Co PA (Penns Valley) came to the Obannon (1798) with Ludwig Fryberger and his sons (the Frybargers came originally with Christian Waldschmidt). Jacob was married to Ludwig's daughter, Eve. The Myers Cemetery is just west of Goshen at OH28 and OH48. George Frybarger went to Indiana, Peter Frybarger went on to Iowa.

John Stouder died 1807 in now Cambria Co PA (Juniata River) and his family came to the Obannon Creek. He may have been a brother of the founding Elder David Stouder. The Stouder Cemetery, just southeast of Goshen OH, is the site of the log Obannon Baptist Church (Dunkers), many of the early families are buried there. John Jr, David and Joseph Stouder migrated on to Montgomery Co and some children went on to Elkhart Co IN; William, Christian and Samuel Stouder remained locally. Sarah Stouder married Jacob Binkley, they were early settlers on Stonelick Creek.

Earliest Obannon Church services were held in the home of Frederick Weaver, born in Frederick Co MD, married to Elizabeth Maugans. They lived on Obannon Creek just southest of Goshen. His son, Frederick, a blacksmith, lived at the Stouder Cemetery. Elizabeth had sisters and brothers who came to the Obannon: Magdalina Maugans married David Miller, Catherine Maugans married Abraham Miller, Mary Maugans married John Frey and Barbara Maugans married John Moyer. Matthias Maugans married Mary Frey and Gabriel Maugans married Esther Miller. The Maugans were from the Antietam in Maryland. Many descendents have remained locally but the name has frequently been corrupted to Morgans.

Gabrial Karns, a deacon, son of the Dunker minister, Conrad Kern of the Yadkin Valley (Salisbury NC), came to Montgomery Co KY (Hinkston Creek Dunker settlement) in 1799, then on to the Indian road where it went through the Obannon community (Manila Road), south of the Stouder Cemetery, 1805. He had a blacksmith shop, a whiskey still and a mill on Obannon Creek, just north of the Woodville Pike. His son, Jacob Kern, was a minister here, and his grandson, Gabriel Kerns, was an Elder of the old Mississinewa Church near Muncie IN.

The better farmland of the Stonelick attracted many of the younger children of the families. It was only about 5 miles from the old Obannon Church, but that is a long way in a horse and buggy. In 1854 the families living here built a brick meetinghouse, the present Stonelick Church of the Brethren (it has undergone some remodeling). It stands on the banks of Stonelick Creek, and the Stonelick State Park stretches behind the Church (taking farmlands of church members). There are some records which indicate that the building of the new church on the Stonelick caused quite a dispute in the Obannon Creek congregation. The Obannon Church closed it doors 2 years later.

David Grossnickle of Middletown Valley, Frederick Co MD, came to the Stonelick and married Mary, daughter of Frederick Weaver. Several descendents became leading local ministers. The descendents are a prominent family in the present church.

William Pringle married Nancy Binkley and they came to the Stonelick. He was born on the Pringle farm near Johnstown PA. He is buried among his children at the Hollowtown Cemetery (White Oak Church, Buford OH). Many of his descendents have remained locally, and they too, are another prominent family in the present church. Son, Joseph Pringle, who married Mary Ann Binkley, was an Elder at the Stonelick Church. We have his Journal of 30 years of ministry previous to 1900. Brother Howard Watkins, the long time resident minister, was married to one of William's gggranddaughters.

Other ministers at Stonelick include: John Mohler Sr/Jr, Andrew Mohler, Nathan Haywood, John Miller Jr, Daniel Grossnickle, Peter Grossnickle, John Lair, Samuel Garber, AF Wine (who went as a Brethren Missionary to Denmark), George Buntain, CV Coppock and his son XL Coppock, John Garst and Rosco Pringle.

The 1881 division of the Brethren severely divided the local congregation. The Old Order branch (Old German Baptist) built a church building just east of the Stonelick Meetinghouse. Its site was at the crossroads by the Ranger House in Stonelick State Park.

As is common among the Brethren, the children of these Dunker families normally married in the local church families. Research into one of these families frequently requires tracing ancestry among several families, or even all of them. We are trying to compile a history of the Stonelick church and its families, with a record of the local descendents. If you can help us, we would be grateful. We do not guarantee all of the above material, it is based partially on various family records and traditions, but is researched material. The church records were lost in a house fire in the 1930's.

Rev. Merle C. Rummel
Pastor, Stonelick Church of the Brethren
Historian, Southern Ohio District, Church of the Brethren