[Nameplate] Fair ~ 70°F  
High: 84°F ~ Low: 67°F
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Historic Old Clifty Church needs some financial help

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The historic Old Clifty Church in a wooded area of Jackson Township has been a coveted place of worship, relaxation and fellowship dating back to 1867.
(Greene County Daily World/Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
The historic Old Clifty Church in a wooded area of Jackson Township has been a coveted place of worship, relaxation and fellowship dating back to 1867.

On Sunday afternoon, members and supporters of the Old Clifty Memorial Association will renew that spirit at their annual gathering at one of the state's oldest log churches.

The annual meeting will start at 12:30 p.m. with a pitch-in dinner under the shady grove of yellow poplar trees outside the church.

Ann Wilcoxen, a member of the Old Clifty Church Memorial Association board of directors, looks over the interior of the one room church.
(Greene County Daily World/Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
Members will also discuss business before enjoying some music and prayer time, according to Ann Wilcoxen, who serves as board secretary.

The yearly carry-in dinner renews another long standing church tradition that started in 1897, when the first basket dinner was hosted. Those attending the event that day at the Pentecostal Methodist Church voted to meet for a basket dinner the second Sunday in August.

That practice has been carried on in most years, according to Wilcoxen, who explained that regular services have not been conducted at the church since the late 1930s.

The outdoor amphitheatre at Old Clifty Church.
(Greene County Daily World/Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
The church is located about 12 miles southeast of Bloomfield, on County Road 225 South just off State Road 45 about two-and-one-half miles south of Little Cincinnati.

The Old Clifty Church began when the late Daniel and Irenna Dobson deeded one acre of land to be used for a church in 1858.

Actual construction on the church building started before the Civil War, but was not completed until 1867 after the men had returned from the war.

Bedford stone benches are featured in the outdoor amphitheatre area at Old Clifty Church. The stone slabs bear the names of some early church supporters.
(Greene County Daily World/Nick Schneider) [Order this photo]
"The men got the walls partially up and the boys went off to the service and two years later came back home and finished it up," Wilcoxen explained.

The church, which will seat between 40 and 50, was built using yellow poplar logs, which were cut from the surrounding hillsides. The logs were then dragged to the church site where they were cut and hewn into the building.

After completion, the trustees started a Methodist Church.

The church went through several transitions, closings and denomination changes over the years, Wilcoxen said.

In the fall of 1903, the roof started to leak and cave in. Plans were made to repair the church, but due to lack of interest and delay by the man hired to do the work, the church was forced out of service.

Six years later, the trustees called another meeting to organize the repair and the reorganization of the small rural church.

Squire Holman was hired and installed a new galvanized roof, replaced the floor with new lumber, and hand-built the oak seats, which are still in use in the small one-room church, Wilcoxen explained.

Records show the United Brethren Church held services in the building in 1915.

From the nearby Bedford stone quarries, men brought stones in to create an amphitheater of outdoor seating used in church and revival services over the years. Each slab of stone is engraved with a family name from donors.

Turmoil erupted in the church family in 1942 when some zealots moved in and wanted to sell the church to an eastern promoter, who had plans to ship it to his New York amusement park.

The newly formed Clifty Church Memorial Association stepped in and purchased the Wesleyan Methodist Church for $125 to stop that deal.

More repairs were then made to the building.

New windows, doors, foundation, roof, gables, and chimney were installed.

More changes came in 1964, when the Clifty School ground was purchased by the Memorial Association and converted into a parking lot. A well was drilled and a new red iron hand pump was installed in 1965.

Not much has changed since that time, according to Wilcoxen.

The church, which is now interdenominational in nature, has been the frequent site of weddings, family reunions, class reunions and a special Christmas Eve worship service.

Wilcoxen said the old church is also a frequent stop for tourists and those who live in the area.

The church is never locked and can be accessed around the clock.

She explained that it was locked for a few years, but intruders would come and knock off the lock and go inside to vandalize the place.

"I don't know what goes through people's minds. When we locked it, they would break in. I guess they think something is in there. But really there just some old benches and not much else. Since we don't lock it, we haven't had a problem. It's open now all the time for people to use."

She further explained, "You'd be surprised with the number of people who just stop in who are away from here to look at it."

Wilcoxen, who lives next door to the church, said the historic church is supported by donations and those funds are getting low.

It takes about $50 a month to keep electricity operating for the building.

"We also need some money for some more repairs," she stressed.

There are enough funds to operate until about the end of the year, then Wilcoxen said she's not sure what will happen if some donations aren't received.

She wants to keep the church going and available to the public.

"I think there is just so much history here and we need to do what we can to preserve it," she said.

Volunteers and work crews from Greene County Community Corrections have done a good job in recent years keeping the plot around the church mowed and trimmed.

The Utilities District of Western Indiana REMC has also provided grant support to the church in the past for maintenance, which is very much appreciated Wilcoxen pointed out.

"Since there is no denomination now, we've had Morman involved here, we had Catholics, Methodists and Baptists. We even had some Amish come up and help us out with some wood work," she said. "We'd love to see this kept going."

The association is governed by a volunteer board that is headed by Ed Burch, who serves as president.

In Wilcoxen's view, the association also needs some younger board members to carry on the tradition of the Old Clifty Church.

"A lot of the older people are gone (passed away), but we are having some of their descendants coming back which we enjoy," Wilcoxen concluded.

Anyone who would like to donate to the church fund can do so by mailing a check to Old Clifty Memorial Church Association, R.R. 3, Box 304, Bloomfield, Ind., 47424.

Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on gcdailyworld.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

I may have had ancestors who attended this church. If you do have a few dollars to donate, then this church can exist a lot longer. I'm going to send a donation and inquire about becoming a board member too!! What a great piece of history for Greene County.

-- Posted by murfetta on Tue, Aug 4, 2009, at 9:44 PM

This is so cool. Thank you to those who maintain the church. I will send a donation. I'm not able to volunteer for the board, but I hope some other young folks will consider it.

-- Posted by circle on Wed, Aug 5, 2009, at 7:11 AM

I am grown up and have moved away from the area many years ago, but have fond memories of Clifty Sunday in the summer - working before the event on the clean up crew (mowing, weeding, moving benches, etc.)- the wonderful pot luck meal - the gospel music playing on the loudspeakers through the trees - and running around as a child playing with friends.

My donation is on the way. Hats off to those who are willing to work to keep this important religious heritage symbol alive for the folks of Green County. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

-- Posted by silverridgeline2006 on Wed, Aug 5, 2009, at 8:08 AM

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: