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BY MIKE AVITT
The October 26, 1893 Ringgold Record newspaper shared information about Rev. A. Shepherd and his tent meetings near Blockton. So successful were his services, eighty-seven people organized a congregation and set out to erect a church building. The Weekly News of February 22, 1894 showed a land transfer from Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Florea of one and a half acres to the Christian Church.
Construction must have started immediately because services were being held by June 1894. Joshua Florea was the leader, but he is not mentioned as the pastor until 1896. The Twice-A-Week News of April 30, 1895 describes the denomination as “Disciples” or “Christian.” Another paper calls the chapel, “Church of Christ.” Tent Chapel is still active and is located two and a half miles south of Blockton.
Tent meetings were held by circuit riders and traveling preachers. Rural schoolhouses were too small to hold a large crowd and unpredictable weather necitated cover. Many congregations were started by these messengers of God.
Some rural churches didn’t last long but I don’t know why. In the fall of 1895, the Baptist congregation in Poe Township hired Thomas Johnston to build a church 28’ x 42’. The Baptist Church next to Oakland (Saltzman) Cemetery was dedicated June 14, 1896. In May 1913, the Oakland Baptist congregation voted to disband and unite with the Mount Ayr Baptist Church. So, less than twenty years. I think the nearest churches to Oakland were two at Caledonia and one at the Salem corner.
The Salem community was between Kellerton and Caledonia. It had a school, a post office (Wanamaker), and an Evangelical Church built in 1890. This church was on the same circuit as Ringgold City Evangelical Church.
The Mt. Zion Methodist Episcopal Church in Riley Township was dedicated February 24, 1887 with Rev. P. J. Vollmar officiating. This was in the Lee community near Modoc School and Mt. Zion Cemetery. This church was active into the 1950s.
I found very little information on a Methodist Church five miles NNW of Maloy called Highland. It was built about 1890 and Rev. J. S. Boreland was the pastor in 1896. I don’t know when it faded away.
In late 1890, a Methodist Episcopal Church was being built in the Davenport-Bliss vicinity. This church, called Fairview, was dedicated on February 15 of 1891 and was located one mile south of the Polen Post Office in Lincoln Township. One record indicates this church was sold at public auction in the spring of 1925 but I could not verify this information.