After a detailing the restoration of our historic church studio, and a tour of the inside, I thought it might be nice to share some of the history of Mount Ebal Church and and it’s special place in Monroe County.
This year, this tiny, one-room church will celebrate it’s 142nd birthday. To put it’s age in perspective, the civil war ended just 6 years before the church was built. In fact, this hilly section of Monroe County was only settled 50 years prior. Before that, this land had been Miami Indian territory.
Back when the church was constructed, Mount Ebal had a much different view than it does today. At that time, the church overlooked a valley of farmland. In 1960, 88 years after the church was built, farmland was purchased for the reservoir and “Lake Monroe”, the largest lake in Indiana was constructed. The fields that Mount Ebal Church used to overlook are now beneath the waters of Monroe Reservoir.
In 1869, several local families began meeting for church services in a little schoolhouse which was located near where the church now stands. In 1872, twenty-two families donated $25 apiece toward construction of what would become Mount Ebal Methodist church. A carpenter named Dan Chambers spearheaded the construction, with many men from the congregation providing the labor. Several families donated the lumber, while another man, “Uncle Bud” Deckard, hauled it to the site using his team of oxen. The lumber was sawed at a water-powered mill which was located at Fairfax on Salt Creek at the time. The abundant limestone of the area was burnt in a lime kiln placed on a farm located around 200 yards south of where the church stands. The resulting lime was mixed with horse hair and used to plaster the walls. The church was constructed with 2 separate doors and a 2″ x 6″ board down the middle of the pews. In accordance with the beliefs of the early congregation, one side of the church was for men, and the other side was for women. Revivals were often held in the church, some being so popular that the tiny church could not accommodate the crowds. Many stood in the rain under the eves to hear a particularly enthusiastic Reverend. It was said that singing in the church could be heard from a mile away. A hitch-rack was located just outside the church for members to tie up their horses during services. The church was the hub of community activities with popular “Basket Dinners” being held with horse-drawn buggies and later, Model A Fords parked under the huge oak that still stands today.
Over the years, the congregation dwindled with the last regular services being held in the early 1970s. After families moved away with the construction of Monroe Reservoir, there were just not enough people to keep the church going. For close to a decade, the church sat empty and fell into complete disrepair and was basically uninhabitable. In an effort to save the building, in 1978, Bloomington Restorations, Inc purchased the church and with the help of a grant from Indiana Land Trusts and lots of community effort, the building was restored to it’s original condition. In 1995, the church was purchased by William Ellis, a private individual who rented out the building for occasional weddings and memorial services over the years.
In 2012, we purchased the building. You can read more about how this happened in this post. We feel very honored to be the current caretakers of this historic landmark and it is a duty that we do not take lightly. We feel that the best way to honor and maintain this historic landmark is to put it back into regular use so that it may remain for future generations to admire and enjoy.