Nettle Creek Church of the Brethren celebrates 200 years of a unique history

By Brian Mackie

Nettle Creek Church of the Brethren in Hagerstown, Ind., will be celebrating 200 years on Sunday, Oct. 11. The congregation was begun in 1820 and has a unique history, including hosting the 1864 Annual Meeting (now called the Annual Conference) of the Brethren–the last where Civil War martyr John Kline served as moderator.

[The 1864 annual meeting was held shortly before Elder Kline was ambushed, shot, and killed on June 15, 1864, as he traveled home to Virginia on horseback. It is thought that he was assassinated by southern sympathizers because of his outspoken stances against the war and against slavery.]

Decades later, Nettle Creek elder L.W. Teeter (1885-1923) served the denomination in many roles including moderator of the Annual Meeting of 1897 held in Frederick, Md. He also served in several district roles including moderator and clerk, and was on the Manchester College Board of Trustees. Teeter wrote a New Testament Commentary and contributed to the Brethren Bicentennial Addresses in 1908.

The congregation’s history dates to just four years after Indiana attained statehood, when early German Baptist Brethren settled in the Nettle Creek area in 1820. Some preachers from the Four Mile congregation south of Richmond, Ind., near Boston, Ind., came to help begin the church. The early Nettle Creek Brethren met in for worship in homes during their first 25 years. In 1845, they built their first brick church building. Due to structural problems, the first building had to be replaced by a second brick building in 1875, built nearby on the same property, where it now stands. It was referred to as the “Brick Meetinghouse” or the “Brick Church,” located on the road that now bears its name, “Brick Church Road.”

In the 1850s, Nettle Creek started the White Branch and Locust Grove churches, which officially separated in 1955, each adding paid, professional ministers, pulpits, stained glass, new or remodeled sanctuaries with baptistries, and parsonages for the pastors and their families to live.

The 1950s and 1960s were a time of change, growth, and expansion for the Nettle Creek Church, which dedicated its new sanctuary in 1968. The active membership of the Nettle Creek, Locust Grove, and White Branch churches peaked in the 1970s and 1980s as many area families were involved in these three churches.

By the end of the 1990s, all three churches had begun to decline numerically, but these past 20 years also have seen renewed efforts to serve the community and continue in vibrant worship, including the use of technology. From 2014-2019, Nettle Creek and White Branch combined efforts to produce the “Good News Radio Program,” featuring the messages from the two churches. Currently, both churches are now streaming worship on Facebook Live.

The anniversary celebration will begin at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern time) with a historical presentation, followed by a worship service at 10:30 a.m. featuring Bethany Theological Seminary president Jeff Carter as preacher. The day will conclude with a pitch-in meal. People are invited to attend in person or virtually via a Facebook event at www.facebook.com/events/660454728223482 .

Brian Mackie is pastor of Nettle Creek Church of the Brethren.

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