Much of the history of CENTRAL CHRISTIAN in Anderson can be traced back to the person of ELIJAH MARTINDALE. Elijah was a traveling evangelist from the newly formed, “Christian Church” arising out of the famed CANE RIDGE REVIVAL during the early 1800s. As he made his way north, on horseback from Kentucky, he stopped at villages and bends in the road that were “soon-to-be”. One such palce was just north of where we are assembled. It was a scattered arrangement of log cabins, not yet consolidated or consiered even a village, but is now called ALEXANDRIA.
He spoke, on the Lord’s Day, in the cabin home of MACAJAH & MARTHA CHAMNESS, where all the other closest neighbors had gathered for worship. They all sang, “We’re Marching to Zion” and Mr. Martindale spoke from the Matthew 13:24-30/36-43. It was the fall of 1833, and the first and oldest Christian Church in Madison County was formed. From the success of that first congregation, Elijah and Elder John Langley moved south to Andersontown and began preaching their message to the peope of that village in 1834.
Some 6 years later an organizational meeting, to form a new Christian Church in Andersontown, was called at the home of Andy Seward at 11th and Central Streets. A congregation was organized and met for services in the grand Madison County Courthouse for several months, this congregation was generally held together by Elder John Langley and Elijah Martindale moved on to continue his Evangelistic Ministry. This first endeavor, however, was not to survive the transient population of “pre-boom” Andersontown, and after 3 years of struggle, finally collapsed.
For 18 years no congregation existed. And then in 1858 Andersontown got a second chance for a local congregation. The Christian Church region sent Love Jamerson, John New and John Brazelton to Madison County, as missionaries, to help John Seward organize a “chartered” church. The congregation of 13 began with worship services in the Chestnut Grove schoolhouse, on Mounds Park Road, on December 1, 1858. Andersontown grew to 1168 souls by 1861, and the congregation grew with the town.
The Methodists and the Presbyterians already had their own church buildings, and so it was decided that First Christian also needed a sanctuary in which to worship. They purchased property on the corner of 13th & Main (where THE TOAST now stands) for $125 and built a handsome, though small, church building for a whopping $4700. The congregation decided to hold a dedication service in January of 1862.
By 1862 the Civil War was in full motion and there was much discussion, at the Disciples of Christ Convention in Cincinnati, about separating the Christian Churches in the North from the Christian Churches in the South. Elder Benjamin Franklin, a leader in the movement and supporter of the Church in Andersontown, was much against separation. His name was considered by the First Christian Church board as speaker for the Dedication, but after realizing how contentious the meetings had been in Andersontown, he withdrew his name and suggested his brother David, who also declined. Elder John Rogers was recommended and accepted, giving the dedication sermon on Sunday January 12, 1862.
The congregation survived without a permanent Senior Pastor for a few months, until Elder Joseph Franklin, Benjamin’s son, was called as Pastor. In that time between, Elder Benjamin Franklin held a 6 week revival and the congregation grew to 65 members. When the building was about 10 years old it went through some renovations with carpeting and new seats.
By 1860 the question of instrumental, and specifically organ music, in the church service came up time and time again. There was much dissention, not only in the local church, but nationally as well. Eventually, in 1879 an organ was installed for use in Sunday School only, while the basic question was somewhat ignored. After a controversial George Slade Revival, centering around the question of instrumental music, the problem seemed to be resolved in the local church and in 1880 organ music was a regular part of Sunday Worship. Five years later a choir loft was built.
They were large enough to purchase land for a new building. In 1886 a lot on the northwest corner of 10th and Jackson streets, known as the Davis property was purchased for $5000.00. The congregation, which now numbered around 500, saw that the architectural plans would call for more space than was available on the Davis property, and so purchased adjacent land to the north and west. A ground-breaking ceremony was held in 1889. In that year the Board of the Church resolved to change the name from FIRST CHRISTIAN to CENTRAL CHRISTIAN…because another congregation in Anderson, known as the NEW LIGHT CHURCH had adopted the name FIRST CHRISTIAN and to avoid confusion or difficulties, Central decided to change their name with the new building.
The present sanctuary was dedicated in December of 1900, with a packed sanctuary and 400 standing around the back. It begin with Sunday School at 9:15am and Worship Service at 10:30am. The organ led the congregation in a first hymn, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”. Only 2 days later, the church building on 13th and Main was sold.
With a membership of 463 in 1902 a Revival began in February and ended in March, bringing another 465 members in.
A few years later, in 1905, what has been called the “greatest revival in the history of any single congregation of the Disciples” took place, beginning in December.
During the 52 days of this revival, led by renowned evangelist, Charles Reign Scoville, Central Christian Church grew to over 2000 members; the largest Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) church in the world at that time.
This is our beginning, somewhat rocky, but filled with hope and the faithful leadership of those who knew how to dream.