In the early years of the history of the state of Indiana there were several Protestant religions which built small community churches, usually beginning their existence in someone’s log cabin until the membership was large enough to support their own church building. One of these groups, the Methodists, who were known for their circuit riding ministers, covering many miles on horseback preaching across the states of the Midwest, played a huge role in the lives of our pioneer ancestors.
The origins of the Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church began in the log cabin of John Robbins, son of William and Bethiah Robbins. John, born in 1795, was married to Ruth Anderson down in Henry County, Kentucky, and then came north to Decatur County with much of the rest of the family around 1821. He settled south of today’s Greensburg, his property located just north of todays intersection of County Road 60 Southwest and County Road 400 South, which includes the site of the historic Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.
The image above marks the Mt. Pleasant Church (bottom) and the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery (top), located on private property. John, his wife, children, parents, and many other relatives are buried in the cemetery. Compare that to an image from the 1882 Decatur County Atlas below.
Lewis Harding’s History of Decatur County, Indiana (1915), is the source for the history of churches in Decatur County. Several stories discuss John Robbins and Harding quotes an early source entitled History of Methodism in Greensburg, Indiana:
John Robbins, who is living at this date (September 13, 1881) states that he settled near Mt. Pleasant Methodist Episcopal church, March 28, 1822, four miles south of Greensburg. The first Methodist sermon he heard in the county was about September of the same year by Rev. James Murray, of the Connersville circuit-then of the Ohio conference-at the double log cabin of Col. Thomas Hendricks [in Greensburg]. Mr. Robbins immediately afterward received authority by letter from Mr. Murray to organize a class, which he did at his own house, and from this [grew] the first religious organization in the county. After this he [Robbins] attended the organization of the Baptist church at Sand Creek.
The members of this first Methodist class were John and Ruth Robbins, Robert Courtney, Elizabeth Garrison, John H. Kilpatrick (sic) and Mary his wife—seven persons, and soon afterward they were joined by Jacob Steward, A. L. Anderson, Mary Garrison, Tamzen Connor, Lydia Groendyke, Rev. Wesley White and wife Elizabeth, and James and Polly Armstrong.
Besides John and Ruth Robbins, other members of our family included John Kirkpatrick, married to Polly Robbins (John’s sister); Abram L. Anderson, married to Lottie Robbins (John’s sister); Elizabeth Anderson (Ruth’s sister, married to the Rev. White). The Garrisons mentioned were related to John Daniel Herren, husband of Dosha Robbins, who emigrated to Oregon in 1845.
In his chapter on churches in Decatur County, historian Harding later writes:
The story is told that John Robbins, one of the early settlers, was at work near his cabin, when two men approached on horseback and bid him the time of day. They talked for a while and then Robbins said: “You men look like Methodist ministers.” The strangers admitted that they were and said that they were on their way to attend conference. Robbins wanted them to stop a while and organize a class, but they stated that they had no time to spare then, but that they would gladly do so on their return. One of these horsemen was John Strange, an early minister. When conference was over the men returned and organized a class in Robbins’ cabin.
Harding provides another list of the early members of John Robbins’ church and includes the additional names of Nat Robbins (his brother) and Nancy Anderson (sister of his wife Ruth).
The first church was built in 1834 and called Mt. Pleasant. It was described as a log building, 24 feet wide and 30 feet long. In 1854 a new church was built. A story in the Greensburg Daily News in 2008 [“Mt. Pleasant Rising Anew From Ruin” by Pat Smith, 18 December 2008], reported that in 1858 the church paid $50 for the deed to the property. After a 100-year-old hickory tree fell and damaged the church in 2008, money was raised to repair the damage and the church was back in service.
John Robbins was associated with the Mt. Pleasant Church from 1822 until his death in December 1881, just months after the History of Methodism in Greensburg, Indiana was compiled.
(Jacob Robbins-William Robbins-John Robbins)