ELIZABETH TWP. — Combing through 200 years of journal entries, newspaper clippings and photos, Cove Spring Church historian Ben Sutherly connected the church’s rich history with stories from its congregation, including multiple generations weaved throughout its two centuries.
A church member since she was 5 years old, Josephine Wallace shared memories and stories with Sutherly and current Cove Spring Church Pastor Greg Morrow earlier this month. Morrow is the church’s 78th minister.
“When I think of Anniversary Sundays through the years and look back at old materials … Josephine is kind of the constant,” Sutherly said. “She’s our one link to all the Anniversary Sundays throughout the years.”
Sutherly shared an Anniversary Sunday program from 1948 which included Josephine who sang a solo during the 1948 church celebration.
Music was her calling, sharing her God-given talent singing in many church services and conducting the Cove Spring Church choir for many years.
“Choir was my favorite part of the service of church,” she said.
Sutherly shared how Josephine is noted for singing a particular hymn — ‘Jo’s song’ — throughout the years entitled “Bless This House.” Josephine sang it earlier this year at the church’s SongFest celebration in March.
“It’s just a prayer I send to God every day,” she said. “We sang it at the first dedication of the new building. It was a choir number and then I found it as a solo and I started singing it.”
Josephine shared how the church organist, the late Marjorie Widener, “wouldn’t let the year pass by” until she sang it at least once.
“We had a lot of people we associated songs with as ‘their song,’” she shared.
Wallace was active in the church teaching Sunday School classes, like her mother did before her, on top of participating in the church choir.
“I still get amazed at the old pictures and of the people that’s in it you know and knowing them — there’s not too many people that (recognize) them,” said Wallace, noting a Benham and her mother in a photo.”It thrills me to get to see them all together, you know. I’m so glad to get the pictures. It means a lot.
“We just always participated in the church — it was a family affair — everybody knew everybody so it was like a family reunion every Sunday,” she said.
One milestone Josephine was not able to connect to her home church was her wedding. She was married at home due to the church fire of 1946. The church was rebuilt with bricks salvaged from the fire and the congregation laid its new cornerstone on June 22, 1947. A photo of the cornerstone service, includes Josephine, the only one pictured who survives today.
“I sure was there for the pictures,” she quipped, as Sutherly passed photos around.
“Well, you were active with the church so you were in a lot of pictures,” Sutherly teased.
For its 200th anniversary, 50 to 60 church members took a bus trip to Cane Ridge, Kentucky, northeast of Lexington. The church at this location, built in 1791, was the site in 1801 of a great revival that influenced the Cove Spring Church’s founding pastor, Samuel Kyle, said Sutherly.
“So in a sense, we returned to our “mother ship” this year to commemorate the role that the Cane Ridge church and the revival there played in the founding of our church,” Sutherly said. “We also celebrated a rich tradition of music at our church with a “Songfest” in March.
Members of Cove Spring Church also has been recording family ancestry at Cove Spring; several members represent the fourth, fifth or sixth generations of their families to attend Cove Spring. Early Elizabeth Township families whose descendants continue to attend Cove Spring Church include the Beals, Benham, Gearheart/Gearhardt, Martin, Vandeveer, Widener and Young families.
For more Cove Spring Church history, see this Sunday’s Valley section.
First row, left to right: Leah Schaefer, Amy Eidemiller, Josephine Wallace, Krista Wallace Black, Peggy Widener Second row, left to right: Audra Luttrell, Verna Rose, Doris Beeson Third row, left to right: Suzan Eidemiller Suber, Mary Beth Benham George, Marjorie Widener Fourth row, left to right: Warren Beeson, Tom Brown, Ric Wallace Fifth row, left to right: Grant Widener, Orville Rose