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St Stephens Church

St. Stephens Episcopal Church Northumberland County VA
Picture courtesy of Shirley Smith, Manteca CA


The first recorded settlement of the County of Northumberland in Virginia was made in 1642. This settlement was known as Chicacoan, and it constituted a parish. In 1653 a court order was entered dividing the county into three parishes, the northern most part was called Chicacoan Parish. Subsequently, in 1664, the county was divided into two parishes and Chicacoan became Saint Stephen's Parish.

In 1874 the land on which the present church stands was conveyed and the building of the church was begun. In April of 1881, Emmanuel Protestant Episcopal Church was consecrated. Later its name was changed to St Stephen's. Thus, although St. Stephens' Church is little more than 100 years old, it is part of a parish history extending back more than 300 years.

The white, frame, board-and-batten church stands today in the center of the community of Heathsville, with a well kept lawn, large trees, and the church cemetery behind the church. Heathsville is on US Route 360 and is the location of the county courthouse of Northumberland County.

Today our Kesterson families belong to a wide variety of different religions, but our roots belong to this little Parish in Northumberland County. This is where it all started for us and where are ancestors names and dates of birth are all recorded. We will forever be a part of the rich history of St Stephens Parrish and Northumberland County VA.

The years progressed and before long some of our Kesterson families left Virginia. In the early days Baptist and Methodist were among the primary religions of our forefathers. The Church was the anchor for the old families and who among us does not wish that this were true in todays world? It was the place to socialize, to catch up on the news, and to hear the word of God through a faithful minister. We have many Kesterson men who became Ministers from the very early years to the present, among them would be John Kesterson the trail blazer of the Methodist Ministers in Alabama and Tennessee.



In the summer of 1818, Rev. Ebenezer Hearn came to Tuscaloosa and preached his first sermon in a log cabin owned by Joshua Halbert, who later became a Methodist preacher. The Tuscaloosa Church was established and Rev. John Kesterson was sent to Tuscaloosa as the first Pastor. Rev Robert Paine was the pastor in 1820.

In 1819 - Cedar Mountain Methodist Church, John Kesterson as its first pastor. In 1826 this church merged with Shiloh Methodist Church. Taylor's Chapel Methodist Church Located in Sweeney Branch Hollow. Organized in 1818 in the old Stuckey Cabin before Alabama became a state. The first building was fastened together with wooden pegs. In 1844, Big Jim Vann's son, Joel, and his wife, Elizabeth Turner Vann moved from Trussville and settled near this church. In 1860 Joel Vann gave 4 acres for a new church and cemetery. The building wasn't quite finished when the War between the State began. Lumber was sawed and hauled from Hamby's saw mill, located beyond the Narrows of Turkey Creek. Joel King Vann served as Steward for 32 years. Rev. Billy Taylor added the land known as the Old Stuckey Place, to the land given by Joel Vann that same year. As a tribute to him, the church was named Taylors Chapel. The earliest pastor was the Circuit Rider, Thinegar Hern. Later "Parson Billy" Taylor took up the work. Others to serve were: John Kesterson, Zacharius Williams, Samuel Patton, Eugene LeVert, William Curtis, Francis R Cheatham and Thomas C Brown.


The Tuskaloosa Circuit and the itinerant ministry of the Rev John Kesterson was coeval. Both appeared first for the year 1819 and they appeared together for that year. While the Rev. Ebenezer Hearn explored the country and organized the Societies which at the first constituted the Tuskaloosa Circuit in 1818, yet it first appears in the General Minutes for 1819, and the Rev. John Kesterson was the preacher appointed to it for that year. He had just been received on trial by the TN Conference at its session in Nashville, beginning Oct 1 1818. He was received into full connection at the close of 1820, and elected to deacon's orders, though not ordained at that time. At the close of 1823 he was ordained elder, and at the close of 1824 he located. After living as a local preacher in the territory embraced in the Memphis Conference at its organization for 18 years, he was re admitted to the itinerant work by the Memphis Conference at the close of 1842, and again located at the close of 1847. When he died is not known. He gave about 11 years of his life to the itinerant ministry. He was a man of moderate ability. His importance in the history of Methodism in AL is found alone in the fact that he was the first preacher on the Tuskaloosa Circuit after its formation. He served in AL only one year. He was the predecessor on the Tuskaloosa Circuit of the Rev. Robert Paine.


Before 1818 only one North Alabama Circuit (Flint River) appeared in the TN Conference appointments. In 1818 7 appointments were listed - an entirely new district, the TN (Later the TN River District) being formed, Thomas D Porter presiding elder. Robert Paine was for 1819 appointed to Flint River Circuit. The six new circuits were the Tuscaloosa and Cahawba Circuits were the fruit of the labors of Hearn during 1818. For 1819 Thomas Springfield was appointed to Cahawba Circuit and John Kesterson to Tuscaloosa Circuit.

Methodism's roots were already deeply implanted int he soil of this fast growing state. There were, at the beginning of 1819, at least 8 well defined Methodist circuits in AL and parts of one or two others which extended into MS. These 8 Circuits and Pastors included Tuscaloosa - John Kesterson.

At the TN Converence at Nashville 1 Oct 1818 the year Limestone Circuit was first listed, 19 were admitted on trial. Among them were several whose ministry was to become highly appreciated in Al. These included John Kesterson who was appointed to the newly organized Tuscaloosa Circuit.

Originally the Tuscaloosa Circuit covered from 40 to 60 miles in width along the entire length of the Black Warrior more than 200 miles, measuring its curves also. The Circuit seem to have covered all of Blount, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, and Hale Counties and part of Pickens, Greene and Cullman. The Circuit was about as large as the present Tuscaloosa District though not covering the same territory. Among its ministers were 1819 - John Kesterson.

At first the churches in and around Jones Valley were on Tuscaloosa Circuit, formed by Ebenezer Hearn in 1818. But with the influx of settlers, the churches multiplied and it became necessary to form more and smaller circuits. The Jones Valley Circuit was formed in 1823 which considerably reduced the area of Tuscaloosa Circuit, taking in Jefferson Co, Blound Co, and probably a part of Walker Co which was organized the following year. This circuit embraced from Level Race Track, later called Elyton and other nearby churches. It also embraced other more distant churches including Cedar Mountain which was organized in 1819 by John Kesterson first pastor of the Tuscaloosa Circuit.


Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church is located on Hwy. 4 between Center Point and Dierks AR in Howard Co. It is one of the oldest Baptist congregations in the county. The date of organization is unknown, but the church existed as early as 1845.

Pictures courtesy of Earnestine Moore, Dierks AR

The original log church building stood beside the Fort Towson Road, north of Fellowship Cemetery. In 1880, the church acquired property south of the cemetery from Samuel and Sarah B Kesterson and erected a large board-and-batten structure. This second "church house" stood where the present one is located. In 1918, the congregation used lumber made from timber grown on the church and cemetery grounds to put up the present building.

During its early history, Fellowship Church had preaching service on one weekend a month. Beginning in 1953, preaching services were held on two weekends a month, and since 1969, on every Sunday. Sunday School was conducted irregularly or not at all during the earlier decades. More emphasis was placed on Sunday School after 1934, when officers and teachers began to be elected on a regular annual basis. High points of the church year were the "protracted meetings" held by visiting evangelists in the late summer heat of August and September. Services were held twice daily, for a week, or longer, either in the church house or beneath a brush arbor. Meetings ended with baptizings in Messer Creek, Holly Creek, the Charlie Mauldin pond or in Saline River.

Pastors serving the church since 1870 have included: Thomas H Westbrook, his son Thomas F Westbrook, J H Denson, Thomas Dulaney, T J Lumpkin, J H Bennett, Bud Tate, J A Westbrook, L M Webb, D W Cornish, William Allen, T L Epton, Lee Beane, L M Keeling, C H Tippit, J C Burgess, Hollis A Purtle, W H Stingley, John L Ferguson, M C Barhan, J W McAdams, Larry Gaines, Jimmy Freeman, James Stone, Gary Bobo and the present pastor Coy Zumwalt.

Deacons who have served the church since 1908 have included: B N Greenhaw, O S Thompson, H N Jacobs, J F Stone, Fletcher Harris, Ruel House, Don Tollett, Charles Reel and Michael Crisp.

Total membership of the church has ranged usually from 30-60 persons: in 1986 there were 67 members. The meager funding of the early days, when a pastor might be paid $12.00 for a years work, has been replaced by a budget adequate for a greatly expanded and enriched church program. Beginning in 1880, a public school was also conducted in Fellowship Church Building. This school operated until the Second World War. Among the teachers durings its last years were Hiram V Keating, Pearl Chesshir, Homer Eastwood, Marie Wynn, Georgia Jacobs and Mattie Mae Bolland.

The above account of the Fellowship Church was written in 1951 and sent to me by Norma Kesterson of Dierks AR. Norma is a descendant of Samuel and Eliza Green Kesterson of Pike and Columbia Co AR. The Samuel Kesterson, who donated the land for the church was the son of John and Malinda Dossey/Dorsey Kesterson of Sevier/Howard Co AR. At this point we have not been able to determine the relationship between the "two" Samuels

Pictures courtesy of Earnestine Moore , Dierks AR

Bethany Missionary Baptist Church is located in Possum Hollow, an area just south of Dierks AR. Some of the early settlers of this area were Obadiah Gilbert (b 1795), Children of Jehue Littlefield ( b 1787), Daniel Weems (b 1833), David Shrum, Robert Walston, Brackston Nelson, Andrew J Potts, John M Gray, John Wynn, Elisha Dyer, Robert Young, Joseph Mitchell, Ross G Shuffield, W J Morgan, W R Crisp, Green Brandon, Alexander James (b 1833), Logans, Kestersons, Westbrooks, Beans and Watsons.

Possum Hollow had a church very early. The first one charted, with records still available is Bethany Baptist Church. It was a branch from Oak Hill Church. The Bethany Missionary Baptist Church was organized in September 1906. Twenty Members were involved. The church met for some time in the James Schoolhouse. In 1907 they built a new building near B A James houseplace. They built yet another building in 1913 across the road near the place where the present building now stands. That building was destroyed by fire in early 1932. The building of today was built in late 1932.

Brother John Mc Whorter was the first pastor. G C Westbrook was the first church clerk. The men who served as pastor are J A Westbrook, T F Westbrook, J M Parrish, J A Turner, McCarroll, Paul G Byers, C H Tippit, E T Burgess, Hollis Purtle, Chester L Young, J F C Crain, Carlton Roberts, Rymon Wilson, Kenneth Tatum, Rickey Parker, Zane Clark, Roger Arnold, Keith Smith, Glen Cannon and Bro James R Bradford, perhaps more since the writing of the Howard County Heritage. Bro. J E Beane was the Church's first deacon. Bro. C H Weaver and Bro. J W Hampton were the first deacons. Bro. T C CRisp, Bros, Fletcher Harris, Troy Allen, Carl Kesterson, Leslie Killian were serving as Deacons at the time the Howard County Heritage Book was written.

Charter Members were John Beane, Mr and Mrs Charles Henry Weaver, Mr and Mrs J W Hampton, Bob Wilson, Olen Westbrook, B A James, Emma Brandon, T W Griffin, Marcus Crisp, Tom Crisp, G C Westbrook, Adolphus Corbell, Louis Westbrooks, John M Buster, Mr and Mrs Lee Beane, Ms Lula Weaver, Mrs Mattie Westbrook, T H Westbrook and J E Bean. This information contributed by Ruby Eudy to the Howard County Heritage.

Many familiar names are seen here and I want to thank Earnestine Moore for sending this information, taken from the Howard County Heritage Book. Alexander James is Earnestine Moors Great Grandfather and it appears that her family had quite a hand in the formation and preservation of this church.


WILSONS History of Dubois Co Indiana Written 1910

In Hall Township, facing the rising sun, bounded on the Southwest by a pasture and on the Northeast by a woodland, stands one of the most interesting examples of the pioneer Log Churches now in Dubois County. It is not old, having been built as late as 1874, yet there is something about its very make up that is food for thought, and a splendid subject for meditation. The lessons taught by the past are here brought out to the eye in a manner that impresses them upon our memories, never to be forgotten. It was built at a time when the citizens of Dubois County were beginning to recover from the loss by death and the burden of debt, caused by the Civil War and, at a time when there was a general revival of religious work through Dubois County. The fact that this log building, with but four windows and a door, was built as late as 1874, in this county, is proof that the people of that community waited not on the manner of doing, but did. Their religious impulse was strong, and they cared not for the modern structures of architectural beauty. The floor was made of puncheons. The altar or pulpit was a single upright piece with a short board nailed horizontally across it upper end. This held the Holy Bible. The seats were made of small sized poplar trees split into halves, and held at the proper height by four sticks driven into the auger holes made for their reception. The house was covered with clapboards. It had no ceiling. All these things are here today. The door is open as if inviting the faithful to return to the days of yore. The birds, after their day of song on the wing, or in the surrounding forest, return to the building at night and safely rest upon the timbers under the roof. These timbers are poplar saplings, and not the sawed timbers of today.

Occassionally a slow, solemn procession winds it weary way along the creek, and across the pasture field. It is the concourse of mourning friends bringing the remains of some member of the congregation to its last resting place. The Baily graveyard was started in 1863, Esquire Wm. H. H. Pinnick, burying the first child there in that year. The record creating the congregation reads as follows -

The Elders were William H.H. Pinnick and John Kesterson: the deacons were Samuel Baily and Dyar D Burton. In addition to the above the following family names appear on the record. Sanders, Parsons, McIver, Curtis, Gullett, Andre, Taber, Nicholson, Williams, Conrad, Hembrey, Chanley, Frentres, Wineinger, Goodman, Campbell, Blue, Zehr, and Johnes. It appears that the Rev. Benjamin T Goodman, who died at Huntingburg December 1873, was the spiritual director at the organization. Later Rev. Thomas A Cox and Rev. Benjamin F Nicholson served as ministers.

This log building stands on a hillside, about 3/4 of a mile west of the Bender school house. Nearly all the members of the old congregation have passed away, gone to other churches, moved to other fields of usefulness or scattered to the four winds of heaven.


Waubonsie Church

Of Mills County Iowa

**Picture and article contributed by F Dean Alley

THE WAUBONSIE CHURCH was the first Religious Organization in Mills County; Historical Sketch by Rev. Peter Jacobs, the Pastor.

That Methodism was the pioneer among the Protestant churches to organize their societies in Mills county is evident by its history. The church of today is a continuation of that splendid beginning. Ours has been a continued existence for 57 years. There was no Glenwood in that early day; the little village of that vicinity was then known as Coonville.

The first Gentile preachers in Mills county were Cannon and Witten, missionaries of the Methodist Church. They came from Missouri. Services were held in a log cabin at the head of a hollow about half way between Glenwood and Hillsdale on the old Abe Thomas farm, now owned by Newton Reasoner. They delivered the first Protestant sermon given in the county. A two weeks meeting was held in December, 1849. The probabilities are they organized a class, but nothing very definite relative to its history is known. Mr. Cannon took a claim where J.P. King now lives; he gave it to James Folden, but James was too slow and another jumped it. Among those who were regular attendants at the log cabin services were: J.L. and Nancy Burger, Abraham and Sarah Burger, Wilson and Adeline Bomar.

The history of the Waubonsie church naturally divides itself into four periods as follows: Log cabin, log school house, old church, present church. The next period to consider is the Log school house period.

In the latter part of 1850 a definite organization was effected under the leadership of William Simpson, a cousin of the famous Bishop Mathew Simpson. Services were held about every two weeks in a log school house situated on what is now the Manford Linville farm. Those who attended services here well remember the large old fashioned fire place. Mr and Mrs. George Folden of the present membership is the only one now who hold a like relation in that early organization. Mr. Folden still has two books which he purchased of Bro. Simpson, they were, "The Memory of Galilee" and "The Ohio Penitentiary".

Mr. Folden also has a class book which dates back to 1851, the same year in which the county was organized. The work was then known as a part of the Council Bluffs Mission. The first record of preaching was made Dec. 13, 1851. The Organization at that time had a membership of 42. Solomon T. Kesterson joined the society Jan. 30, 1852. Several transfers to Coonville are noted. By Sept. 5, 1852, the membership had increased until it numbered 101. Among those who died in 1852 were Henrietta Troth, Hannah Wolfe, Hannath Troth, Isaac Troth and Hannah Rains. In January of 1854 the following record is found; " George Anthony died in the faith.". On April 3, 1853, a quarterly meeting was held but no particulars are given. Nov. 27, 1853, a quarterly meeting was held at Sidney.

Other transfers noted during this period wer to Prairie Hollow.

Those were pioneer days when travel was by stage and by wagon drawn by oxen. The territory was at first called the "New purchase from the Indians". Deer, Antelope and wild turkey were plentiful and kept the winter larder well supplied. The Indians inhabiting this region were the Otoes and Pottawattamies who were of a rather peaceful disposition.

The organization at the school house preceded the first issue of a newspaper in the county by about six years. It was 17 years before train service was enjoyed.

The Class Leaders, a very prominent feature of Methodism in that day, were as follows:

1852, William Kesterson
1852-3, Dr. John Scott
1853, Nicholas Anthony
1854, James Folden
1855, William Mc Pherron

Other prominent characters still remembered, were the exhorters and head preachers. Elder Peter Cooper had the distinction of conducting the first funeral service in Anderson township, that of Augustus Richards, who was buried in the Farm Creek graveyard. In 1852 Rev. Abraham Towner officiated at the marriage of John Wolfe and Julia Kesterson. Rev. Townder lived on what is now the Homer Kier farm. He rendered valuable service to the church as a local preacher.

Two more names whos lives and services were interwoven in the history of that age were "Father" Mann and Uncle Billy Rector.

The Old Church - In 1854 the first church building was erected on the present site. The land was given by Wm. Wolf. The church never was dedicated. Rev. Isaac Kelly was the pastor.

Prominent among its builders were William. Wolf, Thomas Burns, Greenbury Jones, James. Folden, Eli Withrow and Robert Withrow.

The lumber was sawed at the Wm. Wolfe mill. Part of the first church is now a portion of the residence of Grandma Eliza Wolf.

At one time smallpox broke out in the community and this building was used as a pest house.

The first funeral service in this building was held in April, 1857, and Arthur Boyd, the son of S. and N. Boyd was the first burial in the present cemetery.

Waubonsie responded nobly to our country's need during 1861-5, and many of our church offered themselves upon the altars of service. Some are sleeping beneath the southern sod while not a few returned to find their last resting place amid the scenes of childhood and youth.

The present church was built in 1886 after the big revival of the fall of 1884. Amos Dean was the architect and builder. It was dedicated by presiding elder W.T. Smith. Rev. Morrow was pastor.

In 1905-6, under Rev. Peter Jacobs' pastorate the church was painted and plastered, the old seats were replaced by better ones, and other small improvements were made involving a total expenditure of nearly $325.00

Waubonsie has had no small part in supplying material for the ministry.

This is her record:
Methodist- Andy Folden, William Folden, Joe Newell, Simpson Withrow, Eli Withrow, Henry Hubbard, and Lafe Wolf.

United Brethern- James Hurst, S.S. Commonds, Ileve Lemmonds and Robert Kesterson

Baptists- John Newell.

Christian, John Plumer

Waubonsie church has experienced three big revivals. The first was in the Log school house under WIlliam Simpson. The second was in the Old church under Rev. Hughes. "Little Hughes" they called him. The last great meeting was during the winter of 1884. It lasted eleven weeks and stirred the country for miles around, resulting in several emarkable conversions.

Besides Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Folden already mentioned, Mrs. W.E. Utterback of Fairview and Mrs. Nancy merrit of Glenwood were members of the Log school house society.

This was the end of Rev. Peter Jacobs writing.. Later Mr Amos Jensen wrote something similar, using the nearly the exact words but much was changed and in error so I won't present his writings. He added the following at the end of his writings:

The last funeral in the old church was Mrs. Hannah Kesterson, Oct. 13, 1886, by M.L. Wolf. The first funeral in the new church was Daisy Lambert, Dec. 13, 1886, by Robert Kesterson.

Footnote: During recent years the church was not used and appeared for sale on county tax rolls. It was pruchased by Dr. Joe and Dr. Marianne Giangreco and legally donated to Lyons Township, Mills County, Iowa in 1996. Restoration of the church is progressing while being used as a community center. Waubonsie Church is available for appropriate activities, such as weddings, funerals, family reunions, clubs, special services and programs.


Picture Courtsey of David Kesterson Cupertino CA

Concord Baptist Church
Lafayette County Missouri


by Vola, Wayne and Jeff Noah
Printed by Jostens, Clarksville TN37040 page 25

"Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist church was organized November 22, 1852. The first pastor was Elder Levi Nave. The first clerk was Stokley Lanham . The first deacons were Benjamin Campbell and Stokley Lanham. Charter members were originally from Rob Camp Baptist Church and Caves Spring as follows : Able Kesterson, Nancy Kesterson, Elarnana Kesterson, Adaline Kesterson, Susan Kesterson, David Kesterson, George, Andrew, Benjamin, John, Eliza, Nancy and Mary Campbell and Mary Campbell,Levi and Sarah Brooks, George Nevils, Hezekiah Jones, Ann Jones, Stokley Lanham, P L Lanham, Mary Whitaker, Martha Friar and Orlen A Simmons.

The first church building was erected in 1852 and the present church building was built in 1943. Class rooms were added in 1954. A fellowship hall was added in 1985. ... The church is located approximately two miles off Cedar Fork Road on Cedar Grove Road."



"Ordered that John Casterson attend the Rev'd James Stevenson when he preaches at Edward Smiths and that he read prayers the other Sundays at George Chadwells.
(No dates given - late 1700's approx.)



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