The community that immediately shaped the faith of my Ice ancestors, and in which at least three generations of Ice’s participated, is Center Point Christian Church in Center Point, Doddridge County, West Virginia. Their involvement in this congregation in the 1850′s and 1860′s is the earliest I can place them, with certainity, in the Stone-Campbell movement.
The origins of this small congregation are unknown. Center Point and Doddridge County are basically absent from every indexed Stone-Campbell periodical. They are meeting in or near the building they now occupy as early as the Civil War. Isaac Ice’s daughter, aged seven years, died in 1863 and was buried in the church cemetery. This is not only the earliest date I can place the Ice’s at Center Point Church, it is the earliest I can verify the existence of the congregation. Isaac, his wife Elizabeth and son Andrew Jackson Ice are buried there. Andrew’s son Kromer was a member of this congregation for about a year before he went to Hiram College in 1899. Kromer (K. C.) preached his first sermon at Center Point Church September 6, 1896. Alex Kuhn, a Bethany College graduate, preached there and baptized Kromer a few months earlier. The last contact I am aware of which KC Ice had with this church was in 1898-1899. He returned to West Virginia after he completed the MD at St. Louis College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1903. I envision him preaching here some while he was a student at Bethany College from 1904-1907 and perhaps again some while he preached at McMechen Christian Church, up near Wheeling, in 1907 and again in 1911. But I have no proof, only hunches. If he kept records of any preaching at Center Point other than his first sermon they are likely long gone as no one in the family has them.
The congregation has never been large. The Wikipedia article for Center Point says it is a “village in the middle of nowhere”…a fact to which I can heartily attest…Laura and I drove to Center Point on our honeymoon in the summer of 1998 (that wasn’t the only destination on our honeymoon). It is beautiful. The sort of place I wouldn’t mind retiring to. The village is rural and remote and the congregation has never had more than about 80 or so members.
Center Point Church is listed in the Yearbooks of the Disciples of Christ from the 1910′s until 1984. It is listed in the Directory of the Ministry of Christian Churches/Churches of Christ first in 1972 and is still listed there in the 2009 edition with a membership of 75. In 1984 the congregation decided to discontinue their affiliation with those Christian Churches which became the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Citing dissatisfaction with the Disciples affiliation with the National and World Councils of Churches, Center Point congregation removed their listing from the Yearbook. To ask to be “removed from the Yearbook” is tantamount to withdrawing from the denomination. They had been listed dually in both the Directory of the Ministry and the Disciples Yearbook for a dozen years.
Tracing the history of this congregation has not been easy. It does not appear in the indices to the Millennial Harbinger, Barton Stone’s Christian Messenger, Walter Scott’s Evangelist, the Christian Record, Missionary Tidings, World Call, Christian Standard or the Christian-Evangelist. Doddridge County doesn’t appear either…in any of those indices! Without some kind of notice in the papers it is next to impossible to locate the men who preached there. As to the origins of the congregation…I’m totally in the dark. DCHS does not have a congregational file for this church or for the county.
There was a West Virginia state paper: the West Virginia Christian. The bad news is that the holdings at DCHS consist of fragments of three issues I contributed from my papyrological inheritance from KC Ice via Grandad (Dr. MC Ice). Nothing on Center Point.
So, I have no idea when this church started, by whom or under what circumstances…no congregational file, not even the first mention of this congregation in any of the major indexed periodicals of the Stone-Campbell movement, no mention of it in Cramblett’s state history of West Virginia Disciples, and no idea who preached here, for how long, where they came from or where they went when they left.
The only names I have are James P. Freese who preached at Center Point in the middle to later 1970′s. James was somehow associated with Kentucky Christian College. Charles B. Guthrie preached there from 1972, when they first were listed in the Directory of the Ministry, until 1975. Beyond that I am in the dark.
It may be that I can visit Center Point again someday. More to come.