Center Point Christian Church

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 certainty, 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.  As far as I can determine, the congregation was 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.  I have no reason to doubt the Ice family worshipped there consistently from the 1850s-1890s.  The last contact I am aware of which KC Ice had with this church was in 1898-1899.  He returned to various towns in 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 and weekly attendance probably never matched that.

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 church papers it is next to impossible to locate the men who preached there since those notices invariably mention the evangelist (even if visiting for a revival or gospel meeting) and often the goings-on in the church.  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.

Andrew Jackson Ice

AJ and Mary Ann Ice

A. J. Ice was, like his father, a farmer in and near Center Point, Doddridge County (West) Virginia.  At age 14 in 1861 he enlisted, with his father Isaac, in the Union Army.  And like his parents, he is buried at Center Point Christian Church Cemetery.

AJ Ice grave marker

Andrew and his wife Mary Ann Roberts had six children, all boys.  The oldest, Melvin, was twelve when A.J. died of appendicitis in 1882.  The baby, James Abram Garfield Ice, was still an infant.  My great-grandfather, Kromer Columbus Ice (I have seen it spelled Cromer in one of A. J.’s journals) was six years old when his father died.

I inherited a few books with A. J.’s signature in them.  Among them are James Challen’s Question Book on the Acts of the Apostles, designed for Sunday Schools and Bible Classes (1868), Alexander Campbell’s Familiar Lectures on the Pentateuch… (1867) and a small pocket testament.  My hunch is that the testament may have been presented to him upon his baptism.  The scan below, if I am reading it correctly, says “A. J. Ice’s Book/presented to him/ By Mr. R. V. Miller/Sept. the 1st 1866/Presented to him/R. V. Miller/(your guess is as good as mine).”  Of the books I have with his signature inside, this date–Sept. 1, 1866–is the earliest.  He acquired the Campbell book April 14, 1868 and the Challen book May 15, 1869.  The testament, unlike Challen or Campbell, was presented to A.J. Ice.  The others, I can only presume, he acquired somehow else.  Is this presentation evidence of his baptism at the hands of R. V. Miller?  I cannot say, but I wonder nonetheless. (I see there is an obituary in the Christian Standard for an R. V. Miller in 1939, but as yet I have not laid my eyes upon it.)

AJ Ice's NT 1

Isaac and Elizabeth Ice

Isaac and Elizabeth Ice

I can trace my Ice roots in the Restoration Movement back to my great-great-great grandparents, Isaac and Elizabeth Ice, residents in and near Center Point, Doddridge County (West) Virginia.  They are buried in the cemetery at Center Point Christian Church.  I know next to nothing about them, except that Isaac was a farmer and he enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 with his then-fourteen year old son Andrew Jackson Ice (my great-great-grandfather). He then cared for some if not all of Andrew’s sons after he died unexpectedly of appendicitis in 1882.

Isaac Ice grave

Center Point Cemetery

Center Point Christian Church