Richwood Church History
Richwood Presbyterian Church was organized in 1834 and is the oldest Presbyterian Church in Boone County. The Presbyterian Church in Maysville, KY, organized in 1792, is the oldest Presbyterian Church in Northern Kentucky. Just as our country had thirteen original colonies, our church had thirteen original members. Several descendants of the early congregation still worship in our historic church.
The organizing minister was Rev. Joseph Cabell Harrison who with Rev. John Beckenridge, established the first religious paper in Kentucky, "The Western Luminary", in 1824. Rev Harrison was a cousin of President William Henry Harrison.
Originally all Presbyterian Churches in Kentucky were organized under one Presbytery— Ebenezer. In 1935 Richwood Church was transferred to the Louisville Presbytery.
Services were first held in homes and in a school house. In 1841 a "house for public worship" was proposed. In 1842 a lot was purchased and in 1843 it was recorded that the Session met in the new church and a sexton was hired.
The original church was struck by lightning and burned in 1869. The building we worship in today was built in 1870. A Community House was built in 1940 with a kitchen. Our minister, Rev Don Hopkins and his wife, along with their 3 children, lived in the Community House until the manse was built. The stone wall was built in 1930 with stone from the creek directly across the road. As teenage boys, Dr. J.M. Huey and David Houston helped the stonemasons by bringing the stone over from the creek.
Richwood Cemetery separated from Richwood Church in 1930. Prior to that time, persons buried there were Richwood Church members or their relatives. The first burial was George Michael Bedinger Jr. who died in 1833 of cholera in Big Bone during the cholera epidemic. The slaves who were members of Richwood Church had fled prior to or moved away after the Civil War. The first burial of an African American was in Division C in 1933, Mary Sleet Sechrest, a member of the local Sleet family. An area near the stone wall by the entrance was designated a "Potter's Field" for the burial of persons too poor to buy a burial space. The area next to the church on the East was designated for the burial of children.
Richwood held its first worship service in May 1834. Diversity in the 1800’s encouraged slaves to come and join the church. In 1855, Margaret Garner was one such slave. At that time there were 13 white members and 5 black. Members of the church were active in providing educational opportunities for their slaves.
In 1948 the current stone Manse was built by Stanley Ranson with help from other men of the church. The Sunday School Annex was built onto the back of the church in 1960. Prior to this Sunday School classes were held in the four corners of the church with the kindergarten class taught by Lucy Bedinger (a descendant of Rev. David Rice) in the small room in the church vestibule —the coat closet. Kittie Utz Taylor taught grade school age children and Nan Chambers Ranson taught the high school age children. All were teachers by profession and outstanding Sunday School teachers. Pins were awarded for perfect attendance. In 1983 Richwood Church was transferred to the Cincinnati Presbytery. The Fellowship Hall with offices and additional classrooms was added onto the church to replace the Community House in 1993.
Richwood Church has been a comfort for the community throughout the years. This little white framed country church situated in a beautiful rural setting surrounded by a stone wall and maple trees opposite a creek has been the subject of many artists and photographers including, Caroline Williams and George Roth. Richwood Church has been called the most beautiful church in Northern Kentucky, due in part to its setting. Today all are welcome. In recent years Biblical education has been provided through Presbyterian Women Bible Studies, map studies of the history within the Bible and special topical studies.
As a small church, Richwood Church was not always able to support a full-time minister. Some early ministers were employed on a part time basis and served other churches as well. Some had other sources of income, such as farming, or other employment, such as teaching. Among the long list of dedicated, beloved ministers are the following who served for the longest terms:
Rev. J. Russell Cross served two five-year terms and was active in community organizations including the Boy Scouts.
Rev. Jean Hyde Frable was the first female minister and served for nine years, 1998-2007.
Rev. Everett Wade Bedinger was the longest serving minister in the church's history, eleven years, before and again after the Civil War. Two of his sons became Presbyterian ministers, two of his daughters married Presbyterian ministers, one grandson and one nephew also became Presbyterian ministers. Rev. Bedinger, his second wife and many of his fourteen children and their descendants are buried in Richwood Cemetery
Rev. Samuel Lynn had a school and boarded students during the week.
Rev. Willian White also had a private school, White Haven, on U S 42 down the road from the current public school, New Haven. Rev. White had boarding accommodations for both girls and boys. There were periods when the pulpit was filled with "stated supply" from Presbytery, seminary students (licentiates), guest ministers, or Richwood Church Elders. In order to support a part time minister during the depression in the 1940's, Agnes Bedinger Roberts provided free room and board for the pastor, as the manse was rented with the income used for church expenses.
1880 Church Building
This is the current Church building as captured on film in 1880.
Margaret Garner was the first black person brought into our church membership in 1855. The novel Beloved, by Toni Morrison was based on the lives of Margaret and other slaves.
In 2005, Margaret Garner, an opera in two acts, was composed by Richard Danielpour with an English-language libretto by Toni Morrison. The opera is loosely based on actual events in the life of runaway slave Margaret Garner. Co-commissioned by the Michigan Opera Theatre, Cincinnati Opera and Opera Philadelphia, Margaret Garner premièred on 7 May 2005 at the Detroit Opera House in Detroit, Michigan with Denyce Graves in the title role of Margaret.
Margaret Garner was the subject of the 1867 painting by Thomas Satterwhite Noble, called "The Modern Medea," published in the magazine "Harper's Weekly" May 18, 1867 edition
KY Historic Landmark
Services have been held by this old church continuously since it was founded in 1834 by Joseph Cabell Harrison, first pastor. He and cousin John Breckenridge in 1824 founded early religious paper in KY. A cousin of Pres. William H. Harrison. Pastor's wife, Sophia Rice Harrison, a granddaughter of David Rice, father of Presbyterian Church in KY. Harrisons buried here.
The stone wall was built in 1930 with stone from the creek directly across the road.