Religious life in the Paradise area dates back to September 1, 1822 when seven people met with Rev. Daniel Banks in the home of Olney and Hopese Hines to form a church. The congregation met in a school house across the road from the old Hemenway home, relatives of Doris Hemenway Zint.
In 1829, Rev. Munger organized the first Sunday School in Warrick County in the building. The Sunday School was very successful and set as its main duty to provide a library for books and tracts to be used by the community. An American Sunday School Union representative visited after a few years and offered them $5.00 for new books if the congregation would match the amount. “Every man present put in what he had but they lacked $ 1.50.” The difference was loaned to them to be repaid later.
Rev. Calvin Butler pastored a period of great prosperity for the church from 1830 – 37. A building near Ellis Cemetery was obtained to be used as a church. Active families included Curtis, Castle, Fuquay, Hewins, McKinney, Pine, Snyder, and Wilder. “In 1837, the church had difficulties in government and the disturbance caused a division in this local church.” Rev. Butler left and the church building was neglected. When he returned a few years later, the congregation had scattered and never regained its strength.
Rev. Benjamin Hall, a local minister, built five or six strong churches in the county and aroused interest locally in 1858. He accepted an offer by Martin Townsend to deed property for a church and cemetery. The Townsend and Olin families had already started a cemetery on the site. Community residents cut trees on land belonging to several families and hauled them to Nagley’s mill on Pigeon Creek north of Evansville. Lewis and Nathan Walden and James Pine took their teams and hauled all the rough lumber. A house carpenter, Erastus Williams, was contracted for the construction. Many hours of labor were donated by the minister and neighbors.
Rev. Burroughs preached the dedication sermon for the new building in May 1860 while the congregation sat on wood planks propped on log blocks because the seats were not ready. This guest speaker was later killed in the Civil War which was just beginning about the time the church was completed. On the day of the dedication, “amounts of money were made up by subscriptions enough to wipe out all the debt.”
Once the congregation settled into the building, neighbors of the new church met to clear off the cemetery. The area was surveyed and anyone could take possession of a rod-square plot free of charge. A strip on the west side was reserved for the Townsends, Olins, and Waldens. After 21 years of preaching locally, Rev. Hall moved to Iowa in the 1870’s. As was typical at the time, he had served both the Newburgh and Townsend congregations
simultaneously. Later, Townsend was grouped with Chandler andMt. Pisgah to share a minister. Then they were paired with Newburgh again before being made a “full fledged” church called Townsend Congregation.
The next minister, Rev. Freeman, organized the building’s first Sunday School with William Hewins a as Superintendent. Rev. Freeman was also principal of the old Delaney Academy in Newburgh. He moved to Lincoln, Illinois when he was chosen President of Lincoln University, a Presbyterian school.
The building continued in the Lord’s service until about 1926. Then for a time no services were held and the building fell into disrepair. After several years, Rev. Carl Smith of the American Sunday School Union came, surveyed area families, and convinced them of their need for a church and Sunday School in the community. In September 1929, the building reopened as TownsendCommunity Church. Mary Fleeger, Isabelle Cobb, Pearl and Bob Ferguson, andDoris and Gene Zint were among the first to attend. Pearl Ferguson, and Dorisand Gene Zint can still recount many experiences from TCC’s earliest years. Isabel Cobb and Bob Ferguson, as well as a number of other Townsend saints, have gone on to be with the Lord.
Much repair work was done after the reopening. Roof repair, plaster patching, wallpapering, and reflooring were completed. The 1940’s saw the addition of two Sunday School rooms, a vestibule, a basement, and a new furnace. The note-burning for these improvements was in May 1949. The Ladies’s Aid purchased for the church the ground on which the parsonage was built in the mid 1950’s.
>Rev. Willard Rockhill filled the pulpit from October 1963 to June 1971 and marked several milestones during the period. In March of 1965, the congregation voted to affiliate with Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA) to provide fellowship with like-minded believers and mutual assistance. On Mother’s Day of the same year, ground was broken for a new church building. The dedication service in the completed structure was May 15, 1966.
Rev. Walt Davis served as pastor from 1971-1981. It was during this time that the church paid off their indebtedness and witnessed the note-burning in September of 1975.
Pastor Mike Ward and his family came June 2, 1981 and served until November of 2017. The church has seen some important additions and growth in ministry and facilities since then.. In 1983 the church started to offer the AWANA youth clubs which ministers to over one hundred boys and girls each week. 1984 saw the building of a $160,000 multi-purpose building, with a gymnasium, additional restrooms and classroom space. This has greatly added to the service and fellowship opportunities of the church. The church called Pastor Jim Thompson to be the assistant pastor in 1987, and to begin a daughter church in Dale, Indiana. That work is now on its own and prospering in their own facilities. Steady growth made it necessary to build a $250,000 addition in 1995 for classrooms, an enlarged auditorium, kitchen, and dining areas. God has blessed and we are thankful for His faithfulness and give Him all the glory!
Pastor Quintin Merson and his wife Catherine ministered with us from February to November 2018 before being called to return to the church he had founded in Maryland.