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Wall collapse threatens closure of Fountain County church

Bill Glover, left, shows Don Cumbow name listed in an attendance book for Osborn Prairie Christian Church. The men's families attended the church.
Bill Glover, left, shows Don Cumbow name listed in an attendance book for Osborn Prairie Christian Church. The men's families attended the church.
Nick Hedrick/Journal Review
Posted

STONE BLUFF — Don Cumbow descends a steep staircase to the basement at Osborn Prairie Christian Church and pulls back a heavy tarp, revealing the work needed done to save the 128-year-old house of worship.

A wall in the hand-dug cellar collapsed after a heavy rainfall in 2018, disrupting the congregation that uses the church about a mile west of Stone Bluff. The building’s trustees know how much it will cost to rebuild the wall, but have been unable to hire someone to make the repairs.

“We just can’t find any contractors that want to monkey with it,” said trustee Don Cumbow, whose family was active in the Osborn Prairie congregation.

The church was established in 1838 when area settlers began meeting to worship after a funeral. After the first two buildings were destroyed by fire, the current Gothic Revival church was built in 1892.

The congregation hosted rallies and enrollment calls during the Civil War, and the faithful were baptized during ice cream socials over the years.

“We was absolutely required to attend Sunday school and church,” said trustee Bill Glover, who still has a pin awarded to him for perfect attendance.

In the sanctuary, where two candles sat on the altar, Cumbow and Glover paged through stacks of church registers listing names, offering totals and the weather conditions for services dating before World War I.

“About all these people you see listed in these books are out there in that cemetery,” Cumbow said, pointing toward the church’s graveyard, where his mother was buried in 2018.

Her 92-year-old sister-in-law and Glover’s 102-year-old mother are the only remaining original members.

Since 2007, the church has been home to the Church of God’s Love, which started in an old Benjamin Franklin store in Veedersburg. Members maintain the building and pay the utility bills. The congregation also put in new doors, a well and sump pump.

The basement was used for youth group members and church dinners until the wall collapsed.

“We were beginning to grow when this did happen,” said Chester Goins, who co-founded Church of God’s Love.

Osborn Prairie trustees received a $2,400 grant from nonprofit preservation group Indiana Landmarks to hire a historic structure engineer to assess the building.

A few contractors have expressed interest in fixing the wall. Trustees are waiting to ask the public for donations until the cost estimates come in.

Church of God’s Love continues meeting in the building on Sunday mornings, drawing 20-25 people for services. Goins said he hopes more people will fill the pews.

“That’s why we stay there. We feel like it’s going to work,” he said.

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