The church was organized in 1820. We were then known as the Oakland Methodist Episcopal Church South. The first pastor was Reverend Gilby Kelly. The church was built out of logs at the time. The first officers of the church were Mr. Greenup Barker, Mr. David Truesdale, and Mr. James Pryor. The church building was also used as a school and the school trustees were Mr. Chris Pfender and Mr. Henry Miller.
The location of this first church building was at the junction of Fender Road and Four and Twelve Mile Turnpike. The church building stood here for approximately 10 years before it burned to the ground. Incidentally, the turnpike was a toll road that went from Kentucky Route 10 to Silver Grove. A horse and buggy could run the full route for 20 cents.
After the first church burned, Mr. Greenup Barker donated the land on McKebben Road off Nelson Road for another church to be built. Reverend Joseph Rand and Reverend W. H. Winter were the pastors at this church.
Nancy Jane (Nelson) Barker was born in 1834. She was the grandmother of Taylor Nelson, great grandmother of Margie Milburn, Albert, and J.D. Nelson, great-great grandmother of Becky Myers and Juanita Cooper, and great-great-great grandmother of Jenny, Brian, and Josh Myers and Luke Cooper. Nancy was saved and joined this church at four and one half years of age in 1838. She also attended the Oakland school. She died in 1934 at the age of one hundred. From stories Nancy passed down through her family, we learn that the only book the students had to read from was the Bible. The students also did not have slates or paper to write on. They bought bundles of wood shingles and wrote on them with charcoal from the fireplace which also served as the school’s heat source. There were no desks to sit behind. The students sat on stools which had three legs. This church was also made out of logs. Reverend Long and Reverend W. B. Godly served in 1863.
At some point during 1844, the word South was removed from the name of the Methodist Church. We entered the Kentucky Conference in 1876 and were then known as the Oakland Methodist Episcopal Church. Reverend C. H. Hoffman was the Pastor from 1879-1880.
Under the Pastorate of Reverend George Frok, the land was purchased where the church now stands. It was procured from Mrs. Elizabeth S. Parker and Mr. Richard Parker in March of 1881. Reverend George Frok served from 1880 – 1883.
The date the construction began on the current church is unknown; however, the members hauled stone with horses and wagons. Mr. Samuel Wesley Nelson fired the kiln to make the lime used in laying up the stone. The basement of our present church was the Oakland School until 1915.
We know that we were a charge church of the Alexandria Methodist Church, but we are uncertain of the year(s) we were part of this charge.
The following is a list of the pastors that served at Oakland in the later years. They were:
Reverend Day – 1884
Reverend Charles Cooper – 1885-1887
Reverend D. E. Bedhenger – 1888
Reverend Kendal – 1889-1894
Reverend Dovan – 1894
Reverend Gardener – 1896
Reverend J. W. Gardener – 1897
Reverend Taylor W. Barker – 1898-1899
While Reverend Barker was here, he built a new church at Carthage and Melbourne.
Reverend W. L. Selby – 1900-1901
Reverend T. B. Cook – 1902-1906
Reverend Newkirk – 1906-1908
Reverend J. R. Nelson – 1908-1912
Reverend S. J. Bradley – 1912-1916
Reverend Beard – 1916-1917
Reverend S. W. Dean – 1918-1920
Reverend C. W. Whitake – 1920-1924
Reverend True – 1925
Reverend Cardwell – 1926
Reverend T. W. Beeler – 1927-1931
Reverend Beeler had an unusual feature in the message that was carved in the six front steps leading up to the church. Carved in the cement was a word on each step which read: CONVICTION, CONFESSION, CONVERSION, CONSECRATION, CLEANSING, AND COMMUNION.
Reverend G. M. Rainey – 1932-1933
Reverend G. W. Boswell – 1933-1937
Reverend W. F. Mitchell – 1937-1947 (Reverend Mitchell was the only minister to serve ten years at this church and the Alexandria church.)
In 1939, the Kentucky Conference voted to remove the word Episcopal out of the name of all the Methodist Churches.
Reverend Weiler – 1947-1950
Reverend B. L. Allen – 1950-1959
In 1955 we were changed over from our charge with Alexandria to a charge with the Carthage Methodist Church.
Reverend C. N. Helphenstine – 1955-1959
While Reverend Helphenstine was here, we had our parking lot enlarged. Drainage pipes were installed and the lot was covered with gravel. Also, in 1959, the church left the charge and was know as the Oakland Methodist Church.
Reverend Fred Schilffarth – 1959-1960
Reverend Allen E. Smith – 1960-1965 While Reverend Smith was here, he built steps to the basement. Before this, we had to go outside to get to the basement Sunday School classes. We also got new pews and furniture to replace the theater-style seats and had the floor refinished.
Reverend Smith had a heart attack while service our church and had to quit in the middle of the year. Reverend Frank Swanson came to fill the position from 1965-1967. On May 5, 1967, as he was mowing grass, Reverend Swanson died very suddenly of a heart attack. Reverend Smith was called back as pastor and stayed until his retirement in 1969. During this tenure, the steps were rebuilt on the front of the church and the words were not included on these steps. All the members helped in this effort.
Reverend W. Langham – 1969-1971
Reverend John Shank – 1971-1972 Reverend Shank was a well loved student pastor who left for a church position in his native state of Illinois.
Reverend Tom Van Auken – 1972-1982 During Reverend Van Auken’s tenure, the church sponsored haunted house fund-raisers five years in a row. This enabled the church to remodel the basement, install inside bathrooms, and purchase a church organ. The plumbing for the new bathrooms was done by church member Earl Schmidt. The bathrooms were framed and finished by Tom Dean and Rusty Fries, and the electric was done by Ken Hall. Also during these years, the church had several weekend campouts. At one of these held at the Kincaid Lake State Park in Falmouth, Kentucky, we had a Galilean Service where Reverend Van Auken preached while standing in a row boat on the lake. At the end of the service, the plug in the boat was pulled as a joke and the Galilean service almost became a Baptism service.
In 1976, our nation’s bicentennial, former pastor Reverend Helphenstine conducted a revival at Oakland April 5-11. On August 29, 1976, Oakland celebrated “Homecoming” and in attendance were Reverend Helphenstine, Reverend Smith, and Reverend Stan Schilffarth representing his father, Reverend Fred Schilffarth.
Reverend Clarence Helphenstine died March 1, 1978.
Oakland’s church choir was formed in 1977 by new church member Rusty Fries. The choir has sung several Christmas and Easter Cantatas. In 1982, the choir performed for the Annual Kentucky Conference in Richmond, Kentucky on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University.
In 1982, Oakland was placed on a charge with the Sunny Acres United Methodist in Taylor Mill, Kentucky. This charge would last until 1987. Our new pastor was Reverend Bill Conatser. In 1984, we celebrated 200 years of Methodism in Kentucky. The event was marked by a parade in Covington, Kentucky. Our church had a float depicting the front of our church with the steps with the six “C” words on the front. Reverend Conatser also dressed up like a “Circuit Riding” Preacher and rode a horse in the parade. A special bicentennial choir consisting of Methodists from all over the Covington District performed at Devou Park in Covington. This choir was conducted by one of our members, Bob Myers. On September 30, 1984, as part of the bicentennial, Oakland celebrated “Heritage Sunday”. This day was marked with old fashioned costumes, a pot-luck dinner, and a service of worship and reminiscing. Music was provided with a fiddle, banjo, and guitar. Members representing each age group of the church spoke of memories they had growing up in the Oakland Church. From the oldest to the youngest were Taylor Nelson, Margie Milburn, Sue Painter, and Debbie Schmidt.
A poem was written by Lori Dean for Heritage Sunday.
Heritage Sunday is here at last
to help us celebrate the past;
Good times gone by mixed with pain and some strife,
But mostly to help us celebrate life.
The Abundant Life, so rich and so free
that Jesus can give to you and me.
Whether we’re young, or whether we’re old,
It’s Jesus that makes our memories gold.
It’s fun to remember the years long gone by,
to sit back in a chair and reminisce with a sigh;
And, it’s hard to believe that in their own “Heritage” way,
our children will sometime remember today
As they tell their own children about the past,
and how life with Jesus is what really lasts.
So Praise the Lord! He’s never changed.
Let’s bless His name together;
For Jesus Christ is the same Today,
Yesterday, and Forever!
Taylor Nelson was our last church member who also attended the Oakland School. He joined the church in 1911 at age fifteen. He helped in the 1929 remodeling program and raised his family in the church. He loved Oakland and said that when he died, he wanted to be in the church. In his last years he walked with two canes. On Sunday morning, March 4, 1990, just one month and one day shy of his ninety-fourth birthday, Taylor got up and got ready to go to Sunday School. He felt very good that morning and remarked to his granddaughter, Patty Ruf, that he couldn’t wait to get to church. As he arrived at church, Mr. Nelson walked up the outside stairs without the use of his canes. He cheerfully walked down the aisle and sat down in his normal pew. About ten minutes before Sunday School was scheduled to begin, Taylor slumped over in his pew. Paramedics were summoned and all attempts to revive him failed. With his sons, J. D. and Albert Nelson looking on, Taylor received his last wish. He left this earth for heaven from the place he loved most, The Oakland United Methodist Church.
Reverend Harry Fegan – 1985-1987
For several years, many ideas had been discussed regarding the need for Sunday School Classrooms. Our classrooms consisted of one room quartered off by Modern-fold doors. This was not much better than curtain dividers. We also needed room in the chancel area for the choir to sing. A building committee was formed and several meetings held. Many options were discussed, but nothing could be agreed upon. At one such meeting, this group consisting of eight men of the church met in the basement of the church. These men were Ken Glahn, Earl Schmidt, Tom Dean, Jerry Painter, Rusty Fries, Ken Hall, Bob Painter, and J. D. Nelson. As these men listed the church’s needs, a drawing began to take shape. The men were in total agreement on all points, and in forty-five minutes they had a drawing of the facility we now use. The spirit of God was a prominent member of that committee. Dave Cox, son-in-law of Clara Painter, painted an artists conception of what the new facility would look like. On April 6, 1986, we broke ground for the new addition at Oakland. Our pastor Harry Fegan, and former pastors Tom Van Auken and Bill Conatser were in attendance and spoke at the ceremony. Also speaking that day were our oldest members Taylor Nelson and Mattie Colliver.
Our plan was to begin with our money from the building fund which amounted to about twenty thousand dollars. We wanted to borrow forty thousand dollars believing we could accomplish our goals for sixty thousand dollars. A neighbor, Mr. Edwin Schultz, donated enough of his adjoining land to help us meet zoning requirements. As we began the actual work and started the paper work for our loan, we discovered there was less than half an acre where our addition would sit that did not belong to us. We continued to work on the building while initiating legal action to procure the land we had been maintaining since 1929. This is where God really worked with us. A group of the men worked four evenings per week and each Saturday for two and one half years building this addition. The ladies prepared lunch for the workers each Saturday. The congregation saw the need and gave generously to the building fund. We continued to work and pay our bills as we incurred them. Reverend Fegan was moved to a new church and Reverend Jasper Harmon came to us in 1987. We were finishing the drywall in the church and needed to have the heating system installed to keep the new construction from being ruined. Our loan had still not been approved. In a meeting of the building committee, this grave matter was discussed. Reverend Harmon asked us how much we needed to install the furnaces. We told him ten thousand dollars. He reached in his pocket, pulled out his checkbook, and handed us a check for ten thousand dollars. There was no doubt to him or us that God had sent him to us just at the right time. We were installing the pews when the loan was approved. We repaid Reverend Harmon’s ten thousand dollars off the top of the loan. (He would not allow us to pay him interest!) During the reconstruction process, our congregation met at the Carthage United Methodist Church. We had our service at 9:00 a.m. We shared the Sunday School hour with the folks from Carthage, then we went home and they had their service at 11:00 a.m.
When the job was complete we had remodeled the old part of the church and built a 24’ X 50’ addition which included six nice sized classrooms, a new chancel area with a choir area, and a new kitchen and fellowship hall. The project cost us one hundred twenty thousand dollars and praise God we still only borrowed forty thousand dollars.
We moved back into the Church in the fall of 1987. Reverend Harmon remarked that this was the first appointment he had to preach for seven months before standing in the pulpit of the church he was assigned to. His first seven months were spent with our congregation at Carthage.
We had a Consecration service for the new facility August 13, 1989. Reverend Harmon, Reverend Van Auken, and Reverend Conatser in addition to our District Superintendent Dr. Harold Gardner were in attendance.
A special poem was written for the Consecration Service by Janet Moore:
The Temple of God was a holy place
Where God Himself dwelt,
Where His anointed priests would go,
The Shekinah glory felt.
The Temple of God was Sanctified,
For the purpose of worship and praise,
Where sacrifices were made to God
To atone the people’s ways.
Today, the Temple of God is alive,
In the hearts of you and me,
Where God wants to dwell in holiness
And give us victory.
The Bible tells us to dedicate
Our lives to Him each day,
To be a living sacrifice,
Transformed to live His way.
We’re Temples of the Living God,
Where worship is the same,
He’ll dwell in us like Temples of old,
When we magnify His name.
Reverend Harmon served until 1992.
Reverend Robert Yates came to us in 1992. In the spring of 1995, Reverend Yates was diagnosed with cancer. He continued to preach as long as he was physically able; however, the cancer worked quickly. Reverend Yates died on October 9, 1995. Reverend Yates always spoke with a “smile in his voice”. Anyone who attended Oakland before his death could testify that his sermons became stronger as the cancer progressed. He was truly a gentleman.
Besides Nancy Jane (Nelson) Barker, we had the great honor of one other centurian. Marshall Douglas Nelson lived 101 years. Mrs. Eunice Truesdale passed away two weeks before her 100th birthday.
We have also had the great honor of having four preachers originate from this church. They were Thomas Greenup Nelson, Bain Nelson, J. R. Nelson, and Taylor W. Barker. One of our members, Myrtle Barker, served as a missionary to Korea.
Several of our students have earned special honors. Kim Painter Holzschuh, daughter of Sue and Jerry Painter, served as Field Commander in the Campbell County High School Band 1984-85 her Junior and Senior years. In 1990, Shelly Schmidt, daughter of Debbie and Earl Schmidt was the Campbell County High School Homecoming Queen. Nicole Hall, daughter of Darlene and Ken Hall, was the 1993 Campbell County High School Valedictorian. Jenny Myers, daughter of Becky and Bob Myers, toured in 1993 with the Continental Singers, and served as Field Commander in the Campbell County High School Band 1996-97 her Junior and Senior years. Chris Fries, son of Rusty and Judy Fries toured the U. S. and Europe with the Continental Orchestra in 1993. Amy Fries, daughter of Rusty and Judy Fries served as Field Commander in the Campbell County High School Band 1993-94 her Junior and Senior years.
After passing of Reverend Yates, the Pastor Parish Relations Committee worked very closely with Reverend Jackson Brewer the District Superintendent of the Covington District to name a new pastor. Former District Superintendent Eugene Barbour was named as the Interim Pastor. Reverend Barbour began the second Sunday in December 1995 and served through Easter Sunday in 1996.
Former Pastor Bill Conatser returned to us in April 1996. No longer serving in the itinerant ministry, Reverend Conatser’s status is as a Local Pastor.
This updated history of the Oakland United Methodist Church is compiled from the written history April 30, 1975 by the Committee on History: Mr. Taylor Nelson, Mrs. Edna Taylor, and Mrs. Margie (Nelson Bill) Milburn.
Revised November 25, 1997
Committee on History
J. D. Nelson