THE LAST WORD: Old stone church connects to my family’s beginning in Indiana
I have a print of a watercolor painting by my Uncle Paul Hubartt hanging in my home that he gave me years ago of an old stone church near Blooming Grove, Ind.
The significance of the old structure is that it was built on the site of a log church where my great-great-great grandfather, William D. Hubartt, was pastor. The stone church was called Duck Chapel because the stones used to build it came from nearby Duck Creek.
However, my uncle discovered, William D. never saw the stone church. It was built a year or more after he died in 1876. Two of his three sons, however, were also ministers, and Uncle Paul was certain both of them preached in the stone chapel. One of the two, Thomas Hubartt, eventually moved to the Huntington area, and he is the one child of William D.’s seven who was at the top of my family’s line of descent.
So it was with great anticipation that on a trip to southern Indiana two weeks ago, my wife and I hunted down the tiny town of Blooming Grove, hoping to find the old stone church. Blooming Grove is about 140 miles south of Leo, where I live. In fact, Indiana 1 connects Leo with Blooming Grove.
When we arrived in Blooming Grove, which is south of Connersville and just a bit north of Metamora, low and behold, the road intersecting Indiana 1 there was called Old Stone Church Road. We drove west for about three miles down the increasingly narrow, winding, hilly road till we spotted stone walls behind trees and brush on a rise above a sharp curve in the road.
We parked along the side of the road and walked up a steep incline to the chapel, which had no roof, no windows and no doors. Inside was a jungle of trees, vines and other overgrowth, spilling out the window and door openings that made it impossible to see inside, much less go inside.
Behind the church was a small cemetery. And the tallest gravestone was an eight-foot-high monument to William D. Hubartt, born in 1791.
Uncle Paul Hubartt became very involved along with my cousin, Larry Hubartt, in tracing our family history. And it was in 1965 that my uncle first tracked down the church. At that time, he recalled, it was in sound condition and still in use as a church. That’s what inspired his watercolor painting.
But when he returned a few years later, he said, he found the door standing open and the interior empty. Each visit, later on with my cousin, found the deterioration more and more profound. In one of his last writings about the church, Paul said, “It is now an abandoned ruin which will some day be only a pile of stones.”
However, finding the monument in the graveyard led to the discovery that William D. was born in North Carolina on Nov. 13, 1791. At some point at the turn of the century his family headed west through the wilderness frontier, probably with his father, Samuel, my oldest known descendant. They first settled in Butler County, Ohio, which soon became part of Indiana — Uncle Paul recounts how the Ohio state boundary line moved slightly east, so the property on which the Hubartts then lived became Franklin County, Ind.
William D. married in 1812, and they had their first son, John, in 1816. My uncle discovered their next door neighbors in Indiana were likely William D.’s father and mother. Later, William D. moved a few miles west to Blooming Grove Township, where he owned property and became well-established.
In spite of the tall monument to William D. behind the old stone church, my great-great-great grandfather was not really buried there. He spent his last years with his other minister son, George Hubartt, near Lancaster, Ind. When he died on April 6, 1876, he was buried in a church cemetery there.
For me, the experience of standing in the presence of the old stone church was profound. I must have felt much like my Uncle Paul when he first discovered the old chapel and graveyard after searching down the narrow dirt road and getting ready to give up:
“But just as I was ready to turn around,” he wrote, “I spotted this little stone church, silhouetted against the orange sunset … It was surrounded by an old fence with a wooden gate, which I went through … to a small graveyard in back. There it was. On the very first tombstone was my name, HUBARTT, carved in stone. It was a soul moment, which I shall never forget … I immediately sensed a kinship with this little plot of ground, as well as the church building itself. In a way, it was mine.”
Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.