Peter's Creek Christian Church
This is a first in a series of articles which will appear semi-occasionally (hopefully at least monthly) in our newsletter, highlighting interesting anecdotes or persons in the history of our church.
Have you ever heard of Peter’s Creek Christian Church of Washington County, Pennsylvania? Neither had I until I started doing research on the history of our church. And yet, the history of this little church is closely intertwined with the origins of our congregation.
Jesse Higbee, a founder of our congregation, was from southwestern Pennsylvania, and from his youth he had been a member of the Peter’s Creek Baptist Church. Peter’s Creek Church was a member of the Redstone Baptist Association, the organization of which the first Disciples of Christ congregation, the Brush Run Church, was a member, together with its pastor, Alexander Campbell. Campbell and the Brush Run Church had joined the Redstone Association because of their agreement with the Baptists that baptism should be a conscious choice of the individual and that infants should not be baptized. However, in many other ways they disagreed with Baptist doctrine, particularly its insistence on agreement with certain creeds. From the beginning it was an uneasy relationship. Campbell preached frequently in most of the Baptist churches of the association, attracting many people to his message of the reunion of all Christians on New Testament principles and a return to the primitive church as he saw it described in the New Testament.
In 1823, the Redstone Association and the Brush Run Church severed their relationship with one another. Probably around 1830 the leadership of the Peter’s Creek Baptist Church expelled the “heretic Campbellites”, as the followers of Alexander Campbell were derisively called. Among those expelled were Jesse Higbee; Edward Riggs, Jesse’s future brother-in-law and David Newmyer, Jesse’s future father-in-law. Jesse’s own father, Obadiah Higbee, who remained with the Baptist majority, was furious and threw Jesse out of the house, declaring that “he had disgraced the Baptist Church and his . . . family,” according to a letter written by Jesse’s son Arthur many years later.
The exiles began to meet for worship in Edward Riggs’s home. This nucleus grew in a few years to become the Peter’s Creek Christian Church (today known as the Brightwood Christian Church). According to Jesse’s son, Alexander Campbell took the young Jesse under his wing, and thus began his long career as a lay evangelist/preacher. In 1849, he and his father-in-law came to Johnson County, Iowa, settled in Higbee’s Grove and planted the seeds from which our congregation has grown.