PART TWO: Rev. Hoge Organizes First Church In Franklin County
James Hoge returned from his first visit to the Ohio country aflame with enthusiasm for the great opportunities his new land offered to young men of courage and initiative. On his return in 1804 he opened a school for boys near Harpers Ferry. It was attended by his three younger brothers and ten other boys. He continued his theological studies and in the spring of 1805 was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. At his own request he was commissioned by the General Assembly in Philadelphia, April 17, 1805, as ( quote ) “ A domestic missionary to Ohio and territory adjacent thereto. “
In the autumn of 1805, when he was 21 years of age, he set out on horseback for Ohio. He stopped at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Woods; Wheeling, Virginia ( now West Virginia ) for a night’s lodging. (There were no hotels in the town. ) The daughter in the home attracted the young minister and in 1810 he returned to Wheeling and claimed Jane Woods as his bride.
He had arranged with Lucas Sullivant to meet him on the banks of the Hocking River and from there they traveled together. Throughout the third day they traveled with two federal judges who were going to Franklinton to open the first term of Federal Court ever held in Franklin County. James Hoge and Lucas Sullivant became fast friends. Rev. Hoge remained for some time as a guest of the Sullivant family in their fine brick residence. This house still stands as a part of the building now known as the Convent of the Good Shepherd, West Broad St. at Sandusky St. The whole history of Franklin County and especially the Westside and the Hilltop is tied into the life and activities of Lucas Sullivant. For more about his life and the founding of Franklinton and the Hilltop go to www.touring-ohio.com/profiles/lucas-sullivant.html.
On Nov. 19, 1805, Rev. James Hoge arrived in this new frontier country at the town of Franklinton, founded by Lucas Sullivant in 1797. It was this Thursday evening that the little party of men, James Hoge, Lucas Sullivant, and the two Federal Judges rode into Franklinton. On the following Sunday, Nov. 22, the judges offered Rev. Hoge the use of the court room for a church service. The court room was a room in the house of James Overdier. The judges and the members of the grand jury came to hear him preach his first sermon in Ohio. In the following weeks he continued to hold services every Sunday in the John Overdier house. He spent much of his time during the week riding about on horseback through the woods visiting families living in cabins on remote farms. These lonely people warmly welcomed the young preacher.
Franklinton had the reputation of being a “wicked and depraved community.” Fighting and drinking were common among both white settlers and Indians. Not a bridge was over any stream within 100 miles, roads were all but impassable and mail was brought once a week on horseback from Chillicothe. On Feb. 8, 1806, Rev. Hoge organized a church with a membership of five men and eight women. As to our knowledge this was the first church of ANY denomination in all Franklin County which then covered parts of the present counties of Pickaway, Madison, Union, Licking and all of Delaware and Marion.