Church History

Rock Prairie, as it exists today, began nearly 160+ years ago. In 1852 there were things happening in Tipton and around the world. Among the noteworthy world events that occurred in that year included:

January 14 - President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte proclaims a new constitution for the French Second Republic.

February 16 - Studebaker Brothers wagon company, precursor of the automobile manufacturer, is established.

March 20 - Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is published.

August 3 - First Boat Race between Yale and Harvard, the first American intercollegiate athletic event.

November 2 - Democrat Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire defeats Whig Winfield Scott of Virginia in the U.S. Presidential Election.

Also in 1852 Elder Jay Randolph, with nine charter members, organized Rock Prairie Separate Baptist Church. There was no official building at that time, so the small congregation met in various homes. By word of mouth it was told that they later met in the Rock Prairie School located on Highway 19 on the south side of 350 North. This sounds reasonable since the church was later built near this location.

In 1876 Trustees George R. Earlywine and Edward Barkley donated land and lumber for the construction of a church at 350 North and Highway 19. The cost of the small white church was twelve hundred dollars, and the dedication was led by Elder G.W. Baumgardner. Some of the early pastors were Jay Randolph, G.W. Turner, W.H. Spurlin, G.W. Baumgardner, Omer McCoy, Charles Brubaker, Truman Beatty, and Thomas Woods.

In 1914 Rock Prairie Separate Baptist Church, under Pastor Omar McCoy, became an affiliate of the Northern Indiana Association of Separate Baptist in Christ.

In 1931, during the depression, Pastor Glen Nephew came to Rock Prairie. Present members Norma Whitehead and Kenny Welcher have fond memories of helping their mother clean the church building in those days. Norma also remembers her grandfather, Chester Garver, had a huge farm truck which he used to pick up families in Sharpsville and take them to Rock Prairie. Georgia Ryan remembers her family riding to church in that truck.

Gus McAdams came to Rock Prairie in 1938 and shared the pulpit with Pastor Glen.

On his way to Rock Prairie each Sunday, Pastor Gus made a stop at the Anderson radio station, WHBU, to preach. There was always an invitation to the listening audience to visit Rock Prairie. 16 year old Jim Harlow was listening to that station with his dad when it was announced there would be a camp meeting in Phlox, Indiana. He went to the meeting and saw a beautiful girl that he wanted to get to know better. When they visited Rock Prairie on Sunday, he discovered that same girl. Her name was Sue Welcher. Jim and Sue were later married, and were active in the ministry of Rock Prairie for over 50 years. Jim graduated to heaven in 2008, and Sue continues to serve!

Pastor Max Wyrick came to Rock Prairie in 1955. He stayed for five years. During his stay, termites were discovered under the floorboards of the sanctuary. At a business meeting in 1958, it was decided it would be better to tear down the old church and build a new one. James Shirley told the congregation he would match whatever was given for the construction of the new church.

Because of growth, the new church had to be larger. Glen Neaville donated land to the east of the church and told the congregation to take as much as they needed. Not realizing they would need more land later on, they took just what they needed at that particular time. To keep the cost down in building the new structure, members of the church helped out wherever they could. The final cost was $22,000. Dedication services were held August 9, 1959 with Max Wyrick and Gus McAdams sharing the pulpit.

In 1960 Cletis Bogue took over the reins of leadership and preached until 1975, at which time he handed over those reins to Pastor Leon Clark. Pastor Leon led the congregation from 1975 to 1980.

The church continued to grow, so an addition was added onto the east side of the church in 1978. It provided a larger sanctuary, more classroom space, a nursery at the back of the sanctuary, and more restroom facilities. The cost was around $40,000.

It was in 1980 that Pastor Leon first brought up the possibility of having a full time pastor. He mentioned that Kevin Smith had just finished college and discussed his qualifications. On March 1 the congregation voted to call Kevin Smith as Rock Prairie’s first full time pastor. He was paid $100 a week with $150 weekly living expenses.

In March of 1986, an advisory committee was formed to investigate the possibility of adding a fellowship hall, kitchen, restrooms, more office space, and a new entrance on the north side of the church. The budget for this project was set at $135,000. Members of the congregation again worked on the addition to defray the cost of the construction. Kevin Smith, Vic Fuller, and Albert Cooper donated their time practically every day. The final cost of the new structure was $155,830. It was dedicated May 31, 1987. At that time, Pastor Smith felt the Lord was calling him to a new work, and he left to pursue that option.

A unanimous vote then brought Kim Drake to Rock Prairie in April of 1987. During Pastor Drake’s tenure, the church grew to over 200 people, and, in 1997, it was decided that the advisory committee should begin a search for 15 acres on which to build a new church.

Through prayer, the Lord provided land and a place to worship, in Tipton at the vacant Lincoln School on Highway 19. The church was able to buy the property on their second bid for $175,000. Remodeling expenses were kept to a minimum, because the body of Rock Prairie pitched in and donated their time and special gifts to make our new home a beautiful place of worship. Our first service was Easter of 2000.

In 2002, Pastor Drake decided to pursue new ministry opportunities, so a special committee of 12 people was formed to look for a new pastor. The committee decided that all must agree on the man found. The Lord not only worked with the 12 in finding the new pastor, but he worked in the life of Pastor Kevin Carr, who was hired in February of 2003.

In 2005 Jerry Markins was called as the first full-time Associate Pastor at Rock Prairie.

In 2009, Jason Armes began serving as our first full-time Youth Pastor.

In 2013, David Sluka began serving as our first full-time Worship Pastor.

Under the guidance of the Pastors and Deacons, Rock Prairie has continued to carry the Gospel of Christ into the local community in new and innovative ways, and the church has continued to grow. Currently, over 500 people call Rock Prairie their church home, and the church has recently constructed a new sanctuary on the East side of our Building to accommodate this growth.

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