Atkins Chapel United Methodist Church
Atkins Chapel is one of the oldest places of worship in southern Indiana. In 1822, Jacob Antrim, a United Brethren circuit-riding preacher, organized a church in Lafayette Township, immediately north of New Albany, in Floyds Knobs. The congregation met for twenty years in a small log building near the intersection of Banet and Balmer Fenwick roads. The United Brethren grew out of the Great Awakening. A loosely organized movement, it took root in German-speaking churches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Ohio. Antrim, recalled as “a good signer, an ingenious preacher, [and] a great exhorter,” brought the faith to southern Indiana, where it spread among early settlers. The congregation of the “Knobs Church,” as the Lafayette Township group became known, declined after a time and eventually disbanded.
In 1845, John A. Atkins, his wife, and several other settlers organized a new church in Lafayette Township. Atkins, a minister and farmer, descended from early settlers. His brothers, Henry and William, also joined the church, and Thomas Conner served as the first minister. The congregation met in a log church formerly used by group of Swedenborgians. This building served the congregation for about a quarter century, when it decided to build a new, more modern structure. John Atkins donated land on Atkins Road, directly opposite the site of the Swedenborgian church, and members of the congregation and neighbors erected “a neat, white frame building.” Because of Atkins’s influence, the structure came to be called “Atkins Chapel.”
Although an 1882 account described Atkins Chapel as “not a strong church,” the congregation grew over time. In 1908, members opted to build a new house of worship. Erected at a cost of $2,500, the new structure measured 24 x 36 feet and with an adjoining vestibule. On August 23, 1908, between 300 and 400 people attended a dedication ceremony led by Reverend J. P. Roberts of Indianapolis. Describing the event for the Religious Telescope, the United Brethren newspaper, a short while later, Roberts claimed he had “never seen a congregation in as limited circumstances . . . give quote so freely and cheerfully.” By the end of the day, the church had raised nearly $700, a sum adequate to sustain its activities for some time.
In 1946, the liberal wing of the United Brethren merged with the Evangelical Association, a Pennsylvania-based group of churches with similar beliefs, to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church. In 1968, this organization merged with Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church (UMC). Atkins Chapel is today known as Atkins Chapel United Methodist. In 1956, the congregation built an annex and enlarged the church basement to provide new classrooms and a fellowship hall.
The late twentieth-century history of Atkins Chapel is closely associated with Reverend Adrian Struble, who served as minster for twenty-four years before retiring in June 1990. Struble, then aged 99, was believed to be the oldest active United Methodist minister in Indiana.