The congregation is gone but the spirit remains at the little historic church of Carbon. It was organized in 1881, by John Owen from Aberdare, South Wales. Owen left his wife and eight children in Wales to come to America in search of a job because of a famine in his native land.
His destination was Indianapolis but when the train stopped in Carbon to take on water, Owen got off for a while and liked what he saw. After securing a job there, Owen joined with other Welsh immigrants to organize the Free Missionary Baptist Church.
The church's storied past continues to speak volumes to those who may feel down or dispirited. It appears to face adversity with hope and spiritual reverence and always seems to survive.
In 1905 the town of Carbon burned. Believed to have started by a spark from a passing train landing on the roof of a tavern, the fire consumed much of the town and burned right up to the side to the church then stopped. The church was spared.
But it ran into one obstacle that was nearly impossible to overcome. After repaintings, remodelings, refurbishings and add-ons many congragants wanted something the little church couldn't give them, a new, spacious, modern structure.
The doors were closed and church services stopped at the historic little church in 1999. Eventually it was deeded to the town of Carbon and leased to the historic little church of Carbon Corporation.
It's no longer a place of regular Sunday worship services led by a pastor, but it's still providing for the needs of many. Curator Norma Cress said they are trying to promote the church and keep it available for the needs of the community.
The church, which can seat up to 125 people, can be rented for numerous social functions such as weddings, receptions, showers, funerals, family reunions, banquets, auction fundraisers or some profit making events. Much of the love that went into the construction and maintenance of the building is evident and can be still be felt while walking through the church.
"The wood finish on the organ, which was donated by Wilmadine Baker's daughter, nearly matches the coloring of the original wood trim, wainscoting, pews and window framing," Cress said.
Old fashion looking tin lantern candle holders help decorate the white lights and grapevine covered window sills.
Cress explained that the lush solid oak doors at the entrance to the sanctuary came from an old gymnasium in Terre Haute and were restored by Donna Williams.
"The stain glass filled transom above the doors were redone by Joe Britton," she added. "Joe also built the steeple and the stained glass windows in it. The old Church bell in it still rings."
There have been some modern changes added besides the heating and air conditioning. Carpet covers the old wooden floor and some pews were added up front where a sand box used to be.
"There used to be a large sandbox at the right side of the altar and close to the heating stove," Cress said. "The kids could play in it during services. It kept them busy and quiet so the adults could hear the sermon. But some of the ladies complained. They said the sand spilled out and scratched up the wood floor too much so it was eventually taken out and covered with carpet."
The pastor's office is now the bride's room. The annex has modern cooking facilities and can seat at least 70 comfortably.
The church and annex has already been used for a couple weddings, a Thanksgiving dinner, a quilt show and several yard sales. Besides those events the church or annex could be used for craft programs, business or organizational meeting, funerals, family gatherings and numerous other functions. It will be open during the Carbon Fish Fry on Sept. 21.
"The church has a First Friday Talent Show the first Friday of every month," Cress said. "It starts at 7 p.m. and goes until everybody's done. It can be any kind of entertainment, music, playing a musical instrument, singing. Everybody's welcome. It's lots of fun. It's growing every month."
Rental rates are: annex only-$75 per day, whole church for weddings reception or banquets- $100 per day, auction fundraiser or profit making events-$125 per day, prior day set-up $50.
"We just want to keep this little historic church here," Cress said. "It was almost torn down. But it's so full of history that shouldn't be lost. We're just trying to make enough money to keep it maintained and open. It's still important to the town of Carbon and to a lot of people in this area."
Anyone interested should contact Norma Cress at 446-4925.