In The Beginning. . .
It was a cold December afternoon in 1909 when the Alonzo (Lon) A. Heaston family stepped from the train in Calhan, Colorado. They had come from Holmville, Nebraska by freight train transporting all their worldly goods in a box car. Nine of their thirteen children came with them, two had married and two had died in infancy. The family, Alonzo, his wife Mary, and their children Ralph, Arthur, Minnie, John, Glen, Lester, Laura, Lula and Marie had come to live on their homestead near Yoder, Colorado, a relinquishment purchased from an uncle. Furniture, farm machinery and household goods, a long with their horses, were unloaded from the train and the horses were hitched to the lumber wagon, spring wagon and carriage and everything was packed into the wagons. Father and four of the boys climbed in the two wagons and the rest of the family climbed into the carriage with Arthur driving them. Two feet of snow covered the ground as they started for the homestead. Arthur, being young, decided the wagons were moving too slow and he drove out ahead of them. With no landmarks, fence posts or roads to mark the way Arthur and the women were soon lost. They drove in circles until it got dark and the horses tired because of the deep snow. They soon were fortunate enough to come on a deserted house with a cellar underneath it. They gathered their blankets and prepared to spend the night in the cellar.
Meanwhile Alonzo and John had arrived at Groff’s store in Wayne, Colorado. Not finding the family there they took out lanterns and started back to search for them. Their lantern light came into view just as the family prepared to move into the cellar. Climbing back into the carriage they drove out to meet the men and all proceeded home together.
Their first home was a four room tar paper shack (one foot boards covered with tar paper) and was very crowded for eleven people. Not long after moving in Alonzo built on a large room to give the family more space. Later on he tore down the tarpaper shack and built a five room sod house which seemed quite spacious after living in such close quarters.
In the spring the men broke sod and planted cane, rye, corn and pinto beans. There was a great deal of work to be done and the children were required to work as well. Their primary job was to pick up cow chips to be used for cooking and heating fuel. They then mixed in lignite coal which was dug out of the hillside in certain places. There were many chores and the help of every family member was required.
The Heaston family, along with others in the area, went to Groff’s store in Wayne, owned by Elias Groff, for groceries. Wayne also had a post office where they obtained their mail and a school house. Wayne was located one mile south and two miles west of Yoder which is approximately the northwest corner of present day Calhan Highway and Handle road.
Antioch Brethren Church is one of the oldest Brethren Churches in Colorado. The group of Brethren members first held services in the Wayne School building and the Heastons attended church there from1910 until a new church was completed in 1912. Jacob Groff, son of the storekeeper Elias, was the first pastor. Early members came from Nebraska, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma.
Alonzo Heaston donated land for a church and cemetery. He purchased a few acres of land just north of his homestead, which belonged to one of his sons, and donated it for a church and cemetery. The church was built in 1911-1912 and was dedicated in 1912. The church was planned by Alonzo’s brother, Will Heaston who was a carpenter. The men of the congregation hauled lumber from town and donated their work to build it. The work was done by the membership under the direction of William Heaston, Mr. Groff, John Needles, Roscoe Lake, Harris Sheldon, Wayne McColly and many others.
Alonzo was a deacon in the First Church of the Brethren, called Antioch. He was a man of great faith in God and led his family in Bible reading and prayer each morning regardless of who was there or how big a hurry any of the family were in. He saw most of his children baptized while attending the Church of Antioch. They Church of the Brethren was nicknamed the “dunkards” because they believed in immersion baptism. Clarence Correll, one of Alonzo’s grandsons, said the members were “dunked” three times. He remembered vividly of being immersed once for the Father, once for the Son and once for the Holy Ghost.
How It Came To Be. . .
In 1862 the Homestead Act became a law. It provided that any citizen, either the head of a family or twenty-one years of age, could get a tract of public land not exceeding 160 acres. They were required to pay a filing fee, show a dwelling they had lived in, and have 40 acres in cultivation and a continuous resident for six months of each year, for three successive years within five years of the initial filing. Colorado became a state in 1876 but the eastern plains of Colorado saw no real settlement until the early 1900’s. Before that time large cattle and sheep ranches held domain over the area. When the settlers came they began fencing the range and plowing up the grass and the large ranch way of life came to an end. In 1909 an important Act called the Mandell Bill was passed in Washington allowing farmers to homestead 320 acres. This made it easier to make a living from the land and more people made the journey from their old homes in the surrounding states to the eastern plains of Colorado. Some came on horseback, others in covered wagons or farm wagons. Still others came by train to Calhan, Colorado renting immigrant cars to carry all of their possessions, farm implements and livestock. They were all hoping for a fresh start and a chance to own land. The first two necessities upon arrival were homes and water. They built houses of sod; prairie land with grass was cut into bricks. They built tar-paper shacks and a few dugouts. Wells were dug by hand and windmills erected. Eastern El Paso County had some of the last land in the continental United States to be available for homesteading.
“Many of these dauntless pioneers who built up this region were God-fearing people who loved the Lord and the church, held the Bible sacred, and led moral upright lives. Besides these spiritual aspirations, their values and dreams were built around love, family, work, and community. Schools and churches were built by community effort. Some settlers conquered the prairie and achieved ownership; others gave up and returned to their old homes in defeat. Life on the prairie was hard, the work backbreaking but they had come with a dream and those that persevered were independent, proud and self-reliant people and they made a good life.
In March of 1930 members decided to plant pinto beans on plots at their homes and donate the crop to the church as a way of raising money. This was successful and was continued for a number of years. The congregation raised the beans and the church paid to have them threshed and either sold them immediately or stored them for a time until funds were needed. In May of 1932, Pastor Hinegardner encouraged the church along the way of giving. He told the congregation that, “No one is poor from giving to the Lord but there are those that are poor because they have not given.”
In June of 1956 a special meeting was held to discuss incorporating the church. By-Laws were drawn up by an attorney and they were accepted as written. By September the congregation had moved into the new church building and they were holding their own financially. The new church was dedicated in a special service on November 18, 1956 with Dr. D. W. Bithinger, President of McPherson Kansas College preaching the service. (Bulletin and list of attendees)
By December of 1956 it had been decided to sell the old church building for $500.00 and it was sold to the Miami EUB church which is now the Rush United Methodist Church. The building was moved to Rush and that church remodeled and added on to the existing structure. It is still in use today. (Picture)
In March of 1957 a church member presented a “calf program” and related how it had been received at other churches where he had visited and spread the idea. The purpose was to raise the calves and sell them at the appropriate time to acquire funds for paying the loan and running the church. It was not made clear whether the church purchased the calves and had members raise them or whether members donated the calves and raised them until big enough to sell. However, it was decided that funds obtained from this program would be applied to the loan owed for the building. The calf program was continued for several years as a source of funds for the church.The church fenced the cemetery in 1958.
On August 5, 1963 people from the community who were interested in forming a community church met at Antioch Church for the purpose of electing a Church Board and officers. Later that month the new Church Board met. Again the idea of incorporating was discussed at length. In November 1965 a meeting was held to formulate by-laws for the community church. The by-laws used by the Antioch Church of the Brethren were used as an example. Incorporation the church was completed in August of 1966 and Loren Whittemore was elected as Secretary/Treasurer of the Corporation and five trustees were appointed. The deed to the property (Tructon School on Boone Road) was transferred from Antioch Church of the Brethren to Antioch Community Church.
Clarence and Rella Correll came to Antioch Church in the late 1960’s or very early 1970’s. Clarence was elected to the Church Board in August of 1970. These two dedicated people served Antioch Community Church for nearly 40 years. Their love for the Lord and love for the church kept Antioch alive. In the 1990’s people had moved away and left the church for a variety of reasons. Attendance had dwindled to only a very few. Some suggested that the church be closed but the Correll’s were faithful and they would not hear of it. They kept the doors open when there were as few as six people in attendance. They believed that Antioch was still viable and God still had a plan to use the church for His purposes. They were right. In the late 1990’s and into the next century God brought people back to Antioch. He again provided pastor’s to lead the flock and Antioch began to rise up.
In 1985 Antioch decided to sever all ties with the Church of the Brethren. Even the church had moved away from the Church of the Brethren denomination they were still officially tied to them. The Brethren denomination no longer wished to carry the liability of the church buildings and Antioch no longer wanted to be part of the Brethren denomination. This action made it necessary to re-incorporate Antioch Community Church. That act was accomplished in 1985. A federal/state Tax Exempt status was obtained in July of 2009.
Today the church has two morning services with excellent attendance and has a number of viable ministries in place. The current economy has affected many residents in a big way and the need for help has mushroomed. Antioch runs a Care and Share food pantry to provide food for the Yoder and Rush communities. A medical van, providing free health care, arrives at the church two days a month to give much needed support to suffering families. The Youth group is growing and the young people are learning to help others who have less than they do. This summer they are raising a garden on the church grounds that they hope will supply fresh vegetables for distribution at the food pantry. The Women’s groups meets monthly to fellowship. Some of their projects have supplied baby blankets to the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Colorado Springs and lap robes and decorative banners to nursing homes. The Music Ministry of the church is enjoyed by the congregation and a baptistery has been added and used to baptize a good number of new believers.