In 1844, a body of so called “O’Kellyite” Christians and some Presbyterians who had come from the same area of North Carolina met for preaching in a hilltop grove every time a minister of their leaning came through. The joined together to build a meeting house of logs, on a rise six miles southeast of today’s Lawson. It was built on land donated by one A. Titus and named Union in honor of a church they had attended back in their native Alamance county. That building was used as a temporary storage place for the small, precious harvests of wheat some settlers were able to raise.
John Walker, traveling Missouri leader of the above group, organized the settlers of Union loosely in 1847, but it was not until 1853 that a minute book was headed: “Names of the Christian Church Roll at Union Meeting House. This Church was organized here in the summer of 1847.” One hundred and seventy one names were on the roll of that early minute book and these included the black members. In an article Joseph McAdams wrote for his church’s national magazine in July 1923, he said about one fifth of the Union church members in those pioneer days were black. Nearly every family that came west in that group included its servants. Of course, they were a part of the church. From then until the present, singing has been a vital part of the worship service at old Union church.
The early records of Union also show the important role the church had on the frontier, law wise, being the only recognized authority for miles around. In addition to having the power to license men as preachers, its firm stand “against dances and play parties, church absences without good cause, ‘improper conduct’, drunkenness, and making life miserable for a fellow man—especially for fellow church members” had a telling effect in an era when such wholesale community disapproval meant virtual ostracism.
The lack of minutes kept in the Civil War period speaks for itself, but as soon as it was safe for preachers to again take up their travels without fear of life or terrible injury, the church came to life again. But this time, they did so without sharing because the Presbyterians on resuming after war worship decided to meet in a schoolhouse that was closer to where most of them lived.
Shortly after Union reorganized in 1866, a great meeting of weeks was held in and around the church led by Robert Livingstone who was assisted by Hardy Holman, William Albright, D. H. McClure, and William Hunt. People came from many miles around and camped out through the whole time. There were rousing sermons in the meeting house, in the nearby school house, and in such groves as were left, after years of clearing. There were also prayer meetings throughout that whole late summer gathering. One of the converts of that gathering was Joseph McAdams, who served many a term as a preacher at Old Union.
Strengthened by reorganization and the revival camp meeting, Union began employing the quarterly services of a minister. It also sent delegates to the brotherhood’s annual conference, encouraged regular prayer meetings, and family worship each day.
A bit later, an ardent crusader, John Van Buren Flack, Union and six other local churches was invited to meet with them at old Antioch church, which then stood outside old Haynesville and just below the Clay-Clinton line. Flack, began his career as a Methodist. Seceding from that denomination during conflicts arising out of Civil War issues, he had gradually assumed leadership of a new independent movement. It was sometimes referred to as the Church of Christ. In rejecting secular views, his stand was very like that taken by the so called O’Kellyite groups.
Flack had preached his convictions in three states during the annual conference, which they had been holding for several years. Out of discussions there, plus the eloquence of Flack in presenting his stand on such matters, came a decision to recognize a general union with the General Christian Union of the United States.
On November 8, 1868, the clerk of old Union Church set down the following in its official minutes: “We decide in favor of union for cooperation with the Christian Union church, on condition that we retain our principles. We instruct our delegates to the general conference to cooperate with delegates from other churches in carrying out the wishes of the Christian Churches. Signed: A. Titus, chairman.”
This organization revived Union to one of the most vital churches in the area. Its 1866 reorganization enrollment of 148 climbed to 295 by 1871. By then the church’s quarterly minister was being paid $75 per year; every meeting day found the contribution box repaid for its passing, a strong choir had developed, and prayer meetings were being held weekly. Monthly preaching services started in 1877.
A frame building went up near the old church in 1902, and for many years frequent revivals were held there. Though faithful to its work from earliest times, no official mention of any church woman shows up in the minutes before 1922; when Gladys Wise was given the old organ, after the purchase of a piano, in recognition of her faithful service to the choir. Two years later, she was listed as a delegate to the annual convention. It was also during the 1920s that Union began having services the first and third Sunday of each month.
Improvements to the church building in recent years include an addition that includes three church schoolrooms, with basement below, including rest rooms, the ceiling of the sanctuary was lowered, new lights and paneling were installed, carpeting was laid in the main body of the church, two new furnaces were installed, rural water service was utilized, wrought iron railings were installed on all outside steps, and an organ, piano, communion table and lecturn were added in the sanctuary.
In 1970 the church had 238 members and 125 enrolled in its church school. Its average weekly attendance was 87.
1959 – 1963 William R. Smith – the first to serve full time
1963 – Marvin Duncan