Our HistoryAround 1827 a group of Friends began to move into Boone County. Many were from the North Carolina upcountry while others were Friends from settlements in the Whitewater Valley. These industrious farmers quickly established themselves around the town of Thorntown. They immediately began worshiping in their homes. Hugh and Sarah Moffitt opened their home for worship.
In 1827 three acres of land was donated by Daniel and Betty Rich Odell to be used as the site of what would become known in as Sugar Plain Friends Monthly Meeting. In 1835, the Friends built a log house on the site of the present church at Sugar Plain. Permission was requested from Sugar River Monthly Meeting to establish the Preparative Meeting. In 1840 the Quakers of Sugar Plain were granted their own monthly meeting.
From 1827 to 1880 Sugar Plain was without pastoral leadership. The normal service for worship was conducted by the “meeting of ministers and elders.” On occasion a visiting minister would speak to the meeting.
“Our beloved friend David J. McMullen a minister of the Gospel attended the meeting presenting satisfactory credentials from Bridgeport Meeting of Friends. His company and gospel labors were satisfactory.
”Our beloved friend John Newlin a minister of the Gospel attended this meeting presenting satisfactory credentials from Bridgeport Meeting of Friends. His company and gospel labors were satisfactory.” (Taken from the Minutes of Sugar Plain Monthly Meeting)
After the Civil War there was a religious awakening among young Quakers. Neighborhood meetings began to be held in private homes for Bible and tract reading and then for prayer and testimonies. These meetings were transferred to the meetinghouses. By 1860 “series of meetings” were held after the fashion of the youth home meetings. The preaching was extempore without prearrangement and great care was taken that the meeting should be orderly.
The young and eager leaders of the revival movement were vigorously opposed to the older quietist methods, which they regarded as the cause of static and unspiritual condition of the Society. Many of the older customs, such as plain speech and dress, the emphasis on silence in worship, the habit of rising during prayer, the wearing of men’s hats in the meetings, the “plain” names of the days of the week and the month and marriages after the older Friends were generally discontinued within this period.
Singing was introduced because many of the leaders coming from other denominations felt that there could be no revival without singing. It was only a few years later those musical instruments were brought into the meetinghouse.
Other practices, which became general in revival meetings, were the “mourners benches.” They became the place of public confession and public testimonies to a definite religious experience.
By the late 1870’s Sugar Plain came under the influence of the revival movement. Some of the characteristics of the movement that changed Sugar Plain were it was no longer a mere inheritance nor Quakerism simply by tradition for most members. Younger Friends who had been born in Boone County were replacing Quakers who had migrated from North Carolina. Old ways were being discarded. The need for pastoral leadership was discussed and referred to the Monthly Meeting for action.
In the February Monthly Meeting of 1880 a committee was appointed to seek for pastoral leadership. Those appointed to serve on the committee for pastoral labor were: Mahlon Kendall, Mary Kendall, William Elwood Mills, Oliver Rees, Sarah Jane Hadley, Albert Townsend, Elvin Rees, Martha Moffitt, Juliette Moore, and Lucinda Moffitt.
During 1880 Sugar Plain became a pastoral meeting. Franklin Meredith became the first pastor to serve Sugar Plain.
Revivals were occurring all around central Indiana. “In the winter of 1859 there were profound stirrings of religious interest among the students at Farmer’s Institute near Lafayette, Indiana under the ministry and personal influence of Jeremiah A. Grinnell and Allen Jay. At the beginning the youth met for social gatherings, which usually ended with “a religious occasion.” (Autobog. Of Allen Jay pg. 81)
Sugar Plain eventually came under the influence of some of the prominent evangelist of the day. Local evangelists and leaders in the revival movement were Luther B. Gordon, brother of Esther Gordon Frame, and Nathan T. and Esther Gordon Frame. Nathan and his wife Esther came to the Friends from the Methodist because the Methodist would not allow a woman to preach.
In 2005 Sugar Plain Friends Church became an Independent Evangelical Quaker meeting. Sugar Plain is no longer affiliated with a Yearly Meeting. Sugar Plain is a 501(c)3 exempt not-for profit organization.