December 24th, 2007 by The Lexington Herald-Leader
DSTEPHENSON@HERALD-LEADER.COM
AWILSON1@HERALD-LEADER.COM

hotspotter.gifThe most remembered story of life in this town starts in 1963, with three grown men deciding to hold hands and sled the long and languorous hill down to the Kentucky River and to then glide triumphantly over the bridge to nearby Oregon.

But after an exciting and promising start, the sled weaved to the left, and one of the fellas — who will not be named as this is not an accusation but a memory — let go of the others’ hands because he sensed some impending doom. So Linda Murray’s daddy went in the wrong direction and had to go to the hospital and nearly expired from the resulting pneumonia.

And the third guy suffered a big slashing of one side of his face because it hit a tree on the way down to the river. No one forgets the silliness, the aftermath or the fact that we don’t name “the guy who let go.”

Still, what is important to know about this story is this: Of all the time Linda Murray’s daddy was injured and unable to work, his dairy farming was kept afloat because his friends pitched in and did it. In this, as in all things, they were selfless. They were also incredibly sure of the rock on which this community stood.

The Biblical meaning of the word Ebenezer is “stone of help.” It’s right there in 1 Samuel, chapter 7. Which means, says Hughes Jones, Charles Dickens must have been one crafty wordsmith or else mightily confused as he chose the main character for his Christmas Carol.

“If you ever need help or you’re in trouble, the best place to be is in Ebenezer,” says Dalton Hendren. “It always was.”

There was that time that a barn caught fire and, facing flames, the community’s men saved most of the hay inside and the barn, too. Graves were always dug, out of respect, by farmers working two at a time until the job was done.

And there was the time that Winston Preston’s daddy’s cancer was coming to an end at the same time that the tobacco was ready and “all the sudden,” says Preston, “there was a half-mile of tractors coming down the road and they harvested it all and hung it in the barn all in the same day without saying a thing.”

It is, they say, the old way of doing things. It is also the Lord’s way. And, says Jones, “he is still here with us showing us the way.”

Just ask Jimmy Dean even now how many times his cows have gotten out and been returned quietly and without his help. Nowadays not everybody knows everybody else. A few of the farms are being sold off to make way for Harrodsburg’s growth. There is much lamenting about how much hay had to be bought from North Dakota this year because of the drought. But the church is as full as it ever was.

Ebenezer, the town, for all its land rising and falling, all its pretty cows and assorted donkeys and rocky creeks and author/architect’s Clay Lancaster’s attention, is really here because 20 years after the Cane Ridge Revival, Moses Jones and his neighbors gathered in the Lord’s name, circa 1830, and, on the top of the tallest hill, made a church.

“It’s what is still here,“ says Hughes Jones. “Times change but God does not.”

And Ebenezer was here in the first place because, story has it, some early pioneers were being chased down the Kentucky River by Indians. It’s said they saw the cut in the river where the creek enters and they said to themselves, “Our best chance is to land and run.” Landon Run Creek winds its way through Ebenezer. It makes sense, says Winston Preston, a pilot who played in the creeks as a boy and who has seen it from the air. “The creek runs straight like an arrow into Harrodsburg.”

Another instance of Ebenezer’s big hill’s power to save. The stories around here all want to strike a Biblical note. Take the story of Uncle Wiggly and Aunt Dickie and Aunt Dickie’s sisters, Aunt Kate and Aunt Pearl. Childless, they used to claim all the children in Ebenezer as their own.

“They used to pat you on the back like they do now for lung therapy,” says Hendren. More significantly, “they used to feed everyone. It was a given that if strangers came you’d send them up to Uncle Wiggly’s. They had a smokehouse without locks and every one of them was a good fisherman so there was always fish along with the chickens and the beef and the pork...”

It’s Ebenezer’s own loaves and fishes story.

Uncle Wiggly is long dead now. So, too, the founding Joneses and the three guys who took a ride on a sled. But the church is still on that hill, even though it does boast air conditioning now. Some things don’t change.

That is why this week, Pastor John Kesel still leads the congregation of Ebenezer Church of Christ, a collection of around 65. And why they are celebrating Christmas for the 177th time in this same place. They will sing, acapella of course, the traditional songs. They will welcome the newborn king with familiar gratitude. They will define again what a community is.

They will remember that they are Ebenezer, the stone of help, and they will, this year, again be the change they wish to see in the world.

7 Responses to “Ebenezer: Built on the “stone of help””

  1. Love this article but the complete article is not carried on this website. Article in the newspaper is more complete. Is it possible to get a complete copy on your website? Thank you. Gary Story

  2. Enjoyed this. We are some of the”new” folks that have moved into the Ebenezer area from Lexington several years. We enjpy it very much. We are aquainted with a Ms. Jones, who is a member of the Ebenezer church and may very well be a descendant of the original Jones who founded that church.

  3. This was a very nice story that showed the faith and helpfulness of everyday people. This is my home church. Dalton is my father! Thanks for showing the rest of the world that faith values still matter!

  4. Thank you for this article on the church I attend. It was a nice surprise and I am so glad I was able to forward it on to my son who is serving in Iraq. He was baptised at Ebenezer in July, shortly before being deployed to Iraq. I am sure he will enjoy the photos of his home area. Thanks again for such a nice story. Julia Shaw

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  6. I am looking for direction to jugornot. I lived their when I was 5 years old .My name was Perkins, the daughter of Wayne Perkins. Please if anyone knows email me at mehommie@yahoo,com

  7. Really enjoyed the story,just what it should be. Looking for the grave site of Merle Travis. No maps I`ve looked at have Ebenezer on them. Would be in your debt if you could direct me to the town and cemetery. GCH