Reverend James Gilliland was born in 1769 in Lincoln County, NC. In 1805, he became the pastor at Red Oak Presbyterian Church just north of Ripley. By some accounts, he was the first abolitionist in Brown County, and this is possibly the oldest congregation in Brown County and the state of Ohio.
Gilliland was a trusted member of the local Underground Railroad network. According to his own records, by 1830, the church was public in its anti-slavery beliefs, and members of his parish aided travelers seeking freedom. In 1830, Gilliland led the effort to compose a pastoral letter on the subject of slavery, which was widely printed and disseminated. He led the church until 1841, and passed away in 1845. Along with Frances Baird Gilliland, he is buried in Red Oak Presbyterian Church Cemetery.
This building has housed the parish since 1817. Gilliland's home with his wife Frances, once stood nearby. The grounds also house a cemetery. This church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.