Ebenezer Baptist Church

A Civil War-era church near Milford, Ohio, that still thrives today

Founded in 1861, Ebenezer Baptist Church became the heart of the community called “Happy Hollow” in Clermont, County, Ohio, about a mile east of Milford. The congregation still exists, and their sanctuary, built in 1870, remains in use as a multi-purpose area.

The name Ebenezer came from the book of 1 Samuel: “Samuel took a stone and called it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’”

According to a church history revised in 2012 by Karen McKitric, “The Ebenezer Baptist Congregation began meeting in 1861 in a log cabin near a creek on Porter’s Run. It was the first Black church in the vicinity of Milford, Ohio. Some of the founding families were the Combs, Matthews, Steigers, Shacklefords, and the Ventus family.”

Because of the shouts of joy coming from the church, the community came to be known as “Happy Hollow,” and the road originally called Porter’s Run Road is now called Happy Hollow Road.

The earliest-known pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church was Reverend Philip B. Ferguson, a former conductor on the Underground Railroad, who was pastor in 1869. An article about the Underground Railroad in the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune in 1900 says that "Venerable Elder Ferguson, now living at 1017 Foraker Avenue, Walnut Hills, was long a slave at Fredericksburg, Va., but reached this city in freedom about 1850. ... His active rescue work covers a period of about ten years in this city. Numerous are the mobs he remembers and the famous court cases involving the fate of fugitive slaves, which he always attended."

At the time of Reverend Ferguson’s pastorate, it was decided that the log cabin in the ravine of Porter’s Run was too damp to be a good sanctuary. As a result, in May 1870, Henry Philly donated land at the top of the hill, and a new, framed building was built that same year.

Baptizing was still done in a deep pool on Porter’s Run. George Washington Combs (1850-1936) and his wife Martha Rice Combs, who lived nearby, volunteered their home as a dressing place for the pastor and baptismal candidates.

According to the 2012 history, “Long gone are the days of Ebenezer fondly recalled by our elders of that frame building with a pot bellied stove, oil lamps, an old upright piano, and an outhouse at the left rear of the church yard. There are many warm memories of annual Homecomings occurring the third Sunday in August. It was then that the women of Ebenezer prepared their favorite dishes and packed them off to the church in boxes, tubs, and baskets, serving them to any and all who came to enjoy a day praising the Lord with old friends and relatives.”

In 1969, the church added a larger sanctuary, and the 1870 building was converted to a multi-use space. The complex has been thoroughly modernized, and today, the church is thriving.


Images

Ebenezer Baptist Church of Milford, 5797 Happy Hollow Road
Ebenezer Baptist Church of Milford, 5797 Happy Hollow Road Creator: Chris Hanlin Date: 2023

Location

Metadata

Chris Hanlin with Karen McKitric , “Ebenezer Baptist Church,” Cincinnati Sites and Stories, accessed February 21, 2024, https://stories.cincinnatipreservation.org/items/show/196.