Knox Township
Jefferson County, Ohio

Old section, most of the tombstones are missing. Efforts will continue, working with township trustees to restore tombstones and continue to cleanup around the perimeters of the cemetery.

John Spiller, William Maple, Henry Vantilburg

John Spiller, William Maple, and Henry Vantilburg – Veterans of the Revolutionary War – These bronzer markers were installed by the Sons of the American Revolution, Ebenezer Zane Chapter. These veterans were honored during a graveside dedication at Sugar Grove Cemetery, Knox Township in May of 2006. On Sept 21, 2006, a fourth bronze marker was installed to honor patriot, Nathan Shaw.

Photo taken by Flora L. VerStraten

Above – Cleaning cemetery and cutting down large trees at Sugar Grove Cemetery  in July 2007. Pictured between a large tree and small tombstones are {left} Adam Croskey, cemetery worker and {right} John Borkowski, volunteer.

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Category: Ohio physical, cultural and historic features; Feature Name: Sugar Grove Cemetery, Type: Cultural, Class: Cemetery, County: Jefferson, FID: 1960360, Coordinates: Latitude 40.5133988 and Longitude -80.6539636.

  • The First known name was Hales MeetingHouse, named after Charles and Randall Hales.
  • The second name of the church was The Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • The church is now known as the United Methodist Church.
  • Locals refer to the church as the Old Sugar Grove Church & Cemetery.

Michael Myers – The Indian Scout was originally buried in the old pioneer section of the Old Sugar Grove Church Cemetery. He was later re-interred at the Toronto Union Cemetery.


{Exactly as it appears in the booklet that was printed for the 200 year celebration titled, History of Sugar Grove United Methodist Church, 1798 to 1998}.

It was on one of those beautiful autumn days, commonly known by all who live in the hills along the Ohio River, that two men were riding along the rail which ran from the village of Steubenville to Yellow Creek. They were talking, as they gave their horses their head, of the decision, which they had made, after hearing that fiery enthusiastic Methodist preacher who was holding a camp meeting in Bezabel Wells Grove. Randall Hales and James Pritchard had become very interested in this “new religion” and had agreed to introduce Methodism into the Sugar Grove neighborhood.

This was in the year 1796 and many new log cabins were dotting the ridges, in this area. Jefferson County was now one year old and the area was a howling wilderness. There were no roads, bridges, towns, churches or schoolhouses. It has only been four years since the first permanent settler, a revolutionary soldier by the name of William Maple {Revolutionary Patriot} had come to the great “Northwest Territory,” built a cabin, locating his family about two miles north of this church.

The year that Jefferson County became a county, which was six years before either the State of Ohio, or Knox Township existed, William Stokes came from Loudon, England and built a cabin one half mile below Knoxville. When Anthony Wayne defeated the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the area began to fill up rapidly. In 1796 Henry VanTilburg, who was a revolutionary patriot came to Sugar Grove Ridge. The Johnston’s came in 1798, followed by the Hales, and many others. Others, like Jacob Nessley who had settled on the East Side of the river came across to the West Side and helped organize this church.

When Randall Hales came into this land, then known as the Northwest Territory, he built a more secure and comfortable hewed log cabin along the upper edge of the field, which is now the cemetery.

Mr. Hale and Mr. Pritchard called the neighbors together in this new hewed house and there formed a Methodist Society in the autumn of 1798, with Charles Hales as the Class leader. Those attending this first Methodist meeting in Sugar Grove were, Jacob Nessley, Randall Hales, Charles Hales, James Pritchard, Nathan Shaw, Joseph Elliott, Robert Maxwell, John Sapp, John Clinton, Jacob Buttonberg, and John Herrington. These groups of men were energetic leaders in the church, civic work and have given us an important heritage. Later James Pritchard served as county judge, a member of the Legislative of Ohio and chairman of the first township organization of Knox Township in 1802.

Jacob Nessley owned fifty thousand acres of land and was the greatest horticulturist of his time. The standards of these men were exceptionally high, for it took strong men to organize a Methodist Fellowship under the severe religious requirements demanded by Mr. Wesley and his followers.

Hale’s old round log house was being used by the neighborhood for a schoolhouse. Archibald McElroy, an Irish Schoolmaster, was teaching a three-month term of school to the few children whose parents could afford to send them, at the cost of $1.50 per term.

To show how “God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform” it just so happened that the Irish Schoolmaster had been converted under John Wesley before coming to America, and he not only helped to organize the Society, but he became the first preacher of “Hales Meeting House.”

The cabin of Randall Hales, which was fifteen by twenty feet, was the center of this religious organization from 1798 to 1902. The old log schoolhouse was used for educational purposes six days a week and on Sunday religious services were held all day long.

The congregation grew rapidly and the old log house was outgrown so the men erected a twenty by twenty-five foot round log house and named it, “Hales Meeting House.” This building was then used as a school house and meeting house until 1814 when a hewed log cabin building twenty-five by thirty feet was erected near it for church purposes only for their flourishing congregation.

It was during this time, as the Methodist Denomination was rapidly growing, that Methodist Camp meetings came into being throughout the country.

The beautiful valley of Hollow Rock, about three miles from the Sugar Grove Ridge, was one of the sights chosen by Methodists for a District Camp meeting. Mr. Wesley Taylor, a member of the Methodist Congregation of Sugar Grove, donated the land for this purpose.

The Rev. J.M. Bray, who was the pastor of The Sugar Grove Methodist Episcopal Church, as we know by records, held the first camp meeting, on Hollow Rock Campground, in the year 1838. However, it has been conceded that there were district meetings held there for about fifty years prior to this date, under the auspices of the Methodists.

From 1838 until 1873 camp meetings were held annually. In 1873 an interdenominational Holiness Camp meeting Association was organized. It composed of eight members with Anderson as President, Sy Mark, Ida McCoy, James Ekey, Epherian Cooper, L.J. Runyon, R.G. Wallace and John Winn, the last four being members of the Sugar Grove Methodist Episcopal Church.

Methodism had been looked down upon as fanaticism and enthusiasm so much that until the year 1814 that no Methodist Church founded in Steubenville. It was the coming of the great Methodist itinerate preacher, the Rev. James B. Finley in 1814, that brought Methodism to the fore in this area, and brought the first daily authorized Methodist preacher to the Hales Meeting House. He preached here every four weeks coming from St. Clairsville and then going to his next preaching place in Beaver, PA. He preached at thirty-two places holding fifty class meetings and took four weeks to cover his circuit. In 1816 Finley became presiding Elder in his district, and his co-worker was Archibald McElroy, the Irish Schoolmaster, was the second ranking minister to the Elder Finley.

It is said that the Rev. McElroy had the Irish Fighting Spirit, and according to the Rev. Finley “was sometimes in so much trouble” he would ask Rev. Finley to come and help quiet his congregation.

By 1815 Hales Meeting House had become such a strong fortress of Methodism that on June 21, 1815 Randall Hales and his wife Anne, deeded the ground to the trustees for the sum of $100, to build thereon a house of worship and the necessary land for burial purposes containing two acres and ninety-six perches “more or less.”

Everything was not always peaceful at Hales Meetinghouse because in 1841 the hewed log building, used since 1814 burned. Dr. Robert Schilling in an unpublished history of Jefferson County said, “History says the building did not catch fire by accident.” They did need a new building and it did ignite one warm, dry, August day, during the progress of a very “hot” church trail over which a farmer really had the right to eggs laid by a wandering goose, who insisted on laying in a neighboring farmers field. Well, the building caught fire and was well in flames almost before anyone knew it, and efforts to save the edifice were of no avail. They began immediately to build a new brick church, several hundred feet to the east of the former building. This brick building was used as Sugar Grove Methodist Episcopal Church until the turn of the century.

On January 28, 1843, forty one hundredth of an acre of ground was added to the church cemetery by Henry and Susan Cooper. The dust of many hardy pioneers were laid to rest in this, the earliest burying grounds in the township. Henry VanTilburg, who died October 22, 1822, at the age of 90, is buried here.

The influence of the strict Methodists was being felt during these years, in many areas. Dr. Schilling records this interesting incident, “Prior to the Civil War, Shanghi (now Empire) was a moral quagmire like Newburg. Later it was the first hamlet in the county to vote dry.” An editorial of the time claimed the church to be the civilizing factor in this change, in both cases, the Methodist Church…

\{May 13, 2006 during the Graveside Service for the following Revolutionary Veterans: John SPILLER; William MAPLE: Henry VANTILBURG. The Ebenezer Zane Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution held the graveside service. This church history was edited by Jefferson County Chapter, OGS President, Flora L. VerStraten and appeared in the Summer 2005 Jefferson County Lines Newsletter.}

Sugar Grove Church Timeline

1798 – Archibald McElroy

1814 – James B. Finney

1814 to 1839 – No records

1893 to 1896 – S.B. Solomon

1896 to 1900 – H.F. Patterson

Note – From 1814 to 1839 there are no records available due to the Hales Meetinghouse burning. You can contact the Church for Ministers from 1900 to the present.


(Taken from our chapter tombstone inscription book, author Esther Powell). This cemetery is located on State Route 152, northeast of Knoxville. The cemetery has new sections (near where the United Methodist Church now stands) and the old pioneer section (where the old church foundation can be seen from the roadside). Many of the stones in the old pioneer section appear to be “missing.” Well-kept. Copied Sept. 1964. Some pioneer burials listed as follows:

  • Abrahams                 Clark
  • Cooper                      Culp
  • Crawford                   Householder
  • Myers                       Runyun
  • Taylor                       Taggart
  • ·Vantilburg                Wallace

Flora L. VerStraten comments – Reports have been made from some very good sources that the pioneer section of the cemetery was “turned over” years ago. Many large tombstones that could be seen from the road years ago are probably in pieces in the ground or have been removed or discarded in the woods below.  We will continue to probe and search for sunken tombstones.  Looking over the 2 acre plus pioneer section of the cemetery, one can clearly see many sunken plots that are no longer marked. While probing on several occasions, we have found only a few small stones & what appear to be beautiful ornate slate tombstone pieces. The earliest records of the church and cemetery were discarded years ago, which could have aided us in our cemetery project, but sadly will not).

The First Church Organization in Knox Township was  the result of two men from Sugar Grove Ridge attending a camp meeting at Bezled Wells Grove in Steubenville in 1798.  These  two men were James Prichard, the most prominent man in the founding  of Knox Township,  and  Randall Hales, who at this meeting concluded that they would establish an infant M.E. Church in their neighborhood  Sugar Grove Ridge.  As  they had no  building  the  organization met at Randall Hales cabin where Archibold McElvay, an Irish school master was teaching a three months term of school to a few neighborhood children whose parents could afford to send them away.  The  cost was a $1.50 per term of three months.  McElvay helped organize this class of Methodists, the best and heading families in the sparsely settled neighborhood.    These were Jacob Nessley, who had settled  on the east side  of the Ohio in 1784.  They took up the land on  the east  side  of the river that included Tomlinsen  Run and Bakers Bottom, both noted historical spots.  He was elected the “First Overseer of the Poor” in Knox Township in 1802.

Randall Hale, John Hale, Charles  Hale, James Pritchard, ( a leader in all  public life), Nathan Shaw, (an early Justice of the Peace), Robert Maxwell,  John  Sapp,  John  Clinton,  Jacob Bottomburg, (who owned land at the mouth of Jeremy’s Run),  And John Herrington.

The cabin of Randall  Hales was the center of the religion organization for 1798 to 1802 when they outgrew the building and erected  a twenty by twenty-five foot round log building and named  it  Hales Meeting House with Charles  Hales as the leader.  This building was used as a school house until 1814 when a hewed building was erected near  it, a twenty-five  by thirty foot building for church purposes only, with a flourishing congregation.

On September 8, 1814, Reverend James B. Finley, at a conference held in Cincinnati, was appointed to this district which included all of Eastern  Ohio.  His college was Archibald McElroy of Hales Meeting House and the first  school teacher in Knox Township.  Reverend Finley’s circuit had a thousand members, fifty classes and thirty-two sermons that had to be preached on each round of six weeks.

Hales Meeting House had become such a strong fortress of Methodism that on June 21 1815 Randall Hales and his wife deeded the ground for the sum  of $100.00 to build theron a house  of worship, “To preach and compound gods holy word therein”, and the necessary land for burial purposes, containing two acres ninety-six perches more or less, to John Hales Jr., William Porter, Ann Herrington, Nathan Shaw Jr., Richard Shaw, John Sapp, and Benjamin Elliott as trustees.  This was witnessed by John Myers and Joseph Hales and acknowledged before John Myers,  a Justice of the Peace.  On January 28 1843, forty-one hundredths of an acre was added on this land by Henry Cooper Sr. and Susan his wife, to Elijah Crawford, John Cooper, to Elijah Crawford, John Cooper, Edward Taylor, Samuel Vantilburg and William Wallace As trustees.

- Buildings -

The first church group met in Hales home, a hewed log house beginning in the autumn of 1798.

The second building  used was the log school house, a round log building twenty by twenty-five feet square that became known far and wide as Hales Meeting House.

The third building was a hewed log building thirty feet long and twenty-five feet wide.  This building burned to the ground in 1841.

The fourth building was  constructed of red brick, the clay was obtained across from the church and the brick was burned at the site.  This red brick building served the congregation for sixty-five years.  This building was erected several hundred feet east of the old location, (to where the white wooden frame building stood.)

The fifth building was constructed at the same site around 1905.  It was a wooden frame building that served until the present church was built.

Written  by Robert Eakin
Information derived from notes of Robert W. Schilling

Obituary for Myrtle Grimm
(no tombstone has been located to date for this child)

From Ms.  Heizler, Aunt of the following:
Burial in Old Sugar Grove Cemetery, Knox Twp.
Grimm, Myrtle  age 7, died 28 Feb. 1933
Child of Hazel & Grover Grimm

Grover, who is the father of Myrtle is buried in a cemetery "near Toronto" as told by family members. It could be the Island Creek Cemetery or another nearby Old Sugar Grove or the Toronto area.
Hazel, the mother of Myrtle,  is buried in New Cumberland, WV