LOOKING BACK: Remembering Rev. Chafin, the Sunday school man

Warren Cleveland Chafin, for those of you who never knew him, was known as the Sunday School Man.

He was born June 3, 1884, to Isaac Chafin and Mary Catherine Woods. Warren’s father had to walk with the aid of a crutch and a cane. Isaac taught school in his early years and held several county offices. He was part-owner of the Brown County Democrat newspaper for a short time.

The Isaac Chafin family lived on a 200-acre farm in Brown County near the north entrance of what is now Brown County State Park. The children grew up working on the farm. The majority of their food, including meat, was raised on the farm and preserved, and their mother made their clothes.

Warren loved to tell the story of his brother Benz hauling a load of cross ties from the farm to Columbus to sell. Along the way, he met another team at Stony Lonesome. The road was too narrow to pass, and Benz had a disagreement with the fellow as to who would have to back up their team to pass.

In the years of 1912 and 1913, Warren attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago to prepare himself for the ministry. Warren, his wife Sarah Rebecca (Pittman) Chafin, and three little children lived in an upstairs apartment. While he went to school, he worked at various jobs as he could. Sarah also worked at night at a candy factory. Although there were streetcars, Warren walked (often with cardboard to cover the holes in his shoes) in lieu of spending a nickel for carfare.

During the time they were living in Chicago, their 7-month-old son died. Later, their second son died at the age of 4.

On March 29, 1914, Warren purchased a bay horse, “Frank,” and a buggy. Frank was a noble missionary horse. He learned the roads to the backwoods rural areas.

On April 1, 1914, Warren received his commission from the American Sunday School Union to work in Monroe, Brown, Greene and Owen counties.

In 1817, a group of Philadelphia men had organized the Sunday and Adult School Union. In 1924, the name was changed to the American Sunday School Union. Its goal was to establish a Sunday school in every frontier community.

Warren kept journals of his day-to-day ministry. They were put in book form by his family. They presented a copy of the book to the Genealogy Society. You may see this book at the Brown County Public Library. The title is “Reverend Warren C. Chafin, Journals and Records.” The journals contain baptisms, marriages and funerals he performed during his career. A copy of his journals and records may also be found at the History Center.

Chafin retired after working 35 years for the American Sunday School Union. He received many accolades for his faithful service and direct influence on multitudes of lives.

But that retirement didn’t last long. Warren’s son-in-law was working on the new addition to the Columbus hospital and hired Warren at age 65. He worked this job for a year, driving 82 miles a day.

Soon, he was hired to pastor several of the churches he had started.

Warren made the statement: If he had his life to live over, he would not change a thing.

He was a friend to many and loved by all.

Pauline Hoover, Brown County Historical Society