Christ cross

The Cross family carries on the legacy of spiritual leadership

In honor of Black History Month, the Pioneer will publish short biographies of various black settlers who settled in Mecosta County in the mid to late 1800s, and their impact on the area, while throughout the month of February. If you have information about a black settler and would like it featured, email Julie Norwood at julie.norwood@pioneergroup.com.

It sits on the corner of M-66 and 11 Mile Road, a simple wooden structure that has heard nearly 140 years of sermons and hymns and hosted several weddings and funerals. The sign says Wheatland Church of Christ, but it is also known as Cross Church.


The church’s roots go back to 1869, when farmer Thomas W. Cross, who was already a deacon, came together with other area residents for what would become Wheatland’s Church of Christ. According to the memorial booklet “Remembering 150 Years: The Wheatland Church of Christ 1869-2019”, the original congregation consisted of six members: Thomas Cross, his wife and daughter; Alexander Harper and his wife; and Cynthia Rice.

Services were first held at Gingrich and Cross Schools until 1883, when the congregation erected the building at M-66 and 11 Mile Road in Remus. Cross donated the land and lent money to help fund construction.

Cross began life in Virginia as the son of a plantation owner and a slave. He moved to Hocking, Ohio, in 1851, when he was 25, and married Catherine Harper a year later. In 1863, he enlisted in the army and served in the Wagner Co. C5 Reg. United States Colored Infantry as part of Ambulance Detail in Virginia and the Carolinas until the end of the war. According to oldsetlersreunion.com, he received half the salary of a white soldier. As a veteran, he received a disability pension, as reported in the Detroit Free Press in 1894.

In 1869 he and his wife moved the family to Remus, along with other families from Paynes Crossing, Ohio, where he purchased 40 acres for the price of a horse. In total he owned 160 acres and had 12 children: Elizabeth, John, Joseph, Mary, Elsworth, Thomas, Edward, Catherine Jane, Amos, Ida, Priscilla and James W.

Thomas Cross died in 1897 and was buried in Morgan West Wheatland Cemetery, but his legacy lives on. His son, Amos Cross, remained on the family farm with his wife, Mary Mumford, until their deaths in 1957 and 1960, respectively. They had six children: Homer, Arthur, Anna, Roscoe, Evelyn and Clifford. Homer is ordered. He attended the Ferris Institute and the Grand Rapids School of the Bible before serving as a minister in Decatur.

Many members of the Cross family played on sports teams. Arthur spent time as a pitcher for the Remus Giants and Mecosta Tigers baseball teams in the early 1920s, and he organized the first basketball team in Remus. Arthur was ordained in 1939, and served at Wheatland Church of Christ for 38 consecutive years. According to oldsettlersreunion.com, by 1973 he had preached over 2,500 sermons and married over 100 couples.

Arthur’s great-nephew, Patrick Miles Jr., became the first black to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan in 2012, after being nominated by then-President Barack Obama. He served until 2017.

As for the church that Thomas helped found, it continues today with many members of the Cross family providing leadership along the way. In 2019, the congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary. Today the church is led by Thomas’s great-great-great-grandson, Gary Green, a former Michigan State Police lieutenant who now works as a captain and deputy director of the Department of Public Safety from Ferris State University.

And the building Thomas helped build? Its historical significance has been recognized at the federal level. In 1982 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A historical marker, erected in 1988, details the story:

“Wheatland Church of Christ, also known as Cross Church, is the oldest Disciples of Christ church built primarily for and by black people in western Michigan. Thomas Cross (1826-1897), who with five other members founded the church in 1870, was its first elder. …”

For more information about Thomas W. Cross and his family, visit oldsettlersreunion.com or osrw.org. For more information about Wheatland Church of Christ, visit facebook.com/wheatlandchurchofchrist.