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History of Darke County, Ohio, from its earliest settlement to the present time .. (Volume 1) online

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The United Brethren in Christ.

The denomination known as the Church of the United
Brethren in Christ was founded by Philip William Otterbein,
a German-American preacher, in the latter part of the eigh-
teenth century. In doctrine it is Arminian and evangelical,
and in polity it is much like that of the Alethodist Episcopal
church. Numerically it stood ninth in the denominational
families of the U. S. m 1912, having some three hundred and
twenty thousand members in the two affiliated bodies. Like
the Reformed church it is strong in Pennsylvania and is well
represented in the upper Miami valley, having a large pub-
lishing house and a vigorous theological seminary at Dayton.
Ohio. Besides this denomination has recently purchased the
large and valuable Shaker community farm in Warren coun-
ty with the view of establishing thereon a home for the aged.



224 DARKE COUNTY

Although it now stands second in the number of churches
in Darke county, it seems to have appeared on this field com-
paratively late. The oldest churches mentioned are in the
southern part of the county, the Ithaca church having been
founded about 1830 ; Otterbein about 1840 ; Castine, about
1849; Abbotsville, about 1850 and Caylor's Chapel (Van
Buran township) about 1868. Zion Chapel near ^^'eaver■s
is one of the oldest crurches.

A United Brethren society was organized in Greenville a
few years before the war and built a brick church on \''ine
street between Third and Fourth streets. This building was
afterward sold and finally purchased by the Catholics, who
remodeled and improved it in 1863 as noted elsewhere. The
history of the present church dates from August 22. 1883,
when Rev. H. A. Secrist was appointed pastor of the Green-
ville Mission by the JMiami Conference with stations at
Greenville, Hillgrove, Coletown and Abbotsville. Rev. Se-
crist preached his first sermon on Sunday, Sept. 16. 1883, in
the Evangelical church on the southeast corner of Fourth
and Ash streets. His text in the morning was Psalm 84:1.
"How amiiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts." His
evening text was Hebrews 10:9.

At first services in Greenville were held twice a month.
Class was organized on October 14. 1883, with nine members,
as follows : J. M. Klefeker and wife Sarah ; Samuel Klefe-
ker and wife Lucy ; Mr. and Mrs. Worshing ; Mrs. Sarah
Guy, Mrs. Hannah Felton and Mrs. Sarah Fuller. The first
superintendent of its Sunday school was J. A. Gruver. A
great revival was held in the Evangelical church in February
and ]\Iarch, 1884, as a result of which one hundred and twen-
ty-eight conversions were reported, and one hundred persons
united with the church. With such an impetus the church
went forward with rapid strides, as shown by the fact that a
lot was purchased on the southwest corner of Wayne avenue
and Devor street in the new section of the growing city, and
the erection of a good sized brick church edifice begun in
July. 1884. This church building was finished in the spring
of 1885. and dedicated on July 12, 1885, by Bishop Jonathan
Weaver, D.D. The site was well chosen, as it is now lo-
cated at a strategic point in reference to the new south side
of the city. The cost of the building and grounds was about
six thousand dollars. The building committee was Hender-
son Albright, Daniel Reasoner, J. M. Klefeker, J. A. Gruver,



DARKE COUNTY ^^0

and N. G. Karns. A substantial frame parsonage was erect-
ed on the lot adjoining the rear of the church during the pas-
torate of Rev. Klinefelter in 1900. The church property has
been considerably improved from time to time and a pipe or-
gan added to the equipment, the gift of Mr. George Hartzell.
a lumber merchant of Greenville and active worker in the
church at that time. The church now has an enrollment of
about three hundred, including several substantial farmers
from the immediate neighborhood of Greenville.

The trustees in January, 1914, were : Chas. Minnich, W.

D. Brumbaugh, O. E. Young, Alvin Pierce and J. Joseph
O'Brien. Treasurer, Jacob Young. A very efficient and ac-
tive Sunday school is held in connection with the church, of
which Mr. Oscar Vannoy is the superintendent. The en-
rollment in this organization is 212 (Jan., 1914). The num-
ber of organized classes, six.

The president of the Ladies' Aid Society is Mrs. Margaret
Snell ; of the Woman's ^lissionary Association, Mrs. J. H.
Vance ; of the Y. P. S. C. E., Miss Beryl Stephens. The
latter organization was the first Christian Endeavor Society
organized in the county and has had a continuous history
since its establishment, Oct. 18. 1887. It was first organized
as a Young People's Society in 1884. J. B. Long is president
of the Otterbein Brotherhood.

The pastors who have served this church to date are : H.
A. Secrist, Sept.. 1883-188.=; : S. W. ]\IcCorkle, Sept., 1885-July.
1887; G. P. Macklin, Sept., 1887-1889; W. L. Byers. 1888-
1889; G. P. Macklin, 1890-1891: J. W. Kilbourn. 1891-1894;

E. W. Bowers, 1894-1895: W. J. Pruner, 1895-1897; H. H.
Klinefelter, 1897-1901; F. G. Grigsby, 1901-1906; E. C. Petry,
1906-1907; J. M. Replogle, 1907-1910; G. W. Self and H. F.
White, 1910-1911 ; D. R. Wilson, 1911-1913; W. M. VanSickle,
1913—.

This denomination now has nineteen churches in the
county, making it first in the number of stations. A late re-
port shows the following charges, pastors and preaching sta-
tions :

Rossburg Charge, C. Plack, pastor, including Rossburg,
Heistand, New Weston, Rose Hill and Zion churches ; Sa-
vona Charge, F. H. Linville, pastor, including Mt. Zion (near
Weaver's Station), Caylor Chapel (north of Arcanum). Ab-
botsville and Savona ; Waterhouse Charge, M. Stein, pastor,
including Waterhouse, Pleasant Grove and Hillgrove church-
CIS)



226 DARKE COUXTY

es; New Madison charge, including New Madison and Yan-
keetown ; besides separate stations at Greenville, Union City,
Arcanum, Ithaca and Castine. The above data indicate that
this is one of the most active denominations in the county and
bids fair to exercise a strong and salutary influence for many
years.

St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

(Courtesy Mrs. Hildegarde K. Schopp.)

About the year 1850 a small number of Lutherans in Green-
ville, O., all Germans, feeling the need of religious worship in
the town, called a meeting at the home of Gottfried Brom-
bacher on Walnut street, where the Rev. Reichardt, who was
preaching in this part of the state for the Lutheran church
at that time, conducted the services. Subsequent meetings
were held at the home of William Boeger on Fourth street
and others. These meetings continued and as there was need
of administering the holy sacraments, this handful of Luth-
erans decided to organize and did so as "The Evangelical
Lutheran St. Paul's congregation of Greenville, O."

Among the charter members were : William Boeger, Gott-
fried Brombacher, Lewis Foutz, Wm. Hiddeson, John Her-
ter, Wm. Ollmetzer and Frederic Reinhart, Sr.

Others of early membership were : Christian Gerstner,
John ^^'eitb^echt, Chas. Hiddeson, Bernard Renz, Henry
Klemine.

As the homes became inadequate to accommodate the peo-
ple, the old court house on public square was used for the
meetings. Eventually the frame building situated on the
site of the present church on East Fourth street, and used
by the Presbyterians as their church, was purchased from
them, and there the German Lutherans worshipped for forty
years. The Presbyterians taking their church bell with them
and the Lutherans being too poor to purchase one, caused
the removal of the little belfry and thus the plain white, un-
assuming frame structure had to serve as a church until in
1889 the congregation secured in the person of Rev. E. E. Ort-
lepp a man who set about at once to prepare for a new church
building.

The Rev. A. Reichardt and Rev. J. Lehnert preached for
the congregation until in 1839 Rev. John Lautenschlaeger was
called, and most efficiently and faithfully served the congre-
gation for ten years, when he was relieved bv Rev. K. Koe-
berlin, who was pastor up to the time of his death, which oc-




SOME GREENVILLE CHURCHES



DARKE COUNTY 227

curred in 1876. He was followed by Rev. John Hinderer,
who also served until his death in the year 1881. His suc-
cessor was Rev. \N'ni. Funkey, who served the congregation
four years, and was succeeded by Rev. Wm. Gettle, who also
served four years, as did Rev. B. Lederer three years.

During the pastorate of Rev. John Lautenschlaeger a
Sunday school and the Ladies' Aid Society were organized,
the latter in 1864. For many years Mr. John Baus was the
faithful superintendent of the Sunday school, whilst the work
of the Ladies' Aid Society has been far-reaching.

On December 20, 1891, the congregation dedicated the first
and only church they ever built, on the site of the old frame
structure occupied for forty years. The cost of the building
was about $7,500.00, which sum included the bell. Through
the generosity of one of its members, Mr. Daniel Henne, Sr.,
the congregation has never carried any debts. Six years
later, on June, 20, a splendid pipe organ of the Moeller firm
of Hagerstown, Md., was installed. Also furnishings of white
San Diego mahogany in the chancel, namely : pulpit, baptis-
mal font, and a memorial altar and crucifix were added. The
walls were beautifully frescoed. All this represented an out-
lay of $3,500.00. The congregation next bought an additional
lot adjoining the church in the rear at an expense of $1,900.
In 1900 a general restoration of the church building took
place and besides a modern steam furnace, a slate roof, and
other necessary improvements there were added two memo-
rial electric candelabra right and left of the altar, four oil
paintings on the walls being the work of an artist in Wis-
consin, and floors and walls were covered at great expense
in a tasteful manner. A door paneled in cut glass leads from
the modest exterior to the interior. Beautiful electric light
effects about the altar, and its niche, were a donation as
were the electric light chandeliers; $5,400.00 was expended
for these improvements, making of the interior of St. Paul's
Lutheran church a beautiful place of worship.

The congregation, though not a large one, is active, and
under the guidance of its beloved and able pastor, Dr. E. E.
Ortlepp, has been singularly blessed.

As early as 1883 occasional English services were held, and
as the ranks of the German members are being thinned out
by the hand of time, the work is being conducted mostly in
English, services in German being held only every two
weeks. There is, however, still a choir which can sing in the



228 DARKE COUNTY

German language, having been organized in the eighties by
IMrs. Wm. Furkey and at present conducted by Mr. \\'m.
Kurz. Mrs. Anne Lecklider has been organist at St. Paul's for
many years, as was her father before her in early days.

The Sunday school is altogether English, and has for a
number of years had a woman superintendent in Miss Ame-
lia Koeberlin. The Luther League, a society of young peo-
ple, organized in 1893 by Rev. Ortlepp. who is also its presi-
dent, does valiant work for the church, and is in a flourishing
condition. Mission work has no special organization, there
being only a children's mission band at present.

Mrs. Minnie Buechy is president of the Ladies' Aid So-
ciety, and the following are the names of church officials in
1913: Elders, Andrew Renz, William Schaefer, L H. Miller:
trustees, Wm. Kurz, Oscar Gross, Henry Leas : deacons,
James Schwartz, Fred Steft'en, Albert Suter.

The congregation with its societies raised for congrega-
tional and beneficent purposes during the year 1913 the sum
of two thousand one hundred and fifty-three dollars ($2,153),
and it hopes to be an influence for moral good that cannot be
reckoned in dollars and cents in the future.

Evangelical Lutheran St. Johns Church.

One of the most remarkable rural congregations in the
county is the E\'angelical Lutheran St. John's church, situated
about two and one-half miles north of Greenville on the Ver-
sailles pike. The early history of the German people of
Darke county is closely interwoven with the history of this
church. About 1838 or 1839 German immigrants began to
settle in this neighborhood. Being poor in this world's
goods some took up lands that had been passed over or re-
jected by the earlier settlers and others purchased partly im-
proved lands at $12.00 to $16.00 per acre. They were ac-
customed to hard manual labor in the Fatherland, however.
and took up the task of reclamation with brave hearts and
the stoic determination characteristic of the t3'pical German
stock. Many obstacles were encountered, and hardships, ex-
posure and sacrifice experienced in the early years, but time
wrought marvelous changes and today this section is one of
the best farming communities in the county. A visitor writ-
ing of this section in 1890, said ; "We passed a beautiful
church and parsonage of the very latest pattern, with its



DARKE COUNTY



229



fine painted fences and beautiful lawn well kept. Going up a
slight ascent we came in full view of the Lutheran settle-
ment as far as the eye could reach. \\'e saw one of the
grandest parts of Darke county. The improvements are
very fine, the houses fit to adorn Avondale or Clifton. The
tobacco sheds and barns were of the very latest pattern and
well painted. This part is very thickly settled, the most of
the farms being about forty to eighty acres, under a very
high state of cultivation."

During the early years of the settlement the people wor-
shipped at Wakefield, then known as Clapboardtown, just
north of the present site of the children's home. Emigrants
kept coming and in a few years there were enough families
to establish a more conveniently located church, where they
might worship according to the dictates of their consciences.
Accordingly a congregation was organized in 1851 by the fol-
lowing persons: John G. Deubner, Ferdinand Prashnn, Fred-
erick Meier, Frederick Dohme, Christian Kruckenburg, Ferd-
inand Krueckeberg, Henry Koester, George Ruess, Frederick
Krueckeberg and George Martz.

In 1852 the first church was erected of logs and furnished
with split plank pews, It was a rude, plain structure, but as
the historian says, "This old log church was the place of
worship for the Lutherans until 1876, and though it was a
rude tabernacle, visited by a plain, unpretentious people, it
was the house of God, and the place where He recorded His
name, and the worshippers were happy in it and loved to
meet and greet each other after the trials and tribulations o"
a week of hard labor ; they felt God's nearness." Revs. Paul
Heit, Gotthilf Reichert and Joseph Lehner were the first
pastors, each serving two years. They were succeeded by
Rev. J. Lautenschlager and Rev. C. H. Althofif, each of
whom served eleven years. During the period of their pas-
torates the church had a slow but steady and substantial
growth and the time came when a new edifice was needed to
accommodate the overflowing congregation. Accordingly, in
1876, under the pastorate of Rev. Althofif, a beautiful struc-
ture was erected, which stands today as a monument to the
thrift, zeal and devotion of these people. This building is
fronted by a tower one hundred feet in height, has a beau-
tifully decorated interior, a large altar-niche, with two beau-
tiful high altars, two sacristies and side pulpit and organ loft
with a fine pipe organ. Rev. C. H. Alayer was called to sue-



230 DARKE COUNTY

ceed Rev. Althoff in 1880, and served until his death in 1904
— a period of twenty-four years. He was a well beloved
pastor, acceptable to his people, fond of the things they cher-
ished and his demise was sincerely mourned by them. Dur-
ing his pastorate the church increased greatly in membership,
the old church debt was paid off, a beautiful and substan-
tial parsonage and a parochial school built beside the church,
and many improvements made about the site. Rev. \\ . P.
Benzin succeeded pastor Mayer in June, 1904, and served
acceptably until the fall of 1911, and was succeeded in No-
vember, 1911, by Rev. August W. Zell, the present faithful
pastor.

Among the membership have been enrolled many of the
best known German families, including such names as Beis-
ner, Brand, Duebner, Dismeir, Dohse, Glander, Glase,
Grewe, Grote, Hollscher, Hiddeson, HolTman, Hupe, Klopfer,
Knick, Koester, Krueckeberg, Meier, ^lergler, Peters, Piit-
zer, Prasuhn, Requarth, Roebke, Roesser, Sander, Schafer,
Schwier, Schnell, Strotner. The members of the church
council are: Rev. Zell, chairman; elders, Frank Baldschun,
Sr., Christ Kester; deacons, Wm. Beisner, Wm. Schafifer;
trustees, John Schafifer, Harmon Hupe, Henry Brand, John
Ivruckeberg, Louis Dohse. The pastor is the superintendent
of the Sunday school in which there are six teachers, three
classes being taught in English and three in German. A
young people's meeting is held in which all the young people
participate. The communicant members number about 220,
and the baptized some 300. The morning services are ao^^'
conducted in the German language and the evening in Eng-
lish. This church belongs to the Joint Synod of Ohio. Other
churches belonging to this synod are located at Arcanum,
Ansonia, Pittsburg and Ithaca besides Grace Lutheran
church.

This latter church is located on the corner of Water and
Boston streets in Greenville, and was built in 1909. under
the pastorate of Rev. Benzin, who was then also serving
St. John's church, at a cost of some three thousand dollars.
The present elders are Wm. Grote and Henry Schake ; the
deacons, Henry Dismeier and Carl Dininger; trustees, John
Meier, Harley Dininger, Henry Dismeier, Walter Stahl and
Wm. Stevens. Rev. Paul Schillinger was pastor from the
fall of 1910 to fall of 1913. Rev. Edgar Ebert, a graduate of
Capitol University. Columbus, Ohio, began his pastorate on



DARKE COUNTY 231

Easter, 1914. There is a Ladies" Aid Society in tliis consjre-
gation, of which Airs. Frank Stauffer is president. There
are about eighty-five communicants and about 130 baptized
members. This church was formed by English members of
St. John's and Emmanuel's (Dininger) congregations who de-
sired to have a church in Greenville where the services could
be held exclusively in the English language. The Sunday
school has about fifty members, in four classes. The pastor
is the superintendent.

Old Order German Baptist Brethren.

This body is one of three now comprising what is common-
ly known as the Dunkers, or Dunkards, a name derived from
the German word, "Tunken," meaning to baptize, or more
specifically "to dip." This body arose in Germany at the
beginning of the eighteenth century and its followers were
driven from that country by persecution between the years
of 1719 and 1729. They fled to America where they expected
to be accorded the privilege of worshipping God according
to the dictates of their own conscience, and settled in eastern
Pennsylvania. Here they encountered many obstacles inci-
dent to pioneer life on the border and suffered severe hard-
ship and exposure during the early Indian A\'ars and the
Revolution. Progress was necessarily slow, but we note
signs of growth in the organization of their first Sabbath
school in 1738, their first annual conference in 1742, and the
printing of the first German bible in America in 1748. In
these pioneer days meetings were evidently held in the homes
of the members, as the first meeting house mentioned was
built in Franklin county. Pa., in 1798. They believe in bap-
tism by triune forward immersion, oppose war and litiga-
tion, resemble the Society of Friends in requiring extreme
plainness of language and dress, and practice feet washing
and the kiss of charity. They are temperate, industrious,
economical and thrifty and insist on the payment of financial
obligations. As the natural consequence of their exemplary
manner of living they have prospered wherever they have
settled, and commanded the respect of their neighbors.

As large numbers of the early emigrants to the Miami val-
ley came from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland, there
were among them a goodly number of German Baptists.
Jacob IMiller, who settled near Dayton in 1800, is credited with



232 DARKE COUNTY

being the first brother of this order to establish himself west
of the Miami river. He raised an exemplary family of three
daughters and nine sons, three of the latter becoming able
ministers, and was in this respect the forerunner of a host
of brethren who, by industry, morality, frugality and tenacit}'
of purpose, have made numerous prosperous settlements and
dotted the \-alley with their homes and meeting houses. As
the result of a progressive movement in the church a division
was caused in 1881, and all the meeting houses and property
went to the New Order. The Old Order now has the fol-
lowing meeting houses in Darke county, all built since the
separation above mentioned : Union City District — Jackson
township, three miles east of Union City on ^^'enrick pike ;
Pleasant Grove, German township, one mile east of Palestine :
Oak Grove, Adams township, two miles north of Gettysburg ;
Miller's Grove, Franklin township, two miles south of the vil-
lage of Painter Creek ; Fourman Meeting House, two miles
east and two north of Arcanum. Besides these a number of
members living in the neighborhood of Castine attend Price
Creek Meeting House, two miles south of Castine in Preble
county.

The Church of the Brethren.

At the conference held in Des ]\Ioines, Iowa, in 1908, the
conservative branch of the German Baptists who had l^een
separated from the Old Order in 1881, as before noted, changed
her name to "The Church of the Brethren." This body is
numerically strong in Darke county and has a thriving church
and home for the dependent children and old folks at Green-
ville, besides several rural congregations. The following very
interesting and instructive sketch, prepared by Levi Minnich,
of Franklin township, the vice-chairman of the General Sun-
day School Board of this body, gives a brief history of this
organization and shows its present status in Darke county
and elsewhere. What is said in this article about the Breth-
ren church in Darke county prior to 1881 applies likewise
to the Old Order.

"Probably the first member of the Church of the Brethren
locating in Darke county was Wm. K. ]\Iarquis, of French
parentage. He came from Virginia and settled near the pres-
ent site of Union City in 1821. Soon thereafter others fol-
lowed and in 1833 the little band of pioneers elected John
Crumrine and Wm. K. Marquis as their first ministers. Fred-



DARKE COUNTY 233

erick Roe and John Zumbrum were the first deacons. Re-
ligious servics were held in the homes of the members.

In 1851 a more definite organization was efifected and
christened "The Greenville Creek Church." This body con-
sisted of about seventy members. There are at present six
church houses and four congregations in this territory.

About the year 1833 members of the church of the Breth-
ren from Pennsylvania began to settle in Franklin and Mon-
roe townships and formed what has ever since been known
as the Ludlow congregation. This includes four chuich
houses ; one near Painter Creek village, one at Pittsburg,
one at Red River and one at Georgetown in Miami county.
Among the first members of this church were Jacob Stauffer
and wife, Barbara Brandt, Sallie Finfrock, David Kinsey and
wife, Frederick Holsopple and wife, David Mishler and wife.
At this time there were seventeen members living in the
above townships.

"Philip Younce was the first minister to conduct religious
services in this part of the county. He lived about five miles
southeast of West j\Iilton, nearly twenty miles distant, and
made his visit on horseback every eight weeks. Services
were held in the homes of the people, except in midsummer,
when a well shaded spot in the forest was selected. At the
time of one of these appointments Painter Creek had risen to
abnormal size. A friend of Rev. Younce living east of the
creek, desiring to spare the veteran minister this long jour-
ney, sent a messenger the day previous to inform him he
could not cross the raging stream. The elder, who was al-
ready en route, hesitated a moment, and then replied, 'My
horse can swim, and I shall try and reach my appointment.'
On he went and sure enough the faithful horse did take him
safely through the deep water full of floating logs, and his
appointment was filled according to previous announcement.