One of my sources for last week’s blog post about the old Pleasant Hill Friends church in Dublin Township was a compilation of Friends churches in the Mercer-Van Wert County area by Gregory P. Hinshaw. His Brief History of the Churches of Van Wert Quarterly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) gives some very good information about these early local churches.
I was surprised to learn that there were five Friends Churches within a few miles of us. Two of the churches are still standing in their original locations, two have been moved to other locations, and one church has been taken down.
The following is a list of the Friends churches that were in our area of Mercer County, from Hinshaw’s compilation.
Charity Union was organized in 1888 under the Friends Chapel Monthly Meeting and was first known as Mt. Charity Union Friends Church. The church was built in 1888 and was located at the corner of Denney and County Line Road, 5 miles southeast of Mendon (Union Township), on land donated by Hiram Wollam. The meetinghouse was remodeled in 1948. Worship services were discontinued in 1979 but Sunday School continued. The meeting was laid down in 1987 and the church was moved ½ mile east to a church camp in Auglaize County, where the church building still stands. This church is shown on the 1900 Union Township plat map.
Friends Chapel was organized in 1884 from the Van Wert Monthly Meeting. Harvey and Allie Bergman held a revival service in March 1884 in the old United Brethern Church that was located across the road from the current Friends Chapel, at the corner of State Route 118 and Tama Road (Hopewell Township). Friends Chapel was organized soon after the revival and a meetinghouse was built. The current church building was built in 1912 and was remodeled in 1919, 1948, 1987, and 1993-94. It appears the church was called Hopewell Friends Church at one time. The church is still standing and Friends Chapel Cemetery is located next to the church. The church is shown on the 1888 and 1900 Hopewell Township plat maps. The U.B. Church mentioned above is shown on the 1876 Hopewell plat map.
Friends Home Church was organized under Middle Point Monthly Meeting in 1885, was under the Van Wert Monthly Meeting in 1887, and transferred to Friends Chapel Monthly Meeting in 1889. The present meetinghouse was constructed about 1898-1900 at the intersection of State Route 29 and Township Line Road, 5 miles west of Celina (Jefferson Township). The congregation withdrew from the Indiana Yearly Meeting in 1930, joined the Ohio Yearly Meeting in 1947, then joined the Central Yearly Meeting in 1956. They attempted to rename the church Happy Corner Church about 2003-04 but the Yearly Meeting would not allow it. However, the name Happy Corner appears above the doors on the front of the building. The building was remodeled in 2003-4 and is still standing. This church is not shown on any of the older Jefferson Township plat maps.
Liberty Chapel was established as Liberty Meeting in 1886 under the Middle Point Monthly Meeting. The congregation became part of Friends Chapel Monthly Meeting in 1891. The first meetinghouse was erected in 1889 and was located about 4½ miles east of Chattanooga on Tama Road (Liberty Township). A new meetinghouse was erected in about 1900 and remodeled in 1906. That structure was destroyed by fire in 1932 and new meetinghouse was erected in 1933. The congregation was laid down in 1970 but services may have continued after that. It may have been called Liberty Chapel Community Church at one time. The church was torn down several years ago, probably 20-30 years ago. Liberty Chapel Cemetery is located adjacent to where the church stood. Liberty Chapel was always a Friends church and was the oldest Friends church in the area, although they did not join a Monthly Meeting until 1886. It is shown on the 1876, 1888, and 1900 Liberty Township plat maps. [The above photo is the only photo I have of Liberty Chapel, although the church in the background was not the focal point of the photo. We drove past the old Liberty Chapel every Sunday on our way to church for years and I could kick myself for not taking a photo of it before it was taken down.]
Pleasant Hill Friends Church was established in about 1885 under the Friends Chapel Monthly Meeting. They first met in a log cabin and built a meetinghouse about 1888, located on Now Road between Purdy and Wilson Roads, about 2 miles southwest of Rockford (Dublin Township). The congregation was laid down in 1906 and the meetinghouse was moved to South Street in Rockford, where the building was used for the Friends Church there. An abandoned cemetery is reportedly located at the old Now Road site. Pleasant Hill Friends Church is shown on the 1900 Dublin Township plat map.
Rockford Friends Church was organized by Albert J. Furstenberger under the Friends Chapel Monthly Meeting in July 1906. They used the Pleasant Hill meetinghouse, which was moved into Rockford in 1906 and located on South Street. Rockford Monthly Meeting was established in 1912 and the meetinghouse was remodeled at that time. The monthly meeting was laid down in 1938 and the congregation closed about 1942. The meetinghouse was sold to Calvary U.B. Church in 1944 and was used by The Victory Life Tabernacle in the early 2000s. The building is still standing.
Four of the five church buildings mentioned above are still standing. Liberty Chapel was the oldest Friends church in the area and the only one whose meetinghouse is no longer standing. Below is a sketch of the church from a 1926 newspaper. The church was reportedly called Liberty Centre Chapel at the time of Mary Arabelle Secaur’s murder in 1872 and was the church she attended. She is buried in the cemetery there.
It is not mentioned in Hinshaw’s compilation, but there was a Friends Church in Celina on West Fayette Street, between Mill and Brandon, east of the old railroad tracks. That church was associated with the Ohio Yearly Meeting and is no longer standing.
Main source of information: “A Brief History of the Churches of Van Wert Quarterly Meeting of Friends (Quakers)” by Gregory P. Hinshaw, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005.