WEST LIBERTY – Every village has it’s own unique church history and West Liberty is no different. The first known church was started in 1814 before the town was founded and called the Muddy Run Christian Church or Bethel Church in it’s beginnings.
The church was constructed of logs near the crest of Ordway Hill west of West Liberty. Ordway was the name of a prominent business man in town who had a two story brick boot and shoe store. The church disbanded and part of the members formed the Glady Creek Church further west and the rest went to West Liberty where a church was organized.
Pastorate of the West Liberty Church also had McKees Creek Christian Church and later the Muchinippi Christian Church. In 1927 the named changed to Congregational Christian when the Congregational and Christian Churches united. In 1961, the church voted to become part of the United Church of Christ- merger of Congregational, Evangelical and Reformed denominations. The original Muddy Run Church is no longer, with only the cemetery remaining today on Township Road 195.
The West Liberty Methodist Church was organized in 1830 and was built on ground purchased from Thomas P. Miller. It was located on East Baird street and was later used as a residence and business room then destroyed by fire. A better structured building was constructed in 1849. The pastor did a circuit of the Methodist, Wesley Chapel and Springhills churches in 1889.
The Early Church was a shouting church. Demonstrative and loud but very serious. 1905-1910 the Ladies Aid Society was busy making money for church improvements by selling meals at the Logan County Fair. Four ladies were the first to be elected to the board of stewards. This was the first record of woman holding office in the church.
In 1841, the 1st Presbyterian Church had no place to meet for worship so they accepted the offer of the Methodist Church to use their building. Then in 1842, the use of the old stone distillery became available. The Rev. W. B. Price told of the first communion service held at the new location. The former distillery had been infested with rats and the members were working on getting rid of them through the use of poison. The rats became sick to death during the service and now and then a rat would fall dead from the stone wall into the congregation. Thankfully the worshipers were so focused on the service that the barely noticed.
In 1890, during Sunday School, fire erupted in the belfry and the church was quickly evacuated. The building burned down except for the brick and stone. The windows, furniture, organ, library books, and other valuables were saved. The Lutheran Church was borrowed for services until a new building was completed in November of the same year.
McKees Creek Chapel has long been known as the “Little Church beside the road. It was built in 1859 beside the road between West Liberty and Bellefontaine. The road at that time was called Bellefontaine- West Liberty Pike and the church originally called McKees Creek Christian Church after the creek that ran through the valley at that time.
The church closed sometime for unknown reasons and reopened on February of 1884. McKees Creek ended it’s association with the Christian Church in the summer of 1932. The church reopened in July of 1941 under the direction of the Evangelical Friends Church. In 1987 it no longer was affiliated with the Friends church and became a non-denominational church called McKees Creek Chapel.
South Union Mennonite Church was started with a group from an Amish settlement in Logan County. In 1845 Elders Moses Miller and Levi Miller helped organized a new church. Services were held in the family homes until 1857 when the first meeting house was built northwest of the present building.
Being built on the farm of John Kenagy and Bishop being Jacob C Kenagy it was called the Kenagy Church. A new name was given in 1868 of the King Church. Needing more space a new building was built in 1876 on the corner of Rt 68 and Rt 507. Then it received it’s current name South Union Mennonite Church.
The Bethel Mennonite Church began out of the younger generation not wanting services in German language as was so in the older Mennonite Churches in the area. The younger folks wanted English spoken in Sunday School but was told no, so they began meeting in their homes. Their number grew so in 1895 plans began for a new building and was dedicated in 1896.
The church was struck by lightning in May 1923 and was a total loss. It was rebuilt and completed by Jan. 1, 1924. The Bethel Mennonite Church was the first to hold Vacation Bible School in the community in 1935 and grew so much that in 1947 other churches began holding their own VBS. The Mennonite Children’s Home, now known as being a part of Adriel School, housed many children and they attended the Bethel Church.
When many Amish Mennonites from Pennsylvania, Fairfield County, Ohio, and Illinois relocated to West Liberty they had no church to serve their needs so the Champaign Church was started in 1845 in one of the homes. A church building was built in 1856 on Ludlow Road, about two miles from the present location.
The present house of worship was erected in 1875 and it’s name changed to Oak Grove on Mennonite Church Road. In 1900, the church started a mid-week prayer meeting in the homes but in 1901 they began using the church. These meeting were held because the Sunday School workers were attending a Quaker revival meeting near West Liberty.
When Benjamin and Elizabeth Piatt moved to the outskirts of West Liberty in 1828 the nearest Catholic Church was three hours away by horse and buggy. Elizabeth wanted her husband to build a church near their home but Benjamin thought that the sawmill and gristmill should be finished first because they brought in money.
One day, when he was called off to Cincinnati on urgent business, Elizabeth told the workers to stop what they were doing and using wood cut for another project had them build a church. It was completed by the time Benjamin arrived home and was affectionately known as St. Elizabeth’s Chapel or the Piatt Chapel. The chapel no longer exist but the cemetery is still there on Township Road 47 just down the road from the Piatt Cabin.
The Church of God was started after a member of Oak Grove attended a camp meeting in Anderson, Ind. He orchestrated a camp meeting in West Liberty and it was held on a farm southeast of the Ohio Caverns. Another meeting was held two years later in the same place. A school building at five points, (intersection of Co Rd 1 and Co Rd 5) was used to hold meetings when they were regularly held.
The church building was moved to the west side of town in 1910 on Taylor street. The Nazarene Church bought the building in 1924 and the present building was bought and they moved to Liberty street. The property consisted of four lots and was purchased by Ezra Riehl.
Grace Chapel, under the belief that others from another state wanted to tell people how to and what to believe started a new church to get away from that as they wanted a biblical based church. The believers began meeting in a basement until funds could be saved to build.
They outgrew the basement but all they had money saved up for church was a basement so they built the basement and covered it so they could hold meetings. They became known as, ‘the groundhog church.” As they saved money they were able to add to the structure. In November of 1956, plans were underway and in December the started the building and it was dedicated in December of 1963.
The newest addition to our Church family took up residence in the former Vintage Inn Restaurant just north of West Liberty. Bill and Mary Walker moved to Bellefontaine after being called to start a church. Their first service was held on Dec. 3, 2006, at The Friendly Senior Center in Bellefontaine. Needing more space they moved into their current building on South street in January of 2010. They broke ground for more space for a sanctuary, gathering space and offices being built onto the current building.
Not much information could be found on the Wesley Chapel Church nor Mt. Tabor Church on state Route 245, east of West Liberty and now mostly known for the cemetery on the church property. Each church has it’s stories of God’s love, faith, family, fellowship, and are rich in history, missions, and helping the community.
The information about West Liberty churches was found in the Historical West Liberty, Ohio, and church websites.
Tami Wenger is a regular contributor to this newspaper.