CHESTER — St. John’s Lutheran Church on Pine Grove Road had it’s beginnings in 1840 when a group of German settlers began worshiping together.
The Rev. Paul Henkel preached to the early congregation, and in 1842, the Rev. William Lehmann, a professor at what is now Capital University, came to the area to preach and baptize children. The congregation gained its first permanent pastor in 1844 with the Rev. William Sihler.
In 1848, they adopted a Constitution and became St. John’s Lutheran Church.
Their first house of worship was a building that was the common property of the Lutheran and the Protestant congregations in the area. They shared the facility by having services on alternating Sundays or by conducting one service in the morning and another in the afternoon.
This continued until, according to church history, “It became advisable for each congregation to possess its own house of worship.”
Forty acres of land was purchased in January 1847 for $150, and the congregation of St. John’s Lutheran Church built a log church on the property in 1855. Some of the land was set aside for a cemetery. The log church served as their place of worship until 1878, when the current church was constructed just a few hundred feet from where the log church stood, at a cost of around $1,800.
The white church is set in the woods and surrounded by flower beds, and except for the addition of an activities room, an awning over the entrance and a bulletin board in front, the beautiful structure is mostly unchanged today.
It is easy to imagine the congregation arriving at the church. In this sparsely populated country setting, the only sounds were birds and the wind blowing quietly through the pine trees for which the road was named. Now the quiet was disrupted by the clatter of horses and wagons. Adults spoke with one another outside the church and children played until their parents called them in for worship.
Services were presented in English, but for many of the congregation, German was the primary language. The original church sign was built into the structure above the front door and attests to the church’s German heritage, as do many church records that are also written in German.
Inside is much the same as well, with some minor alterations over the years, including air conditioning and some rearranging to accommodate a door to the new addition.
One thing that did change inside was the separation of men and women during services. As was the custom at that time, pews were divided by a rail, and men sat on one side of the church and women on the other.
This practice continued until sometime in the 1900s. Legend has it that a newly wedded couple came to Sunday services.
She looked at her husband and said, “We are sitting together.”
Gradually, other couples followed suit and the practice of separating at the door faded, but the rail separating the pews remains.
St. John’s is considered the mother church of St. Paul in Middleport, which began around 1855. The two churches have had a close relationship; over the years they have shared ministers, and during St. Paul’s remodeling, St. Paul’s was home to both congregations.
Today, the church stands as a reminder of the struggles of early settlers in Meigs County, and represents a commitment by current members to keep the legacy alive.
On Sunday, Oct. 18, St. John’s Lutheran Church will be celebrating the 175th anniversary of its founding. Current pastor, the Rev. Linea Warmke, is extending a welcome to anyone who wishes to attend the service at 10 a.m. that day. The message will be presented by the Bishop of Southern Ohio, Suzanne Dillahunt.
Contact Lorna Hart at 740-992-2115 Ext. 2551