VERSAILLES — Members of Darke County’s Old German Baptist Brethren community spoke about the church’s history at the Versailles Area Museum Monday. The talk was part of an ongoing series put on by the museum at the end of each month called “Last Mondays.”
“Last Mondays feature speakers who each bring something different,” museum board member Jim Kelch said. “We like to offer educational opportunities to our community, and this I feel was an excellent example of that!”
The Versailles Area Museum serves Versailles and eight other surrounding communities, including Willowdale, Osgood, Russia, Yorkshire, Webster, Brock, North Star, and Frenchtown. Eighty-five percent of the artifacts housed in the museum are on loan from various sources within the community, allowing them to rotate in different exhibits inexpensively on a regular basis.
The Old German Baptist Brethren are a conservative denomination that separated from the larger German Baptist Brethren Church in the late 19th century. The church numbers about 4,000 members. Brethren are often mistaken for Amish or Mennonite communities, as they share a similar, plain style of dress.
Speakers at Monday’s event talked about the church’s early years in Europe and then America, as well as about the group’s history in Ohio. They also discussed an old Brethren church, located in North Star, which they had visited together. The building which once housed the church had been moved to a new location and was no longer being used as a church, but was still standing.
The Old German Baptist Brethren Church’s annual conference will be held in Darke County next May.
Kelch was very happy with the turnout for Monday’s talk.
“We had one of our largest crowds ever for this event!” Kelch said.
A series of circumstances led to the museum asking the Brethren members to speak, according to Kelch.
“Over 25 years ago, our childcare providers were Cheryl and Gordon Denlinger of Eldorado, Ohio,” Kelch said. “We’ve kept in touch, so I reached out to them. We’ve attended several events together, and I thought it would be interesting to have someone come in and speak.”
Kelch’s interest became even stronger when a researcher working on a book about the museum noted the presence of the church in North Star. Museum members had only been aware of German Lutherans and French Catholics in the area during that time period.
“So with the local connection and the fact we deal specifically with northeastern Darke County, it was a perfect fit,” Kelch said.
The museum is open Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every month except January, and is also open by appointment throughout the year, even for only one person. Those wishing to schedule a tour may call 937-526-4222 and leave a message.