By Ryan Berry
NEW PARIS — Friendship Community Church, located in southern Darke County in Harrison Township, is celebrating its 180th anniversary. A special event will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2-4 p.m. There will be music, bounce house for the kids and food.
Although the church is now non-denominational, the church has held many different denominations through out its history, including Methodists, Quakers, United Brthren and Universalists. There was a time when two different services will be held on the same day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.
While a congregation met in an log meeting house prior to construction of the the current building on Eaton-Fort Nesbit Road. Historical records show that on June 3, 1841 the land was deeded by George Miller and wife to three trustees – David Gibbs, John Brodrick and Ellis Thomas. The cost for the purchase – 25 cents. Construction began the following year.
Although the building is 180 years old, there have been a few years were it has sat vacant. Congregations continue to meet in the building for the first 60 years of existence, but from the early 1900’s to 1917 it remained vacant. The building was in poor shape and, instead of turning into a home, the community decided they wanted it to return as a church. Records show that George McClure was key in having the church rebuilt and dedicated in 1917.
Once it was re-opened the Sunday services averaged around 80 people.
Approximately 10 years later, the church once again faced closure. The doors were close during the Depression and stood vacant from 1936 until 1950. Once again, members of the community raised funds to re-roof the bulding and make it serviceable.
There are plenty of reminders from days gone by that remain in and outside of the church. The original chimney for the wood burning furnace was removed from the side wals and a new chimney to handle a new source of heat was built on the front of the building. Remnants of the old chimney can still be seen in some of the pictures. A foyer addition was built around the 1960’s on the front of the building, On the inside, one might find the light fixtures look like they are antiques. That’s because they are. The original kersone lamp fixtures remain; however, they have been converted into electric lights. The original straight-backed pews have been replaced with a more comfortable pew purchased from a church that was closing in Union City.
The congregation invites everyone to stop in and help them celebrate on Sept. 10 or come visit one of their services.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected]