In 1775, Patrick Henry said…

In 1775, Patrick Henry said “I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.” By looking back across the more than one hundred years of this- congregation’s witness in this community, we gain a better perspective for the future and a clearer Conception of our calling in living here for Christ today.

THE FOLLOWING HISTORY of The Louisville Evangel’cal United Brethren Church was written by Mrs. Donald Kimmel, a member of the congregation.

J. S. B.

The church of the United Brethren in Christ had its beginning in the “Great Meeting” held in Isaac Long’s barn in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1767. It was merged in 1946 with the Evangelical denomination and is known today as the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

At the time of the founding of the local .United Brethren congregation in 1856, the denomination had been in Ohio a little more than 50 years.

Louisville Ohio was a flourishing little town in 1856. The Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad had been completed four years before and Louisville had become an important shipping point for crops.

In addition to the industries common in almost all the towns of the time, Louisville was noted for the manufacture of bricks, cigars, leather boots, and wooden shoes. There were two doctors and five general stores serving this community of 300. The only Protestant congregation was of the French Baptist denomination, and services were held infrequently as the minister resided some distance away.

Louisville had been laid out and the plat recorded 22 years earlier, in 1834, but it had not yet been incorporated.  There were three streets: Main, Gorgas, and Chapel—all dirt streets and as yet unlighted.  Hogs bathed in the mud holes, and cows mowed the grass to the wheel tracks.

This was Louisville when the United Brethren Church was organized here shortly after the first of the year, 1856.  The organization came about in this manner: A miller moved to Louisville from the East bringing his wife who was in poor health. He had hoped the change of climate would benefit her, but instead she grew worse and died.  The grieving man wanted to have the service of some church used at her funeral so he asked a neighbor, Daniel M. Slusser, where he could find a preacher.

Mr. Slusser knew that a Protestant preacher held services occasionally in the Jacob Lesh barn in Fairhope, and he set out for Fairhope on horseback to learn where the minister resided. As he neared the Fairhope crossroads, he met a stranger riding in a two-wheeled sulky.  As he passed the stranger a voice seemed to tell him, “There goes a preacher.”

Mr. Slusser turned his horse back and overtook the stranger. “Are you a Protestant minister?” he asked.

“I am a United Brethren preacher,” the stranger replied, and he agreed to return from Alliance to Louisville the following day to conduct the funeral.

At the close of the service Mr. Slusser, John Myers, Emanuel- Schoop, and Dr. John Shilling consulted the minister, Rev. John Demming, regarding his holding services here regularly. Mr. Slusser offered the use of his home.

Church records for March 20. 1856, list 29 members. Services were held in the French Baptist Church for several years, but when quarterly meeting time came the building was too small, and it was necessary to use a barn for the purpose, a common practice among all churches at that time.

By 1859 construction was begun on the first United Brethren building on the corner of East Gorgas and what is now Walnut Avenue. The entire block between East Gorgas and East Broad streets had been purchased for $150. The land lying on East Broad Street was used as a cemetery until June, 1929, when the cemetery was removed and the land sold.

When the first United Brethren Church was built, Louisville had a population of 350. There were three hotels. A list of businessmen included a wagon maker, tailor, gunsmith, tanner, cooper, brickmaker, auctioneer, and carpet weaver. The mining and hauling of iron ore was carried on here and a basket and ladder factory did a good business.

The First Building-1860  

The first church building was completed in 1860 at a cost of $1,547.06. Approximately half the amount had been raised by public subscription by the time the building was completed. The remainder was pledged and paid the following year.  Trustees were Mr. Schopp, Mr. Myers, and Mr. Slusser. A Sunday School had been organized by a Mrs. Prenot.

By 1880 the population of Louisville was 1,050. The school census was 476. Temperance meetings were held in Louisville during the 1880s. Rev. James Garfield, later to become President of the United States, spoke at one of the early sessions.

During this decade the United Brethren Church went into the picnic business on a large scale. For several years in succession excursions were made to Cuyahoga Falls, Rocky River, Chippewa Lake, and Cedar Point.

In the nation a depression was just ending, but at home Louisville had not suffered greatly, and the town and the United Brethren Church continued to thrive. There were 89 members now.

“The Louisville Discussion,” a series of theological debates, was held March 1 to 6, 1881, at the local U. B. Church.  Debate was upon subjects pertaining to church practices and doctrines. Elder S. H. Baskor of Ashland represented the German Baptist Church and Elder William Dillon of Dayton represented the United Brethren Church.  Three sessions were held daily, and the debate attracted widespread attention.  The proceedings were phono-graphically reported and printed in a book, a copy of which is in the Library of Congress.

By 1901 the congregation of the Louisville U. B. Church had outgrown its building and during the pastorate of Rev. M. F. Fritz, another was erected on the same site. The Louisville Herald for Thursday, Sept. 19, 1901, records “The beautiful new church of the United Brethren in Christ was dedicated with solemn and impressive service Sunday morning (Sept. 15).”

The Second Building-1901

“Six hundred people were crowded into the building. Many stood while others were obliged to walk away.  Taking part were Rev. G. W. Souder, pastor of the Reformed Church who’ delivered a fervent prayer, and Rev. William Bell of Dayton who delivered the discourse. .Rev. Bell spoke for more than an hour. His sermon was strong and held the close attention of the large congregation.”

The new building had .cost $5,500.  The total indebtedness was $250, which was raised before the close of the dedication service. Cash was given in the amount of $210, and the remaining $40 was pledged to be paid when the vest was sold. The membership was 122.

The only glum note was cast by a black draped photograph of President William McKinley which was displayed on the • altar. The ‘nation’s 25th president, a resident of Canton and friend to many in the sanctuary that day, had died during the week, the victim of an assassin’s bullet.

Revival meetings were held and between revival sessions church members met at the church to pray for the salvation of souls during the meeting.

Behind the scenes but functioning actively were the ladies aid and the prayer group.  The new church carpet and pulpit furniture were evidence of one’s existence; the continued growth of the church was proof the other was at work.

One project of the ladies aid has endured down through the years.  It is the autograph quilt which still remains in Louisville.  Although they worked hard to provide “extras” for their church, they never lost sight of their original purpose—to pray- for the church, to call on the sick and to minister to the poor.

Through the years came paved streets, automobiles, better working conditions, improved school facilities, and two world wars.  The merger of the United Brethren and the Evangelical denominations in 1946 was the uniting of two groups with a similar history.  Both had come to Ohio as missionary churches to serve rural people.

In 1952 a modern educational unit costing $105,000 was built, providing opportunity for our congregation to meet and study in clean attractive surroundings and to play in a Christian atmosphere.  The dedication was held November 16 of that year.  The old church was torn down after the state fire marshal condemned it, and the educational unit became an all-purpose building.

A Hammond electric organ was purchased in time for the Lenten season, 1955. The choir took the initiative, ordered the instrument and conducted the campaign to raise the-$3,150 with which to pay for it.

In 1956 the congregation observed its 100th birthday.  The week-long celebration was highlighted by a family dinner meeting, a pageant, and the burning of the mortgage on the educational unit.  Church membership stood at -460.

In 1957 Rev. Emerson R. Rugh who had served the local church for 12 years announced his plans to move his family to Florida where he was to accept the call to a mission church.

His successor, Rev. J. Stanley Barnes, with Wife Betty and son David, arrived in December of that year.  Under Rev. Barnes’ capable and dedicated leadership the dreams of a new sanctuary became reality.  Ground was broken June 28, 1959.

The cornerstone was laid on October 11, and the first service was held on April 3, 1960.

The first building was begun in 1859 and completed in 1860.

The present sanctuary was begun in 1959 and finished in 1960.