Most Plain City churches have gone through several incarnations, from log cabins to frame structures to brick and stone. The United Methodist Church is no exception.
In 1814, several Methodist families arrived in the area along the Big Darby. They included the Converse, Beach, Noteman and Dort families. These settled to the south and southwest of what is now Plain City. Squire Titus Dort held the first church meetings in his log cabin.
The Rev. Robert Finley came from Kentucky in 1815 and organized the first Methodist Church, a group of 17 men and women. They met in a log schoolhouse which stood on the west bank of Big Darby about a mile south of the current town. Bad weather made travel so difficult that three families eventually left the congregation and built the Converse Chapel four miles to the south.
In 1820 the remaining members built a log church on the Chillicothe Road. It stood on the south bank of a small run opposite the Pleasant Valley Cemetery. (This would have been just south of where the Plain City Elementary School now stands, and across from the southern tip of the Darby Township Cemetery.) It was said to have resembled a log fort, or “blockhouse,” and was called the “Block Church.” It was dedicated in 1821 with Rev. Russell Bigelow, first cousin of Isaac Bigelow, officiating.
By the early 1840s, the Block Church was in serious need of repairs, and a considerable controversy arose over whether to make the repairs or build a new church in town. The question was decided by the actions of a group of vandals who effectively demolished part of the old building. From 1842 until 1848, the congregation met in the frame schoolhouse on the east side of the town commons. (It stood roughly in the area where Ferguson’s garage now is.)
In 1848, under the leadership of Rev. Michael Kauffman, a small brick church was built on the north side of East Main Street near the city limits. It was dedicated in 1850 by Rev. Uriah Heath. Members included Dr. and Mrs. Charles McCloud, Philip and Mary Snyder, Asa, Parley and Jeremiah Converse (sons of Rev. Jeremiah Converse), Dr. and Mrs. J. E. McCune, Dr. and Mrs. W. I. Ballinger and the Ketch family.
By the 1870s traveling “into town” was no longer a hazardous undertaking, and the members of the Converse Chapel voted to unite with the Plain City Methodists. In 1875 Rev. Benjamin Tressenrider organized the building of what became known as the “little red brick church” on North Chillicothe Street. It was dedicated in 1876 in a service featuring Dr. Payne, president of Ohio Wesleyan University. Six years later, a red brick parsonage was completed on the north side of the church.
It is interesting that the Methodists and the Presbyterians both built “red brick churches” in 1875 and found within 25 years that their congregations had outgrown their buildings. And in both cases, the decision was made to build a new church on the same site as the old.
The Presbyterian Church was built in 1895. The Methodists, under the leadership of Rev. N. A. Palmer, laid the cornerstone on Sept. 11, 1901, and the building was dedicated on April 5, 1903. The dedication program shows that there were three services that day, at 10:45 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. It also notes that during the first week, there would be “preaching by former pastors every afternoon and evening except Monday and Saturday.” The second week promised “preaching by former and neighboring pastors afternoon and evening, Monday and Friday evenings inclusive.”
The architectural style of the building was in “modified Romanesque.” The sanctuary was originally painted dark and light green. The ceiling resembled a canopy of stars, with a total of 104 lights. The pews were made by the Grand Rapids School Furniture Company at a cost of $50. The stained-glass windows came from the Bryant Brothers of Columbus and cost $850.
In 1914 a new parsonage was built to replace the 1881 house. In 1918, new Sunday School rooms and a basement were added.
By 2015 the decision was made by the congregation to erect a more modern facility. Land was purchased on Plain City-Lafayette Road west of town, and the old church building was sold to Buckeye Brass and Wind, Inc. Under the leadership of Pastor Blaine Keene and Assistant Pastor Missy Fuson the congregation is looking forward to new opportunities for service in and from their new building.
Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.