SALEM CHURCH NO MORE
Published in the Sunday Journal Gazette
By Forest J. McComb
Indiana, Allen County, and especially Perry Township is losing one of its old landmarks. It’s the Salem Reformed Church located on a corner where the Chapman Road comes down a hill and in the hollow intersects the Auburn Road, right in the heart of Dutch Ridge country in northeast Perry Township.
Steps were taken Sunday, August 30th, for the complete abandonment and disposal of the building as a church. In a special 3 p.m. service, the cornerstone of the church was removed and given a permanent home in the cemetery directly across the Auburn Road. This was the final step in untangling the legal interpretation of the deed to the half-acre church plot. The cemetery, of course, is owned by the local community and the stone will last there as long as the well-kept cemetery lasts.
It is with a feeling of sadness that we come to the end of an era – an actual parting with the past. Certainly the community must have felt the need when the solid brick church was built, but it has now fulfilled and outlived its destiny.
A Former Member Walked to Salem
MRS. ELIZABETH STELLHORN, 82 years old, started attending Sunday School and church services there as a 12-year old girl. She, along with a younger sister, Frances, and Kate and Nellie Bleekman made a practice of walking a little over a mile to the church. I asked Mrs. Stellhorn why services were discontinued some 30 years ago?
“Well – I don’t know as I can rightly say,” she said, “Seems as if the old ones died off, the automobile came, and the young ones started going way off somewhere on Sunday. It got so the church was too big for the regular service but not big enough for funerals!”
Approximately 100 people turned out for the cornerstone ceremony. Most were folks who either attended at Dutch Ridge or had relatives that died and are buried there. The cornerstone was opened at its cemetery site, and great interest was shown in the contents deposited 94 years ago. On account of a high wind, the contents were moved to LOYAL YODER’s residence, where they proved to be:
One Holy Bible by the American Society, dated 1876
One book containing Psalms and Hymns of the church, 1872
One Heidelberg catechism from Philadelphia, 1874
One Christian World, a Cincinnati newspaper, July 27, 1876
One Reformed Church newspaper, August 3, 1876, written in German
A letter containing an account of the cornerstone laying, and another paper listing the members of the church.
These valuable papers are expected to be placed with the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society. Anyone wishing a copy of the list may contact JACK SURFUS, Grabill R.R. 2, secretary-treasurer of the Cemetery Association. HARRY WARNER is president.
(Find this early membership list at the end of this article)
Rev. P. Ruhl was pastor when the church was built in 1876, and the cornerstone carries his name. Other pastors who served over the years are: The Reverends FRANK RUPNOV, WORTHMAN, ZARKMAN, ROWE, MICHAELS, REMENSNIDER, HAFLEY, and CARL GRIM. After regular services were stopped the church was still opened for funerals. The last was for MAYLON WARNER in 1952.
Pennsylvania Dutch Settled the Area
The Dutch Ridge country acquired its name from the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers who came in when Indiana was opened for settlement in 1832. The first ones were attracted by the large trees for to them, large trees meant rich soil. It’s true, Dutch Ridge has some hard clay hills but it also has many rich, fertile acres and late- comers probably wanted to be close to friends. So many fine farms were developed on the Ridge.
The names on the monuments in the small but neat cemetery just about tell the story. Many are WARNER, GARMAN, SNYDER, HENSINGER, RINEHOLD, MYERS, SMITH, and FREDERICK, but there’s also LINCOLN, FISHER, MUHN, BENDER, SURFUS, VANDOLAH, MOUDY, one PERRY, another SCHNIEDER family with a different spelling, and also OTHO, LAURA and THEODORE BOREN.
The known U. S. soldiers buried there are MILT MYERS, CHARLES WARNER, OTIS BENDER, WALTER HOWE, and ALBERT GARMAN, who was the last in 1965. The Federal Government has made some payments toward the upkeep of the cemetery.
In the rear of the cemetery is a row of small slabs that are markers for children and one is dated 1861, 109 years ago.
The cemetery land was given by JOHN RINEHOLD off his adjoining farm and the half-acre church site was from the MANDIS MYER farm. Originally, a log church was erected on the Rinehold land and the burying was on Myers soil, but by some strange quirk of fate things were reversed, and the new church was built in 1876 on the parcel of land from Myers at the southwest corner of the Chapman and Auburn Roads. The Rinehold land became the cemetery, and all the graves that could be were moved to it. Later a brick school house, District # 1, was built by the township on the northwest corner of Chapman and Auburn Roads.
Many years ago, the hollow that became the site of the church, school, and Eli Garman’s general store northeast up the hill a half mile or so on the Auburn Road became known as Collingwood.
Today the Garman store is completely gone. And it is a good thing the switch between the church and cemetery ground was made, for the present cemetery is much larger and is on higher ground. But at the time, who could foresee that one day the schoolhouse would fall to centralization and become a residence, the church become obsolete and pass into private hands and only the cemetery is left to carry on with its intended purpose!
In the early days, the society of Dutch Ridge revolved around the church, school, mill and post office. News was difficult to come by before the daily newspaper, telephone and radio came to the country, and folks kept up with it by going to church, store, and mill. It was then passed on by word-of-mouth. Yet, they had a unique method of spreading the news of death. The church sexton was notified immediately and he tolled the bell the exact number of years the person was old. By counting the tolls and knowing who was critically ill, the community could just about pinpoint the death.
The church wasn’t large, as churches go, 34 x 46 feet on its foundation. The bricks were made on the JOHN WARNER farm west on Chapman Road, as were the bricks for the WARNER and KISTLER houses. The resulting hole became a pond. The church had three arched windows on each side, and a vestibule with double doors eight feet high was the entrance. A large arch filled with glass was over the doors, and the vestibule rose high over the roof to end in a bell-tower. This tower had four arched openings.
LOYAL YODER, who followed ARLIE FREDRICK and ANSON WARNER in serving as cemetery board president, became interested in the preservation of the bell. The board accepted an offer to the cemetery fund and Loyal has the bell at his Chapman Road farm. He expects to some day house it in a museum along with other relics he has accumulated. The thickly cast bell stands 48 inches high in its 59-inch wide frame, and the frame is 6 x 6 inch oak timbers. The bottom of the bell flares out to 40 inches across; the wooden wheel the ringing rope runs on is 52 inches in diameter, and the clapper is 6 inches in diameter. The bell also has a separate lever and mallet arrangement for tolling. It is tuned to the key of B and has a clear mellow tone that could be heard far and wide.
ARLIE FREDERICK, 87 years old, remembers much of the church history. In the old days it was customary to toll the bell as funeral processions approached the church and again the age of the person was used. This made the timing important as this ceremony should be over by the time the people were inside. As the church was in the hollow, spotters were put on the hills to alert the sexton when to start.
A well-known male quartette sang for many funerals and other occasions. ARTHUR BLEEKMAN, in his eighties, is the lone survivor. The others were SAM SURFUS, EDGAR GARMAN and ALBERT SOUDERS.
Besides the many fine sermons delivered, the church was the scene of many festive occasions such as Christmas programs, Children’s Day and homecoming celebrations. ART BLEEKMAN took charge of these and many people came from Fort Wayne, Auburn, Garrett, Waterloo and far away places.
ELI GARMAN and wife were staunch supporters of the church, and the HARRY MARTINS, latecomers to Dutch Ridge, tell of attending homecomings and the Garmans, and what enjoyable times were had at these events! Besides meeting people, a basket dinner was served in the yard, and a program was held inside the church in the afternoon.
Every church has mainstays who give generously of time and effort, and this fell for many years on JOHN WARNER, CUSTER SURFUS, and JERRY GARMAN. I’m told HARRISON SNYDER and BILL GARMAN could be depended on to stimulate interest by drawing folks into lively arguments at Sunday school over church rhetoric, interpreting scripture, or almost anything. But JOHN WARNER aimed to stay out of arguments. Sunday school picnics were usually held in BILL GARMAN’s woods north on the Auburn Road.
In 1930, the church needed inside repair, and ROLLIE MUHN donated extensively to the project. “In honor of my parents,” he said, “who were members here!” And EDGAR GARMAN (deceased) also contributed much labor from himself and sawmill hands, and contributions were made over the years by many others in one way or another.
So these people of years ago, tied together in many ways, made their own enter-tainment and lived the good life. They exchanged the labor of planting, harvesting, butchering, and barn-raisings. They had their Sunday school picnics and church suppers, and their box socials and debates at the schoolhouse. They shared each other’s joys and sorrows, and could laugh at a joke.
ART BLEEKMAN, who recently lost his wife, tells of their marriage of many years ago. The couple had planned a quiet Saturday evening home ceremony and REV. ROWE was coming to perform it at six o’clock. Some relatives, hearing of the impending wedding, wanted to come.
“All right – come on!” Art said. “The more the merrier!”
On the way over, these folks stopped to get some more relatives to come along and were finagled into helping do their chores. Art grins when telling about it. “By the time they got here it was too late, the wedding was over!”
The Dutch Ridge people stood up well under a ribbing. There was a time when the Stirlen Debating Team challenged the team at the Dutch Ridge School. Wanting to contribute to the entertainment after the debate, the Stirlen lads concocted two songs – one to sing in case they won, and another to sing if they lost. It happened they won, and the song they sang started with this:
“Oh Collingwood, you are no good.” “When Stirlen speaks up here . . . “
The song they didn’t have to use has long been forgotten.
EARLY DUTCH RIDGE GERMAN REFORMED CHURCH MEMBERS
1. Solomon Myers 2. Harriet Myers
3. Enoch Garman 4. Polley Garman
5. Samuel Fredrick 6. Lucinda Fredrick
7. Harry Hansinger 8. Mary Hansinger
9. _________ Harkey 10. Eve Harkey
11. Amos Rinehold 12. Hilta (?) Rinehold
13. Sam Smith 14. Abigail Smith
15. Milton Myers 16. Mary Myers
17. Jacob Boltz 18. Barbra Boltz
19. Frank Fredrick 20. Julley Fredrick
21. Susan Wilcox 22. ________ Myers
23. Tillie Overholzar 24. John Garman
25. Julley Garman 26. John Fredrick
27. George Garman 28. James Warner
29. Margaret Warner 30. ________ Fredrick
31. John Hensinger 32. Saray Fredrick
33. Saray Hansinger 34. Solomon Fredrick
35. Mickel Hansinger 36. ________ Harkey
37. Maray Harkey 38. William Garman
39. George Fredrick 40. Franck Garman
41. Juley Barker 42. William Hofman
43. ________ Housar 44. possibly a Warner
45. not readable 46. not readable
47. Dick Boltz 48. Louisa Boltz
49. Carline Hartzel 50. Emiria Hartzel
51. Carrine Barrat 52. Elizabeth Warner
53. Mindis Myers
Taken from the church records. Names may not be correct, but taken from a hand written list. If some of these people come from your family and you have more information about them, let us know.