X. History in a Box
After the fire destroyed the Bethel church building on Christmas day in 1945, it was decided to open the cornerstone box to see what the church members in 1860 had placed there. When the box was opened it contained only a mass of rotted papers with none of them identifiable. What a disappointment!But, as the brick walls were taken down a tin box was found in the gable. This box contained papers of historical significance. These papers were yellowed but clearly legible. There was a calendar-almanac in German, a printed contest circular, some old coins and a political handbill. Enclosed also were some " handsomely written” notes on the history of the building construction in 1860.These notes were written by the workmen who completed the building just before the Civil War as told by the reader “The mason work of the church was performed by Abraham Scott of Lexington, Stark Co., Ohio and Jacob Hilton of Washington, Stark Co., Ohio. The mason work was done for $170 and the carpenter work was done by John C. Wabracht age 31 years. Material was furnished by the carpenters and the work done for $750. Mason and carpenters wages were form $1.25 to $1.50. (per day)These workmen had a sense of history for they wrote, “Believing as we do that some political intelligence of the present will be of interest to those who in after years may be engaged in destroying this structure which is now being built we herewith deposit newspapers which will be of particular interest to all American people. We sign our names, hoping the “All-Wise” may so direct the people that what is done may be done to the glory of the American nation.”Contained in that tin box were: Newspapers with headlines “Lincoln for President”. The New York Weekly Tribune, Saturday, Oct. 14, 1857; the Cleveland Weekly Leader, Wednesday, May 28, 1860; the New York Weekly News, Saturday, Jun. 3, 1860; a paper printed in German; and, the Pittsburg Friend of Freedom, Friday, Dec. 10, 1859.Most of the newspapers were distinctly “anti-slavery’ in sentiment but one Democratic in policy, carried a sarcastic editorial on Abraham Lincoln, questioning his lineage. The Cleveland Weekly Leader carried the entire report of the Republican Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for president.Payne had a run for governor of Ohio and Stark Co. voted strongly for him, but he had been defeated by Chase. A recent tornado had done much damage, and farmers were “making rapid strides after an extremely rainy season.” Indians were attacking wagon trains in the west, and being promised retaliation by the newspapers. In all papers, articles on Negros were given prominent space.Coins found in the box were: a Canadian half-penny dated 1844; a United States silver one cent piece dated 1858;an 1857 half dime; and an 1846 large penny that was in use in the United States at that time.A song, entitled “Fremont and Victory” was printed on the contest circular. It had been written by Charles Weyman of New York, winner of the event which was sponsored by the New York Evening Post in 1856.History in the cornerstone of the present Bethel church building includes most of the newspapers from the old tin box; all coins from the box; the key to the door of the first Bethel church presented by Jacob Christen; a letter from each member of the building committee of the new church; a letter from the architect; a program of the cornerstone service autographed by the participants; a copy of the plans for the new church; and, some current United States Coins.The cornerstone of the new church is the cornerstone of the old church. There is great symbolism in tying the new building to the heritage and history of Bethel church in previous 177 years. The old stone was cut to size, cleaned and polished and dated 1947 by Graham and Wagner of Alliance as their contribution to the new church.The cornerstone service of the present Bethel church was laid, May 18, 1947. Those taking part in that service were Rev. J. Kenneth Kohler and Rev. George Wayman, former pastors; Rev. Stanley Hartman, pastor of Bethel; and, Rev. Robert Diller pastor of Immanuel Evangelical & Reformed Church, Alliance, Ohio.