The First Brick Church
The Bethel congregation worshipped in the log building until the late 1850’s, when it was decided to build a new 30’ x 50’ brick church. The log church was sold to Samuel Biery, who moved it across fields south to his farm. He wanted it for a building, but, just before he got it where he wanted it, a rope broke and it went over a hill and fell apart.
There was a killing frost in June 1859 and the size of the church was changed to 30’ x 40’. A common saying was, “the frost froze ten feet off the church”. This brick church was finished in 1860. Services were held in the barn then owned by Jacob Zurbrugg and now owned by his great grandson and his wife, Kenneth and Wilhelmina Zeller. The day the cornerstone was laid, they started the service in Zurbrugg’s barn, stopped the service and went over to lay the cornerstone and then returned to the barn to finish the service.
Leadership in building the brick church was Bradford Miller assisted by William Stroup, John Hoffman, David Ramsayer, Jacob Yaggi, and others.
In 1860 a triangular plot of land to the east was added to the cemetery. This plot had a north line of 12’, a south line of 88.5’, where it joined the cemetery on the west 151.5’ and the diagonal line of 165’ on the east side. Jacob and Catherine Zurbrugg sold the addition to the cemetery for $2.00. The deed for this land was signed Apr. 16. 1860 and recorded June 4,1860. (Vol. 62, p. 84)
When General Morgan raided Columbiana County, July 26, 1863, the morning service was interrupted by a man riding horseback who announced that Morgan was coming. Most of the members belonged to the home guard and left to protect their property from the raiders. Only Rev. Ziegler and John Hoffman and his wife remained to finish the service.
The church remained as built until 1888 during the pastorate of Rev. J. B. Zumpe. That year a new roof was put on the church, and it was painted and a new fence on the south and east sides of the church. The committee in charge was Lewis Bandy. Christian Yaggi and T.E. Zurbrugg. They set the day and a large number from the congregation and some outsiders came and worked. All the work was done gratis. Two ministers, Rev. JIBS. Zumpe and Rev. H.P. Borton helped with the work. Charles Rishaberger put the roof on the tall steeple. Rev. Borton made the remark that he would never put another roof on this church and he didn’t, Peter Wanderly painted the church.
A new cemetery across the road from the church was bought in 1899. This one acre plot was bought from T.E. Zurbrugg for $400. The cemetery committee was Lewis Bandy and J.S. Yaggi. A congregational meeting in March 1900 elected as Cemetery trustees: president, Fred Zurbrugg; secretary, George Ramsayer; and, treasurer, Emanuel Yaggi. The new cemetery was fenced with donated material and labor. The first person buried in the cemetery was Samuel Waffler Jr.. T.E. Zurbrugg, with the trustees, decided to put the money from the sale of lots on interest and to use this interest to keep the cemetery mowed.
It is not known when the change was made from German to English language for the worship services. Here is a news item from the Alliance Review dated April 30, 1901 that gives a sample of the German-English then in use.
◊“I thinks dot vox de vourst storm vot vos had mit dis blace fer some dime. It vox nearly freese der feeets off mit der peoples. I hope it will not come some more."
◊"Der Billy Brait of dis blace vox der funniest feller vot ever lived, he goes mit der bare feets in der snow."
◊“Der Zack Keller vox said he would not root mit der ground up til July if it vox not dry off mit der ground purty soon."
◊“I thinks dot feller mit dor Fairmont creamery hadht besser get a hustle mit himself on in der morning."
◊“Dot feller vot carries der mail vox hadht a very bad trip mit der snow on Saturday.”
The next change in the church building was in 1903 when Rev. C. Foster was pastor. An excavation was made under the building and a furnace installed. All the labor for this improvement was donated. A slate roof was put on in 1909 and the church painted. John Bergman died leaving the church $250, provided $150 was spent on the church and the remaining $100 was used to purchase a bell which was to have his name on it. The congregation accepted the $150 which was used for the slate roof, but the $100 for the bell was returned to the family “Because the old bell was good enough.” (That bell which was brought by horse and wagon from Pennsylvania survived the fire and is in the belfry of the present church building.)
Some of those now living remember the first brick church. It was 30’ x 40’ in size with a tall steeple and belfry in the north end. The congregation faced the pulpit which was to the south. A balcony was over the entrance door to the north. There were short pews on both sides of the pulpit. A reed organ was on the west side. The primary class met in the balcony, the youth on the east side of the pulpit and the women’s society in the front pews on the west side.