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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

The Orgegonia United Brethren In Christ Church

Dallas Bogan on 29 September 2004
The following is taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Until more adequate transportation systems were developed and improved, our smaller communities of the past were quite prosperous, each having their own fellowship and culture. Religious facilities were the centerpiece of all these early establishments. One such facility was the Oregonia United Brethren in Christ Church, originally named, in 1873, the Unity Chapel. A text possibly written in this year tells of the formation of the church.

Rev. E.H. Caylor was a minister of the Gospel with affiliations to the United Brethren in Christ Church. He visited the village of Oregon (later to be named Oregonia) in the year 1872. An announcement was made that the Reverend would be holding services in the schoolhouse. The meeting was quite successful and he was asked to return a second time. His preaching was so overwhelming that the citizens asked him to return and preach regularly every two weeks.
Up to this time there had been no other religious facilities organized. An organization for the formation of a church was now given top priority in the community.
On the January 5, 1873, Brother Caylor "opened the door" of his church - The United Brethren in Christ. Upon organization the Church chose Frank Sherwood as Leader and Samuel Pidgeon as Steward.
Construction of a church was greatly needed. Appointed to a building committee were Dr. Thomas C. Kersey, Frank Sherwood, David H. Gard and Samuel Pidgeon. The latter were asked to devise means and secure funds for a church building. As the small village was not financially able to fund such an ordeal, the committee purposely went out into the surrounding area and petitioned for resources for the religious facility.
The following subscription paper, or petition, was drawn up for circulation. It read:

"The United Brethren in Christ Church at Oregon, Warren Co., Ohio, being desirous of erecting a Church Building in said village, do most earnestly solicit their fellow citizens of this community, and all persons who may feel an interest in the cause of Christianity, to cooperate with, and aid them in raising the necessary amount of funds, etc., for the accomplishment of that purpose. It is estimated that such a Church building as would do credit to this community, and meet the wants and requirement of the neighborhood, can, through careful management and strict economy, be built for about $2000.
"The church organization before named, proposes and agrees those who may contribute that the paid Church building shall be open to all Protestant Orthodox Christian denominations that may wish to hold religious services therein, when not occupied by them.
"We the undersigned, or whose names are hereunto annexed, promise to pay the sum of money, or furnish the amount of material, or to perform the amount of labor, named opposite to our signature for the purpose of erecting a church building in Oregon, Warren Co., Ohio, in accordance with the above, one third of the money to be paid May 1st, 1870, one third on or before July 1st, 1873, and the balance when the aforesaid building is completed." (Dated Feb. 5th 1873)

The people responded graciously, and the efforts of the solicitors were rewarded beyond their highest expectations. By spring an ample subscription had been raised and arrangements for the building construction began. A beehive of activity was being evidenced. The building committee began purchasing material and employing workmen by the day, which was done under their immediate supervision. This plan allowed approval of contribution in labor from all who might wish to give aid in that way.
Work began in earnest in early summer of 1873, and by November a good "substantial well-built House was completed and ready for occupancy."
Bishop Jonathan Weaver held dedication services on the appropriate date. At the appointed hour a large and thankful audience filled the Unity Chapel.
A final count of the subscription monies showed a deficit in the account, thus incurring a debt. Subsequently, the meeting adjourned for dinner and, at three o'clock, again assembled. In a matter of just a few hours, the total amount was subscribed to, and the dedication services were held, praising God Almighty for his Church.
The church bell was purchased from C.S. Bell of Hillsboro, Ohio, at a cost of $46.07. It still rings out every Sunday morning at the Oregonia United Methodist Church, calling its disciples to attend worship services.
Within a period of just eleven months a Church was organized and built in the small community of Oregon.
In August, while the Chapel was being erected, the Miami Annual Conference transferred Pastor Rev. E.H. Caylor to another circuit, thus depriving him the privilege of the finalization of the church building. Rev. S.S. Holden as Pastor succeeded him. Nevertheless, Brother Caylor was permitted to be present at the dedication services.
Church members solicited funds, in 1881, to purchase an organ for the church. Traveling to Cincinnati, A.C. Warrick and Frank Sherwood acquired a $175 organ for $70. The firm also donated the stool.
The little church struggled through much of its first 100 years. On September 30, 1973, members and friends gathered at the Oregonia United Methodist Church for its centennial celebration.
Flood waters had washed and ravaged the building until it was structurally unsound. Located near the banks of the Little Miami River, the church has a notch inside the front door frame as a reminder of the three-foot high water level in 1959. The 100-year-old timbers, along with the basic structure, had withstood the times and were in need of extensive repair. It was thought that this would be the last time a celebration of this sort would be held. The one-hundredth-anniversary celebration was divided into three events:
A church service was held at 11:00 a.m., in which a large spirited crowd heard a homecoming sermon by Rev. Jose Estoye. An elegant basket dinner was held at 12:30 p.m. Seventy- seven persons participated in this enjoyable event. It was under the direction of Frank Sherwood and Frank Bradbury, co-chairmen, and Elsie Bradbury, secretary. Mr. and Mrs. Jon Hollingsworth presented memorabilia and a gallant display of old pictures.
Mr. and Mrs. R.G. Rayl cordially loaned an organ to the church for the celebration. Edna Estoye, daughter of the church pastor, played it. Miss Elizabeth Clark supervised the annual memorial service. Dr. Wade Miller, former minister, followed next on the program, sharing his memories of the Oregonia EUB church as a young man. (Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches merged into the United Methodist Church in 1968.) All, sharing their memories of the old church had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.
Dr. Howard Spitnale, superintendent of the Wilmington District, two members of the United Methodist building committee, and the church trustees, all joined after the program to assess the badly damaged church. Dr. Spitnale, at an informal meeting, suggested that the congregation plan to merge with another church (possibly the one at Olive Branch), or those preparations for an amount of $8,000 to $14,000 be raised to restore the building. He recommended that since the potential growth was so small, the church should accept the first alternative.
The church membership and the community banded together, determined to save the church. A committee was formed for this purpose whose members were Katherine Hall, Dorothy Rayl, Dorothy Hollingsworth, John Guard, Elizabeth Clark and Thelma Elzey.
The school, the Oregonia Bridge Company, Sherwood's Store, and the old post office all had slipped into the past. An anonymous donor from the Waynesville area made a monetary donation fearing that the last historic landmark in Oregonia would be destroyed. The community graciously contributed to the cause in which other donations were solicited, gift items were made and sold, and $70.00 from a box supper was raised.
About two months later, church and community friends gathered at the building for a box social and songfest to hear the Rev. Jose Estoye preach a sermon on the importance of getting things on the right footing.
The Ray Fox Construction Company of Lebanon did foundation work. The building would now stand, even though the plaster was bad and the windows needed repair.
Rev. Jose Estoye, church minister since 1968, spoke about the Sunday only two members were present. "They asked if I would rather not preach a sermon, and I told them I learned a long time ago from my Bishop that even if there is only one person in church, I'd better take him seriously."
Rev. Estoye was born in the Philippines and was a missionary to Thailand for 15 years. He was also employed at Armco Steel Corp. in Middletown.
The church, in 1973, had a membership of 32 persons, with only about 10 attending regularly.
Some marriages that took place in the old church were: Mr. and Mrs. Frank Swartzel, Dan and Kathy Ingram, John and Rhea Guard, Wesley and Joanne Knight, and Warren and Thelma Cook.

Christmas in Oregonia in 1873

Ruth Sherwood wrote a speech, in 1973, for the Oregonia homemakers Christmas meeting. In this address, she wrote about the prosperity of the small town in 1873. We shall now use her own words.

"The railroad was built in 1844 and the bridge over the river in 1856. More business places were established, so by 1873, there were two general stores, two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, a public school, [the] United Brethren Church, two physicians, and twenty families living in the village.
"The year of 1873 had been a happy eventful year for the residents of the valley, for it was in January of that year that forty-two men and women, with the Rev. E.H. Caylor as their minister, met in the school house and decided to build a church, namely, 'United Brethren in Christ.'
"Everyone went to work, and for ten months the residents of the village had prayed together, planned together, and worked together, and early in November, their dream came true.
"Now the Christmas season is here. Now it is Saturday, December 20th, just a few days until Christmas.
"Business was brisk in the general stores, and in spite of the snow in patches over the hillsides, the residents of the village and the surrounding area must do their Christmas shopping.
"Freight was arriving at the railroad station and heavy lots of mail [arrived] at the post office. Some of the items purchased on this day were Artic [sic] overshoes, pair of shoes, suspenders, muslin, flannel, copy books, bottle of ink, calico (8 yards for $1.00), thread, 1 box collars, 1 dish, matches, broom, undershirt, gloves, scarf, and coffee.
"Raisins, candy kisses, knives and forks, butcher knife, nutmegs, dish pan, belt, doll baby, handkerchiefs, doll head, lace collars, molasses and lamp chimney oil.
"Thirty-three customers had shopped in one general store on Saturday, and many had stopped to pick up mail as the post office and store were in the same building.
"On Sunday, December 21st, neighbors and friends greeted each other at the new church and listened to a sermon by Rev. Caylor, and again gave thanks for their many blessings.
"Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were all busy days. A snow had fallen and sleighs were being used, for the music of sleigh bells was heard through the valley and Merry Christmas was called to passing friends.
"Christmas trees were being taken into the homes and strings of popcorn, paper chains, and other ornaments [were] ready to put on the trees. The aroma of baking bread, fruit cakes, and other goodies filled the air.
"Christmas Eve, Wednesday, December 24th came. An early prayer meeting was held, families hurried home and children were rushed to bed with their eyes wide and shinning and no thought of sleep.
"Alas! Sleep did come and morning came at last. At the first shout of Merry Christmas all hurried to the tree to see what Santa had brought.
"Father and Mother had fires going in the fireplaces, grates and the wood stoves, and Christmas was here.
"Thursday, December 25th, 1873. For the closing scene, let's take a look into the home of Francis and Susan Sherwood on Christmas morning and find the parents with two children, Eva Lena, then seven years of age, whose mother had died when she was one year old, and little Tommy, as he was referred to in my time, the son of Francis and Susan, and who was six months old at this Christmas time.
"I am sure that a tree was in the living room and fires were aglow, and little Eva Lena was dancing with glee and eying the big doll and mystery packages under the tree, while little Tommy only stared in wonder.
"A warm breakfast was had, and as the store would stay open for the day, Francis went immediately to his business and Susan began preparations for the Christmas dinner at the noon hour.
"In the store we find throughout the day, there were thirteen customers. Let's take a look at some of the purchases that day.
"The first customer was Charley Sherwood; his purchase was candy and cigars for $1.00. Other purchasers and their purchases were:
"Henry O'Brien - tobacco, 24 cents; Winfield Scott - Box of cigars, 35 cents; Henry Sherwood - (Paid up) $3.45.; John Robinson - Coffee, 35 cents, and sugar, 25 cents; Dave Gard - Tobacco - 25 cents, and candy, 30 cents; Amos Warwick - Box of collars, 30 cents; Joe S. Kersey - Candy, 10 cents, and mug, 35 cents; Katy Cody - Dish, 35 cents, and 1 dozen table forks, 30 cents; Andrew Anson - Lamp chimney, 10 cents. Cash sales for the day, $21.00
"So ended the Christmas of 1873 in the village of Oregon, Ohio.

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This page created 29 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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