Newsletter, May 1987; taken from History of N. Manchester Congregation, Church
of the Brethren
Prepared by Otho Winger, July 1941.
THE FIRST DIVISION OF TERRITORY OF THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN by Edna L. Heeter
In 1852 the original congregation was divided into the Eel River and Manchester congregations. Though the first members were on the Manchester side, the northern part retained the original name, since it seemed best for the southern part to take the name of the town, Manchester, as the present North Manchester was at first called. Most of the officials at first lived on the Eel River side, but others were moving into the Manchester congregation. Joseph Harter and Nicholas Frantz lived near Manchester. Israel Harter and Jacob Karns soon moved from Ohio. Two prominent laymen who moved in and whose families were to become prominent in the church were Peter Wright 1845, and John Miller in 1853.
During the early years of the congregations, worship services were held in houses and barns, and often dinner was served in the homes where the meetings were held. Many of the early settlers spoke and understood only the language of the “Pennsylvania Dutch”, a mixture of German and local brogue. Joseph Harter the Jacob Karns usually preached in Dutch; Nicholas Frantz and Israel Harter in English.
Southeast of North Manchester, there were a number of Brethren families who felt they should have a house of worship. The matter was talked over one Sunday afternoon when a number were visiting in the home of Daniel Barber, the father of Joseph, Samuel and Mrs. Henry Wright. Brother Jacob Heeter offered the ground and the timber. Others volunteered labor. In a short time a house was erected under the direction of John Heeter, a deacon in the church and a carpenter, the father of John, Jesse, Mahlon, Charles, Lydia and Elder Gorman Heeter, all deceased. There was no building committee, no architect’s plans, no laying of a corner stone, and no church dedication when the work was completed. They build as it seemed good to them such as would meet their needs. This was in 1856. There are no records of the nature of the building, except as may be gathered from the memories of old ones who attended services there. From these descriptions from memory, Mrs. A. W. Cordier has drawn a sketch of the building which older people say well represents the building. Mrs. Cordier’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Esli Butterbaugh, attended services there for many years. Meeting was held every four weeks.
The building stood on the southwest corner of what was the Jacob Heeter farm, now in the southwest corner of Roscoe Garber’s farm, about three miles southeast of North Manchester. It stood in the corner of the woods , the churchyard being open to the road running east and west but separated from the Heeter farm by a rail fence. The building was 30 by 40 feet, with the longer side parallel to the road. It was built of logs with the corners locked in the usual way of those days. On the front side were one door and two windows, one window in each end and two more on the north side. The building was about ten feet high to the roof, which was made of old-fashioned clapboard shingles.
Now entering by the one door on the south side, one saw the humble interior. On either side of the one aisle in the center of the building there were long benches facing north towards the preachers’ table. At each end of the room there was a stove. The stoves were much needed in a building that did not always keep out the snow. But there was plenty of fuel in the woods nearby. The women sat on the west side of the room, the men on the east. The preachers’ long table was long the north side, with a bench along the wall, which the preachers used for a back. On the other side of the table, facing the preachers, was a backless bench for the deacons, who were always expected to sit there during services. On the west end of the table there was usually a bucket of water and a dipper where mothers could come during the services and supply the want of the children, who were often provided with cookies to keep them still while the older ones were receiving the bread of life. The walls were neither papered nor plastered, but merely the log finish, with mud filling for the crevices. Such was the primitive building that was the first house of worship used by the Manchester congregation. This continued to be used long after the large frame church was erected two miles west of town, and occasionally until the first brick house was erected in town. It is interesting to know that a number of older members still living remember services held in this old church.
John Heeter, the carpenter, also built a strong brick house and a sturdy barn, one mile west of Liberty Mills. It is now the Howard Warren farm. The buildings are all still in use today. The old brick oven used in those days, is also still there and visible from the road. The story is told of the many trips by foot that John made from this home back to his boyhood home in Ohio. His wife and children would go out the lane every evening and sit on a big rock looking east for sight of John arriving home. Sometimes many days were spent watching until he returned.
[Edna’s husband, Dale, was a grandson of John Heeter and son of Jesse Heeter. From the picture window in their home on Singer Road, you can still see the spot where the log-meeting house once stood.]