Historical Background: 1828 to 1990 (from Centennial brochure)
The Bellbrook United Presbyterian Church at 72 West Franklin Street was known as the First Presbyterian Church of Bellbrook to distinguish it from the United Presbyterian Church on the northeast corner of Main and Walnut Streets. This branch of the Presbyterian faith was known as the "Old School Presbyterian" during the past century. The Church was organized in 1828 by the Reverends William Gray and Adrien Aten.
The first building was built in 1829 on the hill west of the village at 3544 State Route 725. The Bellbrook members who walked, crossed Little Sugar Creek on a log footbridge to get there. The first elders were Josiah Lamme, John Cooper and William Russell. The congregation worshipped there until 1858, when they bought a church that stood on the present site from the Universalists.
This frame building had a steeple that housed a bell which had a lovely tone and could be heard for miles. It was the only church in town to have a bell and was known as the "Bell Church". It is possible that the bell now in use is the original. This building was used until the present brick structure was built in 1890. It was lit by a large chandelier in the center of the ceiling, weighted by a barrel of rocks, and lowered to be lit. Sometime later it was removed and in the late 1970’s it was found and restored and used as original with kerosene until the fire laws restricted its use. Then it was wired for electric and is now used all the time.
Interesting items found in the Bellbrook Moon, a newspaper published here in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s:
March 24, 1897—Uncle Matt and Aunt Anjalina Berryhill were married 66 years last Sunday , March 21. That is a long time for a man and wife to live together. It is a great deal longer than a great many of these old bachelors will live with a woman, and very likely it is longer by many years than a good woman would want to live with some of these old bachelors. Later in December this item appeared—Last Sunday Uncle Matthew Berryhill was taken into the Presbyterian Church of this place. He was baptized by Rev. Hillman. For several years Mr. and Mrs. Berryhill have been the largest contributors to the Presbyterian Church and Mr. Berryhill paid one half, if not more of the total cost of the beautiful little sanctuary. They both have always been regular attendants.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s what we now call revival meetings were called Protracted Meetings and were held combining all the churches in the community.
January 4, 1902 "Bellbrook Moon" In 1897 the item reads: The union meetings closed last Sunday night after a very interesting and profitable service. There were fifty conversions, twenty joined the Presbyterian and thirty joined the Methodist Protestant Church. The congregations are amply paid for their services.
During these years the baccalaureate and commencement exercises were held in the church and admission was charged.
On May 24, 1926 the house next to the church was purchased for $3000 to be used as a manse.
Other items from the "Moon" advertised the church women’s socials: Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving that were held in the Town Hall. Later these events were held in what is now the Sugarcreek Elementary School Home Economics room on S. East St. For many years the Methodist and Presbyterian churches alternated having these three suppers for the public. These were money making Projects as well as serving good food. We also used the school for Advent workshops to make wreaths and other pieces for our homes as well as the Church.
In October 1904 Carrie Nation was in Bellbrook and Rev. Sands of the Presbyterian Church introduced her to the audience at the Town Hall where she spoke.
At one time all the sanctuary floor was covered with carpeting.
An old custom that has been dropped, when someone passed away the church bell was tolled. The last time that is remembered was September 1924 when Sunday School Superintendent Thomas A. Edgington passed away.
Another job for the women- they used to serve lunch at peoples public sales. Sometimes this was done under very trying conditions, such as cold weather, unheated space, cramped quarters and lack of water.
In June 1927 West Carrollton Presbyterian Church and Bellbrook Church went together to share minister and pay his salary. West Carrollton paid half the salary and Bellbrook provided the manse. This arrangement was voted to be dissolved in 1944.
Christmas wouldn’t have seemed right if we had not gotten a box (little, like the animal cracker box) of mostly hard candy, a few chocolate drops and an orange.
Homemade ice cream and cake socials were popular and were held between the church and the manse for a long time.
The pews used to have loose pad cushions and they became so soiled they were sold to the rag man in 1948. About then the Steady Gleaners Sunday School class had the seats covered with a deep wine-red corduroy, which is now in use.
d For many years the young boys class presented each mother a carnation during worship on Mother’s Day and the young girls class gave the fathers a carnation on Father’s Day.
From 1964-1983 the Women’s Association along with others in the church prepared, transported and served dinners for the Homemakers group in Dayton. A delicious meal was served two or three times a year. A program was enjoyed by all. Many of our women drove and picked up these people (some had seeing eye dogs) and after the visiting returned them to their homes. Any food left over was sent home with those who were thought to need it. It was a tiring, long but rewarding day, because they all appreciated it so much.
There have been some young men who have gone into the ministry:
Chilton Bowles, son of Mrs. W. H. (Ilo Black) Mondabaugh
Scott Turner Ritenour, son of Dr. And Mrs. Scott (Grace Turner) Ritenour
Errol Rohr, son of Mr. and Mrs. Melvin (Magdalene Hoop) Rohr
Carl Dumford, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry (Jennie Adams) Dumford.
A piano was used for the music until Dec 1948 when a Hammond electric organ was purchased. It is being replaced May 1990 with larger Baldwin 422 Classical organ. A new Kimball piano was bought in 1974 by Louise Harner, the choir director, for the sanctuary. The piano and organ are used together many times.
In the 1950’s the choir section was enlarged because of a much larger group, at the same time the chancel area was enlarged. The Youth choir was large and it was directed by Harry Dumford with Mrs. Dumford at the organ. She was also church organist for years. Later Lois Gilbert directed a Youth choir and after her was Marlise Vaughan.
In 1955-56 the first annex was added to the rear of the church, making a kitchen, two restrooms, two individual Sunday school class rooms and a large multi-purpose room that could be divided into four class rooms by folding doors.
It started like this: in the late 1940’s the need arose for an educational building with class rooms. A committee was appointed to draw up some plans and get estimates as to what it would cost to build. It was decided to wait until some funds were available before a definite plan was accepted. Then in the early 1950’s a committee was named consisting of Thomas J. Edgington as chairman, Maurice Hodson, Melvin Rohr, and Paul R.Thomas. Rev. John D. Bartko was advisor. The congregation decided on a plan which was for our first addition. Several means of obtaining money were in effect. We had to borrow part of the money from Spring Valley Bank. Every other weeks Sunday School collection went into the Building Fund. (Always a little larger than regular.) In five years the building was paid for.
The annexes have been used for public school, day nursery, Girl, Boy and Cub Scouts, election polls, receptions, special dinners, worship, workshops, women’s sewing group, youth fellowship and many other activities.
The congregation did lots of the work on Saturdays and evenings on the annexes. At this time the sanctuary was completely repaired and re-decorated and the total cost of the first annex and the sanctuary work was $20,000.
In 1964 another addition was added making a larger kitchen and a big room that could be used as three class rooms by the dividing folding doors.
Years ago there were girls and boys basketball and boys baseball teams sponsored by the church.
Going back to the early 1930’s. During the ministry of Rev. Rudolph Hartman, 1932-39, he published a community paper called "Good News" that sold for fifty cents a year. He also showed outdoor movies by blocking off S. Main St. at the top of the hill at the light between the hardware store and what was then an ice cream parlor(now the Donut’n Such Shop). They were well attended by the community.
Different things given to the church were:paving and blacktopping the parking lot back of the church, tiling the annexes, later carpeting them all, fixing the minister’s study in the annex, paneling the sanctuary, carpet in the sanctuary, new chairs and tables, drapes in the whole annex, communion table, parament sets,new choir robes(1990), painting the inside and outside trim, fixing up the manse inside and out, furnace for the church, new song book, Bibles for the pew, curtains in the restrooms. There are probably lots of other items
that we have missed. Outside work, such as trimming the shrubbery and keeping the flower beds looking good. Recently the outside bricks were pointed up and the exterior trim painted. Preserving it for another 100 years we hope.
The women’s sewing group does lot for the community. Over the years they have made clothes for the State Hospital, United Volunteers Service of Greene Co. and robes and other items for Mount Pleasant Church Home and Greenwood Manor of Xenia and Carriage by the Lake, Bellbrook. They have made comforts, lap robes and other items for needy families and to sell at bazaars. They also sponsor a minister in Taiwan.
About every year some group takes part in the annual Lion’s Club parade with a float or some representation of the church. Lately they have take part in the Sugar Maple Festival parade in the spring, receiving monetary awards occasionally.
Several years ago the combined choirs of the community took part in a sunrise service and played the resurrection story and had community singing. Also the choir has taken part in seasonal cantatas with other church choirs. For several years the sunrise service for our church was held on the church property at the rear of Tobias-Conner Funeral Home parking lot, followed by breakfast in the annex.
Since the lot has been kept mowed the annual church picnic has been held there with games for all, followed by a delicious meal and hand-made ice cream and cake. A vesper service ends the day.
After the manse was no longer used by the ministers (ours has his own home in Xenia) the house was remodeled (especially the bathroom and kitchen), covered with new siding, and rented.
Improvement in 1990 was a ramp in the sanctuary.
We have had student ministers to work with our youth and we have enjoyed them. When James and Tracey Ritchie left after being here under the ministry of Rev. James Lealeigh, the women of the church were given a square of white cloth and asked to embroidery or appliqué something on it and then put their names on it and they were joined together and made into a large bed cover as a remembrance of their being in our congregation. Later when Jim was here he sang a song that he had composed about the cover, and accompanied himself on his guitar.
Another young man was Barry Raker and wife Linda. He had a beard and was teased about it so much, "we wondered how he would look without it". The last Sunday that they were here he came in clean shaven and laughing. He was a happy young man. He had satisfied our curiosity.
We have had one couple celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary, Oradell (Trickler) and Lyman G. Hoop in 1984. Lyman had his 100th birthday on January 30, 1990.
New double doors were made to match the original for church entry and put up in 1989.
A childs’ Bible is presented to a student when they leave the third grade.
Sunday School attendance pins have been given for over 40 years.
At Christmas there is a tree in the annex which our congregation decorates with their contributions of mittens, caps, gloves, scarves and underclothing (children’s) . They are then taken to United Volunteer Services in Xenia and given to the needy of Greene Co.
There are usually two large boxes in the annex for donations of non-perishable food to be give to FISH in Xenia. This is also given to the needy of Greene Co
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Rev. William Gray Pastor 1827
Rev. Adrien Aten "
Rev. John S. Weaver "
Rev. T. B. Atkins " 1870 & 80’s
Rev. Dempster " 1895
Rev. Mattingly "
Rev. Beatty " 1897
Rev. James T. Hale " 1901
Rev. William H. Sands Pastor 1904-05
Rev. John Ferguson Supply 1906
Rev. Matthew M. Marshall Pastor 1907
Rev. Henry J. Becker " 1908
Rev. Sharon K. Scott " 1909-16
Rev. Michael C. Way " 1923
Rev. Harris L. Latham " 1924-25
Rev. Arthur Griffis " 1926-27
Rev. Robert Graham " 1928-31
Rev. Rudolph A. Hartman " 1932-39
Rev. Will Amis Pastor 1942-43
Rev. Raymond York Supply 1949-52
Mr. William Smith " 1952-53
Rev. John D Bartko Pastor 1954-55
Mr. Robert Dulaney Supply 1955
Rev. Paul J. Gilbert Pastor 1956-64
Rev. Kent M. Organ "
Rev. James Nealeigh " 1967-77
James Ritchie & Barry Raker Youth ministers
Rev. Gregory Gibson Supply 1978
Rev. James Henkel Pastor 1978-83
Rev. Gordon L. Kester 1984-1999
Rev. Joseph Hookey 1999-2002
Rev. Theresa Wood-Burgess 2002-2007
Rev. Stan Gockle, Interim Pastor 2008 - Nov. 2013
Rev. Katherine Horne June 2014 - Present
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Red (Seal skin) Bible (revised standard edition), Given in memory of Mrs. L. P. (Marie) McCulloch by her family
Red Velvet Drapes 1963, In memory of Mary Susan and Glenn Edward Hodson by their children
Chancel Cross 1963, In memory of John Ferguson by his friends
Lectern Light 1975, In memory of Lawson Ordean by his friends
Alter Bible and Bible Stand 1977, In memory of Elsie Graves by her friends
Baptismal Bowl 1977, In memory of Daisy and Betty Lansinger by Betty and Harold W. Tobias
Interpreter’s Bible 1978 12 books, In memory of Albert Peterson by his family
Good News Pew Bibles 1981, In memory of Lawrence Kemp by relatives and friends
Interpreter’s Dictionary 1978 4 books, In memory or Lawrence Harner
Two Bud Vases 1981 solid brass, In memory of Ethel L. Hodson by relatives and friends
Offering Plates 1958, Doris and Thomas J. Edgington
Communion Chalice 1970, by Louise and Lawrence Harner
Worship Hymnals 1960, By members of congregation as memorials
Baptismal Font June 18, 1989, In memory of Edward J. Ferguson by Aileen Ferguson
Cross and Candlestick Holders on Alter (Brass), By Keystone Sunday School class
Second Candlelighter 1989, Lynn and Terry Allen
Two Etched Chimney Candle Holders, In memory of Lawrence Kemp by Marie Gowdy
Compact Stereo System, In memory of Corliss Wildermuth
Chancel Cross was specially made by Lowell Blank
Pew Bibles August 2005, In Memory of Anne Teresko Malashevitz