VERSAILLES, Ohio (WDTN) — A Darke County historical church that closed its doors more than 100 years ago is opening them back up this weekend.
A homecoming service and open house celebration with be held at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Versailles Sunday, September 19 at 2:30 p.m.
The church is believed to be Darke County’s oldest log cabin church.
“There’s no electricity, no water, anything like that,” describes Dick Shumaker, whose ancestors helped build the church.
His ancestors came from Germany and settled in Darke County. They built the church in 1850.
“Doesn’t have a good foundation. Just sits on the logs of the rocks. We can see through the years it’s shifted a little bit,” says Dick.
The foundation has been the faith of the people who’ve kept it going.
“I tell people God takes care of the place. I just have the key to the door,” smiles Dick, who holds the literal key to a piece of the past.
Dick goes on to say, “My great great great grandfather was the glockenspiel, the bell player. I guess he’d open the church up and then when he had everything all ready to go he’d ring the bell and they’d come in for the service.”
For an unknown reason, regular services stopped in 1905 and the church closed; but since then, it welcomes people back once a year for a homecoming celebration.
When the doors open, it’s a step back in time.
Not much has changed inside since church shut its doors. The church still has all of its original fixtures, including the pump organ.
“Still have the warranty. Came out of Cleveland,” says Dick. “Most of that furniture in there is made by hand, handsaw and everything, The German Bible and the Sunday school books are still in there from — like I said, my great great grandmother’s Sunday school book is in there where she had done her Sunday school lessons.”
For maintenance and upkeep, the church relies on money taken in during the annual service.
“A little bit from a lot of people is so helpful,” says Dick’s niece Sarah Royer. “Every little bit helps.”
The church has continued the annual service every years since 1905, except for two years.
“Except for two years,” affirms Dick. “During the war and last year because of COVID.”
Last year, the church missed out on that much needed money collected during the annual service.
“That breaks my heart. That is a worry,” admits Sarah.
When people come back for the homecoming celebration, some come to exchange stories, others come to see the historical landmark.
“I see it mostly whenever I see Uncle Dick so emotional about it because he’s always known that. It’s always been in his family,” Sarah tears up describing the emotional tie her family has to the church.
The church is a treasure for them, and they continue to preserve the past and carry the church’s history into the future.
“It’s just that close to me… and hopefully my family,” says Dick.
The church is located at 9239 St. Peters Rd. in Versailles.
Following Sunday’s service, there will be punch and cookies.