VERSAILLES, Ohio (WDTN) — A church in Darke County with much historical value that shut its doors 117 years ago is opening once again Sunday.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Versailles closed for an unknown reason in 1905. With the exception of two years, the church opens the doors every year on the third Sunday of September for a homecoming celebration.
“The acoustics in this place and singing old hymns, there’s very few dry eyes like mine,” tears up Dick Shumaker, whose ancestors built the church.
Built in 1850, the church is believed to be the oldest log cabin church in Darke County. More than a century later, nearly everything inside is untouched.
“As you can see, this place is the way it was when they locked the door in 1905,” says Shumaker. “With the organ, and the hymnal, and the Sunday school books and the Bibles–what other church do you go to that has a stove in the middle of the floor?”
“I remember seeing my great grandmother play this organ, and I remember seeing my grandmother play it,” recalls Shawn Unger, Dick’s great-nephew.
Unger is the groundskeeper, taking care of the church and the property, which both hold many memories and much meaning.
“Back on September 15, 2001, we lost our first child. He is buried up on the hill, and I get to spend time with him there,” says Unger. “Back in 2016, I lost my little brother to an auto accident. He is buried up on the hill and I also get to spend time with him.”
Their ancestors’ journey comes full circle with their final resting spot right next to where they started; those who built the church and their descendants are buried in the cemetery next to the church.
“This is home,” tears up Shumaker. “From my ancestors coming in the 1840s, 1850s, and thinking enough to build this place–It’s still here and we get the joy of worshipping in it.”
Once a year, they share the history with others with a piece of the past preserved.
“It’s instilling what we have here and hoping that somebody can carry the torch,” says Unger.
“Just come. Come and enjoy. Listen to the quiet. Listen to the songs. Feel the love,” welcomes Shumaker. “God’s still here.”
It costs more than $2,000 for maintenance and upkeep year-round. The church relies on donations to do that. Sunday they will take up their annual collection. The service starts at 2:30 p.m. followed by punch and cookies.