150th anniversary celebration

In the 1840's, Brethren began to move into this area, drawn by the rich farmland and prosperous opportunities.  They soon began to meet for worship and for several years, the group gathered on an informal basis.  But as the number of participating families increased, the need for a more formal organization became obvious and in 1860, the Dickey German Baptist Brethren Church ( changed to Church of the Brethren in 1908) was officially recognized. In 2010, we will celebrate the 150
th Anniversary of our congregation and it will be an exciting party. Several projects are being planned and detailed information will be released soon.  But the most exciting aspect of the Anniversary Celebration is the one day event planned for Sunday, September 12, 2010.  The Worship Celebration will be held in the morning, followed by a common meal for everyone gathered. a time of memories sharing, fascinating history and historical drama is planned for the afternoon concluding with an inspiration anticipation of God's leading for our future ministry.  Be sure to mark this date on your calendar and please make every effort to keep it reserved for this special event.  We want everyone to be involved!

history of ashland dickey church

The  Ashland Dickey Church of the Brethren had it's beginning as a mission church in the early 1840's.  During the real pioneer days of the church (which then included the entire county), preaching services and love feast were conducted in private homes.  These were generally all-day meetings with a luncheon served by the family where the services were held. Services were many weeks apart because of the distance from each other and the difficulty in traveling. Services were conducted by local and itinerant preachers.  One of the itinerant preachers, Brother John Kline, tells in his book that he was delayed because his horse threw a shoe and he had to spend the night in the woods in the area of Petersburg (now Mifflin).  The wolves closed in around him and this must have been most frightening because he mentioned it often throughout his book.

This church has not always been the Ashland Dickey Church of the Brethren. At first it was know as the "Ashland Church" because there were other Ashland County mission points , these being Loudonville, (Plum Run) and Maple Grove. Through the years is has been referred to as the Dickey Meeting House, German Baptist Brethren, Dunkard Church, Tonker Church, Ashland Church of the German Baptist or Brethren or others. The first reference found to "Dickey Church" is in the 1886 church minutes.

The first church house was built in the summer of 1853, even though the church was not officially organized until 1860. This was a wooden structure 40' x 60' with two front entrances, one for men and one for women. Each group took their own side of the house except for the first Sunday after marriage when the husband was allowed to sit with his wife for just one service. We wonder, did they share responsibilities when caring for the children or did they always sit with their mother? This church had two large posts near the center to support the ceiling and roof, with two box wood-burning stoves for heat, one on each side. The pulpit was a table about sixteen feet long. At this the elders and ministers sat and faced the audience. The deacons sat with their backs to the congregation and read the scriptures which were the basis for preaching. The preaching services were lengthy, singing was in German and each minister from the oldest to the youngest was expected to say something. The last preaching in the German language was in 1887.

Our present building was contracted to be built in June, 1877 and was to be finished before October 15, 1877. The plans for the building are quite detailed and in excellent condition, when you consider that over 100 years have elapsed. The plans are fascinating. Some of which are "1 inch drop pine siding, with no knots, oak or ash flooring not to exceed 3 inches, calcimined walls, 18" long pine shingles for the roof" and other specification we cannot even imagine with the costs for comparable lumber today. There were separate cellars, although suspicion is that one was dug at a later date to install the wood/coal furnace. There was one cellar under the two back Sunday School rooms and access to this was through a stairway between the two rooms which has now been converted to a storage closet. The furnace cellar was in the center of the church with an outside entrance on the south side. This had a dirt floor but in 1908 the back cellar was cemented. The church was built at a cost of $4,000.00. A centennial-homecoming was observed in October 1977 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the facility.

The northeast Sunday School room was referred to as the "sitting room" and the upstairs rooms were to be bedrooms. Because of the length of travel and the infrequency of services, it was not unusual for meeting houses to have sleeping rooms to accommodate those who had especially long journeys. No one in our present congregation can remember people staying overnight in those rooms. We do know from reading past minutes that certain people were employed as "housekeepers".

A floor to ceiling wall separated the sanctuary from the narthex area with large wooden sliding doors that could be opened to allow the entire area to be one large room. Even the classrooms on the second floor had wooden windows that could be opened up to allow an overflow crowd to look down into the sanctuary/narthex area and be part of the worship experience.  The narthex area ceiling was the same height as the sanctuary.  This are was used for Sunday school class (Willing Workers) and storage area.

 In 1945, the sanctuary was remodeled for approximately $2,000.00.  at this time the sanctuary was turned "end for end". Prior to this remodeling, a raised platform for preaching stood in front of the sliding doors and the people sitting in the sanctuary faced east.  In the reconstruction, the pulpit are was moved to the west end, where it is today and the main entrance was moved to the north side of the church. A dedication service was held in October 1945.

The finished basement project was started in 1957.  The entire church building was blocked up while the basement was dug out from beneath. The basement walls were built, the water and septic systems were completed restrooms were installed, and a kitchen was built. Built-in cupboards were installed at the west end.  Additional money was needed to finish the project which precipitated the congregation's incorporation in the State of Ohio in 1959, which was required by the bank for a loan.  During the time that the church was unavailable for services due to the construction, services were held at the Montgomery School cafeteria with "classrooms" for children for Sunday School conducted on different stairways.

With the construction of the new kitchen in the basement, the old kitchen (southeast corner room) was changed into a Sunday School room in 1961.  And in 1963, the current baptistery was installed in the front of the sanctuary.

In 1965, an entrance way was completed with new stairs to the basement. Prior to this time entrance to the basement was through doors at the south end and at the east end.  The sanctuary was remodeled to it's present appearance in 1970 with new lighting and a new arch over the pulpit area.

In 1998-1999, a major reconstruction was completed in which a stair tower was added to the southeast corner of the building giving space for a unisex handicap restroom and another stairway to the second floor and to the basement.  In addition, two new classrooms were added to the second floor by constructing a lowered ceiling/floor in the narthex area.  the wall and the large wooden sliding doors between the sanctuary and the narthex were removed and the space was left open for overflow seating.

The Oak Grove Church located approximately one-half mile south of Steamtown, was part of the Dickey congregation. Sometime before 1912, this mission point was closed and Ashland Dickey received the land deed.  In 1916, the Oak Grove building was sold for $30.00 and moved to the southernmost farm on the east side of Baney Road to be used as a barn where it still stands today.  In 1970, our congregation agreed to sell this one-quarter acre Oak Grove property for $200.00, with the buyer paying all legal fees.

In July, 1886, the trustees were instructed to "lay off and draft a plot of the cemetery adjacent to the Dickey church house, numbering the family tiers and as is customary in well arranged cemeteries, also to fix a price and sell or donate such family plots as they may deem best".  In 1906 the minimum price of $10.00 was set for a lot (probably 4 graves) and "fixed price on more preferable lots".  In 1902, the cemetery was enlarged to include 3 tiers of lots on the north side and 2 tiers on the south, but these were not plotted until 1922.  In 1919-20, the operation of the cemetery was separated from the church regulations and the Cemetery Association drafted their own by-laws.  This arrangement is still in effect today.  In September, 1924, the iron fence around the cemetery was completed at a cost of $1,149.99.  Sections of this fence were relocated from the north side to the south side of the newest section which was purchased in  1967. During the summer of 1984, the appearance of the cemetery was greatly enhanced by the rebuilding of the large gate posts.

The 1880's were not without problems. It was during this time that the church denomination was divided into two factions and out of the conflict came the "progressive" brethren known today as The Brethren Church (headquartered in Ashland, Ohio), and our denomination, the German Baptist Brethren (changed to the Church of the Brethren in 1908). The old minutes of our congregation are filled with discussion and rulings regarding "fashionable" dress, attending fairs, picnics or political meetings, joining "secret" societies, wearing mustaches and even gathering sugar water on Sunday. As a congregation, Bro. Moherman states in his book that " they were anxious to keep the church 'unspotted from the world'". An item which was frowned upon was having "concealed property", and from what can be gleaned from old church records, members were assessed a certain percentage of what they owned in land, livestock, and grain with debt taken into consideration.  In 1901, the church asked for total assessments from the membership of $300.00 per year. This procedure of assessment was continued until 1911 when pledge cards initiated.

Love Feast and Communion have been varied through the years, not only in regard to the day week, but also to the way in which this commemoration service was conducted.  In the earliest times, Love Feast was for an entire day, not just an evening. as we now know it. the list of supplies for the October, 1883, Love Feast includes: 50 loaves of regular bread, 150 lbs of beef, 14 lbs of butter, 3 gallons of pickles, $1.00 coffee, .75 tea, $25.00 money and 20 bushel of feed ( the horses needed to be fed, too!).  Along with the list of supplies, they needed kettles, baskets, coffee pots, dish pans "with 10 sisters to arrange the dishes and 10 brothers to arrange the house". by 1904, the need was increased to 300 lbs of beef, 23 lbs of butter, 9 1/2 gallons of pickles and 37 bushels of horse feed and this time they needed a tank suitable for hauling water and a cord of wood. At one time period, there was an apparent dissension over who washed the communion dishes and the church council decreed that the "the janitor either furnish the sisters hot water or wash the dishes himself".  I'd venture the guess that the sisters got their hot water!  Incidentally, wood chopping days were held by members to supply the needs of both the church and the parsonage.

At one time, there were two separate horse barns (or sheds) built to the eat and north of the church, probably in the period of 1888 to 1902, with the first section being built at a cost of around $15.00. Is is believed that the last section was built by individual members to shelter their horses while they attended church functions.  the first section was removed in the early 1920's and the last section burned during the middle of the 1940's when it was accidently set afire while raked leaves were being burned.  It was following this fire that a cement block garage/barn was built at the southeast corner of the parking lot and was designed for several uses.  It served as a barn for the preacher's cow, a garage for the preacher's car and a restroom facility until the basement was completed in 1959.  Also, it was a drop-off point for relief donation that were shipped to New Windsor. Due to disrepair and lack of use, this building was torn down in the summer of 2003 and stone was spread for additional parking.

A parsonage fund was established with an initial donation of $2,229.00 in 1922 but it wasn't until 1924 that the parsonage was completed.  Bro. George Dickey (whom the church is named after) offered to donate one-quarter acre to the south of the church yard in exchange for three cemetery lots to be chose n by his heirs.  One of the stipulations of this gift was that "the church shall build a chicken yard to restrain the pastor's chickens from my premises".  The parsonage was built at a total cost of $4,129.99.

Nothing more was found in the records regarding the building of the parsonage, but time has decreed that it was a well-built modern home (for its time).  The parsonage has been modernized through the years but the most interesting recorded work is from the April 1937 church minutes.  This read: "Ladies Aid was given permission to install electricity in the parsonage".  Council acted at the same time to put electricity in the church and the minutes read, "today we have evidence of this splendid project having been put across in a splendid way".  To those of us who remember the arrival of the electric lights, what a great advance this was, even though it probably meant only a 40 or 50 watt bulb.  Incidentally, the ladies of the congregation officially organized in 1894 into a group known as the Sister's Aid Society.  In 1959, this name was changed by Annual Conference to Women's Fellowship.

Baptisms were performed in the neighboring creeks until 1913 when the baptistery under the floor in the present narthex was built. Access to the gas burner to heat this baptistery was through the furnace cellar.  Baptisms still continued to be performed in the creeks, perhaps because it was an easier way than carrying water to fill the baptistery.  The floor baptistery was used until the early 1940's when it was deemed unsafe.  For a time our baptisms were held at the First Church of the Brethren (on 3rd Street in Ashland) until our present baptistery was installed at the front of the church in 1963.  In 1958, our congregation voted to accept Christians from other congregations and denominations into full membership even though their mode of baptism had not been triune immersion.

Various group meetings have been held at Dickey through the years.  In 1854 the Annual Meeting of the Church of the Brethren was held at the Elias Dickey farm (located south of the church, is currently the home of Gary and Linda McFarlin). This is the brick house and barn which are approximately one mile south of the church.  This meeting was attended by members from six states.  A quote from Bro. T.S. Moherman's book describes the event:
                "It will be remembered that transportation facilities were quite primitive at the time, nor railroads being closer than Mansfield, 17 miles away, or Wooster, 22 miles away.  Some few were met at these stations by the brethren, some walked and from every direction great crowds of people came on horses, in wagons and most any way that could be devised to make the trip.  A ten acre field south of the barn was reserved for the horses.  The lodging was free and the farm houses and barns were taxed to the utmost.  The dining tent stood between the house and the barn.  The attendance at this meeting was somewhat marvelous, for there is tradition that stands undisputed that there were 20,000 people.  Services were also held in the Dickey church house about a mile distant from the regular place of meeting.  This house was newly built. [the first meeting house].  The road connecting these two places was literally filled at times with people going to and fro to hear the speakers of their choice."

One of the subjects for discussion at this meeting was the matter of slavery and slave ownership. One can only wonder - is the attendance figure of 20,000 anywhere near accurate, or did it just seem there were that many.

Other group meetings held here were the 1901 Sunday School convention, the 1915 Northeastern Ohio District Meeting and the 1928 District Meeting, but little else about these meetings can be found.  We did find that the Sunday School convention meals were served for 10 cents each, three for 25 cents with free lodging and breakfast.  Some of our members recall "bits and pieces" about the 1928 convention - there were food tents set up on the NE side of the church. One remembers helping pack lunch boxes, another remembers a hand of bananas hanging in the cellar and making homemade ice-cream, while another remembers "watering the noodles" because the crowd kept coming.  How quickly information is lost by the passing of time!  We must keep in mind, however, that many of our records were destroyed when Founders Hall at Ashland College burned in October, 1952.

The beginning of our missionary endeavors was started in 1904 when our Home Department was established.  This covered a territory "extending over a radius of perhaps 6 square miles reaching some families outside a tract, and is going on in Ashland in a quiet way, getting ready for our new church and Sunday School which is still in the future".  This "new" church was to be the reorganization of what is known today as Ashland City Church (First Church of the Brethren on 3rd Street) and was the joint effort of Ashland Dickey and Maple Grove.  In 1914 this became a reality when they purchased the Third Street property from the Evangelican people.  The Home Department had 80 members in 1906, who were visited by workers from the congregation.  Their petition was that "by Almighty God we may be guided aright on entering the homes of our neighbors and friends, that we may say things and do the acts that will stir them to action in their soul's welfare.  May God grant us strength and wisdom to go on in every good work." This could well be the prayer of each member today.

In 1916, Goldie Swartz left as a missionary to India, where she served as an educator and evangelist until 1955. Prior to this she had attended several colleges, was a teacher and did urban mission work in Rockford, Illinois. She died in Sebring, Florida in 1976. In 1926, she was followed by another missionary sister, Clara Harper, who went to Nigeria and served for 34 years in medical, educational and evangelistic work. She retired in 1960 and lived in the Brethren Home in Greenville, Ohio until her death. She touched and blessed many lives during her years among us. At the age of 10 she accepted the Lord as her personal Savior and shared many time how the ice was broken on the creek to hold this baptism. Many members of our church can attest to this experience, and no one recalls getting even a cold from having been baptized in such cold water.

We always have been support of Brethren Service. During the 1940's, we sent several heifers abroad through the Heifer Project. We still continue the collection of clothing, blankets, etc. but the present work is done through the Church world Service. We were the collection point for this are, with processing done at the New Windsor Service center in Maryland. We have been involved in the direct support of missionaries, the Navajo Indians, West View Manor Nursing Home, Camp Inspiration Hills and in 1977 were supportive of the summer work done at Fair Haven Home in Sacramento, CA by May Hays. In the 1970's, we had a radio ministry with preaching, music and recording done my our members. For nearly 30 years we have had  a Bible School.

In 1956, our congregation sponsored the Conrad Kohn family from Germany and secured and furnished a house near Hayesville for them. Mr. Kohn was gainfully employed from the time of their arrival and soon purchased a home on Sloan Ave in Ashland. Their sons, Guenther, Walter and George all moved from this area. In 1979, we combined efforts with Maple Grove and first church to bring Mam Ray from Cambodia and the Vay Duong family came in 1980 for Viet Nam.  In 1979, Peter Isola came from Southeast Nigeria to study at the Ashland theological Seminary.  During his term of studies at ATS, he and his wife Titi (Mary) were commissioned in our church and returned to Nigeria in 1988 to teach and do missionary work among their fellow Nigerians.  They have four children: Bose, Soji, Deyo and Tosin.  The congregation continues to be active in the support of his on-going mission work.