To The
Brethren Church

Photo by D. "fritz" Birely April 2009

A Sturdy House of Worship
in the Country after 113 Years
From the "Goodley Heritage 1968"

The Dutchtown Church of the Brethren, located two miles west of Milledgeville, dates to the early 1850's. Christian Long of Arnolds Grove attended an annual conference of the Church of the Brethren at Beaver Dam, Maryland. While there he met Henry Myers, and his family of five single and four married children and their families. What possessions they had! With one horse and wagon they traveled from Somerset county to Johnstown, Pennsylvania where they secured a cargo boat for $65 per person. It was a tiresome journey for the water route took them on five different rivers.

After many weary days they landed at Dixon, Ill. From there they traveled by train to Freeport, and from there to Mt. Carroll by wagon. The family rented a house near Emmerts Mill for two years and attended church services at Arnolds Grove. The Arnolds Grove membership grew to four hundred with many large families in the church. It was decided to build more churches around the Arnolds Grove area and Dutchtown was one of them.

On June 19, 1854, Henry Myers purchased a tract of land near Otter Creek. In 1855 he built a house near where the church now stands, large enough for church services in which he was assisted by Solomon Lichty. It was in the Myers home that the first Love Feast was held.

Others from Somerset county came west including ministers, Martin Myers, Micheal Kimmel, Daniel Miller, and Abraham Liven-good. Others who migrated to Dutchtown in 1869-1870 were Daniel, Samuel and Joseph Fike. Samuel and Joseph Pike's wives were sisters of Daniel Miller, thus Dutchtown was very much a family church. Settlers were able to buy some land for $1.50 an acre from the government.

A school which stood on a knoll just east of the present church site was used in the beginning for church services. Here the congregation met until the school house was moved about a mile west. Soon after this the church building was erected.

The rocks for the walls were taken from a nearby quarry by Samuel Harrington. Michael Meyers was the contractor and most of the labor was done by the members. Lumber had to be hauled a long distance; there was no near­by railroad at the time. The building was of usual Brethren type with two entrances, one for the men and one for the women. A full basement with a large fire place was constructed under the building. In the fire place two iron kettles hung to cook the meat for the Love Feasts.

The early Dutchtowners were plain people and the church was built plain; it was finished in the fall of 1866 at a cost of $2200. There were 30 charter members. There was no pulpit in the church; instead a long table was provided where lay ministers sat facing the congregation. It was not decided which of the many ministers often present would preach until service had begun. The preachers would sit behind the long table and nudge one another to induce one to stand up and speak. Each Sunday morning one of the ministers would finally stand and say what was on his heart.

During the early days of the church preaching was done by local ministers who were not paid. Some who served in the "free ministry" were Daniel Miller, John Dierdorff, and Tobias Meyers. Elder Henry Meyers was the first minister.

With the coming of the automobile, sheds for sheltering the horses soon disappeared leaving a beautiful large lawn surrounding the church. It was necessary to remodel the interior to provide Sunday School rooms. The first Sunday School was organized in 1878 with Z. T. Livengood of Lanark, superintendent: The parsonage in town was built in 1916 during the pastorate of Rev. Olin Shaw. The church was remodeled twice, in 1915 and 1955.

The Myers family have all passed on. One son, Joseph, died in Jerusalem and is buried near the Mount of Olives. All the earlier settlers died and many are buried in the cemetery adjoining the church. However, many descendants of the pioneers are living in the community. The Samuel and Joseph Fike homes are now occupied by great grandsons. Franklin Kendall and Lyle Livengood.

Tobias Fike was the first salaried minister he moved here with his wife and six children from West Virginia with a starting salary of $400.

Former pastors include Rev. Tobias Fike. 1901-1902; Rev. C. B. Smith 1902-1907; Rev. P. F. Eckerle, 1907; Rev. D. F. Brubaker. 1907-1910; Rev. D. F. Warner, 1910-1912.

Rev. J. E. Miller who was responsible for supplying the pulpit from 1912-1916, did some of the preaching. Others were: John Heckman. John Neffsinger, Oscar Neher, Hugh Heckman, Frank Byers, C. Keltner, Sumer Pean and F. A. Meyers.

Finally the time came for a full time pastor. Among those who served were Rev. Olin F Shaw, 1916-1922; Rev. Paul F. Studebaker. 1922-1928; Rev. Jefferson Mathis, 1928-1934: Dr. W. S. Bell, 1934-1939; Rev. Paul Miller. 1939-1944; Rev. Charles Nettleton, 1944-1946: Rev. Alvin Klotz, 1946-1949; Rev. Melvin Ritchey, 1949-1956; Rev. Karl Baldner, 1956-1962; and Rev. Glen Shively, 1962 ... the present pastor.

On June 6, 1954 there was a ground breaking service for extensive remodeling of the church. Two of the oldest members of the church, Mrs. Clara Fike and Lester Stover took part in the service.

The remodeling program was enlarged and new pews added. With the opening of accordion doors in back of the sanctuary the total seating capacity was increased to 215.

The kitchen was modernized along with the fellowship room, enabling both to be used more conveniently. Other rooms added to the west end of the building were a large your.; people's classroom, also a nursery room. This room was equipped with a speaker so church services may be heard during the church hour. Three classrooms occupy the second floor for the children's department. At the time of remodeling the church had an enrollment of 112.

Dedication of the enlarged building was held on June 5, 1955. For the morning services, Rev. Jefferson H. Mathis a former pastor brought the message. Following a basket dinner in the fellowship hall, the dedicatory message was brought by Rev. Paul E. Miller, also a former minister.

In the spring of 1960 the church wished to have the pastor take part in the daily devotions being sponsored by the local ministerial organization. The pastors of the different churches take turns giving the weekly devotions. To meet the spiritual needs of the entire congregation the church voted to have the two-fold communion twice a year along with the two Love Feasts and communions. The first two-fold communion was held in January of 1962.

In September 1965, the congregation decided to participate in the Mission 12 program being sponsored by the Brotherhood. Nine members, with the pastor, shared the weekend group life experiences held at Lake Bloomington at East Bay Camp in 1966 and the years following. Through the leadership of this group it is hoped that the entire congregation will become more involved in the mission of the church. More members are involved in the work of the church than ever before. Membership has now reached 143.

Photo taken in the 1960's. Built without frills in 1866.
It reflects the solid, sturdy character ofits members who settled the prairies in the early 1850's.