A Brief History of Sharon Moravian Church
Excerpts from The Story of Sharon Moravian Church by M.F. Oerter, D.D. (1933) and other sources. - - Esther Cribbs (1976), update by John C. Demuth (1981). Update by Michael Foran (1994, 2005).
On New Year’s Day, 1815, the first service was held that marks the beginning of the Sharon Congregation. As we learn from the old German diary, a large room on the second floor of the large home of Brother and Sister George Blickensderfer, just north of Sharon, had been offered as a meeting hall and fitted up for that purpose. On that day it was formally dedicated.
Only three months later, John Blickensderfer moved into the house and opened a tavern there. So the congregation moved into a school house on John Uhrich’s land as a temporary arrangement. The membership was very desirous of having a permanent house of worship of its own. There was a piece of land along a small stream known as “Mud Run”, owned by Brother John G. Cunow of Bethlehem. This piece of land was the spot desired for the church building. Brother Cunow gave the congregation a five acre tract in trust for church and cemetery use. The cemetery was laid out and in use for quite a while before the foundation of the church was laid nearby.
This was a log church originally measuring 26 x 32 feet. Late in the year 1817 it was so far completed that it could be used. It was dedicated on the morning of December 24, 1817. The log walls were white-washed on the inside, seats were made of slabs from the sawmill supported by heavy pins driven in each end. A gallery extended along the east and north sides, and the pulpit was on the west side. The organ and choir occupied the north balcony.
The German language was used at first, but gradually English came into use. The original log building was sided with weatherboarding, and an addition put on one end. The congregation used this building for forty years.
The wear and tear of time and the expanding congregation made it necessary to provide a larger building. Late in the year 1854, when Brother Francis Holland was pastor and living in the parsonage which had been built some years earlier, a church council appointed a building committee. This committee consisted of Jonathan Romis Sr., Jacob Blickensderfer Jr. and Samuel Knauss.
Plans were carefully made for a building to be 46 x 71 feet ( four times the dimensions of the old building), two stories in height, substantially built of stone and brick. The stone foundation is five feet thick at the base. This stone was obtained from a large quarry at Newcomerstown and transported on the old Ohio Canal to a point near the site of the church. R. H. Nugent furnished the stone for a total of $415, and did the work on the foundation for $530.
The Ohio Canal also brought lumber, shingles and supplies from Cleveland. During 1856 numerous bids were received for construction and for specific parts thereof. Prices for labor paid in those days made interesting reading! The brick mason was Samuel Pepper, and he and his men laid 269,102 bricks in the walls for a total of $875. The brick cost $3.50 per thousand.
The cornerstone was laid on May 29, 1857. The church was finished and dedicated on February 21, 1858, in the presence of a congregation that filled every seat, the aisles and the gallery. Many had to stand during the two hour service. During this day enough money was given to pay off the $800 balance due. The building and furnishings cost about $6,000.
In the spring of 1871 a violent wind and rain storm swept down Sharon Valley, tearing off the roof and steeple of the church. The bell was thrown to the ground but not damaged. This bell had cost $600 and had been in use a little more than two years. The steeple was rebuilt, but without the high tapering spire which had reached 148 feet from the ground.
In 1885 a new parsonage – still in use – was built to replace the old log house. It is an eight room house, built for $1,200, but at that time without any modern conveniences. At about the same time, a new Hook & Hastings pipe organ was placed in the west end of the sanctuary.
Fifty years after the dedication of the church building, a Jubilee celebration was held on February 21 and 23, 1908.
In 1915, the 100th anniversary of the congregation was observed. Three former pastors returned for a week of services, from December 27, 1914, to January 1, 1915.
The years that followed World War I and on into the 1930’s and 1940’s brought many changes to rural churches, and to Sharon as well. The Sunday School, which organized in 1840, underwent reorganization, resulting in the adult department meeting in the church sanctuary, while the primary and intermediate departments used the old downstairs Sunday School room.
The building, constructed in 1858, was in need of modernization, so an extensive remodeling program was undertaken, and completed in March, 1951. A fire escape was added to the west end to meet state regulations. A Baldwin electric organ was purchased. The roof was replaced, the kitchen remodeled, lavatories installed, and other improvements made.
In 1957, the 500th Anniversary of the Unitas Fratrum (Moravian Church), the Sharon church built the new Christian Education wing. Ground breaking ceremonies were held Sunday, March 17, 1957. The cornerstone laying was Sunday, June 16, in the afternoon. February 23, 1958, marked the 100th Anniversary of the dedication of the Sharon church building, and it was chosen for the dedication of the new wing.
Today we strive to keep our facility a welcoming and worshipful place where all are welcomed and invited to become a part of our church family.
Sharon Church continues its history of outreach ministry in Tuscarawas County assisting local neighbors in need through Our Good Samaritan Fund, the local Food Pantry, and donations to local charities from our monthly Joyful Noise Offering. We also assist others in need through our support of the Moravian Church’s Common Ministries, Operation Christmas Child, through mission trips and Adopt-a-Village program in Tanzania.
Revised October 15, 2009