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Church to celebrate 160th anniversary Sunday

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Jul 20, 2019 at 10:00 AM

MONROEVILLE — This Sunday, St. Peter Lutheran Church at 1872 Sandhill Road is expecting crowded pews and scads of relatives and former members to celebrate 160 years since its founding in 1859 when 30 members signed the articles of organization, July 18 of that year.

Most were German farmers and area craftsmen who had already been meeting in the school they established five years previously, according to current members Mitzi Denzer, Dale Scheid and Kaye Muth. 

Mitzi Scheid-Denzer remarked that three of her great grandfathers, Anton Scheid, Jacob Schug, and Christian Knoll were on the organizing committee. Scheid offered to donate land for the building and cemetery. Their land was on the east side. Land donated by the William Scheid family is on the opposite side, noted his great grandson, Dale. (Oddly enough even though their fields connect, these two Scheid families are not related).

William was also the first sexton, in charge of cemetery upkeep. This job has come down with a few interruptions, through Dale's father, and Dale himself, who has been overseeing the property since 1972. "Probably longer than any of the others," Scheid comments.

"I dug the graves by hand for a long time. I used to dig them six feet deep but now rules allow five-and-a-half." Scheid said there is a layer of clay that makes digging very hard work, however now his son helps and they can use equipment. Rain does make it much more difficult though.

One of the founders originally from Flacht, northern Germany, Jacob Schug, was a stone mason who laid the church foundation, explained his great granddaughter, Carole Schug-Ruh.

Many of the 30 founding members had arrived from Germany only a few years previous to their decision. Many had sent sons ahead to purchase land, likely with a house, where the entire family could settle in to begin life in a new land (and language), added Mitzi Scheid, as her ancestors had done near Pontiac, where her deed shows the purchase of their house from an English couple in the 1840s.

Dale Scheid continued the story saying, "The oldest Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road spur in Ohio had a station at the end of Sandhill Road. A passenger train would go to Sandusky and Cedar Point, come back the next day to Chicago Junction. A family lived at Pontiac Station - was it the O'Neals ?" The church location was easy to reach by rail. He remembers that his father could have a quarter-ton of fertilizer shipped in to Pontiac Station to sell to other farmers, when research proved that would boost crop output. He got to help unload it.

Judy Noyes-Cloud mentioned that her great grandfather Johann (John) Linder grew grapes and supplied some of the wine for the early communion ceremonies, as did John Schwan as well, before large vintners came to be regular church suppliers.

As the discussion proceeded, three orange tabbies mewed outside the Denzer's back door, reminding Dale Scheid of how many dogs, cats and other farm animals used to come following families, farm families, into the church. So often that they made regulations against certain animals coming in (although last week there were still sounds of kittens hiding somewhere in the church).

Nancy Lindenberger sent word that she had special memories of Children's Day presentations put on yearly by the Sunday school. The children would come up front and recite passages learned especially for the occasion. Mothers would sew special dresses for daughters.

Judy Cloud recalls that the children would march in to Sunday school each week as the pipe organ played 'Onward Christian Soldiers'. Then, there were the Christmas excursions organized for older members by Pastor Hoke in the early '60s. They would travel to Potawatomi, Indiana, to a lodge where they could go skiing, hiking, and horseback riding.

In the 1940s and '50s there were lots of children and large Christmas eve programs for families. In summer large Sunday school picnics took place at the Lyme School where Dale Scheid recalls all the ball games boys played there. The women's group put on splendid yearly mother/daughter banquets. Social life was vibrant.

By the mid-1960s attendance decreased, more children left the area for college or jobs, while some members transferred their membership to Monroeville's Trinity Lutheran Church or to Norwalk's newer St. Peter Lutheran Church. Judy Cloud recalled her mother's family decided to be buried in the Monroeville Riverside cemetery, fearing Pontiac's church would close and there would be no one to take care of the gravesites.

In fact Mitzi said, "About 1963 or '64, the district wanted to close our church. The split came when Pastor Hoke spoke to break up the church and have us join with Trinity."

Mitzi was loyal to her traditional church, when the bishop wanted to close she and her husband came all the way from Detroit to join other members who were very upset about being told their church should be torn down... That the stained glass windows, in their frames, should be sawed out to be built into another, larger, new church. Protests were loud. They didn't want to sell their small pipe organ either. The church survived due its dedicated members and continues its stewardship mission locally and abroad.

Members Mitzi Scheid and Dick Denzer were married in St. Peter's 67 years ago, with a humorous memory of the organdy wedding dress with peplum, made by her mother, where, under the peplum scores of little black oat bugs had taken temporary residence during the ceremony. But never mind the oat bugs, the reception continued full of fun. The Denzers celebrated their 65th anniversary there, too. All their children and all Mitzi's nieces and nephews from Virginia and Pennsylvania were brought to this church for baptism.

Kaye Muth and hubby renewed their 25-year wedding vows at St. Peter's, although they were married in another church.

Connections are deep and heartfelt for St. Peter's as members look forward to their 160th Homecoming celebration to renew such memories with a full church and full hearts, creating memories for many more years to come.

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