Wednesday was one of those hot and excessively humid days when you've got to be grateful that you're watching people work rather than doing it yourself. Thanks to the guys from Shriver painting, the facelift at Otterbein Church was on track despite challenging work conditions.
Bingham Construction was on campus a couple of weeks ago to make some minor repairs to the steeple. Earlier, Bob and Jim had worked on windows and doors. The last step will be rejuvenating the Otterbein sign and reinstalling it above the front doors.
Some of us still remember when Otterbein, a congregation of the United Brethren in Christ, was located south of Chariton along Highway 14 in Benton Township. This is an old congregation, dating from 1869, but its original building was not constructed at that site until 1889. At that time, the congregation renamed itself Otterbein, after the Rev. Philip William Otterbein, a German Reformed preacher who was one of the organizers of the denomination.
My great-great-grandparents, the John Redlingshafers, were founding members of the congregation and John led the drive that raised funds to construct that building.
Although its polity was Wesleyan, and Otterbein was a friend of Francis Asbury --- among those who participated in the latter's consecration as the first U.S. bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church during 1784 --- the denomination he founded in partnership with Martin Boehm, a Mennonite, was at first largely German-speaking. Now, the "United" in United Methodist reflects the 1968 merger of the Methodist Episcopal and United Brethren denominations.
The original Otterbein building, considerably larger than this one, was torn down during the early 1940s and a new building constructed from its pieces. That structure, dedicated in 1946, was moved to the Lucas County Historical Society grounds during 1976 as a project of the county Bicentennial Commission.
At that time, the front was remodeled to give it the appearance of the original building --- two front doors rather than one, fretwork in the gable and a steeple. The pews and other contents are original to the 1889 building.
Curiously, paint hangs on tight to the old siding on the north, west and south walls of the building, but had begun to fall off the front, rebuilt during 1976. Now, we're hoping, the whole building will be sparkling white again for many years to come.