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Dick Shumaker dusts off one of the chairs inside the church in getting ready for the upcoming homecoming. | Photo by Linda Moody

Annual homecoming near for rural Versailles church

VERSAILLES – Dick Shumaker and other friends and family members gathered at the St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on St. Peter Road about three miles south of Versailles off of State Route 185 this past Sunday afternoon.

They were there cleaning, getting ready for the church’s Homecoming set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19.

The church closed its doors in 1905 but ancestors of church members who attended there have been holding this annual observance for, as Shumaker put it, “to honor God and our ancestors,” every year since it closed…116 years ago.

He said his family and the Klipstine family have kept it going.

What goes on at a Homecoming?

“We have had anywhere from 60 to over 100 people attend and sing old hymns while Karen Lawrence of Versailles plays the pump organ,” he said. “It’s over when they’re done singing. The men sit on the left side of the church and the women and children on the right near the stove.”

The pastor from Trinity Lutheran Church in Versailles will also be there to participate.

Punch and cookies will be served.

“My great-great-great-grandfather Agney came here from Germany and settled in this area,” Shumaker said. “He was a bell player and was a glockenspieler.”

According to Shumaker, the church belonged to the Fiebiger family, who hit gold in California and came back here and bought it. Trees were taken down behind the log cabin.

Helping clean inside and outside the log cabin church included Shumaker’s wife Mary; daughter Lisa Irey and son Xander and his friend Zach Aboulkassim; Shawn Unger, a nephew, who did the mowing; and Pam Casner.

“For years, Lisa brought her Girl Scouts here and they polished the tombstones in the cemetery, and some of them came back this year,” Shumaker said. “One year, they surrounded the tombstone of an unidentified infant and prayed.”
Yes, there is a cemetery nearby, filled with many stones and some spots yet to be filled, according to a chart the church has in its possession.

Among the surnames of those buried there are: Klipstsine/Klipstein, Shumaker, Agney, McCrea, Scherer, Webb, Trittschuh, Rhyal, Rohr, Droscha, Seibt, Scheffel, Nichol, Knoderer, Homan, Kiel, Konnechke, Colby, Mezger, Ilgen, Lingle, Vogt, Masner, Schmitt, Cox, Gantt, McGuff, Siefert, Harman, Fisher/Fischer, Shellbuch, Meyer, Gibboney, Brown, Kleinschmidt, Hile, Jacobi, Baumgardner, Kelch, Fremd, Wikel, Wolf, Reser, Byrd, Labig and Smith.

Because there is no running water or electricity, there is an outbuilding behind the church for visitors to use if necessary. It also holds the picks and shovels for the cemetery.

For light inside the church, there is a hanging oil lamp.

“In the 1930s they added a room and a belfry in 1936,” according to Shumaker.

There are quite a few pews inside, but homecoming-goers are invited to bring their own chairs if they want to do so.

Shumaker reported the church had hired a circuit rider preacher, who would also go to Wakefield for a month and to North Star for a month. The first pastor was Philip Locker from 1850-53. Others who followed were E. Mathew During, Isaac Hursch, John George Schaefer, A.J. Ruchau and Amos A. Poorman.

The church, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, has been the scene of some weddings and funerals.

They don’t allow living flowers in the church unless it’s the bride’s bouquet.

“God takes care of the place,” said Shumaker, who has the only key to the door.

An offering is taken at these Homecomings and the money is used for maintenance.

“One year the glass was getting bad in the six windows and we announced they needed to be replaced,” Shumaker noted. “I didn’t know the cost, maybe $1,000 per window, Within two months, we got the money from such places as California and Oklahoma and some people made a special gift. That was eight or nine years ago.”

The old glass has been made into frames, earrings and necklaces and is now used for a fundraiser for the church, thanks to the local business, Touch of Glass.

Still featured in the church are Bibles of the German version in the church. Shumaker said one time someone presented the German version of the and he translated it in the English version. Another thing Shumaker has at the church is a clink boink. It holds coins and, if someone falls asleep, that person gets boinked.

The question is: Does it get used today?

On March 10, 1850, a group of citizens met at the home of Adam Klipstine and elected a committee to organize a new parish in the area. And,the rest is history.

Several factors influenced the closing of the church. The transition from German to the English language was one of the important factors. Services were terminated in July 1905.

This past year St. Peter’s got its mailing address: 9239 St. Peter Road, Versailles, OH 45380.

And, it was noted that, the church is featured on its own Facebook page.

St. Peter's Lutheran Church, located at 9239 St. Peter Road between Versailles and Webster, will be the scene of a Homecoming service on Sept. 19.
St. Peter's Lutheran Church, located at 9239 St. Peter Road between Versailles and Webster, will be the scene of a Homecoming service on Sept. 19. | Courtesy Photo
One of the many items in the church today is the German Bible which was used when St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church was open.
One of the many items in the church today is the German Bible which was used when St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church was open. | Photo by Linda Moody
Dick Shumaker shows the only key he has to the church that has been holding homecoming services for 116 years.
Dick Shumaker shows the only key he has to the church that has been holding homecoming services for 116 years. | Photo by Linda Moody
Dick Shumaker said the church still has the warranty on the church's pump organ which is used to play the songs for the homecoming. Karen Lawrence of Versailles plays the organ while those in attendance sing the old hymns.
Dick Shumaker said the church still has the warranty on the church's pump organ which is used to play the songs for the homecoming. Karen Lawrence of Versailles plays the organ while those in attendance sing the old hymns. | Photo by Linda Moody
Darke County Now Staff - Linda Moody - Staff Writer

Linda Moody / Staff Writer

I am a Darke County native living in the Ansonia area with my son. I have been in journalism 50+ years and enjoy what I do.

Contact Darke County Now Media Correspondent Linda Moody @ lmoody@darkecountynow.com or 937-337-1955.

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