TWO HUNDRED YEARS: HISTORY OF GOOD HOPE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH OF NORTH LIMA, OHIO
Settlement of Beaver Township began in 1802 by Major Jacob Gilbert, a native of Maryland. John Shenefelt moved into the township about the same time. Peter Stevens, who was the first person to discover coal in the area, is credited with having been the first settler on Section 1 in the township.
The settlers were German, who came from Pennsylvania. The following year the first pastor came into their midst in the person of Reverend Johannas Stauch. When we think of these early pioneer pastors, we are apt to think of the circuit rider, who arrived at the pioneer log cabin, was greeted most cordially, his horse fed and cared for, while he was given the best entertainment that the home could provide. But this pastor had 12 preaching points and there were times when weather conditions, and impassable roads or trails, made it necessary to walk as much as thirty miles to fill appointments.
In those days there were no houses of worship and services were conducted from the thresholds of various homes with the congregations assembling in the yard.
The founder of Good Hope was The Reverend Johannas Stauch, who is said to have conducted services here as early as 1805.
In 1806 the Lutherans elected trustees and this is regarded as the date of organization of the Good Hope Lutheran Congregation located at North Lima. In 1808 Pastor Stauch confirmed his first catechetical class at a service which was held in the barn of Christian Seidner.
The only record of baptism left by Pastor Stauch was that of the five children of Friedich Sponseller, the oldest having been born December 26th, 1804.
In 1810, Nathaniel Routseng and wife conveyed to the trustees of the German Reformed Congregations, a tract of land for church and burial purposes. This tract of land is located on the northwest corner at the present intersection of Routes 164 and 165.
The two congregations immediately proceeded to build a log church, which was dedicated in the year 1810.
The logs used in the construction of the church were cut and prepared at their homes by the members of the congregation, and on a designated day, they were brought to the site for “logging up”.
While the church was built of logs, the interior architecture was patterned after the architectural style of Southern Germany at that time, a balcony extending on three sides of the church and a pulpit on the fourth side. When in this pulpit, the pastor stood on a level with the balcony.
On the first floor, in front of the pulpit, was the altar with a balustrade around it. Around this the communicants gathered for communion. To the left of the pastor on the main floor sat the elders and deacons, trustees and older men. Behind them sat middle-aged men. On the balcony above these men sat the boys. To the right of the pastor on the main floor sat the elderly women. Behind them sat the middle-aged women, and above these on the balcony, sat the girls. On the balcony in front of the pastor was the organ and the choir.
The panel work of the pulpit and the galleries was said to have been very fine. On each panel of the gallery was a German letter and the whole spelled the word “Gemeindeschaftlicher”, meaning “The work of the Congregation”. The building was not fully completed until 1823.
When the two congregations came to adopting a name for the united church, there was much difficulty in arriving at an agreement. There was strong sentiment for the name ‘Peace Church”, but since peace and harmony did not characterize the discussion at the time, there was a compromise to call it “Good Hope Church”. The present Lutheran Church at North Lima still bears this name, “Good Hope”, it having been the last of the two to leave the original log church building.
The Lutherans and Reformed Congregations worshipped together harmoniously in this log church for 51 years, until the year 1861, when the Reformed Congregation built a new church at the top of the hill west of the old log church. The name “Mount Olivet” was adopted by the Reformed Congregation.
The relationships between the Reformed and Lutheran Congregations during the early years were so cordial that the pastors assisted each other in the administration of the Lord’s Supper. Their first union constitution was adopted in 1813, and it is thought that this was the year when Pastor Stauch was succeeded by his pupil, The Reverend Heinrich Huet. Pastor Huet served Good Hope 36 years, often traveling on foot for thirty miles in order to meet his engagements in a parish of fourteen congregations. When he died at a ripe old age, February 16, 1855, his body was laid to rest in Bethlehem Cemetery at Youngstown.
His successor was The Reverend Samuel Baeschler, who was granted an interim license, by the Ohio Synod, May 20, 1849, in order to serve the North Lima Parish. His record shows that he served a parish of six churches until November 1856, when illness led him to take a rest. His successors were The Reverends Gottlieb Kranz, 1857—1861, and J.F. Nuoffer, 1862—1865, but it is hard to distinguish the exact time of these pastorates since the records of ministerial acts seem to intermingle. Pastor Baeschler completed a second pastorate here, 1869—1874, during which pastorate there was a separation of the Lutherans from the Reformed.
In 1870, the “Good Hope” Lutherans built a new brick church, at a cost of $4,000.00 about 100 yards north of the old location, (where the South Range East Elementary School presently stands). A marble slab marks the location of the first church, built and dedicated in 1810. This slab stands at the Northeast corner of the cemetery at the corner of S.R. 164 and S.R. 165.
The last of the Ohio Synod Pastors retired in 1881, and a call was extended the The Reverend J.A. Zahn of the Pittsburgh Synod. The Parish united with the Pittsburgh Synod in 1884 and was served by pastors of that body until 1962 when Good Hope Lutheran became a parish of the Ohio Synod.
During the pastorate of The Reverend S. L. Harkey, 1888—1891, the German language was replaced by the English in the services. Under The Reverend D.B. Stahlman, 1891—1895, a more serviceable constitution was adopted. During the pastorate of The Reverend T.F. Weiskotten, 1900—1904, a parsonage was built in 1901 for $1,820.00 and the interior of the church was renovated the following year.
The last service held in the 1870 Church was the Union Thanksgiving Service, held at the evening service, November 21st, 1948. From that time until February 10th, 1952, the congregation worshiped in the School auditorium/gymnasium. The congregation arranged the seating in the auditorium in order to give a churchly atmosphere, the altar at the head of the center aisle with pulpit and lectern at their proper places. The choir and pastor were robed, and full liturgy was used, they also had a processional and recessional just as they had when they were in their own Church.
Lester and Helen Jordan were the last couple to be married in the old 1870 Church.
Immediately after the Old 1870 Church was sold, the congregation was canvassed for pledges to a Building Fund. A Building Committee was appointed by The Reverend Dr. L.J Baker. This Committee consisted of the Church Council including the Trustees: W.O Troyer, Gustav Nemenz, Carl Rukenbrod, Paul Rukenbrod, Karl Reinerth, Walter Baisler, and Henry Kuhlman. When Mr. Kuhlman died, he was succeeded on the Building Committee by Randall Sigle. W.O. Troyer was elected chairman of the committee and Carl Rukenbrod was secretary.
Plans and specifications for a new Gothic Church to be located on Market Street at the southwest corner of S.R.7 and 165, with a seating capacity of 160 were prepared. The plans as presented were satisfactory, but had to be changed to reduce costs. Thus the belfry was omitted, and other changes were made. The plans as approved provide a narthex, nave, chancel, sacristy and parlor on the upper level. The lower level provided a nursery, primary room, fellowship hall, stage, kitchen, toilets and mechanical room. The cost of the 1952 Church was $90,000.00 and a two manual electronic organ was installed at a cost of $3,000.00.
The new church was dedicated as a house of God on February 10, 1952, by the pastor, The Reverend Dr. L.J. Baker and The Reverend Dr. G. Lawrence Himmelman, the President of the Pittsburgh Synod, delivered the dedicatory address.
The first baptisms celebrated in the new church were those of Paula Schneider, Barbara Kyser, Patricia Quinn, Tom Cailor and Gloria Drotleff on March 2, 1952.
Charles and Elizabeth (Nemenz) Flohr were the first couple to be married in the new church.
A new 7-room brick parsonage located on Market Street, immediately south of the new church, was built in 1958, at a cost of approximately $25,000.00, and the old parsonage sold for approximately $11,000.00.
In 1962 Good Hope became a part of the Ohio Synod rather than the Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia Synod, as a result of the realignment of synods which brought the LCA into existence.
Mr. And Mrs. Gus Nemenz prepared the communion elements for approximately 25 years.
The year 1966 was a hot summer, so the church was provided with central air conditioning for the comfort of the congregation.
In 1967, the chancel wall behind the altar was changed to provide a walnut panel with a 14 foot “back lighted” aluminum and walnut cross. This renovation work cost $2,000.00.
The year 1970 was a year that refurbishing of the nave and chancel took place at a cost of $8,300.00 This renovation provided new cushioned pews, new carpeting of all aisles and the chancel, sheet vinyl flooring under the pews, and repainting of the walls. This refurbishing was completed on November 20th, and on November 21st the wedding of Mary Lou Baisler took place, thus being the first service in the completely refurbished facilities.
In 1971, the church started a monthly newsletter “Reach Out” which continues to this day.
Again in 1973 considerable improvements were made. The first change was provided by the Walter Kyser Family in the form of a stained glass window to replace the wood panel over the narthex doors. The window is in memory of Teddy Kyser, son of Mr. and Mrs. Kyser. The Lutheran seal in the middle of this window is from an old stained glass window that came out of the 1870 church building.
Other improvements made in 1973 were made possible by a $12,000.00 gift from a member family of the church. These improvements consisted of: covering the concrete floor of the Fellowship Hall with quiet zone vinyl carpet, resilient floor covering in the kitchen and toilet rooms and safety rubber treads on all interior stairs, dividing the Fellowship Hall into five class areas with accordion sound retardant partitions, providing chalk boards in class areas, painting the entire lower level and completely remodeling and re-equipping the kitchen.
In 1976, the parsonage was redecorated and re-carpeted along with some other improvements at a cost of $4,600.00. Also in 1976, the church parlor was completely remodeled and dedicated as “the Reverend Samuel Gross Memorial Library” at a cost of $1,000.00. The study was also remodeled with wall covering and counters at a cost of $1,100.00. And, a $300.00 sanctuary light was provided in the chancel.
Five of the sons of Good Hope have entered into the ministry: H.F. Obenauf, P.E. Baisler, Ezra Houk, Aaron Houk, and S.H. Yerian.
Mrs. Elisabeth Culp is the daughter of The Reverend Hoffmeister (1923-1927), which makes Dorothea Kyser and Barbie Williamson grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter, respectively, of Pastor Hoffmeister.
Between the years of 1849 and December 9, 1973, (124 years) the pastors of Good Hope also served as pastor of Paradise Lutheran Church at New Buffalo.
Also during the years of 1869 to 1874, and again from 1909 to 1927, (total of 21 years) the pastors of Good Hope also served St. John’s Lutheran Church at Leetonia, as well as Paradise.
On July 27, 1947, the congregation optioned the brick church (Church No. 2), built in 1870, to the North Lima Board of Education for $15,00.00, which was subject to passage of a bond issue to be placed before the voters of Beaver Township at the fall election. The Bond Issue carried and the School Board claimed the option as soon as bonds could be issued and sold.
The Congregation formally left the brick Church with a service held May 16th, 1948, when Dr. H. Reed Shepfer, the President of the Pittsburgh synod, gave the address. The School Board changed their plans and allowed the congregation to continue worshiping in the 1870 church.
In 1978 brought about another large undertaking in the form of erecting a new bell tower for the bell from the 1870 Church, which had been residing in the basement of the Church since 1952. The last known time it was rung prior to rededication in 1978 was at the Thanksgiving Service in 1948.
The new free standing bell tower is stainless steel standing 52 feet from base to top of the cross. The bell is cast in bronze bearing the inscription: “McShane Foundry, Baltimore, Maryland, 1882”, weight approximately 650 pounds and strikes the note “C”.
Originally, the bell was rung by pulling a rope. Now it is rung electronically either automatically from a clock, or manually, by depressing a button. At the dedication service, Mr. Charles Sitler, who had been the bell ringer for at least 35 years, had the honor of pressing the button to ring the bell in it’s new home for the first time.
The bell is centered in a diamond. The top of the diamond points to the cross reminding people of God’s presence and sacrifice for us through His Son Jesus Christ. The bottom of the diamond points down reminding us that God’s people are to be served and the compass points symbolize God’s Word for all people everywhere. As a diamond has many facets, so does the Church and each contributes to the good of the whole.
The bell tower was paid for through many contributions by Church members and organizations. The generosity of the many tower subcontractors helped to hold the final cost to $15,000.00, a considerable amount below its worth.
By 1979 the roof on the church required replacement at a cost of $6,700.00. Also in 1979, the Nemenz children had the original overgrown shrubbery removed and completely re-landscaped the church grounds in honor of their parents, Gus and Anna Nemenz.
In 1999 an addition, including a chapel, narthex and offices, was dedicated. This provides a place for small group worship, meetings and socialization. The beauty of the Church was further enhanced by the installation of a large window with a dove etched in it.