Tuesday, May 29, 2012

History of Warren Chapel A.M.E. Church, Fremont, Ohio

A History of Warren Chapel A.M.E. Church
Fremont, Ohio
Compiled by Charles J. Weiker

Around 1859, Mrs. Eliza Hughes of Genoa, Ohio started religious meetings in the homes of the few colored families that had settled in Fremont, Ohio. She was a faith-healer and ordained preacher of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; and would later move to Fremont, Ohio and marry Abraham Carr in that locale in 1867. Mrs. Carr was instrumental in organizing a congregation of her denomination and building a church in Fremont; where both white and colored would attend. The parishioners of Mrs. Carr's fledging congregation, organized in 1862, came primarily from the Thomas Vincent Curtis family one of the earliest colored pioneer families, who arrived in 1833.

As time went on, for some reason; the effects of Mrs. Carr's early work never materialized. It was Thomas G. Reese, a son-in-law of Thomas Vincent Curtis, who took up the proposition to continue to keep the congregation going and its hopes for a church building growing.

On July 8, 1868, property located at 607 Second Street was sold 'for divers good causes and considerations' to Absalom Revels, Thomas V. Curtis and Orlando Curtis, who were the trustees of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Fremont. The property was sold to them for the sum of $1.00 byWilliam J. Greene, Joshua M. Dotson, Orlando Curtis, Abraham Carr and Charles Moore; the trustees of the Christian Church of Fremont.

The church, which was built that same year, was a small frame building that set close to the ground on a stone foundation. The structure had a tower with a bell installed within it to welcome all as a call to worship. The building also had a pot-bellied stove for heating, oil lamps, and outside facilities. The edifice was first called Payne Chapel, named after Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne, who was an American bishop, educator, college administrator and author. He became a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was a major shaper of the denomination in the 19th century. At some point, Payne Chapel was renamed Warren, which was chosen from Warren A.M.E. Church in Toledo, Ohio; which is a few years older than the Fremont church. The Toledo Warren A.M.E. was named for Reverend Charles W. Warren of Pennsylvania, who became pastor of the Toledo Church in 1865.

Warren Chapel A.M.E. Church remained much the same until 1919, when the church was raised up and a basement put under it. On Sunday, September 7, 1919 the cornerstone services were conducted with a procession that started on Front Street at 2:40 p.m. and proceeded to the church by way of State Street, Sandusky Avenue, Chestnut Street and Second Street. In conjunction with the ceremony of laying the cornerstone, addresses were given by Mayor Harry S. Day and the Honorable Arthur W. Overmyer. The singing was rendered by a special quartet from Warren A.M.E. Church of Toledo, Ohio and band music by the Woodman and Light Guard bands. In 1921 or 1922, the parsonage was built on the south side of the church. Minor improvements were made over the years. These included painting, new windows, roof shingles, floor tile over the old oak floor, and a new furnace.

And as the years passed, time was taking its toll on the century-old structure. In 1963, when Rev. Harold E. Sheffield was assigned to the church, there was $154.64 in the Building Fund. In 1968, an effort was started to raise money for another building.

A property was purchased at 703 Second and Mulberry streets, from Mrs. Edna Broshious for $7,900.00. The house on the property was rented until September of 1971, when the house was razed and burned on the site. A one floor plan, designed by Harry Heyman, was approved by the church's membership, which initiated the groundbreaking ceremonies that were performed on October 3, 1971 by Bishop William Wilkes, Rev. H.E. Sheffield, Rev. C.S. Hinton, Rev. Donald Jacobs and Fremont Mayor George Demmel. Construction of the new church started with footers being dug on October 11, 1971. The construction continued until the cold weather set in. It was continued in the spring of 1972.

Most of the labor was done by members and friends: Samuel Weiker, Chester Weiker, Charles Erner, Earl McMullen, William Roberts, Ronald Roberts, Millard Tucker, Thomas Mayberry, John Bowes, Robert Williams, John Carter, Robert Clark, Jim Troike, James Avant, Ed Zimmerman, Jake Feagins, Jerry Schneider, Tory Jackson, Larry Williams, Mrs. Lillie Lewis, Melvin Roberts, Robert Atkins, James Minnifield, Sam Barbour, Ken Werling, Paul Woesner and Rev. Harold E. Sheffield. The women of the Church provided lunch. The Building Committee consisted of Rev. Harold E. Sheffield, Samuel Weiker, Jake Feagins, Julia Feagins, Lillie Lewis, Marguerite Polter, Chester Weiker, Millard Tucker, Odessa Howard, Tory Jackson, Thomas Mayberry, Arline Ellison, Charles Erner, Dallas Wallace, Henry Smith, Evelyn D. Weiker, Evelyn A. Weiker and Earl McMullen. On December 17, 1972, services ended at the old structure. The choir and the congregation marched to the new edifice, with the new address of 304 Mulberry Street, where services continued. The old bell was dismantled and placed in the front yard of the new church; as a reminder of the church's past and its future of worship and praise.