MANSFIELD, Ohio -- Pieces of local history were uncovered Sunday at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, located at 426 Sherman Place.
During a church service appropriately named, "Cornerstone Sunday," church members Ron Pittenger and Brian Armstrong removed items from a copper box that had been contained in the church's cornerstone for close to 100 years.
Two newspapers, "The Mansfield News" and "The Mansfield Shield," were kept in the box, both which dated back to October of 1916.
Also included was an article titled, "Proposed St. Matthew's Lutheran Church" with an artist's rendering of the building.
"This church is Romanesque and Greek Classic with a colonnade on south which forms the main entrance. The auditorium is designed in the shape of a cross, spanned by a large dome 30 feet in diameter," the article states.
It notes that F.B. Hursh was the architect of the building and that the approximate cost of the building and parsonage next door was $45,000.
Pittenger pulled a copy of the "American Lutheran Survey" from the box, saying, "It's a weekly review of world progress and problems from the Christian standpoint." The issue date was Oct. 11, 1916.
There were documents and photos related to the church's establishment, including a list of the church members' names in the box, as well.
"I remember some of these names from my grandmother's time," said Pittenger, a third-generation member of St. Matthew Lutheran Church.
Some postcards were also in the box. An attached note says, "These postcards were contributed by E.E. Weatherby. They were taken by his daughter, Mrs. L.E. Stambaugh, with a 3A Eastman Kodak. Should any of these people be living when this stone is opened, please make it a point to give these photos to them, or at least to someone who is related to them.
"All honor to Rev. A.C. Miller, pastor of the church. We believe no other pastor could have done this great work as he did," the note adds.
Pittenger said he became aware of the box from the church's minute books dating back to the time when the church was built. "As I was reading through them, there was a page in there where they had purchased a copper box to put documents in at the cornerstone," he said.
The box was removed from the cornerstone prior to Sunday, thanks to Pittenger and Armstrong who worked together to chisel away the mortar and pry the cornerstone out from the building.
"The box was actually in the bottom of the cornerstone and it was shimmed in there," Pittenger said.
Pittenger said the items will be donated to the Ohio Genealogical Society in Bellville.
According to a booklet detailing the history of St. Matthew Lutheran Church from 1903-2003, St. Matthew Lutheran Church was organized Oct. 25, 1903. The first pastor was Rev. A. E. Renn and the first Sunday school superintendent was W.F. Voegel, father of Frank Voegel.
The church of 61 members originally convened at an upstairs hall in the Hebler block at the corner of East Fourth Street and Diamond Street. In February 1904, the congregation shared a church building on Park Avenue West with Reformed Presbyterian Church, later purchasing that building from Reformed Presbyterian Church on Feb. 22, 1906.
"Sometime between 1908 and 1915, the St. Matthew congregation decided to build a new church and sold the Park Avenue property with 'immediate possession' going to the new owners. As a result, services were temporarily held in the Odd Fellows Hall on South Diamond Street, the booklet says.
It adds, "In 1915, a committee was appointed to secure a building site for a new church and parsonage. Eventually several lots were purchased at the corner of Penn Avenue and Sherman place in a growing upper middle class neighborhood."
The cornerstone was laid on Oct. 25, 1916. The congregation continued to use the Odd Fellows Hall until the church was completed in 1918.
Future of the church
St. Matthew Lutheran Church will be closing at the end of the year, Pittenger said.
"We don't have much of a congregation left," he said. "We only have about 10 or 12 members who attend, which is one of the reasons why we're closing."
The church building is being donated to New Life International Deliverance Ministries. The overseer of this ministry is Tommie Carter and the pastor is Kim Harris Carter. For more information about this ministry, visit www.newlifestarts.org.