Otterbein University’s Frank Museum of Art: the history of its 1877 church home.
PLEASE NOTE: This blog contains a number of pictures so give it several minutes to download. The pictures download haphazardly.
This blog was rewritten December 12, 2021, after additional history was discovered at the Archives of Ohio United Methodism at Beeghly Library on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware.
In June 2019 bronze plaques were mounted on the exterior fronts of twenty buildings in the Uptown Westerville area describing their historical significance. This was a joint effort of the Westerville Historical Society, the Westerville Public Library’s History Center and Museum, and Uptown Westerville, Inc. Providing funds can again be raised from preservationist friends, there will be a round two of plaques…and it will include the oldest surviving church building in town as described below. Not only has the structure survived (today, an art museum), the congregation continues as well (today, Church of the Saviour United Methodist).
Built one block east of Uptown, Salem Evangelical Church has stood at the northwest corner of South Vine and Winter Streets since 1877. The documentation of the life of this church while located there (1877-1950) was limited to just two sources. Source one is a short history compiled by a long-ago church member on file at the Westerville Public Library’s History Center and Museum at the public library. What caught my eye was the description of key founding church member Samuel Rigal’s wife Sarah, daughter of “the noted Daniel Hoy.” That curious statement led to searching Hoy genealogy…was Daniel an accomplished person? Source two, material on file at the Archives of Ohio United Methodism, looks like the basis for the history compiled in source one. The real gems of the recent discovery at the Archives are two pictures that appear later in this blog and a page from the The Evangelical Church in Ohio 1816-1951 (by Roy B. Leedy, Ohio Conference Historian) that link the Westerville church to the Evangelical denomination’s founder.
The carving above the Salem door reads “Westerville Church of the Evangelical Association.” A web search of this denomination revealed it was founded in 1800 by Jacob Albright of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Evangelical Association expanded to Ohio in 1816 with the first sermon in Ohio preached at the home of Daniel (“the noted Daniel Hoy”) and Molly Eyer Hoy in Bloom Township of Fairfield County (three miles south of Lithopolis at the Fairfield/Franklin County line). They had relocated here in 1806 from Albright’s Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Daniel’s parents were chief supporters of Albright. Of even greater significance, Albright held formative meetings in the home of Molly’s parents. Among those who influenced Albright’s founding of the Evangelical Association were followers of Philip William Otterbein, co-founder of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. Otterbein University was the first institution of higher education opened by the United Brethren and is located just a few blocks away from the Salem church. Quite a coincidence.
In 1807, Daniel and his brother Philip donated land in Bloom Township near Lithopolis for a Lutheran church and cemetery. Constructed of logs in 1809, it’s referred to in historical records as the Salem Reformed Church and in others as the Glick/Salem Brick Church…Glick because Glicks and Hoys were among the earliest Bloom Township settlers and sometimes “Brick” because the log structure was replaced by one made of brick. At an 1816 service, sisters Molly and Lizzie Hoy (Lizzy married Daniel’s brother Philip) converted to the Evangelical faith thus becoming the first members of the Evangelical Association of Ohio. The Lutheran church eventually became Bloom Chapel Evangelical Church.
While the following quote is a bit off the subject, it’s worth noting. Per the eltiste-kaiser.com website (the genealogy of the Hoys): “Molly was a famous doctor in her day. She was especially known for her kindness of heart. When that region was still sparsely settled she would go many miles through the darkness of the night to visit the sick and relieve the suffering. She usually rode horseback and carried her medicines in a pack saddle.Sometimes people came for her in the dead of night and she would be gone for days at a time, usually until the patient either recovered or passed on.”
Now to the Rigals. Samuel, of Bloom Township in Fairfield County, married Sarah Hoy who was the widowed daughter of Daniel and Molly Hoy of Bloom Township. The couple settled circa 1830 in Plain Township of Franklin County four miles east of Westerville where Samuel opened a sawmill. They donated land and lumber for the construction of Bethel Church in 1850 at the corner of Walnut Street and Harlem Road. Bethel became part of the Gahanna Mission of the Evangelical Association (“Church” later replaced “Association” in the denomination name). In 1865, the Rigals left their sawmill business and Bethel Church membership, moved to Westerville, and acquired land on the largely undeveloped east side of State Street. Sarah passed away shortly after the move (Samuel later remarried). A Google search of “Rigal” lead to a description of the house they built as “a spacious and comfortable mansion, with handsome grounds around it.” The “mansion” clue led to identifying the actual house from a picture in the archives of the Westerville History Center and Museum. Today the house no longer stands and is the site of the Masonic Temple locatednext door to the Westerville Public Library. Dr. Harold Hancock’s History of Westerville, Ohio includes a chapter of reflections by Frank Sked who was a lifelong resident (1857-1944). The reflections were published during the 1930’s in the local Public Opinion and included the following two statements: (1) “Mr. Riggle owned all the ground not occupied by the Anti-Saloon League.” and (2) “Mother Riggle, who lived where the Anti-Saloon League is now located, made butter and cheese. I always got a drink of buttermilk at her spring house.” Note that Rigal was misspelled as Riggle. (Other recorded misspellings of Samuel’s last name include Riggle, Riggal, Reigel, Riegle.) The Anti-Saloon League was located where the Westerville Public Library stands today and includes the original building housing the ASL administrative offices.
In 1876 by persuasion of Samuel Rigal, Reverend Emanuel Wengerd (at age 27) of the Gahanna Mission and a group of 18 parishioners (some or all from Bethel Church) began meeting in a school just south of Westerville. Today this is the approximate site of Speedway on South State Street. The group of 18 became charter members of a new Westerville Mission. Samuel’s son Daniel and his wife Sophia were among them. Eventually other members of the Bethel church moved to Westerville and joined the new mission. The Bethel building closed in 1926, became a hay barn, and no longer stands.
In the summer of 1877, Samuel Rigal purchased a lot at the northwest corner of South Vine and Winter Streets from George and Lucinda Brewer of 25 South Vine Street. The lot was then donated to the Evangelical Association, and the new brick Salem Evangelical Church was dedicated December 2, 1877. Total cost was $2,346 of which $500 came from Samuel. The inspiration for this gift and the church name likely came from father-in-law Daniel Hoy’s donation of land for a church by the same name back in Rigal’s native Bloom Township. I identify the word “salem” with the southern United States (not sure why), and Salem seems like a random choice for this church. A web search revealed that “salem” means “peace” or “peaceful” and was commonly used as a meetinghouse name in the mid-19th century. Bethel and Ebenezer were popular names then as well. Samuel Rigal became an officer of the church, and Emanuel Wengerd became the first pastor (his brother Josiah later served a year as pastor).
Under the guidance of Reverend W.D. Huddle, a basement and furnace were added to the church in 1818. Services met elsewhere for three months, and then a reopening service was held on 8/18/18 (kind of a fun notable date). Growth at Salem Evangelical Church eventually led to discussion of expansion or a move to an entirely new facility. The latter was the choice and on February 5, 1950, a new church was dedicated at 41 South State Street in the Uptown. Previously, in 1946, the Evangelical Association had merged with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The State Street church took the name Second Evangelical United Brethren Church while the former United Brethren Church on South Grove Street beside the Otterbein University campus took the name First Evangelical United Brethren Church. Then, in 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged with the Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church. The State Street church became Church of the Saviour United Methodist, and the Grove Street church became Church of the Master United Methodist. These names continue today.
Church of the Saviour added an educational wing in 1963. Eventually, a lack of air conditioning and handicap accessibility contributed to the decision to sell the building to CVS Pharmacy and purchase twenty-four acres of land on Fancher Road for a new facility. A closing ceremony and final service was held at State Street on February 16, 2005. CVS built on the corner lot next door and saved the front portion of the church for lease as retail space. The educational wing was demolished and the space used for CVS customer parking. Salem Evangelical Church had been sold to the Westerville Grange which occupied the space until 1956 when it built a new facility on East College Avenue. Dr. Paul and Lillian Frank, Otterbein faculty members, purchased Salem from the Grange and made this their home until donating it to Otterbein University in 1999. Today the former 1877 Salem Evangelical Church houses the Frank Museum of Art.
The events in the life of Salem Evangelical Church from 1877 to the building’s closure in 1950 remain unknown. But this research did lead back to a church outside Lithopolis that likely motivated the creation of the Westerville church (and its name), discoveries of the gravesites of Samuel Rigal and Emanuel Wengerd…and what I conclude are a series of unique connections:
Salem Evangelical Church was started by Samuel Rigal, son-in-law of Molly Hoy who was one of the first two members of this denomination in Ohio and in whose Pennsylvania childhood home the Evangelical Church denomination itself began to form.
Jacob Albright was inspired to found the Evangelical Church denomination by followers of Philip William Otterbein, co-founder of the United Brethren denomination.
Otterbein University was, in 1847, the first college opened by the United Brethren denomination.
Both the Evangelical and United Brethren denominations had a church in Westerville and both became one with their 1946 merger.
Salem Evangelical Church, reborn as the Frank Museum of Art, is now one with the Otterbein University campus.
I would like to thank the following individuals for their assistance in contributing to this blog: Deb Gifford, Church of the Saviour United Methodist; Stephen Grinch, Otterbein University Archivist; Rev. Brent Harris, Spirit and Truth Fellowship; Sharon Mangold, Archivist at the Archives of United Methodism; Nancy Nestor-Baker, Westerville; Jim Seitz, Westerville History Center and Museum.
Published 11/20/2021. Don Foster, Otterbein Class of 1973. email@example.com
Don – Thanks for another interesting read! The common thread that I see throughout your posts is that there are connections between people and places. I’ve loved this church ever since I moved to Westerville. I visited it during an Uptown open house tour, before it was donated to Otterbein. I put a wireless network in the building as part of the Art museum creation, so I feel a small connection to it. I always look forward to reading your posts, as they are interesting stories and bring alive the quiet, peaceful village.
Thanks for the comments, Jeff! I didn’t know you did some work in that building when you were IT Director for Otterbein.
What an extensive article! How do you ever find so much interesting history? Great research! My aunt and uncle are buried in the New Albany cemetery, very nicely kept. Glen has a story to share about the new church on Fancher Rd. We were there for the Masonic cornerstone laying ceremony! We have friends who attend there. Keep up the excellent research. Who knows what you will find next!
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Great…we can discuss this tomorrow at Wendells! Yes, the New Albany cemetery is very well kept including new gates at the entry. I just found where Samuel Rigal’s father is buried…right down the street from the new Church of the Saviour on Fancher. What a coincidence. Headed there today to find and photograph the headstone. That cemetery looks very old. I may have found Samuel’s “mansion”, too. If so, a stunner because it still stands!!