MILLWOOD — The pews are empty. The church bell no longer rings. After 179 years of services in Knox County, the Millwood Presbyterian Church will officially close its doors in a decommissioning service this Sunday, bringing an end to generations of local family members faithfully attending the small, hometown church.
On April 11, 1833, the Millwood Presbyterian Church was organized in nearby Danville, commissioned by the Scioto Valley Presbytery. The Rev. J. Thompson served as pastor, sharing his time with congregations in Jackson and Liberty townships. In the early 1850s, the congregation moved to Millwood, meeting at various locations including Union Church, the facility of which was used by several church congregations at the time. Then in January 1855, land was secured on a plot on Bridge Street in Millwood, and a wood frame building was constructed where the church members met until October 2011.
The church building was a modest structure, consisting of one large room on the ground level, but was constructed of fine craftsmanship, including beautiful stained-glass windows. A large bell was erected in the church bell tower which stood there until 2007 when it was moved to the front lawn. The building sits on a basement foundation with the only basement access available from an outside storm cellar stairs entry. The building has never had indoor plumbing, and an “outhouse” in the rear of the property has been the only restroom facility available.
No real structural changes took place to the building over the years. Only routine improvements were performed such as windows, carpentry and carpeting upgrade.
Membership increased and declined throughout the years; but a recent drop in attendance, inability to secure a pastor and financial strains have forced the membership to permanently close the church doors.
“Families have moved on ... it’s been hard to keep going,” Mary Ellen Baugher told the News. Baugher is a longtime church member and played piano many years for church services. Dorothy Meenan served the church as session clerk while Lewis Styers played the organ for church services.
The final regular service was Oct. 16, 2011, with the Rev. Mark Baggs as pastor. Baggs had served in the Millwood pulpit in 2005-07 and returned for portions of 2010 and 2011 before announcing his inability to continue. No services have taken place since. The church members have been working with the Committee on Ministry of the Scioto Valley Presbytery on the transfer of records, property and remaining resources to the Presbytery.
Attendance had at one time stood at about 40 members with other non-members also regularly attending. Membership of the church today stands at 10 people.
For many years, the church had a heart for missions. Longtime member Phyllis Humbert recalls the church often making donations to Interchurch Social Services. Other donations have gone to Care Net Pregnancy Services, St. Paul’s Parish homeless shelter, Knox County Humane Society, New Directions Domestic Abuse Shelter and others. Visitations are routinely made to shut-ins and those in nursing homes.
Many pastors would come and go over the years. One pastor that Baugher specifically remembers is Jan Sweet. “She did a lot for the church,” said Baugher, explaining how she would take part in many church functions and was “always a big promoter of the church.”
Baugher recalls giving out cheer plates of candy, fruits and cookies at Thanksgiving. Numerous bazaars and bake sales have also been conducted as fundraisers. She fondly remembers activities with the Ladies Circle which included dinners, programs and picnics.
A lot of volunteer efforts have been key to the survival of the small, community church. “We just all took part in taking care of things,” said Baugher. Cleaning, mowing and the routine maintenance chores have always been performed by the church members.
“My husband, LeMoyne, and I were elders,” said Humbert. “He painted the church, and would even do it when there were bees living around the tops of the windows.” She also recalled when there were hitching posts in front of the building for those arriving by horse and buggy.
Humbert has been a member of the church since 1946, moving to the area after marrying her husband in 1944. She now attends Howard United Methodist Church where she previously attended before moving to Millwood. Baugher has also recently been attending at Howard United Methodist Church.
The closing service of the Millwood Presbyterian Church will be at 3 p.m. Sunday with former pastors participating. The public is invited to attend. The building will be put up for sale by the Scioto Valley Presbytery.