Everal Chapel celebrates 150 years

| December 14, 2018

OXFORD TOWNSHIP – In the eastern part of Coshocton County in Oxford Township stands a little country church with roots buried deep in English traditions that are kept alive today by a dedicated group of people. On Christmas Eve, they are inviting the public to join them in celebrating the church’s 150th anniversary with a candle light service at 6:30 p.m.

After the Methodist congregation that once held services there decided to disband due to low attendance, a group of community-minded residents, the Everal Chapel Preservation Society, took up the responsibility of the upkeep of the church, especially when it was in danger of being destroyed.

The preservation society is made up of 52 members whose goal is to preserve the 150-year-old structure from deteriorating. They raise funds by hosting fundraisers throughout the year including bake sales, ice cream socials, and dinners. They began in 2015 after the last church service was held Nov. 30, 2014 and the building was in danger of being demolished.

“They were going to destroy the building and the plan was to make more cemetery plots and turn it over to the township,” said Thelma Russell, a member of the preservation society.

That’s when Dan Leaky and Shawn Dakin started the Everal Chapel Preservation Society and the building and property were turned over at no cost to the newly-formed organization.

“Despite it’s size, this small church has historical, and family ties that stretch across our county and even the state,” said Shawn. “We hope to pass along this heritage of faith and family to another generation, and become a community resource that will positively affect our valley for decades to come.”

Leaky said that he wanted to save the church because of its rich history and is happy to carry on the traditions of the original builders.

“Everal’s Chapel has a rich history centered around faith and community,” said Leaky. “The love the key founders had for their strong faith and building a foundation for future generations have stood the test of time for 150-plus years. Knowing that heritage could be lost, I reached out to our local community who had previously attended the church or had family connections. The response was overwhelming, and while it’s not used as a regular church as such anymore, it’s foundation in Christ remains strong. Every Christmas, the chapel is now packed with those who believe in JW’s legacy and hope eternal for the future. My job is done. Faith is what binds the heritage here. My only hope is that I can see the dreams of JW Everal realized as the community continues to join together.”

Leaky also has a strong attachment to the church because of his English roots and hopes to share English traditions with those who attend the Christmas Eve service.

“Dan felt a real attachment to the church,” said Harley Dakin, a member of the preservation society. “He’s from Worcester, England and he now lives in a farmhouse on the property. He’s going to be our guest speaker on Christmas Eve and he’s going to talk about the English contributions and English Christmas traditions. He bakes his grandmother’s minced pies. He brings them every year. He’s just so happy because it’s like a little bit of home for him at Christmas time.”

The original Everal Chapel was built in 1840 by English immigrants, John and Anne Everal. John came from Sheffield, England and Anne hailed from Wales. They originally settled in New York, but traveled to Boliver on the Ohio Erie Canal. After the premature death of their first-born son at just six months old, the Everals decided to settle in the Coshocton County area and built the first Everal Chapel on the corner of the property where part of the cemetery now sits. It was used as both a church and a school. The new structure was completed in 1868 and still stands today.

“It was always Anne Everal’s dream to build a church and dedicate it just as a church, not a church and a schoolhouse,” said Harley. “Anne died in 1868, so she never got to see it completed.”

In 1941, the original structure built in 1840 was demolished. As John and Anne were both devout followers of John Wesley, the two established the church as a Methodist Church until the merger of the United Brethren and Methodist denomination took place in 1968 to become the United Methodist Church.

The Everals had five children. One son, Joseph, was a Civil War veteran and died while studying at Otterbein College. Anne traveled to the university to bring her son back to be buried on the grounds of the church. However, he wasn’t the first family member buried on the property.

One of the Everals daughters married and moved to Wisconsin. After her death during childbirth, Anne traveled to Wisconsin and brought the baby back to Ohio. Five months later, the baby passed away and was the first deceased relative to be buried on the property. The headstone is still there and is marked by a little stone lamb.

John and Anne’s oldest son, John Wesley Everal, sold his inheritance after his parents’ death and moved to Westerville where he became an industrialist, eventually building his wealth to become a millionaire. The city of Westerville has since restored his old homestead and it is an attraction today that can be rented for weddings and parties.

After the death of John and Anne Everals’ children, no other Everal has stepped foot into the old church until last month. Greg Everal, the fifth great-grandson of John and Anne returned to the church of his family for the first time in 150 years to join the community in a harvest dinner.

“He was awestruck,” said Harley. “I told him the story about his grandpa and his English roots.”

Under the capable hands of the preservation society, the church has undergone renovations that have helped to restore the old building to its former glory. The ceiling has been completely remodeled back to what it would have originally looked like, and the beautiful frosted windows were resealed. However, what is arguably the greatest revelation since the restoration started is a full life-size mural of Jesus on the back wall behind the pulpit that was previously buried under two coats of wallpaper.

Prior to the society’s role in the restoration, the church was raised and put on a foundation in 1935, and a full basement was added in the 1970s. Prior to the full basement addition, a coal furnace was placed in the partial basement under the church that was at one time used to heat the whole church.

Since then, the electric has been completely redone, so churchgoers on Christmas Eve will have a warm and comfortable experience. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the church, Cheryl Porcher crocheted 150 angel ornaments that will be handed out after Christmas Eve services. Other volunteers who helped decorate the church for Christmas included Michelle Carpenter, Russell, and Bob, Becky, and Terry Dorsey.

Those who donated to the renovation project included the Reeves Foundation, Frontier Power, Donaker Surveying, and many community members. Membership fees to join the preservation society are $12 per person annually and $24 per family.

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About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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