Keene United Methodist Church planning year-long bicentennial celebration

| March 20, 2018

Pictured from left are Martin Daugherty, Larry Endsley, Lola Endsley, and Lister Endsley, who were some of the presenters at Keene United Methodist Church’s February bicentennial celebration. Contributed | Beacon

COSHOCTON – Keene United Methodist Church is celebrating a very special anniversary this year with monthly activities.

The bicentennial celebration started in January with a historical presentation on churches in Keene that was given by local history teacher and church member Amanda Meiser.

“Much of the research I used for the history service was actually done by my great-grandfather Jay Lawrence when he was writing a book about the Keene churches in the 1960s,” she said.

Meiser is part of the committee planning activities to celebrate the church’s anniversary. Joining her in organizing a year full of events are: Joan Howell (bicentennial committee chairperson), Rev. Dairel Kaiser, Sarah Jane Lindsey, Cindy Stockdale, Justin Addy, and Sharon Hill.

In February church members heard from a panel of church elders who shared stories from their youth about churches in the community.

“When we had the first set of interviews in February, we got to hear first-hand stories from centenarian Lister Endsley, who was one of the Presbyterian church trustees when the two denominations merged into a United Methodist Church,” Meiser said. “He still recalls stories from his Sunday school teacher, all these many years later.”

Lister was joined by his wife Lola and his son Larry. Martin Daugherty also shared stories of him and his family growing up in the Presbyterian church and Charlie Warren shared funny stories from the past.

“This is how people who have passed on can continue to live on,” Meiser said. “Many of their stories included people who have been gone for over half a century, but as long as we tell their stories, a piece of them is still alive. I am so impressed that churches of different denominations could come together without argument, boastfulness or conflict to preserve village church-life for generations to come.”

Her family has been part of the church since long before she was born.

“We descend from the Methodist side of the history,” Meiser said. “I was confirmed into the church in the eighth grade when Rev. George Shiltz was minister. Rev. Dave Kowaleski married Tony and I and Pastor Dan Loomis baptized all of my children.”

Loomis actually returned to the church in March to take part in the bicentennial celebration.

“His message was as comforting and reassuring as it had been when he preached regularly from the Keene pulpit,” Meiser said. “His sermon focused on how Keene helped him grow in his own spirituality, and nostalgically led the congregation back in time. It was an emotional and spiritual blessing to have him with us for this special occasion.”

Rev. David Kowaleski will return to preach later this year. Other bicentennial moments will include presentations centered around: Music, Keene weddings, Memorial Day celebrations of years past, the fall apple butter stirring and more. The yearlong celebration will wrap up in December with a Jesus Birthday Party.

“Since sharing the history of the churches in January, a number of people have contacted me with questions or family stories of their own,” Meiser said. “As a history teacher, I see tremendous value in preserving those stories and passing them on to the next generation so we can all appreciate the hard work and struggles it took previous generations to build physically and spiritually what we have now.”

Keene Historical Highlights

  • Prior to the 1911 renovation, the sanctuary of the church was completely reverse of what it is now
  • In the 1840s, the Keene Presbyterians experienced a period of theological division in which several members left the church. Most of them returned to the church within 10 years.
  • Amanda Meiser’s great-great grandfather composed a poem called “The Village of Keene” used in a celebration in February 1911. In his notes, he tells stories of seeing runaway slaves (although he didn’t know that at the time) in the neighbor’s cellar as a young child. He does not note the name of the neighbor, but it is known that there was Underground Railroad activity in the area.
  • Many surnames of people who attend the church (or live in the area) today appear in early records too… Boyd, Lawrence, Finlay, Karr, Culbertson, Daugherty, Endsley, Wood, Elliot and Bechtol just to name a few.
  • Methodist Rev. George Pepper organized a company of volunteers during the Civil War and he went with them as chaplain.
  • Daniel Boyd (the man from whom the Methodist church originally purchased land) moved to Athens after he sold his land and his daughter Margaret became the first female graduate of Ohio University.

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About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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