A Brief History of the DeGraff United Methodist Church
Before there was a village called DeGraff, Methodist Circuit Riders were already spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the early settlers of Logan County, Ohio.
Hanks Chapel and Olive Chapel were the two societies that anchored Methodism in the southwestern part of the county. Although its beginning date is uncertain Hanks Chapel-- founded by local pioneer Peter Hanks--was the first local Methodist Society near present day DeGraff. With the help of Bellefontaine minister Levi White, the Olive Chapel Society became the second in 1825.
On one Sunday in March of 1855, five persons met in the Main Street home of Isaac Smith to organize a Methodist Society in DeGraff. (At that time DeGraff had a population of about 100 people.) Present at that first Methodist gathering were Isaac Smith; Dennis Warner; Sarah Warner; Kesiah Smith; and Mrs. Cyrus Crowe.
Following the DeGraff Society’s first meeting, the Reverend Guiberson of Springhills met the ministerial needs of the group. Over the next two years the society was transformed into the DeGraff Methodist Episcopal Church with John Graham becoming its first official minister.
During a national economic crises and the Civil War looming, De Graff’s Methodist Episcopal Church constructed its first church building on South Koke Street (near the present downtown area) in 1857.
By the end of 1858 the members of Hanks Chapel had merged into De Graff’s congregation. Olive Chapel was still independent and active.
With growing membership and a new building in place there was a great Christian revival during the winter of 1872. Methodist, Baptists, and Presbyterians gained members for Christ’s Kingdom. While this event was ecumenical in nature, local Methodist minister John W. Miller was given much credit for his leadership in that spiritual awakening.
On June 7, 1872, a devastating tornado ripped through Quincy and DeGraff leaving one Quincy and two DeGraff residents dead. The victims in DeGraff were two young girls—Lulu and Callie Rall--who had sought refuge from the storm with their mother in the Methodist church building. Tragically the church building was destroyed and two young lives were lost.
While the citizens of the village grieved and prepared to rebuild their shattered community, the Presbyterian Church offered their church building to the Methodist to hold their Sunday services.
De Graff’s Methodists decided to rebuild and on January 1, 1873, Abram and Mary Huber sold their lot to the church. On this lot a new church building would rise and the existing house would in turn become the parsonage.
On June 7, 1873, one year after he first church building was destroyed, the corner stone for the new church was laid.
A stressful period of rebuilding was thus underway. In the late 1870’s doctrinal movements coupled with the local financial stresses of rebuilding reached a boiling point and a group of Methodists broke away to form a new Evangelical Church. (But over the next 25 years many of the people who left would find their way back.)
By 1888 Olive Chapel had consolidated into the De Graff Methodist Episcopal Church, thus joining their Christian brethren from Hanks Chapel.
As the Christian work of the congregation continued, plans were made and approved to radically remodel the church building. In 1910 the altar area was switched from the east to the west side of the church; stain glass windows were installed; additional Sunday School rooms were added; and a basement was dug.
During that same time period the church held a revival meeting each winter. According to local historian D. E. Strayer, a Tabernacle meeting in 1913 was one of the church’s spiritual high points.
April of 1936 brought a global change as the Methodist Episcopal Church (of which De Graff’s Methodist congregation was part); Methodist Protestant Church; and Methodist Episcopal Church, South merged to form the Methodist Church.
Locally in 1952, during the pastoral tenure of D. H. Householder, another major remodeling project began on the church building.
In April of 1966 the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church merged to form the United Methodist Church. Thus the local church became the DeGraff United Methodist Church.
October 4, 1970 became an important date in the history of the local church when Bishop F. Gerald Ensley came to ordain Walter B. Custer as an elder.
While the local Christian mission continued more improvements to the church structure continued. In 1972 new carpet and pews were installed and in 1986 restrooms were made accessible and offices were remodeled.
In the late 1980’s plans for remodeling the South Main church building began. Over the next 20 plus years the church struggled with this plan to add onto the present church structure. But these attempts did not come to pass.
The new century saw Dale and Sue Hirschfeld donate a parcel of ground north of town on County Road 24 to construct a new church and community center.
After decades of struggle, a church conference approved the initial preparation of the land on the new site. Ground was broken on November 2, 2010. The land was allowed to settle over the winter and on April 3, 2011 another church conference gave its approval to begin construction on the new church building.
On November 20, 2011, we held our first worship service in our new facility. And Consecration Sunday was April 22, 2012.