The Sterling Mennonite Church

The Sterling Mennonite Church began officially 102 years ago. Today we mark the union of her history with ours.

The Sterling families were part of the migration of Mennonites to Wayne County in the latter years of the 19th century. They joined Oak Grove and other churches, but it was from Oak Grove that Peter Rich was ex-communicated because he would not give up his brewery. He and his sympathizers were called the ABeer Amish@ as a nickname, but hardly very extensively!

Rich was born near Basel in about 1834 and died in 1908. He attended church services, after the rift, in Butler County and then when H.P. Krehbiel started the church in Canton, he attended there 1896-1900. (Our Krehbuill fund comes from the family that was at the heart of that church effort).

On May 20, 1900, the group adopted a resolution to organize themselves as the Sterling Mennonite Church. On June 1, 1900, the constitution was adopted and signed by 24 members, among whom were the parents of Vida Daniels; the mother of Zula McBride; and A.J. Krabill, Rilla=s husband. The prominent names were not only Krabill and Rich, but also Graber and Liechty. Through the years they seemed to have looked especially to the fathers of the late Mabel Brenneman and Vida for leadership (the brothers Peter and Joseph Krabill).

October 21, 1900, membership applied for in the Middle District Conference; April 7, 1901, Sunday School established, with A.J. Krabill as Supertendent; May 5, 1901, first communion service, conducted by J.W. Kliewer of Wadsworth.

Services were held in an interdenominational church building near the Anwell Cemetery south of Sterling. In 1905 the building was sold and so the Mennonites adopted a motion to move into town. On Jan. 1, 1906, Zula Rich was elected organist.

They bought Athe Miller lot@ at the edge of town for $160 and put up a church. The dedicatory service was held September 23, 1906 with J.W. Kliewer preaching for the dedicatory services and the Wadsworth choir furnishing music.

With never more than 50 members, the church depended on supply pastors sent by the Home Missions Board. Among them were our pastors - Grubb and Warren Shelly - the latter often walking the ten miles to conduct services Sunday afternoon. A.J. Neuenschwander was the student pastor in 1917.

By death and members moving away, the group dwindled to 20 and they applied for financial aid from this Mission Board. Although they did receive some help, by 1919 they were so discouraged that on September 19 they offered the building to the Brethren Church. The last entry in their record books was January 19, 1920. They had $2,000 for disbursement, much of it going back to the Conference. But $300, hymn and record books, and a Communion set were given to this church. A communion table is in memory of Mable Brenneman=s parents, Peter and Tillie Krabill.

In the 1920's a number of these families joined our Wadsworth church and furnished very active leadership for several decades. Of their number, none now remain, but of their descendants, Robert Hart is on our roll.

The influence of their coming was more significant than these words can explain. They brought new life at a time when First Mennonite needed it. Another group was coming in about the same time from Bethel Church (Beery, Brubaker, Stover, etc.). These all mixed to yield a yeasty community of faith which today we call to remembrance.

And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure
because of my anxiety for all the churches.
II Corinthians 11:28 NRSV