Dedication of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Aug. 28, 1900

We have two events to note this week, one marking a beginning and one an ending.

In the 1860s, the few Catholic families in Pleasant Valley were served by the priests of St. Patrick Church in Columbus. In 1864, the congregation purchased a small house on Jackson Street which was converted for use as a church. Father Matthew McGrath was the first resident pastor arriving in 1869. In 1873, Father Benedict Mueller became the first resident pastor at West Jefferson, and served St. Joseph once a month until his death in 1898.

On Christmas Day 1898 Father Martin Heintz came to Plain City. There were then about 26 families in the church. Father Heintz began working toward the building of a new church. In March 1899 a lot at 140 West Ave. was purchased for $375, and ground was broken on Aug. 21 of that year. The cornerstone was laid on Oct. 1 and the new church was dedicated on Aug. 28, 1900.

The new building cost $9,000, of which only $800 was still due on Dedication Day. Raising the money had not been a simple effort; it involved fund-raising ice cream socials, bazaars, dinners and the like. At one time, the congregation had $1,800 in the bank, only to lose it all when the bank failed.

In 1904 Father Herman Senten became pastor, also serving the mission congregations of Milford Center and Woodstock. During the 1930s and 1940s, the St. Joseph congregation shrank and Sacred Heart Church in Milford Center became the parish church and St. Joseph the mission.

In 1946, Ella Fitzgerald took her vows as a nun, the first member of the St. Joseph congregation to do so.

A tornado in July of 1966 took the steeple off the church and damaged the roof.

Mrs. Estella Zimmer Perry, who had been organist at the church since 1901, died in 1968. Perry had played for every mass, wedding and funeral in those years, directed the choir and taught catechism classes.

By the 1970s, attendance had rebounded and in 1977, when Father Steve Metzger became pastor, St. Joseph became the parish church and Sacred Heart the mission. Since then, the congregation has grown steadily. In 2006, the Parish Activity Center was built on West Main Street. Sacred Heart Church in Milford Center closed in 2007.

St. Joseph continues to be a vibrant, growing church that is an important part of the Plain City community.

The week saw a different, sadder milestone as well. On July 16, 1986, the last train had passed through Plain City, just before 1 p.m. On Aug. 30, the last tracks were taken up, and for the first time in 133 years Plain City was without rail service.

In the early 1850s, when railroads were spreading through Ohio, there was a great deal of competition among towns as to which would get the railroad and the expected boom that would follow. In this area Pleasant Valley and Amity were the competitors. Pleasant Valley won out and the first train passed through town on July 4, 1853.

A quirk of fate decreed that President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train would pass through Pleasant Valley in April of 1865. In choosing the train’s route through Ohio, Cincinnati was bypassed because it had harbored many Southern sympathizers during the Civil War. There was a route through Dayton, but this would have taken the train through very sparsely populated areas. Only a few weeks before the assassination, the final portion of the Great Central Route of the Columbus & Indianapolis Central Railway had been completed near the Indiana-Ohio border. This gave the planners a third option, one which brought it through Pleasant Valley at 8:45 p.m. on April 30.

By the late 1800s Plain City was one of the leading stations in Ohio for the shipping of livestock. Large corrals near the depot on Railroad (Maple) Street held cattle, sheep and hogs. Items from all over the country could be shipped in as well. Stores in town frequently advertised fresh oysters for sale, brought in from the east.

Through the first half of the 20th century, taking the train was the simplest, quickest way to reach Columbus from Plain City. During the State Fair one could catch an early morning train that stopped at the fairgrounds and board one at the same stop late in the day to come home again.

Sitting in freeway traffic jams makes one long for those days.

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The church on West Avenue as it looked before the 1966 tornado took off the steeple. church on West Avenue as it looked before the 1966 tornado took off the steeple. Contributed photo

The original house which was the first Catholic church in Plain City. original house which was the first Catholic church in Plain City. Contributed photo

The last train through town on July 6, 1986. last train through town on July 6, 1986. Contributed photo photo
Railroad tracks removed, Aug. 30, 1986

By Rosemary Anderson

Plain City Times

Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.