Religious Life

While we have no substantiating records, it seems likely that the first settlers of Miltonsburg were fairly even divided among the Catholic and Protestant faiths.

Catholic Church

The information for this account came from various notes and newspaper articles, most of which can be traced to The Bulletin of the Catholic Record Society, Volume XIV, No. 8, August 1989 (192 East Gay Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, Donald M. Schlegel, Editor).

The first Catholics in Monroe County consisted of four German families who settled in the vicinity of Miltonsburg in 1831. “In fulfillment of a promise made during a storm on the ocean voyage to this country, John Joseph Dorr built a log church 53 by 28 feet at his own expense. Dedicated in 1834, this church was located one half mile south of town on John Dorr’s farm (next to the Miltonsburg Cemetery). … On July 19 1841, three acres of land were donated by Marcus Yunkus … although the deed record was not recorded until January of 1842. On this hill, north of Miltonsburg where the Church of St. John the Baptist now (2008) stands, a brick church, 56 by 36 feet, was erected: it consisted of 8 windows and two doors and cost $1900 and was given the name St. John the Baptist.”

In a document prepared by The Catholic Record Society, Diocese of Columbus, 1989, it is noted that “among the first German settlers in Malaga Township were Lorenz Schaub and John Joseph Dorr, who settled there in the early 1830s” and that “by June of 1834 Mr. Dorr had already built a church, at his own expense and on his own property.” Among my notes relating to the Miltonsburg Lutheran Church is a statement that “the first Miltonsburg Church was a log building built in 1833 on a location south of the village. The land was donated by Christus (Christian?) Schaub.”

Oral history suggests that there were two log churches associated with the Miltonsburg Cemetery south of the village-one Catholic and one Lutheran. This arrangement has always seemed to me to be very unlikely. Because the Catholic Church records seem to be more complete and detailed, it is likely that John Joseph Dorr did build a log church at this location. Since a new brick Catholic Church was built north of Miltonsburg in about 1842/3, it may be that members of the Schaub family bought the Catholic log church building and used it as a Lutheran Church until they built their own building on Lot 39 in the 1850s.

The August 1989 Bulletin of the Catholic Record Society notes that the log church built by John Joseph Dorr was “a well-finished log building, fifty-three by twenty-eight feet, dedicated to St. Joseph” and that "the family of Mr. Dorr formed a most effective and harmonious choir. At the dedication service in 1836, Reverend Mr. Stahlschmidt having preached an eloquent discourse in the German language, after two English sermons by the Bishop, the affecting ceremonies of the day were concluded by the anthems “Domine Salvum fac Episcopam nostrum” and the “Nunc Dimittis,” which the worthy Dorr chaunted forth from his faithful heart, in a voice rich in melody and compass, but evidently revealing the emotions of a greateful Christian and happy father."

It is interesting that this ceremony consisted of sermons in both English and German, as well as Latin. In the early 1900s, the Miltonsburg Lutheran Church was still conducting all services and keeping all records in German. Among the challenges facing Reverend Frederick Meusch when he was called to Miltonsburg Lutheran Church in 1903 was to convince the church leaders to conduct all services and keep all records in English.

In January of 1842 Marcus Yunkes donated a three-acre lot north of Miltonsburg for the construction of a new brick church. The following letter from the Bishop of Cincinnati to John Oblinger offers excellent insights into the issues surrounding the construction of a church during the early settlement years of Monroe County.

Cincinnati 22d, April 1842

My Dear Mr. Oblinger

I have received your Letter of the 8th April, informing me that you have cleared one acre and an half of the three acre lot on which we proposed to erect the new Church. It will be well if we can finish a Church 56 by 36, 8 windows and two doors, for 1900 dollars. But you may be sure that a building always costs considerably over what is at first calculated upon. Now if you can only get 625 dollars subscribed, it is very little and besides you cannot collect it all. And as for sending men through the different states, as you say, to collect, the bishops of those states will not allow it, for they have poor Congregations of their own, who have need of every cent they can spare to build churches for themselves. I do not think that you can calculate on receiving as much by such a begging expedition as would defray the expenses of the men who would go on the begging tour. Moreover, it often happens that such a plan gives occasion to much disturbance and dissension among the people who had once been friends, when the collectors do not bring back much money and when they are suspected by some of having put part of what they had collected into their own pockets. We are in extreme want of money now in Cincinnati to build the new German-Church and the Cathedral, and yet we do not dare appeal for help to the other States, nor would it be of any use.

My opinion therefore is that if you cannot raise the money enough among yourselves, with the help of my subscription of fifty dollars, to put the Church under roof, you had better not attempt it, at present. These are terrible times to run into debt, and of all things in this world I dislike seeing a Catholic Church sold for debt.

Please to remember me affectionately to Mr. and Mrs. Beninghaus (?) and all friends and believe me to be with respect

Yrs. in God
bq. J.P. Bp. of Cin.

Anyone serving on a building committee will recognize issues raised in this letter that are as relevant in the twenty-first as in the nineteenth century.

Despite the difficulties of the community which are made apparent by the above letter the construction of the church was not long delayed. A copy of the agreement for the walls of the church has also survived:

An article of agreement made and entered into this third day of October one thousand eight hundred and forty two between J.B. Oblinger, T. J. Benninghaus, and Adam Bauer, as Trustees of the Roman Catholic Congregation and their successors in office of Malaga, Monroe County, Ohio of the first part with Ezra F. Sharp of Barnesville, Belmont County, Ohio of the second part with [witnesseth?] that the said Sharp do hereby agree with the said Trustees to do the following mentioned work viz. to lay the Bricks of one house of the following dimensions to wit the walls to be built twenty feet high the sides to be eighteen inches thick at the ends to be thirteen inches thick the house to be thirty feet wide and fifty six feet long with a room at one corner nine by ten feet, eight feet high, thirteen inch walls, the said Sharp to board and tend himself to furnish himself with scaffold and water to haul the bricks to furnish caps and sills for thirteen openings eight of which are to be cap[p]ed in the gothic style with bases to each arch also to furnish eight cornice blocks also to lay brick cornice on two sides of the house, all of which work is to be done in a good and workmanlike manner. For and in consideration of the sum of two hundred fifty four Dollars in good and current money, one hundred and twenty nine of which is to be paid when the work is done, and one hundred dollars twenty five in one year from the time the work is done.

The said Trustees to furnish the said Sharp with lime and sand at the building place and the bricks at the kiln said Sharp to have said work done in twenty four days of good weather from the time the foundation is ready, the Sharp to fix two places for stoves in the sides of the house and a small chimney for a grate in the small room. (If the aforementioned house should be considered by the trustees to be high enough without going to twenty feet then the said Sharp to deduct from his contract accordingly) the said Sharp to furnish a suitable stone cross on top of the gable end. And for the true payment of the above contract we the trustees bind ourselves and successors to pay or cause to be paid unto the said Sharp or his order Severally Jointly Firmly by these present in witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals the day and year first above written.

Adam Bauer
bq. J.B. Oblinger
bq. A.F. Benninghaus(?)
bq. Ezra F. Sharp

Witness: F. Bidenharn

As an architect, I marvel at these instructions. In today’s construction world they would consist of 40-60 sheets of working drawings and hundreds of pages of specifications.

“In 1900, desiring a more spacious and modern church building, the construction of the present church began on the same site as the brick structure. … On June 8, 1902 Bishop Moeller of Columbus dedicated the new sandstone church, which was debt free and built at a cost of $10,503.12. The former rectory, located on the west side of the Church, was disposed of at this time, and on the east side of the church, at the foot of the hill, their parish school house was located.”

“In 1908, Father Theodore Igel was appointed and purchased a house (former Miltonsburg Inn) in the Village of Miltonsburg from the Yunkus family for $1500.00. In … 1918 Father Balthessar Mattes arrived. He served until 1930 and having an excellent organizational ability began the Parish social “Picnic” Festival which endures until this day (1991)." (This festival was held in a field west of Lot 5 and beyond the corporation limits of the village.)

“In 1925 the school house building was razed and the lumber used for a new Parish Hall built in the center of the Village of Miltonsburg. It was used until the present hall was built across from St. John the Baptist Church in 1958.”

This Catholic Parish Hall was built on Lot 18. Because of its location at the back of the lot, it is likely that it was built before the Town Hall was razed. Apparently the second floor of the Town Hall had been used as a temporary (rented?) parish hall prior to this time.

The above information was taken from an article in the July 11, 1991 edition of the Monroe County Beacon and from the August 1989 Bulletin of the Catholic Record Society, Vol. XIV, No. 8, Diocese of Columbus, pages 161-68.


Soon after his arrival as the first resident pastor at Miltonsburg, Father Kramer wrote out a census of his parish. The census was made available to the Society by Rev. Samuel Saprano, the present pastor of Miltonsburg. Following are records for some of the persons who played a role in the early settlement of Miltonsburg:

Lulay (Luley), Michael born 11 February 1783; married to Barbara [?] born 9 May 1801.
From this marriage:

  • Simon Luley, born 16 September 1832
  • Teresia Luley, born 9 December 1841

Ulrich, Johann Adam, born 10 August 1777; married to Catharina [?] born 29 September 1774; died 5 July 1857. From this marriage:

  • Margaret Ulrich, born 31 May 1803
  • Francis Ulrich, born 15 July 1809; married to Margaret Baier, born 25 October 1830.
  • Valentine Ulrich, born 4 August 1820; married to Magdalena Weisent, born 6 May 1826. From this marriage:
    • Barbara Ulrich, born 25 August 1844; died 21 July 1845.
    • Maria Teresia Ulrich, born 30 April 1846.
    • Catharine Ulrich, 1847; married Jacob Weisend Jr. From this marriage:
      • Adam Ulrich, born 11 October 1849
      • Peter, 1849

Dorr, Simon, Married Helen McCammon

  • Francis Dorr, 13 September, 1837
  • Mary Catherine Dorr, 6 June 1839
  • John Theodore Dorr, 23 February 1841
  • George Peter Dorr, 4 April 1843
  • Mary Ann Dorr, 19 June 1844
  • William Dorr, 28 February 1847
  • Charles Philip Dorr, 26 Augut 1848

Following are readings from old tombstones in the St. John the Baptist cemtery which contain names of recognized Miltonsburg families:

In Memory of Mary Spangler wife of Joseph Bachmann, who departed this life June 20?, 1843 at age 32.

John J. Dorr, died June 22, 1850, aged 73 years, 10 months, 7 days.

Anna Dorr, wife of John J. Dorr, died December 28, 1855, aged 74 years, 11 months, 2 days.

John J. Oblinger, born in Kleineich, Lorraine, France April 23, 1810; died December 25, 1866.

Josephine Oblinger, born March 6, 1846; died June 5, 1864.

German Protestant Church

Early church records note that their first Miltonsburg church was a log building built in 1833 on the location of the cemetery south of the village. The land was donated by Christus Schaub. As noted above, there is considerable confusion as to whether both the Catholics and the Lutherans would have built log churches in essentially the same location and at essentially the same time. Ola Steed Egger, an older resident of Miltonsburg, confirmed that about 1900, there was a log building near the cemetery which could have been an original church building. George Schraeder used this structure as a sheep barn.
The tax records show the church as German Lutheran; however, church records refer to the church as Evangelical.

Early members of this church included:

  • Laurence Yockey
  • Christus Schaub
  • Daniel Kuhlen
  • John Egger
  • George Binz [Binger]
  • George Schell
  • [?] Greber
  • Jacob Egger
  • Fredrich Bauman (Johann George Friedrich Bauman)

The log church was replaced by a brick building in Miltonsburg in about 1851-1852. In 1857 the Church became a member of the Evangelical Synod.

Beginning in 1866 the Church became able to support its own minister. Following is a list of the ministers whose names could be located:

  • 1874 Rev. Fredrich Reller
  • 1880 Rev. Carl Burkhard
  • 1887 Rev. Karl Muller
  • 1890 Rev. J.R. Mueller
  • 1896 Rev. Weise
  • 1898 Rev. Gritzler
  • 1900 Rev. Albright
  • 1904 Rev. F.A. Meusch
  • 1910 Rev. Haubrich
  • 1911 Rev. G.W. Krause
  • 1915 Rev. Wm. Kohler
  • 1916 Rev. Paul Seleske
  • 1919 Rev. Otto Mueke
  • 1922 Rev. Oswald Flohr
  • 1925 Rev. Wm. Hille
  • 1926 Rev. Walter L. Weber
  • 1929 Rev. Chester Gaum
  • 1920 Rev. Edward W. Bruescke
  • 1933 Rev. Robert Johnson
  • 1938 Rev. Wm. R. Walch
  • 1941 Rev. Frank A. Reigel
  • 1950 Rev. George W. Varnes