Greely Chapel Road runs for nearly six miles between state Route 117 near Eastgate Plaza and the Auglaize County line.
On the north end of the road are a car dealership, a Sam’s Club, a horse farm, fast food restaurants and motels. On the other end, near River Line Road, are homes, fields, woods and a bridge over the Auglaize River, which is, according to many 16-year-olds as well as a 2005 book “Weird Ohio,” haunted by either the ghosts of teens killed in a spectacular, though undocumented, accident or possibly the crying of babies thrown from the bridge sometime in the murky past.
Between the bridge and the commercial clutter is the white-frame building, or more exactly the second version of the building, that gave the road its name – Greely Chapel. Over the years it has served various Protestant denominations as both a place of worship and as a community focal point. In June 2010, after standing empty for many years, Heavenly Stitches, a quilting and sewing shop, opened in the building.
A church has stood at the intersection of Greely Chapel and Hanthorn roads for a century and a half as the county and the country changed all around it, as oil derricks began to line the quiet roads of Perry Township and, in the early 20th century, electric interurban cars clattered by close to the front door. Since the 1960s, Interstate 75 has been a steady, thrumming presence less than a quarter-mile to the rear of the building.
The original chapel is thought to have been built about 1872. An 1875 map of Perry Township shows a church on the site. The 1880 county map also shows a church on the site and identifies it as Greely Chapel. An article in the Allen County Democrat from 1880 dealing with work to be done on county roads refers to the road running south from the Greely Chapel as Crossley Road, apparently after the Crossley family who owned land in the area. By 1881, the road was identified as Greely Road. It eventually became known as Greely Chapel Road.
Although the road was apparently named after the chapel, it is not known who the chapel was named after. Research of early township records failed to turn up anyone named Greely.
The Greely Chapel does show up in a column titled “Pea Scratches from Perry” in an August 1877 issue of the Allen County Democrat. “Musically,” the columnist wrote, “Greely takes the lead. The singing last Sunday was well attended, and we were pleasantly entertained.”
On Aug. 5, 1880, the Lima Times-Democrat, in a column devoted to news from Perry Township, had two items mentioning Greely, one as a community and the other as a congregation.
“Squire Lock, who tries to deal out even handed justice to the citizens over at Greely, has been having a touch of the ague (an illness involving fever and shivering),” the first item noted.
The second referred to the church, noting that “representatives from several Sunday schools met at Greely last Sunday and decided to hold a picnic at Perry Centre on the 25th.” Perry Center was on Breese Road between Greely Chapel and Bowman roads.
The current chapel was built in 1895.
“The new Christian, or Disciple Church, that has just been completed on the lot where the old Greely church used to stand … was dedicated last Sunday,” the Allen County Republican-Gazette wrote August 6, 1895. “The church has been named Garfield Chapel.”
For the next eight decades or so, through the ownership of several Protestant denominations, the chapel on Greely Chapel Road would be known as the Garfield Chapel. It also, as during its time as the Greely Chapel, served as a gathering place for the surrounding community.
“On last Thursday evening a concert was given at Garfield Chapel, four miles south(east) of Lima, which was undoubtedly one of the best ever given in Perry township,” the Republican-Gazette enthused in December 1897, going on to proclaim, “Mrs. Bacon of South Lima rendered several good numbers. She sings with power.”
In addition, the newspaper wrote, “A novelty and pleasant surprise to the people of the community was the presence of a piano at their church. The instrument was one of B.S. Porter & Sons fine mahogany Harvard’s, which was admired and commented on by all.”
In October 1911, the Lima Daily News reported that “Jennie Bowman, reader and impersonator and the dean of the College of Expression at the O.N.U. at Ada will give an entertainment at the Garfield Chapel, Saturday evening, October 28th.”
For members of the Garfield congregation, the chapel was the place they were taken into the church, married and given final rites when they died. Through the years, pastors such as Clarence Hill, Luther Tigner, Albert Smith and O.V. Leatherman led them.
During World War II and the Korean War, members of the Garfield Chapel’s Ladies Aid Society helped veterans.
“Mrs. Clem Bathtel, Route 6, will be hostess to members of the Ladies Aid society of Garfield Chapel for an all-day meeting Wednesday. The time will be spent sewing for the Red Cross …,” the News wrote in January 1945.
“Garfield Church aid society will meet Wednesday at the home of Mrs. Louis Accountius, Route 6, for an all-day session. They will work on knee warmers for veterans’ hospitals,” the newspaper wrote five years later as the U.S. became involved in Korea.
In August 1963, Rev. Roy Hanson, pastor of the Garfield Chapel, told the News that no charter member of the church was still living, although one lady had been active in the church for 65 years. Garfield Chapel marked its 70th anniversary in July 1965.
By 1969, the church had become the Garfield Baptist Fellowship Church of God and, in 1973, the Greely Bible Chapel. In the late 1970s, a brick addition was added to the rear of the chapel, which, after the closing of the chapel several years later, was used as a martial arts studio.
In June 2010, Shana Pisle, her mother Heather Pisle and friend Leslie Huber opened Heavenly Stitches in the former chapel.
Reach Greg Hoersten at email@example.com.