Warm Springs Turnpike Park
The original Location of the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren is the site of the Warm Springs Turnpike Park in Bridgewater, located at the north end of Bridgewater, right across from Oak Lawn Cemetery. The stone in this wall is from the orginal wall that was at the edge of the church yard, very near to the current location.
In 1892, the original wall was built for the purpose of providing a stepping place out of surries and buggies. At the end of the walkway leading to the graveyard, two large stones were stacked to provide a place for horseback riders to dismount. The horses were then led into the wooded area where there were hitching racks for tethering. There were three brick walkways that led to the three doorways of the church.
When the church was demolished in 1936, the wall remained. In the late 1990’s, when the road was widened, the wall was removed. The stone was stored in Sandy Bottom/Burlintown area of Bridgewater where it remained until the Town of Bridgewater made use of it for this park wall. The sign at the present Bridgewater Church of the Brethren location is also made from stone from this 1892 church wall. – related by Naomi West.
Did you know there was a toll road through Bridgewater? The Warm Springs Turnpike Park commemorates the Warm Springs Turnpike that passed through Bridgewater. There is a replica of a toll gate through which travelers passed after they paid their turnpike toll. More information is available on the display at this park.
The original Bridgewater Church of the Brethren was located just beyond the wall.
Some of the stone from the original wall was used in this sign at the current location of the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren.
Emmert F. Bittinger writes “By the 1870s it became evident that Bridgewater needed its own meeting house. It was built in 1878, in order to accommodate their growing needs. Some of the leaders of the movement for a new church were S. F. Sanger, John A. and Peter S. Miller, and Solomon Garber. It was located on land obtained from Samuel Miller (ancestor of Naomi West) and was situated on the south east side of the Dayton pike in the northern part of Bridgewater. In 1883, the congregation agreed to purchase an acre of land for a cemetery. This land was located directly in front of the church house but across the side road. Later, this cemetery was enlarged and serves the larger community. A stone wall was built in 1892 along the road in front of the church and across from the cemetery. It had steps at its west end. An iron fence was placed between the road and the cemetery.
The church house was sixty by eighty feet in size and had three entrances along the front. It was built large enough to “accommodate 1200 people,” a number which surely must have included many standing people! Elder Solomon Garber of the mother church preached the dedicatory sermon. Three thousand people are said to have attended the services of dedication on Aug. 25, 1878. It was obviously a major event for the local community and surrounding Brethren Churches.
Preaching took place from a small, low platform. It was placed opposite the entrances and contained a pulpit and several chairs for ministers. A table also stood in the front of the church. At the front left and right sides, sat the deacons and deacons’ wives.
Men and women also sat separately, their benches on either side of a dividing center aisle, women being on the left facing the pulpit and men being on the right side. At the left side toward the front near the deacons’ wives sat stood a large rocking cradle which was long enough to accommodate two babies. There also was a rocking chair nearby to be used by nursing mothers. This chair is now a prized artifact of the congregation. In later years, wires were strung for draw curtains, and this allowed classrooms to be created. The floor was raised in steps at each end of the church, and a bench was placed on each of the three elevated levels. These accommodated non-members, including youth, as well as visitors and curiosity seekers.
A small kitchen was connected to the rear of the church. A door located on the north wall on the left side of the platform provided access. A large wood-burning stove stood near each of the two aisles in front of the raised visitors benches. Three brick walkways leading from each door toward the cemetery were built around 1906. Sometime during the year of 1936, the old church was torn down. In 1937 the ground sold for $300.
Today, no evidences of this church remain except in the memories of the oldest survivors of the congregation and in the lives of the numerous descendants of those early families. The only visible remains at the site of this historic building were removed in the reconstruction of the intersection with Route 42 during 1997 when the remnants of the stone wall along the intersecting road in front of the church site were removed. Some of these blue stones were saved and used to construct the base of the new church sign in 1998. A small town park was then constructed on the edge of the church site.
In 1907, the Bridgewater Church was given permission to separate and become independent from its parent church, the Cooks Creek Congregation. Emanuel Long become presiding Elder over the 201 charter members. From this time on, Bridgewater could elect its own ministers and manage its own affairs. During these years and earlier, congregations had specific and well known geographic boundaries. When Bridgewater divided, new boundary lines were set. The land across the river from Bridgewater was part of Beaver Creek territory. Soon many of the Beaver Creek members living there petitioned their church to allow the land adjacent to Bridgewater across the river to become a part of Bridgewater Congregation. This petition was granted, and many new members, including Miller families, greatly increased the membership of Bridgewater Church. ”
From “History of the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren”
Credits: Naomi West and Emmert Bittinger served as models for these photos. Photos were taken by David Lineweaver, photo editing was done by Greg Owen. Text exerpts were taken from “History of the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren” by Emmert Bittinger.