Otterbein Chapel

The history of Otterbein Chapel can be traced back to the Funkhouser family, and their settlement along Mill Creek in the late 18th century. Jacob R. Funkhouser, a member of the third generation of that family to live in the area, was one of the first benefactors and organizers of the church.
Early records indicate that Christopher Newcomer, a prominent Brethren circuit rider, often visited the area and preached to the locals who eventually formed a church congregation.

Originally these services were in local houses. In 1835 the Funkhouser family deeded the Hickle School House to a set of trustees who used the building as an educational facility, Union Church, and community center. Other denomination shared the space with the Otterbein Brethren’s and often services were attended by all believers.

In 1845 the first purposefully built church building, named Otterbein Chapel, was built beside the school. It would be used by the Brethren Congregation as their meeting house. The building was designed in the “primitive” style so popular in the county at the time. Locals shunned decorations, belfries, and other extras that they felt provided comforts to the congregation and thereby distracted them from worship. Otterbein also had separate entrances and searing for men and women in an effort to segregate the congregation and prevent engagement.

Near this early church was what became the congregation’s cemetery. Established in the early 19th century by the Funkhouser family, this graveyard was deeded to the church in 1852, though the first recorded grave was of Jacob Funkhouser in 1801.

Around 1911 the Otterbein Brethren Congregation began soliciting funds to build a new church building. Members of the church provided funds, donated raw materials from their lands, and provided labor for the construction. This new structure was much more elegant than the former church. It included a belfry and elaborate stained glass windows that depicted biblical scenes.

Later in the 20th century the church’s denominational affiliations changed. In 1946 the Evangelical Church and United Brethren Church in Christ, with whom Otterbein had been affiliated, merged to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Twenty-two years later they merged with the Methodist Episcopal Church to form the United Methodist Church. These changes were mainly driven by a desire to increase the size and prestige of the church at large and, apart from altering its name, had little direct impact on Otterbein.

Apart from hosting regular service, Otterbein’s congregation also sponsored many church related organizations. In 1873 a Sabbath, later Sunday, School was established to provide parochial education to the church’s youth. At various other times during its history a Ladies’ Aid Society, Youth Group, Men’s Group, and Women’s Group have existed.

Today the church continues to host services and Christian related organizations. It, and several other small, rural congregations in the southern part of the county, are part of Mt. Pleasant Parish and share a single minister.