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Arts & Culture

Curious Cbus: Where's The Blue Church On Blue Church Road?

The bell from Blue Church is on display at the cemetery on Blue Church Road. The plaque reads: Site Of Former Old Blue Church, Erected 1827, Razed 1975.
Michael De Bonis
/
WOSU
The bell from Blue Church is on display at the cemetery on Blue Church Road. The plaque reads: Site Of Former Old Blue Church, Erected 1827, Razed 1975.

Today, all that remains of the church that inspired Sunbury’s Blue Church Road is a rusty old bell. But for over 100 years, Kingston Presbyterian Church—later renamed Blue Church as its grey exterior faded into light blue—was a hub of community life.

Built in 1827, Blue Church was home to not only religious services but also community socials, school events, and Christmas pageants until about 1953. In a township where early settlers lived in remote log cabins, the building provided a central location for residents to convene and socialize, particularly the youth. Even throughout the 20th century, the church continued to serve as a meeting space for community events like World War I rallies and local grade school graduation ceremonies.

 Women and children gathered at Blue Church in the 1930s
Big Walnut Area Historical Society
Women and children gathered at Blue Church in the 1930s

Despite the building’s demolition in 1975, rich and detailed accounts of the church by those who worked, worshipped, and socialized there have preserved its legacy.

“I was usually the first one there to warm up the place and the last one left ringing the bell on Sunday,” parishioner Milo Owen told The Columbus Dispatch right before the demolition. In addition to his weekly duties, he also recalled pulling a wagon for two full days to haul gorgeous new leaded stained glass windows to the church during its extensive remodeling in the 1900s.

When early residents were faced with tough winters, Blue Church became a refuge for Kingston Township. An annual oyster supper, Children’s Day with songs and games, and two weeks of extended church services provided social and spiritual comfort for the settlers. The festivities came to a head at Christmas, which churchgoer Louise Cowman remembered fondly from her childhood in the 1910s. In a 1966 interview for an anthology on Sunbury’s history, she shared stories of evergreen trees lit with real candles, chocolates and oranges passed out by Santa, and plenty of Christmas carols.

As time passed, however, church attendance began to drop. By the middle of the 20th century, young parishioners struggled to keep the community alive. Sunbury resident and former parishioner Joyce Seitz admits that she was too young to remember much about the church itself beyond attending Sunday School and weekly services with her parents. Even still, she recalls how her mother, Frances (Brookens) Tuller, fought to revive the community.

“It closed when I was young, and I just know my mother fought hard to keep Old Blue Church open,” Seitz shared. “But the Presbyterians wouldn’t send us ministers anymore. And so, you know, it had to close. They closed it basically.”

Although raising money was part of the strategy to get Blue Church back on its feet, Seitz doesn't remember finances being the biggest issue in the end.

“The bigger thing was that they didn’t want to send ministers out here to small little churches anymore,” she explained. “Of course, we didn’t have a lot of finances because it wasn’t a great big church.”

 Blue Church in the late 1950s after services were discontinued.
Big Walnut Area Historical Society
Blue Church in the late 1950s after services were discontinued.

Despite the best efforts of Tuller and her contemporaries, the shortage of ministers forced the parish to shut down services in 1958. Throughout the 1960s, passionate former churchgoers fought to save the building itself by replacing the windows and repainting the signature blue exterior, but the structure was deemed unsafe. Blue Church was demolished in 1975 after 17 long years of theft and decay.

Today, the church’s original bell has been mounted on a small blue brick memorial with a plaque commemorating “Old Blue Church.” The other remaining artifact of the historic building is a cemetery – called Blue Church Cemetery – where veterans from every major conflict from The Revolutionary War up to the Korean War are buried.

While many Delaware County residents may have forgotten about Blue Church, younger community groups like the Sunbury Halter and Saddle 4-H Club have continued to visit the cemetery and pay their respects to the veterans who are buried there.

They may not know it, but their visits are a fitting legacy for this historical gem—Moses Decker, the original architect and builder of the church, was a veteran of the War of 1812 himself. Although his hand-hewn oak beams and black walnut pews have been lost to time, the spirit of community and reverence lives on at Blue Church Cemetery.