Moreland Historical Society hosting Christmas open house

Moreland Historical Society hosting Christmas open house
Barb Lang

The Moreland Community Historical Society will host a Christmas open house on Dec. 15 at the Moreland Church of God.


Because of the foresight of members of the Moreland Community Historical Society and local residents, the story of Moreland Church of God has a happy ending. The community is invited to see the results of their work when MCHS hosts the second annual Christmas open house at the restored church on Sunday, Dec. 15 from 2-5 p.m.

Until four years ago, the Moreland Church of God was a rundown wooden garage next to a cement building in the village of Moreland. It was hardly worth a second glance and scarcely resembled the church of its former life in its heyday. Hundreds of vehicles pass by every day on state Route 83 on their way to Wooster or Millersburg. Only some of the locals were aware of the rare frescoes hidden behind the walls of that old building.

Sometime since being built in 1882, the church had lost its steeple, and when the MCHS purchased it in 2016, it was in such bad shape that the south wall only 2 feet from the adjacent block building collapsed, causing severe damage to the ornate and colorful fresco paintings believed to be the work of Wooster artist Charles Gasche.

Gasche was born in Wooster on Nov. 16, 1846. He died July 3, 1886, and is buried in the Wooster cemetery. He painted frescoes at many churches and Masonic temples around Ohio. Several of his portraits are in the Wayne County Historical Society collection. From 1873-75 he was employed by the Philadelphia publishing firm of J.C. Caldwell to provide farmscapes and sketches of local landmarks for the county atlases of Wayne County (published in 1873, Ashland County 1874 and Holmes 1875).

In 1876 and 1877 Gasche executed an elaborate scheme of painted decorations for the new 1,000-seat Quinby Opera House, which has been torn down.

Rusty Baker, a self-taught artist from Holmes County, has painted over 200 murals in Ohio and adjoining states, as well as abroad. In addition to original artwork, he is skilled at restoration painting. He recreated Gasche's one-of-a-kind frescoes that adorn the ceilings and walls of the first floor of the Moreland Church of God.

Last year Baker's artwork was close to completion, and at this year's open house, guests will be able to meet him and see the finished paintings. Also new since last December's event, local tradesmen installed the wood trim around the new windows and put up wainscoting. The Ohio Floor Company restored the original floor.

“Last year's open house exceeded our expectations with approximately 300 guests. Most people came to view Rusty Baker's artwork,” said Matt Gress, MCHS past president and current board member.

With Gasche's frescoes done, Baker is now focusing on painting a mural timeline for Moreland and Franklin Township in the basement of the church. Moreland was the second settlement in Wayne County after Wooster. The timeline will begin with the arrival of James Morgan and Thomas Butler in 1808 and chronicle important events, places and people of the two centuries of the area, culminating with next year's 200th anniversary of Franklin Township on June 7.

The mural will follow historical milestones such as when the village of Moreland was platted and recorded in 1829, the construction of the Moreland Church of God in 1882, paintings of residents who served in the wars during that time, and other important people in the history of the area. When complete, the mural will fill three walls of the new basement, which wasn't part of the old church.

“In order to preserve the building, we needed a basement. The church didn't have one before, and when the stone foundation collapsed, we made a new block foundation with sandstone facing. Before we started the restoration, we moved the church 17 feet back from state Route 83. It practically sat on the road before,” Gress said. “There will be a kitchenette and restrooms in the basement, and it will be available to rent for meetings, weddings and special occasions."

With the church nearly completed, MCHS will turn its attention to the next project, which is to reconstruct the 1 1/2-story log cabin that came from the Gilmor farm on Kimber Road. It was known as the “little house” on the farm.

At some point the log cabin had been sided. However, David Mann, president of MCHS, said his grandmother always talked about it being a log cabin. This was revealed when it was slated to be torn down a few years ago to build a new house. It was then carefully dismantled and stored until the funds could be raised to build it on property adjacent and just to the north of the Moreland Church of God.

“It is believed that the log cabin was built in 1816 when John Hughes came to the Moreland area from Pennsylvania. It is one of the oldest structures in Franklin Township and Wayne County, if not the oldest," Gress said. "Hughes and his wife raised 12 children in this 20-by-30-foot, 1 1/2-story log cabin that was built near Killbuck Creek, which at the time was the main route of trade in the early 1800s."

Some of the cost to reconstruct the cabin will be paid for through a grant of $21,500 from the Wayne County Community Foundation. “The WCCF has been extremely helpful in the past, but we have never received this much," Gress said. "We just had word that we were awarded a matching grant of $21,500 from the Laura B. Frick Trust."

If all goes as planned, the cabin will be up and roofed in time for the bicentennial celebration on Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7. “The goal is to have all the work done on the cabin by the end of 2020,” Gress said.

MCHS is a volunteer organization with nearly 100 members. It was founded in 2011, and the first Heritage Day was held that year during the second weekend in October at the Gail and Gwen Miller farm in Franklin Township. Every year there is a different theme. The 10th annual event in 2020 will be in October.

In 2013 when Franklin Township built a new garage and office, MCHS bought the former historical township building and restored it to its original state with assistance from members, residents and the Amish community, who donated their labor and expertise.

With the township building restoration under their belts, MCHS next purchased the Moreland Church of God in 2016. It is slated to be complete before the June 2020 bicentennial celebration.

Another project the MCHS undertook was the reclamation and restoration of the Butler-Morgan Cemetery, where up to 50 people may be buried. Over the decades it has become overgrown with trees and vegetation. In 2017 the first memorial service was held on Memorial Day weekend. Volunteers maintain the area several times a year.

In 2020 Jason Anderson will be the speaker. He portrays Revolutionary War Gen. David Wooster. There are three Revolutionary War veterans buried in the Morgan-Butler Cemetery. Next year's service will be Saturday, May 23.

“We feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work on the various projects like the cemetery and the church,” said Gail Miller, vice president of the MCHS.

For more information about MCHS, go to or call Miller at 330-464-3653 or email

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