Venerable Clarion Church Will Disappear from Hilltop
Memorial To Be Erected for Future
Down to a 6-member congregation, a piece of history will come to an end.
CLARION — For 150 years, the faithful have trekked to the top of a hill in Licking Township, Clarion County, to worship.
For all those years, Mt. Zion Lutheran Church has stood as a symbol of the faith and tenacity of these people.
But it will soon become history. In a few weeks the wood-frame church building will be tom down and its contents will be sold at an auction. The congregation, now down to six members, will disband, and an era in Clarion County history will come to an end.
Irvin Henry, a lifelong resident of the area, remembers.
“I grew up only a couple miles away and have lived here all my life,” said Henry, a member of the church council.
“This has been my church the whole time. It used to be a busy place. We had several dozen families as members. Most of them lived close by. This used to be quite a farming area. There were farms all along this road, but then the miners came and stripped the area. Only a few farms are left.”
Mt. Zion Lutheran Church is located in what is known locally as Fairview Hill, 2.3 miles south of Callensburg. [Transcriber's note: This is incorrect. Zion Hill is slightly *northeast* of Callensburg.]
Mt. Zion’s story began in 1846, when German immigrants flocked to Clarion County to work in the county’s ironworks, which then were flourishing. Many were Lutheran, and as a result, congregations were established throughout the region, most notably at Wentlings Corners, Knox and Shippenville . . . and atop the hill at Fairview.
A bulletin from the congregation’s 100th anniversary service (June 21, 1946), said, “Out of the vast wilderness of the days of man, dog, gun and the log cabin, Mt. Zion had its beginning.
“The first few years of services were held in Christopher Over’s log cabin home, some 600 feet north from where the present church building is located. It was here that Pastor G. F. Ehrenfeld organized this church May 19, 1846. Two acres of land were donated by Christopher Over to the Reformed and Lutherans for church and burial purposes. The deed was dated and the congregation incorporated Jan 25, 1847; the cornerstone laid May 20, 1847 and the building dedicated by Pastor William Uhl Dec. 12, 1847. The two congregations worshipped together until 1883, when the Reformed sold their interest to the Lutherans and built a church on adjacent grounds.”
For many years the congregation was a part of the Licking Parish, which was terminated in the early 1920s. The pastors of the Knox parish then rendered services, among them Rev. J.M. Axe, who served 1925-1926. Following his resignation, the congregation debated whether or not to keep the church open. Pastor E. B. Boyer, who was then serving the Knox parish, was requested to give supply services in 1927, which he did willingly, according to the account in the bulletin.
“Under his leadership, faithful and sacrificial services, com¬bined with the determination and fortitude of the few members, with the coming of improved roads, enabled Mt. Zion to carry through the difficult years," said the bulletin.
In recent years Mt. Zion was a part of a three-church congregation which also included St. Paul's in Wentlings Corners and Emmanuel, Knox.
“Then St. Paul’s withdrew, leaving only us and Emmanuel,” said Henry. “That was about 10 years ago.”
“We kept on going, but when Rev. Lewis Fox left in 1995, it became more and more difficult for us to keep on going. We had difficulty in finding a pastor willing to take on two churches. We struggled along with lay preachers, but the handwriting was on the wall. The last service here was Oct. 27, 1996.”
According to Henry, the Northwest Pennsylvania Synod now owns the building and the land on which it sits.
“It's my understanding that the land will be donated to the cemetery association and the building will be removed,” said Henry.
“A memorial will be erected on the spot where the church now is, so future generations will know where it once was.” The building, said Henry, is the original, and although still serviceable, shows signs of wear and tear.
“It’s really windy up on the top of this hill,” said Henry. “It was really hard to heat this building.”
A gas heater now stands on the very spot where an old pot¬bellied stove used to sit.
Source: The Derrick -- 27 October 1997 -- Pages 1 & 2