ROANOKE, IND. (WPTA21)-It was the great water highway that signaled the arrival of civilization to 21 Country, the Wabash Erie Canal..built by immigrants mostly, Polish, Irish, German. And when they reached Huntington County, Indiana many of those canal builders liked what they saw and stayed. 200 years later a handsome chapter of their legacy to us still stands.
“It’s a link for families that they can come together,” says Pastor Joel Yeager. “And it’s just been an integral part of a lot of the families that have been here for generations.”
Pleasant Chapel Church northwest of Roanoke is celebrating, this year, its 175th anniversary, a rare occurrence in rural Indiana. Immigrant families, mostly German, organized the congregation in 1844, worshiped in a log cabin until erecting this church in 1846 on the site of the current building. Forty years later their sons and daughters pooled their money and built a new church of brick which stood until 1910 when the cornerstone was laid for the chapel that stands today. But Pleasant Chapel’s history is much more than brick and mortar. For nearly two centuries families gathered here to celebrate births and weddings, find comfort during war and depression, and share in the grief at the loss of loved ones. The hopes, the dreams and fears, the drama of thousands of lives are invested in this place. One pastor left a diary of his tenure at Pleasant Chapel a hundred and fifty years ago.
“A little later he records where there were disputes within the church regarding the North and the South during the Civil War,” says Pastor Yeager, “and how they had to manage the different philosophies that prepared for the Civil War. To me that’s just a fascinating time you know that we are a part of.”
Across the road from the sanctuary lie the church founders carried to their final resting places by friends and neighbors with whom they worshiped all their lives. Today their descendants sit in the pews they sat in, inspired by the magnificent stained glass windows they admired, contemplating their own mortality as they did. Pleasant Chapel has been a companion, a friend, a mentor to them all…and relevant still out in 21 Country, after all those years. This is Eric Olson reporting.