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Shaffer Chapel is marking 200 years of service with celebration

RECOGNIZED — Shaffer Chapel A.M.E. Church, located on township Road 191, Bloomingdale, was recognized by the Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday for 200 years of service to the area. The first church was built in 1819, and the second church was built across the street in 1920. Pastor Melody Essex gave a history of the church and its founding members. Shown with the proclamation were, from left, county Commissioners David Maple, Tom Gentile and Thomas Graham; Essex; and Monte Toney, church steward. -- Mark Law

BLOOMINGDALE — Shaffer Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in McIntyre, Bloomingdale, will be marking 200 years of service to the community during a special weekend celebration this month, according to its pastor, the Rev. Melody Essex.

The festivities will include a picnic on Aug. 24, beginning at 3 p.m. at Oak Lake Park, which was established in 1958 and is “the only black owned and maintained park in the state of Ohio,” notes the church history. It also is used for many community and church functions.

On Aug. 25 at 11 a.m., the Rev. Floyd W. Alexander of Euclid, Ohio, will be the guest speaker at the Sunday service.

The original nine families who started the community more than 200 years ago and made their homes along the McIntyre Creek were Nathaniel Benford, Ben Messenburg, Collier Christian, Lee Carter, Paige Benford, David Cooper, William Toney, Fielding Christian and Fitzhugh Washington.

A one-room schoolhouse was built in the 1800s. The Oak Grove School housed students in grades one through six. Older children went to Wayne Local School in Bloomingdale. McIntyre sits on Wayne Township Highway 191.

Most of the slaves and settlers were Methodist by faith. The first church services were held in the home of Keziah Smith. Growth necessitated a larger building so a “crib” corn and log cabin was used for church meetings. Later, a wooden church was built across the road from the present church. Later, a second building was built on the same spot to replace the first building.

The first Methodist church was founded in 1819. A tract of land was purchased from Keziah Smith.

The new church was erected on the road directly across the street from the very first building. It cost $4,000 and was built by the Elliott Brothers, a construction company from Weems, Ohio (Smithfield Station).

According to the church history, “Reverend Huff” was the first minister assigned to the newly erected church. Under his leadership came the mortgage burning and dedication done by Presiding Elder J. Gilmore on July 3, 1921. The church was named after the Rev. Cornelius T. Shaffer, the 29th bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

At the 103rd church anniversary, hundreds of people attended the festivities. “A cake as large as a washtub was baked by the local ladies and perched on top were 103 glowing candles,” according to the church history.

A new parsonage was built on Sept. 18, 1995, with the mortgage burning part of Homecoming Days festivities observed two years later.

The Rev. Melody Essex was appointed pastor of the church on July 7, 2013.

McIntyre also is home to its own cemetery, the Shaffer Chapel A.M.E. Episcopal Cemetery located across the street from the chapel. Several Civil War veterans are buried there.

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