Church History

Heritage Presbyterian Church was formed through the 1991 merger of two Deerfield Township churches dating back to the early 1800's – Somerset in the center of the township, Mason to the west in the village of Mason.

 


Seeking God in the Wilderness

The Deerfield area was still largely wilderness when pioneering families began to gather in worship, initially in homes, sometimes being led by the Presbyterian circuit rider Rev. James Kemper.

 

Mason Presbyterian 1814-1990

Mason Presbyterian Church, built 1846, as it looked about 1900 with an 1886 addition to the rear.The Mason church began with services held in private homes as early as 1808. Organized as Unity Church of Warren County, the congregation built its first place of public worship on Bethany Road. Various sources date the building to 1812 and 1813. However, Presbytery records first recognized the Unity church in November, 1814, and that has been treated as the founding date for the church in following anniversaries. By 1828 the log structure was deteriorating and the congregation was seriously considering building a new meeting house. However, divisions over location, building type and size caused the church "to bleed at every pore," said one report. No record can be found of a new meeting house being built. The Unity congregation divided in 1832 with the breakaway group forming the Harmony church in Monroe. In 1842 the remaining Unity congregation moved about a mile to Mason, then a village of 400. It appears that the congregation met at the Mason Methodist Church for the next three years.

 

The Mason congregation in late 1845 purchased a lot on Forest Avenue, a block off Main Street. A new brick church building was erected and occupied by December 1846. The congregation united for a while with the Pisgah church and in 1871 the name was changed to the First Presbyterian Church of Mason and Pisgah. At that time the church had 40 members, but 100 in Sunday school. The relationship with Pisgah was later terminated and the name officially changed in 1895 to Mason Presbyterian Church.

 

As the Mason community grew, so did the church. A large room for education and study was added in 1886. A major addition in 1936 provided a dining room and kitchen on the first floor with classrooms and a small stage on the second. A post-war growth spurt in Mason was met in 1956 with more classrooms, a fellowship hall, new kitchen, nursery, and a library/meeting room. In 1968-69 the entire sanctuary was rebuilt, new pews and pulpit furniture installed, and an enlarged narthex added. However, the various additions did not work well together. Going from the sanctuary to classrooms and the fellowship hall required going up and down narrow stairs. It was easier and faster (but wetter) to go out the front door and around the outside of the building reentering through the side doors. Restrooms were up steps, making handicap compliance problematic.

 

Somerset Presbyterian 1822-1990

Somerset Presbyterian Church, now at Sharon Woods Pioneer Village restored to its original 1829 appearance.The Somerset church was an offshoot of the Montgomery Presbyterian Church, itself an offshoot of the Pleasant Ridge church. All trace roots back to the Rev. James Kemper, the first installed Presbyterian pastor north of the Ohio River. A famed circuit rider, Rev. Kemper visited and preached in homes and gatherings across Southwest Ohio in the early years of settlement. Kemper Rd., almost on the border between Hamilton and Warren Counties, is named for him.

 

Somerset was formed in the early 1820s by farm families in the 20 Mile Stand area. Dates of 1821, 1822 and 1824 have been given for the founding. The 1822 date was used by Somerset for its square on the Presbytery 200th anniversary quilt that hangs on the back wall of the Heritage sanctuary. Somerset members at first worshipped in the log meeting house of Sycamore Presbyterian Church. The Somerset congregation built its own brick church in 1829 at the corner of Fields-Ertel Rd. and Montgomery Rd., already the "main street" through the township. It remained the church's home for the next 162 years to four and five generations of families.

 

Country Churches/Suburban Growth

For much of their histories Mason and Somerset were country churches that served as stepping stone or stop – over posts for pastors. Pastor terms at Mason averaged just under three years over its first century, Somerset much the same. From Mason session minutes, it appears the congregations shared ministers off and on from 1874 to 1908. The churches survived by the stability provided by generations of faithful, long-serving family members. At the time of the Mason church's 175th anniversary in 1989, membership stood at just over 300 and average Sunday attendance was about 180 for two services, but wasn't keeping up with population growth.

 

Meanwhile, Somerset stayed a rural church and grew slowly. It added a kitchen/meeting wing over the years but probably never exceeded much more than 100 members. Both churches were badly showing their age as the Deerfield area began a surge of rapid growth and the transition from farms to suburbia. Their congregations faced difficult decisions about moving out of buildings that had been church homes for some 150 years.

 

Time for Change

In 1989 Somerset formed a Redevelopment Task Force with congregational agreement on the need for change and renewal. The area was growing and evolving rapidly with the Fields Ertel and Mason-Montgomery interchange a center of development. Attractive offers had been made for the church property (where Meijer's gas station is located today) and the Presbytery was encouraging new church development to attract and serve the growing population. Somerset members reluctantly realized a move was needed to fulfill their vision and maintain a viable congregation. They began plans toward a new building site and considered seeking a merger partner to achieve the resources and personnel skills a larger church would need.

 

At the same time, the Mason church was celebrating its 175th anniversary, but wrestling with the same issues of how to deal with growth and change. The awkward old church building, bordered by a railroad, lumber yard, grain silo and feed store, a block off Main St. out of traffic flow, was not welcoming for new residents. Pastoral leadership was changing. The church's longest serving minister had retired in 1986 after 33 years. A frank and perceptive interim pastor advised, in his final parting sermon, that the congregation should consider leaving their historic church home and relocate if they wanted the church to grow. A seed was planted.

 

Merger – "Had to be God's Doing"

At a Presbytery meeting in May, 1990, a Mason session member heard Rev. Florence Beaujon describe Somerset's frustrations in finding a merger partner for building a new suburban church for Deerfield Township. Playing golf the next evening with another session member, he explained what he heard and asked, "Why not us?" The other elder agreed. The next committee night, a couple days later, they presented the idea to Mason's new pastor, Ron Trapp. He was taken aback for a minute, then agreed the idea had merit, and said he'd call Florence the next morning.

 

The two ministers had lunch the next day, saw good possibilities for a "fit" and called special session meetings to present the idea. The Somerset session met May 20 and voted to explore the melding. The Mason session voted May 21 to move-ahead. Delegates from both sessions met, found they had common situations and goals, and agreed to recommend to their Sessions that a merger proposal be presented for congregational vote. Next, a meeting was held at Somerset with all affected parties – Presbytery officials, pastors, Session members, and Somerset's church redevelopment chair – to finalize the understanding.

 

Congregational meetings were called. On June 10 the Somerset congregation gave its approval to merger exploration. Mason approved a week later on June 17. The whole process took less than a month. "You know the Lord was leading us," said Kaye Calvert, a Mason elder at the time. "Presbyterians can never agree on anything this quickly!" Anticipating the congregational approvals, two committees were formed with equal representation from both churches.

 

Merger Committee developed a Plan of Merger that was presented to and approved by both congregations in October, 1990. The name Heritage was selected to reflect the long histories brought by both churches and the intent to respect, preserve and blend the practices and traditions from each. The Merger Committee was headed by Rev. Tom Foster and Elder Jim Hartman from Presbytery. Somerset was represented by Fern Biehle, Bev Blatz, Bob Burns, Ginny Wiles and Curt Hopkins, while Mason sent Wes Garland, Trudie Pringle, Roger Rude, Jim Spaeth, and Marian Walker.

 

Building Committee was chaired by Tom Hayden from Somerset, joined by Peggy Bay, Rudy Beaujon and Muriel Kinder. Mason was represented by Beth Flege, Gene Foster, Don Handley, and Russ Phillips. After a thorough search of the area, the committee selected today's property at the corner of Tylersville (then Stitt) and Mason-Montgomery roads for its accessibility and growth potential. The purchase was approved on August 19 by the Somerset congregation and August 26 by Mason.

 

The Two Shall Become One

Heritage Presbyterian Church 1991

Heritage Presbyterian ChurchBy God's Grace, Heritage Presbyterian Church was officially incorporated Jan. 1, 1991 in the state of Ohio as a new congregation in the Presbyterian Church (USA) with Rev. Ron Trapp as senior pastor and Rev. Florence Beaujon as associate pastor. However, both congregations continued to meet separately until Easter Sunday, when Somerset held its final service in its beloved home of 160 years. After that, everyone joined for services at the Mason church.

 

The Somerset Church building was moved to the Sharon Woods Pioneer Village and restored to its original 1829 appearance as a representative example of early 1800 churches. Appropriately, it is located next door to the log cabin of Rev. James Kemper, father of Presbyterian churches in this corner of Ohio.

 

Construction began on a modern, open-feel church with seating for up to 400 per service. All spaces were placed on one level for full handicap-accessibility. The stained glass window from the Mason church, a triptych of Christ flanked by two angels, was enlarged and installed on the apse wall. The final service at the old Mason church, the third Sunday in June, 1992, was a roller coaster of mixed emotions.

 

Looking ahead, a calling committee over several weeks had been phoning more than 3000 homes in the Mason, Landon and West Chester areas inviting them to the first service at the new church. On a glorious sunny morning the fourth Sunday in June, some 550 people showed up for worship service, overflowing the parking lot and the sanctuary. Folding chairs needed to be set up in the atrium to handle the crowd. The months of planning, working and waiting achieved an overwhelming response. The Deerfield area received a new church with historic values - a living memorial to the caring heritage of earlier generations, and a new beginning and welcoming home for existing members and newcomers alike.

 

The welcome worked so well – with growth over the next four years to 500 members – that Heritage undertook a building program to add more classrooms, restrooms, storage space, and especially a massive meeting hall/gym. The new facilities supported an expanded pre-school program, greater scouting activities, weeklong hostings of homeless families under Warren County's Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), larger family night dinners and programs, and a wider range of youth group activities.

 

In 1999 the congregation was saddened by the untimely death of Wilma Trapp, the pastor's wife and beloved organist. Rev. Trapp soldiered on alone for a while, but in 2001 elected to take retirement so he could move to Texas to be near family. Associate Pastor, Florence Beaujon also chose retirement. Rev. Thomas Martin, the retired minister of Xenia Presbyterian Church and state chaplain of the Ohio Army National Guard, served as interim pastor at Heritage 2001-2002 (one of eight Ohio churches where he has been an interim). After an extensive search process, Rev. Kevin Stainton, was called October, 2002 as Senior Pastor. He brought youth, energy, a dynamo wife, Bev, and pre-school son, Max. Rev. Stainton continues as Pastor, and is now the second longest serving minister in our combined church histories.

 

In 2008 the Heritage congregation again voted for growth. The church added a new education wing with four more classrooms and a dedicated preschool office. The rooms accommodated wonderful growth in adult Sunday school and Bible study classes, enabled more preschool spaces, private rooms for families during IHN hosting weeks, and more meeting spaces for church committees, scouts and community organizations. Intended from the outset as a 7-day-a-week community resource, Heritage spaces are booked nearly 100 percent year-round.

 

Just as our founders, strangers in the wilderness, gathered to share faith and friendship, Heritage Presbyterian Church exists to offer a warm welcome and feeling of belonging to persons of all ages and circumstances.

 


Come as a guest – Leave as a friend.

 

Compiled by Roger Rude based on 150th and 175th Mason church histories prepared by Marian Walker

 


Blending Our Heritage

When the Mason and Somerset churches voted to merge and form a new creation in a new from-the-ground-up church home, a blending committee was formed to decide what elements of both churches' heritage should be preserved and honored. Cindy Moore is the last active Heritage member who served on that committee. One decision was already made – what to do about the old Somerset building.

 

Somerset Church -The Somerset congregation donated the structure to the Pioneer Village at Sharon Woods Park where it was restored to its original 1829 appearance as a representative example of early 1800's churches. The church may be visited whenever the village is open to the public. It can be used for weddings and events by special arrangement. In outfitting our new building, the blending committee selected special items to provide memory bridges to our parent churches:

 

Building Design – A modern structure with superb accessibility, our building design borrows traditional elements from our former 1800-era churches: a steeple, arched windows, brick construction and peaked roofs.

 

Stained glass window – The triptych window of Christ flanked by two angels was moved from the Mason church. A gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Watkins in memory of their daughter, the window set was more than 70 years old at the time of the merger. It was cleaned, enlarged and reinforced before installation in the apse wall at Heritage. An older Mason member claimed that one of the angels was modeled on the Watkins' daughter.

 

Communion service – A complete silver communion set from the Somerset church, each piece engraved with the date 1892, was used to celebrate the Lord's Supper at Heritage in the early years after the merger. Today the set is displayed in a glass case in the Fireside Room, along with communion ware and antique pulpit Bible from the Mason church.

 

Somerset Church Bell – The bell was removed from the old church before the move to the Pioneer Village. Installed in the belfry at Heritage, it rings the hour and half-hour.

 

Hand Bells – A generous gift from an anonymous member at the Mason church and added to by others over the years, our bells have been given the white glove treatment and wonderfully played by our adult and youth hand bell choirs for about a quarter-century.

 

Somerset Friendship Quilt – This was created by the women of Somerset in 1989 after the decision to seek redevelopment and leave the old church home. Intended as a memory quilt, it features needlework of the old building in the center surrounded by squares for each family of Somerset. The quilt hangs on the back wall on the left side of the Heritage sanctuary.

 

Anniversary Quilt – Mounted on the back wall on the right side, this quilt was created by the Presbytery to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Presbyterian worship in our corner of Ohio. Each church in the Presbytery created its own square showing its date of founding. As the first new church formed following the bi-centennial, Heritage was asked if we would be custodians of the quilt. It had held a place of honor here ever since.

 

Heritage Missions – We have continued outreach missions started at our founding churches. Our coat drive and angel tree are continuations of Project Love, started at the Mason church in 1970. Our mission to Mary Haven, Warren County's residence for troubled youth, dates back to the '70s as well.

© 2017 Heritage Presbyterian Church -- Mason, OH
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