Early settlers started arriving in the Ohio territory in the 1700s, and Delaware County was no exception. The settlers came across land north of Pittsburgh to avoid crossing the Ohio River; or down the Ohio River to the mouth of the Scioto River, working their way north on keelboats up the Scioto and then the Olentangy River into what was to become Delaware County.
The first religious society in the area was founded by eight members of the extended Thomas Cellar family in 1810. By 1820, it was time to build a formal structure for the purpose of worship. The site for the new chapel was on the side of a beautiful rolling hill, in a grove of white oak trees. The hill overlooked the Olentangy River on land owned by Thomas Cellar. A quaint little meetinghouse was built, and a cemetery was laid out nearby and dedicated. Many of the early settlers of the area were laid to rest here.
In 1855, John F. Cellar deeded the 3 acres on which the meetinghouse, cemetery and schoolhouse stood for $1.
The original meetinghouse, now known as Liberty Chapel, still stands and is used today just as it was in 1820. The only exception is an addition built on the back of the chapel in the 1970s.
‘Barn Church’ raising
By 1990, the congregation had increased to the point the little chapel in the oak grove was bursting at the seams. In 1996, it was decided to build a new “old timber-frame barn-church.”
With the help of well-known Amish barn builder Jose Miller and his son, Junior, a beautiful timber-frame structure was designed and erected on the hill, behind the original 1820 chapel. It features large timbers of native woods from the surrounding area. Master craftsmanship was applied to each post, beam, and brace, creating joinery as in the cathedrals of old. Skillful and loving hands prepared the wood for flooring, doors and trim. Specially selected wood from walnut, sycamore, maple, oak and other trees found in the area was used for the altar, pulpit and baptismal font. The new sanctuary, having been built from the bounty of nature, provides a place of peace and reverence for worship.
Liberty Presbyterian Church, also known as the “Barn Church,” is now in its third century of serving the citizens of Delaware and the surrounding area. It has grown from a small rural chapel to a large urban church.
The Barn Church is not only a place of worship, but it also provides a place for social gatherings of the congregation in its spacious lower level.
After the Barn Church was completed, it became the site of the first annual Barn Conference in March 2000, conceived by Charles “Chuck” Whitney, the “Barn Consultant” (and the columnist’s late father). Out of this conference grew the statewide organization of Friends of Ohio Barns, now in its 21st year of educating and promoting the conservation and preservation of old timber-frame barns in Ohio.
Gray, the “Barn Lady,” continues to search out interesting barn histories and stories. Do you have an unusual story to share? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-263-1369.