Oak Grove History:
The Oak Grove Mennonite Church’s history begins in 1815 with Mennonite and Amish families migrating from Europe and Pennsylvania to Wayne County, Ohio. Green Township, organized in 1817, was chosen by these farmers due to the fertile land and bountiful water. 1818 is chosen as the “official date” for Oak Grove’s origin as both bishop David Zook and minister Christian Brandt arrived to provide leadership for the new settlement.
By the 1840’s the Oak Grove congregation had become so large that it was divided into the North and South districts. Each section now had a bishop and several ministers. The worship services were held in the member’s homes or barns every other Sunday with the remaining Sundays being a time of fellowship with church families.
In 1862 the first church was built as it became difficult for the members to have space for the worship services. The first church name was Amish Mennonite Center of Green Church, but was later changed to Oak Grove Amish Mennonite Church. The first building was built on what is presently part of the “old” cemetery on the current property along Smucker Road, East of Smithville. Pleasant Hill, in the northern district, was built in 1881 on property along what is now Pleasant Home Road, Northeast of Smithville.
1862 was also the time of the first meeting of the Amish Mennonite General Conference. This conference took place in the barn of Samuel Schrock, which still stands just off of Chippewa Road, several miles East of the church. These meetings occurred to give the Amish congregations opportunity to discuss issues of church policy. However, as time passed, the more conservative members withdrew and were soon called “the Old Order Amish”, a term still used today. Oak Grove became Amish Mennonite and later dropped the Amish from the church name.
Oak Grove and Pleasant Hill were becoming more progressive with Sunday Schools, Young People’s Meetings, and laity participation. The group was active in the Eastern Amish Mennonite Conference. The members were involved with the Children’s Home, the Rittman Old People’s Home, and the Orrville and Canton Missions. C.Z. Yoder, an Oak Grove minister, was also active in the publishing of several conference hymnals.
In 1937, Oak Grove joined the Ohio Mennonite and Eastern Amish Mennonite Conference. However, due to various differences, Oak Grove became an independent congregation in 1947. The leaders were Bishop J.S. Gerig and Rev. Virgil Gerig. Those members wishing to remain in the conference moved to the Pleasant Hill church with Rev. William Detweiler and Rev. Gerald Studer as their ministers. This group later built the Smithville Mennonite Church on S.R. 585 outside of Smithville.
The present church was built in 1905, following the loss of the original building to fire, with additions and remodeling occurring every twenty years or so since. The Fellowship Center was built in 1949. In 1958, more land across the road, North of the church was purchased for a “new” cemetery. In 1963 the parsonage was built, and in 1968 an Educational Wing was added to the church. In 2003 a carport was added, and the interior was totally remodeled and now includes air conditioning.
In 1970, Oak Grove became a dual member of the Mennonite Conference and the General Conference of the Mennonite Church. It is presently affiliated with Mennonite Church USA, the Ohio Conference of Mennonite Church USA, and the Central District Conference of Mennonite Church USA.
The church has been active in relief work in war-torn countries with the Mennonite Central Committee, as well as financial aid and volunteer time with MCC Connections, the MCC Relief Sale, People to People, Boy’s Village, and Habitat for Humanity. The church has affirmed women in ministry since 1974 as well as having student pastors since 1958. Music, with a cappella hymn singing, choirs, quartets, the praise team, and the yearly Messiah program have been an important part of the church’s worship of God.