Preserving the history of an Ellerton church

Published 9:19 am Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pat Mulso, Preserving the Past

September has proved to be a busy and exciting month so far, with many events in store for the rest of the month. I spent the first seven days of the month in Ohio. I left Albert Lea at 10:10 a.m. on Sept. 1 and arrived at my brother and sister-in-laws in Brookville, Ohio, at 9 p.m. My mind was busy thinking of the task before us for the week and whether we had all the equipment we needed to accomplish the job. Our plan was to take photos or scan all the records available pertaining to the 195 year history of the Ellerton Evangelical & Reformed Church, later known as the Ellerton United Church of Christ and its members.

Pat Mulso

I had purchased a special camera like the one my brother has, and he had figured out how to use tripods for the special photos we would be taking. Thursday morning we arrived at the church in Ellerton, Ohio, where we had been members as we were growing up, ready to start our work. The Pastor of the congregation meeting there now met us and showed us to the Sunday school room where we would be working. He had two tables set up for us and many of the records already in the room. We began organizing the records and deciding how to set up our work station to make the best use of the space and our time. We decided that we needed another tripod, a remote for my camera, a couple of desk lamps, two extension cords and a power strip.

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Larry, my brother, experimented with the camera settings while I organized the materials and gathered the records from the other locations. At lunch time we ran back to his house and to get the items we needed, before returning to the church. When we returned he began setting up our work stations only to find that my tripod would not lock in place, which was crucial for this project. So he worked on his while I continued to organize the materials and go through folders and records. We left that evening with several more items to be purchased. We decided if we had a hand held scanner or a document fed scanner it would be helpful time-wise for copying some of the single sheet documents and an extra battery for the camera would also make the job go faster.

Friday morning we were ready with all the extra equipment and the 10 hour day was very successful. We backed up our own work for the day and then each other’s work and hit the sack as soon as we had something to eat. Saturday was another full day and by now we had a routine to our task. We put 11 hours in at the church and then brought work home with us. We met my sister and brother-in-law for breakfast on Sunday and relaxed for part of the day before we set up our work stations at Larry’s. Sunday evening we went back to the church and picked up additional information to be copied and Monday was a full day, we both worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Labor Day was really a labor intensive day for us. By the end of this day we had photographed or scanned more than 10,000 documents, so far on this project! Tuesday we finished the few documents still at the church along with making a visit to the office that houses the cemetery records.

Now we will work on organizing the records we have recorded so that they can be used by others who have attended the church or had relatives that were members. We were not able to take the time to read everything we recorded, but I did learn my great-grandparents on two sides were members there and my grandmother was a Sunday school teacher and very active in the women’s guild, as was my mother. My great-grandfather, John H. Linebaugh, was also very active in the church and held many offices. Most of the names were either related to us directly or someone that married a relative.

Many emotions emerged as we read notes, articles, etc. that related to our family such as when my mother wrote a letter to thank the pastor and members of the small country church for helping our family when my dad had open heart surgery, when my brother was in the hospital in a coma for nearly two weeks, when I was in the hospital as a teenager, when my grandmother was a shut in and my great aunt Carrie was burned severely and in the hospital and the list goes on and on. There were also records telling about our church camp, youth mission trips, youth fellowship events and I was even on the board of a teen center that was organized through all the local churches and was open after football games. We found the books that we used for the youth choir of which we (my brother and sisters) were all members of at one time or another. And even a few photos survived the years and tell the story of our involvement in the activities of this small country church that once was the center of our lives.

Times seemed simpler back then, but I think our lives were happy because we knew what was expected of us, we had so much family around us and we lived each day the best way we knew how. We worked hard, played hard and always went to church and were always there to help our family and neighbors when needed.

Speaking of earlier times, please join us next Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010, at the Freeborn County Historical Museum, Library & Village from noon to 4 p.m. for our annual “Autumn in the Village.” We’ll have activities, music and demonstrations to interest the entire family. Come and spend the afternoon with us, have your photo taken, enjoy lunch, pie and ice cream and take a stroll through our historic village and see the many new exhibits in the museum. The cost is $5 for adults, $1 for students age 12 to 18; members and children 11 and under are free. Pay your membership now for 2011 and get the rest of 2010 as a bonus! Hope to see you next Sunday!

Kettle Korn will be available both in the village and at the entrance to the fairgrounds during Autumn in the Village.

Pat Mulso is the executive director of the Freeborn County Historical Museum in Albert Lea.