The members of New Basel Church are very proud of the history and heritage of the church. Many of our people are direct descendants of those early pioneers who endured many hardships to set out from Europe, mainly Switzerland, in the late 1850’s in search of liberty for themselves and for their children in a country where they could worship God according to their own beliefs and conscience.
Three large families, the Leonard Hoffman, Stephen Rohrer and Paul Tischhauser families, took up land along Turkey Creek, so called because of the abundance of wild turkeys then to be found in the region. About ten years after the first group of settlers came to this area, many more additions were made to the settlement by new families coming to this country. The second group of families came either directly from Switzerland, or by way of Wisconsin. This group consisted of the Senn, Meier, Lentzinger, Schlegel, Sontag, Meuller, Saxer, Gantenbein, Rutz, Ryff, Rufener and Forrer families. In the early 1870’s a third group came from Switzerland and Germany. In this group were the Heldstab, Tschumper, Blumer, Rothenburger, Orth, Meuli, Barten, Kamm, Lauer and Bross families.
New Basel’s Early Years
The early settlers, who were carpenters, stone masons, tanners, bakers, millers, blacksmiths, and farmers, built their own homes and barns out of logs cut from native forest, out of native stone, or from sod taken off the land.
There was little money in the settlement at first until the pioneers began to raise cattle and hogs for meat. Until that time they depended entirely upon wild game to provide their meat supply.
One thing this community lacked was a church and a minister for worship on Sunday and the instruction of the youth for confirmation.
One of the settlers, Mrs. Paul Tischhauser, learned there was a Reformed Church in America and she wrote a letter which was forwarded to the Mission Board of the Ohio Synod. In the summer of 1867, the Mission Board sent Rev. Elias Baumann to the New Basel community to gather the settlers into a church and to preach the gospel.
The first meeting place was in a log school house on the hill 2 ½ miles northeast of the present New Basel Church. The first church building was erected in 1872-1873. It was a 24’ x 36’ frame building erected on the present church site of 2 acres of land donated by M. Jacob Meier for that purpose. The church was built by Jacob Ryff, Sr., and was financed chiefly by the missionary pastor, the Rev. Elias Baumann, but later paid back to him. The first parsonage was built in 1878-1879 with an east wing added in 1883 during the pastorate of the Rev. A. Bolliger.
A Growing Congregation
The congregation continued as a Mission congregation until 1888, when it became self-supporting and paid all of the minister’s salary and whatever other bills were incurred. The second church building, a 30’ x 50’ structure, was erected in 1905 during the pastorate of the Rev. M. Denny. The building was dedicated on October 15, 1905, with all debts paid by the time of dedication. The membership at this time was 97 communicant members, with 74 enrolled in Sunday School. Ten years later, membership had grown to 168 with 80 enrolled in Sunday School.
Due to the growth of the church, the congregation decided to build a 30’ x 34’ annex for Sunday School use and to remodel the old part of the building to better suit the needs of the congregation for worship. The work was completed and the dedication services were held on September 15, 1918. The current parsonage was constructed shortly thereafter.
By 1942 the church membership grew to 294 communicant members and had a Sunday School enrollment of 280 members.
On January 21, 1948, the congregation voted to permit the Churchmen’s Brotherhood to canvas the congregation to secure funds for the erection of a Parish Hall. On October 24, 1948, the Rev. John Niensted consecrated the site. Rev. Niensted’s efforts, along with the cooperation of the congregation, secured the necessary $19,000 and with most of the work of the actual construction being done by the men of the church, the Parish Hall was completed in 1950 and was used for everything from Sunday afternoon basketball games by the area young people to large community dinners and wedding receptions.
On November 20, 1951, a new church building fund was started. At the annual meeting in January 1954 a vote to build a new church did not pass. A long range program for the building of a new church was adopted and a building committee was appointed. At the annual meeting on January 4, 1967, the congregation voted to build a new church. On January 29, 1967, a special congregational meeting was held after the morning worship service to consider and accept a contract to build the new church facility. The new church building, now attached to the original Parish Hall, was dedicated on May 12, 1968. The Rev. A. H. Behle was pastor of the church. Church membership was listed at 306 and Sunday School membership was 268.
Today, 147 years after the first service was held, the New Basel Church stands as a symbol of the dedication and commitment our ancestors first made to provide a place where people in the community can come together for worship and fellowship.