Pictured is the Greenbrier United Brethern in Christ Church. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Pictured is the Greenbrier United Brethern in Christ Church. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

GLENMORE – There’s nowhere in Van Wert County where the close relationship of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the ending of the Civil War was impacted more greatly than at the Greenbrier United Brethren in Christ Church, located just south of the village of Glenmore.

In a letter found that had been written by J.J. McLaughlin, there was a description of the Easter Sunday of April 16, 1865. The intentions for that Sunday had been the organization of the church’s first Sunday School. However, the arrival of Elias Dull changed the mood from that of celebration to that of mourning.

The account of that morning states that Dull arrived slightly late for the service, rather uncharacteristic of his prompt personality. The solemn look on his face told congregation members that he was extremely troubled about something.

Trembling with emotion, Dull slowly walked to the front of the church and announced that he had been in Van Wert the Day before.

“At 10:00 on Friday night President Abraham Lincoln had been shot and died early Saturday morning,” stated Dull as recorded in the letter.

The mood of the church became that of complete quietness.

“Like a funeral pall everything became as still as death itself,” noted the description.

At first there was discussion whether or not to close and dismiss the service. Eventually, Joe Heller stood and announced the service should go on. At that, he walked to the front of the church and began leading the congregation in hymn singing. No one realized that within minutes, the entire mood was about to change.

The letter states that the congregation had barely begun to sing when someone noticed the figures of four men walking down the road from Glenmore towards the church. They were clad in blue uniforms, knapsacks on their backs and carrying their guns.

Suddenly congregational member Steve Roberts startled the congregation by crying out, “It’s Pap and John Andrews.”

The other two soldiers were soon recognized as Joe Yoder and Lewis Dickerson. With the Civil War on the brink of being over, these local soldiers had been honorably discharged. They had arrived in Van Wert and decided to walk the 10 miles from Van Wert and surprise their congregation at the Sunday morning service.

The mood of the congregation had changed immediately from one of solemnness to that of celebration. The Sunday School was officially organized the next Sunday and the Easter of 1865 was recorded as one of the most momentous in church history.

Ironically, the dates of those happenings completely repeated themselves last year (2017) when once again Good Friday fell on April 14 and Easter was celebrated on April 16, 152 years to the date of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

These days, harsh fall winds sing around the remains of the church and blow over the cemetery where many of the remains of those who were present for that emotionally-charged service had occurred.