Mid­dle Ohio Church re­ceives gift from lo­cal car­pen­ters

Fa­ther and son put ef­fort and heart into new doors


A cen­tury and a half af­ter their an­ces­tors worked to es­tab­lish a com­mu­nity- owned church in Mid­dle Ohio, Shel­burne County, Keith Bower and his son Nick Bower in­stalled new doors repli­cat­ing the orig­i­nals. This was a gen­er­ous gift from Bower and Son Car­pen­try to the union church, owned and main­tained by the com­mu­nity.

To say the Bow­ers have a strong con­nec­tion to Mid­dle and Up­per Ohio is an un­der­state­ment.

Gen­er­a­tions af­ter the Loy­al­ist Adam Bower ar­rived in 1783, the name Bower dom­i­nates mail­boxes up and down the Ohio Road. Keith’s fa­ther, Les­lie, was born and raised there and lived briefly, as an adult with his young fam­ily, in the old homestead over­look­ing Lake Philip. Keith’s grand­par­ents, Manus and Dora (Jones) Bower are buried in the neat ceme­tery sur­round­ing the church.

When Bower and Son Car­pen­try were asked to build new doors for the Mid­dle Ohio Union Church, Keith Bower asked if any­one had pic­tures of the church in its early days. It was learned that the small en­try­way on the front of the church had been added in later years, and Keith Bower de­cided that the new doors should re­flect the pat­tern of the in­te­rior, orig­i­nal doors.

“The work we put into them,” said Keith Bower, “they’re prob­a­bly worth be­tween $ 1,200 and $ 1,500. It’s our gift to the com­mu­nity.”

These doors are built to last. Keith and Nick built doors of two- by- eight sea­soned pine, which was do­nated by wood- work­ing hob­by­ist Larry Bower, Lower Ohio. Pan­els – rec­tan­gles in the bot­tom and goth­ic­shaped on top – are made of heavy ply­wood sim­i­lar to what the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion uses for sig­nage.

Keith re­cently in­stalled the doors care­fully, shim­ming, re­mov­ing, putting them on again, to make sure they open and close smoothly.

The doors don’t open and close of­ten these days: the church is usu­ally filled for a Christ­mas Eve ser­vice, and oc­ca­sion­ally opened for a fu­neral or wed­ding. ( Trustees wel­come any­one who wants a small, pri­vate, coun­try venue for their wed­ding.)

In re­cent years it has been opened for the Mid­dle Ohio House Tour, spon­sored by the Ohio Fire Depart­ment, at Christ­mas time.

But in the day of Keith’s great­great-grand­fa­ther Philip Bower, one of three orig­i­nal trustees in 1857, the com­mu­nity would have gath­ered weekly at least once on Sun­day and prob­a­bly Keith Bower (left) and his son, Nick Bower, Bower and Son Car­pen­try, put the fin­ish­ing touches to the new doors of the Mid­dle Ohio Union Church, Mid­dle Ohio, Shel­burne County. more of­ten. Keith re­mem­bers his fa­ther com­plain­ing about go­ing to church twice on Sun­days when he was a child, no doubt pre­fer­ring to be fish­ing or do­ing some­thing out­doors.

Epis­co­palians, ( Church of Eng­land), Pres­by­te­ri­ans and Methodists would have been the orig­i­nal church- go­ers at the union church, which wel­comed itin­er­ant clergy from any of the three de­nom­i­na­tions.

The church is reg­is­tered as a her­itage prop­erty with the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of the District of Shel­burne. It was served most re­cently by the United Church of Canada. Reg­u­lar ser­vices ceased in the late 1980s.

Keith Bower toured the ceme­tery with a cam­era af­ter in­stalling the doors, re­vis­it­ing his fam­ily his­tory in the stones en­graved with the names Bower, Har­ris, Jones, McGill and MacKay.

The land the church rests on was pur­chased from Hugh and Anne MacKay.

In the spring and sum­mer months, com­mu­nity mem­bers show up to mow, clip and main­tain the graves.

Church trustees, sup­ported by the com­mu­nity and mem­bers of the Ohio Fire Depart­ment, make sure the lit­tle church re­mains a well- main­tained land­mark and a sign of the Chris­tian faith that helped sus­tain early set­tlers in the com­mu­nity.

The doors, do­nated by the car­pen­ters to the com­mu­nity, re­flect the pat­tern and style of the orig­i­nal, in­te­rior doors of the church, built in 1857.

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