DENMARK — Sally Sayers stands next to the stained glass window bearing the names of her late husband’s great grandparents. Many of the 19 windows depict the history of Denmark United Methodist Church in similar fashion.
The church sits as a landmark along State Route 95 in this unincorporated western Morrow County hamlet.
The structure replaced the first one built 171 years ago. A fire destroyed the original building in 1908, and a new brick one was erected that still functions today.
Between 10 and 15 attend services regularly, according to Sayers. Like so many smaller rural churches it lacks young people.
“My roots in this church go back a long ways,” Sayers said.
“I came into the family in ’59. But the Sayers go way back to the beginning. My mother-in-law played the organ and my father-in-law was superintendent for many years.”
The church has no shortage of history, according to Kevin Evans, its historian and treasurer.
“It was founded in 1849 as the Denmark Methodist Episcopal Church with the Reverend John Orr as Pastor and Jacob Aye as class leader. In the following year, 1850 the first church edifice was erected and dedicated by the presiding elder, Reverend John Quigley, assisted by the pastor, Reverend William Boggs,” Evans said.
Denmark Methodist Protestant Church existed from 1878-1937. This church was organized 1837 by Rev. Daniel Howell and meetings were held in homes until a frame building was built in 1840. In 1877 a huge revival was held and the church flourished.
A year later the brick structure was erected and dedicated at a cost of $5,000. In 1900 it began to dwindle and by 1929 preaching had discontinued. Sunday school was held until 1937 and it lapsed.
After it was abandoned, it was owned by Roscoe Sayers, who sold it to the Denmark United Methodist Church Ladies Aid Society for $600. They held meetings, suppers and quilting bees in the building.
Then there was “The Old Brick Hall” as they called it. In 1925 the Odd Fellows abandoned their hall over the village store and presented it to the society. This was then their home until 1933 when they rented it to Canaan Grange, and the Ladies Society went back to the Old Brick Hall.
In 1945, a spacious basement was added under the Denmark Church and the Women’s Society of Christian Service sold the old brick building. It has stood abandoned since that time. Many thought it was an old one-room school, but that was incorrect, Evans said.
At one time another Methodist Church rested in Queen Settlement — later known as South Canaan — in Canaan Township. A post office was established under the name Merritts (also spelled Marits) in 1833, and remained in operation until 1907.
It was apparently named after early settlers Thomas and Matthew Merritt, who settled in the vicinity, along with John Boyles, according to “The Threads of Time: A History of Morrow County.”
‘He’s from Denmark’
The origin of the name Denmark remains unknown.
“I’ve never seen the name in the cemetery or in any writings,” Evans said. “I’m just not sure.”
Some believe settlers just liked taking the names of faraway places.
Sayers doesn’t know either. But she shared a humorous story.
“I came here from Galion and when I met Del people asked me where he was from. When I said he’s from Denmark, they said, ‘How did you meet him from all the way over there?’ It was the first big joke we had,” she recalled.
Delbert W. “Del” Sayers passed away in 2016. He served his country in the U.S. Army and later worked as an aircraft mechanic.
They had been married for 56 years. Sally, 81, still attends the church.
The first road in the township was blazed by those mentioned above and Zenas Leonard. It cut a trail to the southeast corner of the township. It followed the Indians’ waterway, Owl Creek. But it was swampy and rutted and nearly impassable.
Boyles responded to the need to grind corn and wheat as farms sprung up in the area. He built a mill, running it by horsepower, and churning out 12 to 15 bushels of grain a day.
In addition to the post office, Denmark once had a country store. Soybeans and corn are still grown in local farmland, and some cattle is raised, much as it has for more than a century and a half.
Denmark’s population was listed at about 150 residents when at its peak.
Today a large shop sits at the corner of the road, just east of Denmark. Marsell’s Vintage & Antiques Resale Shop re-opened May 12 after being closed due to the coronavirus.
“We have been here about eight years, and in August it’ll be five years in this building,” co-owner Lisa Marsell said. They began operations in a smaller building behind the current location.
She and her husband Jim moved to Morrow County from Mount Vernon after she retired from 30 years at Kroger. She said they bought the property at a sheriff’s sale.
“I was in other shops. I guess my hobby became a business,” she said.
“I didn’t want an antique shop. We have more of home decor, vintage stuff, candles … a little bit of everything.”
They sell collectibles such as Hot Wheels, and a variety of farm and rustic antiques.
Lisa said the couple enjoys the rural lifestyle.
“I love it. People here are great and we love Morrow County.”
The store attracts both locals and travelers, she said.
“On weekends we get a lot of people out of Marion headed toward Knox County. But we have quite a few local people who come here also.”
Perhaps that travel pattern mirrors that of the early years when horse-drawn wagons preceded SUVs on that popular route.
This is the 16th in a series on rural communities, past and present, in Morrow County.