Madison Twp. ‘Little White Church’ celebrating its bicentennial

Pleasant Ridge United Methodist Church, better known as the “Little White Church at the top of West Middletown Hill,” was founded in 1822 and will celebrate its bicentennial this fall. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Pleasant Ridge United Methodist Church, better known as the “Little White Church at the top of West Middletown Hill,” was founded in 1822 and will celebrate its bicentennial this fall. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Pleasant Ridge United Methodist Church, better known as the “Little White Church at the top of West Middletown Hill,” is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year and will host a special service this fall.

The Rev. Jacob Kemp purchased a section of land in Madison Twp. around 1811, and by 1822, United Brethren in Christ Church was founded, according to church records.

In 1849, an acre of land was purchased at the top of the West Middletown hill for $48.60 and Pleasant Ridge Church was formed. The church was dedicated on a Saturday in 1850 and the following day, two sermons were preached and the offerings paid in full the cost of the building and land, records show.

The church remains there today, though there have been some name changes and modifications, said Paul Reich, a member for 50 years. Probably the most historic, he said, the front two doors — one designated for men, one for women — have been covered by bricks.

Reich said there are 80 to 100 members and an average Sunday service includes a congregation of about 30 longtime members.

“It’s a rural, friendly, small, close-knit congregation,” Reich said when asked to describe why he has remained for five decades.

While Reich has been a member since the early 1970s, he’s only been there for 25% of the years the church has been open.

“There have been a lot of people who have kept these doors open,” said Reich, who retired as an engineer after 33 years at Armco.

Because of its small size, the congregation can’t afford to support a full-time pastor, Reich said.

The church hired Pastor Jack Marsh about 11 years. Marsh, who ran a jail ministry in Hamilton County for 30 years, also serves two days a week as chaplain of Otterbein Senior Life in Lebanon.

Marsh was asked about serving at a 200-year-old church.

“They have done what it takes to be around for a long time,” he said.

Jack and Marcia Marsh have a daughter, Jennifer, 43, who has autism. The family has served many churches, but Pleasant Ridge holds a special place in their hearts, he said.

“Nobody is warmer, more welcoming than these folks,” he said. As a parent of a child with special needs, “nothing is worth more than that.”

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