Close call for a church in Van Buren

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.




When the First United Methodist Church at Van Buren observed the 100th year of its existence this past summer (in 1969), a history of the church was prepared. Included in the historical account was mention of a near-disaster that was recalled, happening on the day of the dedication of the church building when it was completed in 1905.

The church is located on the town’s Main Street and at the time of the 1905 dedication, the tracks of the old Toledo, Bowling Green and Southern Traction Co. ran directly in front of the church along the main thoroughfare.

While the dedicatory services were in progress and the new church crowded with people, a driver of a nitroglycerine wagon who evidently had had too much to drink drove his vehicle onto the tracks not far from the front of the church, in the path of an oncoming streetcar. The motorman when he saw the vehicle on the tracks ahead of him brought the streetcar to a stop, narrowly averting a collision. People on the street who saw what was happening ran for safety, fearing the worst.

Nitroglycerine wagons hauled the fluid to oil wells for well shooting purposes and old-timers recall accidents and explosions involving them that usually took a big toll of life. Had streetcar and wagon collided, with the crowded church so near, the human toll might have been big. The church historical account attributes the church disaster escape to “divine protection.”


Journey to California

The picture page which appeared in the Republican-Courier a few months ago (1969) describing the coming to Hancock County in early days of many individuals from Fairfield County, of which Lancaster is the county seat, proved of interest to people now living in the mid-Ohio county and drew some correspondence from there.

We had a letter from a member of the faculty of the Ohio University branch at Lancaster the other day in which he said the page held a very special interest in Lancaster. He referred especially to Solomon Ghaster, for many years a prominent farmer of Union Township in western Hancock County, who was a native of Fairfield County. Mr. Ghaster, he said, was a member of a party of Fairfield County men who drove 100 head of horses from Ohio to California in 1852.

Mr. Ghaster came to Hancock County in 1848 from Fairfield County. The trip of Mr. Ghaster to California in 1852 is spoken of in the R.C. Brown history of Hancock County, in a review of the life of Mr. Ghaster. But there is no reference to the reason for the trip, a detail that is supplied by our Lancaster correspondent. The Brown history says Mr. Ghaster returned in 1855 from the west.

He was referred to by the Brown history as a “very hardy man.” “For example,” says the historical account, “he and Daniel Powell, when young men, were employed in running a sawmill in Fairfield County and at one time, when business was crowding, they worked five days and one-half nights without sleep.”

He married Miss Mary Fox and they had eight children.


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