In the early 1900s Ramona had six churches: River Brethren, Dunkard, Methodist-Presbyterian, Holiness Mission, St. Paul Lutheran, and Trinity Lutheran.
In 2012, there is only one church remaining, and that is Trinity Lutheran Church, located on 4th and E in Ramona.
Many of Ramona’s earliest settlers, in south Dickinson county in 1879, were members of the River Brethren Church, now known as the Brethren in Christ Church, or the Rosebank Church. The River Brethren church had their church services in schoolhouses—Rosebank being one of them. They organized a congregation the same year that Ramona was founded, 1887.
Before long the schoolhouses couldn’t hold all the new members, so a building committee was formed with Abe Mellinger, Annie Brechbill, Anna Mellinger and Annie Epler who began collecting funds. When they had $200 in hand they commenced building in October 1890 and finished in four months. The reason for the swift completion of the church was due to crop failures—farmers had time on their hands and they gave their energy to the church. The new church was called Rosebank, after the school, and also because there was a bank of wild roses growing near the church site.
On April 4, 2006, church members voted to officially close the church; the building sat empty for five years, until Thane “Jay” Plank, youngest son of Rev. Cecil Plank—one of the early ministers of the church—decided to buy the building in 2011, restoring and maintaining it.
When I’d come visit (I lived in Nevada at the time), I’d talk to friends about the church building. ‘You should buy it, tear it down and use the wood to build a house,’ some said. But I don’t like to see buildings that are over 100 years old come down. I like keeping the building there; in my heart I know that it will be used for something good. It’s a landmark in the community and I’m dedicated to keeping it nice.
Thane “Jay” Plank: (2012)
Brother J.B. Shirk did all the preaching in the Ramona area and was one of the first to settle here, coming from Illinois. The Strickler family from Virginia was the second to arrive. Services were held at the Shirk schoolhouse—a country school that was later known as Highland School.
Charter members when the church organized in October 1890 were: J.B. Shirk family, J.D. Meyers, E.E. Shaver, Lydia Liddel and Harvey Shirk, J.P. and May Strickler, Orville Button family. These members had migrated from Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
In 1903 the congregation bought a schoolhouse, moved it into Ramona and remodeled it for their church. According to lifelong resident, Hank Schubert, this Dunkard Church would have rested somewhere on the southeast side of “B” street in Ramona.
The population of Ramona in the early 1900s exceeded 350, and because there were six churches in the community, the congregations decided to consolidate some of their programs. The Brethren and the Methodist-Presbyterians had a “united young people’s program” called the Christian Endeavor, and on Sunday evenings they rotated from church to church.
In the 1920s the Dunkard Church membership began to dwindle as folks migrated to different communities. By 1930 there were only 3 principal members remaining and so the church closed, the building sold and removed from town.
There’s little history of this church, but according to the Ramona Centennial book, the church was originally a Methodist Episcopal but a number of the members were Presbyterians so they revised the name. While the congregation was very active there was never a resident pastor. When membership declined they finally closed the church and tore it down. Because the church could hold large crowds it was used for the Ramona High School Commencement and Baccalaureate services until the Ramona High School auditorium was built.
Rev. Ira A. Eisenhower, uncle to President Dwight Eisenhower, assisted in organizing the Holiness Mission Church—probably around 1914. The charter members were: Ira Eisenhower, Linn Brandt family, Mr. & Mrs. Simon Brechbill, Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Haldeman, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Miller, Mr. & Mrs. Ben Sollenberger, and the Rev. Ben Steckley family. The congregation built a church on the southeast corner of 4th and B.
When we bought Jake Brunner’s house in 2001, only the steps to that church remained, and Jake Brunner was often seen sitting on those steps watching the world go by. My dad, Laurel Ehrhardt, told us a story about when he was a kid, and he and some friends peeked in the windows of the Holiness Mission Church, which would be considered ‘charismatic’ by today’s standards, and the minister invited them in. This scared the inquisitive kids so much that they went running in all directions.
Pat Wick, owner of the property where the church stood (Ramona News, 2004)
When members of the Holiness Mission diminished, the building was moved to Herington and used by the Nazarenes. The remaining Ramona members joined that Herington congregation. Some of the names associated with the Holiness Mission Church were: the Archie Greer family, Adam Middleton family, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Davidson and Mr. & Mrs. Joel Cunnington.
On October 16, 1904 the congregations of St. Paul Lutheran at Lyons Creek (the “mother church” to Ramona’s newest congregation), and North Tampa met with Rev. Hans von Gemmingen to organize Ramona’s new Lutheran church, located northeast of town.
Ernest Domann, a member of the organizing group, donated a plot of land for the church and another for a cemetery. Many of the founders had these last names: Brunner, Bernhardt, Helbach, Deines, Weber, Schubert and Domann. Because the founders were immigrants from Germany, Poland, Austria and Russia, the services were in German. This tradition continued until about 1927.
C.O. Danitschek was the first ordained pastor for the congregation. Rev. Danitschek served as an intern for one year in 1904 and as a called pastor from 1907-1934 and again in 1940-1945. Other pastors were: Reverends Dirks, Pflueger, Mall, Heine, Long and Graf.
When the 24’x34’church was built, the builder recommended they install windows with lots of window panes, “since they’d cost less to replace if one were broken.” They also put wainscoting in the kitchen and dining room “as it would be less apt to be damaged by the children.”
There was a hitching post across the full length of the church property to accommodate all the horse and buggies. Men sat on the east side of the chapel and women on the west. If someone sat on the wrong side, it was certain they were visitors.
The adjoining cemetery organized graves by date of death, with space left for the spouse. Children were buried in the first row and adults in the second. The graves were dug by a family member and closed by the pallbearers.
Twelve years after St. Paul Lutheran Church was founded, the congregation experienced an uncomfortable “growing pain.” Church historians say it began when a seminary professor wrote a statement on “Faith and Works.” The “discussion” eventually led to a division within the congregation and families and friends had to decide whether they would remain at St. Paul or join a new congregation—Trinity Lutheran Church in Ramona.
St. Paul Lutheran Church served the community for 82 years. The last service was held December 14, 1986. The church steeple is the only remnant of the church and it is the focal point of the St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery, which continues to be the final resting place for loved ones connected with the church.
Trinity Lutheran Church, on the corner of 4th and E, was organized in 1916 and is the only church within Ramona’s city limits. While the new church was being built, this new group met in the Ramona School. Both the new building and the new pastor, Rev. Rohlfing were dedicated and installed in June, 1916.
These families were listed on the membership roll at the time of the church dedication: G.H. Brunner, Peter Sader, Fred Schneider, Herman Hoeppner, William Sader, Reinhardt Feil, Phillip Sader, Carl Hamm, David Dorsch, H.A. Bernhardt, Andrew Bernhardt, Henry Brunner, William Heoppner, John Lorei, Henry Schneider, Sr., G.H. Riffel, Henry Ladner, Henry Bernhardt, Jr., Alex Berger and Alex Hanschu.
The church also acquired a parsonage the same year as the church was built. That parsonage, on the northwest corner of 4th and D, is today a bed and breakfast called Cousin’s Corner, and owned by the California Sisters.
The first baptism recorded is Sophie Sader; the first marriage was J.H. Riffel and Olga Hamm, and the first burial was their infant child.
The Trinity Lutheran Church has served the Ramona community over 100 years. Rev. Clark Davis currently serves as the pastor for Trinity Lutheran (as of 2012), as well as another church in Tampa. Other ministers have included Rev. Geiswinkler, Emil Bickel, Rev. Rohlfing, Rev. Guenther, Martin Mappes, Richard Rolf, and Robert Baerwolf.