About three years ago Al Holden at Glass Garden in Truesdale restored the windows at Smith Creek United Methodist Church.
Now he’s restoring the windows at the historic St. John’s United Church of Christ, about 3 miles away.
By trial and error Holden discovered how to recreate a process and pattern to match an etched glass design that was made in Germany during the latter decades of the 1800s. It is intricately designed and delicate work.
While he won’t share what the process is, he is sharing his skills to restore historic windows.
It’s no coincidence the two churches, both in the Smith Creek valley, have the same windows.
Smith Creek Church was built in 1888. St. John’s was built in 1892. The windows were imported from Germany. The windows exact path, how they were packed and transported safety, and whether they arrived alone or with new (or earlier) Warren County settlers is unknown.
If restoration is happening around the state, Holden is determined to do his part to help historic churches save and restore their old glass.
“I want these churches to survive,” Holden said.
Roxie Schroeder wrote the books on these churches. “A History of One Hundred Fifty Years at Smith Creek,” came out in 1994. “A History of St. John’s United Church of Christ, Pinckney, Missouri,” came out in 1999.
Schroeder said Smith Creek and St. John’s are ‘sister’ churches.
“Though they are of two different denominations, they share the same community. Both were founded by early German settlers along the Missouri River, and both have a fascinating history,” she said. “Both buildings are very well maintained and a great asset to the community.”
Today, Smith Creek Church has regular church services. St. John’s Church doesn’t have a pastor or services. It’s used a few times a year for special events.
Schroeder points out in her book about the Smith Creek Church: Etched glass imported from Cologne, Germany, was selected for the windows and supplied by John Rudolph Brockfeld of Truesdale.
It is believed that German people selected etched glass over stained glass in churches deliberately. It allowed light to flow and kept worshippers focused on the message instead of outside distractions.
During the last 150 years, the window panes have cracked, causing damage to the windows. For a long time the decorated glass was irreplaceable.
“Previously, when panes were broken, they were merely replaced by clear glass panes since there was no source for the patterned panes,” Schroeder said.
Harold Bakameyer, a church volunteer, is removing the old windows and carefully reinstalling Holden’s recreated windows.
Schroeder’s books are available for review and purchase at the Warren County Historical Museum Reference Library, 102 West Walton, Warrenton.