TROUT RUN - In the spring of 1805, 11 families walked from Philadelphia before settling into what now is known as Blooming Grove. By 1828, the families erected a meeting house that still stands today.
The Blooming Grove Historical Society has been working with contractor Michael Shreck to update the Dunkard Meeting House, but still keep it looking like it did almost 200 years ago, said the Rev. Larry K. Waltz, president of the historical society.
"We wanted to make it as authentic as possible," he said.
To do so, the historical society wanted to keep as much of the original materials as possible. That which could not be saved was replaced with similar materials.
About 60 percent of the glass was saved, but a contractor is working to keep the other 40 percent looking the same as the original by using the same tools. The original glass is not perfectly smooth; it has grooves that blurs the scenery outside.
The window framing and shutters are a pre-Victorian design, with recycled wood coming from Trout Run. Nine shutters will be replaced so all of the windows can be opened.
The wood for the building came from hand-hewn virgin pine logs.
The original bench seating remains, where the women sat on the right and the men on the left.
The Dunkards were German immigrants who believed in the reformed theological perspectives of the Continental Reformation.
"They called it a meeting house because they felt like that the word 'church' ought to be reserved for people," Waltz said. "A meeting house is a place."
During the 19th century, they helped found churches of various faiths and they are credited with founding the North American Baptist Conference, or the German Baptist, in the 1840s.
Rather than the high pulpits normally now seen in churches, the Dunkards used a desk for a pulpit.
"Nothing fancy," Waltz said. "He sat at a chair so he was not elevated (from everyone else)."
Pastors were picked from the men in the group. On average, 120 people squeezed onto the benches in the room for services.
The last formal worship service was held in the building in 1890.
"The next generation wanted to speak English," Waltz said.
For the 200th anniversary of the Dunkards' arrival, a worship service was held in 2005.
The meeting house was so filled with people that the doors were opened to allow even more people to attend.
"It was the first time I took offering through the window," he said.
At 2 p.m. June 3, the public is invited to a spring meeting with a devotional period and songs from the 19th century.
Those involved with reconstruction will be interviewed to provide attendees with appreciation of the skills and craftsmanship of the Dunkards, Waltz said.
Pre-Victorian and earlier hymns will be sung a capella, similar to the way the Dunkards sang in the meeting house.
Having a place to see some of what the Dunkards did for the area matters, Waltz said.
"Two-hundred and seven years ago, the Dunkards arrived," he said. "I think they're still making a contribution."
The original museum was built in the early 1930s from area fieldstone. Additions were added in 1991 and 2005 to display the growing collection.
"Generations beyond us will be able to enjoy Dunkard heritage," Waltz said.
A vast majority of the items in the museum were given by descendants and people whose heritage have been in Hepburn Township.
About half of the money that has been donated to the society comes from people beyond Lycoming County.
"It falls to this generation to preserve the meeting house for the next 100 years," he said. "We worked hard to raise the money. Gifts have been given to the society from all over the United States."