Old Rugged Cross Church receives new bell tower

Published 12:26 am Thursday, September 6, 2007

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
POKAGON – The sound of the bell ringing brought tears of joy to many eyes Wednesday morning at the site of the Old Rugged Cross Church.
A project that began three months ago was complete, as a replica of the bell tower was placed on its new home at the top of the church.
A crane from Hasse's Crane Service of Benton Harbor lifted the bell tower, which features the original bell from the church, at approximately 11:15 a.m., and many church members and volunteers gathered to watch a site that will never be forgotten.
President of the Old Rugged Cross Foundation Bob Shaffer said this project wouldn't have been possible if not for the countless amount of hours spent by volunteers.
"Many, many of donations, hard work, dedication…we have put in a lot for this to happen," Shaffer said.
He couldn't go on without thanking the hard work of Dale Layman, general contract project manager, and all others who made this possible.
"And we're not stopping here,' Shaffer said. "We're moving on to another phase which will be putting up white siding all along the east end. After that we'd like to add a footer around the perimeter of the building and take off all the window shutters and put Lexan on the windows, which will allow natural sun light to come through the church. And by next summer, we want to get the floor in the sanctuary finished."
The church has received more than $418,000 in donations since efforts to restore the church to its 1913 appearance began nine years ago. A substantial portion of that money was used to replace the church's crumbling foundation. Workers also replaced deteriorated sill beams, braced the structure in preparation for other work and completed other major repairs and restoration efforts, according to Layman.
The entire restoration, including duplication of the original wallpaper, pews and windows, will require nearly $2 million.
Work on the bell tower began at 9 a.m. and continued throughout the day as all aspects of the tower, including installation and associated work on the church roof, had to be complete.
The 6 feet by 6 feet bell tower was placed on the church's roof through the same openings as the original bell tower. The exterior bell tower is being supported by a new 22-foot substructure based in the church's attic above the sanctuary ceiling. It is estimated that the new bell tower weighs between four and five tons.
The bell's original wooden rope wheel is also part of the exterior assembly. The bell, weighing several hundred pounds, is 22 inches tall and 28 inches in diameter. The exterior of the bell tower is constructed of white oak.
While the bell tower completion was a relief, workers know they still have a lot of work ahead of them.
The inside of the church was visible and featured a number of support beams, a missing floor, walls that had faded and stained over time and a ceiling that will need to be replaced.
"That's just a little bit of what still needs to be done, but we are taking everything one step at a time and we will get there," Shaffer added.
This Saturday and Sunday, The Old Rugged Cross anniversary celebration will be held and will feature the talents of The Garretts, a country gospel performing duo from Canada, and the Rev. Michael Smith, senior pastor of Hope Community Church in Niles.
The Garretts will perform at Saturday's praise service, which will begin at 7 p.m. The service will be conducted in The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden, at the corner of Kansas and East streets in Pokagon.
If the weather is not conducive to an outdoor service, it will be held in the adjacent Pokagon United Methodist Church (PUMC).
There is no admission charge for the celebration events, which commemorate the 1913 public debut of the newly-completed hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross," in the former Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon.
The church is now known as The Original Old Rugged Cross Church.
The public is invited to attend.
Information about the anniversary celebration and the Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is available by writing to the Old Rugged Cross Foundation at P.O. Box 41, Niles, MI 49120. The foundation's e-mail address is orcf@aol.com., or call (269) 683-4540. The Internet address is www.the-oldruggedcross.org.