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A Civil War emblem in a Bluffton church window?

And emblems for Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Pythian Sisters and the Grand Army of the Republic

Few residents are aware that a Bluffton church features four of the most unusual emblems ever seen in a church window anywhere.

As a serious student of this community’s church windows, Bluffton Forever believes that the most intriguing, most beautiful and most ornate windows in the village exist in the First United Methodist Church.

The church building, constructed in 1915, obviously had church members belonging to secret and not-so-secret societies and fraternal organizations popular in Bluffton at the time.

Those organization’s insignias – of forgotten organizations today – stand out in three of the church’s windows.

Three windows on the church’s north side carry four such insignias. These include:

Eagle, cannons, U.S. flag and five-point star

Three links and the all-seeing eye

Shield with initials FCB

Maltese Cross and plumed helmet with crossed halberds covered by a shield bearing initials PFLE

Our theory of how these emblems got here is that members of the congregation belonged to these organizations and paid for the windows or perhaps donations were received from these bodies.

The Grand Army of the Republic emblem may have the IOOF emblem added to its window because the GAR was full of older men and the GAR Camp may not have had the money for a window by itself.

The Civil War ended one-half century before the church building was constructed. With many members of the church also GAR members, the average age of these men was easily 70 to 75.

One question about the windows may be “why no Masonic emblem?” The Bluffton Masonic Lodge, which existed in 1915, and certainly had members in the congregation.

It is possible that the Bluffton Lodge refused to support one church over others. Given that religion may not be discussed in the Masonic Lodge, the topic may have never been brought up. And, the Masonic emblem is rarely found in church decor.

As a matter of record in 1907 the largest fraternal organization in Ohio was IOOF with Knights of Pythias second and Masons third.

However, with the variety of fraternal groups represented in these windows appears to be rather rare. Without question these windows, definitely part of Forgotten Bluffton, deserve to be preserved and even celebrated, as all those bodies, once so active in Bluffton, are now gone.


The three windows

Grand Army of the Republic on top; Independent Order of Odd Fellows on bottom

Pythian Sisters

Knights of Pythias Lodge

Below - Lodges and officers from the early 1900s Bluffton News


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