Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Village of Riceville

Work as a freelance journalist is interesting to say the least. This is the first one I'll post, although I've been doing this for twenty some years now. In the future, I'll post more. This one appeared in the Crawford County Neighbors section of the Erie Times News on Friday, August 15th, 2008. I usually have a story or two every week.
Riceville, in Crawford County, is a small place, blink and you miss it. In many ways, it's rural America and the challenges faced by small communities and their organizations. While some folks make billions, there's another world out there.

Winter heating bills are a looming burden for everyone, including church congregations. At the Riceville Methodist Church, it means selling a lot of baked goods, submarine sandwiches, crosses and fabric notepads to help meeting the cost of heating oil.
Smaller organizations, like the church, are facing some financial hurdles this winter.
“This is just so important for us because we are such a small congregation,”Our next sale will be this Saturday, August 16th at the park in front of the Frog Pond Restaurant in Canadohta Lake,” Barb Weisser, a member of the church and one of the organizers, said. “Our next sale will be this Saturday, August 16th at the park in front of the Frog Pond Restaurant in Canadohta Lake. We have had several throughout the summer to help raise the money to keep the church heated.”
The sale begins at 9 a.m. and should end around noon. The fund raiser will include a wide variety of homemade breads, cookies, pies and other food items. The Sunday School youth are making and decorating crosses which will also be for sale, the proceeds going into the heating fund; and the new leader of the congregation , Pastor Ray Speakmen will have homemade fabric notepads for sale.
“The fabric notepads are really unique and he learned the art from his aunt,” Weisser said. “Fifty percent of the proceeds from the notepads go towards the heating fund while the remainder is for a missionary project in China.”
Pastor Speakmen plans on being with members of the congregation at the park on Saturday.
“The fabric notebooks are just a neat little hobby and a lot of people like them,” he said. “I just arrived here on July 1st so I am not sure about how much fuel we use in the winter but I know it is a lot. We are just trying to be creative in raising money and attract new families. But since I have been here, I can tell you that there will be some excellent and really good baked goods along with the crafts.”
The Riceville Church, which currently has about 15 to 20 families, is a historic building located on Route 77. Riceville is a small community in Bloomfield Township close to Canadohta Lake.
According to the 2002 census, Riceville had a population of 82 residents. Currently, the Riceville Church is connected to the Methodist Church in Centerville.
Riceville was incorporated as a Borough 1859 and was named after Samuel Rice, the first pioneer who settled in the region in 1831 and erected a saw mill on Oil Creek.
The Riceville Methodist Church was first organized in 1849 and worship services were held in various locations including the one room school. Finally, in 1874, the church was erected for a cost of $4,500.
“There is so much history here.” Weisser said. “Most of our furnishing have all been donated over the years, many of them as memorials. Even the bell in the steeple was donated by the Congregational Church in 1931.”
The village once boasted a population of 314 people in the 1880 census and the community has several woodmaking shops, three general stores, two physicians, a hotel, and the Union and Titusville Railroad use to chug through the community on a daily basis.
Today, neither the church nor the village is quite such a bustling place but winter remains as cold and as costly as before.
“It can be an icebox here in Riceville during the winter,” Weisser said. “We keep the the oil furnace turned down low during the week, just enough to keep the water pipes from freezing. But we push the temperature up for Sunday services. It is just so expensive.”