Vacant church burns to the ground in Columbiana County

Local News

Those who remember attending the church in Middleton Township as children are heartbroken

MIDDLETON TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – An old church near the East Palestine Country Club is a total loss after burning to the ground overnight. It’s a huge loss for people connected to the church.

Firefighters from multiple departments responded to the church on Carmel Achor Road just after 1 a.m. Monday. The Middleton Township fire chief said when crews got there, the old church had been overtaken by the flames.

“Unbelievable. For what? For why? Who did this? That’s what I want to know,” Mark Guy said.

Guy is the longtime caregiver of the vacant church in Middleton Township. He was emotional as he recalled what happened to the church he grew up in.

“I actually did not find out that anything had happened until 8 a.m. this morning,” Guy said. “I got to work, saw a text from my son, ‘What happened to the church?’ I replied back, ‘What do you mean?’ I made a couple phone calls and found out this is what happened.”

The church was a popular place for amateur historians and photographers. Although vacant, it served as a staple to many in the community as well.

“I used to take my little girl on our hill when she was 4 years old. We’d pack lunch and sit there, and she’d say, ‘Daddy, there’s the church.’ I’d say, ‘There it is, Birdie and it’s better than good.’ But now look what they did to it,” Tim Coakley said.

Coakley has lived in nearby Negley for years. This church was where he went as a child as well. On Monday, he looked at the remains in utter disbelief.

“I don’t even know what to say because this crushed me. This was part of my childhood. All of my life from back in the…late ’60s to this,” Coakley said.

Both men described the church and what it meant in one word — history.

“This whole nation has lost history,” Guy said. “One by one, people wiping it out. We better wake up or our history will be lost and so will we.”

“It’s like when an old person dies. How much knowledge they have and stuff, it’s gone and you’ll never find that out again,” Coakley said.

No one was hurt in the fire. Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused it.

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