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January 1, 2014
Contact: Molly Shaffer 269-683-4540

POKAGON, Mich., Jan. 1, 2014 - The Old Rugged Cross Foundation, Inc. (ORCF) has just kicked off a capitol fund-raising campaign to raise $55,600 for the new roof for The Old Rugged Cross Church and Museum, located between Niles and Dowagiac in the little village of Pokagon, Mich.

The building currently has part of its original 1862 cedar shingle roof, most of the small corrugated metal panels that were added in the 1930's, during the building's second barn era, and a steel roof that was added in 1999, after the building was purchased for the purpose of restoration. The three roofs must now be removed, rotting sheathing boards and rafters replaced, and a new, fire retardant cedar shingle roof installed.

Although there is still much to be done to complete the restoration, this is the single most expensive phase remaining to be done to restore the building to its earlier church era appearance. The ORC Foundation is seeking donations to fund installation of a historically accurate, permanent cedar shingle roof on the main structure. Cedar shingles have already been installed on the vestibule and bell tower.

Because of the high cost of this phase, the roof may have to be installed one section at a time, as funding becomes available. ORCF President Robert Shaffer says, “We hate to ask our faithful supporters to once again reach down into their pockets and help us out, but that's exactly how the building has come this far, and it's the only way to get the job finished.” Shaffer's wife Molly stated, “I believe that God will provide the people He wants to help. We just have to make the needs known to the public.”

The work is scheduled to begin in May, if enough money is raised to install at least the museum portion of the roof. The rest of the roof will be installed as soon as the balance of the funds are raised.

The church is where Rev. George Bennard first introduced the final version of his most famous hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross” in January of 1913. The building was built in 1862 as a hops barn, turned into a church in 1876, and back into a barn in 1916. The Old Rugged Cross Foundation, Inc. has been working since 1998 to raise funds to restore the building to its previous church era appearance. Although most people considered the building to be beyond saving, the restoration is currently about 80% complete.

The restoration is being completed as a result of the public's support and donations. The building is not affiliated with any one denomination, as people of all backgrounds have come together to make the restoration possible. There are no plans for the church to offer weekly services. The sanctuary is available, however, to any Christian denomination wanting to hold a special service there. The building serves as a museum, preserving the history of the hymn, its composer, and the community of Pokagon. Many items have already been donated and are being displayed as display cases become available.

If you would like to make a donation toward the roof, it should be sent to ORCF, PO Box 41, Niles, MI 49120. To arrange for a tour, you may call the ORCF office at 269-683-4540, or email them at ORCF@aol.com. Additional information is available on their website at www.the-oldruggedcross.org.


April 3, 2013
Snyder Announces 2013 Awards for Historic Preservation
May 1 Ceremony Set for Capitol Rotunda

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder today announced the selection of the 2013 Governor's Awards for Historic Preservation.

The State Historic Preservation Office, part of MSHDA, initiated the award program in 2003 to recognize outstanding historic preservation achievements reflecting a commitment to the preservation of Michigan's unique character and the many cultural resources that document Michigan's past.

“The projects we recognize demonstrate the difference historic preservation makes in our communities,” Snyder said. “The rehabilitation and reuse of existing buildings, particularly in our cities, is vital to spurring economic development and preserving a sense of place.”

Previous recipient projects include private residences whose owners used state historic preservation tax credits, the rehabilitation of the Ottawa Street Power Station in Lansing; the excavation and study of the Riley Mammoth Site in Ionia County by the University of Michigan; the rehabilitation of De Tour Reef Lighthouse; the rehabilitation of the Richter Brewery in Escanaba, and window rehabilitation workshops taught by the Michigan Historic Preservation Network.

“Preserving our historic and archaeological sites takes hard work and collaboration,” MSHDA Executive Director Scott Woosley said. “Each of the six teams of people being recognized this year demonstrated outstanding commitment to doing everything right and to working together to make good things happen.”

Two of the six projects, the Tibbits Opera House and the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon (Old Rugged Cross Church) represent years of effort by local citizens to raise money and volunteers to restore significant buildings in their communities.

The 2013 recipients are:

  • Ferris State University and its Kendall College of Art and Design, Christman Capital Development Company, the Christman Company, TowerPinkster Architects, Hopkins Burns Design Studio, and the City of Grand Rapids for the rehabilitation of the US Federal Building (Kendall College of Art and Design), Grand Rapids
  • The Old Rugged Cross Foundation, Inc., D. Layman Construction Company, and the Community of Pokagon Township, for the restoration of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon (Old Rugged Cross Church), Pokagon Township, Cass County
  • Tibbits Opera Foundation and Arts Council, Inc., Tom Roberts, Owen-Ames-Kimball Co., Grand River Builders, Inc., and the Greater Coldwater Community for the restoration of the Tibbits Opera House, Coldwater
  • Glenn D. and Jeanine Head Miller for the rehabilitation of the Milton and Kittie Geer House, Superior Township, Washtenaw County
  • Neighborhood Service Organization; Fusco, Shaffer and Pappas; O'Brien Edwards Construction; and Kidorf Preservation Consulting for the rehabilitation of the Michigan Bell and Western Electric Warehouse (NSO Bell Building), Detroit
  • The Detroit Land Bank Authority for demonstrating a true understanding the value of historic preservation through the NSP2 rehabilitations it completed in Detroit historic districts
  • “Each year the Governor's Award program gives us an opportunity to recognize and thank just some of the people responsible for preserving Michigan's rich cultural heritage,” said State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway. “The projects we recognize are merely a fraction of the work being done throughout Michigan to preserve historic buildings and archaeological sites, and transform communities.”

    Recipients will receive their awards during a public ceremony at 9 a.m. May 1 in the Michigan State Capitol Rotunda.

    To learn about previous Governor's Award projects, go to: www.michigan.gov/shpo.

    The State Historic Preservation Office is part of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) , which provides financial and technical assistance through public and private partnerships to create and preserve decent, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents and to engage in community economic development activities to revitalize urban and rural communities.*

    *MSHDA's loans and operating expenses are financed through the sale of tax-exempt and taxable bonds as well as notes to private investors, not from state tax revenues. Proceeds are loaned at below-market interest rates to developers of rental housing, and help fund mortgages and home improvement loans. MSHDA also administers several federal housing programs. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/mshda.

    The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is financed in part by a grant from the National Park Service, Department of Interior. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of the Interior. The Department of the Interior prohibits discrimination on its federally funded assistance programs. If you believe you've been discriminated against please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity, National Park Service, 1849 C. St. NW, Washington DC 20240.


    April 23, 2009

    Mich., April 23, 2009 – The Old Rugged Cross Foundation’s (ORCF) popular "Community Hymn Sings", previously conducted at Michiana churches, are coming home to The Original Old Rugged Cross Church.

    "Although the church restoration is far from complete, we have progressed enough to open the doors for Hymn Sings in the historic building where the hymn was sung publicly in its entirety for the first time," said Molly Shaffer, ORCF treasurer.

    "Dwayne and Saran Brock of Niles (Mich.) donated their beautiful antique upright piano to the historic church, and Sharon McKnight, of Niles, has volunteered as pianist for the Hymn Sings," Shaffer said. "Their generosity and the new sanctuary sub-floor allow us to conduct these events in the old church."

    Each Hymn Sing is an opportunity to gather with others to sing some of the favorite "old" hymns that many people grew up with in the 1900s, she added. "It’s also an opportunity for the public to see the progress on restoring the church – many area residents have helped financially support the restoration.

    "Our Hymn Sings meet a need for many Christians, who have confided that they miss singing the traditional hymns in their churches and are concerned that the older hymns are being lost.

    "Even if you don’t find your favorite hymn on the list planned for the evening, we’ll ask audience members to suggest their favorites," Shaffer added. "Come prepared to sing, and make a joyful noise unto the Lord! This is a ‘fun’ event for the whole family. There is no charge to attend."

    Hymn Sings will be at 6:00 p.m. on the following Sundays (first Sunday of the month):
    May 3
    June 7
    July 5
    August 2
    September 6
    October 4

    The Original Old Rugged Cross Church does not yet have a heating/air conditioning system. Shaffer urges attendees to dress comfortably for the weather, and if possible, bring your own chair. A free will offering at each Hymn Sing will support church restoration.

    Old Rugged Cross gift items, including the 2009 wall calendar, will be available at the Hymn Sings.

    The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is in Pokagon, one block south of Pokagon Highway, just east of Highway M-51 (half way between Niles and Dowagiac). The site includes the half-acre Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden.

    The Original Old Rugged Cross Church is a Registered Michigan Historic Site. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of historic significance. It is where (then the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon) the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross," was performed publicly in its entirety for the first time, in 1913.

    For more information, contact the ORCF at 269-683-4540, or PO Box 41, Niles, MI 49120. E-mail: orcf@aol.com. Web site: www.the-oldruggedcross.org.


    January 22, 2007

    NILES, Mich., Jan. 22, 2007 – The Old Rugged Cross Foundation (ORCF) will not receive a grant in 2007 from the federally-funded Save America's Treasures (SAT) grant program. Only one Michigan grant applicant, Henry Ford’s home (Fair Lane) in Dearborn, was among 42 projects recently approved to receive a total of $7.5 million in 2007 SAT grants.

    SAT grants support preservation and/or conservation work on nationally significant intellectual and cultural artifacts. They also assist nationally significant historic structures and sites such as The Original Old Rugged Cross Church in Pokagon, Mich.

    "We hoped that our $300,000 SAT grant application would be approved, so this is a disappointment. However, we still plan to move forward with restoration work on the historic church in the spring," said Dr. Melchizedek Ponniah, chairman of the ORCF Board of Directors. "We can do several activities now, while we work toward securing enough funding to complete the restoration."

    Dr. Ponniah said the ORCF plans to do approximately $50,000-worth of work on the historic building in the spring of 2007. The group plans to replace the church's long-missing bell tower, improve visitor access, and install new siding on one exterior wall. These investments will not be "lost" during later restoration activities.

    "The SAT grant process is highly competitive. The amount of funding available for grants this time around was much less than in the past," he said. "We are taking a look at whether and when to apply again.

    "For our 2006 grant application, we identified several businesses willing to provide in-kind services to help us 'make the match' for a SAT grant," Dr. Ponniah said. "We will ask them what support they can provide without the grant. We also will contact corporations and foundations for financial support. We encourage churches, civic and social organizations to sponsor fund raising events to give us an additional hand. This is the time for anyone who wants to help, to step forward and make a financial commitment.

    "So many people already have made a commitment," he said. "We are incredibly grateful to all of our supporters. Since efforts to restore the church began more than eight years ago, we have received more than $350,000 in donations. We used a substantial portion of that to replace the crumbling foundation with the temporary concrete piers and to install the temporary roof. We also replaced deteriorated sill beams, braced the structure in preparation for other work, and did other major repairs and restoration efforts.

    "It is mostly individual donors who so far have dipped into their purses, pockets and wallets to help save this historic building from imminent collapse and prepare it for restoration," Ponniah said. "Their monetary donations were supplemented by the physical work, resources and materials others donated.

    "The $50,000 we will spend in the spring will not go far toward completing the approximately $1.9 million of work in the entire restoration," Ponniah said. "But we must honor our supporters' generosity by doing as much as we can now. The work planned for the spring, however, is all of the work that it makes sense to do until we secure enough funding to do the entire next phase. That phase of restoration, which includes building a new foundation and a lower level community meeting room, will require about $200,000 beyond what will be invested in the spring.

    "And let's be blunt," Ponniah said. "We do not have $200,000 more at this time. Continued progress on the restoration beyond that spring work is literally in our supporters' hands."

    Ponniah said the ORCF will continue its established fund raising events, but, "we also recognize the need to reach out to a larger audience.

    "The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of historic significance," he said. "The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is not a Cass County thing, or a Michiana thing, or even a Michigan thing. We will continue working to achieve the national awareness and support this site deserves."

    The Original Old Rugged Cross Church is where the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross," was sung publicly in its entirety for the first time after the composer completed it, in 1913. The ORCF is working to restore the church as closely as possible to its 1913 appearance. The restored structure will serve as a museum and community meeting center for special, scheduled events such as weddings, funerals and meetings.

    The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is one block south of Pokagon Highway in Pokagon, just east of Highway M-51, halfway between Niles and Dowagiac. The site includes the church and the half-acre Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden.

    Financial support can be sent to The Old Rugged Cross Foundation at P.O. Box 41, Niles, MI 49120. One-time gifts and installment pledges are welcome. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

    Please call 269-683-4540 for additional information about The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site or to discuss how you or your organization can help fund progress at the site. The e-mail address is orcf@aol.com. Information about the Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is on the Internet at www.the-oldruggedcross.org.


    December 1, 2005

    Caroling in the Garden

    NILES, Mich., Dec. 1, 2005 - The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site in Pokagon, Mich., offers a sure-fire way to get yourself in the holiday mood. Caroling in the Garden, set for Saturday, December 17, from 6:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.

    Anyone who would like to attend is welcome to enjoy an informal caroling session in The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden, said Bev Bennett, event coordinator. People are welcome to drive by, or get out and walk through the garden, listen to the carols, participate in the singing, and enjoy an hour of fellowship and holiday cheer.

    If you plan to get out of your vehicle and walk or stand, you will definitely need clothing and footwear appropriate to that evening's weather, she continued. We recommend a flashlight to light your way as you walk. Lighting in the Garden is subdued. We will have a small Nativity scene in the garden, and holiday lights on several trees, to add to the festive feeling.

    We'll have a couple jugs of hot chocolate, to help warm your toes from the top down, she added.

    There is no charge for this event. Donations for the hot chocolate will be welcome.

    Parking will be available at the Pokagon United Methodist Church, just across Kansas Street from the Garden.

    The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site includes the Garden and the historic church where the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross", was sung publicly in its entirety for the first time after the composer completed it, in 1913. The church is being restored as closely as possible to its 1913 appearance, to serve as a museum and community meeting center. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    The Site is one block south of Pokagon Highway in Pokagon, just east of Highway M-51, halfway between Niles and Dowagiac.

    The Old Rugged Cross Foundation is working to "Make the Match" of funding to apply for a federal Save America's Treasures grant early in 2006. The grant would be used for church restoration activities. Donations to help "Make the Match," or for maintenance of the Memorial Garden, will be welcome at the caroling event.

    Please call 269-684-8121 or 269-683-4540 for additional information about "Caroling in the Garden".


    November 26, 2005

    NILES, Mich., Nov. 26, 2005 - "The Old Rugged Cross Foundation" has kicked off a special "Make the Match" fund drive. The effort's goal is to gather matching funds for a federal "Save America's Treasures" grant application early in 2006.

    Our supporters have been extremely generous since we began activities at The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site in 1998, said Dr. Melchizedek Ponniah, chairman of the Foundation's Board of Directors. Donations to date total $304,000, mostly from individual donors. These donations enabled us to complete the first two phases of restoration. Those phases saved The Original Old Rugged Cross Church from imminent collapse. It is time to move ahead with the next step.

    We need at least $250,000 in matching funds or pledges to apply for a Save America's Treasures grant, he continued. We currently have about one-third of that amount on hand. We hope that everyone who wants to see this historic structure restored will step forward and help us make the match.

    We expect a February 1 deadline for 2006 grant applications, he said. If we can secure enough donations and pledges by about mid-January to reach at least the $250,000 match required for us to apply, we will apply for a grant of that amount. If our application is successful we will use the resulting $500,000 to build a new foundation and lower level meeting room. We also would be able to do additional restoration activities.

    If we do not receive enough donations and pledges to apply in 2006, we will use the amount on hand to perform additional restoration work in the spring, Dr. Ponniah added. Donations and support are welcome any time of year. However, our current effort to make the match has important time constraints.

    Supporters can send their "Make the Match" financial gifts to (and payable to) The Old Rugged Cross Foundation. The address is P.O. Box 41, Niles, MI 49120. Letters with pledges of later donations from individuals, businesses, civic groups or other organizations also can be mailed to the Foundation. Dr. Ponniah urged anyone sending a pledge to be specific about the pledge amount and timing. The letters will help the Foundation document the pledges in the application.

    We also will contact some of our regular supporters, Dr. Ponniah said, but we hope that others who are able to help us make the match will step forward on their own initiative. We do not have a way to identify everyone who could help us. We hope the potential of gifts being doubled is a strong motivator.

    Save America's Treasures grants are administered by the National Park Service. The program is in partnership with the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Grants usually are for a two- or three-year period.

    The grants support preservation and/or conservation work on nationally significant intellectual and cultural artifacts, and nationally significant historic structures and sites. The 61 grants in 2005 totaled more than $14 million.

    The Old Rugged Cross Foundation (ORCF) is managing the historic building's restoration. The ORCF also will manage the restored building's operation. The ORCF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

    The ORCF is restoring the facility as closely as possible to its 1913 appearance. Once restored, the historic building will be a museum and community center for special, scheduled events such as weddings, funerals and community meetings. It will not be used for regular Sunday worship services. However, church groups and others will be able to rent the facility for their activities.

    The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site includes the church where the internationally-beloved hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross" was sung publicly in its entirety for the first time in 1913. The church is a Registered Michigan Historic Site. It also is listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of historic significance. The facility also is an Official Project of Save America's Treasures.

    We hope these important acknowledgements of the site's significance, including from Save America's Treasures, will support our grant application through the evaluation process, Dr. Ponniah said.

    The Site also includes the half-acre Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden. The Garden is available for unscheduled meditation, and for tours, picnics, weddings and other special, scheduled events.

    The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is in Pokagon, Mich., one block south of Pokagon Highway, just east of Highway M-51. Pokagon is half way between Niles and Dowagiac.

    Further information about the Site is available from 269-683-4540 or by e-mail, orcf@aol.com.


    October 11, 2005

    NILES, Mich., Oct. 11, 2005 – The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site’s colorful 2006 wall calendar is available just in time for holiday gift planning and giving.

    The calendar is the Site’s third annual photographic depiction of the one-acre Historic Site. The front and back covers and each month’s page all include a full-color photograph.

    The calendar also includes information about the history of the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross," in the village of Pokagon. Pokagon is half way between Niles and Dowagiac.

    Calendars will be available for a donation of $20 each, at the Site’s upcoming Fall Festival and Craft Sale. The October 15 event will include other Old Rugged Cross gift items, lots of crafts, home-style baked goodies, fresh fall produce, Sloppy Joes, chili, and other food. The Old Rugged Cross’ scissor and ice fishing auger sharpening expert also will be on hand.

    You also can arrange to purchase calendars by calling the following numbers: 683-4540 (Niles) or 782-8133 (Dowagiac). The Area Code is 269. The shipping cost for mailing a calendar is $2.00.

    The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site includes the church where the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross" was sung publicly in its entirety for the first time in 1913. The church is a Registered Michigan Historic Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The facility is being restored as closely as possible to its 1913 appearance. The restored facility will serve as a museum and community center for special, scheduled events such as weddings, funerals and community meetings.

    The Site also includes the half-acre Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden. The Garden is available for picnics, weddings and other special, scheduled events. It also is available for unscheduled meditation.

    The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is located one block south of Pokagon Highway in Pokagon, Mich., just east of Highway M-51.

    Further information about the Site is available from 269-683-4540. Information about scheduling group Site tours also is available by calling that number, or by writing to the Old Rugged Cross Foundation at P.O. Box 41, Niles, MI 49120. Or, inquire by e-mail, to orcf@aol.com . The Foundation’s internet site is http://www.the-oldruggedcross.org

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    September 19, 2005

    NILES, Mich., Sept. 19, 2005 - "An old-fashioned" Fall Festival & Craft Sale, complete with fresh fall produce, hand made craft items, a Sloppy Joe lunch, and more, is set for Saturday, October 15 at the Pokagon United Methodist Church (PUMC) in Pokagon, Mich.

    The public is invited to attend, shop, eat and enjoy this 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. event. Activities will begin with breakfast breads and coffee in the early hours, followed by the lunch menu, complete with homemade desserts, cider and other treats. Bring your dull scissors and ice fishing augers for sharpening.

    Apples for sale at the event will be courtesy of Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm, in Eau Claire.

    Proceeds from the event will support restoration of The Original Old Rugged Cross Church and maintenance of The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden, located across the street from the PUMC.

    Also available, the book, Favorite Songs of the Good Old Days, which includes a chapter on the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross" and its Pokagon connection, and The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site's colorful 2006 wall calendar. The book, published by House of White Birches in Berne, Ind., includes information about more than 55 songs that the publishers said, "helped us become who we are today."

    Other Old Rugged Cross gift items also will be available, just in time for holiday giving.

    The Old Rugged Cross Church is where the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross" was sung publicly in its entirety for the first time after its composer completed it, in 1913. The church is a Registered Michigan Historic Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours of the historic church will be available. People attending the event will be welcome to stroll through the adjacent Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden.

    The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is one block south of Pokagon Highway, just east of Highway M-51 in Pokagon. Pokagon is located half way between Niles and Dowagiac.

    For information about the Fall Festival & Craft Sale, call 269-683-4540 or 269-782-8133. Information about the Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is available on the Internet at www.the-oldruggedcross.org, or from the Old Rugged Cross Foundation, P.O. Box 41, Niles, MI 49120.


    September 1, 2005

    NILES, Mich., Sept. 1, 2005 - An Edwardsburg pastor will challenge attendees to consider what the cross means to people today, and The Promissory Notes Mountain Dulcimer Group will entertain, at the upcoming 92nd Old Rugged Cross (ORC) Anniversary Celebration. The Celebration is set for Sunday, Sept. 18 at 2:00 p.m., at The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site in Pokagon, Mich. The public is invited to attend.

    Pastor Jeff Reese, of Hope United Methodist Church of Edwardsburg, will present a sermon about what the cross means to us today. We see a lot of jewelry hanging on folks necks. But the cross needs to be in our hearts. It needs to be the connection between our head and our heart so that we can understand what God has offered us in this gift of salvation. Paul talks about the Christian life as being a privilege and how important that concept should be in our daily lives. So my remarks will help us explore those ideas, he said.

    The Promissory Notes group performs on mountain dulcimers and other folk instruments such as guitar, banjo and autoharp. They have performed together for about six years. Group members come from Edwardsburg (Mich.) and Elkhart, Goshen, and Osceola, Ind. They focus on folk and gospel selections, but recently performed Civil War era songs at a Civil War reenactment at Bonneville Mill, in Bristol, Ind. ORC Celebration selections may include, "I Feel Like Traveling On", "Precious Memories", and "Will the Circle be Unbroken"?

    The Celebration will be in The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden. If the weather is not visitor friendly, the service will be held in the Pokagon United Methodist Church, across Kansas Street from the Garden. There is no admission charge. Attendees are urged to bring their own lawn chairs and to dress for the weather.

    The Historic Site is one block south of Pokagon Highway, just east of Highway M-51, halfway between Niles and Dowagiac, Mich. The one-acre site includes The Original Old Rugged Cross Church and The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden. The church is where the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross," was sung publicly in its entirety for the first time after its composer, Rev. George Bennard, completed it in 1913.

    The Original Old Rugged Cross Church is a Registered Michigan Historic Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The facility is being restored as closely as possible to its 1913 appearance and materials, to serve as a museum and community center for special, scheduled events. Tours of the church will be available as part of the Anniversary Celebration.

    The half-acre Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden is available for group tours, weddings and other special, scheduled activities, as well as for unscheduled meditation.

    Information about the Anniversary Celebration and the Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is available by contacting the Old Rugged Cross Foundation below.


    June 9, 2004

    A Hymn Brings New Beginning

    "Summer Music Series at the Old Rugged Cross Historic Site"

    Berrien Springs, MI (June 9, 2004) --- The Old Rugged Cross Foundation and Association are organizing a summer music series at The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden in Pokagon, Mich. Concerts will begin at 5:00 p.m. and will usually last for about an hour. The first concert will be held on Sunday, June 13 presenting "Elements of Grace" and "Rainbow’s End." The "Rainbow’s End" is a women’s Gospel quartet that has been together for 25 years. The group sings a mixture of contemporary and traditional Christian music. "Elements of Grace" is a group of African singers who sing beautiful harmony in a variety of native African languages, as well as in English.

    A recording artist Laura Whidden, number one in April on WFRN, will be a guest singer on June 29. An Indonesian Youth Group, which plays Anklung, indigenous bamboo instruments, will also be part of the afternoon’s program.

    July 11 will feature the family music group, Majors Jack and Nancy Holloway and son, Grant, who represent the Salvation Army in Benton Harbor. "The Joy Bringers," the Bell Choir from The United Methodist Church in Berrien Springs, will play on July 18. Their choir has been together for over 20 years. On the same afternoon, a Romanian native and recording artist Marius Serban will have a recital. His album "Listen" features Christian modern arrangements of songs like The Holy City, The Lord’s Prayer, God Alone and others. Some of the public performances of Marius include: Christmas Concerts featuring Handel’s arias with Southern Singers of Southern Adventist University, Calhoun Community Chorus and Orchestra, and Knoxville Singers Choral.

    "The Kutzner Family Band" from Andrews University will play on July 25. The Kutzner family plays a variety of traditional music including Celtic, Cowboy, and Old-Time styles. Some of the instruments they play are fiddle, guitar, accordion and tin-whistle.

    A piano recital by Lorena Filip, a Romanian, will take place on August 1. Lorena graduated in May 2004 with her Master Degree in Music Piano Performance from Andrews University. The summer music series will end on August 8 with the music group "Something’s Happen." All programs will begin at 5 p.m. at the site, weather permitting. Please bring your lawn chairs and prepare for an afternoon of relaxing Christian entertainment. In case of rain, the performances will take place in the Pokagon United Methodist Church across the street from The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden.

    Dr. Melchizedek Ponniah, Chair of The Old Rugged Cross Foundation, with the help of the Department of Communication at Andrews University, is coordinating the music series. "This music series," says Dr. Ponniah, "is our gift to the community. We want the families to bring their children and enjoy good music." The purpose of the music series, according to Dr. Ponniah, is to provide the visitors a first hand experience of the Historic site. In 1913 the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" was sung for first time in the church on the Historic site. Participants will also be given the opportunity to tour the Historic site before and after the concerts. The site is located ¼ mile East of M-51 and 1 block South of Pokagon Highway, between Dowagiac and Niles. For more information, please E-mail orcf@aol.com, or call (269) 683-4540, or (269) 876-7476.


    November 17, 2003

    NILES, Mich., November 17, 2003 - Just in time for the holidays, volunteers restoring the Old Rugged Cross Church and maintaining the Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden in Pokagon, Mich., have added an additional specialized Old Rugged Cross (ORC) gift item. The 5-inch by 7-inch laser-cut wooden plaques resemble a page of printed music. Each has the words of the hymn, The Old Rugged Cross cut into the highly polished wood. The plaques join the group popular 2004 wall calendars with photos of the Old Rugged Cross Historic Site, and custom-engraved commemorative bricks. The bricks are used in pedestrian areas in The Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden. Small wooden crosses made from lath from inside the old church also are available. Each comes with a certificate of authenticity, a square nail from the Church, and a leather cord so the cross can be worn as a pendant. Other ORC gift items include baseball-style hats imprinted with a choice of one of several photographs from the Historic Site, aprons and tote bags imprinted with the same photo choices, and various styles of embroidered golf shirts.

    The Original Old Rugged Cross Church is where the hymn, The Old Rugged Cross was first sung publicly in its entirety after its composer completed it, in 1913. The church is a Registered Michigan Historic Site and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Church and Garden comprise The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site. The site is one block south of Pokagon Highway, just east of Highway M-51 in Pokagon. Pokagon is located half way between Niles and Dowagiac.

    Information about group tours of the ORC Historic Site and gift items is available by calling 269-683-4540 for the plaques, calendars, commemorative bricks, and wooden lath crosses. Please call 269-683-6858 for aprons, hats, shirts, tote bags, or other gift items, including note cards and holiday ornaments. Information about the Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is available on the Internet at either www.the-oldruggedcross.org, or www.theoldruggedcrossfoundation.org, or from:
    The Old Rugged Cross Foundation,
    P.O. Box 41,
    Niles, MI 49120.

    Inquiries can be sent to orcf@aol.com.


    September 21, 2003

    'Old Rugged Cross' endures at Michigan birthplace

    Chicago Sun Times article by: David Hoekstra

    September 21st, 2003. To read the article click the link below.

    NOTE: The article was only available to view for 7 days. We are in the process of copying the article from the newspaper and it will be posted here shortly. Please check back.


    November 18, 2002

    Consumer's Energy, "The Weekly", November 18, 2002 issue has an article on "The Old Rugged Cross" titled "Employee's Dream a Reality, Historic Church Gains Honor". The article features ORCF board member Marta Dodd, an employee of Consumer's Energy, and refers to the ORC Foundation's recent honor of being recommended by the State of Michigan for national significance to the National Register of Historic Places.


    July 1, 2002

    'Old Rugged Cross' site in Cass County now on Historic Register

    By DEBRA HAIGHT, The Herald-Palladium

    July 1, 2002 -- POKAGON, MICH. - The church building where the Rev. George Bennard's hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" was first sung publicly in its entirety is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

    The register is a listing of nearly 75,000 historic sites, districts, buildings, structures and objects of significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture. It contains seven other Cass County sites and 19 Berrien County sites.

    The Pokagon church's addition to the register is the result of work done over the last four years by The Old Rugged Cross Foundation. Members have gotten the old church listed on state and national registries as well as an "Official Project of Save America's Treasures" and have worked already to preserve the former church building itself.

    "This listing is a high honor and recognizes the importance of this site in the broad pattern of our history," foundation board Chairman Dr. Melchizedek Ponniah said. The Old Rugged Cross Foundation is a multi-denominational, non-profit, all-volunteer organization managing the restoration of the original church.

    "Since 1998, supporters in 38 states and four countries have given financial gifts to help with the restoration of this important location," Ponniah said. "This broad support reflects the enduring appreciation of the timeless hymn nearly 90 years after it was first performed in Pokagon.

    "This structure is truly an international treasure that belongs to all who have been moved by this hymn's message of hope and faith," he said. "We are honored to be the stewards of this sacred place."

    The hymn came to be finished and first sung publicly here because Bennard was in Pokagon to help the pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Pokagon in a series of revival meetings. Bennard is the author of more than 300 hymns but is best known for "The Old Rugged Cross".

    He had been working on the hymn for some time and finished it while he was in the village for the meetings. He performed it in the church, playing his guitar, and then witnessed it being performed by the church choir, accompanied by an organist and violinist, from his penciled notes.

    The church was built in 1862 as a 28 x 60 foot hops barn. It was sold in 1876 to the local Methodist Episcopal congregation, which previously met in homes. The congregation took out a $3,000 loan to renovate the barn into a church, adding painted glass windows, a large brass bell, and a two-story addition for a kitchen and Sunday school classrooms.

    In 1915, two years after the hymn was first sung there, the congregation bought the Baptist church across the street and sold the old church to a local farmer who returned it to its original barn status. It fell into a state of disrepair before it was purchased in 1998 by a local couple who donated it to the current Pokagon United Methodist Church.

    The restoration work since 1998 has included creating a park next to the old church and raising money to save and start restoring the old church building to its 1913 condition.

    Foundation treasurer Molly Shaffer said the foundation already has raised and invested $135,000 in the project to save the building from collapsing. Deteriorated beams have been replaced, a temporary steel roof has been installed to protect the building from the elements, and the entire building has been straightened, leveled and braced.

    She estimated that the entire restoration project will take $1.9 million. The foundation is now looking to raise $237,000 by next spring so that the building can be moved temporarily to an adjacent lot. If it is moved, a new foundation can be poured on its original site, electrical and plumbing work can be completed, and a basement community room built.

    Shaffer hopes the church building's addition to the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the foundation's buying the building back from the Pokagon UMC will help the foundation get grants for the restoration.

    "We had hoped that in the past with the other honors, but the word 'church' throws people off," she said. "It falls between the cracks because it's not an active church with missions and, on the other side, other groups say they don't give to churches.

    "Hopefully this will give us more recognition and will emphasize that this is a historic preservation project," Shaffer said. "Anything that makes people more aware helps. We know that the funds are out there and we hope to get more people interested."

    When the project is done, foundation members envision the church building as being a museum and a place that is available for weddings and other special services. In the meantime, people are welcome to visit the site anytime by calling 616-68l3-4540 to arrange a tour. People are also invited to the annual celebration Sept 14 and 15.

    The old church and gardens are on Vermont Street, just a block off Pokagon Highway in Pokagon, between Niles and Dowagiac.

    More information is available on the web site, www.the-oldruggedcross.com. Contributions can be sent to the foundation at PO Box 41, Niles, MI 49120.