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Webster, Rev. Curtis H.

WEBSTER

Posted By: Errin Wilker (email)
Date: 2/19/2013 at 22:12:53

Curtis Webster, Pastor, Teacher of Cherry Valley

Curtis Webster, 63, is the kind of man who remains in your thoughts long after the interview from which he emerged larger than life.

He has served the Forest Mills-Castalia Charge as pastor since 1950 and knows every ripple of the eight best trout fishing streams in picturesque Allamakee County where the Yellow River long, long ago scoured out Webster’s beloved Cherry Valley. From his home on the hillside, where he has lived since 1934, Curtis can revel in the seasonal coloring of maples, oaks, elms and birch trees that call every year to tourists.

The clergyman, a fourth generation Scotsman whose forebears homesteaded in 1854 in the same locale where Curtis dwells with his mother Mrs. Ruth Webster, said rural churches should have “toughed it out” in the depression of the ’30s instead of closing. “They would be strong today if they had remained,” he said.

As a regional historian and lecturer, Webster buttresses his thesis with facts culled from a lifetime of association with Cherry Valley and its people.

When he retires from the ministry and from teaching school, a dual profession, Webster said he will write a history of Northeast Iowa. Much of the material is already on tape, interviews with residents who remember the past. “This part of the country is rich in history,” he said. “The Indians had a very old civilization here when Marquette and Joliet explored the Mississippi River. Their journals of 1793 tell about it.”

$50 A MONTH

Reflecting on his teaching career — “I was paid $50 a month in 1935 to teach in Forest Mills School” — Webster smiled and said. “We’ve had our joys and sorrows.”

He has taught the children of his former students, in public school and Sunday school, baptized them, married them, and he has preached at family funerals for all of those years in the ministry.

Allamakee County people, said their friend and mentor, have retained the style of religious expression that was prevalent when they “went to church in bobsleds or on horseback.”

For Webster the social historian, the reluctance of young people to move away from the area is the chief reason for the strength of the rural church today. “We have lots of potlucks and lots of social gatherings,” he said, “lots of community activity centered in the churches, many fall festivals, arts and crafts fairs, fancy work and quilting.”

APPRECIATE HERITAGE

He added: “People in the county appreciate their heritage. They don’t like to lose it, and I don’t like to see the rural church disappear because it does have a new role to play. If rural churches can hold out, they will be ready to serve the new migration to the countryside. Expense is minimal. They already have water and heat and adequate space for a full program.”

Curtis Webster, his short, crew cut hair, and Cherry Valley, with its limestone outcroppings left exposed by glacial action and erosion are complementary. They go together comfortably.

Curtis Webster astride a huge, German BMW motorcycle — that’s a different story. He wheeled the machine out of the garage and demonstrated its efficiency on County Trunk Road B.

FOR TRANSPORTATION

Others drive automobiles. Curtis uses a motorcycle for transportation. “I’ve been driving these since 1935,” he said, braking to a halt. “In 1967 I rode in 16 countries in Europe. I put a lot of miles on my bike.”

For the last quarter of a century, Webster has driven bikes to the Black Hills of South Dakota, joining a rally of friends to whom he has become a chaplain and Sunday morning preacher.

Earlier this year the cyclist-pastor underwent open heart surgery, a double bypass procedure, and after several months recuperation is again teaching school and conducting as usual the business of the Forest Mills-Castalia Charge.

~Hawkeye United Methodist, Des Moines, IA, Dec 1978


 

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