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Red Rock Evangelical Church


Posted By: Volunteer
Date: 5/6/2017 at 20:40:34

Red Rock Evangelical Church
Town to Go, Big Worry Is 1893 Church
Red Rock, Ia. – “This is the only church I have ever known,” said Maude Riherd, 77. “They certainly are disrupting our lives. It is terrible.”
Widow Riherd is a member of the old Evangelical Church in the trees here.
There is a big uprooting coming for Mrs. Riherd and the church; indeed, for all people and buildings in this historic little Marion county village on the Des Moines river.
The people are going to have to move away. The church either will be moved, too, or town down. All homes must be eliminated.
In short, Red Rock must disappear from the face of the earth. The big Red Rock dam is being built 8 miles downstream in the river valley. When the dam is completed in 1966, Red Rock itself will be only an unpopulated parking place for flood waters.
It gives you a bit of a shock to hear Arthur Nichols say in his living room: “The water will be 55 feet deep right her at some future time.”
Red Rock, a hard-drinking river port in the old steamboat days more than 100 years ago, is just one little spot on the map of a gigantic federal flood control project. The total cost will be some $75 million.
Largest Lake
The dam will create the largest permanent lake in Iowa totaling some 6,300 acres. In addition, the government is buying 65,500 acres for the “flood control” pool. This is where huge flood waters will be held back.
Flood worries will come to an end in such often ravaged cities as Ottumwa, Keosauqua and other downstream communities.
The dam also will be part of the army engineers’ system for controlling Mississippi river floods. The immediate Mississippi valley in central and southern U.S. will benefit.
Big projects mean big spending and jobs, mighty happy items in any day and age. But Red Rock is far from happy. This sleepy hollow village with no stores mourns the day that the dam ever was approved by congress.
“This parallels Noah’s flood in the Bible,” said Nichols. They knew a flood was coming in Noah’s time but they just didn’t believe it. We knew this project was coming too, but the people just didn’t believe how bad it would be for them.”
Nichols, 48, is pastor of the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints in nearby Dunreath. (This church also will be a project casualty.)
“I just don’t know where we will go when we have to leave Red Rock,” Nichols said.
‘Another Red Rock’
“I would like to find another Red Rock to live in,” he said. “If you want to go fishing, you just grab a fish line and go. If you want to go hunting, just grab a gun. We don’t have all that turmoil and confusion you have in a big town.”
Red Rock will be on the edge of the permanent lake but will continue to be dry land nearly all the time. Only in times of flood will the area be used for water storage.
“I want to see just once what the dam will do with a flood like we had in 1947,” said Nichols. “We had 40 inches of water in this house that year. I don’t think the flood control pool will be able to hold that much water.” [Federal officials said the 1947 flood probably would have just about filled the 65,500 acre flood control pool.]
These people have waters of the Des Moines river in their veins, Mrs. Olive Mikesell, 68 and blind, was born in the old unpainted house in which she still lives. Her deceased husband’s family has been in Red Rock since 1843. Her forebears came in 1857.
“I don’t mind the river,” said the barefooted woman with long gray pigtails. “I like it to wet my feet once in a while.”
A swarm of bees has been living in the wall of the Mikesell house in recent years. Similarly, bees also have an undisturbed hive along the chimney on the outside of the church.
Sweetest Church
“I’ll bet we have the sweetest church in the state,” said Bertha Ruckman, 77, in one of her rare touches of humor while discussing the future of Red Rock.
Widow Ruckman has lived in Red Rock since 1913. She and Mrs. Riherd both can remember when the Evangelical Church was built in 1893. Mrs. Ruckman came to the church as a little girl with her father from Dunreath.
“I don’t know where I’m going,” said Mrs. Ruckman. “I have a son in Monroe, a daughter in Knoxville and a daughter who teaches in Des Moines.
“They’re spending an awful lot of money on this project. The people below us will benefit. Look at all the good farm land they’re taking and the homes they’re tearing up. But you can’t fight the government.”
Mrs. Riherd’s future plans also are indefinite. But she said she had a daughter and son in Belle Plaine.
The final departure of all these residents however, will only speed up what has been happening to Red Rock anyway. The village, named for the red sandstone once quarried from the bluffs, had a reported population of 693 in 1910. Present day inhabitants can count only 46 souls in the area.
Onetime “River street,” where whites drank and fought and Indians lay in drunken stupors, is a heavily wooded area now. A hilltop, once laid out in town streets, is a real forest area.
There was once a flour mill and, reportedly, a barrel stave and shingle factory and a cigar factory.
The government will buy all the buildings and then sell them on bids. After the structures have been removed, the foundations will be filled in, as will all wells.
Matter of concern
What will happen to the church is a matter of concern to former Red Rock inhabitants as well as present resident. Many a night Red Rock people have spent in the old church when high water occupied their homes.
The church now has a congregation of about 30 at Sunday services. The Rev. Orville Dobbs of Newton comes down to preach. One idea is to try to re-establish the congregation elsewhere, in Pleasantville, for example.
One group talks of moving the church up the hill to the Red Rock graveyard where some faded tombstones date back to 1850 or before. But whether enough people would come to church there after the village is gone is the question.
The Red Rock people, past and present, had a sort of farewell gathering last month. More than 200 attended.
“We went up to the old church after dinner and sang old hymns,” said Nichols. “We sang ‘Nearer My God to Thee,’ ‘The Old Rugged Cross,’ ‘Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me’ and ‘In the Sweet Bye and Bye.’”
It is said that many a Red Rock old-timer went away from the hymn-singing with a lump in his throat.
Photo caption:
Church Must Go – and So Must They
At 77, an age when most people have put down deep roots some place, Mrs. Maud Riherd (left and Mrs. Bertha Ruckman, both widows, face loss of their homes – and their church, the old white Independent Evangelical (background), at Red Rock. In fact, the entire historic little Marion county village on the Des Moines river will be leveled to provide an area to store flood waters after the Red Rock dam eight miles downstream is completed in 1966. Future plans of Mrs. Riherd and Mrs. Ruckman are indefinite. Both have children living in Iowa. Both can remember when the Evangelical church was built in 1893. The steeple had to be removed some years ago when timbers rotted, but the old bell remains and it rings every Sunday.
Source: Des Moines Sunday Register; July 23, 1961, page 3-L

Friends, Neighbors, Celebrate Centennial of Red Rock Church
Celebrating 100 years of the Red Rock church established in Red Rock on July 4, 1855, 85 friends and neighbors met on the church lawn to spend the day. Thanks to the spirit of several of the neighbors, Hugh Templeton, Rollie Adams, Tink Buttrey, Mable Cooper, Merl Price, Maude Riherd, Dwight Harvey, and Jimmy Riherd, the church lawn was cleaned and lots of it raked.
Long tables of boards were put on barrels by Elmer Cooper and Merl Price under the shade of many trees on the church lawn.
At the morning service at 11:30, Fred Dieterick, pastor of the Baptist church in Knoxville, spoke to the group on “What is America” stressing the fact that we, as citizens of the most wonderful country in the world, have many things that folks of other countries can never hope to have.

A – Mr. Dieterick stated, stood for All of the people of America with our many blessings and privileges,

M – for the might and strength of America,

E – for equal rights for all citizens and individuals,

R – Rights of all to free speech writing and voting,

I – Individuals with our many personalities and varied opinions,

C – for churches, which are slowly being forgotten. He stated as the church goes, so goes America. The church goes as the home goes and the home goes as the individuals in it go.

A – All freedoms which we as citizens in America enjoy, voting, come and go as we please and marry whom we please and choose our own occupation, drive our own automobile.
The speaker pointed out that in many countries and especially so during the war, individuals were told where to live, what occupation to follow, how many children to have, how much they could eat and what. During his years in the service, he told of seeing many children foraging in garbage cans for something to eat and contrasted that with our standard of living today. The speaker urged all to attend the church of his choice each week. The morning meeting closed with all singing the “Star Spangled Banner.”
A bountiful dinner was served at noon to visitors from many surrounding towns, Newton, Runnells, Cordova, Des Moines, Monroe and Knoxville. Those coming from the greatest distance were Harold J. Gibbons of Kansas City, Mo., and Paul Karr and Janice Schweico from Omaha, Nebr.
The afternoon program was musical with local talent taking part. The men played horseshoes and the smaller boys played pitch and catch.
Emma Guiles took many pictures which were all good and all agreed it was a day well spent and enjoyed by all.
Source: The Monroe Mirror; Thursday, July 14, 1955


Marion Documents maintained by Allen Hibbard.
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