Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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100 1st Street NE, Mason City
Mason Township, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa

The First Congregation United Church of Christ incorporates its original 1860's building (right) behind a brick facade that matches a newer portion of the building, built during the 1890's.

Globe-Gazette, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Mason City Centennial Issue, Section 7, Pages 8 & 26
Monday, June 01, 1953

On March 7, 1858, a Congregational Church was organized in Mason City under the direction of Rev. Thomas Tenney of Plymouth, who had held periodic services here since 1855.

Among the first members were Nathiel (sic) Adams, Emma Adams, Charles M. Adams, Simon Van Patter, L. L. Huntley, Lucy Temple, Elizabeth Dibble, Jane E. Garner, T. Green and Eleanor Florence.

NOTE: Nathanel M. Adams was born May 6,1814, Auburn, Maine, and died November 11, 1895, Mason City. Emma Ann (Child) Adams, his wife, was born February 14, 1816, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and died January 24, 1887. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Rev. Thomas Tenney was born November 10, 1798, and died May 7, 1874, interment was made at Oakwood Cemetery, Plymouth, Iowa. Rev. Tenney graduated from Dartmouth College and served with the American Missionary Society.

L. L. Huntley was born March 24, 1824, and died June 19, 1907, interment was made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Purchase Lot

Mason City's First
First church to be erected in Mason City is pictured above. It was build by the Congregationalists in 1866
and is still used as parish parlor. Erected later was the parsonage, shown on the corner,
where the main structure of the Congregational Church now stands.

In April, 1866, a lot was purchased for $30, on which was erected a stone church at a cost of $4,294. The whole amount was raised by subscription except for $500 donated by the Congregational Union. This church, the first to be built in Mason City, was dedicated May 12, 1868. This building is part of the present First Congregational Church, being used as parish parlor.

The First Congregational Church, also underwent phenomenal growth in this period. It assumed the support of its pastor in 1874 and the next year built a parsonage.

In 1898 the congregation erected the present [1953] church on the parsonage site adjoining the original church. The building was dedicated Dec. 5, 1898, by the Rev. T. O. Douglas, Grinnell, during the pastorate of Rev. Charles H. Rogers.

NOTE: A cornerstone for a new and larger church was laid April 27, 1898. The old structure was incorporated into the new building, which was dedicated on December 5, 1898. The congregation voted on January 11, 1861 to become a part of the United Church of Christ, a merger of the Congregational Christian Churches with the German Evangelical and Reformed Church.

Provided with ample building facilities the First Congregational Church continued to add to its membership. The parsonage at 221 3rd N. E. built in 1915, was the gift of Mrs. Mayne Denison Keeler in memory of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. O. T. Denison, who had been active leaders in the church.

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The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Monday, June 01, 1953
Centennial Edition, Section 8




 [Section 8, Pages 10 & 13] NEW CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH CHANCEL - One of the outstanding remodeling projects among churches in the last five years is that of the First Congregational Church, which dedicated a new chancel and other improvements on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the congregation May 30, 1948. The picture at right shows the divided chancel and beautiful rose window. Other improvements included a private prayer chapel.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, January of 2015

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The Globe-Gazette
Mason City, Iowa
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Living out the faith. . .

By Kristin Buehner

MASON CITY — The First Congregational United Church of Christ, one of Mason City's oldest congregations, will launch a year-long celebration of its 150th anniversary on Sunday.

"People 150 years ago saw a need in this community that could be addressed by this church," the Rev. Patti AURAND "On such a significant anniversary, we get to reflect on the past, present and future, who we are and who we're called to be."

The First Congregational Church, an English church that is also the church of the Pilgrims, built the first church building in Mason City at 100 First St. N.E., the site of the present church.

The congregation prides itself on its stained-glass windows, including a rose window above the altar in the sanctuary and windows in its Willson Chapel, created in 1962-1963 by the late Francis "Bob" White, a noted stained-glass artist from Chicago.

Music has always been important to members and goes back at least as far as 1905, when an elementary school orchestra was formed to play at the Congregational Church every Sunday morning. Its members included a young Meredith WILLSON on the flute.

Other notable musicians from this church include the Earl and Florence DEAN family, Mason City band leader Carleton STEWART, flutist Penelope PETERSON FISCHER and organist Kathleen McCREADY HARRIS.

Bob EHLERS, 79, a third-generation member of the church, said his grandparents, Dr. Earle and Louise McEWEN, were early church members. Earle McEWEN served as Sunday school superintendent for many years.

Bob EHLER'S mother, Grace EHLERS, played the organ while a young Meredith WILLSON played an ocarina, a flute-like wind instrument. Grace also performed with WILLSON in the church's youth orchestra.

Margaret HANLEY, 92, also grew up in the Congregational Church and remembers the active church youth groups in her day.

"Rosalie WILLSON (Sunday school superintendent from 1898 to 1926) was active in my church when I was in Sunday school," HANLEY said. "She liked to put on little plays. We'd go to her house and practice. She was very talented." The church in those days featured an elevated choir loft and one large Sunday school room in what is now the Fellowship Room.

In those days, the room had a wood floor. Classes were sectioned off by dividers, according to HANLEY.

True to its Puritan heritage, the Congregational Church has taken seriously its mission of social justice.

In May 1985, the Mason City congregation co-sponsored a 34-unit low-cost housing project for the elderly known as Pilgrim Place. It is located near Regency Mall on the eastern edge of Mason City.

Church members have played key roles in organizing Mason City’s Community Kitchen, local CROP Walk, to raise money to feed the poor, and in establishing a Habitat for Humanity chapter in Mason City.

"We are trying to find a way to live out our faith in ways that are relevant to our faith and useful and relevant to the community," said AURAND, the first woman minister at the Mason City church.

A few facts about First Congregational:

Church membership grew to a high of 800 in the 1950s-1960s. Current membership is 226.

Over the years, church members have included such notable citizens as Meredith WILLSON; the MacNIDER family; attorney James E. BLYTHE, who helped develop Rock Glen-Rock Crest and bring Frank Lloyd WRIGHT to town; O. T. DENISON, pioneer brick and tile manufacturer; Mason City mayors George MENDEN and Ken KEW; and Globe Gazette editor/publisher W. Earl HALL.

One of the church's previous ministers, the Rev. S.F. MILLIKAN (1891-1893), was the father of Dr. Robert MILLIKAN, who isolated the electron and was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1923.

The church's longest-serving minister was the Rev. Robert STONE, pastor from January 1956 to October 1987.

A brief history:

First Congregational United Church of Christ, 100 First St. N.E., begins a celebration of its 150th anniversary on Sunday.

Founded March 7, 1858, it is the city's oldest congregation.

First services were led by the Rev. Thomas TENNEY, a graduate of Dartmouth College who served with the American Missionary Society. Services were held in the log cabins of the 11 charter members at a schoolhouse and the courthouse.

In 1866, the First Congregational Society of Mason City purchased for $30 a lot on First Street Northeast. A 40-by-60-foot stone church was erected there. It was dedicated May 12, 1868.

The cornerstone for a new, larger church was laid April 27, 1898. The new building incorporated the old structure.

The completed sanctuary for the First Congregational Church was dedicated Dec. 4, 1898.

An education wing was completed in 1960 on the north end of the church and named the Rosalie REINIGER WILLSON wing after Rosalie WILLSON, mother of Meredith WILLSON. She served as Sunday School superintendent from 1898 to 1926.

The wing includes the WILLSON Chapel, a youth room, music room, Sunday School classrooms and a nursery. The Discovery Time Preschool, which operates independently of the church, has a separate area on the lower level of this wing.

Other notable rooms are the elegant Stone Fellowship Room and the columbarium, originally a prayer chapel dedicated to those who died in service to their country.

On Jan. 11, 1961, the congregation voted to become part of the United Church of Christ, a merger of the Congregational Christian Churches with the German Evangelical and Reformed Church.

Major restoration work that included extensive repairs to the church tower, roof and stained-glass windows was recently completed. The sanctuary was also remodeled to make it handicapped accessible.

The church was founded by abolitionists on the eve of the civil war. The church was the first of a mainlinedenomination to ordain a woman in the 1850's. The church was also the first to ordain an openly gay person in 1972.

150th anniversary events:

  • Sunday, March 2 — Kick-off celebration during 10 a.m. worship. Includes a historical play by church member Robert POWELL based upon actual minutes of the church from March 7, 1858. A baked potato luncheon follows.

  • Sunday, May 11 — Confirmation Day. Lorin COPE, minister of conference relations from the national church office in Cleveland, will deliver the sermon.

  • Sunday, June 1 — Homecoming celebration. Former pastors will participate in the service. An old-fashioned picnic will follow.

  • August — Jazz concert at the church featuring Mason City native Kevin DEAN (time and date to be announced).

  • Sunday, Sept. 7 — Fall Kick-Off. The Rev. Ron ESLINGER, associate conference minister, will deliver the sermon.

  • Sunday, Sept. 28 — Eden Seminary president, the Rev. David GREENHAW, of St. Louis, will deliver the sermon. A program about the history of the Congregational Church in Iowa will be presented.

  • Thursday, Oct. 9 — 7:30 p.m., St. Louis Brass Quintet concert, featuring Mason City native Allan DEAN. A reception will follow.

  • Sunday, Nov. 2 — Organist Kathleen McCREADY HARRISS, of Minneapolis, a Mason City native, will accompany the worship.

  • Sunday, Nov. 23 — Pre-Thanksgiving Feast and final anniversary worship celebration.

    All activities are open to the public.

    Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011

  • St. Paul Gay Men's Chorus & 1st Congregation Sign Vandalized, 2016

  • 1st Congregational Columbarium


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