Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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119 South Georgia Avenue, Mason City
Mason Township, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa

Globe-Gazette, Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Mason City Centennial Issue, Section 7, Pages 17, 26, * 38
Monday, June 01, 1953

Early church organizations held their meetings in the upper story of John L. McMillen's store. The congregation moved their meetings to the Old Stone School after it was completed in 1857 at the present-day corner of First and Georgia S. E.

Elisha Randall, prominent figure in both public and business activities, took the leading role in organizing the first religious group, the Methodists [Methodist Episcopal Church], in Mason City. The congregation was formed March 8, 1857, with eleven members, March 8, 1857: Elisha RANDALL, wife and daughter, Mrs. J. B. LONG, Mrs. George BRENTNER, Timothy PARKER and wife, Alfred TAYLOR and wife, N. M. ADAMS and wife. It was Mason City's first religious group. Rev. FREEMAN was the first pastor.

The first quarterly meeting was held March 15, 1857.

Organized the Methodist Church

The organizers included Mr. and Mrs. Randall and daughter, Mrs. John B. Long, Mrs. George Brentner, Timothy Parker and wife, N. M. Adams and wife and Alfred Taylor and wife.

The Methodists started building a church in 1870 and on Nov. 20 of that year the basement for the structure was dedicated. This basement was at that time the largest auditorium in the city and was used for community purposes. When the flat roof fell in, subscriptions were taken to complete the building, which was accomplished in 1872. The church stood at 14 First N. E., present [1953] site of the Piggly Wiggly store, just west of the Dyer house. This large stone church was completed at a cost over $40,000.

Owing to hard times, work on the main building was suspended, a roof put to the basement, and services held therein until building was resumed in 1872. The basement was finally divided into three class rooms, one of which is used for a lecture room. The main audience room is well planned, and has a seating capacity of 400.

On March 10, 1875, the new church was dedicated. A great sunrise prayer meeting was held sponsored by the Epworth League, then at its zenith. The Rev. B. I. Ives of Auburn, N. Y., preached the dedicatory sermon. At its close, a financial statement was presented and Doctor Ives asked for the $12,000 to clear the church debt, revealing the total cost of the building was in excess of $40,000.

A rich, mellow-toned pipe organ, costing $1,000, has been highly prized by the society, who maintain one of the best church choirs in the State. In 1883 they were trained by, and under the leadership of Prof. Huntley.

The society built the best parsonage in their conference in 1881. This is a spacious two-story frame house, situated near the public square. The cost of this building to the society was $2,300, exclusive of grounds. This society is indebted largely, to Elisha Randall for personal services rendered in the erection of this house of worship. He worked, planned and gave his money freely toward the church of his choice.

In 1883 the membership was 201, and the church was in a flourishing condition. Its pastor was Rev. J. T. Crippen. A well organized, good working Sunday school existed in 1883, which had a membership of 174. The school had a library containing 400 volumes.

[Globe-Gazette, Mason City Centennial Issue, Monday, June 01 1953, Section 7, Page 26] As the factory worker went farther and farther from the center of the city to build his home due to the rapid growth of population, he was followed not only by schools, but also by opportunities for religious worship.

The First Methodist Church, with its building paid for and membership growing, became the leader in this decentralization of church activities by sponsoring two outposts in opposite ends of the city, building the Calvary [Methodist Episcopal] at 1615 Delaware N. E. and the Olivet Church at 20th and South Federal.

When the new church was near completion, the stone church was sold in 1952 to the Free Methodist Church.

Is Largest Project

Largest church construction project in the city's history is the combined church and education unit of the First Methodist congregation on Georgia between 1st and 2nd S.E. This beautiful brick colonial structure was built at a cost of $850,000.

Ground breaking ceremonies for the new church were held May 13, 1951, and the following Oct. the cornerstone was laid. Following the plans drawn by Hansen and Waggoner, Contractors Davey and Moen proceeded with the construction, completing for this congregation, which succeeded the Olivet in the south part of the city and the Zion on East State. The congregation this year [1953] added another unit to the church at 1405 Pennsylvania S. E.

~ ~ ~ ~

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


[Section 8, Page 8] Largest of the church construction projects in the $3 million program of new places of worship here the past five years i the First Methodist, which held its opening services Sunday, April 25, 1953.

Of colonial design, the structure includes, besides the main church, an educational wing with administrative offices and a large social hall and kitchen in the basement.

Built of brick, the main body of the church is finished in white enamel, after pure colonial style. Paneled walls, beam work and pilasters mark the entrance and stairway to the balcony. A block terrazzo floor in the entrance adds richness to the simplicity of the design.

Is Huge Structure

Walls of the nave are enameled white with plaster run cornices. Each window is equipped with heating and ventilating openings. Pews, with white enameled ends, are of stained walnut.

Overall dimensions of the building are 211 feet by 161 feet. The spire is 115 feet to the top of the cross.

The completion of this magnificent structure is the climax of nearly a century of service to this community on the part of the First Methodist Church.

The first gatherings that blossomed into the organization of a congregation were held in March, 1857. The first pastor as the Rev. Mr. Freemen. The first services were held in the John McMillin home.

Built Church in 1870

The first church built by the congregation in 1870 stood on the present [1953] site of the Piggly Wiggly store and was completed at a cost of $8,000.

Following a revival in 1893-94 the old stone church on Washington and 2nd N. W. was built.

Original plans were for a $29,000 building. Congregation raised $30,000 and on March 10, 1895, the new church was dedicated by Rev. B. I. Ives of Auburn, N.Y. At the close of the service a financial statement was presented showing the church had cost in excess of $40,000 and Pastor Ives succeeded in getting $15,000 in additional contributions.

The site of the new church was acquired in 1949 and the ground breaking ceremony held May 13, 1951. The cornerstone was laid the following Oct. 14.

Still to be erected [1953] is a chapel on the north end of the church, for which $25,000 was bequested by the B. C. Way estate and $500 from an anonymous giver.


[Section 8, Page 8] Elisha Randall, the man who built Mason City's first industrial enterprise - a saw and grist mill near the present [1953] site of the Jacob E. Decker and Sons plant - was a prominent figure in the organization of the First Methodist Church.

Records show organization took place March 3, 1857, three years after the arrival of the first families. The charter members were Mr. and Mrs. Randall and daughter, Mrs. J. B. Long, Mrs. George Brentner, Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Parker, Mr. and Mrs. N. M. Adams and Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Taylor.

The first quarterly meeting was held March 15, 1857. The congregation held services for some time in the upper story of John McMillin's store and later at the school hours. In 1872 a church was built on the site of the present [1953] Piggly Wiggly store north of Central Park.

In the midst of the building program, the Great Depression of the early 70's came, crippling the booming business life of the community and nipping a boom that blossomed with the coming of the first railroad in the fall of 1869.

Members of the congregation decided to suspend completion of the church and put a roof over the basement. Services were held in this basement until a campaign for funds made it possible to complete the church two years later.

The basement was divided into three classrooms. The church had a seating capacity of 400. This church had the first pipe organ in Mason City.

This pipe organ was for a number of years the center of interest for musical minded Mason Cityans. It was installed by L. L. Huntley, graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music.


[Section 8, Page 9] It is significant that the educational unit of the new First Methodist Church stands on the site of Mason City's first school building, a two-story, two room structure that was torn down when the Central School was built in 1872.

The north corner of the church property was then acquired by the First Wesleyan Methodist Church for $800 with a $100 down payment. This group lost the property on foreclosure and the corner was acquired by C. H. Hughes, who built a house on the lot. In 1891 the house was purchased by C. Currie, father of Frank R. Currie of the Currie Hardware Store.

In 1906 the house was purchased by W. A. Brandenburg, high school superintendent and later president of Kansas Teachers College at Pittsburg, Kan. The west part of the lot was deeded to Dr. G. C. Stockman, who built the Frank Lloyd Wright planned house, which still stands adjacent to the church. This house was later sold to Joe Laird and finally to the present [1953] occupant, Tom Skarlis.

Brandenburg sold the corner house to W. H. Boyd, father of W. W. Boyd in 1910. The church acquired the corner from W. W. Boyd in 1949, thus possessing again the property it lost three-quarters of a century before.

The south corner occupied by the new church also has an interesting history, as do most of the properties that go back to pioneer days.

Charles Gracey of New York, here briefly as right of way agent for construction of the Austin branch of the Milwaukee, held the property for several years after he purchased it in 1868. Gracey had a part in platting the town of Plymouth.

In 1882, Edmund Pennington, Milwaukee division superintendent, bought the lot and built the large house that stood on the corner when the church purchased the property. In 1885 the house was deeded to Mrs. Mary Emsley, widow of Tom Emsley, founder of the First National Bank, and it was from her heirs, Doris Markley and the late Mrs. H. D. Page, that the property was purchased.

NOTE: William Aaron "Prexy" Brandenburg was born in Clayton County, Iowa, October 10, 1869, the son of Francis Marion and Enfield (Maxwell) Brandenburg. A 1900 graduate of Drake University, he taught at Drake during summer terms of 1903, 1904, and 1905 until he came to Mason City in 1905 to accept the position as superintendent of the public school system. He held this position until 1910. From Mason City, he went to Oklahoma City as superintendent of public schools, and in August of 1913, without formal application, assumed the presidency of the State Manual Traning Normal School, Pittsburg, Kansas. He married Miss Altana Adelaide "Alta" Penfield on June 22, 1893, Volga, Iowa. Miss Penfield was the daughter of William A. and Lucy A. (Chapman) Penfield. William died October 29, 1940, Richmond Heights, Missouri. Alta was born in Volga, Iowa, on July 26, 1869, and died January 24, 1956, Pittsburg, Kansas. They were interred at Highland Park Cemetery, Pittsburg, Kansas.
SOURCES: Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Vol. IV. Pp. 1989-90. Lewis Publ. Co. Chicago. 1918.
The Globe-Gazette. Mason City, Iowa. Saturday, May 11, 1940. Page 18.

Cory Currie was born in 1847 near Toronto, Canada. He married Louisa Bond in 1871, and the family came to Mason City in 1880. Mr. Currie was employed by the Milwaukee Railroad as a fireman and engineer for three years, then operated a restaurant in downtown Mason City from 1884 to 1895. He founded the hardware business in 1892 with a purchase of a one-third interest in the Dagget & Schwie Hardware Company of Mason City. In 1895, he sold his restaurant and bought out the two remaining Dagget & Schwie partners, thus establishing C. Currie & Son Company with his son, Frank R. Currie. Cory died in 1942. Louisa Harriet (Bond) Currie was born September 29, 1848, Green Lake County, Wisconsin, and died in 1934, Mason City. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.
SOURCES: curries.com/en/site/curries/About-CURRIES/History/

Frank R. Currie, son of Cory and Louisa Harriet (Bond) Currie, was born in Kossuth County, Iowa, on February 17, 1874. He became the president of C. Currie and Son Company.
SOURCE: The Globe-Gazette. Mason City, Iowa. Saturday, August 31, 1957.

Dr. George C. Stockman was born October 25, 1852, and died September 16, 1927. Eleanor M. (Chafin) Stockman was born April 16, 1856, and died June 18, 1924. Dr. G. C. and Eleanor Stockman were interred at Oak Ridge Cemetery, East Troy, Wisconson. They were originally from Wisconsin. The Stockman House, owned by the Stockmans until 1924 and originally located at 311 1st Street S.E., was moved to 530 1st Street N.E. to avoid demolition. The house, fully restored as a public museum, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places January 29, 1980.

Thomas Skarlis was born in 1908, and died in 1959. Evangeline Skarlis, his wife, was born in 1916, and died in 2000. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

William H. Boyd was born in 1866, and died in 1934. Lorretta M. Boyd, his wife, was born in 1873, and died in 1954. William W. Boyd was born in 1894, and died in 1958; his wife, Mary M. (Melzer) Boyd, was born in 1915, and died in 1939; their son, William Boyd, Jr., was born and died May 2, 1939. The Boyds were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Thomas Goodwillie "Tom" Emsley was born in Carroll County, Ohio, December 23, 1843, and died in Nebraska on June 7, 1885. Mary Ann (Church) Emsley Adams was born in Springboro, Pennsylvania, on October 8, 1839, and died in Mason City on March 21, 1931. Doris E. Markley was born in 1892, and died in 1968.

Edmund Pennington was born September 16, 1848, Peru, Illinois. The family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1853. He was general superintendent of the Minnesota division of the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie Railroad April of 1886 to February, 1899, when he was named general manager. In March of 1909 he was named president of the railroad. Edmund died May 1, 1926. Ella Marie (Sturgis) Lawler Pennington, his wife, was born June 8, 1859, in Missouri, and died in Minneapolis on January 29, 1925. They were interred at Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
SOURCE: Shutter, Rev. Marion Daniel. History of Minneapolis: Gateway to the Northwest. Vol. III. Pp. 598-601. S.J. Clarke Publ. Co. Chicago. 1923.

SOURCES: "Mason City." History of Franklin and Cerro Gordo Counties, Iowa. Chapt. XXV. Pp. 955-1004. Union Pub. Co. Springfield IL. 1883.

Globe-Gazette, Mason City Centennial Issue, Monday, June 01, 1953

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011; updated December of 2014



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