IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.


Congregational Church, McGregor


First Congregational Church of McGregor


Unless otherwise credited, the items on this page were transcribed by S. Ferrall



During the year of 1856 a few families of that faith and order having located at McGregor and in view of its prospective growth and importance, much interest was manifested by the ministers and members of the neighboring churches, as well as citizens of the place in the early establishment of a Congregational church there.

On Saturday evening, Jan. 3, 1857, a meeting was held at the residence of Mr. J. H. Merrill, and the first steps taken in the organization of the First Congregational Church of McGregor. On the following Sabbath morning the first public services were held. Rev. O. Emerson, Jr., agent of the American Missionary Association, and Rev. L. L. Radcliff, of Prairie du Chien, officiated, when seven persons (Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Merrill, Robert Grant, Mrs. J. L. Dearborn, Mrs. A. T. Jones and Miss Clorinda Rowan) united in giving solemn public assent to the articles of faith and covenant, and were declared duly organized a Church of Christ. Rev. M. M. Wakeman, of the Farmersburg church, officiated as minister through the winter, preaching every alternate Sabbath. During the summer no services were held except occasionally as come minister was stopping in town. In October of the same year, the Rev. Joseph Bloomer was called to the pastorate. He came with the zeal and enthusiasm that such an ardent temperament alone possesses. His was a profitable, busy life, during the week attending to many things which necessarily must be done, when almost everything is undeveloped, and upon the Sabbath preaching inspiring, helpful sermons. The Sabbath school was organized and members received into the church, but his work was soon finished and he was called up higher. It was a grievous and mysterious providence to the little band that was so happy in their church-work under his leadership.

He was soon succeeded by Rev. T. A. Wardsworth, who labored faithfully till the spring of 1859, when the relations between him and his people were amicably dissolved. It was during his ministry the church received its first members on profession, all previous members having united by letter.
The same month that Mr. Wardsworh’s relations with the church were dissolved, Mr. H. G. McArthur began to supply the pulpit, and in August following was ordained and continued his ministry until September, 1860. During the time the house in which the church now worships was built, although the dedication did not occur until after his resignation. Soon after the dedication the Rev. L. P. Sloan commenced his labors, and after continuing his ministry for seven years with great acceptance and attaching himself very strongly to his people and the community, he was installed as pastor and continued to be their faithful under shepherd until his death, Oct. 29, 1870. Seldom have there been more attached to and untied in a pastor, and they sorrowed as for a near and dear friend. He was not only held in the highest esteem by his own people, but also by his neighboring churches and the minor and general associations, and ever considered a wise and safe counselor. He was always up to the times and deeply interested in the advancement of every good work, not only in the church but in the well-being of our country, and inspired his people with the same feeling. His people were very near to him and were remembered in his last moments. Tell my people to be established in the Truth, I have no fears, was his last message to them. One hundred and fifty were added to the membership during the ten years of his pastorate, seventy-three on profession of their faith. During his absence as chaplain in the army, in the winter of 1862 and ’63, the Rev. T. Wilcox, in whom this church became much interested, served as pastor for a time, and for a few months in the first of 1870, while he was absent in New Orleans for the benefit of his health, the Rev. J. K. Grun, missionary at Broosa, Turkey, supplied the pulpit. The Rev. D. R. McNab began his labors serving the church very acceptably. At every communion season during his ministry members were received into church-fellowship—twelve of the twenty-one uniting on profession. The Rev. S. F. Millia* entered upon his labors in January, 1873, with more than a general average number of additions to the church, twenty-six of whom were united on profession of their faith. Rev. S. F. Millika* was succeeded by Rev. C. C. Cragin, the present incumbent. Under his pastorate the church has been prosperous and has had an unusual good influence in the community. The present membership is about 135.
~source: History of Clayton County Iowa, 1882; Chapter XXXV

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In 1857 a group of men and women organized the Congregational church. The first regular pastor was Rev. Joseph Bloomer, who came in the fall of 1857. The services were held in a hall for several years, but in 1860 the present building was erected. Soon after this the Civil war broke out and by 1862 one-tenth of the members of the church were in the army, the preacher, Rev. S.P. Sloane, going as a chaplain. The present pastor is Rev. J.F. Parsons.
~source: Clayton County Register, Wednesday, September 13, 1939; from an article titled "McGregor - Magnet For Tourists". The author of the article was not given.

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McGregor: Fire of undetermined origin destroyed the 90-year-old Congregational church, one of the oldest in Iowa, here Saturday afternoon. Its congregation was organized in 1857, and most of the structure was built in 1860. By Saturday night all that was left of the edifice were the walls, the belfry tower and the church bell. Fireman from Prairie du Chien, Wis., and Monona were here to help bring the blaze under control. The Elkader fire department was alerted in case protection was needed for the McGregor hospital across the street and the sub-zero temperatures hampered the fire fighters. It was zero at noon when the fire broke out and the temperature had dropped to 12 below zero by evening. The McGregor department maintained a guard on the still smoking building all of Saturday night. Church officials estimated it would take at least $75,000 to rebuild. The building was insured for $32,000. The church's pipe organ alone was valued at $10,000. The church had been redecorated preceding the celebration of its ninetieth anniversary and there had been about $10,000 worth of improvements put into the building in the last few years.

One of the founders of the church was a member of the family of Samuel Merrill, governor of Iowa from 1868 to 1872. The first minister was the Rev. Joseph Bloomer. The present pastor is the Rev. C. W. Punter.
~source: Clayton County Register, Thur., 3 Feb. 1949 ~contributed by Reid R. Johnson

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Dedication services for the new building of the First Congregational church of McGregor will be held Sunday morning, Aug. 10 at 10:30 a.m. Dr. Judson E. Fiebiger, superintendent of the Congregational Christian Conference of Iowa, wil give the dedicatory address.

Following a fire which destroyed the old church building, the new church was constructed last winter at a cost of $50,000. It is designed with American colonial type architecture and will seat 200 persons.

The Rev. Tom Fukuyama has been pastor of the church since May. He is a native of Seattle and studied at Seattle Pacific college, Berkeley Baptist Divinity school, and the Andover-Newton Theological seminary in Boston.
~source: Clayton County Register, Thursday, August 7, 1952 (included the photo, although it reproduced poorly on the microfilm of the newspaper)

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McGregor - The First Congregational church will mark 100 years of service in special ceremonies here Sunday. Dr. Judson Fieberger of Grinnell, superintendent of the Congregational Church Conference of Iowa, will give the centennial address. Following a potluck dinner at noon in Fellowship hall, a varied program will be presented. A historical exhibit, including pictures and old records, will highlight the afternoon's activities. Several former pastors and their families are expected to attend the centennial.

The church was organized on Jan. 2, 1857, at the home of J.H. Merrill. Early meetings were held in Harding's Dance hall. Sunday school was started at this time, but church service on a regular basis did not begin until the fall, when the Rev. Joseph Bloomer of Connecticut came to McGregor. A building was erected in 1860 and church membership continued to grow. The Rev. S.P. Sloane, uncle of F.C. Sloane, still a regular member of the McGregor church, was pastor at the time.

A pipe organ was installed while the Rev. C.C. Gragin was pastor from 1875 to 1883, and a tower and new pews were installed during the time the Rev. G.A. Francis served. He was pastor from 1901 to 1907.

Fired destroyed the 90-year-old church on Jan. 29, 1949. For two years, services were held in the community rooms until a new building was completed three and one-half years later. Dedication services were held Aug. 19, 1952, and the Rev. Tom Fukuyama was the first pastor in the new church building. He was followed by the Rev. Ebert Turnquist, who died Sept. 29, 1956, after serving only a few months. Students and professors from the University of Dubuque filled the pulpit until the Rev. W.O. Crosby, current pastor, came to McGregor.
~source: Cedar Rapids Gazette, Saturday, September 28, 1957 (included the photo of the church that appears at the top of this page)

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In 1961 the church joined the United Church of Christ, Northeast Association of the Iowa Conference. January 4, 1981 the church celebrated it's 124th Anniversary.

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See also: The Pilgrims of Iowa - Congregational Home Missionary Society

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