IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

Congregational Church, National

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

Old Landmark Soon to Vanish
by Florence L. Clark, Gazette correspondent

McGregor - they were sturdy Americans from New England and New York for the most part who, in the 1840's and 1850's, settled beside the Dubuque-St. Paul trail in Clayton county, 10 miles southwest of McGregor. They named their community "National" and not ony did they give the countryside the finest school of the day, but they built and kept two churches of wide influence.

The first of these churches - the Methodist - has long since been a barn on the Cyril Matt farm, and cows and pigs go in and out the door where devout worshippers on the frontier entered seeking soul uplift.

The other church across the road - the Congregational - has just been auctioned off at a public sale for $1,160 to another farmer of the area, Amel Thiese. He is tearing it down and the superb white pine lumber from the northern pineries in old Mississippi river rafting days is being trucked away to his farm.

The church pipe organ with its 184 pipes, said to have been the first pipe organ in northeast Iowa, was bid on by John Corlett, keeper of a secondhand store in McGregor. He also was the successful bidder for the walnut reed organ and the kerosene lamp fixtures. The bell went to Thiese with the building.

The church, after National received its death blow when the railroad passed it by, was sold by the few remaining members of the congregational faith to the Lutherans, who held services there for awhile, then also abandoned it.

When it looked, later on, as though a Monona tavern-keeper was about to buy it to convert it into a tavern, Miss Althea Sherman, daughter and niece of the Sherman brothers, Mark and Edwin, who had been among the founders of the church, bought it for $1,050 to save it from such a fate. While continuing at her home the bird research work that had won her high place among ornithologists, Miss Sherman maintained the church and the cemetery over which it stood sentinel until her death. In her will she deeded the church to the Cemetery Association.

No services have been held in the church since, as they hadn't been for years before, except on rare occasions for a funeral, followed by a burial in the cemetery. Miss Sherman and her parents, who were the very first settlers on the National prairie, and her sister, Dr. Amelia Sherman, first woman physician in northeast Iowa, lie buried in the cemetery.

The Cemetery association auctioned off the church. The majority of the members could see no reason for keeping what had become only a landmark on U.S. 52 - the modern version of the Dubuque-St. Paul trail - telling travelers in case they were interested that they were motoring down the main stree of a ghost town. The Sherman home, also willed to the Cemetery association, still stands. Back of it rises the 40-foot white frame tower, where for years Miss Sherman studied chimney swifts and their nest life on her famed "Acre of Birds."

~Source: The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, January 25, 1953 - the photo at the top of this page accompanied the Gazette article

Note: Another newspaper article from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 6, 1949, also displayed the photo of the church. The 1949 article was essentially the same the 1953 article (transcribed above), but contained the following information:

"Eighty years ago, Mark Sherman was leader of a group of early settlers who built the Congregational church. The church thrived with the little community for a time, but it declined with the village when the town ceased to be a main stop on the Old Dubuque to St. Paul trail. For a time it was thought that the church would have to be abandoned, since many of its members had moved away and it was no longer possible to keep a minister." "The building, grounds and cemetery are still well kept and have a neat appearance."


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