March 8, 2010
East Iowa Churches -- Wood Center
Methodist Congregation Closely Linked with Edgewood
by Irene Gleason, Gazette Correspondent
Edgewood - The story of Wood Center Methodist church also is the story of its community, one of the most closely-knit communities in this area.
It was not always this way. The community once was sharply divided, with one group attending a German-speaking church and the other group attending English services. It took violence in the form of a war and a tornado to unite the two groups.
The church building, situated about nine miles northeast of Edgewood, seldom is used for church services now, although it is kept for that purpose. It is opened about twice a year for services, and other occasions for weddings and for funerals for older members of the community. Its main function now is as a meeting place for such groups as 4-H clubs and the Grange (which has donated labor and materials whenever repairs are needed).
The Edgewood and Wood Methodist churches were combined as the Edgewood-Wood pastorate more than a decade ago. The Wood church is maintained from the general fund of the combined church. However, the Wood ladies' aid society has maintained its separate identity. They meet monthly, and two or three times a year sponsor a dinner or bazaar for the general fund of the combined pastorate.
This area was settled originally by two groups. An English-speaking group settled in what was known as "Turkey Timber", not far from "Yankee Settlement", which later became Edgewood.
The group was served first by circuit riders, later by an occasional Yankee Settlement minister who met with them in their homes. They established a cemetery and built a church at Asbury. Among the family names were Beatty, Leighty, Hunter, Smock, Fleming, Hosier, Appleton, Rizer, Porter, Wiltse, Masters, Weir, Crosby, Brocks, Rhines, Galer and Behling. One of the earliest tombstones in Asbury cemetery is dated 1854. Many of this group came from New York state.
Later arrivals were the German-speaking group. Earliest tombstones in their little cemetery are dated in the late 1880's. Family names include Friedley, Oldfather, Hilgendorf, Wessel, Moser, Kuhrelmeyer, Berens, Fensterman, Von Talge, Brockmeyer, Ackman, Holland, Adams and Kraus. Their church was built about 1890. Their minister was German, their records were in German, the people were German and they were proud of it.
Sometime in the period between 1900 and 1914 members of Asbury church decided to move their building to a more central location. In a day when moving a building was almost unheard of, they moved their church to within half a mile of the German-speaking church.
During World War I, anti-German feeling made members of the second church consider switching to English. In May of 1918 a cyclone destroyed both churches, leaving a new piano which had been purchased by the young people of the German Methodist hcurch, a few pews and hymnals. After the storm members of the two churches decided to consolidate, with English services and records. A church was built, and also a parsonage, which was the pride of the neighborhood.
According to one of the old-timers who helped to raise the money, "the church and parsonage together cost $11,000 , plus the donation of labor. We thought we'd never have that much money. However, we soon paid off the debt."
Everyone in the community helped raise the money. All the social life of the neighborhood revolved around the church. Ladies' aid and young people's groups were very active.
By World War II attendance had dropped. Because pastors were scarce Wood congregation was combined with Edgewood congregation. Eventually attendance fell off to the point that it did not pay to heat the church during the winter. The Rev. Laurence Marshburn, pastor of the combined churches emphasizes that the building can be reopened for services whenever enough people wish it.
Sometime during its 36 years, the church building lost its steeple. It had to be removed because it had become unsafe. However, because they did not want to do without their church bell, the members built a bell tower in the church yard, where it remains.
With the rural schools which served as meeting places now gone, members of the community hope to keep the church building for community meetings, even though it may never again be used for regular church services.
Wood Center Methodist Church near Edgewood
This photo accompanied the newspaper article.
~source: Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 1, 1956
~transcribed by S. Ferrall
~note: occasionally Wood Center is spelled Wood Centre, the cemetery is named Ebenezer or Wood Community cemetery. Helen Jennings reports that the church is no longer standing.
Wood Center Methodist church Confirmation class, ca 1940's
None of the people in this photo are identified .... if you recognize anyone, please email the Clayton co. coordinator so the names can be added to this page.
~photo from Lowell Walters' scrapbook, ca 1940's
~contributed by Helen Jennings
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