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The Methodist Church in Adel has come to the close of its first century, A hundred years is a long time, and the century just past has witnessed more changes in material progress than any other period in history. The founders of our church, who made their way across the vast wilderness of waving prairie grasses, through deep Iowa forests, and across swollen streams with ox teams and covered wagons to build their log cabins on the west bank of the Raccoon River, could not have foreseen, in their rosiest dreams, the present day of concrete roads, airplanes, and television, Yet, in building their church, they built to the glory of God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Let us look back across the years to the humble beginnings of the church we serve today.

The unknown tract of land called the Iowa Territory was first recognized officially by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1844, when the formation of the Iowa Conference was authorized. The formal organization took place in Iowa City on August 14, 1844, with Bishop Thomas A. Morris presiding. The following year a mission was projected under the name Raccoon Forks Mission at the forks of the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers to cover the settlements around and above Fort Des Moines,

In 1850, the Reverend Michael H. Hare was appointed to the Fort Des Moines Mission, which included several small appointments in the neighborhood of the town itself, We are indeed fortunate to have an account of the founding of the Adel church in Fort Des Moines, early in September, 1850. "Learning upon my arrival that there were a few...Methodists who had moved into the region up the Raccoon River who desired to be taken into the circuit; Brother Ezra Rathbun and I went upon an exploring expedition," (The Reverend Rathbun was the first preacher to hold religious services in Fort Des Moines.) "We reached Judge Leaming's, about twenty miles above Des Moines, that night. There we preached and formed a class. The next day we crossed a big prairie south of Adel, a distance of about twenty miles. No preacher had as yet visited that place. The citizens were called together, and a Squire Green invited us to occupy a room at his hotel, which we readily accepted. We preached that night and formed a class, which met generally afterward at the home of Dr. James. This was the first sermon preached at Adel, and the first organization of the society there.’’

In 1851, the Iowa Annual Conference appointed Adel as the head of a new circuit, called Adel Mission Circuit, This district began at Fort Des Moines and swung around in a zig-zag route of two hundred miles, through Dallas, Guthrie, a part of Greene and a part of Polk counties. It had thirteen appointments to be filled in three weeks. The summer of 1851 we find this record in the church book: "At a quarterly conference held in Des Moines, John James, G. W. Noel, Mason Bilderback, J. C. Goodson, and Wm. Shepherd were elected trustees to purchase a lot in Adel, Dallas County, Iowa, for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church."

In 1853, when the Reverend Joel Mason came to the circuit, his work was such that he preached four times every Sabbath, His salary was $125 per year. On the 31st of December, 1853, a committee was appointed to build or purchase a parsonage for the words of the Reverend Hare himself. In a letter written to another preacher, the Reverend Waring, some years later, he recalls: ‘‘I reached the charge, Adel Circuit. Serving on this committee were I. C. Goodson, Peter Ellis, M. Haworth, John Fooley, and Wm. Ellis, Peter Ellis was the great grandfather of John and Amelia Fidler and Mrs. Vera Wright. Three years later, in 1856, the Adel Mission Circuit refused further aid from the mission and became self-supporting, being known as the Adel Circuit. Some of the appointments were in small villages or settlements, while others met in log schoolhouses or dwellings, The Reverend Donahoe was the first pastor after the circuit became self-supporting.

These early preachers must truly have been inspired of God to carry forth their work under pioneer conditions. They usually traveled by horseback, with saddle bags filled with their own clothing and supplies and books for their charge. Traveling by buggy was hazardous and often resulted in leaving the vehicle mired down in mud or submerged in some swollen stream while the pastor unhitched his horse and proceeded on horseback, An early writer states that Mr. Donahoe’s health gave out before the close of the first year, and he died the year following. When we consider that the circuit included Jordan, Jefferson, Boone, Panora, Redfield, Wiscotta, Panther Creek School, Adel, and several log schoolhouses, that it was necessary to preach four times each Sunday, with the charges many miles apart, it is no wonder he succumbed.

During the first ten years of the Adel Church, meetings had been held in a small frame schoolhouse on West Main Street, in a hall on the east side of the square, or in the courthouse, On December 11, 1860, Articles of Incorporation were adopted with Lewis Jolley, G. W. Noel, Samuel Witham, Wm. R. Rigg, Jas. L. Snyder, and Pearson Young as trustees, and steps were taken to erect a church building. The Reverend Badley was pastor in charge at this time. The circuit still had something like fifteen appointments.

It is hard for us, ninety years later, to appreciate the immense undertaking it meant in labor, money, and vexation, to build a church at that time. A committee of five had begun three years earlier to raise the $2,000.00 necessary for its erection. This was a great amount of money, as the membership in the Adel appointment was not more than twenty-five. A Mr. Yard contributed the building of the foundation as his share, and Mr. Lewis Jolley built the roof, In all the early history of the church, we find the name of Mr. Jolley mentioned with great appreciation for his generous contributions in time, labor, and money toward the young church. It is interesting to know that Mr. Jolley was the grandfather of Mrs. Truman Mitchell, and his great, great grandchildren have been baptized in the church he helped to establish.

The church was completed in 1862, and had the distinction of being the first church house built in the town of Adel. It served as a church for twenty-five years. It is still standing, in an excellent state of repair, across the street east of the present parsonage. It is now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Rex Rogers.

W. W. Buckman, pioneer merchant of Adel, recalls that during the years 1878-79, he served as janitor of the church, that being his contribution, His father, the late S. T. Buckman, bought a tract of timber along the river east of town, and the wood was cut into stove lengths for burning in the stove at the church. "On cold winter days and nights," says Mr. Buckman, "we nearly froze."

The first parsonage was bought by the church in 1865, a small frame house on Green Street. This sufficed until 1881, when, through the untiring efforts of the Reverend Hamilton, a two story house was built on the same site. This house, now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Wacht, served as the pastor's dwelling until 1907.

The first church organ was purchased in 1867, when a young hardware merchant, Don A. Blanchard, a musician of exceptional ability, organized a choir. The fine voice of Mr. Blanchard was outstanding in the Methodist choir for more than thirty years, and through his untiring work and generous purchase of music, the choir was maintained in those early days at the same high standard which characterizes it today.

The earliest record of the church business is to be found in the minutes of the Quarterly Conference of November 5, 1864, with the Reverend P. F. Breese, presiding elder, and the Reverend M. E. Martin, local pastor. Others present at this early meeting were J. J. Ludington, Peter Ellis, and Jonathan Dillon, local preachers; S. Garoutte and Z. W. Kelly, exhorters; M. Chestnutwood, W. Frakes, and J. Beaver, stewards; J. Stearns and A. Stewart, class leaders; and J. S. DeMotte, Sunday school superintendent, (The appointments of the Adel charge were Adel, Mount Zion, Panther Creek, McKibbens, Wiscotta, Vails, Paynes, Garoutte's, King’s, and Dillon's.) The same meeting reported all Sunday schools closed for the winter. The Estimating Committee reported $800 as the salary of the local pastor and the presiding elder's claim, $85. Mrs. John Sweezy is a descendant of Mr. Dillon, and M. M. Frakes is a great grandson of W. Frakes.

During the decade of the Seventies, the circuit progressed steadily. The Frakes schoolhouse in Adams township was added to the appointments in 1878. A new church organ was purchased for the Adel Church, a new well, fence, barn, and stove added to the parsonage property. In 1879, the pastor's salary was reduced from $800 to $725, and a year later further reduced to $700, the amount due from the Adel appointment being $450, but a year later, it was again increased to $800,

The first official board of the church was organized in November, 1884.

In 1885, the Reverend Detwiler reported that he had received sixty-nine new members into the church, the Sunday school had a membership of eighty, and a Sunday school library of one hundred volumes had been established. This was the first library of any kind to be established in Adel.

In a copy of the Dallas County News for April 9, 1885, the following item appears: “A business meeting was held in the Methodist Episcopal Church last Friday evening for consultation concerning the erection of the proposed new church building. After making careful estimates on the cost of material and labor, it has been found that such a building as had been determined on and which was expected to cost $6,000.00, can be built at the cost not to exceed $4,500.00…”

According to a report prepared by the late Z. N. Fidler, long time member and secretary of the Official Board, the new church was completed in 1886, at a cost, complete with furnishings, of $5,000.00, It was dedicated on September 12, 1886, by Dr. W. S. Ridgeway, of Garrett Biblical Institute. This building, still the home of the Adel Methodist Church in a remodeled and enlarged form, consisted of the present sanctuary and a lecture room on the south, where the primary department of the Sunday school met and the Sunday school library was housed. When the re-decorating program of 1944 was in progress, the architect in charge complimented the church on the original beauty of the structure, particularly the vaulted ceilings, the shape and proportion of the chancel, and the Gothic shaped windows. The original window panes were of the highly colored red, purple, green, blue, and yellow that prevailed in all modern churches of the day.

The minutes of the meeting of the trustees on September 12, 1887 reported the following financial items: Amount raised for new building $5,320.00, with an additional $309.50 for a new furnace. The amount of church indebtedness was $1,060.00, the mortgage being held by the Church Extension Society of Philadelphia. The church property as of October, 1887 was evaluated as follows:

Old building $ 500.00
New building 5500.00
Parsonage 1000.00

The old church building was sold later to Orin Jewett for the sum of $500,00, ten dollars being paid in cash and the remainder to draw 6% interest.

The trustees’ records of 1900 are not available, but there is a bill to the church from the Adel Mill Company, owners of the electric light company, which indicates that our church board was prompt in securing the newly established electric service. The first electric lights were turned on in Adel on September 25, 1900, and the bill is dated October 11. The cost of the fixtures (and how many of us recall the great, ornate chandelier with its circles of transparent light bulbs that hung from the ceiling of the sanctuary) was $53.10, and the cost of wiring $46.90. These with other incidental expenses brought the total cost of our first electric lights to $109.81. A freight bill of the same date indicates that a new furnace had been installed, also.

The history of the church would not be complete without a brief mention of those faithful ones who contributed to the music of the church. In early days, it was the custom to sing the hymns without accompaniment of a musical instrument of any kind, nor were the Old Gospel Hymnals printed with musical notes. At the head of each hymn would appear the letters C M, L M, or H M, denoting common, low, or high meter. The preacher read aloud the first two lines and the congregation then sang the words in the meter indicated. Mention has already been made of the fine work of Don A. Blanchard in the musical development of the church, and the purchases of the small church organs. The first piano was purchased by the Epworth League. The church now has four, as well as the electric Organ. The earliest organist of whom we have record, is Miss Mary Jolley, who became the wife of the late H. V. Rickerson. Miss Eva Wright (Mrs. Chas. Smith) was pianist for seventeen years, from 1886 to 1903. Her two sisters, the Misses Jessie and Helen Wright, also served in that capacity, as did the late Mrs. Sada McCurdy Wright. Mrs. Ralph Hoffman was the faithful and efficient accompanist from 1924 to 1944, holding that position longer than any other, and relinquishing the post only when failing health made it imperative. The position of organist is at present held by Mrs. Neale Caudron, granddaughter of Eva Wright-Smith.

Revival meetings held an important place in the history of the spiritual growth of the church. These meetings were held almost every winter, sometimes for many weeks at a time. Usually these were conducted by the Methodist Church alone, either by the regular pastor, or a visiting evangelist. Many were converted to the Christian faith at these meetings. (It is interesting to note that the world famous Dr. Chas. Goff, pastor of the Chicago Temple, the great Methodist Church of downtown Chicago, as a boy once assisted the Reverend G. Augustus Jones during a revival meeting in the Adel church, singing and playing the banjo.) In the winter of 1916, the churches of the community built a large tabernacle on the parking lot at the southeast corner of the courthouse square where revival meetings were held for several weeks. A large chorus of young people was organized and the hall was filled night after night. All the churches participating, reported many new members at the close of the great revival.

Until the early 1900's, services in the Methodist Episcopal Church began at ten-thirty o'clock, lasting an hour and a half, with Sunday school following at noon. At one o'clock, a few loyal ones remained for an old time class meeting of testimonies, prayers, and hymn singing. Evening worship services were held without fail, following the meeting of the Epworth League. Prayer meetings were held every Wednesday evening and were well attended.

The custom of holding Sunday evening services prevailed until the summer of 1946, when they were discontinued because of the small attendance. The mid-week prayer meetings continued throughout the pastorate of Dr. C. D. Loose, being abandoned in 1949. The old Epworth and Junior League organizations were absorbed by the Methodist Youth Fellowship and the Intermediate Fellowship in the reorganization program of 1940. These early groups have left memorials to their splendid work in many
ways, but we can particularly remember the Junior League by its gift of the silver baptismal urn still used on occasions, and the Epworth League by its purchase of the first church piano which replaced the last old-fashioned church organ.

In 1923, the present church building was substantially remodeled to meet the increased needs of the growing church. The lecture room on the south was removed, a basement projected under the entire building, providing for a modern kitchen, a Fellowship Hall, three classrooms, washrooms, and furnace room; two classrooms and a stairway added to the north of the sanctuary, and two classrooms on the third floor. This was accomplished under the ministry of R. R. Moser, Special credit is given to the late A. L. Worster, who was largely responsible for starting the financial part of the building. The church was dedicated on January 27, 1924, with Dr. Geo. C. Crissman officiating, assisted by the Reverend F. N, Willis, the District Superintendent, A new pulpit was presented to the church at this time by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur C. Cole, in memory of their only son, Roderick, who had died a few years before while a student in the Adel High School. This pulpit is now being used by the Youth Fellowship in the chapel. The old multi-colored windows were replaced by pleasant mottled glass, which were used until 1949.

In 1939, the name of the church was officially changed from Methodist Episcopal to Methodist when the Uniting Conference met in Kansas City, Missouri, and merged the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church.

At a special service held in the sanctuary on Sunday, June 19, 1942, the church celebrated the clearing of all indebtedness by publicly burning the mortgage. It was a day of high rejoicing for the members of the Adel Methodist Church, The message of the morning service was delivered by the Reverend W. G, Warren, pastor of the Adel church from 1927-1939, An address was given also by the District Superintendent, Dr. Claude W. Cooper, At the afternoon service we were honored by the presence of Bishop J. Magee, who brought an inspiring address, The committee for the disposition of the mortgage was composed of E. R. Orr, of the Official Board, C. A. Forrester of the trustees, Fred Worster of the Finance Committee, and Mrs. L. W. Croft, president of the Woman's Society of Christian Service. The Reverend E. I. Seldon was the pastor in charge.

In 1944 the Board of Trustees voted to re-decorate the entire church interior with Nu-Wood at a cost of $3,600.00. A fine pulpit Bible was presented to the church at this time by Miss Amelia Fidler as a fitting memorial to her parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. Z. N. Fidler, who had served the church faithfully and well for many years. Under the supervision of the Woman's Society of Christian Service, the classroom north of the sanctuary was converted into a beautiful chapel for the use of the Methodist Youth Fellowship. These improvements were fittingly dedicated at an appropriate service conducted by the Reverend Arthur V. Long, pastor. Other improvements included a stoker and hardwood floors throughout the basement.

Through the generosity of one of our members, Mrs. Ida Beasley, our church has again been remodeled and through her splendid gifts, we now have a place of worship which has been pronounced by church architects to be one of the most beautiful small churches in the conference. During the pastorates of the Reverend Arthur V. Long and Dr. C. D. Loose, Mrs. Beasley presented the church with a Hammond electric organ, a tower music system, a beautiful suite of chancel furniture consisting of alter and reredos, brass cross, candlesticks and vases; pulpit and lectern, choir rail and pews, chancel and communion rails and marble baptistery. In addition to these gifts, the same donor provided for the remodeling of the narthex; the side aisles were eliminated to form a wide central aisle, asphalt tile flooring laid in narthex and sanctuary, with rich, dark red carpeting covering the center aisle and chancel. The latest gift of this generous benefactor is that of stained glass windows throughout the main floor, the two large sanctuary windows portraying Christ in Gethsemane and the Good Shepherd. The original Gothic architecture has adapted itself perfectly to all the later changes which have been made through the years.

The church has purchased during the past three years a slide projector and sound motion picture projector, and has recently received a wire recorder as a gift from Thos. C. Crellin, Adel furniture dealer. It is hoped that a television set may soon be added to our educational equipment. The next project, and one which we hope will build another chapter in the long story of the Adel church, is the construction of an education wing, but that dream must belong to the epic of the second century.

From a pastor who covered the circuit described above and received the munificent salary of $125 per year, our present pastor receives a salary of $3400.00 plus $300 traveling expenses per year.

While we are still using the parsonage bought in 1907, during the pastorate of A. E. Slothower, the building has been made modern and is furnished with electric refrigerator, electric water heater, and electric kitchen range. The present estimate of the value of the Methodist Church property in Adel stands:

Church property $60,000.00
Parsonage $10,000.00

We have brought you the story of a century of growth of the Adel Methodist Church. The history of any church is not a story of building or material development alone, save as those are necessary to all human activity. Rather, it is a history of devout and courageous men and women who have felt the call to serve the Master, and have given of their time, strength, worldly goods, their love, and their prayers to build a true sanctuary to the living God. Fifty-three pastors have served the church in the hundred years since that first meeting in 1850, preaching the gospel, comforting the sick and sorrowing, guiding the sinner into the paths of righteousness, and performing the holy sacraments of marriage, baptism, and communion. We recall such names as the Reverends Detwiler, Shenton, Enoch Hill, J. N. McCurdy, H. H. Barton, and A. E. Slothower who served in the early years of the church. Nor can we forget those families who served the church so faithfully before the turn of the century: Fidler, Worster, Jolley, Wm. Roberts, and Thos. Wright, Don A. Blanchard, Dave King and J. W. Forester, Oscar Gray, Geo. Ward, Wm. Coffin, father of Mrs. Jennie Cornelison, the Proutys, Vials, and Eastmans, E. A. Dawes and the Parker families, Dr. J. B. Brenton, Mary Allen, Walter Noel, the Van Fossens, and Marshes, the Whites, the Youngs, the Battons, the A. C. Coles, and the M. B. Coles, S. T. Harris, Hiltebrand, Hoffman, Lea Thornton, J. B. Decker….many, many more whose names are found in the old church minutes. As each of these took away with them something of the Adel Methodist Church, how much more of their loving service is built into the foundation stones of this, our church.

That we are progressing spiritually is evident when we realize that in 1941 our active church membership was 368, and as of May, 1950, had grown to 631. Thus we face out into the second century with confidence and faith. May the Adel Methodist Church continue on its upward pathway toward the Church Triumphant.

Mrs. Jennie Cornelison----Member for 66 years
Fred Worster----Member for 63 years
J. Truman Mitchell----Member for 50 years

Published by the Adel First Methodist Church in 1950.Transcribed and contributed anonymously, November 19, 2019

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