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Presbyterian Church

Perry, Iowa


Mrs. J. A. Van Patten, One of the Charter Members of the Presbyterian Church, Gives Data

In sketching the history of this church, it may be of interest to refer briefly to work done previous to its formal organization. We learn that Rev. H. H. Kellogg, a Presbyterian home missionary, preached here in the summer of 1864 and a part of the following year. The first services were held in the Ft. Dodge depot. There was also a Sunday School. There, we are told, were the first religious services in Perry. At this time our people met for worship wherever a convenient place could be found; sometimes in the building later known as the old Red Warehouse; at other times in Hanley's Hall, corner of Second street and Willis avenue, the present site of the Brown Block; and later in the Baptist church. During these years ministers supplying the church at Minburn preached here occasionally. We have not a complete list of names, but among there were Revs. Miller, Lewis, Smith and A. M. Ganner. These were the pioneers preparing the way for the church whose thirty-fifth anniversary we celebrate today.

The Presbyterian church of Perry was organized Aug. 17, 1880 by Rev. A. K. Baird, synodical missionary, with fourteen members, namely J. D. Miller, D. Gould, D. N. Kelsey, Mrs. Mary Kelsey, Mrs. B. Doidge, Mrs. Clara Wooders, Mrs. Grace McTaggart, A. D. Coffee, Mrs. J. C. Coffee, Miss Lilah Coffee, Miss Ella Coffee, Samuel Corrough, Mrs. J. Van Patten, Mrs. M. J. Cross.

J. D. Miller and D. Gould were elected and duly installed as elders. Five trustees were also elected. This meeting was held in the Baptist church.

One month later occurred the death of one of the members, Mrs. Grace McTaggart, who passed to the "home above" Sept. 1, 1880. The first communion was held Oct. 10, 1880, Rev. A. M. Tanner conducting the services.

In 1881 the Christian church was secured for services and Rev. A. S. Peck preached on alternate Sabbaths here and at Dallas Center.

In 1882, cooperating with the Christian congregation a union Sunday School was organized. This school prospered and continued until 1885 when other arrangements were made. Here we quote from the minutes of the Ladies' Society of Feb. 11th of that year. "Decided by unanimous vote of the society to use the funds on hand for the purposes of furnishing the hall which has been secured for services; decided also to hold a called meeting to make up the carpet which has been ordered for the hall." The carpet was made and placed, and with matting for the aisles, a table, an organ, a pulpit and other furnishings at a cost of $156. This, our first church home, presented a comfortable and attractive appearance. This hall in union block is referred to in the church records as Presbyterian Hall. This was the place of worship until the erection of the church.

Ineffectual attempts to unite the Congregational and Presbyterian churches are a part of the history of these years. In 1886, during the pastorate of Rev. F. M. Elliott, a vote of the two congregations was taken. The Presbyterians voted unanimously in favor of the union and the Congregationalists voted against.

After the resignation of Rev. Elliott a number of the members withdrew to unite with the other church. At about this time a proposal was made that the Sunday School be placed under other control. For obvious reasons this was not accepted.

To the few remaining members there followed days of discouragement, but also of earnest effort. Books were purchased for a library and there was an increased membership and a growing interest in the Sunday School.

From January, 1887, there was no regular preaching until 1889 when Rev. F. D. McRae was sent to fill the pulpit for the summer. During this summer fifteen were added to the membership. With renewed courage the work went forward and plans were formed for the building of the church in 1890. Of this undertaking the congregation has no record; but in a scrapbook kept at that time by Mrs. John George we find an account of the dedicating services clipped from the Perry Advertiser. From this we glean: "The Presbyterian church was dedicated to the public worship of God on Sunday, Feb. 1, 1891. Rev. T. S. Bailey, D. D., Supt. of Home Missions for Iowa, preached the sermon and conducted the services, assisted by the pastor, Rev. A. G. Martyn. The approximate cost of the building and furnishing was about $3,300."

Some assistance was received from the Board of Church Erection. The manse was built in 1892. Here also we find no records. From time to time repairs and improvement have been made. The church had originally two entrances thru two separate vestibules with the auditorium arranged to correspond. In 1908 the vestibules were removed and entrance made thru a central door on the east, the interior rearranged and redecorated, new foundations put under the church and manse, and the basement completed. The excavating for this was done by the members of the Boys' Class of the Sunday school.

These improvements were made at a cost of about $1,000. This was secured by pledges from Sunday School classes, subscriptions and generous assistance from the ladies of the church, who have also within the expended $500 on the manse.

The church was under the care of the Board of Home Missions until 1894, when with all indebtedness removed it became self supporting. In that year there were added to the church on profession forty-six members as the result of revival meetings. In 1896 thirty-five were added and in 1897 thirty-four. These were perhaps the largest accessions at any time. The years that follow show their results. Time and the limits of this sketch preclude special mention of the work of each minister. Four young men, former members of this church, have entered the ministry, Revs. Walter Elliott, Charles Brown, William Scoular and Seth Craig. Other young men and women are doing a good work in other churches and in other communities and one leaves an influence thru a church and Sunday School organized by him.

The congregation has contribute according to its means, for the support of the gospel at home and thru gifts abroad. Well organized Christian Endeavor and Junior societies are a part of the working force.

The enrollment of the Sunday School has fluctuated from 96 to 281. It numbers at present 150 with an average attendance of 100. Under the present minister there have been added to the membership fifty-six.

The church roll of thirty-five years registers 484 names. Included in the present membership of 151 are five of the charter members: Mrs. J. C. Coffee, Mrs. M. J. Cross, Mrs. Lilah Coffee Peddicord, Mrs. Ella Coffee Paasch, Mrs. J. Van Patten.

In this sketch we have outlined the history of the earlier years, with brief mention of the events of those more recent which are still fresh in your memories.


Rev. A. M. Tanner, 1889-1881
Rev. A. S. Peck, 1881-1882
Rev. A. Scott, 1882
Rev. R. H. Hoskins, 1882-1883
Rev. Edward Warren, 1884 for winter
Rev. H. B. Thayer, D. D., 1884-1885
Rev. George Edwards, 1885 for summer
Rev. G. M. Elliott, 1886
Rev. T. D. McRae, 1890 for summer
Rev. A. G. Martin, 1890-1892
Rev. George H. Sharpley, 1893. Died May 17, 1893
Rev. S. H. King, 1893-1894
D. A. Murray, Jan. 1895, one year
Rev. David Brown, July 1896 to Sept. 1900
Rev. J. E. Groendyke, Oct. 1900 to Nov. 1902
Rev. W. A. McCullough, Jan. 1903 to June 1905
Rev. W. J. Cresswell, June 1905 to Sept. 1906
Rev. F. O. Scurrah, Jan. 1907 to April 1908
Rev. R. G. Strain, 1908 to Feb. 1910
Rev. Levy C. Illsley, June 1910 to Dec. 1911
Rev. A. M. Work, April 1, 1912-

--Perry Advertiser, Sept. 12, 1915

Transcribed and contributed anonymously, November 19, 2019

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