This page was last updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2008

IAGenWeb Project.

 Delaware County, Iowa  

 Church & Religious Directory






The following article was written some years ago by Mrs. C. J. Friend, and appeared in a local publication. As a reminiscence of the primitive church the sketch is reproduced for the edification of the many readers of these pages:
On attempting to go back into the past to trace the origin of any social structure, one is confronted with the difficulty of finding really assured facts as a basis from which to work, because of the very meager accounts committed to writing.
It would seem that those who were engaged in the struggle to establish themselves in a new land, in organized conditions of life, either secular or religious, had in their humility of mind so little thought of the importance of the part they were playing in the world's great drama, that it did not assume just proportions in their own eyes, and consequently in their engrossment with the rigid toil and hardship that is always the portion of the pioneer, they failed to chron­icle their simple deeds of achievement, and in after years when a great nation or a prosperous organization has grown out of these small beginnings and the effort is made to trace the ever-widening and on-rolling stream back to its source, no really adequate data can be found upon which to build correct his­toric records.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Manchester is no exception to this general rule, and original records are chiefly remarkable for their entire absence. But this we do know. It had a beginning, and many facts pertain­ing thereto are very clear and lucid in the memories of the few survivors of those early days who still remain among us. Let us look a little while at the surroundings from which our church sprang into existence.
Remember that Manchester was still unknown, that Burrington was scarcely yet but a name, as only five years had elapsed since the first pioneer located within the limits of what is now our pleasant little city. During this half dec­ade a few other settlers had come, and like most sturdy pioneers, they brought with them that religious zeal and fervor which carries with it that strength of purpose and character necessary to the opening up of a new country, and it must needs be that this should find outlet and expression in some united effort for the cherishing and strengthening of such zeal.
Among the early preachers who traversed this yet sparsely settled region, alone on horseback or perhaps on foot, and occasionally administered the bread of life in some lone settler's cabin, to the few scattered inhabitants who could be rallied together for the occurrence, we find the name of Simeon Alger, to whom the annals give the distinctive honor of forming the first class here in the year 1855.
This as to time, upon which point there is no variance, but as to place, authorities of seemingly equal importance differ. Some say in the home of D. K. Fox, which was a part of what has been known of late years as the Wilmot House. Others say it was in the kitchen of Deacon Merrill's house, which was one of the first buildings in Manchester, and is now the home of D. H. Young. The divergence of opinion enables us come-afters to seize either horn of the dilemma, according as personal predilection may favor.
Be this as it may, we do know that organic life for this church began at the aforementioned time and was of that vigorous type that early foretold the prosperous conditions which we of later days enjoy.
As we read the honor roll of those forming the nucleus around which others soon gathered we find the names of D. K. Fox and wife, William Acers, Adolphus Hardenderf and Alminda Peer, and the latter informs us that her mother, Mrs. Polly Witter, was also among these charter members. D. K. Fox was appointed class leader and continued so for three years.
Very soon the following named persons were added to the membership roll: John Otis and wife, John Nethercut and wife and Sisters Blanchard, Houghten and Loomis, and also I. P. Adams, who succeeded D. K. Fox as class leader in 1858.
Who can fitly portray the courage manifested by this devoted band of Christians as they contended with all the difficulties which would naturally surround them in such an almost uninhabited land and so faithfully nourished this small division of the great church militant?
Services were held successively in the homes of the members and in the schoolhouse, which stood on the north side of the central schoolhouse lot and in Hulbert's Hall — the building now occupied by Mr. Baxter. While only irregu­lar preaching was possible they always kept up a prayer meeting, and a church which does that can no more die out than an individual can backslide who is habitually found at this special mid-week service.
Let us pause a moment and dwell upon the lives of those, our predecessors, and note the earnestness of purpose that actuated them as they eagerly assem­bled themselves together whenever the call went forth that a preacher had come to hold services, and no wonder there were conversions at these meetings, for there was unity of aim and a mutual sympathy, one with another, which also seems to depart as numbers and prosperity increase.
Very early in the life of this church a series of meetings was begun by the members themselves and it is related that D. K. Fox and John Nethercut, who by this time had removed to their farms, used to walk in, a distance of over two miles, every night to assist in the work. Let us think of this in these pam­pered days when many of us are too weary at night to walk two blocks to an evening meeting. After the laymen had continued their efforts for a week the services of Rev. S. C. Churchill were secured and a revival was the result, with increased membership.
During 1856, 1857 and 1858 the following named preachers supplied the circuit, extending many miles around: Revs. F. X. Miller, John Webb, A. J. Van Anda and the before-named S. C. Churchill. The first mention of this charge in the conference minutes was in 1859, under the head of Delaware which meant a large part of the county and to which charge Rev. John Webb was the appointed pastor.
Meantime, on January 23, 1857, the General Assembly of Iowa had approved an act changing the name of the young town from Burrington to Manchester, and this church, under the latter name, first appears on the conference minutes in 1860, with Rev. J. P. Hestwood as pastor, who reported a salary of $222.72 for his year's labor.
In 1861 Delhi and Manchester are found in the conference minutes as united, with Reverends Hestwood and E. W. White as pastors, and besides these places mentioned their fields of labor included Yankee Settlement, Greeley, Hickory Grove and Bay Settlement, besides other outlying country.
It was while occupying Hulbert's Hall that the Dubuque District Ministerial Conference was first held in Manchester and as it was then wartime, Rev. William Brush preached a patriotic sermon on the last evening of the session. At its close some young men in the back of the hall mistaking it for a Union speech, broke forth with that popular song, '' The Union Forever, Hurrah, Boys, Hurrah!'' and sang it through with great fervor, and it is said that they were somewhat disconcerted when the presiding elder, Rev. P. E. Brown, arose and pronounced the benediction. However, it was regarded as a good joke on the preacher as well as the boys.
While touching upon the war it is but meet to mention the names of D. K. Fox, John Nethercut and John Otis, who, from out of the ranks of this strug­gling church, joined the ranks of those brave patriots who were engaged in the greater struggle to save our native land. There were probably others besides those mentioned who joined the ranks of the army, but the writer has not learned of them.
Imperfect records do not give the records of the membership at this date, 1861, but in 1862 there were forty-three in full connection and Revs. E. W. Jeffries and E. R. Latta were assigned to the field now somewhat restricted.
In 1863, Reverend Jeffries was returned, with Rev. A. Hyde as junior preacher. During this year it was decided to build a house of worship and the work commenced. Previous to this a general conference had passed an act extending the time limit from two to three years, and under this act Reverend Jeffries was returned for the third year to complete the erection of the church, in which he was ably assisted by William Cattron and I. P. Adams, building committee.
The edifice was made ready for occupation during the year. Rev. A. J. Kynett preaching the dedicatory sermon and raising enough money to clear the prop­erty from debt.
Thus ends this brief chronicle of the organization and firm establishment of this church during the first nine years of its existence.

~ source: Volunteer transcriber for Delaware County IAGenWeb