This history, written by Bertha Keller, originally appeared in five installments in the Rockford Register during the months of August and September 1940. Copies of the individual articles were provided by Ms. Rita Hirv of Rockford and were put into the present form by former Floyd County resident Richard Daake. Some typographical corrections and changes in paragraphing have been made in this document for the sake of the accuracy and the efficient use of space.
A brief history of the Flood Creek Methodist Church translated from the old German records which are very brief and incomplete. However they tell us much between lines of the loyal services and sacrifices of the few scattered members of 75 or more years ago.
During the pioneer days when travel was done on horseback, wagon, sled or mostly on foot over trails or paths through tall wild grass or winding roads through virgin timber, our forefathers founded well and firmly through faithful efforts to establish a center for the Kingdom of God. These dates are taken from the only source, the preserved records of the quarterly local conferences and also the "fuerhers" (leaders) meetings also held four times a year, with a separate record of each.
Under the pastorate of Rev. Geo. Achenbach at Charles City, this charge was established and served from there as a mission, 1865-69, with services held in the so-called Union schoolhouse, two miles south of the Roseville church on highway 14. While served from Charles City five or more years, Rev. Rudolph Fiegenbaum also pastor there, was a very active pioneer preacher, making endless calls in the pioneer homes, the work spread into Ulster and Mitchell county, meeting in the school houses. This same Rev. R. Fiegenbaum served this charge 1895-99, after which he retired and moved to Idaho and reached an advanced age.
During December, 1869, this mission was served from Charles City and transferred to the Shell Rock Mission with 46 members (names not mentioned), with John Schaad as pastor, who remained only nine months. Of the original members only two are mentioned, Leonard and Bertha Achenbach, transferred from Wheeling, Ill. Thus the name Achenbach has been actively connected to the fourth generation with this church to the present day.
The first Quarterly Conference recorded was held in the school house by the Achenbach's place, Dec. 4, 1869, and the leaders meeting was held Jan. 6, 1870, in the home of Nicholas Maas, one and a half miles west of said Union schoolhouse, now occupied by Louis Gerhard. The same names are found attending both sessions, excepting at the leaders meeting, the district superintendent was absent, but always including the pastor's name. The names are: Kohlsted, Achenbach, Koerner, Bartz, Vietmeier, Maas, Lenz, Koehler, Moll, Gauger.
John Schaad, the first pastor, remained only nine months. Rev. Charles Kluckhohn was the district superintendent then. In the Achenbach school, the Sunday school consisted of two Bible classes, one spelling class, and seven primary pupils, with the pastor as superintendent. Facts received from the memory of the older residents state that this school was a log building, near the center of the Achenbach farm, reached by a winding trail through heavy timber. Services were held in this schoolhouse for three years, until the new church was erected, the original of the present main building in 1873.
This charge remained as the Shell Rock mission for one year, after which it was organized as an independent charge with Rev. Phillip Hummel as pastor. Thus this charge consisted of the two places mentioned, and the Union school often mentioned as the "Prairie." Nora Springs, and Newberg in Mitchell county, were also served by this pastor for about a year, and in 1871-2 this church became an independent charge and a part of the N. W. German Conference, and named the Flood Creek Methodist church, the name which it bears to the present day.
In April 1871, a Sunday school and preaching place was established in the Walsh school, later the Ball school, a stone building one-fourth mile south of the present Draeger school, Ulster Dist., with 25 pupils and 5 officers, continuing for two years only, with pastor as superintendent, meeting on Sunday afternoon.
During the period of 1870-80 the pastor's salary was $325.00 plus $75.00 for traveling, such as team, buggy or saddle, etc., which was considered a large sum then.
A portion of the large farm house of John Moll, 1 mile south of the present church, was used as the pastor's home for five or six years, on the farm at present occupied by the Joe Schmitt family. July, 1870, the first recorded mention is made of erecting a parsonage, and a committee named to have charge. However, as the next pastor was a single man, the matter was dismissed for a few years.
The first recorded mention of the erection of a church was Nov. 1872, and work began the following spring, 1873, to build a church 30 by 46, with a 60-foot steeple. We know very well that the erection of a church is not accomplished on such short order, but was on their minds and hearts years before, requiring many denials and sacrifices. This self-same building is the original of the present main auditorium which has been remodeled and enlarged twice since that time.
This building was erected on a three acre plot, two acres being purchased of H. Kohlstedt and one acre of Wm. Nehles, the price not mentioned, and details of the construction are also sadly lacking in the old records. Only the value, $2,500, is mentioned and that the building was dedicated Oct., 1873, under Philip Hummel, pastor, and Rev. Edw. Schuette, district supt. Details not recorded. During the winter of 1873-74, a well was dug nearby with volunteer labor.
A year later a parsonage, 16 by 24, two stories, was built, which during later years was enlarged twice. During 1917, when the present modern parsonage was erected, the original house was moved to the A. A. Daake farm for a workshop, and was destroyed by fire about ten years ago, due to electrical shorting.
Through faithful work of the pastor and members, the organization numbered 56 families, many of them still attending the Union school, at the date mentioned. We must not fail to mention that many transient families located here only a brief time, swelling the attendance and also diminishing it by moving away, as in one year a loss of 16 members is recorded, which was a large decrease at one time. There are also records of dissensions, when members were expelled due to misdeeds and conduct not tolerated by the church rules. However, as a striving church, the work became a stronghold as a religious center to the present day, as a Lighthouse on a hilltop.
As time progressed, added furnishings such as carpeting, the organ and a pulpit which was constructed by Mr. Nickolas Maas, a member and a capable carpenter. It is of native walnut, a fine piece of workmanship, still in use today. This and a small table, also a few benches, are the only remaining pieces of the original furnishings on hand. In 1875 the entire value of the house and church was $3,300, with a debt of $1,700, insured in the Continental Insurance Co.
The Sunday School records of that date show that at the Union schoolhouse the attendance was 50 pupils, held on Sunday afternoons followed by preaching services by the pastor from here. Services were also held in the home of John Oeser in Union township, now occupied by the Cliff Sours family. The pastor reports 53 visits in homes and 8 in homes of non-members in last quarter. A committee is named to survey the new cemetery into lots and enter into a record.
In 1886, during the ministry of Rev. H. Kaste, the services in the Union school were discontinued after 22 years of continuous service since the organization under the Charles City pastors. This event explains the sudden increase in attendance at this church because of many families attending here instead, filling the church to capacity. The Sunday School numbered 135 pupils and membership 180, the highest point in its history.
In 1900, the west annex, 20 by 24, was built and the entire church redecorated at a cost of $600. In 1890, under Rev. Otto Niederhuth, the Epworth League was organized, which last January observed its 50th anniversary.
Returning again to the Union School house on Highway 14, many years later this rural school house was again a meeting house for the Baptists in that locality. Rev. Grant, then pastor of the Baptist Church in Rockford, organized a Sunday School and held regular preaching services there on Sunday afternoons, driving a pair of swift gray ponies. The attendance and interest grew. Often on special events, the room was filled to capacity and later a church was built in Marble Rock, with a growing and flourishing congregation, today the Bethel Baptist Church.
The newly organized Epworth League at Flood Creek grew and flourished under such a capable leader as the organizer, Rev. Otto Niederhuth, who also was the first President. Other officers were: Vice Pres., Charles Koerner, Sec., Clara Pfundheller, Treas., Henry Adolphs and organist, Henry Ridder. The total membership is not mentioned at the time of organization, but four years later in 1894, the total was 60 members with Henry Ridder as President.
We must not lose sight of the fact that in that age, three or four generations ago, their homes were small, families large, life was simple, with few outside demands or attractions. Homes, schools, churches and neighbors were their only interests with only an occasional trip to town, a red letter day for the youngsters. However, they all had their joys, such as the youngsters of today know nothing of.
Our parents have related, with their dim eyes growing bright, telling of the good old times of their youthful days. The spelling bees, the singing schools, etc., walking in groups long distances to the schools in the clear, frosty sparkling moonlight nights, or the jolly sleigh parties, the bells jingling in rhythm on the horses, while the young folks sang all the songs they knew (or didn't know very well). I must halt here right now, but you can ask some aged pioneer (rural) for continuation on this line.... There [and then] it was less difficult to hold and nurture the young people in the rural churches, one of the finest institutions for personal development.
During the highest point of attendance and membership during 1889-94, the Sunday School record reads: Supt. Frank Keller (my father), pupils: 140; officers and teachers: 34; average attendance: 95; books in the library: 85.
The first organist for many years was William Storch, residing on the farm now occupied by Erwin Woelfer. Mr. Storch is still living, aged 89, at the home of his only daughter Mata and family at Pontiac, Mich. Henry Ridder, then organist, passed away quite recently in Florida. During later years organists were Clara Achenbach, Laura Bartz, and Martha Koehler. In recent years, groups of young skilled musicians are presiding at the piano for the song services.
During 1900, the Women's Missionary Society was organized with 10 members, which has continued every year since then. The present membership is 26, still carrying on after 40 years. Also the young people's department in this society was organized since, such as: Standard Bearers, King's Heralds, and Little Light Bearers, under capable sponsors.
In 1894, during the first term of ministry of Rev. H. Hilmer (who with Mrs. Hilmer are now visiting in this locality), the ten acre tract of timberland joining the church lots to the east was purchased by the church from Simon Koerner for $15 per acre. This has proved to be a profitable investment, a continuous source of fuel for the church, and a desirable place for the camp meetings and annual picnics which are held there. Prior to this date, 1894, the camp meetings and picnics were held about 1/4 mile north in what is now Edward woods, opposite the Ed Rolfes dwelling.
Family names listed on the various committees at this date, 1894-1915, are: Draeger, Daake, Duesenberg, Pfundheller, Schmidt, Glenhaus [Gelhaus], Huxsol, Didder [Ridder], Bartz, Kohlsted [Kohlsteadt], Woelfer, Adolfs [Adolphs], Rienecke [Reineke], Vietmier, Achenbach, Koehler, Gauger, Kruger, Keller, Kollman. At this date  a cemetery lot fund was created by taxing each owner $25, the interest of which insures for a caretaker of the cemetery for all time, and at present is very well cared for by Rueben Daake, the present caretaker.
Although I have only mentioned the most outstanding events and activities of this rural church, the seeming commonplace, Sunday to Sunday services in endless series, have made possible such high points and accomplishments as were mentioned, and without the ordinary, the extra-ordinary would never occur. Therefore, to include all events of interest occurring during a span of seventy-five years, as found in the records, would require volumes instead of columns.
The year 1911 was an outstanding year for this church organization, when under the five-year term of John Hartke, the old church building was extensively remodeled, including new furnishing toward which the business men of Rockford contributed the neat sum of $350. The work required about four months during the summer, much done by volunteer work by local members. Meanwhile, the services were held outdoors in the nearby grove just where the recent afternoon services of the Diamond Jubilee were held. The evening services during this period were not held. The Sunday services were held in the nearby grove from June 1 till September. At this date the Sunday School listed 17 officers and 85 pupils. Charles Gauger was the superintendent. The Epworth League had 44 members, with Mata Keller as president.
Of the reopening and re-dedication there is no record, neither the cost of the extensive re-building. The remodeled building with its new furnishings has remained such, as it still is in good condition today, with the added improvements since of an electric light plant still in use. However, recently the R. E. A. has been signed for and, at the present time, arrangements are in progress for high line connection in the near future.
Rev. John Hartke was also a capable organizer, and through the various church groups, enlisted many helpers of all ages for volunteer help in the rebuilding, in addition to scouring professional architects. It is with regret that we find no record of the re-opening festivities, which no doubt was a red letter day and an outstanding event then. However, four years later, in 1915, an annex 12x14, primarily used as the mother room, was built on the north, a much needed addition.
Time passed on, events on the level, Sunday to Sunday, with its varied activities for the young people socially and spiritually developed new workers. During the pastorate of Rev. Fred Hoffman, the new parsonage 28x28, two stories, was erected on the site of the old one, during 1919, such as it now stands today. At present the home is occupied by Mr. And Mrs. Rueben Daake, janitor and general caretaker of the premises. For the benefit of our distant readers, we must mention here that the pastor occupies the parsonage in Rockford, and serves this congregation in connection with the Rockford charge. However, each is a separate charge.
That the activities here are not all building and rebuilding, or remodeling, however, that is always a step toward progress, many events in between have been held within the walls of a beautiful sanctuary by the passing generations. Numerous conventions, revivals, annual church festivals for young and old, weddings, funerals, times of great rejoicing and of deep sorrow as well. Of the countless social events on the church lawn or in the homes, the friendships, some of which have developed into beautiful romances and bloomed into prosperity. This angle of the history of a church center would fill a volume itself.
The high point of public interest during the term of Rev. F. Hoffman was when, for the first time, the annual conference was held her in September, 1921, with Bishop Hugh Stuntz presiding. A large tent was erected on the spacious yard for the public services, the church being used for other business and less extensive meetings. Rev. John Klaus, a man of great ability, was then district superintendent of this area of the N. W. German Conference. Many noted speakers were present, as well as former pastors, all being entertained in the homes of members, and thus another milestone was passed in the history of this community church.
Time passed. Father Time was not idle and has reaped the aged and young alike who now occupy the beautiful little silent city, some at this place, others elsewhere, and we who are still here are following their footsteps and taking their vacant places.
In October, 1925, during the five-year term of Rev. Louis Brenner, the 60th anniversary was held. It was a raw, chilly day which reduced the number of former invited older members. However, the church was filled to capacity. The guest speaker was the aged Rev. Edw. Schuette, who was the district superintendent when the original church building was dedicated in October, 1871. At this date Rev. Schuette was 29 years of age. He was present on the dedication date in 1871, and sixty years later was still able to recall many events of those pioneer days, due to a remarkable memory.
Again we must pass a space of time and omit mentioning lesser events in order to be brief, but nonetheless interesting, and arrive at the present time.
The recent high point of events still fresh in the memory of those present, and described fully in the local paper, was the 75th Jubilee, held on July 21, 1940 at the church with Bishop Magee as the guest speaker. To mention it would be repeating all that was so fully described about the event.
One angle I have not mentioned, which is of importance in the furthering of the Kingdom of God and its righteousness here on Earth, is to name the pastors who have been reared here and have gone out from this church, the first three of whom have passed away. These three are Wm. Koerner, Fred Steffler and Charles Koerner. Others are: Frank Moll, Emil Lacour, Albert Gauger, August Pruessner, John Daake, and Harold Gauger.
This story would be incomplete not to include a very vital human element in the progress of this rural place of worship, namely to mention the names of pastors in their order from its founding to the present date, serving from nine months to six years: John Schaad, Phillip Hummel, Carl Tramm, Phillip Funk, Ferd Fisher, John Hauck, Henry Kaste, Edw. Kienle, Otto Niederhuth, Wm. Koerner, Henry Hilmer, H. R. Fiegenbaum, Carl Schuldt, Fred Steffler, John Lemke, Gottlieb Haefner, Albert Damerow, John Hartke, H. Schmidt, Robert Hertel, Fred Hoffman, Louis Brenner, Henry Hilmer (2nd term), Paul Brown, and Charles Fort.
Part 1 was published August 1, 1940
Part 2 was published August 15, 1940
Part 4 was published September 12, 1940
Part 5 was published September 19, 1940