Fremont County, Iowa

Dora Birkby's Memoirs
The Church Story

by Jerry Birkby

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
April 28, 2014

Note: This Church of which Dora speaks, once stood across the road, slightly west of my house, near where Horse Creek Road and the Bluff Road meet today. On June 22, 1948, a tornado struck our place and leveled this church. Three walls fell outward. The south wall and gable fell into the interior. All the pews were smashed to kindling and the piano was driven through the floor. The roof landed on Bluff Road. Every spring since that ill-fated year, it has been our custom to go into this field and pick up bricks. Jerry Birkby

From Aunt Dora Birkby:
Early in 1884, the Methodists and Presbyterians, who had been holding joint services in the school house, began to agitate the building of a church. Their idea was to build it by the side of the school house, but Mr. Jason Rector, who owned the land, objected that it would ruin his pasture.

When they went to Moses U. Payne, Fremont County’s lone millionaire, for a donation, he discouraged the idea of a joint church and refused to assist it, unless they would build either a Methodist or a Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterians were either stronger, or more alert and immediately began to solicit funds.

One day Mr. A. R. Bobbitt, who was a Presbyterian, came to my father and said, “Tom, you and I have about as many young folks as anyone. We might as well locate the church where it will benefit us.”

Father seldom attended any church, but he agreed with Mr. Bobbitt and gave an acre of ground off the pasture in front of our house as a church site. Mr. Bobbitt, who had a brick kiln, gave the brick. Once this was agreed upon many neighbors came forward with donations, of labor, and money and before many days, work was under way. The furniture and piano were donated by a congregation in Macedonia whose church had burned; the carpets came from various church groups in the area. Lucy and I, were up in arms over the location. It was the spot where we had hidden our melon patch, and it was the most promising we had ever had.

Among the early ministers was Uncle Barney Johnson. He was a great, tall, raw-boned man and a minister of the old school. He would stand in the pulpit delivering his sermons in such a droll manner that kept his audience smiling. He would turn his head from side to side and spit as far as he could.

One winter day, he came to our house, to see Father who was ill, and told us of his experiences as a mere lad while traveling to California with a couple of gold-seekers. He became ill with scurvy. One night they camped and he awakened the next morning to find his belongings on the ground and his companions ready to depart. They told him he was going to die anyway, and they had no time to bother with him.

Later, Indians found him and by gestures he was able to make them understand his plight. They gave him berries, and he gave them shirts. He was finally rescued by a wagon train, and taken to his destination.

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