Fremont County, Iowa

Gathering Place From the Beginning
by Evelyn Birkby
View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
May 18, 2015

In 1852, the Baptist church was organized. It was almost the first church to be organized in Sidney, but not quite. The Methodist church was organized just a few weeks before the Baptist church. So we could almost call them twins.

The First Baptist church was a brick building erected in 1858. It served them, and the community well, until they decided to build a larger church a block east of the county courthouse. This was first used for their services in 1893. It was a lovely white framed edifice with a generous sanctuary.

The interior was furnished with curved dark wood pews facing a raised platform holding the carved pulpit. Two Small Sunday School rooms were off the pulpit section and underneath its floor, available through a trap door, was a baptistry for the immersion of members. Colored glass sections in the windows added brightness and friendliness to the scene.

A section at the back of the space was both Sunday School space and a cooking and eating area.

Years went by, and as their membership declined, they finally decided to disband. In so doing the members voted in 1966 to give their building to the fledgeling Fremont County Historical Society.

The society had begun collecting antiques and storing them in the empty Wilson grocery building. Now they had a real building of their own. They moved the antiques into the church building. Probably storing them in the kitchenette south room.

Meanwhile, several church groups came knocking to see if the society would rent the former Baptist church to them for services, which they did. Meanwhile, they began holding their meetings, programs and concerts in the space once used as a church sanctuary. Eventually, the last of the church groups moved out of the building, and the society decided to develop it, into a performing arts center for the county. With vision, tenacity, many volunteers and as much money as they could raise, the members of the society did just that. Now it is a delightful place for programs, concerts, speeches, plus set-up space for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It is available to rent for receptions, graduation events, and birthday parties. A number of weddings have been held there and, yes, several funerals have met within its comforting walls.

The most recent project with the building is upgrading the kitchen. It now has a new stove, and refrigerator plus new cupboards. It is much more prepared to provide space for working almost any kind of meal desired.

The future of the Gathering Place is limitless and the upcoming program is proof that its space is boundless. World-famous ragtime piano player, Adam Swanson, is coming on May 31st at 2:00 to play his special kind of music for the delight of all who hear him. Adam was raised in Shenandoah so is especially welcome to this stage.

The bonus for the afternoon--with a ticket to the concert participants will be able to visit the new Fremont County Historical Research and Rodeo Museum before or after Adam’s performance. It has new and enhanced displays for everyone’s delight.

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Page updated on February 13, 2019 by Karyn Techau

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