First Presbyterian Church

Next to the Methodist church in point of membership comes the Presbyterian, and though they have a small church edifice, they are along with the other organizations doing good work. They were organized in 1869 by G. H. Chatterton with a membership of only ten. Rev. C. R. French was the pastor and remained until 1875. He was succeeded by Rev. J. W. Hannah who remained five years and during his pastorate their present house of worship was erected. During his ministry, the Congregational church which had been organized some years before, disbanded, and many of their members are now active in the service of the Presbyterian church. Rev. Bryant was the next pastor and he remained five years, the result of his work being an increased membership and spiritual activity. He was succeeded by Rev. D. W. McLane who remained six years, during which time the membership constantly increased and the Christian Endeavor society was in a more thriving condition than it ever had been before. Rev. Palm is the present pastor and is giving excellent satisfaction. He is highly instructive and is universally liked. He will probably remain some time. The Sunday school is largely attended and S. R. Raymond is their very able superintendent. The Christian Endeavor societies are doing good and are pushing the work of christian education.
--Religious Department column by Lillian Kerr

--The Grundy Republican (Grundy Center, Iowa), 19 September 1895

First Presbyterian Church

by Rev. L. P. Krome

The First Presbyterian Church of Grundy Center, Iowa, was organized in October, 1869, by C. H. Chatteron, with a membership of ten. R. W. Pitkin, James Ralston, and William Smith were the first elders. Rev. C. W. French was the first pastor. Services were first held in the school house and then in the court house. Rev. S. W. James was the second pastor as supply, preaching alternate Lord's days with Steamboat Rock. He remained until 1877. He was succeeded by Rev. J. W. Hanna. Under him the first church was built at a cost of about $2,000.00. It was dedicated the second Sunday in May, 1878, with sixty-six members. Rev. Hanna resigned the pastorate in June, 1882. Rev. Bryant was called in 1883. It was while he was pastor that the manse was built at a cost of about $1,500.00, and the membership increased from 56 to 156. On January 1, 1888, Rev. S. W. McLain preached a trial sermon, and received a call to the pastorate. He accepted and continued pastor until 1894. Rev. C. G. Jordan preached three months of that year, and was followed by Rev. W. J. Palm who remained one year. He was followed by Rev. W. H. Jordan, who took up the work in the winter of 1896.

It was during the pastorate of Rev. Jordan that the church structure now in use was built. The building committee associated with the energetic pastor in this achievement were R. M. Finlayson, chairman, G. N. Stark, S. R. Raymond, Dr. E. A. Crouse, and G. A. Shurtleff. The church was built at a cost of between twelve and thirteen thousand dollars. The building is still well adapted to serve its purpose as the church home of a flourishing congregation. It was dedicated January 1, 1899, Rev. Willis G. Craig, D. D., of Chicago, preaching the sermon.

The long and successful pastorate of Rev. W. H. Jordan came to its close during the summer of 1901. Rev. E. E. Hastings was installed November 13, 1901, and continued the efficient pastor of the church until November, 1907. Many marks of the good work of this pastor are in evidence.

The present pastor is Rev. L. P. Krome, who entered upon the work in May, 1908.

The church is well organized in all departments, is growing steadily and serving the spiritual interests of a membership of about 250 besides a goodly number of adherents. Among the Christian religious forces of the community, this church has been through the years, and is still exercising no small degree of influence for good. The officers of the church at present are: Elders, G. A. Shurtleff, Dr. E. A. Crouse, G. N. Stark, James Black, C. T. Rogers, and W. G. Kerr. The trustees are W. C. Sargent, E. H. Dodd, William Benz, J. W. Lamar, John Dalgliesh, and Josiah Mast.

--Atlas of Grundy County, Iowa, 1911, pg 92

First Presbyterian Church Began With Only 10 Members in 1869

The First Presbyterian Church of Grundy Center, Iowa, was organized by G. H. Chatterton on October 2, 1869, with ten members. The Articles of Incorporation are dated April 29, 1870, and bear the signatures of G. A. Shurtleff, Peter Young and Wm. Thompson. R. W. Pitkin who had been a leader in the movement to organize, James Ralston of Felix township and William Smith were elected ruling elders.

The first minister was Rev. C. R. French. He came immediately after the organization was completed and served as stated supply until October, 1875. Because the court room, the most adequate space in town, was already being used by the Methodist and Baptist congregations, the new Presbyterian group made use of the school house. After the Methodists had built a church, Presbyterian services were held on alternate Sundays in the court room and in the Wilhelm schoolhouse eight miles from town.

During the first three years the membership was widely scattered, only one member, R. W. Pitkin, lived in Grundy Center. However, one of the early projects was the formation of a Sunday School which has been in continuous operation until the present time.

In 1876 D. W. James was engaged as stated supply, preaching on alternate Sundays here and at Steamboat Rock. This arrangement continued until 1877, when J. W. Hanna became the stated supply.

Soon after Rev. Hanna came it was thought best to undertake the building of a church. The Board of Church Erection promised a loan of $600, and the circulation of a subscription paper among the members met with such success that on September 1, 1877, a building committee was appointed. The trustees bought from Daniel Kerr and his wife Clara, Lots 1 and 10 in Block 10 of the original part of the town for $800 and a subscription of $150. The trustees at the time were R. W. Pitkin, G. A. Shurtleff, A. J. Thompson, David McBirney and Thomas McBirney, and the date of the deed is October 26, 1877. The six hundred dollar loan from the Board of Church Erection was paid on October 9, 1944.

The specifications for the first church show that the structure was to be 30 by 50 feet and 18 feet high to the caves, with a vestry 10 by 10 feet and a recess 13 by 5 feet for the choir. The building was completed in 1878 and was dedicated on the second Sunday in May. It was considered a fine edifice, the total cost being $2200.00, and the members, now 65 in number, rejoiced to have a church home of their own.

After the resignation of Rev. Hanna in June, 1882, there was no permanent supply until April 30, 1883, when Rev. William Bryant was engaged. On June 9, 1885, he was installed as the first real pastor. During his ministry the church made substantial gains, the membership increasing from 56 to 156. In 1884 the parsonage was built at an original cost of $1600. A Christian Endeavor Society, the second in the state, was organized in 1885.

Rev. D. W. McLane was installed as pastor in May, 1888. In 1891 the church purchased at a cost of $700 a Vocalion, a two-manual organ which remained in use until 1943. On April 23, 1893, a Junior Christian Endeavor Society was organized.

After the resignation of Rev. McLane in 1894 the pulpit was filled briefly by two stated supplies, Rev. C. H. Jordan and Rev. J. W. Palm.

On February 1, 1896, Rev. W. H. Jordan was called to the pastorate. Two years later the important decision was made to build a new church building to meet the expanding needs of the congregation. A farewell service was held in the old church on May 12, 1898. The cornerstone of the present building was laid on August 9, 1898, with Rev. C. H. Purmort, D. D., of Waterloo, giving the address. The copper-lined box placed in the cornerstone contained many interesting records and pictures of the local church and the town, as well as copies of church publications and newspapers, containing reports of the Spanish-American War, then in progress.

On January 1, 1899, the new church building was dedicated with appropriate services. The dedicatory sermon was delivered by Rev. Willis Craig Green, D. D., of Chicago. At this time the officers of the church included elders G. A. Shurtleff, S. R. Raymond, Hiram Shaw, Cyrus Gray, E. H. Wilbur and W. G. Kerr, clerk of the session; R. M. Finlayson, G. N. Stark, F. C. DeSeelhorst, E. H. Dodd and F. E. Langdon, trustees. The building committee which functioned so successfully consisted of R. M. Finlayson, chairman; S. R. Raymond, G. N. Stark, E. A. Crouse and G. A. Shurtleff. The cost of the building was $12,148.00.

The successful five year pastorate of Rev. Jordan came to an end in 1901. During that period the work of the church received an inspirational stimulus from the presence of Miss Susie A. Young, a missionary to India who was at home spending a furlough. Many new members were added in the surge of spiritual uplift which accompanied evangelistic services conducted by Rev. William A. Sunday.

Rev. E. E. Hastings became pastor on November 13, 1901. During the six years of his service the church was in a very prosperous condition, both financially and spiritually. All the organizations were strong and active, the Christian Endeavor Society, with a membership of 45, being the outstanding youth organization in the Presbytery of Waterloo.

Rev. L. P. Krome was called to the pastorate in May, 1908, and served for eleven years, the longest pastorate in the history of the church. On May 21, 1911, the responsibility of paying for half the support of a missionary was assumed and for several years, Rev. D. G. Collins of Chieng Mai, Laos, was the representative of the church on the foreign field.

In the spring of 1919 Mr. S. R. Raymond, a former member and an elder for a number of years, established a trust fund of five thousand dollars in bonds, the interest on which was designated as a perpetual gift to the minister in addition to his salary.

On December 3, 1919, Rev. E. W. Benbow came to the church as pastor. He served until April 5, 1925 and is remembered as notably successful with the young people of the congregation and the community.

Rev. H. C. Chambers, D. D., came as stated supply in May 1925, and was installed as pastor on April 29, 1926, serving until his death on November 14, 1928. He developed a men's Sunday School class of about 130 members. During his pastorate Mr. G. A. Shurtleff was made an honorary active elder in recognition of his more than fifty years of service as an elder. Mr. Shurtleff, who died in 1929, left to the church a bequest of $5,000.

Rev. R. B. Fisher was called to the pastorate in July, 1929, and served until his resignation in September, 1933.

In February 1934, Rev. Oliver Stevenson came to the church as stated supply. He was installed as pastor on October 31, 1934. During his pastorate an anonymous gift of a set of the latest Presbyterian hymnals was dedicated to the use of the church. Extensive repairs were made in 1939, $800 being spent for a new roof and $1300 for the attractive interior finish of Nu-wood. Rev. Stevenson resigned on May 10, 1942.

On September 20, 1942, a call was issued to Rev. Virgil V. Smith of Sidney, Nebraska, and he was installed on November 3, 1942. Under his energetic leadership a number of progressive changes were made. The chancel was divided and lectern installed, the custom of weekly bulletins was revived, a vested choir organized and a communicants' class was established. The original $600 mortgage was paid, and the church improved by the installation of city steam heat. At the annual congregational meeting in 1943 the rotary system of electing church officers, now used by many outstanding Presbyterian churches, was adopted.

During the past years several noteworthy gifts were made to the church. The chancel vestments were given by the Ladies' Aid Society, and choir robes were the gift of several women's organizations and individuals. In memory of John Watkins a mimeograph for the church bulletins and the News Letter was presented by D. A. Mast and F. E. Watkins. The altar cross and candlesticks were given in memory of Mrs. Metta Hopkins by her daughters, Mrs. Lee Derby of Cedar Rapids and Mrs. Lyle Metzgar. The set was completed by altar vases and candelabra when they were available after the war.

At the congregational meeting in March, 1944, announcement was made that the church would receive the gift of a Hammond organ, presented by Mr. and Mrs. D. A. Mast in memory of Mrs. Savannah Mast and by Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Calderwood. The installation was delayed because of the war.

No brief chronicle can truly tell the story of one hundred years in the life of a church. Through the span of a century there has been unceasing activity. The tireless efforts of the women, glorifying the homely work of Martha with the spiritual fervor of Mary, have been a vital factor in the forward progress of the church. Seven elders--C. G. Rogers, G. A. Shurtleff, William Moffett, S. R. Raymond, W. G. Kerr, C. T. Rogers and D. A. Mast have been commissioners to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. The fifteen ministers from 1869 to 1944 gave a full measure of devoted service and leadership.

It is impossible to estimate the rich contribution the First Presbyterian Church has made to the individual lives of its members, to the welfare of the community, and to the upbuilding of the church at large. The continuous progress from the first pioneer beginning so long ago has been accomplished by the faith, the loyalty, the sacrifice of four generations. Such a history is worthy to stand the test of time.

New and Modern Parsonage
A new and modern parsonage was erected 27 years ago for the home of the pastor and his family. The old parsonage was torn down and the new building was erected on the site of the former building. It is one of the fine homes in Grundy Center.

History of First Presbyterian Church 1952-77
Following the tenure of the Rev. Gerben VanPutten, which concluded on June 30, 1957, the Rev. Donald Jafvert was called to be minister of First Presbyterian Church in Sept. 1957. During his ministry, the Christian Education Unit south of the old sanctuary was built, and was dedicated in August, 1962.

The Rev. Duane Heap was installed as 18th pastor of the church in January 1963. In 1968, the first women were elected to serve as Ruling Elders. Rev. Heap concluded his ministry in 1969, and was followed by the Rev. John L. Lewis, who was installed in Oct. 1969.

On June 22, 1969, the congregation voted to demolish the sanctuary that had been constructed in 1899, and to build a new structure on the site of the old church. The Centennial Celebration was observed in Sept. 1969, the church having grown from a membership of 10 when it was organized on Oct. 2, 1869 to an active membership of over 300 members. The last service to be held in the old sanctuary was on Nov. 23, 1969. Found among the ruins during the demolition was a small star that had been atop the sanctuary, unknown to any of the church members. It is now part of the Christmas Celebration for First Presbyterian church members.

On January 18, 1970, a special ceremony was held to open the cornerstone box of the old sanctuary. The Rev. Daniel Kerr, a son of William Kerr, who had prepared the cornerstone box, and the first son of the congregation to enter the ordained ministry preached the sermon on that occasion. In Sept. 1970, the cornerstone of the new sanctuary was laid. The first service was held on March 28, 1971, and on June 27, 1971, the building was dedicated. Members of the Building Committee were Richard Smith, Larry Lynn, Claude Lines, Lee Paige, Genevieve Craven, Harvey Kimball and Lola Belnap. The Allen organ was dedicated on Oct. 17, 1971.

The Rev. John Lewis resigned his pastorate in Jan. 1976, and the Rev. Wiert Eekhoff served as interim pastor, until the present pastor, the Rev. Douglas A. Kelly, was installed in July, 1976.

Presently, the church is served by a session of twelve ruling elders who are DeLoris Albright, Harry Banks, Nancy Redman, Jed Simms, Richard Smith, Pat Hauser, Ada McLeod, Roger Engelkes, Ralph Anderson, Lucy Abels, Carl Palmer and Helen Myers. A Board of Trustees consists of James Duwelius, Edith Sealman, Pat Jansen, Alan Rewerts, Viola Slifer and Allan Myers. George Hauser is Church Treasurer. The following serve on the Board of Deacons: Margaret Schmitt, Mick Blackburn, Irene Anderson, Melvin Walters, Thelma Slinker, Eileen Mutch, Marlene Havel, Geri Saak, and Jean Rhoads. Eva Pettingill is Church Secretary.

There are Christian Education Classes for all ages, Youth Groups, active United Presbyterian Women and Mariner's organizations. From the corner of Eighth St. and H. Ave., the First Presbyterian Church seeks to minister to its congregation, the Community, and to the needs of the world. All are welcome to share in its Fellowship.

Pastors Who Have Served the Church
C. R. French1869-75
D. W. James1875-77
J. W. Hanna1877-92
William Bryant1883-87
D. W. McLane1888-94
C. H. Jordan1894
J. W. Palm1894-95
W. H. Jordan1896-01
E. E. Hastings1901-07
L. P. Krome1908-19
E. W. Benbow1919-25
H. C. Chambers1925-28
R. B. Fisher1929-33
Oliver Stevenson1934-42
Virgil V. Smith1942-48
Gerben VanPutten1948-57
Donald Jafvert1957-62
Duane Heap1963-69
John Lewis1969-76

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 7 July 1977

List of Ministers

NameYears Served
Rev. C. R. French1869-1875
Rev. D. W. James1875-1877
Rev. J. W. Hanna1877-1882
Rev. Bryant1883-1887
Rev. D. W. McLane1888-1894
Rev. C. H. Jordan1894
Rev. J. W. Palm1894-1895
Rev. W. H. Jordan1896-1901
Rev. E. E. Hastings1901-1907
Rev. L. P. Krome1908-1919
Rev. E. W. Benbow1919-1925
Rev. H. C. Chambers1925-1928
Rev. R. B. Fisher1929-1933
Rev. Oliver Stevenson1934-1942
Rev. Virgil V. Smith1942-1948
Rev. Gerben VanPutten1948-1957
Rev. Donald Jafvert1957-1962
Rev. Duane Heap1963-1969
Rev. John Lewis1969-1976
Rev. Douglas A. Kelly1976-