History of the German Presbyterian Church of Grundy County

by Rev. J. E. Drake

It was in 1846 that Rev. Peter Flury from Switzerland came to America with the intention of becoming a missionary to the Indians, but circumstances changed his plans and he settled in Dubuque where he preached to his countrymen who had preceded him to this county. Soon afterwards, Adrian Van Vliet, a Hollander and a tailor by trade, resumed the work and under him united with the Presbyterian Church. He also became the founder of the first German Presbyterian educational institution.

As the immigrants came flooding into this county, especially from Northern Germany and Holland, selecting such portions of Iowa as were noted for the richest soil, Grundy County received a large number of the sturdy farmers.

Having left their country and friends behind, they established homes on the lonely prairies. Realizing, however that "man liveth not by bread alone," they longed for the truths as they had been accustomed to hear from youth.

Rev. Van Vliet visited a number of families who had settled in German township, and after preaching to them for a short time, they were organized as the


The Rev. John Arends became the first pastor and served them until 1869. Rev. Van der Las then took charge and was for many years the beloved pastor, resigning in 1886.

Rev. Henry Schmitt was his successor and his was an able and successful pastorate. The church greatly increased in numbers and the property improved. He died of apoplexy after having been pastor for twenty-one years.

Rev. W. F. Engelke was chosen his successor in 1906, and is serving at the present date with efficiency and success. The property has been greatly improved and the membership is now 204.


This is the second church which was organized July 10, 1871, by the Rev. John Van der Las.

Rev. Jacob Brinkema was the first pastor who experienced the hardships in common with his people. With united effort a church building was erected, but the funds were not sufficient to meet the expense so the contrator on completion of the building locked the doors and refused to give up the key until he had been paid in full. The people seeing their joy turned into grief, again contributed out of their small possessions, many giving notes on which they paid 20 per cent.

Rev. Brinkema severed his connection with the church after three yeras, when Rev. Behrend Van der Las, a brother of the founder, was called from Milwaukee, Wis. For twenty-five years he ministered faithfully, while the church prospered, and after the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversay with his people, he retired from the active ministry and spent the two remaining years of his life in Grundy Center. Rev. J. E. Drake became his successor in 1900 and is the present pastor.

The building has been remodeled, enlarged and a new pipe organ installed. The present membership is 138, and four of the charter members are still living, namely: Eilert Knock, John Saathoff, Dirk Harberts and K. O. Krueger.


About five miles northeast of the East Friesland church, another organization was perfected in 1873, formerly under the name of Second German Presbyterian Church of Grundy County.

The first minister was Rev. John Arends, who remained seven years. He died at Ackley, Iowa, May 15, 1880. Rev. Godfrey Moery was the pastor from 1881 to 1884, when he was called to a professorship in the Dubuque German Theological School. Rev. Ludwig Kliebenstein was called in 1884 and served faithfully until he retired from the active ministry in 1905.

Rev. J. J. Agena was next called in 1905 and is still successfully carrying on the work. The church has steadily gained in numbers until the membership now stands at 85.


Many of the farmers who found it necessary to retire from active farm work, settled in the town of Grundy Center. Rev. J. E. Drake devoted his Sunday afternoon to the spiritual wants. The first services were held in the English Presbyterian Church until later the Baptist Church was purchased and moved to a vacant lot. It was organized in 1905 with fifteen membes.

Rev. O. B. Oltmanns became its first pastor and resigned in June, 1910; membership being 44.

Up to 1908, all the German churches belonged to the English Presbyterians, but believing that the missionary enterprise could be enlarged by superintending their own work, the German churches of Grundy County, along with others, petitioned the General Assembly to create separate German Presbyteries. This request was granted.

--Atlas of Grundy County, Iowa, 1911, pg 96