Ivester Church of the Brethren

by C. F. Messer

The Ivester Congregation.
The church of the Brethren in Grundy County was organized at the home of Daniel Sheller in September, 1867, Henry Strickler being made elder and Daniel Sheller, deacon. At that time there were twenty members in the district. The first five, Jacob Shirk and wife, Louis Hess and wife, and Joseph Strickler having moved here in 1865 and the remaining fifteen coming the two following years. Of these twenty only three now remain in the district. Sixteen have been removed by death and the other one moved away. In the spring of '76 the work of building the church was begun. The building committee was Elder Henry Strickler, Daniel Sheller, George Moore, Louis Hess nd Simon Arnold. George Moore was foreman and treasurer. When the work was commenced but fifteen hundred dollards was on hand, but the balance of the cost, seven hundred dollars, was obtained by soliciting. In the autumn the church was dedicated. Elder Henry Strickler was the first minister. The church was not incorporated until February 8, 1894. Elder Henry Strickeler, Daniel Sheller and George Moore were the first trustees.

In 1877 the Sunday School was organized with John Rudy as superintendent. At first there were six classes. Now there are nine classes in the advanced and two in the primary department. The latter was formed last spring. Mrs. Chas. Messer is superintendent of the primary, and Clarence Schrock of the advanced department. The school is gradually increasing in numbers and is throwing out a strong influence to the young people of the community.

In 1870 Daniel Sheller donated one acre of land, two miles north of the church for a cemetery. The first grave was made for little Harry Moore, November 12, 1870. Four weeks later another grave was made for the little daughter of John Bemisdorfer. Now the cemetery contains two and a half acres of land and many graves.

Atlas of Grundy County, Iowa, 1911, pg 92-93

Ivester Church of Brethren Organized 65 Years Ago

The Ivester Church of the Brethren, located southeast of Eldora in Melrose township, was organized in 1867 and has been constant in its service to humanity during these sixty-five years.

Shortly after the civil war people from Illinois began to migrate to Iowa. They were seeking homes where they might rear their children. Coming to the broad prairies of Grundy county, they felt that they had found the place for which they were looking. They had come to a country that was undeveloped. There were no schools, no roads, not even many towns and no churches. The first interest of these people was their homes, but a close second was that of school and church. A number of these people had been affiliated with what was then known as the German Baptist church, later called the Church of the Brethren and as was the custom in those days these people began to think of organizing a church.

They had no church building and plans were made to meet in the home of Daniel Sheller, and there were about twenty persons gathered and organized what was then known as the Grundy county church. Upon the occasion of the organization of the church, which was held in a shed covered with prairie hay, they also held their first communion service. Elder John Murry, of Marshalltown, was in charge of the first service.

During the early years of the church it was served by a free ministry. The minister supported himself and family by farming and then on Sunday brought a message from the word of God. The first local man to be called to serve in the capacity of minister was Henry Strickler, whose son, Daniel Strickler, is now and has been for years a resident of Eldora.

It should be stated in this connection that a number of converts at the altars of this church, far removed from any town, have gone into foreign fields as missionaries, while many have become rugged citizens of this and other states. Rev. D. C. Gnagy is the present pastor of this unique organization.

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 4 February 1932

Oldest Church In County Has 70th Anniversary

Made For an All-Day Program on July 4th in Observance of this Notable Event in the History of the Ivester Organization

Church Was Organized In 1867 With 19 Members, None Of Whom Are Now Living

Next Sunday is to be a great day at Ivester. At this time there will be the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the organization of the church. At that time there were 19 charter members, none of whom are living today. All former members and friends are invited. Come and worship and renew acquaintances and make new friends.

Two former pastors, I. W. Brubaker and I. D. Leatherman, have said they would be able to be back for this occasion. Elder C. D. Bonsack, of Elgin, Ill., world traveler and lecturer, will be here for the day and will speak both morning and evening. There will be a program in the afternoon also. Basket dinner at noon. Local folks are asked to bring their own table service. Every friend of Ivester, regardless of who you are or where you live, is earnestly invited to spend the day here.

It is a very unusual event not only in the history of this church but for all of the people of the county. An organization having its birth in a rural community which has not only maintained itself, but which has grown in membership and influence from year to year is entitled to wholehearted felicitations from all of us. The anniversary is not intended as a jollification for the church membership alone. An open and a cordial invitation is extended to all and the invitation should be generously accepted.

Local Man Chosen to Serve As First Minister
The organizers of the Ivester church seventy years ago chose one of their local members, Henry Strickler, to the office of minister. Other men to be chosen later to that office during the period of free ministry were Jacob Shirk, Smith Artz, Paul Wetzel, C. Frederick, William Albright, Silas Gilbert, Samuel Bowser, W. H. Lichty of Waterloo, J. H. Cakerice and Steven Johnson.

The church continued to grow in spite of the handicap of being without a house of worship and in 1876 it was definitely decided to erect a place of worship. The site chosen was a mile and a half south of the Daniel Sheller homestead. The building committee chosen was Daniel Sheller, Elder Henry Strickler, and Louis Hess. The total cost of the first building was $2200.

The Sunday School was organized the following year, 1877, with John Rudy as the first superintendent. The school was composed of six classes, all one department. It was not until 1911 that the primary department was organized under the leadership of Mrs. Charles Messer.

From the beginning until 1911 the church had been served by ministers who followed farming as an occupation. They served as best they could and did a splendid work in laying the foundation for a large community enterprise. In 1911, however, the church felt the need of pastoral care and Rev. I. W. Brubaker of Prairie City, Iowa, was called to be the first salaried minister of the church. The following year the congregation felt the need of a new house of worship and the present church was built and dedicated. In 1913 the church built the modern parsonage on a three-acre tract just north of the church. Rev. Brubaker remained as pastor of the church until the spring of 1916.

Rev. D. Warren Shock was called to serve as the next pastor of the church. He served for a period of three years. It was during his ministry that the church observed its fiftieth anniversary. Rev. D. H. Keller came as the third pastor of the church in June, 1911. It was during his ministry that two of the young people of the church, Rev. Harlan Smith and Frances Sheller Smith, dedicated their lives to service on the mission field. They went to the China mission field under the direction of the General Mission Board of the church. From the very first the local church assumed the support of the Smiths on the field.

In September 1922 Rev. I. D. Leatherman came to serve the church as pastor. He served for a period of 7 years.

Rev. D. C. Gnagy was called as pastor of the church in 1929. It was during his term of service and a year after he came to the church that the Ivester church was selected as one of the outstanding rural churches of the state. The same distinction has been conferred upon the church on a number of occasions in succeeding years.

Rev. Earl M. Frantz, the present pastor, was called to the church in 1933 and he has kept up the good work of his predecessors and from year to year has broadened the service of this church in the Ivester community.

It was about 1920 that the people of the community felt the need for more adequate equipment in the way of a community center. A building was secured and the Ivester community hall was located just west of the church. It serves many of the social and recreational activities of the community. It has the heartiest co-operation of the church and pastor.

The church stands as a monument to distinctive community service. It will continue to grow as long as that be the great ideal.

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 1 July 1937, pg 1

Ivester Church Will Observe 75th Anniversary Next Week

A Four-Day Program Has Been Provided Beginning With Next Sunday; Is Third Oldest Church Organization in County

The Ivester Church of the Brethren, which is known as the Ivester Church, will observe its 75th anniversary the coming week. The opening day is next Sunday at which time there will be a forenoon, an afternoon and an evening service. The feature of the evening program is a pageant entitled "This Goodly Heritage," which will be presented in five episodes.

Organized by Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers
The Ivester church was organized by a group of pioneer farmers, the most of whose ancestry came from Pennsylvania and who were known as "Pennsylvania Dutch." The name adopted when their religious organization was perfected, was "The German Baptist Brethren Church." Though they adopted the German title, their services were conducted in the English language as that was the language generally spoken among the members.

These thrifty pioneers came here to establish a home for themselves and for the generations to come after. They chose the open prairie in the most promising spot in Grundy county and they chose well because the land they selected for their own has proven its worth since the first crop that was harvested upon it. The home to these farmers was not complete unless it was sustained by a place of religious worship. They found no such place here and they established one. 75 years ago 19 of them met in a straw shed at the Dan Sheller farm in Melrose township and organized their first church. They had no building of their own for nine years but during that time they met for religious services regularly at the Sheller farm. In 1876 they put up their first church building a mile and a half south of the Sheller farm. Later there was a store, a blacksmith shop, a creamery, and a post office established on the same site and before the post office could be secured a name had to be selected. The name Ivester was decided upon. The name had been suggested by the then postmaster at Grundy Center, who was Charles Ivester Keiter. He suggested the use of his middle name as a suitable name for the post office and it was accepted. The post office at Ivester was maintained and the name appeared on the map of Iowa until the coming of rural free delivery about forty years ago when the post office was abandoned and mail for the community was supplied by rural carriers through the post office at Grundy Center and Eldora.

Church Served by Free Ministry
For the first forty years of its existence the Ivester church was served by a free ministry. The men who conducted the services received no salary either in cash or in goods. There are few, if any other churches in Iowa that continued with a growing membership without a regular appointed minister who received compensation in some material form. The church during the free period was served by farmers in the community who toiled on their farms six days in the week and conducted religious services in their house of worship on Sunday. There were twenty of these men during that period who took turns in their service as a minister. None of these were elected by the church. The remainder served as volunteers when their services were needed. These members were authorized to officiate at funeral and marriage services as well as supplying the pulpit.

First Paid Minister in 1911
The Ivester church called its first full time or paid minister in 1911. He was Rev. I. W. Brubaker, who remained as the directing head of the church for five years. Succeeding ministers were Rev. D. Warren Shock, Rev. D. H. Keller, Rev. I. D. Leatherman, Rev. D. C. Gnagy. The present minister of the church, Rev. E. M. Frantz, came here nine years ago. He has remained at his post longer than any of his predecessors. Three of the former ministers are still living. They are Rev. Shock and Rev. Gnagy, who reside in California, and Rev. Leatherman who resides at Lanark, Ill.

The Ivester church has a membership of about 400. It has maintained a gradual growth in numbers and in influence in the community. For the past ten years this church has been recognized by the American Rural Life Institute in co-operation with the Extension Service of the Iowa State College as a Class A Rural Church.

A more detailed report of the history of this church and the program follows:

Program For The Week

Call to Worship - - - - - - - Choir
"The Lord is in His Holy Temple"
Hymn, "The Church's One Foundation" - - No. 140
Responsive Reading, "Victorious Faith" - - No. 509
Hymn, "Lead On, O King Eternal" - - No. 311
Morning Prayer. Choral Response.
Athem - - - - - - - - - Choir
"The Lord is Exalted." E. Weidower
Sermon, "The Everlasting Church" Dr. Leland S. Brubaker
Benediction. Choral Response.

Afternoon Program

2:30--Afternoon Program
Hymn, "America the Beautiful" - - - No. 367
Hymn, "I Love Thy Kingdom" - - - - - No. 143
Hymn, "We're Marching To Zion" - - - No. 430
Informal Greetings.
Special Music.
Address - - - - - Dr. Leland S. Brubaker

(Don't fail to see the historical exhibit on display
in the B.Y.P.D. Room).

Evening Program

This Goodly Heritage - - Five Episodes
Episode I __________________ Foundations
Episode II ______________ A Living Faith
Episode III _______Singing Unto The Lord
Episode IV _______________ Going Forward
Episode V _____________ Toward New Goals
Anthem - - - - - - - - - Choir
"A Goodly Heritage." I. Meredith.
Address - - - - Dr. Leland S. Brubaker
"Workable Solutions for Everyday Problems"
Benediction. Choral Response.

* * * * * *

Monday Evening, October 5, 7:30

Address - - - - "Present Day Battlefields"
Dr. Leland S. Brubaker

* * * * * *

Tuesday Evening, October 6, 7:30

Address - - - - -"What of Tomorrow?"
Dr. Leland S. Brubaker

* * * * * *

Wednesday Evening, October 7, 7:30

Observing Holy Communion.
* * * * * *
Pastors Serving Ivester
I. W. Brubaker - - - - 1911-1916
D. Warren Shock - - - 1916-1919
D. H. Keller - - - - - 1919-1922
I. D. Leatherman - - - 1922-1929
D. C. Gnagy - - - - - 1929-1933
Earl M. Frantz - - - - 1933-
Missionaries Going Out From Ivester
Rev. Harlan Smith--to China - - - - - - - 1919
Mrs. Francis Sheller Smith--to China - - - 1919
Miss Hazel Messer--to India - - - - - - - 1931
Charter Members
Elder Henry P. Strickler Louis Hess
Maria StricklerMary Hess
Jacob StricklerEd. Slifer
Mary StricklerAmanda Slifer
Daniel ShellerJacob Shirk
Catherine ShellerAnna Shirk
Robert BoothLydia Sheller
Mary BoothLizzie Moore
John BeahmstaufferMary Miller
Eliza Beahmstauffer
Men Serving As Free Ministers
Henry StricklerJohn Albright
Jacob ShirkJ. H. Cakerice
Smith ArtzSilas Gilbert
Paul WetzelCharles Garner
C. FrederickEdwin Jones
Wm. Albright
Ministers Elected By The Ivester Church
Jacob ShirkHarlan Smith
Smith ArtzRaymond Slifer
C. FrederickLyle Albright
Wm. AlbrightMerlin Frantz
Galen Albright
Historical Statement---Our Church
Every organization or institution holds many things of interest locked up in the pages of its past history. Seventy-five years of the history of the Ivester church can be no exception to this rule. In this very brief sketch we can only hope to revive the memory of some of the older ones of our group and whet the appetite of others that they may search the foundations of their heritage for things of lasting value.

In the year 1867 a group of pioneers, mostly from Illinois, came to the prairies of Grundy county, Iowa, seeking a place where they might build homes for themselves and their families. The country was new and undeveloped and they were fully aware that there were hard and serious problems ahead. In order to meet these problems in the best manner they felt the need of the Divine Guidance of God. Like all other clear thinking people, they knew that if they were to receive this help in the very best way they must have an organized church where they could go to pray and worship and thus be strengthened for the tasks ahead.

Therefore it was only normal for them to come together and organize a church, which at that time was known as the Grundy County German Baptist Brethren church. There were 19 charter members in this early organization. Elder John Murray, of Marshalltown, led in the organization service. This first meeting was held in a straw shed on the Daniel Sheller homestead. Since there was no church house, for the next nine years this group of Christian men and women continued to make the Sheller home their place of worship.

There was much joy and enthusiasm in this little band of worshippers as they planned for the future. Crude surroundings and hardships were accepted as a part of their normal life. The church grew so that a larger place of worship seemed to be necessary. In 1876 it was decided by the group to build a church house, on a plot of ground one and a half miles south of the Sheller homestead. More than two thousand dollars was spent in erecting this house of worship. Very soon a Sunday School was organized which was destined to continue in its ministry until the present time.

For more than forty years the church was served by a free ministry, men who gave unstintingly of their time and talent for the work of the kingdom. These men were not highly educated and much of their time was, of necessity, given to caring for the physical needs of themselves and their families, but through their fine sacrificial service the church was well served. In 1911 the Ivester church employed its first full time pastor, in the person of Elder I. W. Brubaker, of Prairie City, Iowa. During his term of service the present church building and the parsonage were erected. Rev. Brubaker has been succeeded by five other pastors, whose names appear elsewhere in this booklet.

Through these years the foundations were well laid, which has made it possible for the church to make a constant forward movement, resulting in the present well-organized church and closely graded Sunday school. The membership of nineteen in the beginning has grown to a present membership of four hundred and twenty.

The Ivester church has always been interested in evangelism, both at home and abroad. There have been frequent successful evangelistic efforts which have resulted in pushing back the horizons and enlarging the area of influence and work.

Out from her ranks have gone three missionaries to the foreign fields. She has contributed a generous number of ministers to the Cause and has given many consecrated laymen who have given abundantly of their time and talent to Christian work. She has not only been interested in giving life to the cause, but a study of her sharing reveals that she has consistently contributed a sum of money for philanthropic work about equal to the budget for the home work. Missions and Education have shared generously in these contributions.

The Ivester church has, for many years, believed that religion should affect the whole of life. Because of this belief she has combined the social, recreational and spiritual in such a manner as to develop a wholesome well-rounded life for all. So much so, that for the past ten years the church has been recognized by the American Rural Life Institute, in cooperation with the Extension Department of Iowa State College, as a Class A rural church.

Mistakes have been made in the past, but on the whole the building has been well done. Seventy-five years of service is a goodly heritage. It brings a deep sense of responsibility to those who are destined to serve in the future. We are beginning our second seventy-five years. What they will mean will depend on what this generation and the coming generations will allow them to mean. No greater opportunities and challenges have ever been faced, by any generation, for creative and constructive thinking and living than we are now facing. We can only accept the challenge of the future as we say with Paul, One thing I do--I press forward toward the goal in Christ Jesus.

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 1 October 1942, pg 1, 5

List of Pastors

NameYears Served
I. W. Brubaker1911-1916
D. Warren Shock1916-1919
D. H. Keller1919-1922
I. D. Leatherman1922-1929
D. C. Gnagy1929-1933
Earl M. Frantz1933-
Rev. Alan Kieffaber
Phil and Louise (Louie) Baldwin Rieman