IAGenWeb Project

Hamilton County IAGenWeb


Compiled by Alma Graham Mann, October, 1938

Transcribed for the IAGenWeb Project by Janelle Graham Martin, January 2010

In beginning a history of Mt. Zion Church, I find no better way than to quote an earlier historian, Milton Boyer, who in July, 1778, wrote: “On the 14th day of April, 1867, there might have been seen a small company of Christians assembling at a schoolhouse, known as Silver’s Schoolhouse, in Webster Township, Hamilton County, Iowa. They had for their purpose the organization of a Sabbath School. Up to this time the children and young people of the neighborhood spent their Sabbaths rambling around or idly staying at home, and it was thought that a Sunday School could be successfully carried on, and be a source of lasting good. A school was organized by electing the Rev. Thomas Barr, Superintendent; J.W. Barr, Assistant Superintendant; John Boyer, Secretary and Librarian; and W.J. Silvers, Treasurer.[1] Three teachers were appointed—Mrs. Eliza Barr, D.B. Newton and John Boyer. The secretary, John Boyer, offered a prize of a Bible to the one who committed to memory the most verses from the New Testament. Hannah Boyer won the Bible with 523 verses. Others competing were Thomas Silvers, 71 verses; Milton Boyer, 80 verses, Lafayette Meeks, 16 verses, Mary Fowler, 22 verses, and Delana Brockshink, 17 verses. With an average attendance of 18, the school closed September 15, not for want of interest, but because it was thought the winters were too severe for anyone to attend, so it would be best to close while the attendance was good, and reorganize in the spring. This plan was followed every year as late as 1890

The same year the Sunday School was started, the Rev. Elijah Kendell, pastor at Homer, organized a class of seven members[2] who met also at the Silvers schoolhouse which was then located less than one mile east of where the Mt. Zion church was later built. In this schoolhouse revival meetings were held and many convertions reported. In a short time the building was moved southeast with teams of oxen to its present location six miles south of Webster City and is now known also as Coal School.

The historian, Milton Boyer, writes, "On April 26, 1868, the Sunday School was reorganized by electing for Superintendent, John Boyer; Assistant Superintendent, John Barr; Secretary and Librarian, W.J. Silvers; Treasurer, John Claflin. The Superintendent offered the following prizes to scholars learning verses from the Bible—

First prize- One copy of Pilgrim’s Progress

Second prize- One Bible

Third prize- A book entitled "Our Father in Heaven”

Fourth prize- One Testament

The teachers appointed for the term were Miss Lottie Kirchner, Miss Edith Biernatzki, Miss Josephine Dale, W. J. Silvers, and Robert Sibert. A collection was taken amounting to $19.25 to be used in the purchase of Sunday School Advocates and books. The average attendance of teachers during the term was 5, of pupils, 23. Whole number of books in the library, 100.

The following are the names of those who competed for the prizes and the number of verses recited—Evaline Miller, 4784; Hannah Boyer, 4731; Thomas Silvers, 2031; Milton Boyer, 2832.

On July 4th of this year a union picnic was held at Royster’s Grove. Sunday Schools from Webster City, Homer, Hook’s Point, Saratoga and Mt. Zion were represented. Among the displays made by Mt. Zion was a tall tree planted in a barrel and carried on a wagon, its branches reaching far above everything else. The school was led by a banner, elegantly plumed in rosettes of three colors, red, white, and blue, and borne by three young ladies dressed in colors to represent our National Flag and to correspond with the banner. The whole affair passed off pleasantly, Mt. Zion bearing off the palm for the best singing."[3]

In 1873, the average Sunday School attendance was raised to 48. The next year the largest attendance on any one Sunday was 85. The first pastor, Rev. Kendell was succeeded by the following ministers—Israel Mershon, Thomas Cuthbert, J. A. Potter, S.C. Bascum and William Preston. From the beginning to 1889 Mt. Zion and Homer were combined[4] and served by the same pastor who resided in the parsonage at Homer.

While Rev. Preston was on the charge, about August 1, 1877, the following petition was circulated—"We, the undersigned, herby agree to pay the sums set opposite our names, in money or work, as stated, for the purpose of building a churchhouse for the M. E. Church at the southeast corner of H.T. Billing’s farm.[5] Money, or work, to be paid as follows: one-fourth by Oct. 1, 1877, and the balance by Jan. 1, 1878, or as stated."[6] Following this petition are ninety-two names listed, some paying cash, or work, or both, some doing hauling. Some dealers of Webster City gave trade. The largest amount listed was $100 in work and money by John Boyer who lived one mile north of the church location. Carpenters were to be paid $2.00 per day and common laborers allowed $1.00 per day and "board himself."

August 3, 1877, at a quarterly conference held at the schoolhouse, the following trustees were elected for the purpose of building , -- A. J. Barr, J. P. Dale, J. W. Barr, C. Robbins, William Beightol, H. Olmstead and Milton Boyer. These trustees met Sept. 3 electing A. J. Barr, president; Milton Boyer, secretary; and William Beightol, treasurer. Motion was made and carried that William Saunders be hired to do the main carpenter work, and that he allow any person to assist in any work said person could do. Those who were willing were to haul lumber free. Rev. J. P. Dale, grandfather of Rev. L. A. Dale, a former Mt. Zion boy who is today is pastor at Dows, Iowa, was to act as a general building committee, he to consult with the board on important questions. A section of the minutes of the trustees’ meeting on September 3, 1877, states, "Motion was made and carried that the size of the church be as follows—size on the ground, 26x40 ft. with 14 ft. posts, the foundation wall to be 18 inches above ground at the lowest corner. Motion made that J. P Dale be paid wages for services rendered by him in acting as building committee. Motion carried. Motion made and approved of, to adjourn until September 8, at early candle lighting at the residence of A. J. Barr. (signed) Milton Boyer, secretary."[7]

Records show the trustees held several meetings that fall. All were opened with prayer. Details of building were decided, as the size of windows, chimney, stoves, etc. At such a meeting, November 2, 1877, we read, "After a great deal of discussion it was decided by the board to buy Patent Seats for the church. Seats to be like those in the Hamilton Co. Courthouse, costing about $1.10." [8] These seats were used throughout the life of the building.

A bill of lumber bought of E.N. Lee and Brs. Gives the price of 4" x 6" material, 14ft. long, at $19.00 per M. These timbers were in good condition over 60 years later when the building was destroyed. The total cost of the church exclusive of work donated, was as follows; Material, $635.10; hired labor, $430.00; seats, $138.68; table, $3.00; total, $1206.78. Minutes of the secretary fail to mention the dedication of the church which may have occurred as early as November, 1877.

At a later meeting of the board, June, 1878, it was moved and carried that Mrs. J. P. Dale, Mrs. J. W. Barr and Mrs. J. Boyer act as a committee to get the carpet for the platform. Clemual Robbins was engaged at 50 cents per week to serve as janitor. It seemed difficult, however, to collect this fund, as the records later show a balance of $59.00 due him on January 1, 1882. He with his sons, Elmer and Will, set out trees around the building.

H. S. Olmstead was class-leader the year the church was built. Following is the list of ninety members for the years 1877 and 1878: [9]

1.H. S. Olmstead
2.Lucy A. Olmstead
3.Charley Olmstead
4.George Olmstead
5.John Dale
6.Salome Dale
7.Gertrude Dale
8.Lewis Dale
9.Della Dale
10.John Boyer
11.Elizabeth Boyer
12.Hannah Boyer
13.John H. Boyer
14.William Silvers
15.Elizabeth Silvers
16.Thomas Silvers
17.John Silvers
18.Viola Silvers
19.William Beightol
20.Jane Beightol
21.Anna Beightol
22.Mina Beightol
23.Baley Brock
24.Rebecca Brock
25.George Brock
26.John Patterson
27.Olive Patterson
28.John Biggs
29.M.M. Biggs
30.Witney Biggs
31.Emma Biggs
32.A.J. Barr
33.Catherine Barr
34.Elsie Barr
35.John T. Barr
36.Martha Barr
37.Marion Barr
38.J. W. Barr
39.Julia Barr
40.William Meeks
41.C. Robbins
42.Sarah Robbins
43.John McMiller
44.Mina McMiller
45.Mrs. Woodard
46.Amelia Woodard
47.Smith Graham
48.Dora Graham
49.Benton Graham
50.Charley Eley
51.Eliza Eley
52.Mary Simmermon
53.Harvey Billings
54.Eunice Billings
55.Frank Billings
56.Frank Hubbard
57.Mary Hubbard
58.Solomon Kepler
59.Mrs. Kepler
60.George Claflin
61.Georgie E. Claflin
62.Arnold Claflin
63.Eddie Claflin
64.Isaac Morrow
65.J. W. Olmstead
66.C. R. Olmstead
67.Alonzo Crosby
68.Allen Dodge
69.Ella Meeks
70.Amelia E. Dodge
On Probation, January 20, 1876
71.Henry Prestage
72.H. B. Dale
73.E. A. Robbins
74.J. G. Billings
75.G. H. Hardy
76.M. J. Hardy
77.A. M. Bond
78.L. E. Prestage
79.M. A. Prestage
80.L. M. McMiller
81.Elizabeth Billings
82.W. D. Silvers
83.C. C. Billings
84.Jacob Bringolf
85.Ella Simmermon
86.M. B. Boid
87.Jenny Hardy
88.H. J. Andrews
89.Emily Prestage
90.Barbary Minor

On April 21, 1878, the first year Sunday School was held in the new church, the school was reorganized by electing A. J. Barr, superintendent; M. C. Boyer, secretary; Theodore Graham, librarian; J. C. Silvers, treasurer. Six dollars was collected and sent for papers and seventy lesson leaves. Average attendance of teachers during the term, 6; of scholars, 54. Least number in attendance any one Sunday, 38; largest number 100. Teachers appointed by the superintendent were John Boyer, T. E. Silvers, J. W. Barr, J. G. Billings, Mrs. Olmstead, Mrs. A. J. Barr and Miss Lana Brockshink.

Again the historian, M. C. Boyer wrote; "Of the scholars and teachers who have taken part in the school at different times, 19 have moved away and are living in different parts of the United States. Ten have passed away from this world and left evidence that they have joined the innumerable throng around our Father’s throne. About six have joined other churches besides Methodist and about 48 of the scholars and teachers who have been members of the school have connected themselves with the M. E. Church since the organization of the school. Thus we have passed along from the origin of the school until the present time. We have seen its numbers increase from about 20 to about 75. It is accomplishing its object and fulfilling its mission. Scholars are flocking in from distant parts of the neighborhood. The seats are filled with pupils eager to learn about the ‘story of the Cross’, and officers and teachers are laboring to instill into the minds of the children thoughts that will be as seed that is sown on good ground. In due season, it will bring forth fruit. We have seen the school start, as a little brook that commences its course very timidly, but goes on and on spreading and increasing in force until it becomes a mighty river; so the school commencing quite small, but going on, though at times almost at a standstill, each year increasing in size, and importance, scattering good seeds along its way and passing from the schoolhouse to the church. And who can say but what some of the 45 or 50 of the scholars who have come into the fold of Christ have not been influenced by something that was said or done in the Sunday School? Some word that was dropped, some song that was sung, or some tract or paper that was distributed, might have awakened some soul to its need of Christ. And who can estimate the extent of good it has done in spreading the Truth? Scholars have passed out from our neighborhood to others, many of them carrying with them the Light of the Gospel and spreading their truths learned in Mt. Zion Sabbath School and leading others to Christ. And so its influence goes on, and those intimately connected with the school, those who have labored for its advancement during the past eleven years of its history, and those who are giving their time, talents and money to the school will get their reward when the final reckoning is had." (Signed) M. C. Boyer, Historian.[10]

M. C. Boyer died, January 22, 1879, and his family later moved to California. On April 6, T. E. Slivers was elected secretary of the Sunday School to fill his place. On a Sunday in May of that year there was an attendance of 96, but the following Sunday a rain resulted in only 30 present which was a decrease of forty below the average attendance. Sunday School collections in those days ran as small as two, four, seven, or eight cents. However they took special collections at each reorganization to have funds with which to order supplies. $200.00 is recorded due on the church June 26, 1879. On Thursday, September 4, 1879, as written by Secretary T. E. Silvers, "the long looked for and eagerly anticipated Sunday School picnic is here. Everybody seems gay and happy. We all met at John Dale’s. There the young folks were placed in a four-horse wagon prepared for the occasion, adorned the playing of the fife and drum. The usual order for the day was carried out—singing, lectures, etc. At evening we formed in procession and hied away to our several abodes. The day of festivities is ended and our great anticipations have come and gone. After the picnic there was no formal closing of the school. Sickness and one thing and another diminished the attendance until it finally closed of its own accord."[11]

At reorganization, March 28, 1880, $10.47 was raised by subscription. David Cook quarterlies were ordered, the Berean Lesson Leaves being used previously. Sunday, May 30, of that year we read, "This is the Centennial of the organization of S. S. We celebrated it by a special program. Total number present, 105." And again at the close of the minutes for 1880, the secretary states, "There was no formal closing of Sunday School. Just played out." Average attendance, 60.

Sunday School in 1881 "carried on as heretofore and a grand picnic held in September in which seven schools cooperated. It was held one and one-fourth mile east of Excelsor Mill."

April 10, 1882, the balance due on notes to the church is recorded as $107.64. Sunday School was reorganized Mar. 19, but did not meet for four Sundays following on account of storm and bad roads. Following are several excerpts from the Sunday School Secretary’s book:

June 24, 1883. "No Sunday School on account of laziness."

May 4, 1884. "No Sunday School. Quarterly meeting at Homer."

Sunday, June 29, 1884. Sunday School concert opened by singing, and prayer by Rev. Martindale. Three public schools, Poplar Grove, Coal and Bethel, took active part in the program. There were about sixty recitations and songs. Three Sundays in August that year had no Sunday School because of rain.

June 28, 1885. "No Sunday School on account of camp meeting at Lehigh, the most of the neighborhood going over."

Sept. 27, 1885. "School closed for the season. There were not many present on account of the weather. All felt as though Supt. Crosby was a faithful worker in Sunday School as everything passed off in good order through the summer. Now to this end I hope that Mt. Zion may ever prosper, have a house well filled, and good be done."

Signed by the secretary, E. A. Robbins.[12]

Sept 5, 1886. "No Sunday School. Got to the church too late. Talked about picnic awhile, the invitation being sent by Saratoga to be held in the Adams Grove. Decided to go." On Sept. 26 of the same year (1886) there was no Sunday School because of conference at Webster City.

Collections during the summer of 1887 were $5.05, expenses $5.02, balance 3 cents. A basket dinner was held at Bell’s Mill on Sunday, Aug. 26, 1888.

Della Dale was secretary in 1889. She writes, "School closed Oct. 6. Had a good school, a good attendance, finances kept up, and we hope for a good school next year, if we are permitted to live."[13]

The average S. S. Attendance for 1890 was 23. The officers were Henry Miller, superintendent; E. A. Robbins, assistant superintendent; Della Miller, librarian; C. Robbins, treasurer; and Susie Robbins, secretary.

Many records are missing of the meetings of the board of trustees after the year 1884, and of the Sunday School after 1890, therefore the remainder of this history touches only a few places.

The Mt. Zion charge was combined with Lehigh from 1889 to 1891, then was with Evanston for one year. Beginning with 1892, Stanhope and Mt. Zion were together until 1901, with the exception of one year with Kamrar (1894-5).[14]

The Rev. J. P. Dale was elected president of the board in February, 1896, and E. A. Robbins, secretary. Vernie Miller was hired "to make fires, sweep, dust and all janitor work except scrubbing. For same he shall receive $12.00 per annum."[15]

Members present at a board meeting, May 25, 1896, were J. P. Dale, T. J. Barr, W. Beightol and E. A. Robbins. "Motion carried to plaster church and if enough money is raised to paint it." Building committee, E. A. Robbins; finance committee, W. R. Graham, Elsie Beightol, and Nora Robbins.

"In 1900 all expenses paid Vernie, and Willie Miller took charge of church janitorship til 1902, Jan. 1, with a little help from Bro. Gordon." [16] Jan. 1, 1902, L. C. Dale was employed to care for the church at $18.00 per year, and Willie Miller again took the work in 1903, followed by Carl Graham the next year, salary the same.

Rev. H. J. Calkins was pastor at Homer and Mt. Zion from 1901 to 1902, each charge paying him $200.00 After 1903 Mt. Zion was placed with Kamrar until 1927.

In December, 1904, T. A. Barr was elected trustee to fill the place made vacant by the resignation of his father, T. J. Barr. On motion, H. L. Graham and E. A. Robbins were to act as a committee to raise money and shingle the south side of the church roof. The Ladies Aid Society was organized in January, 1910, with a membership of sixteen, which later increased to twenty-two. This society proved to be of considerable help to the church, financially and in other ways. To these ladies is due much of the credit for paying the insurance assessments, even during these later years when church services had been abandoned.

At a meeting of the board of trustees, May 2, 1911, H. B. Dale was added to the board. At Rev. Wood’s recommendation an official board was organized with T. A. Barr, secretary, and W. P. Miller, treasurer.

In November, 1912, on request of the board of trustees, the Ladies Aid served an oyster supper on Thanksgiving Day.

The church was valued at $1200.00 in 1914, and insured at $800.00.

The official membership recorded by Rev. L. E. Wardle, pastor in 1917, is given as 67. (See p. 92 of S. S. Sec. book)

The last pastor, Rev. William Bottom, also pastor at Stratford, served the church from 1927 to 1929. For one year previous Mt. Zion had been without a regular minister. The last Sunday School superintendent was Ralph W. Graham; assistant superintendent, E. A. Robbins; secretary and treasurer, Howard Graham. This Sunday School closed Jan. 1, 1932.

After 1929, Mt. Zion was without a pastor and Dr. E. C. McDade, District Supt. made it a part of the Webster City charge. The majority of the people found it convenient with modern means of travel to attend services in Webster City. On April 27, 1938, our much loved church building, around which so many happy associations had been made, was destroyed by a tornado. People living nearby watched the funnel-shaped cloud form in the southwest and take its winding path north and then eastward, laying this pioneer landmark low, and breaking branches from trees. After this act of violence the storm was nearly over, for the cloud dipped only once again, damaging one neighboring building.

Thinking of all that this church has meant to the people and of the end to which it came, I finish my history with a feeling of sadness. May the good work begun by our forefathers be carried on and on, and the influence of Mt. Zion continue through the ages.

Alma Graham Mann

October, 1938


1867-1868Elijah Kendell
1868-1869Israel Mershan
1869-1870Thomas Cuthbert
1870-1872J. A. Potter
1872-1875S. C. Bascom
1875-1878William Preston
1878-1879D. M. Beams
1879-1880A. A. Shesler
1880-1881O. S. Bryan
1881-1883T. M. Anderson
1883-1884Thomas Martindale
1884-1885G. W. Kliver
1885-1886W. K. S. Hillhouse
1886-1887A. A. Wilcox
1887-1888Freeman Franklin
1888-1889J. W. Callender
1889-1891Thomas Martindale
1891-1892T. M. Owens
1892-1893Fred Gilbert
1893-1894J. D. Bateman
1894-1895A. E. Slessor
1895-1896I. A. Bartholomew
1896-1900Thomas Martindale
1900-1901G. M. Pendell
1901-1902H. J. Calkins
1902-1903J. J. Williams
1903-1904Thomas Maxwell
1904-1905C. H. Bryan
1905-1907J. O. Crawford
1907-1909W. E. Blackstock
1909-1910M. J. McCabe
1910-1911G. F. Wood
1911-1913Samuel Knoer
1913-1916Arthur Bottom
1916-1918L. E. Wardle
1918-1923J. A. Farnham
1923-1924A. J. Tritt
1924-1925R. A. Doss
1925-1926L. J. Lovejoy
1926-1927Without a pastor
1927-1929William Bottom

[1] Milton Boyer, in "History of Mt. Zion Sabbath School, "Secretary’s Record, p. 3

[2] Official Journal, Northwest Conference, 1937, p. 333

[3] Sunday School Secretary’s Book, pages 5 and 6

[4] Conference Records, 1937, p. 333

[5] Note: The church was located at the S. E. Corner of Sec. 27, Freedom Twp., Hamilton County, Iowa. It was six miles, south and a little west, from Webster City.

[6] Milton Coyer, in Mt. Zion church Secretary’s Book, p. 1

[7] Mt. Zion Church Secretary’s Book, p. 8

[8] Mt. Zion Church Secretary’s Book, p. 14

[9] Mt. Zion Class Book, 1877-1886

[10] S. S. Secretary’s Record, pp. 10, 11.

[11] S. S. Secretary’s book, p. 20

[12] S. S. Sec. record, p. 55

[13] S. S. Sec. record, p. 85

[14] Northwest Iowa Conference Records, 1937, p. 333

[15] Church Secretary’s Book, p. 20

[16] Church Secretary’s Book, p. 22