Transcribed by Linda Suarez
The Past and Present of Hardin County Iowa
ed. by William J. Moir. Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1911.
The first sermon preached in the county was by a Presbyterian minister named Rev. J. R. Lowrance. In the summer of 1857, Rev. John Price, an old-school Presbyterian minister, then at Berlin, this county, preached occasionally at Eldora, and also delivered some lectures on “Prophecy and Revelations.”
In the autumn of 1858, Rev. E. L. Dodder came to Eldora, from Fort Dodge, and preached as a missionary of the same church. About the same time, A. A. Rogers, a minister of the United Presbyterian church, came here, having been on an exploring expedition, going through Iowa by a circuitous route, going west as far as the Indian country, and ascending the Missouri river into Dakota territory, traveling hundreds of miles on foot over the boundless prairies. Of all home missionaries, perhaps none were more talented, none more self-deying and noble, yet none quite as peculiar as he was.
In the fall of 1861 Rev. John M. Boggs, of Independence, Iowa, came to Eldora, by invitation, to form a Presbyterian church. After several weeks here, he secured Rev. J. P. Fox, who labored here some time. But the Civil war came on and men’s minds were drawn to military affairs and there were two sides to handle in church matters – the Union and non-Union parts of the denomination. In the winter of 1865-66 a move was set on foot to unite the old-school and new-school wings of the church, in the county in general, with Eldora as a central meeting place, but the feeling was still too strong for uniting and the scheme dropped. In Secember, 1866, a move was made to continue what was left of the old organization at Berlin with the United Presbyterians, as well as some old-school Presbyterians living near Xenia and some about Eldora, in an old-school church at Eldora. A meeting was called for this purpose in January, 1867, at the house of George McElroy, when J. M. Boyd was appointed to correspond with some ministers. Letters were sent out, but no reply came; another set were sent forth, which brought a response from Rev. Boggs, of Independence, Iowa, and others. In June, 1867, Rev. J. D. Mason came from Davenport and preached several times in the old court house, then the only meeting room in Eldora. A time was fixed on which to organize a church at Eldora, but no place could be had to hold such a meeting in Eldora, so the persons interested, including Messrs. Gunn and Boyd, had to go through the town and on four miles to Xenia in order to find a suitable place in which a Presbyterian church could be formed, the same to be an Eldora religious society. So, on July 27, 1867, the church, known as the “Presbyterian Church of Eldora, Hardin county, Iowa,” was formed, with the following membership: William A. Sloan, Joseph Hunter, Jane Hunter, Nancy Hunter, George McElroy, Rachel Sproull, James Woodside, J. M. Boyd, William Walker, Margaret Gunn, Edwin Gilchrist. The first ruling elders were William A. Sloan, George McElroy and J. M. Boyd.
In May, 1869, lots were purchased in block 14 and the present brick church was built, at a cost of seven thousand dollars. Among the pastors of an early date in the history of the church may be named Revs. Bong, C. M. Howe and Thomas Hickling, who came in 1880. In 1882 the church was in a prosperous condition and for many years thereafter, but of late, on account of deaths, removals and other towns springing up, the membership has decreased until a pastor is not supported. A Sabbath school is kept up, however, at this date and the society still owns it original property.
The First Presbyterian church of Ackley was organized October 21, 1867, by Rev. G. H. Chatterton, presbyterial missionary. The charter members were John Rath and Elizabeth Rath, his wife, Daniel Currier and Clarissa Currier, his wife, and Mrs. Sarah D. Currier.
The Rev. G. H. Chatterton became stated supply of this organization until the fall of 1869. The civil part of the society was duly established November 12, 1867. D. Currier, Dr. J. S. Kelso and John Rath were chosen as trustees. The articles of incorporation were duly signed on the same date. The first edifice was a frame building built in the year 1869. The cost of same, including the ground, was three thousand nine hundred dollars. November 20, 1869, the Rev. B. Mills, by appointment of the board of home missions, took charge of the church. On the 28th day of November, 1869, the edifice being completed, it was dedicated, the Rev. B. Mills, preaching the sermon from Haggai 2:7. The Rev. G. H. Chatterton and Rev. Gossard of the Methodist Episcopal church, assisted in the service. The Rev. B. Mills ceased his ministry here June 18, 1871. From this time the church was vacant, having only occasional services until the arrival of Rev. George Earhart, May 15, 1872, when he began his services with the church. Improvements were made on this edifice from time to time until the year 1894, when, owing to the growth of the church and the need of a larger building, a new brick church was erected, at a cost of sixteen thousand dollars. The Rev. George Earhart continued as pastor of the church until July 1, 1899. His resignation was presented to the church May 4, 1899, after a faithful service of twenty-seven years. His resignation was reluctantly accepted. His pastoral relations were dissolved June 13, 1899, to take effect July 1, 1899.
A call was given to the Rev. High McNinch, July 26,1899, to become pastor of the church. This call was accepted, and he was installed as pastor of the church October 11, 1899, and continued as pastor until the time of his resignation, November 24, 1907. From this time on until March 25, 1908, the church was supplied by special services. March 25, 1908, the Rev. Howard Wright Johnston was called as pastor and was publicly installed as such, Friday evening, May 1, 1908. His pastorate has been continuous until the present time.
The church membership at this time (January 17, 1911) is two hundred and seven members. The church session consists of W. A. Young, clerk; John Rath, S. Bloch, John T. Milliken, Joseph Hunt and Charles W. Raisch. The trustees are Theodore T. Roosevelt, S. Y. Eggert, Andrew Rath, Henry Hembd, F. J. Martin, and Van Vorst Roosevelt, secretary and treasurer.
The Owasa Presbyterian church was organized December 29, 1891, by Rev. George Earhart and Rev. William Bryant, of the home missionary committee, and Rev. W. A. McMinn, pastor. The charter members were Alex. Gunn, Margaret Gunn, Roger Kirkpatrick, Jane Kirkpatrick, Annie Kirkpatrick, Miss Belle J. Gunn, Miss Kate Gunn, John Gunn, Mrs. Eva Gunn, E. E. Johnston, Mrs. Lucetta Johnston, A. J. Nickols, Lucina Nickols, Mrs. Siba Nickols, William Trickey, Margaret Trickey, Monroe Babcock, T. J. Johnson and Miss Eliza C. Fisk. Roger Kirkpatrick, Monroe Babcock and John Gunn were elected elders. The trustees were Alex. Gunn, A. J. Nickols and William Trickey.
A new church building was dedicated on Sabbath, September 4, 1892, the same costing two thousand dollars. It was heated by a furnace and quite modern in its appointments. Rev. McMinn served as pastor about two years, and was succeeded by Rev. George Yule, Rev. Fonkin, Rev. Hunt, Rev. M. T. Ramer and Rev. Ira Clark.
For a number of years the church grew in membership and highly prospered. It was largely composed of farmers and their families, who later removed to larger towns; a number died, after the membership was too small to maintain the support of a pastor, so the few who were left decided to sell the church property, which was effected in 1909, it being purchased by the school board, who paid about the amount the church borrowed from the church extension society. Since then many of the Presbyterians have worshiped with the Methodist people.
The first Presbyterian church of Steamboat Rock was formed in 1857, by Rev. Moses Robinson, who had charge three years. Its first ruling elders were Robert Hunter and Joseph Alley. The church was not incorporated until later, and Rev. W. Jones secured, by donation, a lot and rock with which to build a foundation for a church. His labors ceased in 1865. The church was completed in 1867, at a cost of three thousand three hundred dollars. This church struggled along many years, now having a pastor and again were without years at a time, until finally the church went down entirely, the Congregationalists and Methodists occupying the field along at this date.
The history of the Point Pleasant Presbyterian church, down to 1882, is here appended, and is from the pen of J. M. Boyd:
In the fall of 1859 Rev. Williston Jones, a church extension missionary of the Iowa Valley presbytery, in what was then known as the “New School Presbyterian church,” visited this neighborhood. He first preached at the house of Lewis Howell, Esq., two miles west of Point Pleasant; later at the Shintaffer school house. He continued to preach during that fall and winter and on the 6th day of February, 1860, he organized a church composed of fourteen members. During this pioneer revival the conversion of Judge McIntyre occurred and it needs more than a passing notice in this connection. A man of more than ordinary force of character and intelligence, well posted, but rough exterior; very little polished manners; a bold avowed infidel of more than forty years. Learning of the interest at the meetings he went over to hear the preacher, Rev. Jones, who spoke from the text, “And we do all fade as a leaf.” Mr. Jones was no master theologian, but was deeply in earnest and preached with feeling and much power. At the close of the sermon the old Judge came up to the preacher, trembling life a leaf, and exclaimed, “You, sir, must be terribly mistaken, or else I am.” He commenced a controversy. “But I have not time to argue now,” said Mr. Jones, “as I have another appointment at Steamboat Rock, and must go.” And away went the minister for a fourteen-mile drive and wade through the snow drifts, over the bleak prairies, to his appointment. But returning, he found the irate Judge meek and humble. Judge McIntyre lived the four remaining years of his life a useful member and also an elder of the church.
In September, 1860, plans were made to erect a church and a committee was appointed to raise funds. Money was out of the question. At the committee meeting it was resolved to send four loads of wheat to Iowa City (one hundred and ten miles distant) to buy materials for the meeting house. The men taking the wheat must take their own provisions and feed and camp out by the roadside enroute. This wheat brought thirty-five to forty cents per bushel, hence the necessity of economy. The church went up and in later years had to be re-roofed. The membership of the society in 1883 was about twenty-five. The facts on the final outcome of this church the author has not been furnished with.