Henry County Churches

 

History of Finley Chapel ~ Wayland Iowa
Prepared for 150th Anniversary
June 23 & 24, 2001
1851 – 2001

 

150 years ago a group of local people decided a community Methodist church would be of great value in their lives. A church was organized and named Finley. There is no definitive answer why the name was chosen. It is a matter of record that there was a missionary with the name of Finley and the first doctor in the town of Trenton, located just southwest of the new church, was named William Finley.  

After worshipping in a “brick schoolhouse” (Maple Grove School, situated a half mile west and half mile north) and in the home of John R. Everts, the first church building was built on the southwest corner of Section 25 in Jefferson Township, Henry County, Iowa, around 1856.  

Joshua Gardner is recorded as the builder. He married a Payne whose family members were influential at Finley for many years.  Mr. Gardner was a Captain in the Fourth Iowa Cavalry during the Civil War and was killed in one of the battle engagements.  He is buried in the Finley cemetery and his funeral was patriotically large and imposing.  

The first building was a plain rectangular frame building with two doors equally spaced in front with three windows on a side and the chimney in the center. Inside the pulpit stood in the center of the north end of the room with an Amen section on each side and with the stove pipes coming to the center in the middle of the sanctuary. There was no basement.  

In April, 1901 a group of guests at the wedding of Clara Evers and Clyde Hodges discussed a new church building. “Times were good and labor was cheap, and building material was low”. After the trustees met and voted to go ahead with the building, a plan was picked out, lumber was purchased, and the building began. It was then decided to install a furnace, a new luxury in those times. Lincoln Noble writes that the people enjoyed the furnace and two members bought new furnaces the next year.  

After decided to build a new church, the old one was sold and moved to a nearby farm. Steve and Sarah Kaufmann presently live on this farm and the old church is a part of their present home.  

The second Finley church was a three-gable design and beside the sanctuary had a dining room and kitchen in the basement, a Sunday School Room and vestibule to the rear side of the sanctuary. There was beautiful art glass in the windows in the top of the gables.  The side windows were of plain glass with arched tops. The floor was inclined and the pews arranged in a semi-circle. The pulpit stood in the center of the front of the sanctuary with a choir loft to the left side. Pews came around to the right side where a door led out into the cemetery.  

This church became more and more sacred since from the beginning funeral services were held, as well as memorial services and programs. Children’s day programs were always looked forward to. The church basement was used for many hours of Christian fellowship and enjoyment for social gatherings of the church’s members.  

On Friday evening, December 18, 1936, word spread quickly that the church was burning to the ground. The fire was discovered by a hired man going home from work. A coal pile, which had been delivered that very morning, was burning also. With no water at the church, it was necessary to carry water from the Everts farm close by. There was no way to save the church or the contents inside.  

A Christmas program and social time had been planned for that evening. Many current members remember seeing the church building aflame, the red glow in the sky, and the tears shed by the congregation members.  

This disastrous fire did not stop the people of Finley Chapel from worshipping. Services were held at Union and Flowers schoolhouses. At the regular Sunday service on Sunday, December 20, 1936, at the home of Clark and Mary Everts, a meeting of the Board of Trustees, Stewards, and anyone else interested, was planned for the next evening at the home of Sam and Verna Hulme.  

Those named to the Building Committee were Roy Payne, Alfred Keith, Cora Gillaspey, Mary Everts, Roy Seberg, Nellie Coleman, Sam Hulme, and Ray Ernst.  

Lumber and contents of the Hillsboro Methodist Church, which had been closed and then torn down, were used in the new church. There was $2500 insurance and $2500 raised in pledges.  

Membership at that time was 100. Because of poor crops and financial depression in the earl thirties, “a heroic spirit was necessary for the erection of a new country church. However, with the help rendered by neighbors and friends, even other denominations, and the work donated, the new church was erected”. Contractors for this building were John Reschley and his brother, Joe Reschley.  

The cornerstone was laid with a special religious service on Sunday, September 12, 1937. The new building was dedicated on May 1, 1938 with an all-day service.  

The present structure has a central arched doorway entry, a basement for Sunday School classes, dining area, and kitchen. The sanctuary has a center aisle, pulpit to the left and choir loft on the right. The altar and communion table below the beautiful stained glass window, “Christ in Gethsemane” are the focal point of the chancel. An electric organ, sound system, padded pews, updated carpeting and air conditioning have been added over the years.

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