Henry County Churches

History of Cottonwood United Methodist Church

Cottonwood Cemetery Records, Jefferson Twp., Section 6, includes some photos

(click photos to enlarge)


Photo from Norma Jennings

Cottonwood Church
Photo from Jean Leeper

cottonwood sign

Photo from Jean Leeper

Photo from Norma Jennings

Photo from Norma Jennings

(cemetery is to the right and rear of church)


The first church I remember attending as a child was the Cottonwood Church which was at that time an United Brethren Church. I still have the "lucky penny" given to me by Emil Borgstrand at the Sunday School Picnic held in his pasture south of the Cottonwood Church in 1945. At the picnic, he had rolls of pennies that he handed out to all attending and told them if they kept that penny, they would never be broke. I wonder how many others still have their pennies.

Many of the people I knew as a child now lie in that graveyard lying north and east of the church.  There is David Neff that I played with as a child who was killed in a car accident at the young age of 30, joined now by his parents. My parents, John and Florence (Snider) Bender are buried directly behind the church in the third row. They mentioned one time that the first meetings there were Mennonite, but the history books do not record that fact.

In 1842, a church class was officially organized in the northwest corner of Henry County by a Rev. F.R.S. Byrd, an early pioneer preacher.  The organizational meeting was held in the home of Joel Shively. The class was incorporated in April 1842 with the following names listed: F.R.S. Byrd, John Kephart, Robert Henthorn, Joel Shively, John Wyatt, Solomon Bales, and Irvin Standard. They met at first in the homes and in a log school house that sat just south of the present site. Joel Shively was the first preacher licensed by the Iowa Conference of the United Brethren Church.

The first church building was constructed about 1865 on land donated by Henry and Barbara Neff. The deed to this plat was recorded at the county courthouse in 1867. The first building was constructed almost entirely of locally sawed Cottonwood so the name was adopted, The Cottonwood Church. The building was moved in 1894 to the town of Coppock where it was adapted to a store building. My uncle and aunt Hazel (Snider) Ricks ran this store in the 1940's and my cousin, Mary Jo and I played in the office on the balcony in one corner of the store. It was there that I first encountered an old antique typewriter and thus, my fate as a writer was sealed. I also first learned to ride a bicycle by pushing Mary Jo's bicycle to the top of the hill and coasting down past the store... This building was destroyed by fire in the 1960's.

The Iowa Conference gave the Cottonwood Congregation a building that stood at Pleasant Plain, where a church had been discontinued. This present building was moved to its location under the supervision of R.J. Allred and the minister, Rev. William Ballard. This structure still stands with some additions and major alterations.

R.J. Allred became the Rev. R.J. Allred and lived to be 101 years old. As a teenager, I was intrigued by the fact that Rev. Allred, who was then in his nineties walked from Coppock to Washington one day, a feat I wouldn't have tackled at half his age. --Norma (Bender) Jennings


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