Iowa City Iowa Territory 12 Sep 1840
Reviewed 22 Sep 2010

Iowa City
Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 822, Iowa City, IA 52244-0822

Visit our web page: http://iagenweb.org/johnson/

 April 26, 2006

First Presbyterian Church
2701 Rochester Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52245

Mary Bennett
State Historical Society of Iowa
602 Iowa Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52240

Letter of Transmittal

Certification that on the 12th of September 1840 a church was organized in Iowa City Iowa Territory to be known by the name of the “First Presbyterian Church of Iowa City.”

This document was provided by Janet E. Meleney whose cover letter is attached.

The original of this document is being delivered to Mary Bennett of the ISHS.

A copy is being sent by U. S. Mail to the First Presbyterian Church at the above address.

The names of the presiding ministers, the pastor, elders, and deacons are included.

The signatures of four trustees are shown including that of Chauncey Swan.

For the ICGS


H  a  r  v  e  y    W.    H  e  n  r  y


Janet E. Meleney
Charlene Hixon, President of ICGS


Certification document
Cover and Record of Filing
Janet E. Meleney letter

Certificate of Organization
First Presbyterian Church, Iowa City


 Certificate of Organization, First Presbyterian Church, Iowa City

Iowa City Iowa Territory Dec. 31st. 1842.

In conformity to an act of the
Legislature approved Feb 17th, 1842 – Suppli-
mental to “an act relative to incor-
porated Religious Societies” approved
Dec 22nd 1840.

This is to certify that on the 12th
of Sept. 1840, a church was organ-
ized in Iowa City Iowa Territory to
be known by the name of the
“First Presbyterian Church of Iowa City”

John McCormick was duly
elected Ruling Elder in this church
at its organization.

Rev. L. G. Bell and )
Rev. M. Hummer    )   Presiding Ministers

Rev M. Hummer   ) Present Pastor
John McConnell    ) Elder
Diodate Holt          ) Deacon

Chauncey Swan    )
Joseph Schell        ) Trustees
George J. Huey     )
Theodore Sanxay  )

R. Hutchinson    )
J. W. Margrave  ) Trustees
Diodate Holt     

Given under my hand Dec. 31st 1842

Jesse Berry – Recorder

Johnson County – Iowa Territory

Notes by Bob Hibbs, Iowa City Historian:
13 June 2006

1.      Although Chauncey Swan had been instrumental in 1839 in setting aside several parcels on his original plat of Iowa City to be given to churches who would build an edifice with a value of at least $1,000 within three years, his Presbyterian Church never applied.  Rather, it accepted as a gift from Swan and his wife, Dolly, the lot on which it originally built – now occupied by the 1865 Old Brick Church at Clinton and Market streets a block north of Old Capitol. The lot was valued at $100 at the time.

2.      The names on the certificate are of the following:

a.      Rev. Lancelot Graham Bell, known in the church as “The Father of Presbyterianism in Iowa.”  Schuyler Presbytery in Illinois sent him forth in fall 1836 “to form churches wherever it may be found expedient on the west of the Mississippi.”  He organized 28 congregations including the one in Iowa City before his death in 1868.

b.      Rev. Michael Hummer, colorful first pastor of the church from 1841 to 1848, he had been sent by Schuyler Presbytery to consecrate the new church.  No church was built during his pastorate, with the small congregation meeting wherever it could find quarters, including Old Capitol and the Mechanics Academy.  After a church was dedicated in 1850, Rev. Hummer returned from Muscatine to take a bell he claimed was due him for lost wages, was stranded in the belfry when members took away his ladder, and was forced to depart without the bell.  Hidden in a creek, it later was retrieved, taken west as far as Salt Lake City, where it was sold to the Mormon Church.

c.      John McConnell, a farmer in Clear Creek Township west of Iowa City, he was a widower who raised a family of seven daughters and three sons.

d.      Diodate Holt, a farmer who returned to his home state of Kentucky in 1845.

e.      Chauncey Swan, the father of Iowa City who as a lead miner had been elected to the territorial legislature meeting in Burlington by fellow Dubuque voters.  Iowa’s first governor, Robert Lucas, appointed Swan to head a three-member committee that included Robert Ralston and John Ronalds to select a site for a capital.  After picking the site, Swan hired surveyors to lay out and stake the original square mile of Iowa City between Court and Brown streets, and from Summit Street west to the far bank of the Iowa River, including the Hancher Auditorium site.  He then managed construction of Old Capitol through its torturous beginning.  His daughter Cordelia died in 1839 at age five and became the first burial in Oakland Cemetery.  His wife Dolly died in February 1847, and when the California gold rush ensued in 1849, he joined in.  During a return voyage around South America, he died at sea in 1852 and was buried in New York Harbor.  Two of three Swan sons, Silas at age 25 and Charles at age 27, were married in the church to sisters Eliza and Angelina Moore.

f.        Joseph Schell, a merchant who owned in a small frame house where the Congregational Church now stands at Jefferson and Clinton streets a block south of Old Brick.

g.      George J. Huey, a pioneer Washington Street merchant who was active in an early group who saw to maintenance of that street during the period before the formation of city government in 1853.

h.      Theodore Sanxay, a pioneer hardware merchant who moved his business to the northeast corner of Clinton and Washington streets in 1850, built a second building adjoining in 1856 and enlarged the corner building to three floors in 1870.  From 1880 to 1973 this was site of Whetstone Drug, with its popular soda fountain and postal substation.  His son, also named Theodore, was a Princeton graduate who became a prominent New York lawyer and hospital president who left no children.

i.         Robert Hutchinson, a New Hampshire native, he came to Iowa City as a carpenter in 1839, helping to erect the first log cabin.  In 1842 he helped build the historic non-extant Mechanics Academy where the University of Iowa, Mercy and University hospitals and Iowa City public schools were founded.  He served two years as Iowa City’s first Town Marshall after city government was formed in 1853, a decade after his marriage to Julia Whetstone, a sister to John Whetstone who operated a “little one-horse drug store” on the northeast corner of Clinton and Washington streets.  Hutchinson also owned the quarry above which the University of Iowa Art Building Annex has been built, and his stone-clad home west of City Park along what is now Park Road houses the University of Iowa Press.  He built the original First Presbyterian Church which was dedicated in 1850 and lost to fire in 1856.  Like Swan, he joined the California gold rush in 1849 and returned in 1852 “about as rich as he went."  Smallpox destroyed the vision in his left eye in 1864 and he later lost his sight entirely.

j.        James W. Margrave of whom the written record is silent other than a church history list.  It is probable that he headed an area farm family.