Anamosa—Is it worthwhile to take an abandoned church, which was begun in 1859—with an addition put up 65 years ago—and restore the building to a semblance of its original state?
Citizens in Cass township, five miles north of Anamosa, thought it was.
While progress often renders an old building a useless item, residents and former residents of the close-knit community would not agree to that theory and retrieved it from the squirrels, birds and raccoons.
In the fall of 1974, the first meeting of interested persons was held and it was decided to restore the church, which has served many different faiths through the years. It was believed then, and subsequently proven, that help would come from many sides.
Last year, financial aid also came from the Iowa Bicentennial commission and the Job Service of Iowa, and the work continued under the auspices of the Jones County Historical society. The church will become a historical site.
The physical portion of the work was carried out under the supervision of George Harris, 80, Monticello, a retired lumber yard manager.
Harris admits he was reluctant at first to tackle such a project. The floors had sunk several inches, the walls were cracked and the steeple and bell tower were twisted by a recent windstorm.
The ancient, handmade benches had several coats of thick varnish, as did the woodwork and furnishings. The windows were shattered, the tin ceiling was rusted and the foundation was hopeless.
"I just wasn't interested at first, but I have had a lot of cooperation, especially from the young people," Harris said.
The large wooden steeple was removed, rebuilt and restored to the rooftop. Virgil Vernon of Olin replaced the foundation. Volunteers cleared shrubbery and puttied and painted windows.
The building has been repainted, inside and out. The benches with their original square nail holes were painstakingly refinished, complete with their attached antique communion cup holders by Harris and his crew of Job Service workers.
Many of the settlers who built the first church and their descendants are buried in the small well-kept cemetery behind the church.
Organized in 1856 as the Cass Congregational church and used until the 1940s, it will be renamed the Cass Community church. A rededication will be held Sept. 12 (1976) at 2. p.m., where some of the articles used by early church members may be seen.
Source: The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, Sept. 5, 1976
Transcribed by: Sharon Oltmanns. Steve White submitted the photos.