|Long before any attempt was made by white men to found a permanent
settlement in the Mississippi Valley, Jesuit missionaries visited the
region with a view to converting the Indians to their faith.
Lee County claims the first foot-fall of the missionary in Iowa, when
Father Marquette landed at the mouth of Sandusky Creek on June 25,
1673, and followed a trail that led him to the Indian villages on the
Des Moines River, where he erected a wooden cross and con- ducted the
first Christian services. When Marquette was ready to resume his
journey one of the Indian chiefs addressed him as follows: "I thank the
black-gown chief for taking so much pains to come and see us. Never
before has the earth been so beautiful nor the sun so bright. Never has
the river been so calm and free from rocks, which your canoe has
removed. Never has the tobacco had so fine a flavor, nor our corn
appeared so beautiful as we behold it today. Ask the Great Spirit to
give us life and health, and be you pleased to remain and dwell with
Seven years after Marquette's visit, Father Hennepin passed up and down
the great river and some authorities say he visited Lee County. Louis
Honore Tesson, a Catholic, made the first settlement in 1796 and during
the first quarter of the Nineteenth century several adventurous traders
passed through the county, and at least two of them, Lemoliese and
Blondeau, both Catholics, located within the borders of the present
county. Father P. Lefevre came to this region as a missionary in 1834
and remained in the district for three years, when he was succeeded by
Father Brickwedde, of Quincy, Illinois. In May, 1838, he celebrated
high mass in Fort Madison and a few days later conducted services in
the new log barn of J. H. Kempker in the Sugar Creek settlement, where
the first Catholic Church in Lee County — a small log structure — was
built that summer.
The first resident priest in Lee County was Rev. John G. Alleman, who
came to Fort Madison in 1840 from the Dominican monastery at Somerset,
Ohio. He said his first mass in the house of John K. Schwartz, who, in
the fall of 1840, under the direction of Father Alleman, built the
first church in Fort Madison. It was a small brick building, 16 by 18
feet, and stood just back of the present St. Joseph's Church on Third
Street. It served the threefold purpose of church, schoolhouse and
pastor's residence until 1847, when Father Alleman erected a larger
church. Father Alleman introduced the first cultivated grape vines into
Lee County, and from the little nursery he conducted in connection with
his pastoral duties came many of the trees that were planted in the
first orchards of the county.
Rev. Alexander Hattenberger followed Father Alleman and in 1854 made a
large addition to the church. He also erected a schoolhouse, though a
school had been conducted in the parish from the very beginning. The
present St. Joseph's Church edifice was built in 1886 and the pastor's
residence in 1890, under the management of Father De Cailly. St.
Joseph's parish possesses an interesting relic in an old bell, which
first served as a signal bell on the steamer Osprey, belonging to
Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet. Capt. Pliny Alvord afterward became
the owner of the Osprev and when he wrecked the boat gave the bell to
Father Alleman. This old bell then served as church, school and fire
bell until it was replaced by the two large bells purchased by Father
Hattenberger. It was then taken to Fremont County and did duty in St.
Mary's Church at Hamburg until 1914, when it was returned to Fort
Madison and placed in the tower with the other two bells to ring in the
diamond jubilee of the parish in 191 5.
The Sugar Creek church, built in 1838, is now known as St. Paul's. The
church building in this parish was twice destroyed by fire or storm,
but each time was rebuilt in a more substantial manner. The present
church edifice is located in the village of St. Paul.
In August, 1844, Bishop Loras, of Dubuque, sent Rev. Lucien Galtier to
Keokuk, though the few Catholic families there had been visited by
Father Alleman during the preceding four years. Soon after his arrival,
Father Galtier engaged H. V. Gildea to build a small church of stone
and logs on the corner of Second and Blondeau streets, the priest
himself being one of the laborers. This building was 20 by 30 feet and
was dedicated in honor of St. John the Evangelist. At that time there
were but few Catholic families in Keokuk and Father Galtier was sent to
Prairie du Chien. Father Alleman visited the new St. John's Church at
intervals until 1848, when Father J. B. Villars was appointed pastor.
During the next eight years the building was enlarged to meet the needs
of the growing parish. In 1856 Father Villars was succeeded by Rev.
William Emonds, who secured property on Exchange Street, between Ninth
and Tenth streets, where he erected a brick church 34 by 70 feet and
dedicated in 1857 in honor of St. Peter. TJie old St. John's Church was
then abandoned. Some years later Father O'Reilly erected the present
church edifice, a handsome Gothic structure, at the corner of Ninth and
Bank streets. He also erected the fine parochial school building. In
1914 the pastor of St. Peter's was Father James W. Gillespie, with
Father Stephen Davis, assistant.
In 1865 the Catholic families of Fort Madison numbered over four
hundred and the situation demanded the formation of another parish.
Accordingly in the fall of that year Rev. John B. Weikman, pastor of
St. Joseph's, secured the large lot at the corner of Fourth and Vine
streets, upon which a schoolhouse was erected. This was the beginning
of St. Mary's parish. The following year the foundation of a church was
laid and on January 1, 1871, the building was dedicated by Rev. Jacob
Orth, who had succeeded Father Weikman. The building is 64 by 130 feet
in dimensions and is one of the finest church edifices in the county.
Soon after it was dedicated Bishop Hennessey appointed Rev. Aloysius
Meis as the first pastor. The great cyclone of July 3, 1876, lifted the
roof from this church and wrought other damages, amounting to about
twenty thousand dollars, but the building was quickly repaired. In 1881
a fine altar and a steam heating plant were installed. The pastor in
1914 was Rev. Peter Kern, an earnest and zealous worker.
St. Mary's Church, at Keokuk, located at the corner of Fourteenth and
Johnson streets, was built in 1867, by the German Catholics, with
Father Clement Johannes as the first resident priest. A good parochial
school is maintained in connection with the church and St. Joseph's
Hospital was also founded by this parish. The pastor in 1914 was Rev.
The third Keokuk parish, that of St. Francis de Sales, was organized in
1870 by Father James Hartin. Before the close of that year the old
church building of the New School Presbyterians, at the corner of
Fourth and High streets, was purchased and continued to be used as the
parish church until 1898. In that year Rev. James Renihan, then pastor,
erected the present handsome church upon the site occupied by the old
one. In 1914 the parish was under the charge of Rev. James M. Dunnion.
Sacred Heart Church, located on the corner of Union Avenue and Des
Moines Street, in the City of Fort Madison, was founded on July 7,
1893, by ^ ev - Peter Hoffman, who still remained in charge of the
parish in the year 1914. Work was commenced on the church building on
July 18, 1893, the corner-stone was laid on August 13th, and it was
dedicated on December 8th following. Subsequently a priest's residence
and schoolhouse were erected and in connection with this parish a
hospital is maintained.
Next to St. Paul's parish and St. Joseph's parish of Fort Madison, the
oldest Catholic organization in the county is the church at West Point.
Services were held here by Father Alleman soon after he came to Fort
Madison and in the summer of 1842 the West Point parish was organized.
A frame church, 21 by 40 feet, was completed and dedicated in the fall
of 1843. It served the parish until 1858, when a neat brick building
was erected at a cost of $6,000, under the pastorate of Father Reffe.
About 1876 Rev. William Jacoby became the pastor and was still serving
in that capacity in 1914.
St. John's Church at Houghton is the youngest Catholic society in the
county. The parish was established a few years ago and in 1914 was
under the pastoral charge of Father John Adam. A parochial school is
connected with the church.
The few Catholics living at Montrose built a neat brick church in i860,
and there is a Catholic church at String Prairie, but both these places
are without resident priests and are attended from Farmington.
Although the Catholic missionaries were the first religious workers in
what is now Lee County, there is little doubt that the Lost Creek
Christian Church was the first society organized and that the building
erected by the little congregation was the first house of worship in
the county, if not in the State of Iowa. Early n the year 1836 Rev.
David Chance, a Christian minister, preached a sermon at the cabin of
Joshua Owen, in what was known as the "Denmark Settlement." At that
meeting the seeds were sown that resulted in the organization of the
church on April 6, 1836, at the home of Squire Owen. The original
members of the Lost Creek Christian Church were: Joshua Owen, Samuel
Ross, Isaac Briggs, P. P. Jones, John Box, Jonas Rice, John Stephenson,
Frederick Lowrey, Samuel Briggs, Barzilla Mothershead, John O. Smith,
Silas Gregg, John Wren and Carroll Payne, and some of their families.
Soon after the society was organized it took possession of a house that
Isaac Briggs had erected for a dwellng, which was remodeled to answer
the purposes of a church. It served the congregation until 1849, when a
new building was erected.
The first society of this denomination in Fort Madison was organized in
1838 by Elder John Drake, John Box, William Leslie and H. C. McMurphy.
A small house of worship was erected soon afterward and served the
little congregation until 1853, when a new church was erected, at a
cost of over three thousand dollars. Along in the latter '70s the
church began to decline and a few years later the organization was
In 1892 the present Christian Church was organized and for some time
held services in the district court room. Then a lot at the southeast
corner of Third and Walnut streets was purchased and a "tabernacle"
erected thereon. This temporary structure stood on the south end of the
lot and soon after it was built steps were taken for the erection of a
permanent house of worship just north of it. The new building, a
handsome brick and stone edifice of modern design, was completed in
1907, at a cost of about fifteen thousand dollars.
As a matter of fact the Christian Church has never been particularly
strong in Lee County. In addition to the societies above mentioned,
there is a Christian congregation in the City of Keokuk, with a
comfortable house of worship, and a small country church in the
southwestern part of Cedar Township.
The oldest society of this faith in the county is the Congregational
Church of Denmark, which was organized in the spring of 1838 as the
result of meeting held by Rev. William Apthorp the preceding year.
Among the founders of the church were Lewis Epps, Curtis Shedd, Timothy
Fox, Edward A. Hills and Samuel Houston, and their families. Rev. J. A.
Reed and Rev. Asa Turner, of Illinois, were invited to assist in the
organization of the church. In July, 1838, the latter, whose pronounced
anti-slavery ideas had aroused opposition at Quincy, Illinois, was
engaged to give half his time to the church at Denmark, and on November
5, 1840, he was installed as the first regular pastor. The first house
of worship was 20 by 24 feet, covered with clapboards, with loose floor
and unplastered walls. A better church was commenced in 1845 and was
dedicated in July, 1846. It was destroyed by fire some ten or twelve
years later and a new one, larger and more substantial than either of
its predecessors, was erected. This is the oldest Congregational church
in South-eastern Iowa, if not in the entire state.
In 1843 Rev. Daniel Jones came to Keokuk, the first Protestant minister
to locate in that city, and soon after his arrival organized a
Congregational church, with Peter Wykoff as ruling elder. About two
years later, at a meeting of the congregation, it was "Resolved, That
we consider it expedient to lay aside our present organization and
adopt the Presbyterian form of government." This action was due to the
rapid increase in the Presbyterian membership that time. Such was the
fate of the first Congregational church organized in Keokuk.
The second effort to establish a society of this faith in the Gate City
met with better results. On February 14, 1854, a few persons who
favored this form of worship met in what was then the First
Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Second and Blondeau streets, with
Reverend Dr. Salter, of Burlington, presiding and J. B. Howell,
secretary. A motion to "proceed at once to the organization of an
orthodox Congregational Church in the City of Keokuk," was carried and
nine persons enrolled their names as members. For about a year meetings
were held in the residences of the members. In October, 1855, James R.
Kimball, a young man from Maine, not yet ordained as minister, was
employed as pastor and regular services were held in IsbelTs music
store on Main Street, near Second. Soon after the church was organized,
John McKean deeded to the trustees forty acres of land lying west of
Tenth Street, "for the use, benefit and support of the church." Mr.
McKean's death occurred shortly afterward and his heirs contested the
validity of this deed. While the suit was pending in the courts, the
church sold its claim for $9,000. The deed was finally declared valid
by the court. With the $9,000 received for this land the congregation
built a neat church at the corner of Sixth and High streets, which was
dedicated in May, 1857. The present house of worship, a beautiful
structure of dressed stone, was erected in 1907.
As early as June 24, 1837, a Presbyterian society was formed at West
Point, under the authority of the Schuyler Presbytery, and it is
believed to be the oldest Presbyterian organization in Iowa. The first
services were conducted by Revs. L. G. Bell and Samuel Wilson. William
Patterson, Cyrus Poage and A. H. Walker were the first ruling elders.
Rev. Alexander Ewing was the first regular pastor and the first church
building was erected about 1839. It was a brick structure,
unpretentious in its proportions, and served the congregation for about
thirty-five years, when the present church took its place.
On March 26, 1838, a Presbyterian congregation was organized at Fort
Madison, under the authority of the presbytery of Schuyler County,
Illinois, with sixteen members. Rev. J. A. Clark, who was sent by the
Home Missionary Society, began his labors as pastor on June 1, 1838,
when Isaac Vandyke and James G. Edwards were installed as elders. Not
long after this Mr. Clark and part of the members withdrew and formed
the New School Presbyterian Church. In 1858 the first steps were taken
for the consolidation of the two societies, which was made complete in
i860, and since that time the organization has been known as the Union
Presbyterian hurch. When the two churches were united the old building,
formerly occupied by the Old School branch, on Third Street between
Pine and Market, became the house of worship. This building was erected
in 1844, at a cost of $6,000, and stood until 1884,. when it was torn
down to make way for the present building. The present church was
dedicated in September, 1885. It'was erected at a cost of $16,000,
every cent of which was paid before the society took possession. The
women of the church soon afterward installed a fine organ, which cost
$2,000. The manse is a comfortable frame residence at 712 Fourth Street.
The First Presbyterian Church of Keokuk (New School) was^ organized in
1843, though there was some kind of a Presbyterian' organization in
existence prior to that date, as the records of the: society show that
its "connection with the First Presbyterian Church of Keokuk is hereby
dissolved." No further information of the parent organization can be
found. A small frame house of worship, on the corner of Second and
Blondeau streets, was occupied by the congregation until its
consolidation with the First Westminster Presbyterian Church in 1870,
when it was sold to St. Francis de Sales Catholic parish.
The First Westminster Presbyterian Church was organized on June 1, 1 85
1, by Revs. James Sharon and J. G. Wilson, with fifteen members. The
first pastor was Rev. John Cummings, who died in 1852 and was succeeded
by Rev. J. T. Umsted. In that year a house of worship was erected,
which was afterward sold to the United Presbyterian Church, and three
vacant lots on the corner of Seventh and Blondeau streets taken in
exchange. A small stone church was erected on the rear end of these
lots, fronting Seventh Street, and was dedicated on November 9, 1856.
It served the con- gregation until the union of the Presbyterian
churches was effected in 1870. The present handsome and commodious
stone edifice was completed in 1872 and cost $43,000. It is 50 by 100
feet, with a spire 155 feet in height.
The United Presbyterian Church of Keokuk was organized in 1853, under
the name of the "Associate Church," with fourteen members. Meetings
were first held in the old frame building used as a court room on
Second Street, near Main. In 1856 a union was effected with the
Associate Reformed Church, which had been organized in 1853, and a new
house of worship was erected on the site formerly occupied by the
Westminster Church. This building was occupied until 1867, when the
present church was erected on the corner of Ninth and Blondeau, at a
cost of $20,000.
In 1846 a Presbyterian church was organized at Montrose by Rev. G. C.
Beaman, with eleven members. Mr. Beaman served as pastor until 1854, ^
e meetings during that period being held in the homes of the members or
in the schoolhouse. In 1854 a church was built. Although small in
numbers, the membership is active and loyal, and regular services are
maintained. A Sunday school is con- ducted in connection with the
Sharon Presbyterian Church, located in the northern part of Harrison
Township, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary on May 12, 1900. It is
one of the old societies of this faith in Lee County. In 1898 the
church was enlarged and improved, George Seeley, who died the year
before, having left a considerable sum of money for this purpose and
for beautifying the cemetery. The history of this cemetery will be
found in Chapter XXIII of this work. There is also a Presbyterian
church at Primrose and a German Presbyterian organization at Franklin,
established in 1862.
Methodist Episcopal Church
The first efforts to establish Methodism in Iowa were made in 1835, the
first churches being established at Burlington and Dubuque. Iowa was
then a mission and continued so until 1839, when it was made a part of
the Illinois Conference. The next year it was attached to the Rock
River Conference, and in 1844 the Iowa Conference was formed.
As early as the spring of 1839 the "circuit rider" found his way to
Fort Madison, and two years later the town formed part of a large
circuit. The first Methodist church in the city was built in 1842 on
Market Street, between Third and Fourth streets. Rev. William Simpson
was one of the early ministers of this faith in Lee County, and the
famous Peter Cartwright, the "backwoods preacher," con- ducted services
at regular appointments. After Fort Madison was made a station in 1843,
Rev. I. B. Nichols was the first preacher. In 1874 a parsonage was
purchased for $1,200, more than half of which was realized from a
legacy left the church by Mrs. Claypoole. In 1887 the property on
Market Street was disposed of and a new church was erected at the
corner of Fourth and Pine streets, at a cost of $10,000.
In 1839 Reverend Mr. Jennison conducted services in the old log
schoolhouse in West Point, and his meetings resulted in the formation
of the West Point Methodist Episcopal Church before the close of the
year, with about twenty members. Meetings were held in the schoolhouse
and at Brand's Hotel until 1842, when a small church was built on Hayne
Street. In 1855 the old house of worship was sold to the German
Methodist Church and a new one was erected at the corner of Race and
Jefferson streets. About the close of the Civil war some dissensions
arose in the congregation which caused the church to lose some of its
prestige, but these have been overcome and in 1914 the church was in
fairly prosperous condition.
The First Methodist Church of Keokuk was established in 1840 by Rev.
Samuel Clark, though the organization was not perfected until in the
following year. Services were held irregularly for a time in the old
schoolhouse at the corner of Third and Johnson streets, but on August
27, 1847, a brick house of worship, 42 by 60 feet, was dedicated, with
Rev. B. H. Russell as pastor. This building was sold in 1871 and the
present church on Ninth and Timea streets was erected, at a cost of
$9,000. The old building, at the corner of Fourth and Exchange streets,
was afterward converted into a residence.
Probably the next Methodist society in the county is the one at
Montrose, which was organized in 1847 by Rev. J. T. Coleman, though the
church was not fully established until some time in 1850, when Rev. D.
Crawford began conducting regular services. The first church building
was erected in 1855 and is still standing, though it has been enlarged
and improved to meet the needs of the congregation.
Chatham Square Methodist Episcopal Church of Keokuk was organized in
1854. Meetings were at first conducted in Mechanics Hall on Main
Street, between Eighth and Ninth streets. The first house of worship
erected by this congregation was dedicated on July 19, 1857. At that
time it was the largest church edifice in the state and cost $22,000.
The lumber used in erecting this building was brought by steamboat from
New Albany, Indiana. In 1876 a handsome parsonage was erected, at a
cost of $4,000, and the church has been greatly improved in recent
The German Methodist Church of West Point, above referred to, was
established in 1852, with ten members. About three years later the
society bought the building erected by the West Point Methodist Church,
and a Sunday school was organized. At one time this congregation
numbered over sixty members. Then it began to decline and the church
was finally disbanded.
The German Methodist Episcopal Church of Keokuk was organized in 1873,
and a house of worship was erected on the corner of Fourteenth and
Johnson streets in the fall of that year. The first regular pastor was
Rev. Henry R. Riemer.
Santa Fe Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church at Fort Madison was
organized in 1890, with Rev. George Schlenker as the first pastor.
Within a year a comfortable brick house of worship was erected, at a
cost of $4,500, at 2815 Santa Fe Avenue. It was replaced by a fine new
edifice in 1914. This church is prosperous, and the membership is
steadily increasing in numbers. A fine organ was installed in the new
building soon after it was completed.
A Methodist church was organized at Franklin in 1842 and bought the
partially completed building that had been commenced by the Baptists.
The structure was completed, but the Methodists were unable to maintain
their organization and the building was sold to William Tillman, who
converted it into a store. There are Swedish Methodist churches at
Keokuk and Melrose, and African Methodist churches at Keokuk and Fort
The first record of any effort to establish a Baptist church in Lee
County relates to the society at Franklin. Just when or by whom the
church was organized is not certain, but in 1842 the congregation began
the erection of a house of worship on the north side of the public
square. Before the building was finished it was sold to the Methodists,
as already stated, and no further history of the Franklin Baptist
Church is available.
Rev. L. C. Bush preached to a few Baptists in Keokuk on February 7,
1847, and eleven of those present expressed their willingness to aid in
the organization of the "First Baptist Church." The first baptism was
that of Mrs. Julia J. Tinsley, February 14, 1847, just a week after the
church was established. Late in that year a small house of worship,
located on the west side of Third Street, between Main and Johnson, was
occupied by the congregation. This building was sold in the summer of
1850 and a new church was erected on Third Street, between Concert and
High streets, at a cost of $2,700. The present handsome church, on the
southwest corner of Eighth and Blondeau streets, was erected in 1908.
The Baptist Church of Denmark was organized on November 15, 1848, with
eight members. For some time the little society was unable to obtain a
site for a church, owing to the fact that all the suitable lots were
owned by persons having no sympathy with the Baptist faith and they
refused to sell. Finally a lot was donated by one of the members, and a
small house of worship was erected. Notwithstanding the opposition,
which sometimes amounted to persecution, the congregation continued to
grow in numbers until the church building became too small. Then a new
church was erected, which is a neat, comfortable house of worship, as
attractive as any church in Southeastern Iowa outside of the larger
The First Baptist Church of Fort Madison was organized on December 23,
1858, at the home of Charles Brewster, with twenty members. Rev. G. J.
Johnson was the first pastor. Work was commenced on a church building,
located at the corner of Third and Market streets, in 1859, and the
house was dedicated in 1861. Its cost was $14,000. This is one of the
oldest church edifices in the city, but it is still in good condition,
having been recently remodeled, has a large seating capacity, and meets
all the needs of the congregation.
The Second Baptist Church of Fort Madison was organized by colored
people in October, 1873. For many years the congregation has worshipped
in the little church at 514 Market Street, which was erected about two
years after the organization of the society. There is also a colored
Baptist church in Keokuk.
Protestant Episcopal Church
On April 20, 1850, a meeting was held in the law offices of Dixon &
Wickersham, at Keokuk, for the purpose of organizing a church of the
Protestant Episcopal denomination. Bishop Kemper presided and I. G.
Wickersham acted as secretary. Committees were appointed to draft
articles of association and solicit subscriptions. At another meeting,
just a week later, General Van Antwerp and Edward Kilbourne were
elected wardens, and Christian Garber, Hugh Doran, A. H. Heaslip, Guy
Wells and Frank Bridgman, vestrymen. The name of St. John's was
adopted, and in June Rev Otis Hackett was installed as the first
pastor. The first house of worship was completed in November, 1851, at
a cost of $1,400. The present magnificent edifice, on the corner of
Fourth and Con- cert streets, was completed about 1905.
Hope Episcopal Church in Fort Madison was organized on March 25, 1854,
with Rev. William Adderly as the first rector; Edward Johnstone and
William Thurston, wardens; W. W. Coriell, Henry Cattermole, James
Cattermole, J. W. Albright, W\ G. Albright, Anthony Smith and James M.
Layton, vestrymen. Thir- teen families were represented in the original
A parish had been organized in Fort Madison as early as 1845, but it
was never incorporated and after a few years it went down. It was known
as St. Peter's. A few Episcopal families continued to hold meetings
occasionally until the establishment of Hope Church. The first house of
worship was built in 1856-57, at the northwest corner of Fourth and
Cedar streets. It was practically rebuilt about 1886, when a fine pipe
organ was added, and a little later a fine brick rectory was built upon
the lot adjoining the church. In 1905, by vote of the congregation, the
name of the parish was changed from Hope to St. Luke's, by which it is
An Episcopal church was organized at Montrose in 1861 by Rev. R. Jope
of Keokuk, who served as rector for about six months. In 1869 a neat
frame house of worship was erected, at a cost of about two thousand
dollars. The membership then numbered forty, but deaths and removals so
weakened the congregation that in time the organization was disbanded.
The oldest society of this denomination in the county is St. John's
German Evangelical Church of Fort Madison, which was organized on June
2, 1848, with a minister named Ankele as pastor. In 1850 a lot on
Walnut Street was purchased and a small house of worship was erected.
In 1864 the present church, just north of the old one, was completed,
at a cost of $7,000. The parsonage was erected in 1893.
The first church building in the Town of Franklin was erected by an
Evangelical congregation in 1856. The stone chapel built by this church
was afterward sold to the German Presbyterians.
St. Paul's Evangelical Church of Keokuk was organized in 1858, though
meetings had been held prior to that time in the court room and other
convenient places by the few German families who sub- scribed to the
Evangelical creed. Soon after the organization was perfected, a small
frame church was built on the corner of Exchange and Eighteenth
streets. This church was subsequently sold for $600 and the society
moved farther downtown, to the corner of Eleventh and Exchange streets,
where a larger house of worship was erected. It served until 1874, when
the present structure was erected, at a cost of $9,000. The parsonage
was built in 1875. There are also German Evangelical churches at
Charleston and Donnellson.
St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Fort Madison, an English
Lutheran society, was organized on January 1, 1871. The first meetings
were held in a small house on Second Street and later in the
Presbyterian Church until a church was finished in 1873. This house
stood on Third Street, opposite Central Park, and was occupied for more
than twenty years. During this period the services were conducted in
the German language, but in 1892 the few members left decided to change
to English. Since that time the church has had a steady growth. The
present house of worship, a neat brick structure, at the corner of Des
Moines and Hanover streets, was dedicated in 1897. There is a German
Lutheran church at Primrose.
The only Unitarian church in the county is located at Keokuk. It was
organized on October 4, 1853, at a meeting held in the school- house on
Third Street, with S. B. Ayres presiding and Dr. John E. Sanborn,
secretary. A Unitarian minister named Fuller was present, and upon his
recommendation Rev. Leonard Whitney of Illinois was engaged as the
first pastor. The "First Unitarian Society of Keokuk" was incorporated
on November 22, 1853. Meetings were held in Concert Hall and other
places until November 27, 1856, when a comfortable brick church at the
corner of Fourth and High streets was "dedicated for the worship of the
One only, God and Father of all." In 1874 a new church was completed,
at a cost of $28,000.
After the death of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, a division arose
in the church and one branch withdrew under the name of the
"Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," usually
referred to as Latter Day Saints. On February 21, 1863, a church of
this order was organized in the City of Keokuk, and some time later
churches were organized at Montrose and Fort Madison. These are the
only organizations of the Latter Day Saints ever founded in Lee County.
This reorganized Mormon Church repudiates the doctrine of polygamy, one
section of their Articles of Faith declaring: "We believe the doctrines
of a plurality and a community of wives are heresies and opposed to the
law of God."
As early as 1839 a few Mennonite families had located in the vicinity
of West Point. In the spring of 1845 they were joined by John Miller, a
Mennonite preacher, and steps were taken to organize a church. A
meeting for that purpose was held at West Point on Saturday, May 10,
1845, which was well attended, and the people went home believing that
a church would be established in the near future. That night Mr. Miller
and his son-in-law, Henry Leisy, were murdered by robbers and the
organization of the church was deferred until 1849. In 1850 a log house
of worship was built on Sugar Creek, about three miles south of West
Point. Five years later the congregation decided to remove to West
Point, and a frame church was erected there in 1863. The old church
site was used for many years as a cemetery.
In 1868 the Mennonites built an edifice at Franklin, which was used for
a number of years as church, schoolhouse and pastor's residence. The
only church of this denomination reported in the Iowa Gazetteer for 1 9
14 is the one located at Donnellson.
About the middle of December, 1878, H. C. Landes, N. W. Johnson and A.
J. Hardin of Keokuk, while discussing the failure of the people to
attend church, decided to organize a church that would hold services in
the afternoon instead of Sunday mornings and evenings, thus giving
everybody an opportunity to attend the services. The organization that
resulted was called the "Free for All Church." Rev. John Burgess began
his labors as pastor on December 29, 1878. For a time the movement was
a success and many people went to church on Sunday afternoons that had
not been in the habit of going to the regular churches. Then the
novelty of the innovation wore off, attendance decreased and in time
the organization was abandoned.
There is one Jewish religious organization in the county — the
Congregation of B'nai Israel at Keokuk. It had its beginning on April
29, 1855, when a few Israelites of that city formed a benevolent
society for the purpose of burying their dead according to the Jewish
rites and customs. Michael Vogel was chosen president of this society,
which was incorporated on September 3, 1855. ^ n ^63 ^ le present name
was adopted, the corner-stone of the synagogue was laid in 1874, and
the building was completed the next year, at a cost of $12,000.
There are a few other religious organizations in the county, but in the
absence of records it is practically impossible to obtain their
history. A Young Men's Christian Association was organized in Fort
Madison in 1901. In Keokuk both the Young Men's and Young Women's
Christian associations have fine buildings, and the Church of Christ,
Scientist, has societies in both Fort Madison and Keokuk.
of Lee County,
Iowa, by Dr. S. W. Moorhead and Nelson C. Roberts, 1914