Madison County, Iowa




          There is one rural church in Madison county that probably longer and more continuously associated with the history of the county than any other. That is the Elm Grove Methodist church down in the southeast corner of South township.

          At this late day, local historians are fortunate in locating one man, a former resident, who was associated with that congregation at its very beginning here. Now living in California, Cal Ogburn, has written a history of that church to be filed in this county’s historical archives. This story is based upon Ogburn’s story.

         The history of the Elm Grove church starts with the infiltration of the earliest settlers into that part of the county. As early as 1849, within three years after the first settler arrived here, an organization of Methodists had been formed in this part of the county.  It was known as “Allcock’s,” after its most 



prominent member, Norval S. Allcock, who then lived where the town of Hanley is now.  Among the other families making up the congregation were the Rays, the Ogburns, the Allens, the Grays and the Johnsons.

           Ogburn describes Allcock as follows:  “He had come to Madison county by way of Missouri, from  Virginia in 1847, bringing with him a type of Methodism that was as inflexible as the famed edicts of the Medes and Per—ans. I have known many religious controversialists in my life, but never one who was quite as unyielding as he.”

         For several years the services of this congregation were held in Allcock’s log cabin home.  The organization was included with five others in Madison and Warren counties and constituted what was known as the Three Rivers Mission.  The Rev. George W. Teas was the circuit rider in charge.

           In the fall of 1851, Norval Allcock sold his farm at Hanley and purchased Hiram Hurst’s second homestead in Secs. 20 and 29 of South township.  When he moved to his new location, which was a mile east of the present Elm Grove church, he took with him the meeting place of the Methodist organization, of which he was the most prominent member.

          As the county settled up and the congregation grew, the group started meeting in a little log school house in that vicinity.

           The original Elm Grove church building was not built until 1866.  Even at that date, its construction must have been at great sacrifice to the pioneer congregation, for its cost was $1,500, and that was a great deal of money in a frontier community where there was very little cash. Furthermore, the tenants of the Methodist faith required that the building must be three-fourths paid for before it could be started, and must be completely free of debt before it could be dedicated. Although the building was completed in 1866, it was not dedicated until four years later. 

           Although the pioneers were in no financial position to build a church in 1866, their hand was practically forced, according to Ogburn, by the following reasons: “Members in the organization had dropped off sharply that year, in spite of a lengthily series of revival meetings. This was partly due to the fact that the little log school house then being used was entirely inadequate as a meeting place. It was cold, dreary, and too small. Furthermore it was to be torn down that summer and replaced with a stone building, of which the location would make it unfeasible as a meeting place. In addition, there was the menace of the “Democrat Methodists,” an organization of which had been made in the neighborhood three years before, and was growing rapidly.” 

           Thus, the original Elm Grove church was built in the spring and summer of 1866, mostly of native material, with the members of the congregation doing most of the work. The building was of frame, with native walnut furnishings. Its specifications were 24 by 36 feet, and it was built on a site donated by Barnabus Ray, grandfather of Cal Ogburn. 

           Four years later, on June 19, 1870, the edifice was formally dedicated. The pastor at that time was the Rev. E. A. Winning. The dedication sermon was preached by the Rev. H. H. O’Neal, of Winterset.



Taken from an article published in the Winterset Madisonian, date unknown.

Transcribed by Judy Wight Branson


Maintained by the County Coordinator

This page was created on September 19, 2006.
This page was last updated Thursday, 04-Apr-2013 13:46:58 EDT .