Madison County, Iowa




          Penn Township, in the northwest corner of Madison County, is on the plateau between the Coon River and the North Branch. The plateau is known as the "Quaker Divide" because the majority of the early settlers were of that religion. It was slow to settle, having very little timber, a vital resource in the early days. In 1867 the township had only 250 residents. With the coming of the railroad in 1869, the township population expanded rapidly, nearly doubling. This expansion brought enough Methodists to justify forming a  worship group that first met in the Penn Center schoolhouse. The preacher was Reverend John Hestwood who came up from Winterset when time and weather permitted. As the congregation and their enthusiasm continued to grow, Reverend James Lisle, a circuit riding Methodist minister, was finally assigned and the congregation became "official" in 1872 with 49 charter members. 


        Although not yet assigned a pastor, the congregation started constructing a church building in 1871. It was a single large room of frame construction with some of the materials coming from the first Methodist church in Earlham which had become the victim of a severe windstorm. This first Penn Center church took two years to complete, being occupied in 1873. This frame church, dedicated in 1875, became the house of worship, the Sunday School, and the social meeting center for the Methodists of Penn Center for the next 46 years. With the exception of two years in the 1920s, the church has always shared its ministers with one or more nearby congregations including Earlham, Dexter, and Worthington.


2nd Penn Center Methodist Church

Click here for early photo.


          By 1917, the congregation had finally outgrown the original church and plans were drawn up for a new building. This church, shown in the above photos, was completed in 1919 and dedicated on June 8th of that year by District Superintendent Dr. M. R. Talley. At the time, the presiding pastor was the Reverend Carl Clarke, the Sunday School Superintendent was Millie Boyle, and the president of the Ladies Social Circle was Lillian Esther Leeper. This building, with a few modifications, has served the congregation to the present day.


          Of historical note, the Penn Center schoolhouse that served as the first meetinghouse of this congregation some 138 years ago, still stands at the center of Penn Township. The church is located to the north of the school house with the Penn Center Cemetery located directly behind the church.



Taken from various sources including the 1869 History and Business Directory of Madison County and information supplied by former church member Nancy Malmquist.

Transcribed and edited by Kent Transier


Maintained by the County Coordinator

This page was created on February 26, 2007.
This page was last updated Thursday, 19-Jan-2017 18:06:45 EST .