HISTORY OF THE WEBSTER METHODIST CHURCH
history was written by Edna (Benson) Eckles for
presentation on January 9, 1972, at the closing of the Webster
Methodist Church. Transcribed for Madison County IAGenWeb by Donna
J. Crow and edited/formatted by Kent Transier.
Some time ago
Ward, our pastor, asked that Hazelle Crawford, Marie Sawyers and I
collaborate on research and reporting of the beginnings and
service of the Webster United Methodist Church. This has been for
me interesting and very worthwhile. I have almost been able to see
these people of early days being faithful to and working in the
service of this early church. But frustrations were also a part of
the experience, for at some points interesting details have eluded
Now, most of us
understand that the United Methodist Church as had three leading
areas of study and service. Even the smallest congregation will
have these three areas. They are the church proper, the Church
school, and Women’s society of Christian Service. Larger
churches have more, such as Men’s group and Young people, M.Y.F.
However, regardless of size, all groups or areas are subject to
discipline and all service is rendered to the glory and
honor of the church as God’s workhouse here on earth. The
outreach of all these various areas is the Church.
board on the lawn tells us that this Church was built in 1889,
which is 83 years ago. However, the Webster Congregation is older
than that. We have no early records, but it could be many years
older, for this congregation was meeting and having services at
the Drake School house for an unknown number of years. Ministers
of various denominations conducted services and served as pastors.
The two leading groups seem to have been Campbellites and
Methodists. We must remember that in this day a man’s belief was
very important. This strength of conviction ran deep and sure. One
individual told me of hearing her mother tell about the minister
of the Webster Church warning his people about an excess of
denomination which might “take over”. Ethel Howard has told of
her own personal heartache of having to walk past Webster Church
to go on to another church. This must have been especially
discouraging when plodding through mud.
The original name
of the church was Webster Methodist Church. When the town of
Webster became large enough to warrant a Post Office, the town
name was changed to Middle River because there was already another
Webster, Iowa Post Office. Correspondingly, the name of the church
was renamed the Middle River Methodist Church and remained so
until the Middle River Post Office was closed at which time it
reverted back to Webster Methodist Church.
The lumber for
building the new church was hauled by wagon and teams from
Winterset. Originally the church had a belfry and a bell. I wish
it were still there. Why it was removed many of you know.
The carpenter who
built the Church was Max Hockenberry. As told to me by people now
living, but recalled from parent or grandparents or other
acquaintances, these are some of the men who assisted: Shaw Binns,
John Sawyers, Abraham Dennis Drake and Harry Falkner DeVault
(grandfathers of Cecil & Loretta Drake.), Ellis Crawford, and
Joseph Crawford. Joseph Crawford was a Quaker from Pennsylvania
and never joined the Methodist Church, but Mrs. Crawford was a
member. Jake Crow, also a carpenter, helped. There were no doubts
services were conducted by Rev. H. D. Preston. The first Sunday
School Superintendent was Charles Gaymon. Average attendance was
100. A Ladies Aid was organized before 1912. Some early officers
were Mrs. Fox, Mrs. Bingaman and Mrs. Donna Ramsey.
Morris’s recall three ministers who served the charge prior to
1914. There were Reverends Smith, Clearwater, and Williams. Rev.
Clearwater lived on Highway 92 (then the Bluff Road). Marie
Sawyers recalls that Rev. Clearwater was present at a last day
school picnic at the Young School. These early ministers often
participated in public gatherings as a means of communication
other than from pulpit to pew. Nina Drake and Carie Hart were
married by Rev. Clearwater on December 1, 1909. Rev. Smith drove
from Winterset and Mrs.
Painting of the Webster Methodist Church
Morris recalls that Nona Crow stayed with
this family while in high school. Rev. Williams is only a name
here but is recalled by Gen Hart’s father at West Star.
The record shows
Rev. Perkins pastor of Webster for one year 1914. On March 12th,
1914, Rev. Perkins conducted funeral service for Alfred Young,
Marie Sawyers' father. She was 14 years old at that time. Rev.
Perkins is recalled as having been somewhat impatient with young
people, especially boys and some of them capitalized on the
became the next pastor in 1915. On October 28, 1915 Amy Estel was
married to George Drake. During Rev. Pruitt’s pastorate, a camp
meeting was held. The huge tent was located southwest and next to
the Church. Another version places the tent in the woods north of
the Ramsey home. To supply seats and a rostrum for the meeting,
lumber was borrowed from Andy Sawyer who had just hauled lumber to
build a barn. People gathered from many miles distant to attend
the meeting and many converts professed their faith. The meeting
was conducted by an Evangelist.
Morris explained that in this day converts were not taken into the
Church but placed on probation. Many pastors did not follow up
with the baptismal rite and Church affiliation. Some probationers
assumed church membership. Discovering that a departed member of
the family had never actually joined the Church was frequently the
cause of hurt feelings for the family. One Minister told that he
spoke of the departed as "affiliated" with the Church.
Rev. Pruitt followed the camp meeting later with a baptismal
service at Middle River. Pearl Morris, Angie (Estel) Beaman, Amy
Estel, and Bernice Ramsey were among those baptized. At this time,
the baptism was held at the river so that those desiring immersion
could have the rite in which they believed.
followed in 1916. Marriage ceremonies were conducted on Feb. 25,
1916 for Hazel Young to Bert Black. On Dec. 21, 1916 Angie Estel
was married to Elden Beaman.
1917, lived at West Star, and at this time Webster and West Star
were his charge. Dec. 21, 1917 Marie Young was married to George
followed in 1919-1920. I visited with the Morris’s one afternoon
and they had many memories of this Church. Mr. Morris' memory is
of many faithful working members of this Church. Some of them
mentioned were Ora & Nina Hart, Fred & Nona Eyerly, Merton
& Pearl Cline, Vera Nelson, Charles & Carrie DeVault, the
Frank Fox family, John & Elizabeth Estel, Goldie & Ellis
Estel, Shaw Binns, wife Emily and son Ray, and Ellis Crawford.
Sydney spoke of how Ellis would walk to church carrying kindling
for starting the fire. Ellis had to go very early, in order to
have the meetinghouse warm for the congregation. Of course, I
presume Beamans, G. Sawyers and Geo. Drakes and others were the
younger married members. Mr. Morris also spoke of Mr. Frank Busch,
who though a staunch Campbellite, came here for church and was a
class teacher in the Sunday School. As a girl Mrs. Morris recalls
walking with her sisters Grace and Mable to Webster Service.
Social activities were few and she enjoyed the choir music. She
recalls these choir members: Mabel Nelson (organist), Orville
Nelson, John Drake, Ira Crow, Mata Gaymon, Jimmie Gertie Binns,
Verdi Howard Craven and Gertie Howard Fox. Orie and Nina Hart, and
Bert and Emma Holland.
followed in 1922 and served as pastor of this Church for 9 years.
I have heard more than one man express his esteem of this
“Country Parson”. This minister often worked in the fields
along with his parishioners. Rev. Weed was here until ’31 and
when we came here in ’36 his name was often mentioned by the
members. Which tells much without words. The minister's charge was
now Hebron, Wesley, Webster and the parsonage at Hebron
Rev. Rower became
pastor 1931-1933. Rev. Rowe was especially admired by Elden Beaman.
When Elsie and Claude were married they honored Elden by driving
to Guthrie Center to be married by this minister.
Rev. E. J.
Zunsteg was pastor when we came here in ’36. Ora and Zola Lowden
joined this Church during Rev. Zunsteg's pastorate, and Zola was
superintendent during part of this period. Now, in 1939-1941, Rev.
Reep, a young college student, quiet and reserved was our pastor.
Don and I jointed the Church during his pastorate. This was also
the time that the Ladies Aid was reorganized into the W.S.C.S.
On September 1,
1940 the Webster ladies Aid Society met at the home of Zola Lowden
for the final meeting of this organization as such.
This day was the
end of an era for these women. At a previous meeting the members
had voted to join with other sister societies of the state and
nation to become members of the new organization of Women’s
Society of Christian Service.
our activities had been working to give financial aid to the
church, and minister to community needs, we now in addition would
learn to budget, pledge and most importantly study.
filed by the table to sign the Charter, thus becoming Charter
members of the Women’s Society of Christian Service. Later
fourteen more ladies signed. Our society now number forty ladies,
ten of whom are present members.
years later, during the pastorate of Don Cutler, Hazelle Crawford
was contacted by Mrs. Cooper, wife of Dr. Cooper, Creston District
Superintendent, for service as a district officer. For the next
nine years, Hazelle served at the district level. Her first four
years were served as promotion secretary and president for two
years. At this time, Webster Church was transferred from the
Creston District to the Des Moines District. Soon after this
transfer, Hazelle was asked to be treasurer of the Des Moines
District W.S.C.S. After two years, she became the president where
she served for three years before retiring.
As I was reading
through the Sec. & Treas. Reports, I noticed that soon after
the new WDCS was organized, we as a church began to change a few
things. We began in a small way, but here and there, as we went
forward, we really accomplished many needed improvements. Our
first small beginning was a furnace plus a circulating jacket
which replaced the old coal heater. This type of unit was chosen
because it could be used in a basement, when and if, later it was
so used. As we think of this period of change, I believe it came
about from a conviction that our worship home should be in keeping
with our own homes.
undertaking was the basement. August 13, 1947 at a WSCS meeting
there was a discussion about moving the church. Someone was
appointed to contact the proper Church officials as to the wisdom
and possibility of this idea. I recall that someone stated later,
“We can’t get across the river with the church.” A notation
in Nov. 1947, Nina Hart reopened the subject of building a
basement. Motion made and carried to appoint committees to inquire
and determine the amount of contributions needed for this possible
project. These women were Zola Lowden, Myrtle Williams, Edna
Eckles, Madge Stever, Hazelle Crawford and Gen Hart.
I do not recall
that this committee ever functioned. I rather think the men took
this project in hand. Another notation in WSCS minutes states that
Nina Hart reported that there would be enough blocks to separate
the furnace area from the kitchen and thus the I-beam could be
shortened and cheapened. The Sunshine Garden Club held an ice
cream social and gave the money to buy the I-beam. This was part
of the beginning of our social area. Many hands contributed to
these accomplishments. Many who were not members came at one time
and another to help. This Church is of the Webster Community. An
altar was built, carpet was laid, and in 1954 our lovely painting
(seen at right),
which has added so much to the mood and Sacredness of our
services, was presented by Madge Stever,.
Now we continue
with Rev. Hartin 1942-43, a product of West Virginia coal mines.
This was a man who was self taught and was minister by right of
service rather than schooling. He was a camp meeting type. Rev.
Hartin had been a coal miner who was paid Saturday night and broke
Monday morning. I have seen tears on his face at the memory of
what his life had been, for he’d been an alcoholic. It had taken
ten years to win that battle, so he told me.
Rev. Hartin was
followed by Rev. Crouse, who came to the charge in July of 1946.
On April 6, 1947 Doris Egger along with Bill Eckles, Joan Crawford
and Laura Mae Crawford were admitted to membership.
Stever & Pastor Don Cutler at the Webster Church Altar under
the painting of Christ
Some time during
this period the night preaching services were discontinued.
Previously the three charges had rotated each four months on the
evening, ten o’clock and eleven o’clock service. The evening
service was so poorly attended that a nine o’clock service was
begun at Webster. For some this hour seemed a hardship. But
eventually we adjusted and rather liked it.
Rev. Ben Hamilton
came to our church in 1948. Mrs. Hamilton and son Leo, a teenage
lad, were usually with Ben and we enjoyed the whole family. Leo,
who was considering the ministry, conducted the Webster nine
o’clock service the last few months of Rev. Hamilton’s
pastorate. During Rev. Ben’s ministry the year 1948 these young
people were admitted to church membership. John Hart, Annette
Stever, Loretta Stever and Alice Roberts. The following year Lois
Hart was also admitted.
Rev. and Mrs.
Knight were a newly married couple with little if any furniture
for their home. I recall that each charge contributed furniture
and the Knights moved into the Hebron parsonage. This young couple
were especially interested in the young people, and Mrs. Knight
was very helpful in the Children’s Bible School work.
On an Easter
Sunday in 1954, during Don Cutler’s pastorate, we were presented
with our beautiful life-size painting of Christ. We all remember
that Sunrise Service Easter morning when the sun shone through the
eastern window of our church to light the altar.
Streyfeller and wife, Wilma, were here 1955-57. This minister is
recalled as one who visited many people, talked of the fellowship
of Jesus and the brotherhood of the Christian Church. He seemed to
sense where need and trouble were, and went there. During Rev.
Streyfeller’s pastorate on March 30, 1956 on Good Friday
evening, the following people were united with the Webster Church:
Gary Beaman, Mr. & Mrs. Delbert Dolson & daughter Doris,
Richard Hart, Shirley Hart, John and Wilma Holtmyer and sons
Darwin and Lee, Ludwig and Della Horn, Billy Martin, Karen Martin,
Janice Steve, Steve Stever and Betty and Shirley Sillbaugh. Easter
Morning April 1, Wayne and Mary Griffith also united with this
Today, with the
exception of Steve Stever and Doris Dolson Rinard, each one of
these members has transferred out to other churches and no longer
resides in this community. This seems to be a pertinent
explanation of what has and is happening to the Iowa rural church.
Rev. Don Enright
and family followed. This young man was about 6 feet 4 inches
tall. In the pulpit, he stood very very tall, and with a long arm
and long finger pointing heavenward, seemed to almost touch the
throne of God. He had the disturbing ability of being able to make
one take a long look at one’s self and not like all that was
seen there. In proportion as Don Enright was able to lead the
congregation to re-evaluation and learn a little more “to walk
humbly with they God”, did the Webster Church grow in stature.
Rev. Kelly and
Rev. Lint were our next pastors. Both were men of ability and had
many friends among the congregation. The Lint family lived in the
parsonage at Worthington. At this time, Webster Church was
transferred from the Hebron charge to the West Star –
Worthington – Webster charge.
Now, along with
Worthington and West Star, Webster had a new experience. To say
that we were surprised to see this dark-skinned young man from
India in our pulpit would be an understatement. This was a
life-sized lesson in race relations for us in this Midwest farm
community. But when Shan Parmer, wife Angie and three small
children left, from Webster to India, hands had reached and
touched halfway around the world. Again, Webster Church had grown
Rev. Milton Haedt,
our next pastor, definitely filled a need in this church. When he
left us to go to Kansas City for study, he worked in the inner
city where the problems are many and danger is often near. He,
along with Sydney Morris, was one of our two returning pastors.
Milton has not been in the ministry for the last two years.
pastor, Ward Young, his wife Nancy and four children are beginning
their sixth year on this charge. Ward has been with us on festive
occasions, our last communion at Webster on Dec. 26, 1971 and loss
of our loved ones, and many other occasions. We leave this church
with sadness, but grateful for the lessons learned here from the
pulpit, and living life. The decision to close our church was not
an easy one. Death and transfer of many to other communities have
been contributing factors. Generations of families have grown up
here. But as we go to our new church home, I believe we take gifts
of experience in love of God and fellow man which have in part
been learned from these ministers and especially from our present
pastor, Ward and wife Nancy. Ward has quietly preached the same
gospel which Don Enright so emphatically brought, and has helped
us break the shells which we Christians often wrap about us.
This is only a
part of the service and functioning of the Webster United
Methodist Church. These are only a few of the people born, living,
growing, marrying, working and serving who have been the Webster
Madisonian, January 1972
Webster Church closed Sunday,
January 9th, with a large crowd in attendance.
Many former members and friends from Greenfield,
Dexter, Casey, Fontanelle, Adel, Des
and the community were present for the service.
The closing service was of commemoration celebrating the
life and service of the people of this congregation through the
Rev. Ward Young, pastor for the past five years, was in
charge of the service. Music was furnished by
Mrs. Carl Binns and Mrs. Richard Hoadley, each singing solos
accompanied by Mrs. Floyd Hart. Letters were
read from former ministers, members and friends who could not be
present by Mrs. Claude Beaman.
A history of the church, compiled and written by Edna
Eckles, was presented. Many who had been former
members of the church told of memories of the days they had
attended the church.
Rev. Young gave a short tribute to the church and
community. Mrs. Lois Thompson sang the
“Lord’s Prayer”. A social hour was held
in the basement.
the County Coordinator
page was created on November 8, 2011.
This page was last updated Thursday, 19-Jan-2017 18:06:46 EST