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Sciola Baptist Church

Washington Township

Montgomery County, Iowa



Submitted by Elaine C. Artlip




Sciola Baptist Church


 Minutes of the Southwestern Iowa Baptist Association say that the Milford (Grant) Baptist Church was established in July 1862. The group prospered, and in 1864 organized the Sciola Baptist Church as a branch of the Milford Church. (Red Oak Sun; 27 December 1901)

 Nothing more is known of the congregation until January 1869 when a preacher named Smith organized the Sciola Missionary Baptist Church as an independent entity. It is uncertain if the group met in homes or the schoolhouse.  

 The Charter members were Mr. and Mrs. John Yergey, Mr. and Mrs. John Robertson, Mr. And Mrs. James Whitney, Cornelia Hobson, Mr. and Mrs. J. Shoemaker, and Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Taylor. (1881 History, Montgomery County, Iowa) 

 The Seventh Anniversary of the Southwestern Iowa Baptist Association was held in Lewis in 1870. Villisca and Sciola churches were received as members. (Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists; page 246)

 On 17 June 1871 the church bought land from John Yergey; 14 by 11 and one half rods, in Section 16, and built a church there, at a cost of $1,600. The church was built to last with heavy timbers in the framework. The boxing is on the inside of the 16 foot walls. Square nails were used throughout. Red sandstone blocks formed the foundation. The dedication ceremony was held on 30 July 1872.

 There were two doors in the front which was customary for the time: one for the men and one for the women. And they sat on opposite sides after they entered. The pews are homemade. They are constructed of several different kinds of wood and very slightly in size. The pulpit was handmade, too, but by a competent carpenter. In 1884 the church purchased a Kimball reed organ.

 Beings Baptists, the congregation practiced total immersion. The usual place for this rite was the dam at Arlington Mill, without much consideration for the time of year.

 In April 1892 the church suffered severe damage from a wind storm. That is probably when the new windows were put into what is now the west side. More work was done on the building in the fall of 1901. Perhaps the balcony was added at that time. The area beneath the balcony was enclosed as a separate room. One front door was made into a window and the other was widened to a double door. The balcony was used as a social hall. The kitchen was back behind the staircase and the area behind the railing was the dining room.  In December 1901, a rededication service was held.

 In 1912 the west portion of the cemetery property was sold. A general store stood there for many years.

 In 1913 a new floor was laid over the old wide boards.

 In June 1922 a window was put in the kitchen. By 1927 those stairs had induced the women to move their kitchen to the room behind the sanctuary.

 At times the church was without a pastor, and by the mid-‘20s radio services were held at such times.

 The Baptist Association discontinued their work at Sciola, and in May 1928 a Sunday school was organized by the American Sunday School Union, now the American Missionary Fellowship.

 On 24 July 1929 the Baptist Association sold the Sciola church property to T.T. Thompson for $250. On 13 April 1945 a board of trustees was elected to oversee the purchase of the church from Mr. Thompson. The dedication of the Sciola Community Church was held on 23 June 1946.

 In the fall of 1970 the church was moved to the west side of the cemetery so that US Highway 71 could be widened. When the church was moved considerable damage was done. The building was placed over a basement, then it stood, unused, for ten years. In the spring of 1980 a complete restoration project was started.

 28 August 1981; Red Oak Express: “The Old Rugged Cross” and “The Church in the Wildwood” rang out from old Sciola Church on the Nodaway River when a standing-room-only assembly sang those hymns of former times at the rededication of the church building Sunday…

 23 September 1983; Express: Sciola Community Center, formerly Sciola Baptist Church, marked its 112th  birthday this year. Its present was a coveted spot in the National Register of Historic Places…The Sciola edifice appears on the National Register to remind present and future generations of the unique importance the country church played in the lives of the pioneers of Montgomery County.

 The church is now administered by the Trustees of Washington Township. No regular services have been held since the building was moved, but it is used as a community center. There have been six weddings in the church since the restoration work was completed.