Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 2 - Page 14 & 17, Submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, April 28, 2012

When First Pioneer Families Trudged Westward Christ Marched With Them
History of Churches in Muscatine Dates Back More Than 100 Years;
Methodist First to Be Established

The first settlers brought to Muscatine a strong desire for religious expression. Whether they came with their household goods piled high in steamboats or whether they reached the new community more laboriously by land they had among their number leaders who were reverent and who lost no time in establishing places of worship here.

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Photo of building - A True Pioneer - Pictured above is the first church built by the Congregationalist denomination in Muscatine in the years 1843-1844. It was of brick, 22 by 40 feet, and the floor joists were of native timber, cut, hewn and drawn from the woods by the brethren from the country. No application for help on the part of the church in its erection was made to eastern friends, however the shingles were given by the John Street Congregational church of Lowell, Mass. The bell for the church was a contribution from a Boston, Mass., Congregationalist church. The bell, being too heavy for the roof of the church to support, a wooden tower of undressed plant was built to support it in 1848, which gave rise to a name by which the church was known for many years, “The Stern Wheel Church.” The bell tower is plainly visible in the old photograph above.

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Where Prayers Were Offered
Photo of an early Baptist Church

One of Muscatine’s early Baptist churches is pictured above. This brick structure was built near the close of the Civil war, about the year 1864, during the pastorate of the Rev. S. L. Burham, and was occupied for 34 years, when it was remodeled and practically rebuilt at a cost of approximately $12,000.

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Active in Church
Photo of Dr. A. B. Robbins and Mrs. A. B. Robbins

Administering to the religious needs of a growing community for a full half century, Dr. Alden Burrill Robbins was one of the most beloved of the early ministers of Muscatine. Ordained as a minister of the Congregational church in New York City on Sept. 20, 1843, he assumed the pastorate of the First Congregational church here a short time later. In addition to his half century of pastoral duties, he also served as a trustee of Iowa college, a director of the Chicago Theological seminary and as a trustee of the academy which was maintained at Wilton for many years.

His first wife was Eliza Hough. The marriage took place in Canterbury, Conn., a week after his ordination. She died in 1850 and on Sept. 20, 1851, he married Mary J. Arnold who was born in Bath, Me., in 1824.

Dr. Robbins was born Feb. 16, 1817 on Dec. 27, 1896. The second Mrs. Robbins, pictured here, died June 22, 1894.

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The church history of Muscatine can be traced back well before the inception of The Journal and almost to the time this community first became a point on the territorial map. In fact, two denominations, the Methodists and Episcopalians, have been organized here for more than a century.

As long ago as 1833 when the first settlers began to trickle into this area from eastern points, religious services were becoming an important part of the community life. Plans for the banding together for worship services seemed to go hand in hand with the work of constructing homes and business establishments.

It was less than two years after the community was settled that the pioneers of the Methodist faith here organized and established what is now the First Methodist church. That was in 1835.

Less than four years later Trinity Episcopal church was started and in the immediate years following other faiths set up their worship places which have continued and prospered.

Records testify that the first church building to be erected was Trinity Episcopal church. This church home, constructed in 1841, was at first partly owned by the Masonic order, the lodge using the second floor as a meeting place for a short period of years. This was not only the first church of any denomination to be erected in the county, but also the first Episcopal church in the entire state.

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It was in the spring of 1839 that Methodist history began to be written in Muscatine, together with Louisa and Scott counties. The Rock River Illinois conference at that time sent the Rev. Mr. Brace as missionary to the field. At first he met with antagonism but despite opposition he continued his efforts successfully. The first quarterly meeting on record for this denomination was Oct. 3, 1940.

Sunday schools, which now constitute one of the most flourishing departments of the church, did not progress so well in the early days. Because of conditions, the Methodist, Congregationalist, Presbyterians and Baptists back in 1839 united in the first Sunday school, since none of these denominations boasted sufficient numbers to conduct a school independently. This union Sunday school continued until 1844 when the Methodists organized their own school.

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A small frame building, 20 by 40 feet, used also for political gatherings, conventions, lyceums, spelling bees, church festivals and many other purposes was the first Methodist place of worship. The first church building of this congregation, erected in 1851, was located on the northwest corner of Sycamore and Third streets. The second church of this faith was erected in 1868 a Iowa avenue and Third streets, and the third house of worship, the present structure, at Fourth street and Iowa avenue.

The Trinity Episcopal membership held their first services in a frame building, 22 by 50 feet. Construction of the present home of Trinity church was started in the spring of 1851, but work was slow and it was not until May 25, 1854, that the edifice was dedicated. In August of that year the organization of the diocese of Iowa was completed at the Muscatine church.

Muscatine’s church history testifying again and again how small congregations survived early obstacles to become in later years powerful factors in the religious life of the community, records an almost continuous growth in the number of places of worship established here.

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Although many congregations already had been organized here prior to 1850, the churches that had their inception since that date today also are sharing in the community’s life and its accomplishments.

A conference in August 1850, placed the First United Brethren church of Muscatine in the field with the Grandview mission. By the winter of that year the congregation was worshipping in its own church home near the site of the present structure. When the new church was built in 1892 the site was moved from the center of the block to the corner of Sixth street and Mulberry avenue.

The German Baptist church, which in late years has become known as the Walnut Street Baptist church, dates back to January, 1859. It was on Feb. 20 that a band of 30 met for their first worship, with their headquarters for a time in a schoolhouse in South Muscatine. A house of worship was erected the same year and enlarged later to include a parsonage. The building at Sixth and Walnut streets was erected in 1890.

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History of the African Methodist Episcopal church dates back to 1850. The first meetings were held in a house on Front street and in 1851 the members built or purchased a small brick building on the spot where the present church stands.

The Society of Friends, back in the summer of 1852, held Indulged meetings, history reveals, and in September of that year the preparative meetings were commenced. These were held in private homes until 1856. For years the meeting house of the congregation has been at Fifth and Sycamore streets.

Using a shed as its first meeting place, the Mulford Mission society was organized May 24, 1857. In November of that year the little band of worshippers was driven into Butler’s packing house by the cod. The present home of this congregation, which for a time was known as the Green Street mission, located on Hershey avenue, was finished and dedicated in January, 1907, largely through the efforts of the late Miss Alice Mulford.

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Church history for St. Mary’s Catholic congregation originally a branch of St. Mathias church, began in 1863 when the German Catholics purchased lots on Iowa avenue and Sixth street with the intention of building a church. These lots were later sold and in 1877 the building of the church at the top of Green street at Fourth, was completed. A rectory and later a school was constructed on this church site.

The German Methodist Episcopal church, subsequently known as the Cedar street Methodist church and still later merged with the First Methodist church, had its beginning about the year 1845. Five years after the first meetings were held a church home was erected. This church some years later proved inadequate to the needs of the growing congregation and a new and larger church was erected and a parsonage procured. In the fall of 1908 the church was again renovated and extensive repairs made.

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Members who had previously worshipped with the German Protestant Lutherans were included in the band who in 1885 organized the Evangelical Lutheran Zion church. When the separation was completed, a church costing $14,000 was erected at Sixth and Sycamore streets.

For South Muscatine, the Musserville Methodist church erected in 1876 has been a leader in religious history. The first meeting house was erected on the resent site on Oregon street in the year of its founding. When the building was burned to the ground, work was immediately started on a new structure, which was dedicated July 10, 1898.

Thirty-four charter members, a short time previous to 1900, organized the Grace Lutheran church, located at Iowa avenue and Sixth streets. The dedication of this church, later supplanted by the present structure, took place in May, 1901, history reveals.

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The German Congregational church, started in 1854, was a prominent part of Muscatine’s early church history, but this congregation disbanded and the church home at Fifth and Cedar streets was sold to a newer congregation, the First Christian church, started in 1926.

In more recent years other congregations have been established here. These include the church of the Brethren, the Park Avenue Methodist church, the Church of the Nazarene at 1501 Oregon street, the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, the First Christian church at 500 Cedar street, First Church of Christ, Scientist, the Seventh Day Adventist church, the Lincoln Boulevard Baptist church at 1535 Lincoln boulevard, and miscellaneous groups such as the All Saints Chapel and Hall, Assembly of God, Full Gospel tabernacle, People’s mission, Jesus mission and Salvation Army.

The B’nai Moses Synagogue for the Jewish faith has been long established in Muscatine.

Churches organized from 1840 to 1850.

In the years that intervened between the publication of the first Journal and the middle of the last century, Muscatine achieved growing fame as a thriving city and keeping step with this development was the religious life of the community. Church records show that several denominations became formally organized during this decade.

History gives the date of the organization of the First Congregational church as Nov. 24, 1843. The members ...

(Continued on Page 17)

Page 17

Pioneers Made Religion Part of Every Day Life

... who formed this church had previously been associated in 1839 in a church called, “The Presbyterian Church of Musquitine county, Iowa Territory,” with a Congregational minister as its head. It was in 1834 that the Rev. A. B. Robbins, for more than 50 years pastor of the First Congregational church, began his services. The first meetings of this congregation were held in the court room of the old courthouse, and over a store on East Second street, until Dec. 8, 1844, when the congregation moved into a new brick building facing the river. The next church home, at Third and Chestnut streets, was erected in October, 1852, and later, in 1857, was supplanted by another structure erected on the same lots. The fourth home of this congregation, again built on the same location during the years 1892 and 1893 was destroyed by fire in February 1907. The present home of the church, again built on the same site, was completed in April 1908.

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Catholic history in Muscatine begin in 1841 with the Rev. Samuel Mazzuchelli the first to celebrate mass here in a private home He repeated his visits here until 1843. When Bishop Loras became interested he caused a frame church to be built at Prairie du Chien and rafted downstream to Muscatine. This building, first located at Second and Cedar streets, and subsequently moved to between Second and Third streets on Cedar, stands now on St. Mathias hill as a relic of early religious growth of the community. The first church in the lots on Eighth street between Pine and Chestnut streets was dedicated in 1856. The present building was constructed in 1911.

First Baptist church history dates back to Oct. 2, 1841, when the first meeting was held which resulted in an organization being former Oct. 30 of the same year. During the first two years, meetings were held once or twice monthly. For a time the Baptists occupied an old school room with the Methodists, then the Baptists met in the homes of members for a time until they purchased the rear part of the lot where the building now stands and here constructed the first brick meeting house in Muscatine. The first Sunday school of this congregation was started in 1844.

Back in 18442 the First Presbyterian church was organized. At first this congregation had no place of worship, meeting in a house known as the People’s church. Then for a time the congregation used the old Episcopal church and later a log school house was utilized. The first church to be owned by this denomination was erected in 1849 on Mulberry avenue, between Third and Fourth streets It was in 1856 that work was started on the building which stands today, although in later years extensively remodeled and enlarged, at Iowa avenue and Fourth street.

Natives of Bavaria were the first members of the Evangelical Protestant church. First meetings of this congregation were in 1848 and on Feb. 10, 1849 the church was organized. This congregation with its meeting place on Sycamore street, between Third and Fourth streets, erected its church home in 1860, which in later years was remodeled and improved.

Ministers, from neighboring cities, and others without permanent church affiliations were conducting meetings in Muscatine early in the nineteenth century, when some of the first organized congregations were struggling for existence and others had not yet been started.

With several congregations recently completing their centennial observances and other Muscatine churches preparing plans for similar celebrations in the near futures, records of the early church gatherings hold interest. In the Bloomington Herald of Aug. 13, 1841, appeared this call to worship:

“Rev. Mr. Fisher of the First Baptist church of Davenport, will, by Divine permission, preach at the public lecture room in this place, on Sabbath the 22nd inst. A general attendance is respectfully requested. All perios, members of any regular Baptist church are particularly requested to be in attendance and make themselves known on that occasion.”

And on Oct. 29 of that year appeared a somewhat similar call. “Several ministering brethren are expected to be present, at which time a Baptist church will be constituted; and on Saturday previous, at one o’clock, in the school room, a council will be convened, at which time all persons wishing to become members, by letter or otherwise, are respectfully invited to be present.”

And holding meetings here, even previous to that time, but apparently without denominational recognition was a Rev. Mr. Hinkle. Under date of Friday, April 2, 1841, the Bloomington Herald stated: “The Rev. Mr. Hinkle will preach at the school-house in this place on Sunday morning, April 11th.”

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Came in 1839
Photo of Mrs. Isaac Magoon

Ms. Isaac Magoon, the former Hannah Shaw, was born in Palmer, Mass., May 5, 1790 and came here with her husband in 1839. He was born in Ware, Mass., April 8, 1792 and died Dec. 27, 1846. Her death occurred Oct. 12, 1871.

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Iowa’s State Historical society was provided for in connection with the state university on Jan. 28, 1857. An appropriation of $250 was made for the purpose of, among other things, “collecting, embodying and preserving in authentic form, library of books, pamphlets, charts, maps, manuscripts, papers, paintings, stationery and other materials illustrative of the history of Iowa.”

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Early Priest Beloved By Entire Community
Photo of Rev. Philip Laurent

A name which stands out in the religious history of Muscatine is that of the Rev. Philip Laurent, who was beloved not only by members of his own congregation but by the entire community as well during the more than half-century which he served as pastor of St. Mathias church.

Coming to Muscatine in 1851 when the first Catholic church was a small wooden building which stood at that time near the corner of Cedar and Second streets, Father Laurent continued as pastor until 1902 when his death occurred on Dec. 2 in France.

Father Laurent was a native of France, having been born near Dijon on Feb. 22, 1822, the ninth of a family of 11 children. After acquiring his higher education at the celebrated Sorbonne in Paris and studying a year at the University of Strasbourg in Germany, he heeded the call to come as a missionary to the new country of America. He sailed from the Old World in April, 1850, in company with four other young men, and wended his way to Dubuque where his ordination took place in November, 1851 after he had completed his theological studies at Perryville, Mo., in St. Mary’s seminary.

Immediately following his ordination, he was appointed pastor of St. Mathias’, Muscatine. After several years here, however, he was summoned by Bishop Mathias Loras to go to the western part of the state, then in a considerably more pioneer state than the eastern section, to open up new parishes in that region. He worked here several months and toward the close of the year 1854 became a professor at Mount St. Bernard’s Seminary, near Dubuque. He did not remain here long, going to Keokuk in 1855 where he was chaplain to the Visitation Sisters.

It was sometime in July, 1855, that he returned again to St. Mathias – this time to remain as pastor until his demise. Not only in a spiritual but in a material way was the venerable French priest’s good influence felt in this community. By 1856, the church had become too small for its congregation, so Father Laurent negotiated the purchase of the property on Eighth street where the present edifice now stands.

A new brick church, 80 by 40 feet in size and 27 feet to the ceiling, was erected and dedicated on May 17, 1857. An addition was put up in 1868 and this served until 1911 when the present building was constructed.

The pioneer priest lived to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of his priesthood on Nov. 8, 1901, an event in which the parish and the entire community took part, but suffered a serious sick spell soon afterwards. Sensing that the end was near his thoughts turned to the land of his birth and the dear ones there, and he returned to France later in 1902. His death occurred just two weeks after his landing there.

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Muscatine’s Oldest Drug Store

In August, 1855, two brothers, Dr. I. L. Graham, then thirty-two, and James E. Graham, then twenty-eight, natives of Canton, Connecticut, opened a drug store in Muscatine and named it “Apothecaries’ Hall,” but the name was soon replaced by the firm name of “Graham Brothers.”

The various industries of early Muscatine were booming and the brothers had a fine business. Before the civil war they handled such goods as leaf tobacco, picture frames, daguerreotype stock and early photographic material and field and garden seeds. All these were dropped years ago except garden seed in bulk, of which to this day the firm still maintains trade leadership.

In 1867, Graham Brothers moved their stock into a three story brick building at Second and Cedar streets, where the store is now. James E. Graham sold his interest to his brother in 1872. He passed away in 1894 at Woodstock, Ill.

Dr. Graham died suddenly, Dec. 3rd, 1886 and his son, E. L. Graham, then nineteen, became owner. E. L. Graham took charge of the store in 1889 following his graduation from the Chicago College Pharmacy.

E. L. Graham operated the store until his death in 1933 when D. A. Bauerbach purchased the store and now operates the business.

Today Graham’s continues with a complete line of drugs, toilet goods and drug sundries. Bulk garden seed and general farm and garden supplies have been an important part of this store’s business for over 75 years.

Graham’s Drug Store

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