First United Methodist Church Clarinda, Iowa [part 2]

1869-71 C. C. Mabee



It had been supposed that the church was debt free; however Rev. Mabee discovered that there existed a debt of $1,800.  This was paid off during his pastorate.  The present bell cost $150 and was hung in that church in 1869.  In the Page County History, “Rev. Mabee says a faithful attendance upon all the means of grace and a careful attention to the financial interests of the charge, indicated a spiritual and loyal membership.  The Sunday school was well officered and there was a large per cent of adult scholars in attendance, a number of whom became deeply interested in their personal salvation and were led to Christ the following winter.”


It was during his pastorate that the Temperance movement was inaugurated.  Rev. Mabee says: “I shall not deem it out of place to state that the great temperance movement of the Missouri slope was inaugurated here in the Methodist Episcopal church during the first year of my pastorate.  An article from the pen of one of the sisters published in the paper and followed the succeeding Sabbath by a discourse in the morning and platform addresses in the afternoon and evening, continued for a number of evenings in succession, so brought the subject before the people and awakened such an interest that we called to our assistance some of the best temperance lecturers in the country—Mrs. Beavers, Mrs. Fletcher, and Dr. Ross, of Illinois—who gave us a course on the subject.  The good work was carried forward, so that in a short time no license was granted to sell distilled liquors in Clarinda.” (6)


About fifty joined the church in his two years.  His salary was supplemented by “handsome donations”.  Rev. Mabee says, “I cherish the recollection of the two years spent in Clarinda, and keep in my heart a warm place for those dear friends and fellow workers in the gospel.”  Dr. Mabee resided in Lenox at the time of the 25th church anniversary.


1871-1873 Artemius Brown


Artemis Brown was described as “the jolliest and most humorous man that this church has ever had.”  His presence was described as a “tonic” and in 1921 some of the older members still remembered his gift of humor.  He and his family came to Clarinda in 1871 at the time Chicago was burning.  It was said that “he was terribly frightened, but he soon got over the fright and went right manfully to work.” (18) His wife was the daughter of the 9th District Congressional representative Hon. W.R. Green.  He says that “his pastorate was free from spiritual chills or fevers of marked virulence.  Some were converted, some died, some went to heaven and some apostaltized.”  He preached to large audiences


 “On his 50th birthday. . . the church fixed him up with a great coat—a coat most of wool, and while it did not make him look sheepish it did good service in keeping his body warm.” (18)  During his pastorate the kitchen was built on to the parsonage and the railroad reached Clarinda. 


Rev. Brown delivered one of his “happy sermons” at the 25th anniversary of the founding of the church in 1878. (24)

1873-75 Jacob Meek Holmes



Rev. Holmes’ pastorate was described as a time when he “walked in and out among the people as a prophet of God.  This cultured minister appealed to a class of people that had not been reached heretofore.  His ministry meant much to the solidifying and the spiritualizing of the church. . . His ministry was blessed of God.  His life was pure, gentle, and many will be the stars to deck his crown that he has already received at the hands of the Master.”


The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, Clarinda Auxiliary was organized March 6, 1873 with 6 members listed:  Mrs. Holmes, Mrs. Isaac Van Arsdol, Mrs. Tomlinson, Mrs. Dunlap, Mrs. Hepburn and Miss Josie Berry (who married Prof. J.A. Wood and attended the Golden Anniversary in March 1919). (20)


His son, Rev. E.M. Holmes was at Simpson College and later became the presiding elder of the Des Moines district. (7)                       

1875-76  J. A. Wilson



Rev. Wilson was particularly gifted as a pastor and his pulpit efforts attracted congregations.   The church held a year of successful revival meetings. (7)  When he left Clarinda “the church and congregation expressed their appreciation and love in the largest donation ever given a pastor in the charge.” (6) 


1876-79 Phineas Franklin Bresee



At the annual conference in Red Oak during the autumn of 1876—Bishop Foster appointed Dr. Bresee to serve as the presiding elder.  The Bishop wanted to appoint him as presiding elder of the Council Bluffs District, but Dr. Breese objected strenuously since he did not feel called to the eldership.  Late in the session a committee of influential Clarindans came to the conference to secure Dr. Bresee’s appointment to Clarinda.  The Methodist church in Clarinda was reported to be a remarkable congregation.  Its congregation included a number of “brilliant and cultured families, and some men of considerable wealth”.  Among the members were former congressman William P. Hepburn  and the attorney William McPherrin.  Mr. McPherrin died in California at the home of Dr. Bresee years later.  The Bresee’s were in Clarinda for three years.  His salary was $1,500 per year. 

According to the biography, “Upon arrival of Dr. Bresee in the city, his brethren proposed that he should not say anything about money, or have anything to do with finances, but should merely draw his salary monthly from the bank.  He complied with the request for the first year, after which he found that it was necessary for the pastor to devote some attention to the finances of the church, not on his own account, but for the good of the work.” 


It was unusual for a pastor to serve three terms.  On September 12, 1878, the editor of the local Democrat reported that “Rev. Bresee went up to conference last week and exhibited a belt full of the scalps of sinners that he had captured during the past two years, and the Bishop returned him for another year to give him a chance to take in those who have escaped in the past.  So, to all bare hearted sinners, we wish to say that you will have to look out.”


The return to Clarinda was not popular with all Clarinda residents.  On November 11, 1878, N.B. Moore had printed a letter he had written to the Presiding Elder of the Corning District, Des Moines Conference.  In this letter he withdrew his family’s membership from the local church.


And, on August 7, 1879 John A. Snodgrass challenged him to a public debate upon “what is true spiritualism and what spiritualists generally believe.” (22) The Herald editors generally supported Rev. Breese.  The Democrat editors did not.


“The Methodist Episcopal church at Clarinda was characterized by great singing ability.  It was said to have the best choir, the best double quartet, and the finest chorus in the state of Iowa .  Great musical conventions were held in the city, and the Methodist church was always at the forefront of these gatherings.  While it is possible that these musical accomplishments did not hinder the work, it is certainly true that they did not help it to any great extent along spiritual lines.” (21)


“At Clarinda Dr. Bresee began to introduce the modern gospel songs which he had used so effectively at Red Oak. . . The people were grand singers and sang the old hymns in a delightful manner.  The only peculiarity that characterized their singing. . . was manifested at the prayer meeting. . . After a season of prayer, and just as the people were rising, they would begin to hunt a hymn, and the pianist would commence to get ready.  In a little while they would announce the number, and would commence to sing.  This little peculiarity was objectionable to Dr. Bresee, as tending to cut off the whole tide of spiritual life, and he met the situation in a way that characteristic of the man.  As soon as he rose from his knees he would begin to sing a hymn.  He was incapable of striking the tune, but he would do his best, and Mrs. Bresee, or some other good singer, would take up the tune, and they would carry it along.  Dr. Bresee stated that he considered it quite probable that this method of beginning a hymn was somewhat humiliating to the people, for he noticed that in a very short time they learned to sing without hesitation or preparation at the end of a season of prayer.” (21)


The parsonage was enlarged to accomodate the Bresee family. “In 1879 he went to Creston, a railroad town. . . All the churches there were weak, but the Methodist church was especially so.  Upon the arrival of Dr. Bresee and his family at Creston, on a rainy day, nobody came to meet them.  After stopping at the hotel one day, they cleaned the parsonage, had their things brought in, and began the work.”


The church was small.  “Brother Bresee started the work with his usual earnestness and zeal in the cause of the Lord.  As a result, the people came, and God began to pour out His spirit, and crowd the little place clear out to the sidewalk.”  A “Revival for the first time attracted the railway men, who made rather a unique congregation.  They would remain until the time came for them to get on their engines, when they would leave the church.  If somebody whom they did not like got up to preach, they would also leave the church.”  The pastorate was successful. 


From Creston Dr. Breese moved to Council Bluffs and then to Los Angeles , CA where he served several pastorates.  Dr. Breese carried on a continuing debate within his pastorates regarding Holiness.  He played a pivotal role in the Holiness movement that resulted in the formation of the Nazarene Church in Los Angeles in 1895. 


Though controversial, “Bresee was a man of the times. . . he struggled over the issue of slavery.  He favored women’s rights and forged ahead in the 1890s, ensuring that women would have full equality in the Church of the Nazarene.  He recognized the personal and social evils of alcohol, although he was too sanguine, perhaps, about the ultimate success of prohibition.  He consorted with the nabobs of the Gilded Age and found them wanting.  He was a pastor to an emerging middle class.  Bresee was attuned spiritually to many of the deep human currents at the turn of the century.  He understood the growing concern of religious thinkers to counter the mechanistic, reductionist skepticism that was an acid to Christian belief.  He countered reductionism by preaching on the Spirit that gives life and hope.  He used creeds and forms but placed his emphasis on the life-giving Spirit at work in human lives and history.  When Bresee preached, deep called out to deep.” (21)


The revival held in 1876 while Rev. Phineas Franklin Breese was pastor appears to be the largest of the early revivals.  It was reported that “The sledge hammer blows, saints and sinners and sin received, the telling talks in favor of temperance, the rich and racy delineations of character will in all time to come linger in this city.”  Rev. Breese later founded the Nazarene Church .


At the time of the 25th church anniversary, in 1878, W.A. Frazier was presented a gold watch for having served as organist for 14 years. (24)


1879-80 William Spearing Hooker


Rev. W.S. Hooker was born January 29, 1834, near Portsmouth , England .  He was converted September 29, 1847, and united with the Wesleyan Methodist Church .  In 1855 he was licensed to preach by Rev. Thomas H. Squance. . . the only survivor of the party of seven young ministers taken to India by Dr. Coke in 1813.  Rev. Hooker was married to Miss Sarah Humphreys, in 1861, who shared the toils and labors, the joys and success of a Methodist preacher’s life until August 6, 1886, when she passed to her reward. . . Rev. Hooker . . . joined the Des Moines Conference in 1870.  Since then he has been stationed at Decatur City , College Springs, Shenandoah, Villisca, Wesley Church in Des Moines , Clarinda, Indianola and Creston.” (2)  At end of his first year in Clarinda he became presiding elder of Council Bluffs district.(4)


“Rev. Hooker had an enviable reputation as a pastor and preacher and kept the church in complete working order he found it.  For several years there had been a mission school near the depot. . . During Rev. Hooker’s pastorate a comfortable chapel, the outgrowth of this Sunday school, was built for at a cost of about five hundred dollars.  Large collections were reported at conference and some increase of membership.” (6)

1880-81 Charles Wesley Blodgett (Dr.)



Dr. Blodgett was the pastor at the time the church celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary.  It is his history of the church that appears in the 1909 History of Page County.  In 1896 it was said that “his pastorate was characteristic of the man.  Energetic, able and successful, he is still a noted minister in our Methodism.”(4)  “He was a man of unique personality, and later occupied some of the greatest pulpits of Methodism.”


Dr. Blodgett prefaced his record by writing, “What Methodism is in the capital of the state, it will be to a certain extent in Iowa ; what it is and has been and is yet to be in Clarinda, it will be in Page county.  I have found it extremely difficult to trace back the history of this church.  From far and near has come what little I shall be able to tell you of our church in the quarter of a century of its existence.”(4)          


Rev.. Blodgett’s history of the first twenty-five years was printed in the paper in 1882.  “At these altars have been converted hundreds, some of whom are in the ministry, prominent among whom is Rev. W.T. Smith, presiding elder of the Atlantic district.  This choir of this church has always been remarkable for its sweetness of song and evangelical spirit.  The organist W.A. Frazier, has for fourteen years been in his place.  The Sunday school is now and has always been well officered and is an efficient arm of the church.  The Women’s foreign Missionary Society, organized during Rev. A. Brown’s pastorate, is still in active

operation and with tireless zeal of helping the women on foreign lands to come within God’s glorious lights.  It is impossible to tell of the number of marriages solemnized by former pastors and persons baptized, but they will run up to many hundreds.  The total contributions during these years will not fall far short of $40,000.  There have been doubtless troubles and divisions, but they like the vices of the dead are forgotten, while the virtues are remembered.  Many of the members of this church and of the homes represented in the church have in a quarter of a century gone to join the host immortal and the church triumphant above, and yet some are here tonight, who, in the days of the early past bowed at these altars, but they are few, yet out of the record of the past come the noble example of the saintly women and men whose voices are no longer heard within their walls, and whose

footsteps will be heard no more forever, bidding this church onward to greater deeds of doing and work of love.”


He continues, “Between the sister churches of this city and this (church) have always been genial fellowship.  It think the past will say, for this society, malice toward none, charity for all.  In the fall of 1880, Rev. C.W. Blodgett entered upon the work.  Today the church is in a position to do more than ever before, with social and spiritual power, let there come a consecration to God and truth, and the future will be bright with the glory the master had—‘that of doing good’.


The twenty-fifth anniversary was quite a celebration.  On Tuesday evening Rev. Blodgett preached.  On Wednesday evening, Rev. Artemis Brown of Leon preached to a large audience and greeted his old friends.  On Thursday evening, Rev. E.M. Holmes, son of Rev. J.M. Holmes (deceased) preached.  While only 21 years of age and preaching in his boyhood home town, it was reported that the sermon “was in every way creditable.”  He was assisted by Rev. Mabee.


By Friday morning many of the old pastors were present and the real celebration began.  There were 625 people counted in attendance.  “The exercises were opened with a magnificent anthem by the choir.  This choir noted for its sweetness of song and perfect blending of voices never did better than during the entire services of the anniversary.”(10)


Hon. W.P. Hepburn in his “unique and eloquent manner presented to the church the silver communion set. . .”


“Thos. Tomlinson presented in behalf of the church, a gold watch to W.A. Frazier who for 14 years had been at his post as organist, and afterwards came the social.  Everybody was glad to see everybody, and everybody was happy.


On Saturday afteroon the old pastors were with their good wives sumptuously fed at the parsonage.  On Saturday evening, Rev. W.S. Hooker presided, the sketch of the church history was read.


On Sabbath morning Rev. P.F. Bresee occupied the pulpit of the church. . .Rev. C.C. Mabee preached at the Presbyterian church in the morning, and Rev. Artemis Brown at the U.P. church in the morning and the Presbyterian church in the evening.”


At this time the church had 300 full time members.  Rev. Blodgett eventually served a pastor of the Methodist church in Alleghany , Pennsylvania , one of the “great churches of Methodism”.(18)