First United Methodist Church Clarinda, Iowa [part 4]

1888-1890 Mahlon Day Collins



Rev. Collins moved to Clarinda in September, 1888.  It was in Clarinda that he had been admitted to trial in the ministry in September, 1863.  That conference could not be held in the unfinished (2nd) church, so it had been held in Father Ribble’s grove.


The Clarinda assignment was his last work on a regular charge.  An article from the January, 1930 issue of the Iowa Journal of History and Politics says “It was fitting that he then receive the highest salary of his preaching career, and the family was housed in a commodious parsonage next to the church structure.


The same journal reports that “The Salvation Army followed the Rev. Collins to Clarinda and was there again assisted by him.  Major Dale, Adjutant Simmonds, the wives, and children made the Methodist parsonage their headquarters for several weeks.  They established a post down near the railroad station in a portion of the village dubbed ‘ Gun Town ’.”


The article continues “With them came another Englishman who had also come to the United States with Ballington Booth at the time of his first invasion.  This man had tarried at Philadelphia and Chicago .  He bore the title and name of Sir John McGlasson.  Sir John was of such easy manner that the title did not seem to fit him.  It was never used. . . He was left in charge of the post when Major Dale and Adjutant Simmonds moved to other fields.  This marked the genesis of Salvation Army work in Clarinda.  This record shows that M.D. Collins had much to do with the organization of what is now considered one of the wealthiest conferences in the Methodist Episcopal Church.  And he had not a little to do with fostering Salvation Army work in Iowa in the day when it needed friends.”


The dedication of the church had been delayed until this time due to the indebtedness on the building. The building dedication was finally held on January 6, 1889.


An article in the Clarinda Herald of January 9, 1889 describes the events:


“Last Sunday, January 6, was a happy day to the members and friends of the Methodist Episcopal Church.


Five years ago, during the pastorate of Rev. B.F.W. Cozier, the Society here built the third church they have occupied since the organization in this place.  Determined not to dedicate the structure until it was paid for, the church has remained until last Sunday without this act of consecration.  The ladies of the Society have been laboring faithfully and steadily toward the liquidation of the debt, and at last gave the key to unlock the tangling impediment to progress.


During the last year they have raised $500.00.  This fine sum of the ladies accumulation made it feasible to attempt the payment of this debt.  So about 10 days since the Pastor, Rev. M.D. Collins, began a private canvass to secure the sum, which added to the ladies fund would pay the debt.  For this purpose $681.00 were needed.  Mr. Collins succeeded in raising $801.00 and on last Sunday the dedication was consummated.  The other churches adjourned their services and with their pastors came to rejoice with the Methodist people.  By 11 o’clock the Audience room gallery and every available place was filled to its utmost capacity.  Mr. Vance had prepared a chorus choir of over 60 voices, who rendered some of the choicest selections as this famous choir only can do, filling the house with inspiring melody.


The Rev. J. Ragan of the Christian Church read the opening declaration of the ritual and the first hymn; Rev. Mr. Pringle of the United Presbyterian Church made the opening prayer; Rev. Mr. Eddy of the Baptist Church read the scripture lesson and Mr. Collins pastor of the church preached the sermon.


The text was Psalms 97: 1-2.  “The Lord Reigneth; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of Isles be glad thereof; Clouds and Darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgement are the habitation of his throne.”


Following the sermon the congregation were given another opportunity to make contributions to the debt fund, and over $140.00 was quickly given, and making a grand total of money given and raised by the ladies for their disenthrollment of the church of $1,442.00 and this has been done readily and gladly.


The services closed with the Methodist Ritual.  Rev. Mr. Smith of the Presbyterian Church read the Declaration.


Mayor Good, as president of the Board of Trustees, standing with the Board before the altar, presented the church for dedication.


The Doxology has not been sung in our midst by a happier people, tha sang it out in the Methodist Church last Sunday, closing the happy services of dedication.”


In 1889 the church membership listed at 295.


1890-95 Elmer Wolford McDade


Rev. McDade broke all records for a pastorate in Clarinda.  He served a full term of 5 years.(1)  According to the history that was a part of the membership directory publication the following year,  “The church continued to grow and prosper, and Br. McDade is loved by the members for his ability, his character and his faithful work among them.  His reputation in this church is all a faithful minister could wish.  He is considered a polished preacher, a faithful pastor and a Christian gentleman.  His work abides.” (4)


It is interesting to note that while he was in Clarinda, on January 17, 1892, the Rose Hill church was dedicated.


In 1922 Rev. McDade was in his seventh year as pastor of the Wesley church in Des Moines .  Two of his sons went into the ministry.

One of the ideas he used to build the number of members was a direct invitation.  In addition to the worship services the invitation was issued for Sunday School, Epworth League, good music, and free seats.


1895-97  John Franklin St. Clair



Rev. St. Clair was pastor during an exciting time.  A news article about the1896 Methodist Jubilee listed 400 members attending and 250 attending Sunday school, despite bad weather.  He was described as “a zealous and constant worker.” 


In the 1896 directory (4) the money in envelopes was to go to the ministerial fund, loose money for incidentals; and every member was expected to contribute something – the poor according to willingness and the rich according to ability.


The activities were rather structured.  The First Tuesday was reception evening at the parsonage. “Church Services” listed 11 and 7:30 services, 9:30 Sunday school, Epworth League, Junior League and Catechism Class, Middle League, Choir and Orchestra rehearsal, Baptismal and reception of probationers on the first Sunday of each month, Lord’s Supper at quarterly meetings.


Officers listed included 2 local preachers plus superannuated and supernumerary preachers, W.A. Frazier as director of  music, Trustees include Fred Tomlinson, E.D. Cullison, I. Van Arsdol.  Sunday School superintendent was C.A. Lisle.  C.S. Tomlinson was president of the Epworth League.  Brother and Sister Van Arsdol were the only original members still in the congregation.


In his letter of report to the Quarterly Conference, Rev. St. Clair reported that the Sabbath School under the leadership of Bro. Lisle and a faithful corps of teachers had been very successful.  Epworth League with a membership of about 75 was a great power in the church.  Prayer meetings were well attended and spiritual.  He was concerned that class meetings were not as well attended as they could be; however, they were a source of strength to all those who did attend. 


He reported the membership to be 548 full members.  He had preached 200 times, baptized 75, conducted 20 funerals and solemnized 12 marriages.  He had received $989.60 in salary.

1897-99 Peter Van Dyke Vedder



Little is known of Rev. Vedder’s two year pastorate.  According to a 1922 news article, he had recently died in his southern home.





1899-1904 Elmer Ellsworth IlgenFritz



Rev. IlgenFritz had been admitted to the ministry at an annual conference held in Clarinda in 1883.  His pastorate here encompassed five years.  During that time there were 27 deaths, 104 baptisms and 333 persons admitted to membership.  The pipe organ was placed in the church, a new boiler for the heating plant installed, the church rewired and re-carpeted, a cement walk added, the parsonage papered and re-roofed. 


At the turn of the century a union church watch meeting was held.  A January 4, 1901 news article describes the meeting: “The grand old nineteenth century in which we were all born has passed from us forever.  Its departure and the dawn of the greater twentieth century of our era in which we now live and move was strikingly marked by an interesting assembly in the Presbyterian church of this city.  The spacious edifice was filled with an appreciative audience which never grew weary of the three hour program. . . .the entertainment commenced sharply after 9 o’clock with an anthem by the Methodist Episcopal choir, which was very beautifully rendered. . . The Hon. V. Graff . . . introduced the question ‘How can we advance our material interests?’  C.A. Lisle and O.H. Park spoke to this question and seemed to made several good points on the subject.  Each of these gentlemen suggested certain ‘necessary civic reforms’ and pressed for their adoption. . . Rev. E.E.IlginFritz took charge of the meeting and spoke on ‘What the Church Stands For’.  He said that it stood forth for everything that was right ad true and pure and good.  The visible church was becoming more and more a factor in the world and a means of blessing and benefit to all mankind.  He concluded by asking the loyalty of the people to religious interests, for he said, the church was ‘the pillar ad the ground of truth’. . . Many prayers were then offered and at the midnight moment whistles and bells announced the birth of 1901, and after the singing of the doxology the meeting was dismissed with the benediction.”


The first pipe organ was installed in 1900.  It was a fine instrument with two manuals, thirteen stops, four couplers, and more than 800 pipes.  These pipes were so well made that most of them could be used in the new organ installed in 1937. (11)


According to a1902 news article “Last Thursday afternoon the old people of the Methodist church were invited to meet in the parlors of the church for a social season as the guests of the younger members.  Arrangements had been made for the conveyance of those who were not provided, and there was a goodly number present to enjoy the occasion.  Refreshments, such as characterize all Methodist meetings of this kind were served and the old folks who were present demonstrated the fact that they were not afraid of their digestive organs being overloaded, for they took hold of the good victuals and with the energy of a wood chopper.  The parlors of the church were beautifully decorated with autumn leaves, evergreens and flowers and the tables were models of neatness and beauty.”  The members present had been born between 1812 and 1844.


In his parting letter to the congregation, Rev. IlgenFritz states “I feel that in severing my relationship with this charge I am leaving behind me a host of friends who have cheered me in the midst of the battle with kind words of commendation.  I bespeak for you the greatest possible success in the future and my prayer ever shall be that God’s choicest blessings shall attend you.”


Rev. Ilgenfritz was later the District Superintendent of the Boone District.


J.D. Keener was Chorister in 1904.  Annie Tomlinson was the Organist in 1900.

1904-05      Fletcher Homan

Rev. Fletcher Homan remained only one year. 


Rev. Homan went from Clarinda to Simpson College .  He had received his A.B. and S.T.B. degrees from Simpson in 1895.  At Simpson he had been the captain of Simpson’s legendary 1893 football time: unbeaten, untied, and un-scored-upon.  He returned to Simpson as the field secretary in 1905-06.  His task was to raise $100,000 by 1910 for the Jubilee Campaign.  This was accomplished. 


He served as Simpson’s Vice-President from 1906-08 when he left to become President of Willamette University in Oregon .  He died in 1949.


1905-1909 Josiah Watson Abel



Rev. Abel served Clarinda for four years.  During that time, (according to the Treasurer’s book for 1909-12) the Woman’s Home Missionary Society, Des Moines Conference, was organized.  During his pastorate, two scholarship of $50 each were given by the women each year, one to the Allen Home (colored) in Ashville N.C. and the other to Ritter Home (white) in Athens TN.  


In 1906 there were 40 officers and teachers in the Sunday School and 300 “scholars” with an average attendance of 225.  Epworth League reported 150 members with an average attendance of 50.


Rev. Abel reported that in 1906 he had spent 4 weeks in revival meetings, 125 persons had been added to the church, there were five deaths, and eleven had transferred to other churches.  He had baptized about 35, and officiated at 21 weddings.  There had been a total gain in membership of 68.  He had preached 130 times, attended most all of the class meetings, attended and led about 40 prayer meetings, been in every home of the church and “made it a point to hold worship in the homes where I visit”.


At the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Des Moines Conference held in Clarinda in September, 1908, there were 460 members.  A total of 870 had joined in 25 years.  According to the 1909 Page County History, two hundred and fifty had joined “in the present pastorate” bringing current membership to 700.


Rev. Able later served as pastor of the First Church in Tulsa , Oklahoma .
1909-1913  William Stevenson, DD


When he entered the Clarinda pastorate, Dr. Stevenson had just completed six years as the district superintendent for the Atlantic District.  He was remembered (23) for a splendid, fruitful and scholarly ministry. 


After completing seven years as pastor of the Glenwood church, he and Mrs. Stevenson retired in Jefferson .