The 2003 History of Our Church
[contact: John and Anna Woolson]
First United Methodist Church Clarinda, Iowa



 From June 2002 to June 2003 the Clarinda United Methodist Church has celebrated a 150 year anniversary.  This historic information has been prepared by the 150th Anniversary Committee for the congregation not as a newly written history, but as a compilation of what has been written in the past from many sources.  Much of the research was completed by Doris Tritsch prior to her illness and death.  While the research is not complete enough for a written history, it is far too valuable to be lost.  To make the information available to the community, a written copy will be placed in the church office, in the public library, and in the Nodaway Valley Historic Museum.  Individuals may request a copy for purchase.  A computer disc is provided in order that information may be added in the future.  The research information also will be placed in the church office.  We dedicate this work to Doris Tritsch and to those church members of the past who have contributed to the history of the church, as well as to those whose lives have been enriched by our church through the years.In order to trace history as clearly as possible, the information is provided in a chronological accounting of the pastorate of each preacher.  Information was first compiled in a history written by Rev. C.W. Blodgett to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the church.  The information was brought forward in 1905, in 1909 for the Page County History, in the early 1920s, and again in 1983 at the time the 100th anniversary of the church structure was celebrated.  References are confusing since so many of the earlier histories and news clippings have also been cited in later accountings.

The 150th Anniversary Committee

Doris Tristch, Chair

Chari Bix

Lois Braymen

Lee and Bonnie Brown

Merrill Cagley

Mary Cahill

Wally and Bonita Paige

Ruth Richardson

John and Anna Woolson



Meet the Methodists

This information served as the Introduction to the history compiled in 1953 as a part of the celebration of the church’s first 100 years.

As impossible as it is to write the biography of a man without knowing something of his ancestry and childhood, so is it to write of a church or denomination without knowing the environment from which it sprang and developed.

On Wednesday, May 24, 1738, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, while attending a Moravian prayer meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, felt his heart strangely warmed “and the peace of complete fellowship with God fell upon him.”

That peace that “fell upon him” proved to be the center of infinite calm in a tornado of forces released to fight the corruption and misery of England at that time, and to reach on through the following centuries in ever-widening circles of spiritual influence, both in the old world and the new.

The first national church organization in our new nation was “The Christmas Conference,” held in the Lovely Lane Chapel in Baltimore, from December 24, 1784 to January 3, 1785.  It was attended by more than fifty Methodist preachers representing 18,000 church members.  During this assembly, Asbury was ordained as a deacon in the new church, on the following day as an elder, and on the next day was elected superintendent by the Conference.

It was in the same year, 1785, that Peter Cartwright was born in Amherst County, Virginia.  He became the godfather of Iowa Methodism.  In 1833, when presiding over the meeting of the Illinois Conference, he sent Barton Randle to preach at the Dubuque lead mines.  In 1834, he sent Barton H. Cartwright, possibly a cousin, to organize a Methodist class at Burlington, Iowa.  It was from this latter community that the first Methodist appointment was made to southwestern Iowa.

The vigorous vision of the pioneers accepted the difficult miles across the State as a challenge through which to express the reality of God’s love.  One wonders if even those of greatest faith could visualize that reality, which had found expression during the century, in three Methodist hospitals, five Methodist colleges, 637 charges, 432 ministers, and a total membership of 290,000.  Approximately one-tenth of Iowa’s population belongs to the Methodist Church. 

The challenge to the Church today is to re-vitalize the faith of that membership.  This vision will be realized to the extent that John Wesley’s final comment is revered:  “The best of all is, God is with us.”

At the session of the Iowa conference of 1850 held at Burlington, Iowa, the Bishops thought best to send a minister to the Mormon settlement of Kanesville to look after the interest of the Kingdom in that community and the whole of southwestern Iowa.  Kanesville was the beginning of what is now Council Bluffs.  This was the first Methodist appointment in this part of the state.  The Rev. William Simpson was the man sent, then a young man in his course of study.  He was a typical frontier preacher, perhaps deficient in the arts and sciences, but he knew the Lord and the heart of the frontier folks.  It is said of him that he failed in grammar in his course of study, and when exhorted by the committee to give more attention to this study, exclaimed, “Brethern, I don’t like to study grammar.  It don’t make my soul happy.”  The Mormons hated, respected and feared him.  He was a courageous preacher of the Gospel.  He founded a Methodist society in a Council Bluffs hard by the gambling houses on the side of the bluffs in a building made of cottonwood logs, built by the congregation itself.  It was known as “old cottonwood” and was the beginning of the Broadway church.  He preached in Kanesville, and had oversight of adjacent territory including Mills, Fremont and Page Counties.


1853 ­Samuel Farlow                                                            


 Samuel Farlow was  born November 3, 1825 in Union County Indiana.  He became a member of the Methodist Church when he was sixteen.  By 1847 he had been licensed as a preacher and assigned to the Iowa Conference.  He married Isabelle Mason and came to Page County in 1852.  


He first was assigned to the Page-Taylor Mission and delivered a sermon on Nov. 2, 1852 at the home of Alexander Davis’ (five miles SE of Clarinda on the forks of the Nodaway).  It was here that the first Methodist society in Page County had been organized by Uncle Billy Rector, a circuit rider covering Fremont and Page counties. The first organization was the Clarinda and Montgomery board of trustees of the M.E. church, Iowa Conference, organized on March 15, 1853: Isaac VanArsdol, Edward Long, H.H. Litzenberg, George Miller, Elijah Miller, Edward Keeler, Dave C. Ribble, and Thomas Owen.  The church body was officially incorporated on March 18, 1857.


There was no “Clarinda” at that time.  Rev. Farlow preached the first sermon to be given at the Clarinda site in June, 1853 in the “shanty” he was living in then.  The text for that sermon was 2 Cor. 5:1-3.  “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands eternal in the Heavens.  For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon our house, which is from Heaven.  If so that being clothed, we shall not be found naked.” 


The “shanty” was described as 14 feet by 16 feet and was set where the Loranz home was later built.  The building was moved to the west side of the square and used as the first court house for a short time as well as housing Mrs. Farlow’s school.         


In a letter that had been written to C. A. Lisle that is quoted in the Page County History (2) Rev. Farlow recalled that in the early wilderness of the county “Scarcely anything was raised for a living. . . The first desolate cabin I moved into was about one mile from Alexander Davis’ home, on a hillside facing the East Nodaway .  It was surrounded with weeds, weeds, weeds.  O, my! How wild it looked there!  Some few of the good folks agreed to come and repair the house the next day.  That first night a severe snow storm fell and we were fully snowed under, as the clapboards on the roof were all apart, no good to keep out the snow.  The chinking between the logs was mostly gone and the chimney down to the ground, making a large opening where it once stood.  Surely, we were in a bad fix.  To add to our discomfiture, the promised assistance was not on hand the next morning.  So we left the cabin and went up to Alexander Davis’, about one mile away.  There Philip Bank, the son of Mr. Davis’ wife, said to me, he had a cabin about one-half mile from there in a partial state of completion.  The walls were up ready for the rafters but no floor, no chimney, and no door.  I accepted the offer and went to work on the cabin with vigor, Peter Baker assisting me.  We made it quite comfortable and this cabin became the first parsonage in Page County . . .”


The letter continues, “My wife this winter 1852-53, taught school in this cabin, being the first school taught in Page county.  In the spring of 1853 I was compelled to give up my cabin and Mr. Hulbert offered me a box house and agreed to move it to an eight dollar lot of mine on the town plat of Clarinda, if my wife would teach school.  To this proposition my wife gave her consent and Mr. Hulbert hitched his five yoke of oxen to the structure and started for town two miles away, and got within about three rods of the crossing at the south line of the town plot, when the oxen became so exhausted they refused to go any further.  There the house was permitted to stand about ten days and Mrs. Farlow taught school while there.  The oxen being rested, they were again hitched to the house and easily pulled it to its resting place, on my lot which was a little ways north of James Hawley’s store.  We did not, however, live in the house while it was being transported.  In this house I preached my first sermon in Clarinda—in the summer of 1853.  From that time until August of the same year Clarinda was under my jurisdiction.  In August myself and family were all laid low in our box house by malarial fever and were for some time absolutely helpless.  There wasn’t a person came to see us, had no one to cook for us or bring us a drop of water.  Finally Peter Bowler discovered our condition and conveyed us, sick as we were, to his home at Shambaugh’s Mills, where he had three cabins.  He placed us in one of them, while in the adjoining one was Josh Brown, dealing out whiskey.  We could hear him yell out: ‘Come up boys, come up, and take some “black-strap.”’  Many a one did and O! O!! O!!! how they would howl in there and use bad talk!.”


He continues, “. . . I was not able to attend conference but the bishop appointed me to the Sidney circuit, where I remained two years, but O at the close of my second year, my dear wife lingered with a fatal illness seven weeks and died, leaving me with two children.” (2)


Isabelle died of malaria.  Sometime later he married Arebelia Ribble.  Rev Farlow died in Indianola , Iowa , November 25, 1906.  His obituary states, “It will be remembered by all who attended the Methodist Semicentennial celebration last spring that Mr. Farlow took a very prominent part in the reminiscences at that time and made a very remarkable address before the Methodist people assembled at that time.  He was one of the real pioneers of Methodism and of this part of the state. . . He was recognized as standing out as the last of a class of men who were prominent in the affairs of this section fifty years ago, and his stalwart individuality will be remembered now with especial force by all who heard him at that time.”


Rev. Farlow was also the first pastor of the Shenandoah Methodist Church .


1853-1854 John W. Anderson



In 1854 the church met in a log school house on the property of Dr. Lewellen near 16th and Garfield.  Rev. Anderson had grown up with Rev. Farlow in eastern Iowa .  They entered the conference together.  Rev. Farlow said that they both graduated from the same college— Brush College or Grass Seminary, whichever term preferred. (6)


The story of women in the church begins here.  Rev. Anderson organized the first membership class with “four devout Methodist Women”.  In the history written in 1909 by Rev. Blodgett in speaking of this membership states, “Yes, it was Mary first at the sepulcher of our Lord.  It was Mary who stood on Golgotha and it was Barbara Heck who, laying her hand on Philip Embery in 1766 said, ‘Phillip, you must preach for us or we will all go to hell.’  The first member of the great Methodism of this continent was a woman and it seems befitting that this church should be consecrated and her first altar sanctified by a woman’s voice and prayers.” (6)


Rev. Blodget described Rev. Anderson as “a conscientious Christian. . .plain and unostentatious”.


1854-55 Richard Mulhollen


Rev. Richard Mulholen served the church in 1854 and 1855.  During this time the church was blessed with a good revival, and according to an accounting in Rev. St. Claire’s 1896 history, “some of her best members”.(4)  In 1855 the first Methodist Sunday School was organized.


1855-57 William Howbert


Rev. William Howbert was appointed in 1855 and again in 1856 when Rev. Farlow served as his colleague.  The two ministers were responsible for serving Page, Taylor and Adams counties.  Services were held in the court house.  In the 1909 accounting, (6) Rev. Blodgett states, “. . . many a good jury passed judgment on Jesus Christ and his preachers and, like Pilate, found no fault, but unlike Pilate, were willing to become his followers.”  One of the followers, John H. Merritt was converted and became a minister in both the Northern New York and Colorado conferences.  This is the first documentation of a church member being called into full time church service.


During Howbert’s pastorate, the first church building was erected.  The structure was located at 17th and Washington (where Trinity Presbyterian Church is now located) and was constructed at a cost of $1,000.  The first parsonage was also constructed on the site later occupied by the Van Sandt home.


Blodgett in discussing the construction says, “It was hard work then and yet the congregation rejoiced over it and shouted in it, and if there had been phonographs hid in the walls good Brethren friends might occasionally hear shouting.  Those were the days of shouting.  These are the days of probably not less work and prayer and might be the days of more work and prayer if the shouts had not all been shouted.” (6)


1857-58 Thomas Wallace


Rev. Thomas Wallace was appointed in 1857 to serve Page county, a part of Taylor , and one appointment in Montgomery County .  His ministry was described as “blessed by God”, although he said, “I do not remember many incidents of the ministry of that year.”  Rev. Wallace remained in Page County for 17 years.  The History of Page County (6) says that “it is not an exaggeration to say that he followed to the grave one-half of all who died.  Rev. Wallace was the champion in the marriage field.  For about five hundred couples he said the word that made them one in the eyes of the law.  Universally beloved and respected, the people of Page County felt that he made but one mistake and that was in packing up his goods, tying his chickens and moving to Mills County.”


1858-59 Rev. Cole


Rev. Cole served but a brief period of time (perhaps only a month or so).  The only accounting of his ministry is that he “left for other fields”. (6)


1858-59  Rev. W. S. Peterson



Rev. Peterson “took up the work where he found it” and finished the one-year circuit. 


1859-61 Charles Woolsey



The troubled years preceding the Civil War were years of almost constant revival under the pastorate of Rev. Woolsey. (6)  Other classes were formed in Page County . (6)  While little is recorded about Rev Woolsey, he died in Brooklyn in 1869 at the age of 65 “full of years and a ripened experience, going to the home of God’s elect above.”  At the time the history of the church’s first 25 years was written, his widow resided in Osceola. (6)


1861-62 Jeremiah T. Hughes (T.J. in some sources)



Rev. Hughes was a relative of the bishop and remained in Clarinda one year.  The circuit was cut down.  In the words of Rev. Blodgett at the time of the 25th anniversary of the church, “The hive had swarmed.  Rev. Hughes had three appointments—Clarinda, Tarkio and the Davis schoolhouse.  There were good revivals at all these points.  Rev. Hughes says among his standbys (preachers know what that word means) were Brothers Van Arsdol, Hinchman, N.B. Moore, Wallace and others.  The large maple trees in front of the old parsonage were planted by Rev. Hughes.  They were young and tender, he strong and valiant.  They are now large and strong.  He after years of the hardest work, is enjoying the sad lot of many a preacher—after having exhausted physical ability waiting for the better times that never come.  Over all these western prairies, this brother journeyed—preaching, praying, visiting the sick, and laying foundations.  It is the shame of Methodism that she turns these weary and worn itinerants out, out to subsist for themselves, like old horses, or die.” (6)  Rev. Hughes’ declining years were spent in Conway where he died.


1862-63 Benjamin Shinn



In 1863 a “new and commodius church was commenced” in the area of 16th and Washington corner. The cost of construction was $6,000.  The lumber was hauled by teams from Ottumwa and Brother Moore reportedly “carried the hod and mixed the mortar for the foundation.”


At that time the annual conference had fifty-six preachers and a lay membership of just over seven thousand.  This was the first conference held in Clarinda.  The church was not completed in time to accommodate the fifth session of the conference, so the conference meeting and the Sabbath services were held in Father Ribble’s grove.


At the time of the 25th anniversary of the church, Rev. Blodgett quotes Brother Shinn as having said, “Through the faithful labors of the earnest band of workers we were blessed as a church with a good degree of spiritual prosperity.  Some were converted who now tread the shining shore, and others still live faithful members of the church militant.” (6)  Brother Shinn was described as being “yet in the prime of life and . . . living in Afton .”  The writer went on to say, “there are still many evidences of his efficient pastorate in this charge, and a warm place in many hearts for himself and good wife.”


1864 William McKendrie McCain



While he is listed in all sources, Rev. McCain must have remained in the pastorate but a short time and then moved on to Sioux City .  There is no report in the conference minutes of his pastorate, although the membership is listed as 190.


1864-65 Dougal (or Dugald) Thompson



Rev. Thompson remained in Clarinda only one year.  However, during that time the church building was completed and dedicated free of debt.  At the time of the dedication, a $2,000 debt loomed against the building.  Brother Thompson says, “How to raise this was a puzzling question, but we got Frank Evans to come and dedicate it, and when the debt was to be lifted Bros. Hickman, Moore, Van Arsdol, Weidner and others of the saints and the outside saints and sinners that would make good saints, put their shoulders to the load and off went the debt.  We were a happy people that day.”  He continues, “The Clarinda charge was then, as it always has been and is now one of the most progressive charges in the conference, especially noted for its Sunday school work and its promptness in supporting all benevolences.  My salary that year was paid in full.”  Rev. Thompson moved on to the Norwalk circuit.


Durng his pastorate another event occurred that enriched the church.  In the 1922 church directory Rev. J.M. Williams writes, “It was during this period (1865-66) that the Lord sent a sweet singer by the name of (Thomas) Tomlinson from Yorkshire , England , to Clarinda.  He was a Methodist and sang his way into the heart of the church.  He was the founder of the Tomlinson family that has ever since been closely identified with the music and worship of the church.” (17)


During the 1927 homecoming, C.N. Tomlinson gave a talk about the history of the church and its music. (15)  He speaks of the church dedicated in 1864 and the choir of that time.  “The first choir was a chorus choir.  The organ was placed in front of the pulpit, the choir occupying the two front seats facing the preacher.  The choir members were Mr. And Mrs. G.W. Burns, Mr. And Mrs. D.C. Chamberlain, Mr. And Mrs. Thomas Chamberlain, Mr. Harrell and Miss Mary VanArsdol, the last named being the only living member of the choir (in 1927). . .  Her services were so much in demand that she sang in both the Presbyterian and Methodist choirs after her marriage to Willis Woods, going with her husband to the Presbyterian church.  No doubt there were others in that first choir, but I have not been able to obtain their names.  I do not presume that there were more than 400 residents in our beautiful Clarinda at that time, so you see how loyal were the early citizens to the advantages and privileges of music, thus setting an example for those who followed, and they did follow until it became an honor to belong to the Methodist Episcopal choir.”


He continued, “Shortly after this, in 1866, my father and family arrived to make this their home.  Also about this time W.A. Frazier and family arrived, Mrs. Frazier soon becoming organist.  Being musical, my father (Mr. Tomlinson) was soon made one of the choir and were he less deserving, my sense of modesty would forbid my saying what I will say—that he contributed very largely to the efficiency of the choir.  He was a wonderful singer.  His voice was singularly sweet as well as strong.  He was very generous with his music, never refusing to sing at a funeral or a musical, whether convenient or not.    He had a personality about him that would drive the words of the song into your mind and heart in such a way that was not readily forgotten.  This was the beginning of a choir that later on not only gained a local name, but got a reputation over the state as being one of the finest and most capable choirs in Iowa .  Many traveling men made it a point to spend Sunday in Clarinda so that they could hear it morning and evening.”


1866 Rev. Bartells



There was no minister for a time.  Later in 1866 a Rev. Bartells was appointed.  Little is known of his pastorate.


1867-69 Ami Hagen Shafer


In 1867 many came into the church including the Hon. and Mrs. W. P. Hepburn. (1)  The second parsonage was constructed. “The church continued to grow, souls were converted and the society generally built up.  Rev. Shafer was well liked and to this day (1909) the influence of his efficient labors is felt.” (18)