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Middle Fork Township, Ringgold County, Iowa


In the late 1860's, Mrs. Susan BROWN, a widow, arrived from Indiana with her children, settling on the land where the Hickory Grove school would be built later. A deeply devout woman, Mrs. BROWN often held church meetings in her home. When the weather permitted, the congregation held services in the hickory grove near the BROWN home. After the Hickory Grove school was built, the congregation met in the schoolhouse. Hence the name Hickory Grove.

Early in the year of 1883, Elder Ferd C. WATKINS was called to the field. He was a good-looking young fellow with snappy, brown eyes that "could look you through." He was ever on the move. In his early pastorate, he would walk the entire distance from Gravity rather than miss his appointment. In his early life, he had been a coal miner. Though denied the opportunity for a higher eduation in the schools, he, upon accepting religion, felt the call to the ministry and began at once the process of self-education. After many years of hard study, he emerged a prepared man, ready to meet the world in his chosen field. Because he considered the Bible the best of classics, he made that his chief study, and he knew it well.

On a Sunday morning in the spring of 1886, about the time Elder WATKINS was at themiddle of his sermon, a terrific storm struck the school house, shaking it to its foundations. A great block of plastering fell from the ceiling at the northeast corner of the room. There might have been a panic, but Mr. WATKINS, never outdone, started singing "When the storm in its fury on Galilee fell," and the crowd was soon quiet, the floor cleared of the plastering, and the service went on as usual.

One great honor that came to Pastor WATKINS was the privilege of building a house of worship at the beloved Hickory Grove. For a considerable time, preparations had been going on. The spring of 1888 seems to be the time to build.

The following announcement appeared in the Mount Ayr paper of February 23, 1888:

"We are glad to learn that the Advent Christians expect to build a house of worship in Middle Fork township -- having a nice little sum salted away already for that purpose."

By the time warm weather arrived, everthing was in readiness. Isaac MARSHALL, who never had to be urged, gave the building site, a beautiful plat of ground at the northeast corner of his farm, about three-fourth of a mile north of the school house. A large cottonwood tree was donated by Billy THOMPSON, the largest tree anywhere around, which was hauled on skids to the saw mill.

A building committee, headed by Mr. MARSHALL, took charge. The contract for a frame structure, 26 by 36 feet, with a pulpit vestry in the rear, was let to Ferd SOLES and James McCLURG, and Alexander McLEOD of Worth County, Missouri, laid the stone foundation.

The work of the building was completed in the latter part of the summer, and the first service held early in the fall. By the end of the year the money had all been raised and the church cleared of debt.

The dedication was held on January 13, 1889. Elder FORESTER was in charge, preached the sermon and formally dedicated the church. The building was packed, not even standing room left. It was a great day for Hickory Grove.

Hickory Grove was noted as a singing church. It was turly blessed with a lot of good singers.


Pastors who have served since 1939 are Walter RANDOLPH, Willis JENKINS, W. E. FLEMING, Robert RICHARDS, Glendon SMITH, R. A. BIXLER and the present [1972] Dennis NEAL.

Elder R. A. BIXLER became the pastor in 1897. He sought to bring an organ into the church, a proposal which was met with some opposition. Some members of the congregation didn't believe in the use of musical instruments for religious services. Elder BIXLER won out and those who had opposed the placement of an organ soon agreed that it was a nice addition to church services.

With the arrival of Elder H. D. FILLMORE to the pulpit in 1901, the congregation decided that the FILLMORE family should be provided with a parsonage. Once again Isaac MARSHALL donated land adjoining to the church and cemetery [which had been established in 1889]. The parsonage was completed by February of 1902.

One member of the congregation, Tommie GLENDENNING, grew up to be Elder T. E. GLENDENNING. He filled the pulpit when Hickory Grove Church was between pastors.

Under the pastorate of C. A. HUGHES, Hickory Grove Church celebrated its golden anniversary on February 26, 1939.

Reverend Robert RICHARDS organized a gospel choir in the 1950's or 1960's. Known as the Gospel Singers, they preformed at the Iowa State Fair on various occasions. The Women's Home and Foreign Missions was organized in the 1960's, meeting every two weeks at the homes of the members.

From the 1960's through the 1980's, Dennis NEAL was Hickory Grove's pastor. In the 1990's, Albert BAKER and Dean EWING were the pastors.

On November 17, 2002, 113 guests attended Reverend Ed SHIELDS' Ordination Services. Rev. SHIELDS had been the pastor of the church since 1999.

Hickory Grove Advent Church is located south of the intersection of County Road 310 and County Road 210, approximately 8 miles southwest of Redding, Middle Fork Township, Iowa.

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, November 09, 1939

HICKORY GROVE -- Rev. WARMAN and family moved to the Hickory Grove parsonage last weekend. He is a former pastor of the Hickory Grove and Jackson Churches.

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 09, 2003

Celebration Oct. 19 at Hickory Grove church

Hickory Grove Advent Christian Church will have its annual Harvest Celebration Sunday, Oct. 19.

Activities for the celebration will begin at 3 p.m. with fall games and crafts, pumpkin painting, a space walk and horse-drawn wagon rides. A soup supper will be served at 5 p.m. Entertainment for the evening will begin at 6 p.m. with Christian music by the Loynachans.

A free will offering will be taken.

For more information contact Pastor Ed SHIELDS.

~ ~ ~ ~

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Hickory Grove News

October 20 - A good crowd attended the harvest celebration at the Hickory Grove Church Sunday afternoon and evening. The kids had a great time with the activities in the afternoon and after a very good soup supper the LOYANCHAN family of Winterset entertained everyone with their good Christian music. Everyone appreciated Jim HULLINGER for providing the team and wagon rides and Susie CATANZARETI for hauling the horses to the church and back home.

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2012



Hickory Grove Cemetery

Mount Ayr Record-News, Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
AVITT, Mike. Pages and Pictures from the Past . . . Ringgold County, Iowa: 1885-2005 p. 37. Paragon Publications, Inc. Mount Ayr, Iowa. 2009.

"Faith Comes to the Prairie" Ringgold County Historical Society. 1972.

Photographs by Sharon R. Becker, May 22, 2009
Submitted by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2009; updated September of 2011; updated August of 2012

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, November 15, 2007, Page 4

Hickory Grove to hold revival services

The Hickory Grove Advent Christian Church invites everyone to revival services being held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 18, at 7 p.m. and on Sunday morning, Nov. 18 at 11 a.m.

Reverent Tom Rutan, evangelist, is pastor of a church in Bishopville, SC, who has given more than 40 years of service to the Lord.

Pastor Butch Black, pastor of the local Assembly of God Church, will be the song leader and soloist. Special music groups will be "First Things First" and the twins, Mary Davenport and Margaret Bickers.

There will be a potluck dinner after the Sunday service.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015.

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hickory Grove church still standing

According to, the Hickory Grove congregation was founded by Susannah (Waggoner) Brown in the late 1860s. The name stemmed from the first meeting of the congregation in a grove of hickory trees located eight miles south of Mount Ayr. The church building itself was dedicated on January 13, 1889.

Photograph courtey of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2014

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, June 04, 2015, Page 1

Hickory Grove Church to close

The Hickory Grove Advent Christian Church in Middle Fork township will hold a celebration service this Sunday, June 7 to mark the closing of the church which was dedicated in 1880. The final service at Hickory Grove will take place June 21. Local historian Mike Avitt provides a brief history of the Hickory Grove church in his Snapshots of History column appearing on page 18 of this week's Record-News.

~ ~ ~ ~
Snapshots of History

By Mike Avitt

The Hickory Grove Advent Christian Church in Middle Fork Township was dedicated January 13, 1889 and will hold its last service June 21, 2015. A celebration service will be held June 7, 2015 with Pastor Sherry Wiley conducting the service. I hope you (and I) can make it.

I wrote an article about the Hickory Grove Church in my book, "Pages and Pictures from the Past: Ringgold County, Iowa 1855 - 2005."

J. E. Holden chronicled the history of the church from its beginning and his account appears in the March 16, 1939 edition of the Mount Ayr Record-News. This history was written in connection with the church's 50th anniversary.

The church was built in 1888 and the earliest burial I found for the adjoining cemetery is 1887. The land for the parsonage was donated by Isaac Marshall, the same man who donated the land for the church site and cemetery. The native logs were sawed at John Mosbarger's sawmill and Edler H. D. Fillmore was the first pastor to occupy the new residence in 1902.

Elder Forester was the first preacher and many followed. Notable ministers were Tommie Glendenning, C. A. Hughes, and Dennis Neal. These preachers often shared their time with the Jackson Advent Christian Church, a rural church across the Missouri line to the south.

In 2005, a mobile home was attached to the south portion of the church for a kitchen, Sunday School rooms and indoor toilets.

With the closing of Hickory Grove, Ringgold County will have three rural churches left: Tent Chapel, Wishard Chapel, and Middle Fork United Methodist Church in Middle Fork Township.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, July 16, 2015, Page 8

By Mike Avitt

Thanks to Becky James for allowing me to scan this week's photo.

The back of this picture reads like this: Standing left to right - Unknown, Unknown, Vivian Pratt, Halley Austin, Paris Comer, Alice Comer, Unknown, Elvis Comer, Unknown, Pastor Clair Smith, Wilbur Lay, and Unknown. Sitting - Unknown, Janell Austin, Jim James, Unknown, Ruth Jarred, Anna Lay (Teacher), Bertha Jarred, and Averill Austin.

Victor L. "Jim" James was Becky's father. He married Evelyn Jackson in 1935 and raised a family of Becky, her twin brother Lewis Clair and older sister Mary Ellen. "Jim" and Evelyn are buried at Hickory Grove.

Anna Lay, the teacher, was Wilbur Lay's mother and her maiden name was Pratt and so was probably related to Vivian Pratt. Wilbur attended school at Watterson and, after receiving his teaching degree, taught three years at Watterson. Evelyn James also taught at Watterson.

Ruth and Bertha Jarred were sisters. Other siblings in the family were brothers Wayne and Gail and sister Marjorie. Maybe some of the unidentified class members are these folks. Alice and Elvis Comer graduated from Benton in the early thirties.

That's about all the information I have on our photo so I'll share some history on the Jackson Advent Church, which was a sister-church to Hickory Grove. Most of my information comes from an article written by Mrs. Clyde Waugh in the October 24, 1963 Mount Ayr Record-News.

The Jackson Advent Christian Church was organized in 1890 by Tommie Glendenning, a well-known preacher and evangelist in the area. Services were held in the Jackson School until 1895 when a church building was erected on the Allendale road south of the Iowa-Missouri line. Clark Miller donated the land and the native timber was cut at John Mosbarger's sawmill. The lead carpenter was Jame Hendrickson of Grant City [MO].

When the church was 50 years old, Reverend Walter Randolph was the pastor. Rev. Randolph served both Jackson and Hickory Grove churches. One of his children was a daughter named Lois who married Amon Hunt in 1944 at the Hickory Grove Church.

At the time Mrs. Waugh wrote the article, the pastor was Mrs. Bertha Peters. I don't know when the church closed, but I know the building is no longer standing.

Photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 06, 2016, Page 7

Submission by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2017

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