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Middle Fork Township, Ringgold County, Iowa

Middle Ford Church has its beginning with the congregations of the old Center [later called Rose Hill] and Clipper schoolhouses where Methodist classes had been organized during the early 1870's. During this time the church was a point on the Mormontown [present-day Blockton] circuit. In 1884, it became a part of the new Redding charge.

In the spring of 1886, a six-week revival under the leadership of Pastor T. G. ATEN was held, conducted by evangelist Bill McFARLAND who stood at six-foot-six-inches. Evangelist McFARLAND was said to have saved more than a hundred souls.

For some time sentiment had been growing for a church building, and now the schoolhouses no longer held the crowds. The Middle Fork Methodists had for some time felt a need to erect a church building. Fired by the revival, they decided to proceed.

William L. ARNETT, a devoted member, offered a building site free but the location was a mile east of Rosehill. Since there was a strong bond between Rosehill and the Clipper congregation to the southwest, it was felt that the church should be built in a more central location. After some controversy and eventual compromise, a site was selected two miles southeast of Center [school] and adjacent to Middle Fork Cemetery.

[Middle Fork] cemetery was established in the winter of 1858 when the Harvey WAUGH and the Judson GRIFFITH families each had lost a child, and a Mrs. TARDY and an infant were buried there within a month.

NOTE: George WAUGH died at the age of six days on February 1, 1869. James E. GRIFFITH died at the age of of 4 years and 2 months on February 20, 1869. Both interments at Middle Fork Cemetery. Harvey WAUGH died at the age of 60 on January 8, 1895; Nancy WAUGH died at the age of 54 on May 7, 1888, interments at Middle Fork Cemetery.

~ ~ ~ ~

For many years Middle Fork cemetery was thought to be haunted. Although the 'ghost' was successfully explained, it has never been completely laid to rest. The story is:

When Judson GRIFFITH's child died, sympathetic neighbors went to the new burying ground to dig the grave. They selected what they thought an acceptable site and had the grave half dug before Mr. GRIFFITH, who lived a mile west, arrived. He then decided to place the grave father south - where the GRIFFITH plot is. The men immediately made the change but did not fill in the first grave.

Soon after, a young man returning from an evening with his girl took a short cut through the new cemetery and saw something white raise out of the ground and fall back in again. Again and again! He gave his horse the whip and get out of there. Of course everyone hooted at his story but he stuck to it. Finally a group of young fellows appointed themselves a "committee" to investigate.

Thoroughly fortified with spirits from a bottle, they felt able to cope with any other spirits they might encounter, so they went to the cemetery on night. They too saw something white raise up from the ground and fall back, this time with unearthly cries. The committee fled.

In their haste they missed the ford and flounded in deep water. Two horses got away. One of the men who fell into the water was unable to swim, but found a good hold on a half-submerged log and stayed there until morning. Another rider was thrown as his horse struggled up a steep bank and spent the next several hours calling cautiously to his companions.

It was a thoroughly sober group who recounted the adventure the next day. No one else seems to have been curious enough to go to the cemetery so the "ghost" went unexplained a few more weeks.

Then Mr. TARDY, on whose farm the cemetery was located, had occasion to walk past the half dug grave, and there he found a sheep that had disappeared weeks before - and of course the "ghost." He merely filled in the grave but the ghost was not that easily buried.

~ ~ ~ ~

Having decided on a location, the two congregations [Rose Hill and Clipper] met in later summer [1886] to lay the cornerstone. It was a festive occasion. Parishioners arrived with teams and wagons decorated with bunting and flowers. The Clipper congregation met the Rose Hill congregation at the corner a half mile up the road and escorted them to the grounds with violin musuic. After a picnic lunch, a corner stone was laid in the northeast corner on the east side of the church.

The cornerstone contained a community history, a Bible, and a list of the congregation's members, which included: Sarah "Jane" HAGANS (died age 80 on July 7, 1920, interment Middle Fork Cemetery), Alex HAGANS, Mr. (1842-1916) and Mrs. James W. GLENDENNING, Mr. and Mrs. Noah JARVIS, Lora DENNIS, Ezekiel M. (1834-1914) and Ruth A. DENNIS (1836-1921), Mr. and Mrs. J. H. SAVILLE, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey WAUGH, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph H. WAUGH, Tillie GLENDENNING, Robert SHAFFER, Frederick Newton "Fred" (1846-1926), Mary GLENN, Belle SCOTT, Mary WAUGH, Anne FERGUSON, Gilbert GANDER, Lena BELLAMY (BELAMY), and Martha Jane (GRIFFITH) OLIVER (1853-1935), Mr. and Mrs. J. H. GANDER, Corwin GANDER, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas GLENDENNING, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. BELLAMY, Mary BELLAMY, Lena BELLAMY, Mr. and Mrs. Watson SHAFER, Mrs. Almira STRAWN (ca.1833-1900) and Emma STRAWN, Mr. (1849-1923) and Mrs. David F. HOFFMAN, Martin P. (1841-1915) and Elizabeth (1831-1922) HOFFMAN, Sarah Alice WAUGH, Laura ROYSDEN, and Flora WAUGH.

Work began immediately on building the church with J. H. SAVILLE and W. M. STATON, architects.

All of the labor was donated and the funds had been raised by the congregation.The money, all given by the congregation, was onhand so that cash was paid for everything. The labor was all donated. There had never been a mortgage on the church. The congregation's motto was to "build it to last 100 years."

Eight-six of those years [1972] have passed and the church is still there, its walls straight and its floors level - proof that they built well.

Mr. W. M. STATON, father of Mrs. Ida HASH of Redding, was in charge of the building. He was a Civil War veteran who had been a prisoner at Andersonville.

Rock was hauled from a quarry on the Riley MOTSINGER fam and sand from the Ewing ford - both sites a few miles north of Allendale, Missouri. With team and wagon, each load required two days. Brick and lumber were hauled from Bedford, and that trip required three days.

Our older members, now deceased, but children of them told of going along withe their fathers worked on the new building for chances to play with other children were rare. Almost everyone added that they were cautioned sternly to stay in the cleared area because of snakes.

~ ~ ~ ~

In response to an inquiry by Aunt Tillie WAUGH, who was working on this history, James GANDER supplied this anecdote in 1955:

In October of 1886, a group of men met at the church to finish the interior and place the pews. Considerable argument arose. Should there be one aisle or two aisles? Argument were advanced on both sides and tempers warmed.

Finally someone remarked that if they were not careful there would be a quarrel in the new church before there wa a service. It was a sobering thought. The matter of placing the pews was quickly compromised and the men present, led by J. H. GANDER, pledged themselves to compromise every difference that might develop. The pledge held for 65 years, then in 1951, under Rev. WHITENECK'S leadership, seven families withdrew their membership.

~ ~ ~ ~

Redding Herald
Redding, Ringgold County, Iowa
October 28, 1943

A. F. Knapp Falls Off Church, Seriously Hurt

A. F. Knapp was seriously injured Tuesday afternoon while he was helping reshingle the Middle Fork Church.

Several men were helping with the work and at the time of the accident, Mr. Knapp, Wilbur Saville and H. F. Maudlin were working near the ridge roll, using as toe-holds the usual strips of timber attached to the roof. The toe-holds thet were standing on suddenly gave way and all three men stated a slide down the steep roof. Other toe-holds gave way as their weight came into contact.

Mr. Knapp was unable to check his flight in any manner and he went all the way, striking the scaffolding and then to the ground some 20 feet below, alighting in such a manner as to crush the 12th dorsal vertebrae in his back. He was immediately taken by ambulance to a Des Moines hospital, accompanied by Mrs. Knapp and Dr. Fullerton, and the latest report is that he is getting along as well as could be expected. but it is thought that it will be two or three months before he can leave the hospital.

The other men on this wild slide fared murch better. Mr. Maudlin was lucky enough to come down near where Elvin Saville was standing on the scaffold, and Elvin caught him, preventing his plunge to the ground. Wilbur was able to catch hold of the scaffold, in passing, long enough to check his speed somewhat and drop straight down, partly picking his way of landing.


Redding Herald
Redding, Ringgold County, Iowa
November 04, 1943


The men finished reshingling the church Saturday.

Richard, Duane and Merton Knapp visited their father in a Des Moines hospital Saturday and Mrs. Knapp returned home with them that evening.

Sgt. Gifford Knapp came Sunday from Texas to see his father, A. F. Knapp, injured last week in a fall from the church, now in a Des Moines hospital.

Sgt.Gifford Knapp and Mrs. A. F. Knapp visited Mr. Knapp at the Des Moines hospital Tuesday.


Redding Herald
Redding, Ringgold County, Iowa
December 02, 1943


Mrs. A. F. Knapp and sons spent Saturday with Mr. Knapp at the Des Moines hospital and report he is some better.

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2017

~ ~ ~ ~

Middle Fork Methodist Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day of 1886 with a crowd that overflowed into the churchyard. It was a chilly, threatening day and those who could not get inside the building built a bonfire outside. Occasionally a group from inside the church changed places with those around the bonfire.

The interior of the church has changed very little. The pews were second-hand and still arranged as they were then. It was heated by twohuge round oak stoves which remained in service until 1947 when they were replaced. In 1963 the old wood heaters were discarded in favor of propane gas, but the decorative dropped chimney in the center of the ceiling remains -- always a source of comment.

The wall covering was plaster - the first wall paper being put on in 1902. The rostrum was "U" shaped. In 1924 it was enlarged and given its present shape, in 1968 it was carpeted.

A small organ set at the front of the church on the west side of the "U" and a table was used for a pulpit.

In 1892 the Rev. G. E. MITCHELL constructed the present pulpit out of two old pieces of parsonage furniture. He was a pastor who used many notes and considered a pulpit absolutely necessary. However he preached one sermon definitely without notes.

He attended a Sunday School picnic commemorating Children's Day, riding with a number of children on the decorated head wagon in the procession. When they reached the picnic ground, the driver inadvertently stopped on a bumblebee's nest. The preacher saw the touble and grabbed some of the nearest kids and jumped just as the team bolted.

The horses were stopped without any damage, and the only casualty was the parson - stung onthe forehead, and he was to deliver the sermon of the day. He insisted on preaching that afternoon with his face hugely swollen, and everyone still says that it was one of his best sermons.

The churchyard reflects the changing times.

In 1896 there was a wooden porch instead of the cement one we now have. There were steps on either side and the front served as a mounting block, with a hitch rack running west from the porch to the timber, and east to the cemetery.

The cemetery was a small fenced plot containing about one-fourth acre, carefully kept apart from the church. It has since been enlarged several times and has become part of the churchyard. A woodshed stood near the southeast corner of the church and old pictures show a small oak, little more than a switch. That oak became a huge tree that shaded innumerable picnic dinners. It was struck by lightning in 1954 and had to be cut down in 1961.

The ladies for many years maintained flower beds on either side of the porch and around the shed - mostly of flags and day lilies, some of which went wild and still bloom among the trees and brush.

The people came in wagons; later spring wagons; and in the 1890's carriages and top buggies. Most of the young people rode horses, and stories of their racing is still told. In the winter they came in cutters, sleighs and bobsleds.

One story always told with some awe, is how a team jerked loose from a bobsled on that steep hill north and east of the church, and ran almost half a mile before deciding to stop. The sled, with eight people aboard, coasted down the hill, across a little bridge finally coming to a stop just inches behind the horses. All Albert GLENDENNING had to do was step out and hitch them up again.

The last time bobsleds were used was in 1938, as part of the Christmas program and they were not really necessary. But no sleighbells could be found.

It was decided by the founding congregation that the church's doors would never be locks so that "anyone desiring solitary worship or a chance traveller seeking shelter from a storm" would find solace within the walls. This custom has nver been abused.

A story, probably true, tells of a man lost in the blizzard of 1888 who stumbled onto the church and did indeed "find shelter from a storm."

E. M. "Uncle Mat" DENNIS always brought in wood and kindling for the next fire.

According to notes left by J. H. WAUGH, the first revival meeting was held in February 1887. This was the greated revival ever held at Middle Fork. Marty JONES was in charge assisted by P. C. GLENDENNING, E. M. DENNIS and J. H. GANDER. Weather and roads were ideal and the new church was greatly strengthened.

The first wedding occurred the following spring - Candace NORRIS and Rome ARNETT. And the first funeral was held - Henry ARNETT.

During the last 1890's, lack of entertainment and transportation made the church the social center of the neighborhood, and the Sunday school picnics in the summer and the Christmas program in the winter were the highlights. The picnics in particular were real events.

A picnic site was selected and invitations were sent to neighboring Sunday Schools - Fry Chapel, Eureka, Shiloh, Enterprise, Palestine, Rooster Bend, Maudling, Brushie, Asbury - to name a few. Many of these now exist only in a few old records and the memories of our oldest members, but once they were flourishing Sunday schools and classes.

On the great day, wagons with hayracks assembled and were lined up and properly decorated for whatever theme the Sunday school had chosen. The organ was placed on the first rack and the better singers rode there. The next rack was a float depicting the theme. One float that is always mentioned represented "Faith, Hope and Charity" with Margaret McQUIGG, Mattie HOFFMAN and Tillie GLENDENNING wearing lovely crowns and lace-trimmed robes, singing the parts, and everyone finishes the recollection with, "It was just beautiful."

Behind the choir and the float came other bunting and flag bedecked wagons carrying the rest of the congregaion. Sometimes they went as far as 10 or 12 miles. After a basket dinner, the program got under way. Each Sunday school put on a number and the ministers took turns bringing the sermon. They were careful to start home by 3:30, for 10 miles by team and wagon was a long way.

About this time, 1895-1905, tent meetings were held in the vicinity almost every summer, usually in August. Attendance was always good and old-timers say the singing could be heard two miles away.

One revival that deserves mention was held in 1903 when G. August JONES, a noted writer and evangelist from Lincoln, Nebraska, held a very successful series of meetings. The pastor, Rev. W. D. WOOLEVER, was an outstanding musician, providing the music. The services were of a type seldom conducted in a country church.

Sunday School conventions were another pleasant feature of church life at Middle Fork. J. H. WAUGH was president for many years. Outside speakers were brought in, supplemented by local talent - usually older boys and girls.

Shortly after the turn of the century [1900], attention was given to the interior of the church. The walls were papered. J. A. SAVILLE presented a large pulpit Bible and Martin HOFFMAN a communion set.

J. H. WAUGH, C. M. WAUGH and Martin HOFFMAN went to St. Joseph [Missouri] to get the big pulpit chairs - and took much ribbing because they bought three. "One apiece."

The young people's class decided on a piano as their project. They gave socials to raise money but after much effort lacked $100. Martin (Uncle Mart) HOFFMAN gave them the needed money.

All these items are still in use (1972). The organ was given to the Chestnut Ridge school and eventually discarded.

Middle Fork was very fortunate to have had a member like Uncle Mart. He was a deeply religious and philanthropic man. He participated largely in the endowment of Simpson Methodist College of Indianola. Many young people have been helped by scholarships he endowed. Having lost his only child tragically, his greatest satisfaction was helping other people's children.

Uncle Mart loved the Christmas program, and the Christmas tree with Santa Claus and gifts was largely his doing. Adults at least, knew that on the night of the Christmas program, Uncle Mart drove his team around the hitch rack to a spot under the NE window. The tree, at his request, was placed just in front of that window. Then he seated himself by a back door. If some child seemed to be left out, Uncle Mart disappeared and shortly a gift was "found." (Handed through the window hidden by the tree.) Those gifts hidden under the laprobe in Uncle Mart's sleigh were nice ones. Skates or sleds for boys but always beautiful dolls for the girls. At least one of those dolls is still in existance - greatly treasured by the granddaughter of the little girl who received it.

In January of 1927, the Ladies Aid Society was organized with Mrs. Willard [Margaret] WAUGH as president with 20 members. The purpose of the organization was to help with local expenses, and the ladies worked hard. Their first record book shows that they paid $15 onthe preacher's salary, $5 for redecorating the parsonage at Redding, bought runners for theaisles and the red curtain for the front of the church. They paid $30 on the church insurance and finished the year with $85.06 n hand.

For many years the congregation met each spring to thoroughly clean the church and yard, and to make whatever repairs were necessary. In 1939 the cleaning lasted three days. At that time, the last of the hitching rack was done awy, and trees and brush removed to make more parking space for cars. The cemetery was enlarged and a new fence built. In 1971, the cemetery was once again enlarged and fenced.

In 1941, when the men were putting on a new roof, a support gave way and Ariel KNAPP fell from almost the peak of the roof, sustaining painful infuries that left him a cripple. The accident was still vivid enough that the work was hired done when a third roof was put on in 1971.

During the first four or five years of the church, it was customary to discontinue services through the winter and resume again in the spring when the roads were again passable. This custom had its disadvantages, and pastors and congregation alike made a determined effort to keep going the year round.

The Redding and Middle Fork churches were placed on separate circuits in 1912. Services at Middle Fork Church were held Sunday afternoons, which continued until 1930. To save money during the Depression, the circuit was combined with Blockton and Platteville when services were held twice a month.

The circuit was divided again in 1947, and with the coming of a gravel road, services at Middle Fork were resumed every Sunday.

Financial difficulties forced the two churches to unite with Blockton in 1958 to form the present Blockton Redding Middle Fork circuit. With improved transportation and surfaced roads, a pastor is able to conduct services at each point on Sunday morning.

In 1972, the church became a part of the Larger Parish Mount Ayr parish with Rev. Jerrold SWINTON as pastor and Oliver LARKIN as associate pastor.

In 1982, Middle Fork United Methodist Church membership was under thirty.

No record of the church could be complete without a list of the pastors who have served here, and we must not forget those circuit riders who traveled on foot or horseback, through snow drifts or rutted trails to keep their appointments and whose first duty on arrival was to conduct a mass memorial for all who had died since the last visit, preached from the back of a wagon at the new cemetery. Much credit is due these servants whose names are now forgotten.

Of the charter members who were recognized as supply pastors:


The pastors are:

 Jerrold SWINTONOliver LARKIN 

  This history has been 25 years in the writing and I believe it is as accurate as can be made. It was begun in 1947 when we realized that only one charter member remained to link us with the beginning: Mrs. C. M. WAUGH nee Tille GLENDENNING. Her memories and the letters she wrote to families of former members have furnished invaluable anecdotes.

We are also indebted to Nelson MASON of Bismark, North Dakota, and I. B. HOLMAN of Mount Ayr, Iowa (both now deceased), and to the historian of the Iowa-Des Moines conference for material used here. And we are most grateful to the people of Middle Fork for the letters and clippings and family records they have allowed us to copy, and the memories they have shared.

Historical Committee
Mrs. Clarence [Tillie] Waugh, passed away 1967

Middle Fork United Methodist Church is located southeast of Redding, about 4 miles east of U.S. Highway 169, on the north side of Country Road 310 Avenue. It is listed on the National Registor of Historic Places (#90001801). Middle Fork Cemetery is located on the church grounds, directly east of the church.

~ ~ ~ ~

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, January 31, 1991

The Middle Fork United Methodist Church received at letter which read, "We are pleased to inform you that the Middle Fork United Methodist Church has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places, effective Nov. 29, 1990." The National Register is the federal government official list of historical properties worthy of preservation.



Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, June 06, 2002


The Middle Fork United Methodist Church (located east of Redding three miles) looks beautiful in its fresh new coat of white paint. Volunteers from Lenox, Corning, Des Moines, Oskaloosa, Allendale, Redding and Mount Ayr spent Friday and Saturday scraping, priming and painting the 126-year-old church building.

Those who gave the gift of their time and talent on a very hot and sticky weekend were: Bill MILLER and Dwight NOOK of Lenox and Sally HENSLEY of Corning (Mobile United Methodist Missionaries workers); Gary HENSLEY of Corning; Isabelle ABARR, Wayne HEIKEN, Kay PUDIL, Eloise CRANKE, Jacque COULSON and Linda SCOTT of the First UMC, Des Moines; Josh BURROS, Morgan BAILEY, Adam TOOM, Nick ANDERSON, Breanne BOSTON, Holly TOOM, Sharroll and Hal EDMUNDSON of Central UMC, Oskaloosa; Alice MILLER, Joe and Michelle HERTLE of Allendale; Pastor Sue THOMAS, Ruth SAVILLE, Denzil PLATT, ELdon BOESE, Rose HUNT, Bev and Walt McGINNIS and Becky and Alan TAYLOR.

Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, January 19, 2006


January 16 - There will be a soup supper Sunday evening, January 22, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Redding Frontier Hall sponsored by the Middle Fork United Methodist Church congregation. A variety of soups, relishes and drinks and a dessert bar will be served. The proceeds from this fund-raiser will go toward the upkeep of the Middle Fork Church. The 120-year-old church building, located on 310th Street, three and one-half miles east of the Redding Country Store, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Middle Fork Cemetery



 Sunday School Classes and Organizations, Middle Fork Methodist Church

SOURCES: Redding: The First Hundred Years: 1882-1982, Pp. 33-35
"Faith Comes to the Prairie" Ringgold County Historical Society. 1972.

Photographs by Sharon R. Becker, May 22, 2009
Compiled and transcribed by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2009; updated September of 2009, updated September of 2011

To contribute to Ringgold County's church pages, contact Sharon R. Becker at
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