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One-Hundred Years of Methodism
1880 to 1980

100 Years of Methodism - Cover

Click images to enlarge

The Church

The church
The first Church, built in 1881

The first Methodist Church, built in Thornburg, Iowa in 1881.
It was a one room structure.
The second Methodist Church, erected 1916

The second Methodist Chuch - erected in 1916 and destroyed by fire in 1925.
Rev. Don and Arlene (Rash) Gatrell

Rev. Don and Arlene (Rash) Gatrell

]The surname is spelled Gatrelle elsewhere in this booklet.]

Reverend Don Gatrell

Reverend Don Gatrell

Reverend Don Gatrell came in as pastor four years ago, in 1976.

Don Gatrell graduated from Belle Plaine High School, then became an entertainer with Radio Station W H O Des Moines. He went from there to Buffalo, New York, Detoit, Michigan and finally back to Iowa, with station K F J B Marshalltown.

He received his education at William Penn College, Oskaloosa. He served with the Friends church from 1950 to 1965. Then he was ordained as Elder with the United Methodist Church in 1965.  He served as pastor at these Iowa towns: Buffalo, Defiance, Sheffield, Randalia, Killduff, Thornburg, Keswick and Webster. He died at home in Keswick, Iowa, February 5, 1980.

He was united in marriage to Arlene Rash in 1936. Reverence and Mrs. Gatrell are the parents of two sons: Robert, who died of a gun shot accident at age 13; Ronald, a Dental Technician in Charleston, South Carolina, he also serves in Christian work. Ronald has two children, Tammra and Benjamin.

A Hundred Years of Methodism in Thornburg

The Thornburg Methodist Church was organized in the year 1880 with eight charter members. They held their church services and Sunday School in the Rock Island depot previous to the building of the first church. The charter members were: Mr. and Mrs. Lindsey, Mr. and Mrs. Asa Branson, Mr. and Mrs Smith B. Hage and Mr. and Mrs. Rubin Hawk.

The first pastor was Reverend C. R. Norton and the first church was built in 1881. This one room structure served the members until it was torn down for a larger and better church in 1916. The new church was destroyed byfire of unknown origin on February 3, 1925, but the piano, seats, and most of the church furnishings were saved. A new church was erected in the same location as the other two churches in the summer of 1925, the corner stone being laid on May 10, 1925. It has continued to be used for church services, Sunday school, and many other church and community activities.

The Thornburg United Methodist Church will celebrate its centennial June 29, 1980. There will be a special church service at 11:00, a basket dinner at noon, and an afternoon program at 2:00 P.M.


Pastors Who Have Served the Thornburg Methodist Church

C. R. Norton, 1880-82
U. R. Smith, 1883-1884
J.W. Lewis, 1885-86
E. S. Dailey, 1887
W. N. Porter, 1888-89
F. W. Wilson, 1890
F. B. Maxwell, 1891
J. C. George, 1892
D. S. Dunley, 1893
E. E. Doud, 1894
J. A. Sinclair, 1895-97
C. H. Westfall, 1898
C. N. Pace, 1899-1901
A. W. McBlain, 1901-03
J. A. Roovaart, 1904-05
L. R. Burdock, 1906-07
W. H. Slack, 1908
J. E. Ward, 1909-10
H. W. Cannon, 1910-11
George Osborn, 1911-14
C. G. Ellis, 1914-16
J. D. O'Dell, 1916-18
W. E. Rinney, 1918-20
W. B. Ireland, 1920-23
C. C. Goltry, 1923-26
G. H. Hawn, 1926-28
C. B. Thomas, 1928-31
O. C. Ellis, 1931-35
A. F. Polk, 1935-37
V. C. Hickman, 1937-38
C. S. Dewey, 1938-42
T. C. Kennedy, 1942-45
W. A. Longnecker, 1945-46
G. H. Smith, 1946-48
J. A. Worrell, 1948-54
Mrs. Edna Whitson, 1954-56
John Bissett, 1956-57
Lawrence Garrett, 1957-60
Wm. T. McLaughlin, 1960-61
Dwight Bonham, 1961-64
Roy K. Hoover, 1964-76
Don Gatrelle, 1976-Feb 1980
Donn McBride, Feb to June  1980
Larry Pauley, 1980-

Women's Society of Christian Service History, Part 1

Women's Society of Christian Service History, Part 1

In May, 1886, a meeting was called at the home of Mrs. Grush, two doors west of the present church by Evangelist Billings. A Constitution and by-laws were drawn under the name of "Missionary Aid Society" with meetings twice a month on Saturday P.M. Dues were five cents each meeting when present; this was later changed to five cents each meeting. Officials were: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Choirister, the latter being dropped later.

In 1890, the Aid bought the parsonage lot from Mr. Farrow, father of Mrs. Anna King. The church board appointed three men, and three women from the Aid. Mrs. Santee, Mrs. Smith, and Mrs. Grush, President, drew plans for a five room parsonage and raised the funds in the appointed time.

The name was changed to M. E. Ladies Aid with $1.00 yearly dues. Dues have been discontinued and committees were appointed to serve lunch at Aid meetings for ten cents, on the second Thursday of each month. Special meetings are called.

The first bazaar was held at B. A. R. Hall in 1907 with dinner and supper. Bazaars have been dispended with and only evening meals have been served in recent years.

In 1915 a new modern church was built with the consistant [sic] help of the Aid. The church burned in 1925 and was rebuilt. The Aid pledged $1100.00 which they eventually paid and cleared the church of all debt.

Funds were raised by ice ream socials, dinners, lunches served at sales, food sales, lodge and alumni banquets, mother and daughter banquets, and father and son banquets. Other means of raising money such as cards with dimes sealed for each holiday of the year and an apron with patches with money under each patch have been successfully used.

Women's Society of Christian Service History, Part 1

Women's Society of Christian Service History, Part 2

The Aid contributes to the pastor's salary, church insurance, parsonage repair, flowers for funerals and sick members, church janitor, and bedding and clothing for needy persons.

The past presidents of the organization have been: Mrs. Grush, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Jim Schrader, Mrs. Smart, Mrs. Fred Biddleman, Mrs. Olie Bates, Mrs. Cooper, Mrs. Will Bittinger, Mrs. Henry Pascoe, Mrs. John McRoberts, Mrs. Joe Dunton, Mrs. Corydon Frink, Mrs. Carl Kruse, Mrs. Leo Morton, and Mrs. Henry Ogden.

The Golden Wedding of Mrs. and Mrs. Fred Biddleman was celebrated on their lawn and dinner and supper was served by the Aid to fifty or more relatives and friends.

Mrs. Jennie Baker, the last of the charter members, died in 1936 at the age of eighty years.

The Aid has often entertained the District Conventions, aged members of the church and retiring and new ministers. Many social activities and parties are held at the church parlor

A Boy Scout movement has been sponsored by the Aid.

Membership of the Aid at the present time is thirty.

On September 30, 1940 the name of the Aid was changed to the Woman's Society of Christian Service. Presidents who have served since that date are: Mrs. Leo Morton, Mrs. Henry Shepherd, Mrs. Martin Alpers, Mrs. Lauren Looney, Mrs. Joe Fry, Mrs. Everett Sparrow, Mrs. John Geyer, Mrs. Lloyd Little, Mrs. LaVerne Fry, Mrs. Bruce Shall, Mrs. Harold Clark, Mrs. Joe Fry, Mrs. Leo Morton, and Mrs. Harold Clark.

Membership of the W.S.C.S. is forty-five.

Women's Society of Christian Service History, Part 2

Women's Society of Christian Service History, Part 3

Following the uniting of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the name of the Society became the United Methodist Women. Those signing the charter were: Rosa Bittinger, Neva Clark, Doris Davis, Ethel Dunton, Grace Edmundson, Margaret Edmundson, Margaret Fry, Ruth Fry, Sarah Grove, Rowena Hoover, Mildred Little, Elvira Looney, Greta Lou Moore, Lorene McGimpsey, Zella Morton, Edith Phillips, Helen Robinson, Marjie Shepherd, Ester Shaull, Elizabeth Storm, Alice Sparrow, Helen Towns, Vera Whittington, Luella Zimmerman and Lela Zugg. The charter date was March 13, 1969.

The United Methodist Women consisted of twenty members as of May 1980:

Mildred Bittinger
Jeannie Bos
Joyce Calvert
Margaret Clavert
Neva Clark
Mae Dansdill
Doris Davis
Rena Dugger
Ethel Dunton
Arlene Gatrelle
Dorothy Little
Mildred Little
Elvira Looney
Lorene McGimpsey
Greta Lou Moore
Zella Morton
Emid Phillips
Alice Sparrow
Mary White
Lela Zugg

Source: "100 Years of Methodism in Thornburg 1880-1980" booklet donated from the estate of John W. Geyer by his daughter Martha Geyer.
Added January 8, 2021 by Lynn Diemer-Mathews.