IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Church records
updated August 26, 2013

First United Presbyterian Church of Waukon
Waukon, Makee twp.

Congregational Church / Lansing Ridge Presbyterian
Church, Lansing twp.

1st Presbyterian church, Waukon, ca1908

Waukon, April 19, 1859.......... It is young, and glitters like a gem. Almost every house and store is new, or looks new, and is painted white. The large school house and the only church erected, Cumberland Presbyterian, are of the same color...... Jesse Clement, Dubuque Times, 1859


Cumberland Presbyterian - The first records of this congregation are unfortunately lost, so this sketch will not be as complete as we wish. The church was organized in 1857, under the labors of Rev. J. C. Armstrong, who was sent by the home board of missions, and began his labors in the autumn of ’56. Some twenty persons composed the society; and James Maxwell, J. B. Plank, John Raymond and R. C. Armstrong were chosen and ordained its first ruling elders. Worship was conducted in the public school house until the fall of ’58, when its present church edifice, corner of Main and High streets, was completed and occupied. This was the first church built in Waukon, and the completion of so large and fine a structure was quite an event in those days. It has since been improved from time to time, as occasion demanded, and since Feb., ’78, has been heated by basement furnace. Rev. Armstrong continued to serve the church until the fall of 1859, and in after years became a missionary to foreign lands. In 1860 Rev. J. Loughran preached in this church, and in 1862 Rev. J. B. Brown, afterwards editor of a Cumberland Presbyterian paper at Nashville, Tenn. In Feb., 1864, Benj. Hall became its pastor, and continued to serve as such during eleven years. He has of late years been in the home missionary field, but still resides in Waukon, and preaches occasionally in his old church to this day. Since Mr. Hall’s resignation the pastors have been: J. Wood Miller, 1875-8 (since professor of German in a Pennsylvania college); O. E. Hart, 1878-81; H. D. Onyett, 1881-2, recently resigned. The present membership is about one hundred and ten or twenty; and the elders of the church are C. D. Beeman, J. B. Plank, John Hall, J. G. Ratcliffe and Hosea Low. There is a large Sunday school, of which John Hall is the superintendent.

~History of Winneshiek and Allamakee Counties Iowa,1882; W. E. Alexander, 1882; excerpt from Chapter 1


The following sketch of the Waukon Presbyterian church is based on an outline contributed by Pastor Van Nice at our request, which we have enlarged upon from other sources, preserving the sequence of events and dates furnished by him. The first records of this church are incomplete, but it was organized as a Cumberland Presbyterian church by Rev. J. C. Armstrong, who was sent out by the Board of Missions of that church in 1856. “On an Indian path, at some springs in the prairie, had grown up a little village called Waukon. Thither Armstrong directed his steps.” A number of persons belonging to the Cumberland Presbyterian church had immigrated to this place in the preceding three years, from Indiana chiefly, and services had been held from time to time by Ministers S. T. Stewart, Wm. Lynn and James McFarland. But soon after Rev. Armstrong came, on August 21, 1856, an organization was effected with twenty-four members, as follows: James Maxwell, Jacob B. Plant, Elizabeth Plank, R. C. Armstrong, Mary Armstrong, Josiah Brown, Elizabeth Brown, Enoch Jones, Susan Jones, Wm. G. Mullen, Jane Mullen, Jacob Shew, Susan Shew, John Brawford, F. M. Brawford, Enoch Miller, E. Miller, Simon Gregg, Catherine Gregg, Lorenzo Bushnell, M. B. Bushnell, Alias Aurand, Elam Jones and Isabel Jane Lyons.

James Maxwell, J. B. Plank, Jacob Shew and Simon Gregg were the first elders: and Enoch Jones, Wm. S. Mullen and Elias Aurand, the first deacons. Worship was conducted in the public schoolhouse until the fall of 1858, when the first church edifice of Waukon was completed and dedicated. It was a very commodious building for that time, the main room being 34 by 44 feet, with a vestibule extending across the front 34 by 10 feet. From time to time as occasion demanded the building was improved, a furnace heating plant put in 1878, and in 1885 it was raised, remodeled, and veneered with brick, and a dining room and kitchen installed, converting it into a much more handsome and convenient building. But the fond recollections of the old residents of the village linger around the familiar old building as it appeared in the early sixties, when it was occupied for school as well as church purposes, and for public lectures. Here was held the funeral of the lamented John J. Stillman, in February, 1862, whose remains were brought home from Fort Donelson, the first Allamakee battle sacrifice in the rebellion.

To continue the history of the old building it should be added here that in 1902 it was removed to give place to the new one. But it was not destroyed. They built of oak in the fifties, and built to endure. The house was sawed in two for convenience of transportation, and traveled out into the country about one mile southwest, where it was transformed into an incubator factory. After a few years it came back to town, and may be seen today as a feed stable north of the grand Hotel. It is still good for another journey; and it still serves the purpose assigned to it in whatever capacity, however humble, without detracting from the good accomplished in its better days.

The new and beautiful modern house of worship which replaces the old building was completed and dedicated in 1903. It was the pioneer of the numerous modern church houses the town is now in the happy possession of, and cost near $20,000. A fine organ of the Burlington (Ia.) Pipe Organ Co. Make was installed upon the completion of the building, July, 1903, at a cost of $1,800.

Upon the organization of the church in 1856, Rev. J. C. Armstrong became its first pastor, resigning in the fall of 1859 to become a missionary in Turkey. He afterwards returned to America, and died in 1889. Following him Rev. J. Loughran served until 1862. Then Rev. J. R. Brown, afterwards editor of the Cumberland Presbyterian, and of the St. Louis Observer, was pastor until 1864, when Rev. B. Hall was called to the pastorate and served the congregation for eleven years. After his resignation in 1875, Mr. Hall continued to serve the cause in the capacity of missionary, though retaining his home at Waukon, where he passed away March 18, 1887. Since Rev. Hall the pastors have been: Rev. J. Wood Miller, 1875-8; O. E. Hart, 1878-81; H. D. Onyett, 1881-2; A. Allison, 1882-3; A. G. Bergen, 1883-4; J. D. Gold, 1884-9; and the present pastor, R. L. Van Nice since 1889.

Nearly a thousand members are known to have been received into this church, but death and removals have done their work so that the number is only about 170 at the present time, 1913.

The present elders are James Thompson, W. B. Cowan, A. G. Fiet, and F. H. Nagel. The trustees are L. A. Howe, A. G. Fiet, and I. E. Beeman.

In 1906 the Cumberland Presbyterian and the Presbyterian Church U. S. A. were untied, and the church at Waukon became a church in the new organization known as the Presbyterian church.

~"Past & Present of Allamakee County", 1913; excerpt from Chapter 20
~transcribed by Diana Diedrich


Monticello, Iowa, Oct 11th - The Rev. A.P. Walton, pastor of the Presbyterian church of this city has resigned his position here to accept a call from the First Presbyterian church of Waukon, Iowa, his work in his new field to begin about Nov. 1. The former pastor of the Presbyterian church at Waukon, was the Rev. R.L. Van Nice, who is no longer able to take the burden of a large church and who has taken charge of a smaller one at Rossville, Iowa. The new charge has a membership of three hundred, and possesses a large church.

~Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, October 11, 1919


Reverend R.L. Van Nice
Reverend R.L. Van Nice
Waukon - When the Rev. R. L. Van Nice celebrated his eighty-first birthday here Thursday, he recalled the 741 marriage services he has read and the 761 funeral sermons he has preached, since coming to this community 42 years ago. In 1889 he became pastor of the Presbyterian church here, serving for 35 years. Then he took a similar charge at Rossville, nine miles away. He still drives his car to the church there every Sunday. He has become known throughout this section of the state as the marrying parson. He was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1850. In 1879 he married Dora L. Fain, who died four years later. In 1885 he was married to Ida Turrentine. ~contributed by Dorothy Gosse from an unknown source


Roy Van Nice, the young Iowa cartoonist who has been connected with the Chicago Tribune for a number of years, has resigned his position to take charge of the art department of a photo play magazine at Chicago at a handsome increase in salary. Van Nice is a son of the Rev. R.L. Van Nice, pastor of the Presbyterian church of Waukon. ~Humeston New Era, April 22, 1914 (Iowa News column) ~contribed by S. Ferrall


Reverend R.L. Van Nice, oldest minister in Allamakee County, observed his eighty-seventh birthday quietly at his home in Waukon last Friday, October 15th. One birthday present he especially prized was a visit from his oldest son, Charles E. Van Nice, lumberman of Roberts, Illinois, who arrived Sunday for a visit of several days with his father. For the past several weeks reverend Van Nice has been ill, and his many friends are hoping for an early recovery. ~clipping & photo from an unknown newspaper, hand-dated 1937 ~contributed by Errin Wilker


Presbyterian Congregation Was Organized in 1856 by Missionary
by Mabel Medary, Gazette Correspondent

The Waukon Presbyterian congregation was organized in 1856 by a missionary of the Cumberland Presbyterian denomination. While the history of the congregation is incomplete, it is known that the Rev. C.R. Armstrong was sent out that year by the board of missions of the denomination. A denominational history notes: "On an Indian path, at some springs in the prairie, had grown up a little village called Waukon. Thither Armstrong directed his steps."

He soon organized a congregation with 24 members, a number of whom had emigrated from Indiana to Iowa. In 1858 what was for that time a commodious church was built and dedicated. The main room was 34 by 44 feet, with a vestibule extending across the front 34 by 10 feet.

From time to time the building was improved. In 1885 it was given a brick veneer, and a dining room and kitchen were installed. Lumber in the building was hand-sawed oak. The mortise work was built to endure, and was in perfect condition in 1902, when the building was removed to make way for a new one. The church was sawed in two and transferred to the edge of town, where it became an incubator factory owned by Louis Goeke. In 1916 it was bought by H.B. May and returned to town, where it stood for several years as a feed stable north of the Grand Hotel.

The new church building was dedicated in 1903. The first modern church building in town, it was built at a cost of $20,000. In 1906 the Cumberland Presbyterian church and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. were merged under the name of the latter denomination and the Cumberland was dropped from the name of the Waukon church.

The last year a new pipe organ was installed in place of the old one, and other improvements were made. The memberhship now includes 345 persons.

Ministers who have served the congregation are:

Rev. J.C. Armstrong
Rev. J. Laughran
Rev. J.R. Brown
Rev. Benjamin Hall
Rev. J.W. Miller
Rev. O.E. Hart
Rev. H.D. Onyett
Rev. A. Allison
Rev. A.G. Bergen
Rev. J.D. Gold
Rev. R.L. Van Nice, who served for 32 years
Rev. A.B. Walton
Rev. L.D. Utts
Rev. Paul Krebs
Rev. L.L. Bond
Rev. A.C. Crouch
Rev. A.H. Grossheim, who is currently serving his eleventh year.

~Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 26, 1951
~transcribed by S. Ferrall

Rev. Terry Palmer

Terry Palmer, son of M.F. and Lucile Palmer, will be ordained into the gospel ministry Sunday, June 17 at 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian church, Waukon. Palmer is a 1971 graduate of Waukon Senior high school. He attended Central College in Pella where he was awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1975. Palmer received his seminary training at the University of Dubuque Theological seminary in Dubuque. During, his seminary training, he served as student chaplain at Bethany home in Dubuque and as an intern pastor at the First Presbyterian church in Fort Dodge. Terry graduated with a master of divinity degree in May from Dubuque seminary where he was awarded the Stratmeier award in Biblical studies and the Meister award for pastoral ministry. Terry and his wife Jan presently live in Clarion where he will serve as pastor.

Terry Palmer, son of M.F. and Lucille Palmer, was ordained into the gospel ministry on Sunday, June 17, at First Presbyterian church in Waukon. Palmer is a 1971 graduate of Waukon Senior High School and attended Central College in Pella, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1975. He received his seminary training at the University of Dubuque and served as student chaplain at Bethany Home in Dubuque and as an interim pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge. Terry graduated with a master of divinity degree in May from Dubuque Seminary, where he was awarded the Stratmirer award in biblical studies and the Meister award for pastoral ministry. Those participating in the service were Claude Schafer, Russell and Barbara Hagen and Howard Van Ruler, all of Waukon; Dr, Herbert Manning of Dubuque; Dr. Gene Siekmann of Brainard, Minnesota; Dr. Allen Berchler of North Bend, Wisconsin; Rev. Richard Emery of Oelwein; and Rev. William Tjaden of New Amsterdam, Wisconsin. A reception followed in the church fellowship hall, where many gathered from surrounding communities to join in the special service. Prior to the service, a luncheon was held at the M.F. Palmer home, with the following attending: Terry and Jan Palmer of Clairon; Rev. William Tjaden, Dr. Gerald Palmer, Kyle and Kirk of Altanta, Missouri; Edward and Pam Westermann, Scott, Sarah and Stephan of Ellsworth, Kansas; Jerry, Jennifer and Amanda Palmer of Newport News, Virginia; Evelyn and Leonard Beardmore of Waukon; and Mr. and Mrs. Rich Myers of Dubuque. Rev. Palmer is now serving as pastor of the Clairon United Presbyterian Church.

~newspaper clippings, hand-dated 1979
~contributed by Errin Wilker



The German Evangelical Congregational Church - Lansing Ridge Presbyterian Church - Lansing Ridge United Presbyterian Church
Village of Church, Lansing twp.

The German Evangelical Congregational Society of Lansing Ridge was incorporated October 19, 1868, with the following named trustees: Frederick Lenz, John Engelhorn, and Isaac Bechtel; and other incorporators were Rudolph Baumann, Conrad Engel and Jacob Blumer. In 1909 a reincorporation was effected, the trustees being Isaac Bechtel, Henry Marti, and Frederick Schweinfurth. (Past & Present of Allamakee County, 1913, Chapter 13).

Congregational Church / Lansing Ridge Presbyterian Church (left) & Schoolhouse (right)
Congregational Church / Lansing Ridge Presbyterian Church (left) & Schoolhouse (right)
undated photo, photographer E.S. Hirth
~contributed by Errin Wilker


Newly elected officers of the Congregational Church at Churchtown are: trustee, Frank Bechtel; treasurer, Harold Fritz; Sunday School superintendent, Mrs. Arthur Fritz; assistant, Harlan Shellhammer; secretary, Dorothy Kerndt; treasurer, Lorayne Hartong.

~Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Wednesday evening edition, January 27, 1943
~contributed by S. Ferrall


Waukon - The Congregational church at Churchtown, a country parish between Waukon and Lansing, has been accepted into the Presbyterian denomination. The church has been renamed the Lansing Ridge Presbyterian church and is a member of the Dubuque Presbytery.

~Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 20, 1954
~contributed by S. Ferrall


Sunday, Aug. 30, Rev. Henry Marks was the afternoon speaker at the Centennial Celebration of the Lansing Ridge Presbyterian Church. Rev. Marks was pastor of this church and the German Presbyterian Church in Lansing, Iowa, from 1938-44.

~Muscatine Journal, September 4, 1964
~contributed by S. Ferrall


The annual mission fest of Lansing Ridge Presbyterian church will be observed Sunday. The Rev. William Tjaden, pastor of First Presbyterian church, Waukon will be the guest speaker.

~Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 16, 1965
~contributed by S. Ferrall


The Lansing Ridge Retreat Center will hold an open house this Sunday afternoon, October 29, to formally recognize its readiness for use. The town of Church (Churchtown) will then witness a new development in the long history of Christian work located in the community.

Formerly the Lansing Ridge United Presbyterian Church, the property which includes three buildings, has been prepared for use as a center for the holding of officers' conferences, men's or women's meetings, and, for "retreats" for youth groups of all area churches.

According to some records, travelling ministers preached to neighbors assembled at farm homes in the area, resulting in the establishment of a German Evangelical Church on August 21, 1864. The Christian work changed hands and titles several times since that first organizational movement, being associated with the Association of Evangelical Churches, the German Evangelical Congregational Church, and the Northeast Congregational Association of Iowa.

In 1954, the congregation became a part of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (later merged into the United Presbyterian Church), and on July 2, 1967, the Lansing Ridge facilities were retired by the congregation, and the work of the Church was continued by merging with the First United Presbyterian Church of Waukon.

The Retreat Center is comprised of three buildings on the east side of the highway at Church: the Sanctuary, erected in 1868; the Fellowship Hall, 1929; and the Public School, purchased in 1958.

~Postville Herald, October 25, 1967
~contributed by S. Ferrall


Rebuilt Church is Lay Preacher’s Mission
Story by Jerome R. Rosso - Photos by Elnora Robey

CHURCHTOWN, Iowa — Verlyn Hayes is a missionary. His territory is northeast Iowa. "People think of mission projects and missionaries as being overseas," he says. "That’s not entirely true." Missionaries often build their own churches. Hayes isn’t doing that, but he is virtually rebuilding one, a vacant church he bought in a place called, appropriately enough, Churchtown, between Lansing and Waukon. Hayes is a member of the Church of Christ. "I’m not an ordained minister. Just a lay preacher," he’s careful to point out. But in his missionary project, he has enlisted the help of Church of Christ congregations near his hometown of Adel, and ordained ministers from Church of Christ churches as far away as La Crosse and Onalaska have been conducting Sunday services in the Churchtown church. The arrangement is just temporary, Hayes says, until the Churchtown congregation can get organized and hire its own minister. That, he says, should be sometime this summer. When the Churchtown Church of Christ organizes, services won’t be the only activity on the site. Hayes and his supporters also have plans to conduct a summer Bible camp on the property.

Hayes is a native of northeast Iowa. He says the geography of the Coulee Region keeps drawing him back. "It’s got everything. It’s got the beauty of the mountains without the harshness. It’s got the waters of the Mississippi. It’s got all kinds of vegetation like in the jungles." He was born in Postville, Feb. 7, 1940. His father, Herbert, was a school teacher, an athletics coach and a school administrator in various parts of Iowa for 43 years before retiring in 1971. That’s when the Hayes’ began looking for a retirement home, which the as-yet-unmarried Verlyn would share with them. While they were looking, Hayes came across an ad for the Churchtown property: three buildings on 0.86 acres of land for $3,300. "I was so poor then I only had $1,300 in the bank," says Hayes. He borrowed the rest from the Kerndt Bros. State Bank in Lansing, repaying it "at $91.38 a month for two years." After he got that paid off, Hayes promptly took out another loan from Kerndt, this time to help pay for $3,800 in repairs to the building, largely to put a new roof on the church. There were still more repairs required at the church, which Hayes thinks must be more than a century old. He has no direct proof of its age, but the school next door, which was a public school, was built in 1875. Hayes thinks the church must be at least as old.

Churchtown church

The Churchtown, Iowa, Church of Christ is being used as a church again after being vacant for several years.

Verlyn Hayes

Lay preacher Verlyn Hayes stands in the pulpit of the church he rebuilt.

It was built by what was then the German Evangelical Congregational Society of Lansing Ridge, the name of the ridge on which Churchtown is sited. Hayes says that despite Iowa’s road maps and the road signs at the community’s edges that the real name of the place is Church, not Churchtown. The original congregation went through various mergers with Presbyterian and Methodist congregations nearby and, as mobility increased, in Lansing. The building was used for various church purposes until about 1960. For 10 or 15 years, Hayes says, it stood idle.

Eventually it was sold at auction to a Churchtown family that planned to make it into a house. But the family decided to sell it. That’s when Hayes came into the picture. "It was like a ghost house then," Hayes remembers. "The windows were broken out. The wall covering and the paint was peeling off. The floors were bare. There was no pulpit. The only thing left inside was the pews...it was returning to nature." Hayes started having repairs made, hiring, he says, local workmen and contractors to do the work — like carpenter Fred Keatley and Waukon painting contractor Mike Olson. The building has been insulated, the floors carpeted, white oak paneling put part way up the walls, the rest of the walls and the pews painted and the place decorated and furnished.

"We’re not ecumenical spiritually, but we are ecumenical physically," says Hayes, noting that the piano was purchased from a Lutheran church, the pulpit from a Catholic church and the hymnals from a Presbyterian church. All that work followed the roof repair job. "By that time," Hayes says, "the Lord impressed on me it was going to be too big a job for me to do alone. And I didn’t want it to be just mine. I wanted to involve the church. I’m not look for personal rewards, just to help the Lord and further his work in this area." Hayes turned to other Iowa Church of Christ congregations for help. "We’re not a denominational church because we have no state, or national or international organizations," says Hayes. But he adds that existing congregations do help new ones get started. He got his help from the Church of Christ congregation in Yale and the Washington Chapel Church of Christ, north of Adel.

To take title to the Churchtown property and be responsible for church functions there until a congregation is established, a corporation was set up, with the Yale congregation’s minister, Gene Lockling, named president. Hayes is on the five-member board of directors. At present, the corporation pays the church’s operating bills. Hayes says he and his parents finance about 70 percent of the corporation’s budget, with the rest coming from other sources. Once the Churchtown congregation is established, says Hayes, it can use the church rent-free, merely paying the utility and heat bills and the like, as well as the salary of its own minister. The corporation will retain title to the property so the buildings can also be used for the Bible camp. For camp purposes, Hayes says, the fellowship hall, which already has kitchen and dining areas, will be expanded to include men’s and women’s dormitories. Sunday school rooms will be developed in the church basement. And the old school will be redecorated but will continue to be used for educational purposes.

The Bible study program will be "closely supervised," Hayes says. "The local people won’t have to worry about being swamped by hordes of kids." Meanwhile, Hayes is traveling every weekend from Adel to Waukon, where he stays in a motel, to be at services in the church. Those services aren’t always well attended, he admits. He’s working on building up a congregation and says there are 10 or 12 families that have expressed an interest. When opening services were held in the church Thanksgiving Day 1977, 33 persons attended, drawn by the event and by the appearance of a gospel singing group. Is there any prospect for financial gain for Hayes from all this activity? Hayes thinks he’s already had his reward. "When you tithe to the Lord, you are repaid," he says.

~La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse, WI, February 2, 1980; photos & article
~transcribed by Errin Wilker


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