History of the Osceola Methodist Church
Founded in 1854 present church built in 1894.
As far as present records can determine, the First Methodist Episcopal church (today the First Methodist Church) was the first to be organized in Osceola.
It was in the year 1854 that the Rev. Davis and 15 members gathered to form this first pioneer church. Charter members of the group included: Mr. and Mrs. L. D. Fowler, Mr. and Mrs. Dickenson Webster, Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Lanham, Mrs. Gardner, Mrs. Winkle, Miss Almina Lampson and Miss Lizzie Fowler. The first Sunday School superintendent was Dr. Jerome Bartlett.
The minutes of the Iowa Conference for 1855 state that Bishop Matthew Simpson appointed Jessie Sherwood to Osceola Mission in Albia district with J. L. Hammond for presiding elder. The conference of 1856 put it in the Chariton district with Pearl P. Ingalls as presiding elder.
Services were held in various buildings, but generally in a little school house that stood on East Cass Street, two blocks east of the present church or in the frame court house that stood on the northwest corner of the public square, where the county jail now stands.
In 1857 steps were taken to provide the congregation with a regular house of worship, and the lot occupied by the present church was purchased from James Mitchell and Jerome Bartlett. Due to a financial depression, little was done toward construction until the following year. The building committee consisted of H. C. Sigler, Jerome Bartlett and Dickinson Webster. Presiding elder was Richard S. Robinson.
The structure was large for the times and the conditions then existing. It was of the plain chapel type with the bell tower on the front, but it was substantially built of native lumber sawed at a home mill one mile south of town while the heavy timbers were hewed and shaped on the grounds. Much of the work was donated.The building was rough finished in 1861, but was not completed and dedicated until 1864, at a total cost of $3,000, including parsonage. Complete and furnished, nearly$6,000 was the cost.
In 1860 Francis H. Read was sent to Osceola and was the first minister to occupy the parsonage. Some items from the conference report of 1860 make interesting reading: "One church worth $2,500; one parsonage worth $500; salary $400; presiding elder $40; moving expense $7 - all paid." Rev. Read served for two years.
Rev. Willing was pastor from 1862 to 1863. There was a revival during his term when many Sunday school scholars joined the church. About this time the Sunday School became an important factor in the church life largely through the work of and the enthusiasm of H. C. Sigler. He was a young man at this time with strong personality and untiring vigor. He served as superintendent at various times for several years. He was a generous giver, fervent and devoted and a real evangelist.
Rev. H. B. Heacock followed and served the church one year. During this year the church building was completed and dedicated in June 1864. Rev. E.H. Winings was called back to conduct the dedication services.
Rev. Murphy came to the charge in 1864 and served one year. The Western Iowa Conference met here in annual session in September 1865. Bishop Simpsons presided and preached on Sunday. This conference appointed J. W. Todd to Osceola and Bennett Mitchell as presiding elder. In 1865 the Sunday School celebrated Christmas with a huge Christmas tree bearing a gift for every member.
Around 1865 a ripple of dissension arose among the members because a small reed organ had been brought into the church for use at Sunday School by Mr. Sigler. Some of the members were opposed to "machine music." The dissension was shortlived and the organ soon was used in all services.
In 1867 J. M. Conrad came and served one year. He was followed by Rev. J. C. R. Layton who served two years. During his pastorate a new and enlarged parsonage was built on the site of the old one. Rev. David (Daniel?) McIntyre was sent to the church in 1870,and under the new time limit was the first man to serve three years.
In 1872 a great union meeting was held which brought much good to all the churches of the town. It was held in what was known as Mintonye's Hall, now used by the Knights of Pythias, by an evangelist named Hammond.
F.W. Evans came to the work in 1873 and remained two years. In 1875 Rev. C. C. Mabee took the work and served one year. J. C. Wilson came in 1876 and was here two years. Rev. A. P. Hull was the preacher in 1878 but resigned in the middle of 1879 on account of his health. Rev. V. P. D. Vedder, young student from the east, came to finish the year and so acceptable was his work, he was returned for the third year. During his first year a revival was begun on Thanksgiving night and did not close until March and then only because the minister got sick and could do no more. It was during this pastorate that the Sunday School observed Children's Day for the first time in Osceola.
Rev. J. R. Horswell served the church faithfully from 1883 to 1885. He was considered one of the best sermonizers in the conference and he gave us some excellent examples of his ability. D. C. Franklin came next and remained three years. Rev. Burke became pastor in 1888 and was returned for the second year, but on account of ill health did no real work the last half of the year. Rev. W. O. Allen then became pastor and remained from 1890 to 1893.
In 1893 the Rev. D. Shenton was named pastor here, to remain three years, and it was during his pastorate that the present church building was erected.
The old church was moved across the street to the lot now occupied by Wilson's Skelly Service, and subsequently was transformed into Touet's Opera House.
The new building was constructed at a cost exceeding $12,000, and was dedicated by Dr. Kertz of St. Louis on November 19,1894.
Rev. W. E. Howe was pastor for one year and was followed in 1897 by Rev. Wm. Stevenson who remained two years. Rev. T. J. Wright came to work in 1899 and was returned in 1903 for the fifth year but on account of his wife's health he resigned early in the year. During the late winter of 1902 "Billy" Sunday held a union meeting.
Rev. C. H. Dawson finished the year left by Rev. Wright. Under his leadership the church wiped out a $2000 debt in less than five months. Rev. W. H. Shipman served for one year beginning in 1904. Rev. A. A. Walburn was assigned in 1905 and remained two years, followed by Rev. J. F. Davis who also served two years.
In 1909 Rev. O. B. Carpenter came and remained four years. During his pastorate the old parsonage was razed, and a neat commodious home replaced it at a cost of about $3,000.
In 1913 Rev. Boyers commenced serving and was there for at least two years. A church improvement program was undertaken in 1913 and completed at a cost of $5,000. It was about this time that Miss Eliza Mitchell, a teacher in the local schools, was recognized for her 51 years as a teacher in the Methodist Sunday School. Around 1915 the pipe organ was installed.
Sources: Centennial Edition, Osceola Sentinel, July 30, 1959; Clarke County Churches of Yesterday and Today, History of Clarke County
Graphics courtesy of: Christian Media
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