Clinton's Church History 

Source: Clinton Herald, Sunday, July 4, 1976. There is a photo of the Community Congregational Church. 

Settlers Established Places of Worship

"Where two or more are gathered in My name, there am I in their midst."

These words of Our Lord explain the desire of this country's early settlers to establish places of community worship.

Although prayer was prevalent in many homes two centuries ago, it wasn't long after pioneers settled in this area that the plans were inaugurated for places where people could gather for worship and fellowship.

It was at the urging of Elijah Buell, who built his cabin in what is now Lyons in the fall of 1835, that the first church in the area was established.

Buell not only encouraged the Missionary Society (Congregational) to establish a church, but donated land and money for construction of the church ediface.

The formal draft of the church policy and statement of faith took place in 1839 at the Henry Ustick home in Union Grove and the first parish was founded, years before the first charter was given to the City of Clinton in 1857, with boundaries extending from Lyons to Union Grove.

In addition to providing a place of worship, the church was dedicated to curbing injustices prevalent in the area and discouraging the evils of slaveholding, gambling, cheating and drunkenness among men in the city.

The first Community church was located north of the present St. Irenaeus Church, but when waters and swampy conditions made it difficult to reach the church it was decided to build a new structure at Main Avenue and 2nd Street.

The new church was dedicated in 1857 and when the depression in 1895 made it difficult to keep the church solvent, merger plans were discussed with First Presbyterian Church (built in 1856).

Although initial merger plans were unsuccessful, after years of discussion and debate the two churches did merge in 1920 in the First Presbyterian building at 2300 Pershing Blvd.

St. Irenaeus

As more and more pioneers settled in the Clinton area, the diversity of faiths and beliefs prompted the organization of churches of various denominations.

St. Irenaeus became the first church to serve members of the Catholic faith when it was founded in 1848, the first Catholic parish in Clinton County.

The first Mass was offered by Bishop Matthew Loras of Dubuque in 1848 in the home of Michael Daley at 32nd Avenue North and 3rd Street.

Visiting priests continued to celebrate Mass, including the Rev. F. C. Jean who became the first resident pastor in 1851 and undertook the task of building the first church at Garfield Street and 25th Avenue North.

Under Father Jean's guidance, the church continued to grow, and the first Catholic school was built. Within 10 years, the membership had outgrown the small church and a larger frame structure was constructed on the corner of the present church grounds.

The cornerstone for the present Gothic structure, modeled after the cathedral of St. Irenaeus in France, was laid in 1864, and the building was completed in 1871 at a cost of $45,000.

(Since all of the Catholic churches have combined, St. Irenaeus is now owned by the Clinton County Historical Society.)

First Presbyterian

The third religious denomination to establish a church in the Lyons area was Presbyterian, when a group of 12 met in a school house on Garfield Street in 1855 and organized First Presbyterian Church of Lyons.

For several months, services were conducted by a Presbyterian minister from New York in the concert hall at Grant Street and 25th Avenue North.

With his own money, the minister, the Rev. Daniel Clark Jr., purchased Lots 1 and 2 at the corner of 7th and Exchange Streets, for construction of a frame building which stood for more than 45 years.

In 1906, the church was razed to make room for the building now occupied by Community Congregational Church.

Grace Episcopal

The community of Lyons, considered one of the most promising towns of the new state in 1855, continued to attract settlers of many faiths, and prompted the Rev. Hiram W. Beers to organize an Episcopal church.

Fund raising plans began in 1865 and Grace Episcopal Church was built at a cost of $4,500.  Grace Guild was organized in 1877 with the first project the raising of funds to build a rectory.

Stained glass windows were added in 1878 and the altar cross was installed in 1885.  Improvements continued as funds permitted, and in 1899 a pipe organ was installed, a gift of W. T. Joyce.

Soon after the turn of the century, the parish hall was erected, only to be damaged by fire in 1933.  It was restored the following year.

St. Boniface

A second Catholic church came into being in 1863 when the German-speaking Catholics of Lyons held a meeting to discuss the advisability of organizing a new parish.

The church was named St. Boniface after the great apostle of the German people and the first pastor, Father Aloysius, was forced to resign in 1864 because of ill health after only one year of leadership.

Worship was held in the original building until 1908 when the present church was built and the old building converted to a parish hall. In 1864, a catholic school was built, the pioneer in Catholic education in the Clinton area. Immanuel Lutheran

Not long after the City of Clinton received its charter, the Rev. Mr. Hult of DeKalb came to Clinton to minister to Swedish immigrants and discussion soon began on the organization of a congregation.

Immanuel Lutheran

Not long after the City of Clinton received its charter, the Rev. Mr. Hult of DeKalb came to Clinton to minister to Swedish immigrants and discussion soon began on the organization of a congregation.

In 1972 [sic], the first Lutheran church in Clinton, Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Church, was organized with 66 members, and the congregation was accepted by Augustana Synod in September that year.

Land for the church building was purchased at 9th Avenue South and 5th Street with the church served by students from Augustana College when it was impossible to secure a resident pastor.

Despite the difficulty of securing and keeping a pastor, the church continued to grow and in 1928, a new pip organ and new altar were installed.

Immanuel was an entirely Swedish church until 1923 when it was changed to an English-speaking congregation and it began to flourish and increase in membership.

St. Stephen's Lutheran

As immigrants continued to settle in the Clinton area, the need for additional churches became apparent.

St. Stephen's Lutheran Church was founded in 1876 when a group of Danish people met in a rented building at 3rd Streed and founded "Den Daneske Evangelisk Lutheran St. Johannes Menighed."  The church later was called St. John's Danish Lutheran.

The first church edifice was dedicated in 1876 and from 80 members in 1877, it grew to more than 200 in 1889 when many young people came to Clinton to work in the sawmills.

Church membership dwindled in the 1900s when many members left to join other Danish settlements and in 1934, the practice of holding both English and Danish services was initiated.

The name St. Stephen's was adopted in 1950 when it was felt the language designation should be dropped as there no longer were Danish services and the congregation had become more American in membership and infuence.

And as the City of Clinton grew in size and population so did the number of churches, with 40 churches of 23 denominations now serving residents of Clinton.