United Methodist Church

Grand River, Iowa
Church Burns.
The Lamoni Chronicle
October 21, 1909

During the storm of Saturday night the Methodist church was struck by lightning and completely destroyed. About six o'clock the storm was at its worst and a sharp crash of thunder reverberated over the town. In a few minutes fire was discovered in the belfry of the church. The rain was pouring down in torrents but the fire progressed rapidly in spite of it. In a few moments the blaze had gained the inside of the attic where the birds of the past two decades had stored a half ton of hay. As soon as the flames reached this roof began to burn from the inside and shortly the entire church was a roaring wall of flames. In two hours nothing remained but the charred frame which had fallen outward. Those who first reached the scene did what they could to save the furniture. Almost all of it was saved as the fire was burning from the top of the building. The lights could not be taken down as there were no stepladders handy to get them.

They were the most valuable articles lost as it was a brand new gasoline plant, just installed last Friday. The plant was saved, but the piping and fixtures were destroyed. The pews were torn from the floor and thrown outside but they were for the most part rendered useless by splitting them up. The organ and stoves were taken away safely.

-Grand River Local.

Copied by Stacey McDowell Dietiker, April 19, 2003
New M. E. Church Corner Stone Laid at Grand River Today.
The Leon Reporter
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Wednesday, June 15, 1911, Page 1

The corner stone of the new $10,000 M. E. church at Grand River to replace the structure which was destroyed by fire, will be laid with appropriate ceremonies, this (Wednesday) evening at 7 o'clock. Rev. R. R. Yelland, of New Virginia, a former pastor the Grand River church, will have charge of the services and deliver an address suitable for the memorable occasion.
Church Dedication.
The Leon Reporter
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Wednesday, November 20, 1911, Page 1

The new M. E. church at Grand River, Iowa, will be dedicated on Dec. 3rd, 1911. Dr. Edwin A. Schell, of the Iowa Wesleyan University of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, will officiate. Free entertainment will be furnished those from abroad. --  Rev. C. Knoll, Pastor
Grand River M. E. Church Dedicated
Free of Debt.
The Leon Reporter
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Wednesday, December 07, 1911, Page 1

The beautiful, commodious M. E. church at Grand River, Iowa, was dedicated at Grand River, Iowa, Sunday, Dec. 3, 1911, free from all debt, with a surplus of $1000.00

The financial and conducting of all services was under the management of Dr. Edwin A. Schell, of the Iowa Wesleyan University at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. At 10 o'clock in the morning the services were opened by singing, lead by the choir, following this was a sermon by Dr. Schell, after which the statement was made that $4200.00 was needed to pay all indebtedness. After 40 minutes $4,100.00 had been secured on the subscription.

In the afternoon at 3 o'clock a platform meeting was held participated in by Dr. Schell, A. A. Thompson, District Superintendent, Rev. L. L. Nickols, the pastor, and several of the official board of trustees of the church with several selected songs by the choir and a solo by Mrs. Vern Beck, of Davis City, Iowa.

At 7 o'clock in the evening the Dr. Edwin A. Schell preached another sermon and gave opportunity to all those that desired to contribute to the church to do so.

After this the statement was made that during the day that almost $4900.00 had been secured. The church was then formally dedicated to the worship of God.

The structure is of brick and stone, modern throughout. The cost of the entire building including the furniture is about $11000.00. Much credit for the successful consummation of the enterprise is due to the tactful management and faithful work of Dr. Edwin A. Schell, also the persistent and faithful work of the board of trustees with the liberal contribution of the membership of the church and the general public. Much pleasure and profit was realized from the faithful and efficient help rendered by the choir. Mrs. Vern Beck and Mrs. Ruby Ticknor presided at the pianos, Mrs. Beck also rendered some touching solos in the evening and morning services, and the Quartet in the evening. A general old fashioned hand shake and benediction by the pastor closed the services of the day.

Transcriptions by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2015
When the new brick church was first constructed, it featured a dome over the sanctuary. Some time in either the 1930's or 1940's the dome was removed due to leakage problems.

Back row -- Rev & Mrs P H Hawk, Cleta Beard, Elsie Draper, Ruth Beck, Mina Combs, Opal Binning, Alverda Snyder, Ruth Shields.

Next row -- Howard Beard, Arthur Sipherd, Ruphert Hawk, Clarence Baker, Earl Baker, Floyd Campbell, Ronald Sipherd, Paul Hawk, Carl Draper, Mansel Burham, Lloyd Sipherd, Vesia Beard, Blanche Crawford, Vivian Latta, Venis Synder, Emma Landis, Ruby Baker, Margaret Shields, Ruby Binning, Florence Jennings.

Front row -- Esther Beard, Irvin Sipherd, Francis Hawk, Louise Crawford, Georgetta Snyder, Carmelita Beck, Pearle Bakers, Maxine Snyder.


Back row -- Bessie Overholtzer, Kitty Hewlett, Emma Brown, Irene Stark, Mrs. Dr. Mitchell, Edith Street, Nora Switzer, Ella Burham, Cora Gard, Margaret Baker, Mrs. Arthur Blair.

Middle row -- Alice Street, Hazel Hines, Mrs. Rall Brennaman, Hannah Baker, Grandma Boyd, Mrs. Mulchay, Mary Brennaman, Mrs. Hamilton, Anna Sperring, Mattie Bryant.

Children -- June Brennaman Street, Max, Morris Blair, Merna Overholtzer McDowell, Phyllis Street Kortaska, Wilma Baker Haines.

Above photographs courtesy of Chris Overholtzer

Top, Chris Overholtzer; row below, Bob Boles, Bob Jimmerson, Jack Van Laar; next row below, Virginia Shields, Frances Jimmerson, unknown, Linda Nichols; next room below, unknown, Melod* *hurst, Jesse Crees, unknown (Maria Taylor?), Cheryl Thomas. Bottom row, Larry Griffin, Retta Griffin, Joyce Stark, Cathy Burchett, Deanna Baker, Sharon Becker, and choir director Wayne Burchett.

Grand River Methodist Church, 1985 Christmas Program

1st Row, L-R: Tyler Tritten, Wesley Griffin, Misty Boles, Noelle Tritten, Kandi Becker, Jenni Boles holding Megan Gibson

2nd Row, L-R (starting behind Misty Boles): Shawna Boles, Amber Binning, Nicole Stuck, Emily Griffin, Tisha Becker, Linda Gibson, Adam Taylor

3rd Row, L-R: Tiffani Evans, Tonya Baker, Melissa Binning, Jeremy Griffin, Jon Binning, Nathan Taylor, Charlie Gibson, Eric Boles

4th Row, L-R: Sonya Thomas (neighbor of Jenni's), Toshia Baker, Kerri Deemer, Teresa Gage (from Kellerton), Dawn Marya Hewlett, Julie Vanderflught

The west wall of the church began to pull away from the roof and several bricks fell from the wall. Due to the enormity of the expense required to properly repair the structure, sadly the church was demolished.
NOTE: The cornerstone of The United Church of Diagonal, originally a Methodist Episcopal Church, was laid in 1911, the same year that Grand River's Methodist Church was built. Diagonal's church had a dome over the sanctuary. Van Wert's Methodist Church was dedicated in 1914. Upon comparing photographs of the three churches, I believe the same architect built both churches. However I have not been able to verify this. ~ Sharon Becker

UPDATE, courtesy of assistance from Justin Akers and Jenni Boles Determan, with a bit of researching:

Grand River's United Methodist Church was designed by architect O. A. [Oran Alonzo] Hougland. He was born September 6, 1859 in Missouri. He came to Chariton, Iowa, in 1876 and began a career as a carpenter, builder and contractor. At the turn of the century, 1900, his career as an architect boomed. He designed many buildings in Chariton and the Lucas County Home. He was the architect of Chariton's First Presbyterian Church which was built in 1909 and dedicated in February of 1909. Corning's First Methodist Church, also was of his 1908 design. In 1910, seven churches were in various stage of construction, all using his designs - Promise City, Humeston, Carlisle, Milo, Clearfield, Grand River and Van Wert. Of these churches, the Milo Church burned in 1921; Clearfield Church has been demolished; Humeston and Grand River churches have been demolished, too; Diagonal's Church has been torn down and replaced. The church at Promise City still (2010) stands but has been closed and most of the interior work has been removed. Van Wert's United Methodist Church continues to thrive.

O. A. Hougland died suddenly on August 8, 1912, while in Lenox shortly after signing a contract to design a hotel there. He was interred at Chariton.

"Death of O. A. Hougland." The Chariton Leader, Chariton IA. Aug. 15, 1912.
1969 Grand River Alumni book

Compiled by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2015
Grand River United Methodist Church, March 22, 2011
Church & window photographs courtesy of Chris Overholtzer, December of 2013

Singing Christmas Tree photograph courtesy of Cheryl Thomas Grose, December of 2013

1985 Christmas program photograph courtesy of Jenni Boles Determann, January of 2014

2009 Photographs & submission by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2013; updated January of 2014; updated November of 2015 
Church Index     *     Decatur County IAGenWeb