Church of the Brethren

Leon, Iowa
Construction of Leon's Brethren Church
Courtesy of Decatur County Museum, Leon IA
Courtesy of Decatur County Museum, Leon IA 
Brethren Church, Leon IA, 1930's
Courtesy of S.R. Becker 
 The Leon Reporter
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
October 22, 1914

New Brethren Church will be Dedicated on Sunday, Oct. 25th, with Appropriate Services. The new Brethren church on north Church street, is having the finishing touches put to it this week, and it will be ready for the dedication services on next Sunday, and it is one of the finest churches in southern Iowa.

The formal dedication of the new church will be held at 11 o'clock, when the dedication sermon will be preached by Rev. W. H. Beachler, pastor of the First Brethren Church at Waterloo, the leading church of this denomination in Iowa. Rev. Beachler is a man of prominence and a fine speaker. He is president of the Iowa State Sunday School Association, and is Moderator of the National Conference of the Brethren Church. Special music has been provided for all the services on dedication day.

At 2:30 o'clock, there will be a Fellowship meeting held at the new church, in which all the pastors of Leon will participate, and a special invitation is extended to everybody to attend not only the afternoon services but those at 11 o'clock in the morning and at 7:30 in the evening. At the afternoon service there will be a special choir which is being drilled for the service by W. E. Kemp, and the music will be a special feature.

The new church has a seating capacity of about four hundred so there will be plenty of room for all who desire to attend any of the services next Sunday.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2015 
Decatur County Journal
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
October 29, 1914 

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Fine New Building Erected By the Brethren Opened to the Public.

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Rev. W.H. Beachler, of Waterloo, Delivered the Dedicatory Sermon.
Conducted Dedication Services. 
Courtesy of Decatur County Museum, Leon IA  
 The threatening weather of preceding days gave place to a brilliant day for the Brethren Church dedication last Sunday. The program was a success throughout, the crowds large and sympathetic and the financial end fell only a very little short of expectations.

After a piano prelude and the "Gloria Patri" by the standing congregation the invocation was pronounced by Rev. G.T. Ronk, the Pastor of the Church, The "Coronation" hymn was sung by the congregation. The scripture was read by W.H. Beachler, Pastor of the First Brethren Church, Waterloo. The chorus "Immanuel" was brilliantly rendered by the choir of about thirty-six voices under the direction of Prof. Kemp. After prayer and the announcement the duet "Jesus Will" was sung by Sam Garber and Prof. Kemp, supported by the full choir in chorus.

At this time the sermon of the morning was preached by Rev. W.H. Beachler. It was a brilliant and masterful discourse on the place and mission of the church. Rev. Beachler is one of the leading preachers of the state, gifted with eloquence, vision and unbounded enthusiasm and did full justice to the subject and the occasion.

At the conclusion of the sermon a stirring appeal was made in behalf of the special dedication offering and a splendid response was given. The doxology was sung and the benediction pronounced.

Owing to the unfinished condition of the basement the school board had kindly allowed the use of the high school science rooms for the lunch hour. There a room full of country and city folks gathered for such a repast as Decatur County cooks know how to spread.

At 2:30 the house was again full to overflowing for the fellowship service. The following ministers were on the platform as the representatives of the other churches of the city: Rev. Johnson, Pastor of the Christian Church; Rev. Jacobs, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church; Rev. Fansher, Pastor of the Methodist Church; Rev. Reeder, of the Baptist Church.

The afternoon program was short and breezy. The congregation sang with great spirit "Loyalty to Christ," following the piano prelude. Rev. Jacobs read the scripture lesson, after which the chorus and congregation sang the beautiful song, "The Touch of His Hand on Mine." Preceding the announcements, Rev. Fansher lead in prayer. The choir then sang the chorus "Harvest Time".

Revs. Reeder, Johnson, Jacobs, Fansher in order made short and happy addresses of greeting and congratulation after which Rev. Beachler responded with remarks and greeting from his congregation and the organized state Sunday School work of which he is president. Another offering was received after which the old song, "The Way of the Cross Leads Home," was sung. Rev. Johnson pronounced the benediction.

The house was again full for the 7:30 evening service. Prof. Kemp sang as a solo the old classic favorite, "The Holy City." The scripture was read by Rev. Beachler, after which "My Father Knows," was sung as a solo by Sam Garber with chorus by the full choir. After this beautiful and touching number Rev. Ronk lead in prayer. Before the sermon the choir again sang, this time the "Awakening Chorus."

Rev. Beachler again brought a masterful discourse of evangelistic tone. The offering was received and the dedicatory prayer was made by Rev. Beachler. In closing the hymn, "Come, Almighty King," was sung and the benediction pronounced.

The building as completed cost something over $7,000 including the location. The deficit of something over $2,500 is backed by two mission boards and will be met in three annual installments. The amount subscribed at the dedication services was near $2,000.

For the present week a great revival meeting is getting under way under the leadership of Rev. G.T. Ronk, Pastor Evangelist.  
A Brief Description of the Building 
 The church is of a distinctly new type, being a modification for religious purposes of what is known as the bungalow style. There are but few churches built along this line in the country and none known to the writer of so distinctly the bungalow type; the chief variation being in the steeper pitch of roof made as a compromise with convention and also necessary to maintain the symmetrical lines and give that airy appearance which is the chief distinction of this building.

Though the structure is quite large it appears small and dainty. One would not suspect from its appearance that it is 78x50 feet at its greatest dimensions and almost 40 feet high to the ridge roll, with a capacity of about 400.

The building is frame, covered with stucco and shingles, built on a very heavy foundation of concrete and paving brick with hollow tile. The basement wall varies from thirteen to twenty-two inches in thickness.

The stucco forms a belt seven feet wide around the building, reaching to the water table at the window line. The shingles on the sides and roof are stained a beautiful golden leather brown. Ridge roll, cornice and all trimmings are in pure white.

The windows are specially designed with a series of three casements and a transom sash above, all opening out. The glass is a uniform grade of green opal on a white and amber base.

The front is of the over-hung gable, inset porch effect with pergola beamed ceiling. The front doors are oak slabs in six-paned bungalow style. Four pillars support the gable.

Inside the building a stairway leads from the small entry to the basement. The main auditorium has a drop floor and heavy oak beamed ceiling with walls balanced by picture rail and chair rail. The ceiling is painted cream, the walls light tan and the base from the chair rail down a dark tan. Beautiful electric fixtures in classic design at the beam intersections hold large moonstone reflectors. All light is diffused. The shape of the building in the form of a cross is carried out in the panels of the large doors which divide off the three Sunday school rooms from the auditorium, yet allow the whole building to be converted for auditorium purposes. The aisle and platform carpet is tan and brown set off with green.

The pews are straight with shaped backs and seats and massive modern ends. The large oak settee in genuine Spanish leather is the gift of the "Boosters" young men's class at Crown Chapel.

The basement is still unfinished, but will be completed the following season. There will be wood floor over water-proof cement. The walls will be plastered and tinted and eight Sunday School rooms provided, besides two dressing rooms, furnace room, fuel room.

The building is heated with low pressure steam plant. Ventilation is provided for by transom sashes and ceiling ventilator. It is comfortable and attractive throughout and well meets the great requirements of beauty, utility and economy of construction and maintenance.

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The work of the Brethren began in Decatur County in 1856 when Elder Abraham Repiogie, of Appanoose County gathered together the members of the church at the village of Franklin and organized them into a church with William J. Stout, Samuel A. Garber and Harvey Spurlock as the ministers in charge. The charter members were Susan Hendricks, Jacob Sears and wife, Christ Heaston and wife, Jacob Heaston and wife, Samuel Sears, William Stout and wife, Harvey Spurlock and wife, Samuel Garber and wife, Jas. Ownesby and wife. The first communion was held at the home of Jas. Ownesby at Decatur City.

As long as they lived, Elders Stout and Garber went everywhere preaching the gospel with apostolic fervor according to the interpretation of the Brethren. As a result thirty years ago there was scarcely a person in the county but who had heard one of the elders preach, and adherents to the faith of the Brethren are to be found in every corner of the county.

The following are some of the places in Decatur County where they preached with some regularity at various times: Franklin M.E. Church, Franklin School, White Oak, Pleasant View, Whitehall, Bradney, Reynolds, McAlister, High Point, Kendall, Riddle, Beavers, West Eden, Welcome, Virnon Ridge, Jack Oak, Rauch, Decatur City, Stone, Foland, Westerville, Machlan, Wilson, Elm--mostly school houses. They also preached in Mercer, Nodaway, Harrison and other Missouri counties as well as almost every county in southern Iowa. This is an astonishing field of labor for these pioneer preachers who earned their living by farming. We gladly pay them the tribute of our admiration and praise.

The first Brethren Church was built in Decatur County in 1874 at a point about six miles northeast of Leon where it still stands and is known as Franklin Church.

In 1883 came the unfortunate division of the Brethren over the question largely of uniformity in religious garb. The liberal conference joined with the Presbyterians in building a union chapel at Crown, where more converts have been made doubtless than at any other church in the county during twenty years. The following preachers have served there: S.H. Bashor, Mrs. Clara Flora, Noah Flora, Isaac Thomas, Sadie Gibbons, W.A. Witty, S.G. Wood, F. Rawlinson, J.F. and F.A. Garber, G.T. Ronk.

The church at Union Chapel was organized in October, 1912. The church in Leon was begun May 28, 1914, the lot having been purchased in October, 1913.

Copied by Nancee (McMurtrey) Seifrit 
 The Leon Journal-Reporter
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Thursday, July 14, 1938, Page 2

The W.M.S. of the Brethren church held a meeting at the country home of Mrs. Mart Newlin Saturday afternoon. Miss Letha Bunch was in charge of the lesson. Officers elected for the coming year are: President, Mrs. Hale; vice president, Mrs. Milt Manchester; secretary, Mrs. Oscar Mills; assistant secretary, Mrs. Elza Smith; treasurer, Mrs. Jennie Manchester; corresponding secretary, Mrs. Newlin; patroness for S. M. M., Mrs. Carter; assistant patroness for S. M. M., Mrs. Miles Taber. The August meeting will be held with Mrs. Arthur Daivs. Mrs. Gittinger will be the leader.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2015 
2013 Photograph courtesy of Norma G. (Foland) Becker, July of 2013
Other photographs courtesy of Decatur County Historical Museum, Leon IA, July of 2015 
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