History of the Methodist Church

Leon, Iowa
Though we are celebrating today [1964] the 75th Anniversary of the dedication of Loving Chapel, the history of Methodism here started in 1859 when John Patterson and his wife came to Decatur County. Mr. and Mrs. Patterson were devout Methodists. As soon as they had built their cabin on the hill where the Leon Cemetry is now located, they started to hunt other Methodist, so that class meetings could be held.

In March 1851 Mr. Patterson walked through the snow to the home of John Jordan in Eden Township, to meet the Reverend Klepper, who was too ill to travel further but not too ill to organize as a church the little Methodist class that had been meeting at [the] Pattersons.

John and Pamela (Pamelie) Patterson, who in later years were known in the church as Uncle Johnny and Auntie Patterson, William Burk, an "exhorter", and his wife Cynthia, Artemesia and John Jordan, at whose home the church was organized, Lou Anna (Lou Annie) Mc Ilvain, Abner Harber, Levi Clark and Ishmael Barnes were the charter members of the church.

For several years meetings were held at the Patterson cabin. Mr. Patterson, probably assisted by Mr. Burk, continued to conduct most of the services as the Reverend Briggs, assigned to include Decatur County in his circuit, was present only three times in 1851 and it is not probable that any minister came often in those first years.

The first Sunday School in the county was established in 1851 with Mr. Patterson as Superintendent.

In 1853, Independence (the name was changed to Leon in 1854) was established as the county seat of Decatur County asn as the number attending church increased as the the little settlement grew, the meetings were held in the court house. During part of this time the Methodists and the Presbyterians shared a room and the Methodist services were held every other Sunday.

Just before the Civil War the Methodists started a church building which was to cost $1200 and was built where the library is now located. Though this building was used during the war both for church services and for school, it was not dedicated until December 1865.

By 1865 the Leon Circuit was Leon, Franklin, White Oak, Eden, Dunns, Bradney and Decatur City, which, considering that fifteen years earlier the Reverend Briggs had a circuit of six counties made a appointment to the Leon Circuit much more desirable than the one to include Decatur County in 1850. Though there was no parsonage, the minister and his family had a home in Leon by living in a rented parsonage.

During the Civil War, the pastors appointed to this circuit were loyal unionists. Samuel Farlow who was the minister here in 1863, was so outspoken in his support in both his sermons and his prayers, that John Patterson warned him that pro-southerners in the county might kill him. It was in 1863 that a resolution was adopted that stated that members of the Methodist Church in Leon would not fellowship with those who supported the Rebellion.

From the Civil War to 1889 services were held in the church dedicated in 1865.

Between 1875 and 1877 over $500 was spent and much labor donated to improve this church building. A belfry was built and a bell purchased in 1877. The church had been without a bell since 1866, when a schoolhouse was built, as the bell used during this time belonged to the school district.

In 1877 L. P. Sigler and W. M. Wood gave the church its first organ.

During the early years of the church the minister's salary was paid partly in cash and partly in produce. In 1863 each member was assessed $2.75 to pay the "quarterage". In 1864 he minister's salary was fixed at $600. This gradually increased to $1000 and a parsonage owned by the church was included.

Services called revival meetings or protracted meeting were held regularly. One held in 1875 added at least 50 members and the union services held in 1885 by a Mr. Deane increased the membership even more.
In 1886 it was proposed that a new building be planned and in 1889 the present church was dedicated.

Seventy-five years ago the Methodists in Leon were fortunate in several ways.

First of all there was the gift of $5000 by William and Elizabeth Loving in whose memory this church is named Loving Chapel.

Secondly, the appointment of James Boreman as minister was most fortunate. As James Penniwell said, "Reverend Boreman threw off his Prince Albert coat and put on common peoples clothes. He took hold of the work with an earnestness that set all the rest of us moving lively".

A third advantage was the selection of James Penniwell to be in charge of the building. It was he who presented a plan with the transepts forming the building designed in the shape of a cross and who placed the beautiful windows so effectively.

The greatest asset of all was the devotion of so many members working together. There was no one of great wealth in the church. The building fund grew because men and women were willing to sacrifice in order to give.

It would be impossible to name all who helped, even if they were known. Mention should, however, be made of who indebted the church was to L. P. Sigler who as a banker gave guidance when financial problems were concerned and who devoted so much time and thought to the affairs of the church. Other members of the Board of Trustees in 1889 included John Harvey, Calvin Hoffman, I. R. Atlee, E. H. Lewis, J. Holdeman and I. N. Clark.

It should also be remembered that not only did members of the church give generously to the building fund but many who were not members contributed.

The entire cost of the church was about $10,000.

During the seventy-five years since the church was dedicated whatever has happened in the community and in the nation has been part of the life of the church.

Men left the church here in 1898 and 1899 to serve in the Spanish-American War.

In 1917 - 1918 there were many stars on the church service flag some of which turned to gold.

Perhaps at no time had the church so many young men attending church as just before World War I. This was due in part to the effect of the Harper Revival just before the war and also to the influence of the Baraca Sunday School Class taught by Miss Mabel Horner which had a large membership of young men and older boys.

Again in World War II young men of the church were in the armed forces.

The shadows of the depression fell on the church as elsewhere. The years of the cold war made new demands.

Ministers have come and gone between 1889 and 1964. Each one is remembered for what he was, and what he did for our church and for the service of God. There have been children of the parsonage who are remembered with affection and wives of ministers to whom the church is much indebted.

While ministers have come and gone, there have been men and women who have followed Uncle Johnny and Auntie Patterson in giving devoted service to the church. Mention has already been made of L. P. Sigler, William Craig, known in the church as "Brother Craig" for years carried many of the burdens of the church. In the years since these two have gone, others have served with equal devotion.

Some of these remembered with appreciation today were teachers in the Sunday School or held the office first held by John Patterson, Superintendent of the Sunday School. Some were women who worked tirelessly in the Guild, in the Missionary Society, or in later years, in the Women's Society of Christian Service (WSCS). Some sang in the choir or played the organ, others were members of the official Board or lay leaders. Some gave time, some money, many gave both.

In the years after World War II many improvements have been made in Loving Chapel. Just as when it was built it has been kept in repair and made more beautiful and more useful because men and women have been willing to give of their time and money.

During the pastorage of Mr. Royhill, a new parsonage was purchased and named Kirk Manor in recognition of Mrs. Kirk's part in making the purchase possible. The first parsonage had been purchased in 1875.

The years to come will bring new needs and call for increased devotion.

"Let us serve the Lord with gladness".

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2017
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