FIRST NINE YEARS OF THE METHODIST CHURCH
The following article was
written some years ago by Mrs. C. J. Friend, and appeared in a local
publication. As a reminiscence of the primitive church the sketch is
reproduced for the edification of the many readers of these pages:
On attempting to go back into the past to trace the origin of any
social structure, one is confronted with the difficulty of finding
really assured facts as a basis from which to work, because of the
very meager accounts committed to writing.
It would seem that those who were engaged in the struggle to
establish themselves in a new land, in organized conditions of life,
either secular or religious, had in their humility of mind so little
thought of the importance of the part they were playing in the
world's great drama, that it did not assume just proportions in
their own eyes, and consequently in their engrossment with the rigid
toil and hardship that is always the portion of the pioneer, they
failed to chronicle their simple deeds of achievement, and in after
years when a great nation or a prosperous organization has grown out
of these small beginnings and the effort is made to trace the
ever-widening and on-rolling stream back to its source, no really
adequate data can be found upon which to build correct historic
The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Manchester is no exception
to this general rule, and original records are chiefly remarkable
for their entire absence. But this we do know. It had a beginning,
and many facts pertaining thereto are very clear and lucid in the
memories of the few survivors of those early days who still remain
among us. Let us look a little while at the surroundings from which
our church sprang into existence.
Remember that Manchester was still unknown, that Burrington was
scarcely yet but a name, as only five years had elapsed since the
first pioneer located within the limits of what is now our pleasant
little city. During this half decade a few other settlers had come,
and like most sturdy pioneers, they brought with them that religious
zeal and fervor which carries with it that strength of purpose and
character necessary to the opening up of a new country, and it must
needs be that this should find outlet and expression in some united
effort for the cherishing and strengthening of such zeal.
Among the early preachers who traversed this yet sparsely settled
region, alone on horseback or perhaps on foot, and occasionally
administered the bread of life in some lone settler's cabin, to the
few scattered inhabitants who could be rallied together for the
occurrence, we find the name of Simeon Alger, to whom the annals
give the distinctive honor of forming the first class here in the
This as to time, upon which point there is no variance, but as to
place, authorities of seemingly equal importance differ. Some say in
the home of D. K. Fox, which was a part of what has been known of
late years as the Wilmot House. Others say it was in the kitchen of
Deacon Merrill's house, which was one of the first buildings in
Manchester, and is now the home of D. H. Young. The divergence of
opinion enables us come-afters to seize either horn of the dilemma,
according as personal predilection may favor.
Be this as it may, we do know that organic life for this church
began at the aforementioned time and was of that vigorous type that
early foretold the prosperous conditions which we of later days
As we read the honor roll of those forming the nucleus around which
others soon gathered we find the names of D. K. Fox and wife,
William Acers, Adolphus Hardenderf and Alminda Peer, and the latter
informs us that her mother, Mrs. Polly Witter, was also among these
charter members. D. K. Fox was appointed class leader and continued
so for three years.
Very soon the following named persons were added to the membership
roll: John Otis and wife, John Nethercut and wife and Sisters
Blanchard, Houghten and Loomis, and also I. P. Adams, who succeeded
D. K. Fox as class leader in 1858.
Who can fitly portray the courage manifested by this devoted band of
Christians as they contended with all the difficulties which would
naturally surround them in such an almost uninhabited land and so
faithfully nourished this small division of the great church
Services were held successively in the homes of the members and in
the schoolhouse, which stood on the north side of the central
schoolhouse lot and in Hulbert's Hall — the building now occupied by
Mr. Baxter. While only irregular preaching was possible they always
kept up a prayer meeting, and a church which does that can no more
die out than an individual can backslide who is habitually found at
this special mid-week service.
Let us pause a moment and dwell upon the lives of those, our
predecessors, and note the earnestness of purpose that actuated them
as they eagerly assembled themselves together whenever the call
went forth that a preacher had come to hold services, and no wonder
there were conversions at these meetings, for there was unity of aim
and a mutual sympathy, one with another, which also seems to depart
as numbers and prosperity increase.
Very early in the life of this church a series of meetings was begun
by the members themselves and it is related that D. K. Fox and John
Nethercut, who by this time had removed to their farms, used to walk
in, a distance of over two miles, every night to assist in the work.
Let us think of this in these pampered days when many of us are too
weary at night to walk two blocks to an evening meeting. After the
laymen had continued their efforts for a week the services of Rev.
S. C. Churchill were secured and a revival was the result, with
During 1856, 1857 and 1858 the following named preachers supplied
the circuit, extending many miles around: Revs. F. X. Miller, John
Webb, A. J. Van Anda and the before-named S. C. Churchill. The first
mention of this charge in the conference minutes was in 1859, under
the head of Delaware which meant a large part of the county and to
which charge Rev. John Webb was the appointed pastor.
Meantime, on January 23, 1857, the General Assembly of Iowa had
approved an act changing the name of the young town from Burrington
to Manchester, and this church, under the latter name, first appears
on the conference minutes in 1860, with Rev. J. P. Hestwood as
pastor, who reported a salary of $222.72 for his year's labor.
In 1861 Delhi and Manchester are found in the conference minutes as
united, with Reverends Hestwood and E. W. White as pastors, and
besides these places mentioned their fields of labor included Yankee
Settlement, Greeley, Hickory Grove and Bay Settlement, besides other
It was while occupying Hulbert's Hall that the Dubuque District
Ministerial Conference was first held in Manchester and as it was
then wartime, Rev. William Brush preached a patriotic sermon on the
last evening of the session. At its close some young men in the back
of the hall mistaking it for a Union speech, broke forth with that
popular song, '' The Union Forever, Hurrah, Boys, Hurrah!'' and sang
it through with great fervor, and it is said that they were somewhat
disconcerted when the presiding elder, Rev. P. E. Brown, arose and
pronounced the benediction. However, it was regarded as a good joke
on the preacher as well as the boys.
While touching upon the war it is but meet to mention the names of
D. K. Fox, John Nethercut and John Otis, who, from out of the ranks
of this struggling church, joined the ranks of those brave patriots
who were engaged in the greater struggle to save our native land.
There were probably others besides those mentioned who joined the
ranks of the army, but the writer has not learned of them.
Imperfect records do not give the records of the membership at this
date, 1861, but in 1862 there were forty-three in full connection
and Revs. E. W. Jeffries and E. R. Latta were assigned to the field
now somewhat restricted.
In 1863, Reverend Jeffries was returned, with Rev. A. Hyde as junior
preacher. During this year it was decided to build a house of
worship and the work commenced. Previous to this a general
conference had passed an act extending the time limit from two to
three years, and under this act Reverend Jeffries was returned for
the third year to complete the erection of the church, in which he
was ably assisted by William Cattron and I. P. Adams, building
The edifice was made ready for occupation during the year. Rev. A.
J. Kynett preaching the dedicatory sermon and raising enough money
to clear the property from debt.
Thus ends this brief chronicle of the organization and firm
establishment of this church during the first nine years of its