LYON COUNTY GENEALOGY
COUNTY RELIGIOUS SERVICES
The first public religious service held in Lyon county, as shown by the stories told by the earliest settlers, was in an Indian tepee, about a mile north of the present site of Rock Rapids. In the spring of 1870, a band of Indians camped in Howell's grove, and it became known that they would hold a religious service on a certain day. The family of D.C. Whitehead and others were present, and a prayer-meeting was held; but in the Indian dialect, most of which was unintelligible to the whites present. These Indians were extremely devout. One of the white children present distinctly remembers that during a prayer, a live coal from the wood fire snapped out upon the cotton sleeve of one of the old squaws; but while she undertook to smother the fire in her hand, she never once raised her bowed head.
A little later a colored preacher struck the settlement on the Rock River and held a service in the new school-house. He was entertained at the Whitehead home, and his visit is vividly remembered for the reason that the darkey preacher and the Whitehead family bible disappeared at one and the same time.
During 1871 and 1872, the few people in this settlement were in the habit now and then of driving over to the Little Rock with ox-teams, for the purpose of visiting friends and relatives, and enjoying the religious services held in the school house there. They usually went over Saturday and returned on Monday.
In 1873, one Rev. Caleb M. Allen, a Presbyterian minister, came to Rock Rapids and regular preaching service was held in the Howell school-house. He built the little house located west across the street from the Christian church and lived there about two years. From his habit of always beginning his sermons away before creation he was nicknamed "Old Protoplasm."
In the fall of the same year, 1873, the Dakota Mission Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, which included northwest Iowa, made Rock Rapids a preaching appointment on Sheldon Circuit. J. B. Starkey was sent as pastor, who made his home at Rock Rapids. The town then had, perhaps 300 people and the congregation would number from twelve to twenty-five.
In 1874, the Rock Rapids class of the M.E. church was formed, consisting of three full members, to-wit: J.Shade and wife and their daughter, Hannah; and Mrs. M.S. Thompson, the first probationer. J.W. Rigby was sent as pastor in the fall of 1874. The succeeding Methodist pastors were G.M. Binks, J.W. Plummer, D.W. Chamberlain, B. Webster, Chamberlain a second year, and, in 1882, S.P. Marsh, who remained three years, and under whose ministry the membership increased from thirty to over 150. The first church building in Lyon county was erected at Rock Rapids by this society. The enterprise was started in 1879 by appointment of a building committee consisting of J. Shade, J.M. Webb and F.M. Thompson. During the fall of 1879, $900 in subscriptions was secured. On July 3, 1880, "Chaplain" McCabe (now Bishop) held a meeting in the court house at which $300 more was raised toward the proposed church building. O.P. Miller and C.W. Williams were added to the building committee, and on June 5, 1881, the new church was dedicated by Rev. John Hogarth Lozier, Presiding Elder of the Sioux City District. In 1895, this property was sold to the German Lutherans and in July, 1896, the Methodists dedicated a new church building constructed of Sioux Falls granite, at a cost of $13,000.
A Sunday school had been organized back in 1875 with J.M. Webb, superintendent; F.M. Thompson, assistant superintendent; and Anna Penman holding all the other offices. In 1876, a Sunday school picnic was held in honor of the removal of said school to the court house. Some fourteen persons participated. On the first Sunday of April, 1883, the Methodists organized their own Sunday school, O.P. Miller being elected superintendent and, among other teachers, H.B. Pierce, teacher of the Bible class, which position both have continuously filled to this date, (1904).
In the year 1887, the Catholic church organized in Rock Rapids, under the direction of Rev. Riley. A church building costing $3000 was erected in 1889, upon which about $3000 has since been expended. And in 1902 a parsonage was built at a cost of $6000. Rev. Thomas Dullard has been in charge since 1890.
In 1887 a Catholic church was erected in Larchwood, and in 1891 at Doon, both under the pasturage of Father Phelan. In 1892, Father Dullard erected a church at Alvord, making four Catholic churches in the county at this date, all in a prosperous condition. Father Desmond is located at Alvord and Doon, and Father Cooke, at Larchwood.
Rock Rapids contains eight church buildings as follows: Congregational, Methodist Episcopal, Church of Christ, Catholic, Norwegian Lutheran, People's church and two German Lutheran.
The Congregational church organized in Rock Rapids June 13, 1878, at a meeting held in the home of T.C. Thompson. Rev. Palmer was the first pastor. The church building was erected in 1884 at a cost of $6000 and in 1890 a parsonage was purchased for $1500.
A Congregational church was erected at Little Rock in 1893. The first pastor was Rev. P.V. West, and among the first officers were A.F. Reis, Mrs. Chas. Armour, E.R. Yonkers, and G.L. Van Easton. Present membership, sixty-one.
At Doon Rev. L.R. Fitch organized a Congregational church in 1889, the first officers being E.O. Lundt, P. Mather, Mrs. Ludia M. Wilcox. The church was built in 1890 at a cost of $2500 and in 1891 a parsonage costing $1200 was erected. The present membership is 105.
A Congregational church was also organized at Larchwood in 1889 and a building erected in 1890.
In 1896 the German Reformed church was organized at Little Rock and in 1896 erected a building costing $1500. The first pastor was Rev. Gerhardt
Veenker and the present membership is drawn from forty-two families.
The first German Presbytrian church organized in the county was in 1887, at George, under the leadership of Rev. Henry Wootmann, who has continued to serve this church for seventeen years. The first trustees were Albert Arends, H. Behrends, H. Willemssen and Jan Bloemyer. In 1887 a parsonage was built and two years later a church was erected. The present membership is fifty-five.
Among the recent church buildings erected in the country districts is that of the German Reformed Bethel church on section 24, in Midland township. This was constructed in 1903, and cost $1800. A society, however, has existed in this neighborhood since 1894 when Rev. Jacob Bollenbacker gathered a few members together. The present membership is thirty-five, the pastor Rev. L. Ziegler, and the officers Harm W. Harms, Jacob Solma,
B. Brummer and E.J. Browen.
The Methodist Episcopal church has organizations at Lester, Larchwood, Inwood, George and Little Rock, besides Rock Rapids, with church buildings at each point except George. As early as 1875, the Albertson class was organized in that neighborhood in the southeast part of the county, and for some years was a part of Rock Rapids Circuit. In 1879 it was attached to Beloit. When Warren (afterward called Inwood) was laid out a Sunday school was among its first organizations with behind it such men as the Albertsons, Wm. Oats and J.P. Negus. For years this school was the largest, strongest and most progressive in the county. In the spring of 1904, a new Methodist church was dedicated at Inwood, taking the place of the one first built in 1887. The new structure is one of the finest in the county, costing $9000. Inwood also contains flourishing churches of the Lutheran and Baptist denominations.
The first Methodist pastor at Little Rock was H.B. Green in 1885, when the charge was made independent. In 1894, the church edifice was built at a cost of $2300, and in 1896, a parsonage was bought costing $900. Present membership is seventy-two.
In October, 1885, on invitation of P.M. Casady, Rev. H.P. Dyer came to Rock Rapids and held a series of meetings in the interest of the Church of Christ. Afterward Rev.H.H. Ross preached in Rock Rapids a few times, and in February, 1889, Rev. J. Carroll Stark held a four weeks' meeting. In May, 1893, Rev. John M. Van Kirk preached here occasionally, and in December, Evangelist A.D. Finck held a series of meetings. The formal organization of the Church of Christ in Rock Rapids occurred on Janury 3, 1891, at the home of F.P. Wallace. P.M. Casady and H.J. Kennedy were selected as elders and Wm. Kennedy, Wm. S. Peile, F.P. Wallace and J.T. Woodrow as deacons. In 1894, during the pastorate of Rev. W.F. McCormick a church building was erected at a cost of $4000. On Sunday afternoon, November 1, 1896, fire broke out in the church basement but after a hard fight the flames were extinguished. The building sustained great damage, but the membership, assisted by the citizens of the town soon repaired the damage. The present membership is eighty and the pastor is Rev. J. Morgan Harris.
Unity church, or Rock Rapids, was organized in 1886 by Rev. S.S. Hunting, of Des Moines, with a membership of twenty-five. Services were first held in Shannon's Hall, then in the court house and finally in Richard's Hall, afterwards known as Unity Hall. In 1899, Rev. A.J. Williams from the Congregational church organized the People's Church and many of the Unitarians became members. In 1890 the society connected itself with the State Unitarian Association. In 1900, a church building was erected at a cost of about $5000. Rev. E.A. Cantrell is the present pastor.
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