Gospel of Lyon County


The first settlers of Lyon county located in the valley of the Big Sioux and that of its branch, the Rock River. Beloit and Doon, in the southern part, and Rock Rapids, farther north, were the first prominent villages. The first attorney to be admitted to the bar in Lyon County was D.C. Whitehead, who was admitted to the bar in July, 1872, the year after he had been elected clerk of the courts at the time the county was organized. He was one of the brave, genial, able pioneers of the country, who brought a large family into the Rock Rapids region, of which he was the first and chief promoter. The Monlux family also settled early in that locality, and one of its members, George Monlux, writes as follows regarding the planting of the gospel in Lyon County: "The first sermon preached was delivered by Rev. Ellef Oleson, at Beloit, on September 6, 1870. But the first sermon I ever heard preached in the county was by Rev. Mr. Runyon, who lived down on the Rock River below Doon. This was early in 1871, and in the audience was Mr. Whitehead, who was noted in those days for his liberal views on theology. Mr. Runyon took for his text, "The fool hath said in his own heart there is no God.' He directed his remarks at Whitehead and proceeded to show, in strong language, the awful condition of the unbeliever."

It is said that Whitehead took these direct and personal scathings good naturedly, and told Runyon this bear story as descriptive of his predicament and his plea for fair play: "A miner and hunter in the Rocky Mountains was at one time cornered by a grizzly bear. His gun was not loaded, the bear was coming on and the hunter knew he could not run away from bruin; he knew that he must fight for his life. So he thought a little prayer might do some good and could do no harm. So his prayer ran: 'O Lord, you know that I never bothered you before, but I am in a tight place, and if you will help me this time I will never bother you again; but if you can't help me, for God's sake don't help the bear. Just lay low and keep cool and you will see one of the best bear fights you ever saw in the Rocky Mountains."

Continuing the narrative, Mr. Monlux says: "The Rev. C.E. Bristol preached many times during the summer of 1871, at Rock Rapids and Little Rock."

"The Presbyterian was the first church organized. It was a mission church. The date of organization was August 13, 1873. The first building erected for church purposes, the little building which still stands west of the Christian Church, was built by the Rev. Mr. Allen of the Congregational denomination, I believe, who built it for a parsonage. Much of the lumber and all of the labor for this building were donated by the good citizens of the town. It is related that Mr. James P. Gilman labored on the erection of this parsonage. When the job was completed, Mr. Allen was very profuse in passing around his thanks to the boys for their kindness in helping him get his building finished; and addressing Mr. Gilman as the most benevolent and sanctimonious of the crowd he said, 'Mr. Gilman, I don't want you and your friends to do this work for nothing, but you must take your pay in preaching.' With considerable alarm manifested in his countenance at this suggestion, Mr. Gilman replied: 'Just consider the debt paid, Mr. Allen; consider it paid, and I will give you a receipt in full.'"

Since these early struggling times of the pioneer clergy and churchmen in Lyon County, the religious organizations have multiplied in number and increased in strength. At Doon are Baptist, Catholic, Congregational and Reformed churches; Inwood has organized Methodist, Norwegian Lutheran, Reformed and Christian societies, and Larchwood, Catholic, Congregational, German Evangelical and Methodist churches.

Source: Northwestern Iowa Its History and Traditions 1804-1926 by Arthur F. Allen, Volume 1 1927.