First Baptist Church
~Celebrated 95 Year Anniversary, November 1985
In the middle 1800s people had been flocking into Northwest Iowa. LeMars had become an outstanding trading center for the area. Churches were being established. But until early 1890, no effort had been made to establish a Baptist church. Not until Mr. and Mrs. William Clagg came from Fort Dodge did things begin to change. They wanted a Baptist church, and began to look for others of like faith. Finding a few who would be interested in organizing a Baptist church, they secured Rev. Robert Carroll, a district missionary, to come to help canvass the area and learn the possibilities. After looking over the situation, he advised them to organize a Baptist church. This was in November, 1890. There were only six charter members: Mr. & Mrs. William Clagg, Mr. & Mrs. Thomas, Mrs. Eliza Riffle, and a school teacher, Miss Mabel Kinney. Mr. and Mrs. William Clagg were grandparents of Mr. Evalyn Hoyt, who is now a member of this church.
As time went on others joined the little group of Baptists that were meeting in homes, and they decided to buy an unused church building known as the Old Congregational church. It was located where the Gerdes Pharmacy stands today. They had no pastor for a whole year. Then they called Rev. Howard M. Jones as their first pastor. From then on, the church began to grow with the work of a resident pastor. An active Sunday School sprang into their midst, and the First Baptist Church, of LeMars, was off to a good start.
In 1914, during the pastorate of Rev. J.C. Hoover, it was felt a new church building was needed. The old church was torn down and a new one built in its place. The new building was dedicated in November 1914. That building served the growing congregation until March 2, 1975, when we held our first worship service in our present building.
Through the dedicated effort of 25 pastors and a growing congregation the community has felt the influence of our church. When we were located so near to the center of town our logo was “A Friendly Church in the Heart of a Friendly City.”
I cannot begin to name the many members who have worked with our church locally, and have reached out to help spread the gospel to the world. However, I would like to mention a few who have done so in a special way.
Miss Effie Jones, who later became Mrs. Ben Clagg, graduated from the Moody Bible Institute in early 1900s and served as acting pastor of the Climbing Hill Baptist Church; and also as assistant pastor to Dr. Earl of the Waterloo Baptist Church in 1905.
In the early 1930s, three of our young ladies graduated from the Baptist Missionary Training School in Chicago. They are Florence Tindall, Genevieve Phipps, and Dorothy O’Banion. Also, Evalyn Clagg (Hoyt) is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. All of these young ladies have worked hard in the church of their choice where they lived after their marriage. Now Evalyn has returned to the work of our local church.
Another young lady who was active in our church is today in active service. She is Lana Peterson, daughter of Farley and Charlotte Peterson, and is the wife of Rev. David Johnson. Lana is serving every day as an active pastor’s wife.
There are still two more I want to mention. They are George and June Jennings. June spent her early life in LeMars and grew up in the active program of our church. George came to LeMars as a young man to make his home with Roy and Mabel Jennings, and became active in our church. George and June were married Jan. 1, 1936. It was only a short time after their marriage that George felt the call into the ministry. George and June went to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where George furthered his education. June became church secretary of the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis. Our church licensed George to preach in 1942 and he has done lots of preaching of the Gospel. However, his main work has been as a Christian teacher in several colleges, and as an officer in missionary organizations, who are working in the Mid-East areas. George and June have spent their entire active life in dedicated service to the cause of Christ. Only recently have they retired from the teaching profession, and have moved back to the “old home” community where they are both active members of our church, and service in other community projects.
We also have given a license to preach the Gospel to Don Thrash and Orville Kool, who both active pastors today. They joined our church while they were students at Westmar.
Through the work of the church with its many organizations, such as Sunday School, Baptist Young People’s Union (BYPU), the women’s active organizations, the men’s organizations, the World Wide Guild (WWG), and various children’s organizations, the First Baptist Church has been an outstanding church in our community and denomination. We pray that our activity of the present will reap the rewards that have been felt in years gone by.
Ninety-five years of devotion to the cause of Christ is something we wish to remember today, and then continue on in that service for many years to come.
~Author/Speaker/Member of the church, Mrs. E. Ferne Tindall, written in her own handwriting in 1985