CRATHORNE MEN FARM FOR THE CHURCH
The following article was published in the Iowa Farm and Home section of the Des Moines Register July 7, and is reprinted in the Sentinel through courtesy of J. S. Russell, farm editor of the Register. Rev. Siebert, the pastor of the Plymouth Presbyterian Church which is the subject of the story, is presently at the encampment of Iowa State Guard in Des Moines. He is serving as private in Co. D. of the Second Regiment of the Iowa State Guard.
Farmers who belong to Plymouth Presbyterian Church in the old Crathorne community near Akron farm not only for themselves but also for the church.
In this “church land” project, under which 36 or 40 acres owned by the church is farmed every year, members have found something that binds them closed to the spiritual activities of the church.
“They feel,” said the Rev. Theodore C. Seibert who is entering his ninth year as pastor, “that they belong to and are a part of all the church activities.”
Specific details of how the church came by the land are lacking, but ownership originated from land patents granted by the government to veterans of the Revolutionary War. This land was sold for $1 an acre to veterans in recognition of service.
It appears likely that the land patent for this particular piece of ground was assigned to an heir by a veteran and the heir in turn assigned it to the church.
A stipulation was made when the property was turned over to the church. This stipulation was to the effect that all returns from the land must go to the upkeep and improvements of the church and property.
Crathorne was settled by Scots, some of whom were descendants of Revolutionary War veterans. They wanted a church, but they realized that a church costs money. This is where they land grant entered the picture. The first church, a frame structure, was built in 1880.
Today [in 1946] the church is an $18,000 brick structure, built in 1930 from donations and through profits gained in farming part of the original tract. An evergreen-studded cemetery has been developed and the church has a parsonage with some farm out-buildings.
Third-generation descendants of these original church members still live in the community and take part in the affairs of the church. There now are 125 members, and mixed in with the Scots are English and Friesians.
“In fun,” said the Rev. Mr. Siebert, “I call them my duke’s mixture. It is a good mixture, though. They know how to work together and they are tolerant.”
Men are predominate in affairs at Plymouth church. They almost have to be because there is so much manual labor attached to the “church land” arrangement. Women play their part, too, but men in the Plymouth Brotherhood predominate.
The task of farming 36 acres calls for the co-operation of every member of the brotherhood. They meet once a year to plan the year’s farming operations. They decide what is to be planted. Detailed arrangements are made for each member to contribute his fair share of labor to the crop.
A schedule sheet is made out and posted in the church. It shows the names of all farmers in the brotherhood and the specific tasks they are to do during the season, whether it be plowing, harrowing, planting, cultivating or harvesting.
The schedule sheet goes into considerable detail. It directs that a certain farmer shall “harrow twice” or “cultivate first time.” The entire season’s schedule, once set up, is followed to the letter. There are no slackers in the brotherhood. More likely, various members will vie with one another to do the best job.
The Rev. Mr. Siebert has noted that the land gives members something of mutual interest.
“They may not attend church every Sunday,” he said, “but you will find them working for the church.”
Since the new church was built, members of the brotherhood have been able through donations and profits from the “church land” to make many improvements to the church property.
They removed a battery lighting system and installed a rural electrification line to the church and parsonage one year. They were able, another year, to buy a furnace with forced air heat. A year later they were able to put a new furnace in the parsonage.
Other improvements at the church include the purchase of a $2,400 electric organ. Donations were needed on this. The brotherhood also purchased a power mower for the church lawn cemetery and parsonage. Both the church and parsonage have been redecorated at a cost of $1,200.
The brotherhood does not limit itself strictly to the manual labor connected with the church. It is, for instances, planning meetings to which a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi will be invited to speak. They will be asked to tell about their religions. The talks will be followed by question periods.
“People often knock other religions and never give them a chance to give their side,” observed the Rev. Mr. Siebert. “We do.”
What pleases the pastor is that members of the brotherhood carry on church work without having to consult him.
“They just go ahead and get the job done,” he said. “They never bother me with matters of raising money, or doing anything that needs to be done. They’re great people.”
The big event of the year at Plymouth church is the chicken dinner reserved every September by members of the Ladies Aid society and the Friendship Club. This is purely a goodwill venture inasmuch as a $2 dinner is served to all comers, principally from LeMars, for 75 cents.
“They (the townspeople) wait on us and serve us the year round,” said the Rev. Mr. Siebert, “and this is our way of returning the favor. It is our time to wait on them.”
The church has won certificates of merit awarded by the extension service of Iowa State college three times, in 1941, 1942 and 1943.
The pastor himself does a little livestock farming. He raises a few hogs each year. The hogs are given to him by farmers, who also fill his grain bins, when they harvest. If he runs out of lard or other items, he is likely to find a farm delivering them to his door.
“The salary isn’t much out here,” said the Rev. Mr. Siebert, “but things like that more than make up the difference.”
The Rev. Mr. Siebert lives at the parsonage with his wife, Gertrude, who is the church organist, and a daughter, June. He has another daughter, Mrs. Ruth Boisvert.
The pastor has made it a practice never to make formal calls on members of the church.
“With help as short as it has been,” he chuckled, “a preacher was just a nuisance. Farmer’s didn’t have time to visit. But if a fellow could pitch hay, that was different. I could pitch hay. When they needed help, I helped. Before long a lot of fellows who didn’t belong to the church were wanting to join.”
~Above news article submitted by researcher, Glenna Rice